Deck Tech: Grixis Control with Corey Burkhart

Posted in Event Coverage on November 6, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

With one sentence, Corey Burkhart managed to sum up Modern in a way that few have.

“Grixis Control is my tried-and-true love, so that's what I played,” he said simply, moments before moving to 13-0 at Grand Prix Dallas with an archetype that many pundits have declared dead in the explosive format. “I know the deck well, and I enjoy playing it. People just play their favorite deck — it's Modern.”

There is perhaps no better way to encapsulate a format that saw no deck hold more than an 11% share in the Top 100 metagame breakdown. Players can arrive to tournaments playing their favorite deck, and with patience and preparation can make a deep run.

That's how it is for Burkhart and Grixis Control, the deck he's piloted in various iterations to a pair of Grand Prix Top 8 appearances over the past year, proving his point about the importance of being proficient with your deck for the format.

“Know your deck inside and out, and know your matchups,” he explained. “Both my Modern Top 8s have come with Grixis. There's not very many thinking turns, it's a lot of autopilot for me at this point.”

Corey Burkhart is in search of his third Grand Prix Top 8 in the last 12 months with Grixis Control.

Looking at Grixis Control, there are two distinct builds of the deck that Burkhart advocates for, each defined by its inclusion — or lack of — Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.

Burkhart's first Top 8 came in Charlotte a year ago, when he took a Vryn's Prodigy version heavy on discard and creatures to the Top 8, eschewing Cryptic Command. After some collaboration — or, as Burkhart put it, “a lot of talking shop” — with Patrick Chapin, he eventually settled on an instant-heavy, no Jace, Vryn's Prodigy build that featured the full playset of Cryptic Command.

“The decks play pretty differently,” he explained. “Jace is very good in a meta where people are attacking you with a lot of small creatures, like Zoo or Reckless Bushwhacker or other tribal, go-wide decks. It's hyper efficient but doesn't have the room to hold up four mana. The Cryptic Command version has a lot of things it can do at instant speed, and against the decks like Through the Breach or Dredge where you need to operate on a flash basis it's better. In that meta I wouldn't advocate for Jace, but if your local meta is tribal decks and Melira combo and Zoo, then by all means sleeve up Jace.”

Once that decision is made, the rest of the pieces fall into place. A light counterspell suite backed up by removal leads to the top end of Kolaghan's Command and Cryptic Command. Hearing Burkhart talk about the deck, it's more clear than ever what he means when he says experience with a deck is key to Modern success.

“A big thing people miss is that I see them flashing in Snapcaster Mage on Kolaghan's Command and using it immediately,” he explained. “Instead, you can just wait to use the spell and have more options. You can block with Snapcaster and then return it and finish off their creature, or you can use the other options. Another is Snapcaster Mage with Cryptic Command. You can use it to mess with their discard spell. If they cast it you can counter it and draw, or if they don't you can just use it to bounce the Snapcaster and draw a card at the end of the turn.”

Burkhart is all smiles after a 12-0 start in Dallas.

As for the two biggest “bogeyman” decks in the room, Infect and Dredge, Burkhart likes his odds.

“If I was playing 100 games against Owen Turtenwald, the best Infect player in the world, I would take my side of it — and not every Infect player is Owen,” he explained. “I also have Surgical Extractions and Anger of the Gods for Dredge, and those are really good against them.”

Burkhart is well-positioned to make an appearance in the Top 8 here in Texas. And he's doing it his own way.

Corey Burkhart’s Grixis Control

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