et down your blue magic, throw aside your law-abiding mentality, and hop on your war indrik—it's Gruul Week!
Pit Fight | Art by Matt Stewart
This week, I'm going to take a look at a Gruul deck with some elements you might expect... and a few twists.
The things you expect? A rush of creatures—followed by a bloodrush of combat tricks. Attacking is the Gruul way, and I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity for Gruul Week.
But what you might not expect? Well, how about this guy:
You might remember that a few months ago I wrote about a Wild Beastmaster deck that proved to be pretty popular. (It was budget-friendly as well—check it out if that's what you're looking for.) With the addition of Gatecrash, Wild Beastmaster gets even better!
But I won't let myself steal the thunder from Future Gavin—he'll tell you about it in a moment. In the meantime, take a look at the deck we'll be starting with today: Kyle Gascoigne's Wild Game!
Kyle Gascoigne's Wild Game
The Battle Plan
This deck is plenty aggressive, planning to attack at each opportunity. You want to turn your creatures sideways most turns, using your plentitude of combat tricks to your advantage.
And speaking of combat tricks, now that Future Gavin is here, let's talk about Wild Beastmaster a bit.
Before, the key to the Beastmaster was casting a ton of pump spells on her, attacking to make all of your creatures colossal, and then defeating your opponent.
Gatecrash changes everything! Now the plan is to attack, then cast a bunch of pump spells on her!
Wild Beastmaster | Art by Kev Walker
...okay, so maybe there's a bit more to it than that.
Gatecrash adds several great new elements to this deck. The first up is core to Gruul: bloodrush.
Before, you wanted to play all kinds of instants and sorceries to pump up your creatures. However, a big problem was that you didn't want to risk drawing hands of all pump spells without enough creatures to grow big with Wild Beastmaster.
Bloodrush solves this problem perfectly! You can attack, put Wild Beastmaster's triggered ability on the stack, and then use bloodrush on it. When the ability resolves, it will take the post-bloodrush power into account. Bloodrush gives you a suite of creatures, which also double as aggressive pump spells. Since you only really want to pump your Wild Beastmaster on offense anyway, the limitation to attacking creatures isn't a big deal at all!
Second, the card Burning-Tree Emissary goes a long way. It puts an essentially free creature onto the table, meaning you can load multiple creatures onto the table right before playing a Beastmaster without any problem. Imagine a hand, for example, that goes turn-one Arbor Elf; turn-two Emissary, Emissary, Beastmaster. A single Slaughterhorn or Ghor-Clan Rampager on Wild Beastmaster turn three makes for lethal damage!
Finally, you have Domri Rade. Domri not only serves as a huge threat to control and as a removal spell, but he also allows you to keep up a steady stream of creatures—of which many are pump spells! Domri can't help you draw Giant Growth—but he sure can help you draw bloodrush creatures! The addition of Gruul cards give this deck a much different—and deadlier—texture than before.
So, where should we start to look at changes? Let's go through each card in the deck and see what belongs and what can go.
This is a core focal point of this deck. We're going to build around her and making her as strong as possible. This deck will definitely want all four copies.
The key element that can make this deck more powerful than other beatdown decks in its class is the blistering speed it can present. We have to maximize its speed, and Arbor Elf does that masterfully.
One-mana Elves are great for this sort of strategy since not only do they accelerate you, but they double up as creatures for when it's time to go whole-hog (sometimes quite literally) with your Wild Beastmaster. To this end, I definitely want to play as many one-mana Elves as I can. In addition to four Arbor Elfs, a full set of Avacyn's Pilgrim would make a good fit as well. While this deck doesn't need the white mana, the acceleration is still good enough that I want to play Pilgrim as well.
As noted before, Burning-Tree Emissary is awesome in decks that want to quickly run their opponents over with Wild Beastmaster. Playing Emissary into Beastmaster is quite powerful, and you definitely want to play the full four to maximize this situation.
+4/+4 and trample for two mana is an extraordinarily good price, and, as one of the flagship bloodrush creatures, it's a great fit in this deck. It can even be a perfectly reasonable creature on its own when it's time to beat down! I definitely want to keep the full four copies of these.
While it might not be a Ghor-Clan Rampager, Slaughterhorn is still an incredible trick for this deck. It's more or less a Giant Growth that can also be used as a creature to beat down with. While a 3/2 for three isn't setting any world records (well, maybe on the world of Segovia), it can still get in for plenty damage if you have a blistering assault.
It's the next bloodrush creature I want to play, and I want to play all four.
Legion Loyalist is attractive for a few reasons. First, it can give all of your creatures trample. When you're attacking with Wild Beastmaster, Legion Loyalist ensures your huge creatures can't just be chump blocked. Second, even in normal combat situations without a Beastmaster, first strike helps your creatures win in combat. It's also something else you can do on turn one if you don't have an Elf.
However, every card comes at a cost. To play a card, it means you're not playing something else. And while Legion Loyalist can be strong, it's really only best when you're already winning. If you're attacking with a massive Wild Beastmaster, you're probably in good shape anyway! I would rather play something that is more consistently good in this deck. He may be loyal—but this take on the Gruul Clans is not the place for him.
One of the major strengths of this deck is that, in addition to just killing your opponent with a huge Wild Beastmaster–influenced army, you can just be a reasonable beatdown deck otherwise. Cards like Strangleroot Geist are a core part of that. It's a fantastic aggressive creature, is plenty resilient, and works well with Domri. I'll be keeping all four.
In addition to Strangleroot Geist, I would like to up the beatdown element of this deck even more. The card I would look at doing this with fits in a similar vein: Flinthoof Boar. As a 3/3 for only two mana, with the potential to gain haste, Flinthoof Boar can create some really explosive and beatdown-heavy draws.
While brutally powerful, at five mana it's a bit expensive to cast. Most of the time I would rather have something like Wolfir Silverheart.
If we shave out our most expensive creatures, we can keep this deck on an incredibly low curve that won't need nearly as many lands. If this deck tops out at three or four and has eight one-drop mana accelerators, we can probably get away with twenty or twenty-one lands. (Which, in turn, makes our Domri Rades better.) While he can be a wrecking, this Ogre isn't quite a fit.
Domri Rade is a card-drawing, creature-killing, ultimate-threatening machine. With eight turn-one accelerators, you can cast him on turn two fairly often. At that point, he will dig you closer to the crucial elements of your deck, filling your hand with bloodrush creatures—or even the Wild Beastmaster herself.
Control decks often gnash their teeth to fight off an early Domri, and against beatdown decks he can completely dominate a game if left unchecked. I'd like to move up to the full four copies of Domri. He's just yet another powerful turn-two threat you can present.
With the surplus of bloodrush creatures and the move to four Domris, the noncreatures in this deck really need to count. I'm willing to play some noncreatures—but not many, and they have to be worth it.
I think the card I would rather have here is Rancor. While there are some times when Giant Growth is deemed better—such as Grand Prix Quebec City a couple weeks ago—the ability to use Rancor over and over again, as well as being able to use it to beat down early, makes up for the fact that it pumps Wild Beastmaster for 1 less on the turn you cast it. You have plenty of other Giant Growth–like effects in your deck, and so having some variation is good. Rancor it is!
While some kind of direct damage in this deck is definitely reasonable (I'd probably go with Searing Spear), Domri Rade pushes me toward not wanting more spells than the four Rancors. It would have to really be worth it for me to make that swap, and in this case Skullcrack isn't on the level I would need it to be to add even more spells to this deck.
So, what does that bring the decklist to? It ends up looking like this:
Gavin Verhey's Wild Gruul
Now, this deck does stray from a lot of things you might expect from other Gruul decks. For example, it doesn't play Huntmaster of the Fells. That way, you can keep the mana curve incredibly low (nothing costs more than three, save for a hard-cast Ghor-Clan Rampager), meaning you can get away with few lands in your deck.
However, there are certainly some other directions you can take this deck. You can go bigger and play cards like Huntmaster of the Fells. (Which does work pretty well with the Wild Beastmaster, since you get two creatures.) You could also try and go smaller and even faster, with cards like Lightning Mauler. Lightning Mauler can create some pretty insane starts with both Wild Beastmaster and Burning-Tree Emissary, and you could definitely use a setup like that to try and lower the curve further.
But if you're looking to hit hard with strong creatures and attack with a gigantic Wild Beastmaster army—not to mention build a deck that doesn't need any mythic rares other than Domri Rade—then this is definitely something worth trying out. Give it a try, and see how you would tweak it. Have fun beating down with Wild Beastmasters!
If you can't get enough Gruul, here is a compilation of some of the most exciting Gruul decklists I was sent this week. Take a look!
Tony Youssef's Doll Run Maw
Yuusuke Miwa's Human Steroid
Richard Collins's Werewolves
Thomas Mathis's Gruul Fast Aggro
Matt O'Brien's Ramp Doll
Wilber Hurley's Gruul Land Destruction
Simon Dieck's Krenko's Raid
Takahashi Kazuyasu's Bloodrush Fright
Richard Lin's Armageddon Out of Here
Ryo Itabashi's Big Gruul
The Beast Below
In two weeks, we're moving far away from the beasts of Gruul on the surface. We head to a far different kind of beast that lives below the surface of Ravnica: the Dimir. What deck will I be talking about? Well, that's up to you!
Restrictions: Your deck must be blue and black and no other colors. (Overlapping hybrid cards, such as Blistercoil Weird and Deathrite Shaman, are okay.)
Deadline: Sunday, February 24, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
Thanks for joining me for Gruul Week! If you have any thoughts on this deck or feedback in general, feel free to send me a tweet or post in the forums below. I always read through everything you all have to say.
I'll be back next week with a budget Standard deck. If you've been waiting for another one of my budget articles you'll definitely want to check back then.
Talk to you next week!
When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he wanted a job making Magic cards. Ten years later, his dream was realized as his combined success as a professional player, deck builder, and writer brought him into Wizards R&D during 2011. He's been writing Magic articles since 2005 and has no plans to stop.