Time to hype Gruul aggro - this deck is tuned for wild calamity!
I love green and red Magic cards. Since 1994, really since the time of Kird Ape, and the beginning, have these two colors worked so harmoniously. Finally, in Gruul, I feel like we have a well tuned list here; a list that is true to the aggro curve methodology - a list that can, and does, reliably win games.
NOTICE: No Ghalta, Primal Hunger!
Two colors may not be better than three, and this Gruul deck list may potentially benefit from splashing blue, but we end up migrating away from the modus of the deck in adding blue. We end up making a Hydroid Krasis deck instead of a low to the ground, fast aggro deck. I'm not sure if white weenie is better? I'm not sure if we are missing ways to bounce back from the board wipes in Gates, Orzhov, and Sultai. Blue helps us say no when we need to at times - a theme I have been stressing of late in aggro decks.
Let's dive into this deck, talk fairly about its potential, and make our way to a FNM, PTQ, or RPTQ with the list to validate our theories!
The Raze-Boar's Imminent Return...
The core strategy to our deck is to give creatures without Riot, Riot, and to stack triggers of those creatures with Riot to make them bigger and hasty. It's pretty simple. We want to overwhelm our opponent early, and often, to win our games. I would very strongly recommend that you seek opening hands that have a copy of Rhythm of the Wild in them. A mulligan to six cards on the draw isn't bad, especially if you have Growth-Chamber Guardian in your opener as well. From an analytical perspective regarding future cards, I can see this card being critical to providing access to creature abilities for combo purposes in later sets. It's dynamite as is, but sequestered to Gruul or Temur...Prime Speaker Vannifar can help us really abuse this enchantment.
You take our wilds, we take your city.
I am impressed with the mid-game power of this deck. Gruul has always had that "dump your hand and turn it sideways" feel to it; this deck is no different with the exception of our 4 drops and 5 drops adding much needed pressure from other angles. I have heard various talented content producers, and people who are in sync with #MTG, discussing the power of Sunder Shaman. After extensively playtesting this deck in competitive and non-competitve games: I can objectively assure you that Sunder Shaman is what Gruul needs to be capable in this meta. A 5/5 in our 4 drop slot, that can't be blocked by more than one creature, and that Naturalizes a permanent when dealing damage is perfect.
Nullhide Ferox is a good beater in this deck. Easy to get out early thanks to the Llanowar Elves, a healthy body at 6/6, the added benefit of being hexproof, and just chock-full of hate for Thought Erasure. In fact, any decks leaning on a hand control strategy need to beware of Nullhide Ferox. Skarrgan Hellkite is the new hotness; we get compounded Riot triggers with an active Rhythm of the Wild and the ability to direct damage to additional targets. Doesn't hurt us at all that we are incorporating a flyer into our arsenal either - evasive damage going toward our opponents, and creature to answer flyers coming our direction.
She displays her scars with pride.
Gruul Spellbreaker is a mainstay in this deck. She completely eliminates our concerns with Settle the Wreckage - making that card irrelevant. She avoids instant speed removal during our combat step, has Riot innately, and at a 3/3 for 3, is just wicked gnarly. Also: Trample. We are running 4 copies for the sake of having permissive access to the "hexproof on our turn" ability. We don't want to be controlled. Rhythm of the Wild makes our creature spells so they cannot be countered, adds an additional Riot trigger to the Spellbreaker, and makes it so we can be swinging in for a 4/4 with haste for 3 mana. I can see this card also being extremely important after our next rotation. There will be reasons that hexproof on our turn is viable.
The Bulk of the Horde...
A solid aggro plan means we need to still feel good about drawing our two drops on turns 7 and 8. Multifaceted options that give us added strengths to the overall game plan are preferred, and out of the lot of potential creatures to choose from in Standard (for Gruul), I think we have done pretty well with our selections. Growth-Chamber Guardian is seeing a good amount of play in several different decks and color combinations. The reason we are running 4 copies is pretty obvious here when you understand the interaction between Rhythm of the Wild and GCG - the riot trigger puts a +1/+1 counter on GCG and we search our deck for another. Sure we could argue that waiting to Adapt might be better, but not in a situation where we are hoping to overrun the board.
We are on the ground during our assault. The Skarrgan Hellkite adds some supplemental support for flying defense, but Kraul Harpooner is our main deck solution to pesky flyers, mainly Pteramander and MonoBlue Curious Obsession, currently dominating the Standard format. Just having Reach makes our opponents less likely to trade. Kraul Harpooner is a creature we need, so we include 2 copies mainboard and 2 copies in the sideboard. Merfolk Branchwalker may be one of the best cards in Ixalan. I challenge you to find a green deck that doesn't run this card (I know you'll prove me wrong). We get an explore trigger, fix our mana, maybe a +1/+1 counter from the explore, and then if Rhythm is in play, we get another counter or haste. Full on "baller" status: never feels bad to draw.
The purest expression of life's savage splendor...
I am tired of being thwarted from supreme glory by opponent's who have creatures that pose problems for our rambling horde; I am intentionally carrying options in this deck that give us the ability to respond to just that. Lava Coil: perhaps the best answer (at sorcery speed) in the current Standard format to permanently remove problematic creatures from the other side of the battlefield. Drakes causing you problems? Lava Coil. Resplendent Angel got you down? Lava Coil. Steel Leaf Champion all up in your grill? Lava Coil.
Two-sided cards are double the fun. Let's go back to this decks problem with flyers. Our forces are on the ground; we have some supplemental creatures that can deal with flying, but we don't want to be trading them off in combat. Collision gives us a mainboard Plummet style effect (although strictly worse) to deal with potential threats before they have a chance to pressure our life total. Colossus is better than Giant Growth, and only one more mana to cast. +4/+2 and Trample? Talk about an awesome combat trick; use it liberally for maximum success. We also run one copy of Banefire mainboard - when you absolutely, positively, must kill the opponent and win the game - Banefire, accept no substitutes.
All the Best Answers in One Sideboard...
Act of Treason is not a new card - heck, even the mechanic of stealing our opponents creatures goes back to the days of Alpha. However, in the current Standard format, it is a surprising, often unanticipated move. Using our opponents resources against them is a perfect and salient solution to sinking extra points of damage. Not only are we removing a potential blocker for our attackers, but we may also get access to other mechanics that give us a decided advantage. I just wish we had a sacrifice outlet, but those difficult to find without black mana or artifact abilities. I know this thought is a deviation from the line, but, wouldn't Brion Stoutarm be hilarious here? Maybe by playing more into Act of Treason we could find a place for Thud. Maybe not.
Carnage Tyrant is a one-of in our sideboard, bring him in when you feel like it. The big lizard's inclusion in the extra 15 should be fairly obvious. There are no special tactics when we are only rocking one copy. Cindervines is a control players nightmare. I love the punishment for casting noncreature spells, and having the Thrashing Brontodon plus 2 damage effect is exactly why we board it in. We use Cindervines in place of Lava Coil in most cases. Are artifacts and enchantments causing you problems? Look no further than Cindervines. Pro Tip: Do not give your opponent the opportunity to flip a Treasure Map.
Deathgorge Scavenger is supremely valuable to our deck. Derek taught me some moderate lessons recently regarding the function of this card in a sideboard. It's about restricting options to recursion and recasts for our opponents. The life gain can be quite beneficial when removing creatures, not to mention the prevalence of Find // Finality is problematic for us. Again, restricting options to recursion of creatures, and spells with Jump-Start is what we are after. An active Rhythm of the Wild gives us the ability to double up on the Deathgorge triggers too - take that! Fiery Cannonade shows mono-white weenie and mono-blue tempo decks to the door. Pyroclasm is an insanely powerful card, and while Fiery Cannonade is not Pyroclasm it is the best solution for early aggro that a desperate creature deck could ask for.
Time to Reclaim the Wilds!
I love this deck. You should play it. Tell me how you did.
Until next time, remember to play a Land and a Rhythm of the Wild on turn two, and Say Go.