Corey Burkhart, Building With the Mono-Grixis Man

Posted in Event Coverage on June 16, 2017

By Marc Calderaro

Team Channel Fireball Fire's Corey Burkhart sounds like a reasonable man. The five-time-Grand Prix–Top 8'ing Gold Level Pro is often talked about for his solid, methodical technique. And he articulates his thoughts and decision making with ease.

But don't let him fool you. That man is a Grixis maniac; he has a Grixation. I sat down with him as he built his Amonkhet Sealed build, and though he hid is true intentions in the beginning, the red, blue, and black soon began oozing out his pores.


Catch this cutie on Twitter at @Corey_Burkhart. Also send him your harshly worded deck-building critiques.

For reference, his pool:

Gold / Artifact / Non-Basic Land

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Instant (1)
1 Heaven // Earth
Artifact (1)
1 Hazoret's Monument
Land (2)
2 Evolving Wilds
7 Cards

White

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Blue

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Black

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Red

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Green

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"All right," he said ripping open the cards and sorting them. "Let's see about Green," he said strongly. He had noted the Trial of Strength and two Cartouche of Strength, along with a lot of cards, but became underwhelmed after seeing the lack of quality creatures—both at the top end and in the middle of the curve.

He quickly saw basically the same problem with Red: "Two Warfire Javelineer, but creatures are medium; maybe I can pair it with Blue, we'll see." Then the same with Black. "Looks pretty medium here—two Final Reward, but creatures are terrible," Burkhart said. It's the classic Black Sealed problem—great spells, crap creatures.

On to Blue: "Two Cancel ... Ooh, double Cartouche. I hope we've got a Trial," he mused. But there was no Trial of Knowledge to be found. "Open into Wonder, I've actually liked this in Sealed, especially in Team Sealed. It's a way for a medium deck to beat a better deck." He liked what he saw in Blue, and hoped it would pair well with something else.

After looking over everything Corey sighed. "We only have a green Trial. And we have so many pieces of jewelry to go with it! Oh well, let's see what we can do." The first outline led to Green-Blue, so he tried it out. "Green has two Cartouche and reasonable creatures. Nothing big to go into; we'll see if Blue can fix that for us."

But after splaying the pile and kajiggering everything around, the lack of Green creatures was the color's death knell. Burkhart tossed the cards aside and swapped in White. "Let's see if White-Blue Flyers works." But that too was for the birds.

White-Black had the same Black-creature issue, and the Red-White deck looked like "just a bunch of Nimble-Blade Khernas, and a bunch of Cartouches of Zeal; it's confused at best."

Corey was disheartened at the color pair options, but remained determined. "We've got double Evolving Wilds, so we can do some splashing nonsense." He started laying out new options.

Blue-Red Spells was an archetype ripe for splashing, and Corey had well remembered the Enigma Drake from his pool and set to work.

It didn't start well. "We do have some ... remedial spells, if we're going the dumpster-fire route—which we might," he noted. But he also saw how the creature suite was the best he'd seen so far. "Huh. We do have a decent curve here. Creatures are still bad, but we can play them at the right times." After a beat he said, "I think we're on to something sweet here."

Until this point, Corey had hidden his Grixosity, but now it began leaking out. "Black has Wander in Death, and two Final Reward. Those are great spells for the deck." He continued, "If we can drag to the late game, which will be tough, we have a way to beat other people's bombs ... I mean, plus we got this Commit // Memory in case we mill ourselves too much." He already saw the grindy writing on the wall.

Corey was getting excited. He had ten spells for his Warfire Javelineers, which is "way more than you need in Sealed," and felt he'd found the right colors to maximize the cards he had. But there was still some lingering doubt. He hated playing those Nimble-Blade Khenras. A lot. They were the recipient of many a sideways glare.

He was especially excited about a three-card combo that he knew was bad, but also knew could completely take over the late game—Scribe of the Mindful, Warfire Javelineer and Wander in Death, creating a recurring loop of Flametongue Kavus.

"If my early black was better I'd rather be Blue-Black, splashing the Red. But it doesn't have the cheap spells" Again, the problem with the power of black spells is that they draw you in. Corey starting becoming hypnotized by the clearly better black Sorceries.

He looked at a re-build, then weighed his speculated swaps.

In: Never // Return, Stir the Sands, Wasteland Scorpion, Baleful Ammit

Out: Bloodrage Brawler, Thresher Lizard, and those two blasted Khenras

"Woah. These are just way better than the Red—it's, it's not even close!" Burkhart was hooked. "These Nimble-Blades aren't even good here, get ‘em out!" He tossed them. "Baleful Ammit and Wasteland Scorpion both stifle aggression—I'm kinda talking myself into this."

He went silent for a moment. Then he stirred in his seat and shot upright.

"All right, all right. These spells are just too powerful. I'm going to register this; I just need to cut a card." And the die was cast. "I'm pretty sure it's this Magma Spray; I don't want red early. The other option, realistically is the Scribe of the Mindful, but I'm really tied to this cute thing."

After figuring out the manabase with relative ease, he reached over for a big high five.

"And we've managed to do it! We've registered Grixis in all three formats!"

Pro Tour Amonkhet winner Gerry Thompson overheard and leaned into the Feature Match area to say, "Well, you're 0 for 1 so far..." noting Corey's poor Legacy Grand Prix leg.

Corey laughed and brushed him off, and turned back to me. "Anyway, I've got a Scribe of the Mindful in my maindeck, so I'm either really on to something or really not. We'll probably never know." No naysaying Pro Tour­ party pooper was getting him down.

"We did it!" he said again. "Man, is this deck great? Did we do it? I think so. I hope so..." he was downright jubilant; it was infectious. Heck, he was still pumped about his three-card super-late-game combo.

"Look, I'm Gold, and I'm so far away from Platinum, this is really just practice to get Martin Müller qualified for Worlds. I'll report to him whether this thing even works."

On the Amonkhet Sealed format in general, Corey was almost as effusive.

"It's really good ... It's not identifying the best cards, but the best strategies." This makes a more cohesive structure for both building and playing.

"After you have [the strategy], then just deal with what you're going to lose to. Because if you're a late-game deck, you better be able to beat a God ... I mean, look, R&D did it—the Gods are real good in Limited." He chuckled. "So figure out the bombs you're going to lose to—Glorybringer, Sandwurm Convergence, etc ... There are fourteen mythic rare bombs across five colors."

He added, "We're living in world with top end threats at every single color. The thing is, most of them come out late in the game, so you have to tailor the deck to beat that, while making sure you're not giving up the aggro game."

"Aggro is good, midrange is good, and control is good—even combo if you count Approach the Second Sun. You can do whatever you want. We have a frickin' Scribe the Mindful in our deck, and not only am I happy to play it, I'm ecstatic."

We'll see if Corey's odd, recursive, milling gambit pays off, but either way, he's having a heck a good time doing it. He gets to continue his quest to make all the world Grixis until it's bloodied black and blue.

Corey Burkhart's Grixis Fun Time – GP Vegas

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