There are few things I want in life. I want to go skydiving, travel to Germany, and play a Modern Grixis midrange deck with Dark Confidant. If you know me, you know which one I want the most. If you don’t, then hello! My name is Chad and what I want most, is to play a Modern Grixis deck with Dark Confidant. It has been close to top tier but Thing in the Ice may be the answer to finally make it viable so I can mark it off my bucket list.
Setting the Stage
To explain why I think now is time, we first to need to examine what made Grixis viable in the first place. Grixis decks leaped into the Modern scene with the printing of Kolaghan’s Command and delve threats like Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler. The insane value engine of Snapcasting a Kolaghan’s Command sent a wide variety of decks home crying.
The delve threats also gave Grixis an important piece it was missing, a threat and a clock. Before these cards came, Grixis was a bit confused on what it was trying to be. Was it trying to go big and live the pipe dream of casting Cruel Ultimatum? Was it splashing black just for some discard and removal spells? Both of those were hardly worth it when UWr was playing the midrange control game better.
Let’s look at what has changed and why it’s worth playing now.
Building a Deck List
I want to walk through a possible build that I think can bring Grixis back on top. However, the deck list is mainly theoretical because It’s hard to test for an unknown meta. With the uncertainty of what card will be banned from Eldrazi, and the whole Shadows over Innistrad set not being spoiled yet, I’ll just need to do a lot of goldfishing.
My focus is more on wanting to step back from the hype train for a second and frame a more general discussion on what shell Thing in the Ice is actually viable in. With that in mind, this is the general maindeck I feel Thing in the Ice could slot into for a Grixis deck.
You will find it looks fairly similar to a Blue Moon deck, simply cutting the Blood Moons and some counter magic for discard spells and the Dark Confidants. Besides Kolaghan’s Command, and a one of Rise//Fall, all spells cost 1 or 2 ensuring a fast flip from Thing in the Ice and a happy Dark Confidant. Let’s take a look.
Living the Dream
Alright, let’s get to what I want to talk about now. I’d be lying if I didn’t say Dark Confidant was my favorite Magic card ever printed, but I try to not let that cloud my judgement. Prior to Battle for Zendikar, Grixis was a great deck but it became unfavorable in most matchups.
Traditional Grixis Bad Matchups
RG Tron has been a difficult deck for Grixis to beat and has also spawned a wave of aggressive decks which came in behind it to be the Tron killers. The difficulty in beating RG Tron is in the clunkiness of getting real threats on the table. This wasn’t a problem in many other matchups as you were able to buy time with removal and discard, but RG Tron puts a lot of pressure of you to not durdle.
Another difficult deck has been Burn. It was all but unwinnable and forced you to play draft chaff level cards like Vampiric Link.
Who’s to say what the meta will look like when Eldrazi is weakened with the ban hammer and Twin now gone? I’ll hope the glass of ice is half full and Grixis is somewhat viable again.
Icing on the Cake
Thing in the Ice fills a similar role that Tasigur and Gurmag Angler did. It’s a threat with a fast clock that Grixis desperately needs. The major difference though is that Thing in the Ice is much less clunky in your opening hand, especially when facing down the faster decks in the format like Burn and Affinity.
If you’re holding 2 delve threats in your opening hand against an aggressive deck such as Affinity, it means game over a lot of the time. Thing in the Ice can be cast on turn 2, no questions asked, and act as an early blocker against aggressive decks. Later it becomes the threat you need, just from playing Magic.
What About Bob?
Since you no longer have to run filler cards like 3-4 Thought Scour to fuel delve, and are no longer running 3-4 six and seven drops, your deck is a lot friendlier for Dark Confidant to find its home. Dark Confidant does it’s best work against combo decks, Infect, Tron, Abzan Company, creature deck without burn spells in it, and any matchup where you need to dig for sideboard cards quickly or are looking to out grind your opponent. Honestly it’s shorter to say where you don’t want it. Burn and Affinity.
To sum up, Thing in the Ice is much less clunky when compared to threats like Tasigur and Gurmag Angler because of the mana cost. It also frees up a lot of the filler cards from your deck to play more actual Magic cards like counters, Dark Confidant, and discard.
You could easily play a Grixis variant with Thing in the Ice and no Dark Confidant however, Dark Confidant actually fills a pivotal role in the deck. It’s essential that you continue drawing cards so that you can flip Thing in the Ice at any point in the game you draw it. Don’t underestimate the power of drawing 2 cards a turn to keep for Thing in the Ice. It also puts pressure on combo and control decks, and keeps a steady line of removal spells coming for creature decks.
You may look at the flip side of Thing in the Ice and see it bouncing Bob as a nonbo that turns off your card draw for a turn. Think of it more as insurance against removal. Having the threat of open mana with one or two counters left on Thing in the Ice means that your opponent needs to do some serious thinking before using removal. It also can be a way to preserve your life total if needed.
Finding a Shell
You can find a more general analysis of Thing in the Ice in part one of “Chipping Away at Thing in the Ice” that Brett Bennett wrote, also on 5 Color Combo. He settles on a Blue Moon shell with a threat arsenal of Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, and Thing in the Ice. I’ve used some of the concepts he talked about in this shell though.
His creature suite is needed because Thing in the Ice does come with a very specific deckbuilding restriction on what you can play alongside it. Playing cards like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Young Pyromancer, and similar style of cards will do you no justice in a deck with Thing in the Ice. You’ll find my creature suite mirrors his with the addition of Dark Confidant.
Getting Ideas Out There
This is by no means a final list, but it’s definitely an idea I look forward to testing more when we see how the Modern meta shapes up after Shadows over Innistrad. I’m also excited to read more about what other unique ideas people have thought of for Thing in the Ice as this is the easily the card I’m most pumped about from the spoilers so far.
Whatever shell Thing in the Ice finds, I’m excited to see what it brings for blue going forward in the Modern format.