How to Beat: Legacy Grixis Tempo
18/09/2023 · 9 min read
Hello everyone and welcome back to some scriblings from my hand. Rather than taking the perspective and writing about how to play a certain deck, I thought it would be interesting to write about how to beat certain decks instead. To kick things off, I targeted Legacy Grixis Tempo which is a deck that you need a solid plan against if you plan to take down your next Legacy event.
Grixis Tempo reminds me of 2015 Jund in Modern which had solid matchups across the format and was very hard to sideboard against. You can upgrade some cards here and there, but there aren't any obvious haymakers to foil the strategy as a whole. The same can be said about 2023 Legacy Grixis Tempo, so we can only look for good timing and favorable interactions which combined hopefully stack up to more match wins against the deck.
|4 Delver of Secrets||$0.39|
|1 Brazen Borrower||$6.99|
|4 Murktide Regent||$20.99|
|4 Dragon's Rage Channeler||$1.79|
|4 Orcish Bowmasters||$64.99|
|3 Mishra's Bauble||$1.29|
|4 Force of Will||$64.99|
|4 Lightning Bolt||$1.29|
|1 Unholy Heat||$0.35|
|3 Polluted Delta||$37.99|
|3 Bloodstained Mire||$37.99|
|3 Underground Sea||$299.99|
|3 Volcanic Island||$329.99|
|3 Scalding Tarn||$20.99|
|1 Surgical Extraction||$3.99|
|3 Force of Negation||$44.99|
|2 Sheoldred's Edict||$3.49|
Beating Their Threats
First of all, let's check out the configuration of creatures that the Grixis pilots plan on finishing the game with.
Delver of Secrets, Dragon's Rage Channeler
The eight one drops will represent the fastest draws out of Grixis Tempo. It's important to either kill them quickly, match their boardstate and stabilize or have one or more comeback mechanism like Supreme Verdict, Terminus, Uro, Batterskull and similar sweepers or lifegain haymakers or have a combo finish to "ignore" the chip damage.
The Orc has taken non-rotating formats by storm, and you don't want to show up to a Legacy tournament and be soft to its textbox. I'm not advocating to stop playing cantrips, but you have to think about the timing a lot if you do. If your favorite deck happens to be a deck without much draw power and X/1 creatures, your deck automatically got more well positioned with the release of Orcish Bowmasters.
If you play a Bowmasters vs. Bowmasters matchup, you want to wait as long as possible before playing it out which makes for a weird dynamic. The short version is to play as few one toughness creatures as possible and consider playing cantrips at awkward timings to mitigate its effect.
The big blue Dragon will finish games fast if you can't favorably interact with it. If you play a white deck, think twice about using your lone Swords to Plowshares early to deal with a one drop while also realizing that the chip damage can come back to hurt you later.
This dynamic is a big reason why Grixis Tempo is a great deck. The flipside is that cards like Teferi, Time Raveler, Pyroblast, Dress Down and incidental graveyard hate like early Endurance will interact very favorably against Murktide Regent.
Handling Their Disruption Spells
Next up is the deck's disruption which counts removal spells and counters. This is an easy trap to play into, so let's disect some myths and prepare some good play patterns against them.
Force of Will
Force of Will can be tricky to play against, but a lot of situations will leave you without real opportunities for counterplay. Obviously, having cards like Aether Vial which forces the timing on Force of Will or Cavern of Souls which completely bypasses it for a picked creature type can work wonders, but overall having a deck that's weak to Force of Will without a reliable way to clear it out first is not a winning recipe.
If you make your opponent Force of Will your threat turn 1 and you can follow it up with more haymakers, that's when we're cooking and really put pressure on the Grixis Pilot. If you are playing a fair strategy, chances are you not worried about Force of Will at all in which case you should plan to leverage the card advantage during a longer game.
Daze is the spicy one of this duo. The Grixis player will have nut draws consisting of one drop, Daze, Wasteland and win their fair share of games that way.It's our job to mitigate this number and pick the right spots to respect Daze and the right spots to play into it.
Respecting Daze makes sense if you have a cheaper quality play instead or if you have a less important card that you would rather get Daze'd. The conflict is when you play around Daze from the early turns only to play into it on turn 5. In this case you would've been much better off playing into it early because you give them less time to actually have it and you clear the way for your tap out play later in the game.
Also note that waiting one turn against Daze can lead to getting punished by Wasteland, and then you're back where you started except you just got attacked one more time. I would also advocate looking up multiple Grixis sideboard guides to learn if they shave Daze against your deck. It's not any guarantee that your next Grixis opponent uses the same strategy, but it's a good rule of thumb that could help you in tough decisions playing around Daze. One last point is that if you play around Daze for multiple turns, those small disadvantages will add up and lose you games that you weren't supposed to lose from time to time.
The short story about Daze is that you should play around it with a purpose and you shouldn't be chronically worried about tapping out against it.
It also means that bigger creatures are great threats and defensive tools in the mid game.
Your Grixis Tempo opponent will play this card because it kills small creatures and can finish off opponents in the scrappy games. It also means that bigger creatures like Endurance, Knight of the Reliquary, big Elvish Reclaimers, Constructs from Urza's Saga, 4/4 hamster from Minsc and Boo etc. are great threats and defensive tools in the mid game.
Playing Around their Cantrips
The cantrips of Grixis Tempo is an integral part of their deck. They allow the deck to keep more hands, they fewer bricks in the lategame and they fuel their threats. Let's see how we can exploit the 8 cantrip configuration.
There are multiple anti-draw cards out there from Orcish Bowmasters, Hullbreacher, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, Narset, Parter of Veils and Faerie Mastermind to Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. While all of these are great in play against Grixis Tempo, the majority of them are also quite hard to resolve.
I want to prioritize cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Chalice of the Void as a way to make the cantrip strategy way less appealing. Paying double for your Ponder is really unexciting while Chalice of the Void deranks them to graveyard fillers and Delver flippers altogether.
Last up is the manabase which is a part of the deck that is easy to look past when trying to craft a winning strategy against Grixis Tempo.
Volcanic Island, Underground Sea
First let's focus on the fact that the deck runs 0 basic lands. All of a sudden, Blood Moon becomes a three mana win the game spell in a lot of spot.
Back to Basics really halts them, and Ghost Quarter becomes the Legacy-legal Strip Mine.
When I played Temur Rhinos and Mono Red Prison in the past, Blood Moon prompted many concessions when I was on the play - on the draw they have Hydroblast, Daze and potentially Spell Pierce and Thoughtseize to clear it out which makes Moon way less reliable.
Life from the Loam + Wasteland will also grind out sad Grixis pilots if you can withstand the early pressure at the same time.
Playing around Wasteland is not always an easy task, but playing basic lands and a deck without heavy multicolor requirements will get you far.
Some Times You Can Ignore It
I've seen players fetch basics and lose the game with uncastable cards in hand, so the real decision is whether to start fetching dual lands right away and accepting the 0 mana Stone Rain or try to insulate against it right away at the cost of playing multiple cheap spells per turn or having uncastable cards in the mid-game. If you are playing a deck like Jeskai Control, you can ignore Wasteland most games and still cast your spells every time which is a huge draw to the archetype.
Land Sequencing to Reap Rewards
In decks with Dark Depths, Urza's Saga or Gaea's Cradle, there's a lot of value to be made from thinking about your land sequencing because sometimes the Grixis Pilot will use Wasteland on the first land they see to help the Daze in their hand, so that's another way to lose your next best land to Wasteland and reap the rewards.
The presence of 8 cantrips means they have easier access to finding their haymakers in medium and long games. I've especially noticed the importance of this in regard to Meltdown where some decks are very soft to that card even on turn 6. That's a lot of turns to cross your fingers they don't find it. They also have access to Pyroblast and Hydroblast which are one mana Counterspell and one mana Vindicate in a lot of matchups. Playing a deck that doesn't care about either is super strong if you want to minimize the effectiveness of the Grixis sideboard.
Grixis Tempo will be a force in Legacy for a long time to come, but the above are some of the ways to get an edge playing against it. Legacy and Magic as a whole is very contextual, so there will of course be in-depth things from each deck's point of view that are super relevant.
This article's goal was to disect the deck in the grand scheme of things to make it easier to craft a gameplan against it and exploit the weaknesses. I hope it helps you destroy Grixis Tempo in your next Legacy event whether you prefer Tendrils of Agony, Marit Lage, Emrakul, Goblin Rabblemaster or something else as your win condition!