Gruul Again

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Hello everyone and welcome back to On The Hunt! I hope you all enjoyed my last article on the dangers of poison and how Phyrexia will most undoubtedly win the war (well I guess I was right, hahaha). This week an interesting development turned up, as I am officially part of a local Magic team, so that means more minds on deck builds, and I actually might post some of our builds. This week the team built a GR aggro deck, and I love aggro GR builds. It's pretty interesting since I went 3-3 with it at our FNM at the beginning of March.

However having no pad of paper made it impossible to remember actual match play by plays, but I can say this: the deck beat mono-white Quest, Boros, and a mono-White artifact infect deck with Tempered Steel and infect [card Necropede]artifacts[/card]. The first match I played against I have no recollection, and after that I went 3-2 losing to the two of the best decks in the format (UW claw-blade, such an annoying deck, and a UB/r Tezzerat build). Not bad for trying the deck out for the first time for FNM since we built the deck two hours prior! So what did we have to offer for this deck? Well, the basic theme was an old school Gruul aggro deck so quickly dealing damage is key.

Let's take a look at the deck list so far:

GR Phoenix Aggro V.1

First thing's first, I know you guys are looking at this list and going, what the...? Yes those are Kuldotha Phoenixes, Scute Mobs, and the sideboard is a mess. I gave them my take on what we need to take out and replace before the next FNM or tournament we attend and the fact that more testing needed to be involved. I will say though that Creeping Corrosion is beast against the Tezzeret build if they overextend with artifacts, also if they activate Tezz's -1 ablitiy on a active Blinkmoth Nexus it stays a 5/5 artifact creature.

The cards I want to take out are the Scute Mobs, as they didn't do anything for me except to be Shaman fodder to get the Phoenix. The Phoenix did surprisingly well. Not many people had answers to it and it blocks Squadron Hawks all day. It's no Hell's Thunder but it gets the job done and I don't mind not getting to metalcraft since I have better things to cast instead of spending 4 mana during my upkeep. Hero is ridiculously good since it gets in there against Kuldotha Red decks since most of their guys are 1 or less power. I would want to replace more heavy hitters besides the Mob and Vengevine would be a great replacement if we had some at the time. The sideboard needed lots of work since it was a last minute thing to place stuff in. I would keep the Nature's Claims and Creeping Corrosions and replace everything else.

The next thing I wanted to do is fix the manabase. It wasn't too bad, but there were certain times I think that I could have played my spells faster.

So with that what did I decide to do? I took everything I wrote down after FNM and presented it to my team, so what did we change? We made it this:

GR PhoenixVine v.2

So far the list is consistent and has some pretty decent draws, to give you guys an example of how well the list did here is a match log of a quick game between this deck, dubbed PhoenixVine, and UB Tezzeret:

Game 1:

I win the die roll and I keep my 7 of Raging Ravine, 2 Forest, Hero of Oxid Ridge, Inferno Titan, Burst Lightning and Mountain and my opponent mulls to 6 and keeps. I play a Ravine and pass while my opponent plays a Creeping Tar Pit, I know right now I'm putting him on playing UB control/Tezz because not many decks other than that and Darkblade play Tar Pit unless they're playing Smi77y's Mind Hammer brew which I haven't seen in the rooms. During my turn I draw a Kuldotha Phoenix and play a Forest and pass my turn. My opponent plays an Island and passes it back to me, I draw a Mountain and play it and pass. Knowing right now I'm in a bind, the next turn is important because if my opponent doesn't tap out then I have to play around his counters and removal suite, and as a aggro deck we don't like to do this; we like to be aggressive and hit hard.

During his turn he plays a Darkslick Shores and taps out for Treasure Mage getting a Wurmcoil Engine.... making sense since I thought he was playing the Tezz list, but I kinda threw my guess into the hat he was playing a combined brew of the Grand Architect deck along with the other artifacts. I draw into another Phoenix and I play my forest and tap out here for a Hero and attack. I actually wanted to see here just in case he didn't have a land to play a Grand Architect, but to my surprise he blocked. Following turn he plays another Darkslick Shores and taps out for Grand Architect. GO FIGURE! It was a punt on my part but with no Bolt in hand I'm hoping to draw it here so he won't be able to play the Wurmcoil next turn. I draw into a mountain... and play my Phoenix hoping to race him here with a second one in hand and bring him to 16 while I'm at 20.

He plays the Wurmcoil off the Architect and passes tapped out. I'm pretty happy right now because if I can hold him at 8 while he goes to 14 off I can try and get a Goblin Guide to try and block his Wurmcoil for a turn. Surprisingly I haven't seen Tezz at this point, and I'm hoping he doesn't activate the Tar Pit for some major damage. I draw a Hero of Oxid Ridge again, noticing that I can attack with him the following turn along with the Phoenixes. However I notice he still has five cards in hand and I know three things: A) He has counters, B) He has removal, or C) Both. The worst thing a beginning aggro player does is overextend his board or overplay into a removal/counterspell. I decided to play around these even though I really wanted to play the Hero as a blocker later just in case and go for it. I tap out for Phoenix and he lets it go with the comment, "Aggressive much?" getting a slight smirk from me from the computer screen and I respond with a, "love old Gruul aggro".

My little victory only put him to 8, while during his following turn he attacks with both Architect and Wurmcoil, putting me to 13 and him at 14 off the life gain of Wurmcoil. I'll be honest, I drew Arc Trail here and I punted this whole turn, I'm not much to lie about mistakes and this was a bad one: I play the last Forest in my hand for the turn and play the Arc Trail hitting the Architect for 1 and him for two putting him at 12. Now, in my head I feel like I won, and then my mistake hit me. I tap out for Hero and Mana Leak, I attack into a Doom Blade on my Phoenix. After that Tezzeret comes out and I draw into a Bolt. I lose during the following two turns.

Game Two:

It was almost similar to game 1 but he kills me with Inkmoth and tezzeret with counters and removal. I never saw a Sword or Goblin Guide both games nor a single Vengevine.

ARGH!!!!! So where does that lead us to now? I thought about it and talked it over with my teammates and we decided we needed to be a little bit midrange but without losing that aggressive feel of an aggro deck. We took out a number of cards people probably won't agree with but we changed this up to this:



Goblin Guide:First off Goblin Guide is a great card to have. However, it's been at times an advantage for my opponent to get land off him more often then he would deal damage, since they would either have a Disfigure, Bolt, or a manland to block. Control players hate him but I've see more removal in my meta then I would like to see. Hopefully done the road we can bring him back, but for now he's out.

Vengevine:As an honest player, none of my teammates own him for me to borrow and I think he would be a great addition however he would be more like Kuldotha Phoenix in this certain case. While we looked into him as a good four drop to gain advantage of the 4 Shamans in the deck, we never see him being drawn and in testing we fetched him with shaman, but we weren't able to cast two creatures, especially with this curve, to get his graveyard effect in the proper use.

Sword of Feast and Famine & Body and Mind:I loved these two in the beginning, as they helped me win games, but it was never enough to finish matches. I would normally tap out to put it on a creature, attack, and not have anything to help try to stabilize my board position, and they would then either kill my creature next turn or block with a Squadron Hawk (this was the week the Squadron Hawks were all over the store), and I'd rather have more removal to deal with their creatures so I can kill them with my haste creatures.

Arc Tails: We took these out first and replaced them with land in the beginning since we weren't seeming to draw the right mana to curve into Phoenix and such, and I would rather put them in after we modified the list with the heightened increase in Squadron Hawk decks, but with the new set on the horizon and a Sword of War and Peace would null the idea. Also the renewed additions of Firewalkers to the White mages' sideboards also didn't help the card at all.

Slagstorm: In my opinion having 4 was overkill and we needed something else to fit into the deck.


Inferno Titan: The bigger badder Arc Trail that will beat the heck out of Squadron Hawk when it needs to. All joking aside we wanted an alternative finisher with a great ability to clear the board to attack or kill an annoying creature post combat. He has been a huge success in the deck so far.

Explore: A very iffy card that my teammate Gabriel said we needed to have some ramp to get the Titan out, and the cantrip is a good advantage to have too. It has both been good and it's been a dead card, and if it didn't let me try to get an out by drawing a card it would be the first thing off this list, but it's been doing alright.

Red Sun's Zenith: Ya, ya, ya I know, what the hell is this thing doing in here? Basically it's a Delayed Blast Fireball that I use to kill my opponent. It's won me at least three games while the board was tied up and my opponents were tapped out and it always dealt lethal by six to seven damage. Having one-of is alright since I play it only when need be.

Thrun, the Last Troll: This guy is basically Vengevines replacement. He can't be countered and he avoids all removal and Tumble Magnets which is a plus. He's won me matches by himself and the UB control players have trouble while dealing with the Tezz builds were working on a solution must notably we hopefully solved in the new sideboard. Also his regeneration ability helped me win a game where my opponent forgot I had mana open and played Day of Judgment (we all miss Wrath of God, we really do).

Mul Daya Channelers: An addition five minutes before Regionals. I'll tell you one thing: it's either a Grey Orge, an Inferno Titan-producer or a monster beater. I pulled off a lot of turn four-10 damage from just her and Hero of Oxid Ridge. She's a keeper until further notice, but she's a underdog smash hit for me right now. Further testing will be determined if stays or goes.

Copperline Gorge: I was the first one to tell them to put it in and we forgot about it later, I was face palming most of the discussion to why it wasn't in. Auto 4 included.

So whats the new deck look like, Caveman? Well, I'm glad you asked. Along with my teammates Gabriel and Zack, we made this list so far in the development process and its top 8ed (almost) 3 times while getting 2nd place (it got 5th since we were going to split but someone thought they can win the whole thing and he lost later on), and it helped me place 10th at my one ticket national qualifiery out of 25 people (we wondered why it was so small!). Its main concerns are UB control/Tezz builds and Valakut. We're still working on these match ups. Here is the current version so far:

GR Gruul Beats v.4

The sideboard needs a certain explanation. Basically, we decied that most of my matchups are good expect for Caw, UB variants and Valakut, so most notably we used Creeping Corrosions for the mass of Caw decks that like to overextend the board with Swords, and also the Tezzeret builds that play multiple Everflowing Chalices, Spheres, and Tumble Magnets as well as 5/5 Blinkmoth Nexus. The Nature's Claim can also be noted for the same reason. The Acidic Slimes and the Act of Treasons are for the Valakut matchup and I was asked why we didn't put in Mark of Mutiny instead and I gave this response, "If I have Mark of Mutiny in my hands and he's not dead on board, then whats the point of putting a +1/+1 counter on my opponents Primeval Titan only to kill me next turn?" Act usually provides me a way to deal lethal without really killing me. Acidic Slime is probably my underdog card in the sideboard since it helps my Valakut matchup tremendously. Gaea's Revenge is for the mutliple Big Red/RDW decks that popped up, as well as a couple of mono Blue Architect decks. I look forward to the criticism and suggestions to what my fellow Magic players think.

Kellen Huber

@cavemankellen on Twitter

4 thoughts on “Gruul Again

  1. Interesting builds. I have never been a huge fan Gruul, but I appreciate and respect what it can be capable of. Given what you seem to have problems with and the posible room you have to change a few things, would Cunning Sparmage help you out a little with some of your bad matchups. Maybe 2-3 replacing 1 Burst lightning 1 Explore and…?? Also maybe 1 Basilisk Collar (and I know these 2 cards have been played together but I'm thinking more Collar with Thrun could be pretty good). (I play with a few Tezz decks myself and I know he would be a royal pain for me, 1/1s are usually what get turned into 5/5s???? Also it could shoot Hawks before they equip them (or as they equip?). Let me know what you think. Enjoyed the article.

    1. Thanks Wade! In the original Phoenix vine v2 sideboard we were intending to put that combo in however this was the time when Caw-Blade took the meta along with the addition of mortarpod so we tired to consider better options at the time.Most of the meta was caw-go before tezz starting to poke his head onto our meta.

  2. lol very good Caveman. Let me tell you that this story is very true on what he said and some of the cards i had to twist his arm to put in (Cough Phoenix) . Its a very good deck and i love the article. I can't wait for you to return. So you can see my new deck Burning Claw.

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