In my article last week, I wrote about which decks I expect to see in week one of Explorer, the new Pioneer-lite format added to Magic Arena. My primary focus was on decks that have all or most of the key pieces from their tuned Pioneer builds already available on the client.
One of these decks, Mardu Greasefang, only loses a single card on the conversion, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, which can easily be replaced by a basic land. The list should be playing at least one basic anyway as streamers like @Aspiringspike have been playing lists with various Field of Ruin effects to punish greedy manabases. Players tend to copy cool brews like these, leading to substantial echoes throughout the metagame. There's no need to get got. Just play basics in your decks.
The Greasefang deck is a ton of fun. It's consistent and the combo is compact, offering both power and flexibility. I especially love that you can pivot into a midrange game plan post-board should your opponent have the tools to disrupt you.
What Does it Do?
Greasefang, Okiba Boss's ability allows it to return a vehicle from your graveyard to the battlefield, then give it haste. Since Greasefang is a 4/3, it can easily crew most vehicles by itself, even massive threats like Parhelion II, which can immediately hit your opponent for 13 damage, leaving behind two 4/4 angel tokens. Greasefang returns the vehicle to your hand at the end of the turn, but your deck has plenty of ways to discard it again such as the blood token from Voldaren Epicure. Even if you can't reload the combo on the following turn, the angel tokens can typically finish the job with no additional help.
Your combo is supported through plenty of rummaging effects like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflections of Kiki-Jiki and self-mill through Stitcher's Supplier. Can't Stay Away provides some redundancy and card advantage as both a way to reanimate a milled Greasefang and a spell to cast from the graveyard. Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger takes advantage of your large graveyard and gives you an additional, recursive threat.
What I Like
The Greasefang combo is compact with minimal mana investment, only needing three mana on the combo turn to "go off". Even when the combo is disrupted through graveyard hate, a 4/3 body is substantial and can just attack your opponent. Compare this to other A+B combo decks where the individual components are dead draws that don't meaningfully affect the board.
Mardu allows for a lot of interaction in both the main deck and sideboard. Access to premier removal spells like Fatal Push and disruption such as Thoughtseize helps get you to your combo turn and execute it safely. Ob Nixilis, the Adversary in the sideboard also offers a low-cost, hard-pivot midrange threat that blanks sideboard hate cards and taxes opposing resources.
What I Don't Like
A lot of the cards in your deck act as moving parts. They're necessary features but ultimately hit under par on card quality. Epicure, Supplier, and redundant copies of your vehicles are pretty mediocre top decks when you're behind. This may simply be due to sample size, but I've often found myself either extremely tight on mana, or heavily flooded. I wish there were some additional forms of draw smoothing.
Notably, there is a separate version of the Greasefang combo in an Esper shell. This build utilizes Faithful Mending and Tainted Indulgence to filter through your deck without the need for the dinkier creatures. I may give this version a go down the road.
What's Under the Hood
Overall, I really enjoyed the Greasefang combo deck, and it seems to have some serious legs in Explorer. I'm looking forward to tinkering around in the format and finding new and exciting deck options that can thrive in this environment but aren't as strong players in the full Pioneer card pool. In the meantime, you can keep up with me on Twitter at @AdamECohen. Feel free to reach out with any questions, and don't forget to like, comment, and subscribe to the QuietSpeculation Youtube page to keep up with all of our amazing content. I'll see you next week!