One Mean Deck: Grixis Energy
Grixis Energy picked up right where Temur Energy left us and has quickly become the new top dog of today's Standard. However, it's hard to tell what the best version may look like or even to know what to expect when playing against the archetype. Data analysis is needed!
Energy, the mechanic everybody loves to hate, wasn't hit as hard as expected by January's bannings. Even green energy decks survived the loss of Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, although their place in the metagame was soon taken over by darker forces. Grixis Energy has become the new deck to beat and has turned out to be quite hard to beat too.
Part of this is that it's currently the wild west out there. With no Standard Pro Tour to guide the way, lots of different versions of Grixis Energy float about. Sometimes one will face a bunch of hasty Dragons, sometimes a flock of Phoenixes will overload all creature removal capabilities. Some make all kinds of threats including planeswalkers, some are heavier on answers. The problem lies with knowing what exactly to expect from Grixis Energy.
Big Data and Average/Mean Values
I scoured the internet for Grixis Energy lists which have been successful at major tournaments all over the world. Some data came from Japan, some more from the United States, and most came from Magic Online. For all of the cards they contained, I looked at the overall average and median numbers. I also calculated some weighted averages that assigned a higher importance to those decks which have been more successful than others, or successful at larger tournaments, or successful at more recent tournaments. Here are the results:
Virtually everyone runs a full playset of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Whirler Virtuoso. The Scarab God usually shows up as a pair. Less than ten percent of successful lists have fewer than that, and a little less than a fifth of players use three. One can be relatively confident that two is the correct number here.
0–1 Hostage Taker
That's it for confidence, however, as far as creatures are concerned. Hardly anyone is running one or two copies of Glorybringer; the community is divided evenly between running zero and running three, with a minority going with four. Likewise, almost sixty percent of decks have two Gearhulks, while about one third have none.
The Chupacabra is a curious case. The overall average comes to one copy, but the weighted averages disagree considerably: Assigning a higher importance to results from larger tournaments reduces the Beast to a mere footnote, whereas more recent results favor as many as two copies. No Lord of Luxury and no Taker of Hostages are found in about sixty and seventy percent of decks, respectively.
Champion of Wits, Dusk Legion Zealot, Rekindling Phoenix, Shielded Aether Thief, Tetzimoc, Primal Death, and Vizier of Many Faces all have their fans, but none of the metrics suggest that any of them should be part of the expected lineup. It's been noted that players may just be slow to pick up on the power of the Phoenix, and card availability in the early days may have been an issue too. The firebird's future is one of the possible developments to keep an eye on.
One can be very confident in these numbers. The removal package seems to be set.
1–2 Essence Scatter
0–2 Supreme Will
Only a negligible fraction goes without at least one Essence Scatter, but the other two blue instants are both missing from about a third of successful lists. The median still suggests two copies of each, although Glimmer's popularity appears to be on the decline.
Each of the variously calculated averages has Chandra at one copy per deck, but the truth is that more than eighty percent of pilots are split, about evenly, between zero and two copies.
Angrath, the Flame-Chained, Cut // Ribbons, Disallow, Duress, Golden Demise, Liliana, Death's Majesty, Magma Spray, Negate, Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, and Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin are some of the other main deck inclusions, none of which show up in relevant numbers.
3–4 Drowned Catacomb
3–4 Fetid Pools
Mana bases remain surprisingly uniform across the board. Even between decks with lots of double-red spells and those with zero, the difference is two lands at most. Field of Ruin makes a tiny blip on the radar, but leaves no real impact on any of the statistics.
To distill everything into a single decklist, the median works best. The following is the most average Grixis Energy stock list you can find:
|4Aether Hub||4Glint-Sleeve Siphoner||3Abrade|
|3Canyon Slough||3Glorybringer||2Essence Scatter|
|3Dragonskull Summit||1Ravenous Chupacabra||3Fatal Push|
|4Drowned Catacomb||2The Scarab God||2Glimmer of Genius|
|3Fetid Pools||2Torrential Gearhulk||4Harnessed Lightning|
|1Island||4Whirler Virtuoso||2Supreme Will|
|4Spirebluff Canal||3Chandra, Torch of Defiance|
|2Duress||3Negate||1Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin|
Beyond three Negate and two Duress, sideboard choices vary too wildly to draw reliable conclusions. More than thirty different cards can be found in sideboards in total. Next to the above, the best numbers were reached by Hour of Devastation, Magma Spray, additional Essence Scatter and Vraska's Contempt, Moment of Craving, and Aethersphere Harvester.
One final piece of information: Among the more recently published lists, there's a definite trend to include two copies of Search for Azcanta and three copies of Dreamstealer. Both are apparently crucial in the war of attrition that is the mirror match, so it makes sense to expect more of them going forward.
That's Grixis Energy in a nutshell. Now if anyone can tell me a Standard deck which reliably beats this, post a comment below!
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