Almost There: Grixis Improvise

Posted in How to Build on February 23, 2018

By Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Paulo has been playing Magic since he was eight years old. At fifteen, he ventured outside of Brazil for his first international tournament, and he's been globetrotting as a professional player ever since.

A while ago, at Pro Tour Aether Revolt in Dublin, Ireland, a team played a Grixis Improvise deck based around cheap artifacts and Herald of Anguish. Ultimately the format was too powerful (the Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian combo still existed and Mardu had Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Thraben Inspector), and the deck failed to put up any noteworthy results. Now that those cards are no longer Standard-legal, perhaps it's time to revisit the archetype. Here's a list DWAGZ took to a 5-0 result on Magic Online:

DWAGZ's Grixis Improvise

Grixis Improvise has many elements of a normal control deck (removal, counterspells, life gain, and big threats), but it's built around the improvise mechanic. The idea is that you play a lot of artifacts that don't cost you much, such as Renegade Map or Prophetic Prism, to power up the improvise cards ahead of the curve.

The biggest draw toward this deck is Herald of Anguish, a card that seems well positioned to me because a 5/5 flier matches up particularly well against both the threats and the answers in the format. At 5 toughness, it's the perfect size to stop Glorybringer and Rekindling Phoenix, and it also survives Chandra, Torch of Defiance; Abrade; Lightning Strike; and Fatal Push. On top of that, both of its abilities are relevant, especially early in the game. An average draw should be able to cast the Herald on turn five without a problem, whereas a good draw will be able to cast it on turn four.

I also like that this deck is randomly good at killing Hazoret the Fervent. Between the -2/-2 from Herald, Battle at the Bridge, Tezzeret the Schemer, and potentially Vraska's Contempt out of the sideboard, there are several ways to deal with the indestructible God.

Right now, I think the biggest problem with this list is the lack of early action. Cards like Prophetic Prism, Sorcerous Spyglass, and Treasure Map don't add anything to the board, and if you're disrupted in any way you often end up falling behind, because each artifact killed also means you need one more mana to play improvise cards. Standard right now is very aggressive, and you cannot afford to be slow when your opponent plays creatures from turns one through four.

The main change I would make to the deck to solve this would be adding four Cogworker's Puzzleknots, whose primary goal would be to speed the improvise cards up even more by adding two artifacts to the board. If you have one Servo Schematic or Puzzleknot, then you don't need anything else to play a turn-three Maverick Thopterist and stem the bleeding, and Herald of Anguish can follow it up the next turn. You don't always end up sacrificing the Puzzleknot for an extra token, but you have the ability to do so via Prophetic Prism, Spire of Industry, and Tezzeret's Etherium Cells.

Having Cogworker's Puzzleknots also lets you add to the board earlier than normal—it's just a 1/1 creature, but in a world of Bomat Couriers that's often what you need. A 1/1 is also conveniently a good enough size to crew Aethersphere Harvester, which is an excellent card against aggressive decks, particularly the ones that rely on "can't block" effects, such as Mono-Red. Right now the deck is a little light on pilots, but if we add four Puzzleknots then I think we can even go up to two Harvesters.

In the end, the deck is going to hold its own against the aggressive and midrange builds, but it won't be great against control decks like Blue-Black or Approach of the Second Sun. If your metagame is more creature-based and you want to play something different, I'd give this deck a try.

This is how I would build it:

PV's Grixis Improvise

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