Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Against the Odds! Lost Caverns of Ixalan is finally here! What card gets the honor of being the first Against the Odds card from the set? Honestly, it was a really tight race between The Millennium Calendar and Throne of the Grim Captain, and while I’m sure we’ll be counting up to 1,000 counter soon, today we’re trying to craft our way into a 7/7 hexproofer with a huge amount of text: The Grim Captain! How hard will it be to find a Vampire, Merfolk, Dinosaur l, and Pirate for crafting? How strong is The Grim Captain once it hits the battlefield? Let’s find out on today’s Against the Odds!
Against the Odds: The Grim Captain
Throne of the Grim Captain is an interesting card. The front side doesn’t do much of anything as a two-mana artifact that taps to mill two cards, but the back side – The Grim Captain – is pretty absurd as a 7/7 menace, lifelink, hexproofer that makes an opponent sacrifice a non-land permanent when it attacks and allows us to put one of the creatures that crafted it into play tapped and attacking. The question is how practical it will be to actually craft into the backside, since to get there we not only need four mana (which should be easy enough) but four specific creature types. In older formats there’s a cheat code for flipping Throne of the Grim Captain in changelings which count as all creature types, which means any four will let us transform. But we’re playing Standard, a format with no changelings at all, which means we’re summoning The Grim Captain the old fashioned way by trying to get a Vampire, Dino, Merfolk, and Pirate on the battlefield and/or in the graveyard.
To maximize our odds of finding one of each creature type and actually summoning The Grim Captain, we’re playing an even mix of Merfolk, Vampires, Dinos, and Pirates with between five and eight cards of each creature type. Even better, almost every creature in our deck helps full our graveyard, which is exactly what you want in a deck built around crafting. While the craft mechanic does allow you to exile cards from the battlefield or the graveyard, the graveyard is far better since you don’t have to spend mana to cast the cards. For example, our Merfolk both explore, making sure we hit our lands drops while also milling over Vampires, Dinos, Merfolk, and Pirates to speed up our flip.
For Vampires we have Voldaren Epicure which makes a Blood token we can use to rummage a creature into our graveyard and Voldaren Thrillseeker which often closes out the game by letting us throw our hexproof The Grim Captain at our opponent’s face to get through the last few points of damage.
For Pirates we have Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel which loots when it deals combat damage, giving us another way to stock our graveyard with craftable creatures and Kitesail Larcenist which is basically a removal spell that also work with Throne of the Grim Captain.
Apart from playing a mixture of creature types, we have one last trick in Brass’s Tunnel-Grinder. First, the front side of the artifact is a great way to dig through our deck while stocking our graveyard. For three mana, it allows us to discard up to our entire hand and draw that many cards plus one, making it a great way to find Throne of the Grim Captain and getting the right creature types. Second, Brass’s Tunnel-Grinder is the perfect backup plan for our deck. Since our deck is super permanent heavy and full of ways to get cards into our graveyard, we can typically flip Brass’s Tunnel-Grinder in three turns giving us a land that discovers for free each turn when we use it to cast a permanent spell. If we can’t win with The Grim Captain, we can flip Brass’s Tunnel-Grinder, start slinging big spells like Trumpeting Carnosaur and Jadelight Spelunker and hopefully build a massive, unbeatable board of janky Ixalan creatures with the help of the free pseudo-cascade each turn!
Record wise we ended up winning somewhere around 50% of the time with The Grim Captain, although since we were playing on early access day, I’m not sure how much this really matters. I don’t take early access day records very seriously since everyone is trying new cards and decks. More importantly, I was super wrong about The Grim Captain in two different ways. Heading into our matches, I expected that Throne of the Grim Captain would be pretty difficult to flip, but if we did flip it The Grim Captain would be busted and probably win us the game. Well, it turns out that the exact opposite is true. We had very little trouble flipping into The Grim Captain. We did it a bunch of times, often as early as turn four. Apparently getting the right mix of creatures isn’t actually that hard if you build your deck to do it. On the other hand, The Grim Captain itself was pretty disappointing, at least as disappointing as a 7/7 lifelink, hexproof with two attack triggers can be. We had multiple games where we managed to summon The Grim Captain early in the game, but still ended up losing. It turns out that even with hexproof, The Grim Captain gets swept away by wraths like Sunfall and Farewell and still gets got by edicts like Liliana of the Veil and Sheoldred’s Edict. This isn’t to say The Grim Captain is bad – it just isn’t an Emrakul-type creature that is a guaranteed win once it hits the battlefield.
The biggest issue with The Grim Captain is it’s super slow. We have to craft into it at sorcery speed and then it sits on the battlefield for a turn doing nothing before it attacks. This gives our opponent a chance to get their defenses set up, either by simply killing The Grim Captain or getting a combination of creatures on the battlefield that can block it successfully. With the amount of deck building effort it takes to get a Dinosaur, Pirate, Vampire, and Merfolk for crafting, I almost wish The Grim Captain had haste. Basically, the TLDR of The Grim Captain is that, if you are willing to build around it l, it’s much easier to summon than I expected, but much less likely to immediately end the game than I hoped.
Anyway, that’s all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.