Happy New Year BadMagicPlayer Readers! As you can tell by my lack of posts, I’ve been on a little break from Magic. I moved back to Michigan and am slowly getting back into the swing of things, so expect to see more activity on BMP.
Since I have been out of the game for a few months, I don’t really have much of a card collection, making it difficult to jump into constructed events. But alas, a solution! A good friend of mine, and founder of Cardstomp.com, has been kind enough to “sponsor” me in my constructed tournament efforts until my collection again matches my interest in the game. It works out well, since he gets a 30% “sponsorship fee” from the store credit I win, and I get to play tons of Magic (3-4 nights a week) without having to heavily invest right away.
I asked for a Standard deck, and my friend passed me a red-green “Gruul Value” deck made, basically, of all the best green and red cards in Standard. There are the obvious includes of Huntmaster of the Fells, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Thragtusk (arguably the best card in Standard right now), but the list has a few surprise includes.
Click here to view the deck on Essential Magic (more analysis tools, interactive, etc.)
“Bringing Standard to a Gruuling Halt”
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Borderland Ranger
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
2 Zealous Conscripts
2 Wolfir Avenger
3 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Pillar of Flame
3 Searing Spear
3 Garruk Relentless
4 Rootbound Crag
3 Kessig Wolf Run
3 Strangleroot Geist
3 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Acidic Slime
1 Sundering Growth
1 Traitorous Blood
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
Before we get into matchups, let me talk about the deck a bit first.
I made a few tweaks from the original build, which didn’t have Searing Spear and had a foursome of Arbor Elf, and only two Borderland Ranger. But without shock lands and no guaranteed turn 1 forest to play, Arbor Elf just wasn’t gaining me consistent value. Four Farseek provide a bit of ramp and a full complement of Borderland Ranger ensure that I hit every land drop up to the magic number 5, which is all the mana you need to pretty much do anything worth doing (outside of overloading Mizzium Mortars, but that’s really a late game effect anyway).
Vorapede is significantly underrated in a format dominated by aggressive decks. It’s only a one-of because of the other billion 5-drops in the deck, but I am never unhappy to draw it. I would like more of them, actually, but it isn’t better than the other three monsters that take that slot (Thragtusk, Hellkite, and Zealous Conscripts). Nobody sees it coming, and almost nobody can deal with it profitably, outside of a few white-based spells that exile it (ex. Detention Sphere).
The other big surprise is Wolfir Avenger, and I really, really like him. It takes both hands to count how many little Rakdos Cackler, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, and Champion of the Parish this guy has blocked while my opponent looked on with a dropped jaw. Yes, I’m sure they were expecting their creatures to die from a burn spell, but they certainly didn’t expect to have the empty board into which they attacked suddenly become threatening with a creature they might not be able to remove unless I tap out. Avenger also adds value to Huntmaster, since you can happily pass the turn to flip Huntmaster and then play Avenger during your opponent’s turn.
Most of you are thinking to yourself, why not add a third color? Well first, this was just the deck I was handed, so I didn’t really mess around with adding white or black. Second, the deck is EXTREMELY consistent and straightforward. It’s a very easy deck to play, yet still allows you to do crazy fun things like chain slam multiple Thragtusk, make a billion wolves between Garruk Relentless and Huntmaster of the Fells, and miracle Bonfire of the Damned. Third, it’s really funny to see the opponent’s reaction when you Farseek for a basic Mountain.
I played this deck at two local stores, and ended up 3-0 in both events (hopefully I can get people to stop splitting top 8s so I can play more matches). Here’s a quick rundown on how they went.
Rakdos Aggro/Zombies (2-0)
Like most aggressive matchups, lifegain and board sweeping will be the bread and butter of success. Ensuring that you have early burn will make this matchup fairly easy, and Borderland Rangers are great at stalling until you can get a Huntmaster or Thragtusk and then usually you’ll just turn it around from there. Pillar of Flame can be your best friend, but eventually you just go over the top with bigger and better stuff. Board out Zealous Conscripts for the Magmaquakes to get even more board sweepers. Aristocrat is still a problem, as it is for most decks, but usually without nut draws the zombie player can’t keep enough creatures on the board to keep up the indestructibility shield. As with most red-based aggro fights, if you can survive the first 4 turns and stay above 4 life, you’re probably going to win.
Use a similar plan against mono-red, which I didn’t play against in a tournament but have tested against it a bit. Strangleroot Geists definitely come in to serve as board stallers, and you basically have to get past the first few turns and wait out your opponent’s hand. It’s actually a tough matchup, since RDW can be an explosive deck (as we all saw at last weekend’s StarCityGames Open in Columbus). Hope more for Huntmaster rips than Thragtusks, as you’ll want the two creatures more than you’ll want the life. Be wary of Brimstone Volley, though. Never, ever keep a slow hand, and mulligan aggressively until you have some way to stall at least two creatures or are planning to chain slam a bunch of life gain creatures before turn 4.
Green-White Humans (2-1, 2-0)
With the burn package you’re usually able to take out the early Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Mayor of Avabruck with a Spear or Pillar, and then your deck comes over the top much like it does with the rakdos matchup. Garruk Relentless is fantastic in this matchup as you’re usually able to pick off a little guy, as the deck mostly relies on generating tokens and creature advantage. Flipping a Huntmaster will always be value-town because of the low toughness of most creatures in the deck, so don’t be afraid to pass the turn without acting (great time for Wolfir Avenger to shine too!) However, there are those times where a Silverblade Paladin and Sublime Archangel combo to bash your face in, but you do have plenty of ways to stop that from happening. Same board plan as Rakdos, but you might want to consider the Strangleroot Geists when you’re on the draw if you’re looking to have some early blockers.
Naya Midrange (2-0)
The midrange decks post a bigger threat to this deck than aggro. I won two close games mostly to a miracle Bonfire. Restoration Angel makes the opponent have a bit of an upper hand on you, as your removal gets a little less good. This is where Mizzium Mortars is your best friend. The 4 damage takes out those Resto Angels and it can’t save a friend like it would in response to other removal. They might gain 5 life by bouncing a Thragtusk, but you’ll still kill it (and the beast left from the bounce) as well as the Angel, so it’s almost never going to be profitable for them to play the angel when you cast Mortars. Angel of Serenity is certainly a huge problem, but that is made better post board with Plummet, and it’s still a 6 toughness so you might be able to do a Searing Spear+Garruk 2-for-1 to take it out. Expect both players to find themselves over 30 life before one of them starts to fall quickly.
Jund Midrange (2-0, 2-1)
Both the Naya and Jund Midrange require something VERY important to achieve success: being on the play. You can win on the draw, especially with help from Farseek to catch up on land drops, but when your opponent’s turn 4 Huntmaster flip resolves before your turn 4 Huntmaster flip does, it won’t be a fun experience (Remember, nonactive player’s abilities resolve first. Your opponent will just pass his/her turn, making you the active player, both huntmaster flips will go on the stack, with yours first, but his/her flip will resolve first and trigger the 2 damage ability, likely killing your Huntmaster before its flip resolves). Oliva Voldaren, Vampire Nighthawk, and a few other random demons (I saw a Griselbrand in one decklist) make perfect Plummet targets post-board. Garruk, Primal Hunter absolutely comes in to help gain you card advantage against any non-aggro deck. Again, miracle-ing a Bonfire is always good too.
I did not play against a reanimator-based or control deck, but I have prepared the sideboard to be mostly aimed at shoring up those matchups. Grafdigger’s Cage is obviously in against anything running Unburial Rites, as well as Plummet to deal with Angel of Serenity. Against control decks, bring in Strangleroot Geists to give yourself a little more aggro (and defense against Supreme Verdict), and remember that Magmaquake burns all planeswalkers. As I said before, Garruk PH comes in against anything but aggro, and Sundering Growth/Acidic Slime are good ways to deal with Oblivion Ring/Detention Sphere.
——-This is an easy and fun deck if you’re looking for something to take to your local shops in the few weeks left before Gatecrash comes out. It also will be a great start to a “real” Gruul deck once we have the use of Stomping Grounds and a few tasty treats from the new set. I wonder how good “Branching Fireball” would be in a deck like this?