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Owen’s a Win – Gruulsome Limited

Spot one ember beast, attack.
Spot a second, best fall back.

—Dwarven saying

I went to my local prerelease and enjoyed myself more than I expected to. The new guild packs made me a little wary, since it’s much less like competitive Magic since every player just starts with a bomb rare of their choice. It means that the games are higher variance, and when you play against a Gruul player you absolutely know they have a [card]Rubblehulk[/card] in their deck, and if they don’t use it as a combat trick they’re going to have a 6/6 in play eventually. I ended up choosing Gruul because my friends chose for me, and I couldn’t desert my Gruul brothers in their time of need. When I built my deck, I knew it immediately that it was quite good. I built it like this:

[deck]1 Experiment One
2 Disciple of the Old Ways
3 Skinbrand Goblin
1 Burning-Tree Emissary
3 Ember Beast
1 Armored Transport
1 Slaughterhorn
1 Cinder Elemental
1 Zhur-Taa Swine
1 Rubblehulk
1 Sylvan Primordial
1 Mugging
2 Pit Fight
1 Gruul Charm
1 Massive Raid
1 Domri Rade
1 Clan Defiance
1 Gruul Guildgate
8 Mountain
8 Forest
Sideboard
2 Scorchwalker
1 Ripscale Predator
1 Act of Treason
1 Primal Visitation
1 Ruination Wurm[/deck] [draft]ember beast[/draft]

The feature of my pool I loved most was the three copies of [card]Ember Beast[/card]. They were absolutely insane for me. Not only was it a massive creature to attack and block with, but I always had a bloodrush creature to help defend the [card]Ember Beast[/card]’s pal that had to come along in combat. I also liked how well he worked with [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], so I could play multiple creatures quickly and ignore his drawback.

[card]Disciple of the Old Ways[/card] could often attack freely in the early turns of the game, where [card]Ember Beast[/card] was at his most powerful. Lastly, I liked the Ember Beast as an inexpensive creature with a large power and toughness for one evolve creature, [card]Experiment One[/card], and also with many of my cards that involved fighting, like [card]Pit Fight[/card] and [card]Domri Rade[/card].

[draft]Skinbrand goblin[/draft]

I liked this card a lot. I had three of them and they were a two-casting-cost creature to help fuel my [card]Ember Beast[/card]s (this will be a recurring theme) and helped me stay aggressive in general. While this was possibly a product of the prerelease, I was able to win so much more simply by applying pressure early and attacking aggressively. I didn’t use the bloodrush ability often, but it was a nice option, and I believe he will be a great card and an early pick in almost any aggressive Gruul or Boros deck.

[draft]Burning-tree emissary[/draft]

I was unsure about this card during deckbuilding, but I decided to play it for multiple reasons. Absolute worst-case scenario, he was going to be a [card]Grizzly Bear[/card], which, for my purposes, was already just fine. I liked the fact that I had so many two-drops with the multiple [card]Skinbrand Goblin[/card]s and [card]Disciple of the Old Ways[/card], so it was possible to have quick draws to overwhelm people.

In one game, I was mana-screwed against three 2/2 creatures, and was forced to simply play [card]Ember Beast[/card] and pass. My opponent bashed me and passed the turn back, when I topdecked [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] and was able to play it and [card]Domri Rade[/card] to fight down one of his creatures. With a simple topdeck of a “free” 2/2, I went from way behind to sitting in the drivers seat.

[draft]Disciple of the old ways[/draft] [card]Disciple of the Old Ways[/card] is just an awesome card that you want to take very highly in draft if you are Gruul. I also imagine it’s a nice card to have in a Simic deck, since it’s centered around having creatures for Evolve. He was awesome for me and worked quite well with bloodrush, since the first strike means you can win basically every combat with her.

[draft]Armored transport[/draft]

I decided to play [card]Armored Transport[/card] as my 23rd card, and he performed exactly as I expected him to. He’s an interesting card, because as long as you have no intention to block with it, you should just attack with it Every. Single. Turn.

Having a 2/1 creature that can attack fearlessly every turn does some nice things for you. The first reason I added him to the deck was for my [card]Ember Beast[/card]s—I figured it would be nice to have the option of attacking with the Beast without sacrificing a smaller creature.

One other interesting thing to note is that if I just send in this guy every turn during a board stall, my opponent is put to a decision: either take the 2 damage and admit to being a coward or block it with a creature of higher toughness that they wouldn’t mind losing to a topdecked bloodrush creature.

This play allows me to make late game draws like [card]Skinbrand Goblin[/card] much less useless than they otherwise would be. The final reason I added him to the deck was because I wanted to increase my creature count, so I could make better use of [card]Massive Raid[/card] and the +1 ability on [card]Domri Rade[/card].

Of [card]Rubblehulk[/card], PV said:

[card]Rubblehulk[/card] is pretty bad. He is not a great creature (6/6 for 6? That’s worse than [card]Vorstclaw[/card]) and his bloodrush is good but not spectacular—there are many commons that seem better than him.

[draft]Rubblehulk[/draft]

I have to say I completely disagree, though I can see why he would think that having only looked at this card. I was quite pleased with the [card]Rubblehulk[/card]. In the early to mid-game it lets you win any combat, +3/+3 or +5/+5 is going to do the trick just about every time.

So, it’s a reliable early trick that’s flexible when attacking on the ground isn’t working out. You can just plop down a 6/6 that will only get bigger as the game goes on. One application he did not mention was the ability to use this card as a [card]Strength of Cedars[/card], a card that was a first pick in its hayday.

Now obviously a card like that would definitely be more powerful in a set like Champions of Kamigawa, but the point I’m trying to make is that it is good in the early to mid-game and can act as a [card]fireball[/card] to the face in the late game, as long as you can sneak through an unblocked creature.

[draft]Sylvan primordial[/draft]

I opted to play [card]Sylvan Primordial[/card] for a couple reasons. First, it’s a rare, and if you’re unsure about rares in Limited formats it’s always good to just play with it to get experience, because you will rarely get the change to do so. It would be a real shame if you didn’t know how good a certain rare was, and then you started your draft at the Pro Tour with it in your first pack.

I liked him because he was a 6/8 creature which is absolutely massive, and would make my [card]Pit Fight[/card]s into [card]Doom Blade[/card]s. I also liked him compared to something like a [card]Mold Shambler[/card] with kicker, which is only one mana less for a similar effect, but without reach and a body that’s half as large.

When making this assessment I didn’t really factor in that [card]Mold Shambler[/card] is great because you can just play it as a [card]Hill Giant[/card], and in the end with the benefit of hindsight I really wish I had played with [card]Ripscale Predator[/card] instead of the [card]Sylvan Primordial[/card].

[draft]Gruul charm[/draft] [card]Gruul Charm[/card] was another card PV said he wouldn’t maindeck very often, which I found strange. Not many good players would disdain maindecking a card like [card]Plummet[/card] or [card]Aerial Predation[/card], and this card is certainly dead less often. I guess you lose out on the value of being able to kill big mythic rares like Dragons and Angels and such, but you can still kill [card]Skyknight Legionnaire[/card]s and it’s not a totally dead card often. I used the [card]Falter[/card] ability to win games, and I sniped off a few fliers with it during the day. That said, it was dead for me a couple times and I did sideboard it out on occasion. I played it because I was short on playables and I suspect that’s exactly where it will be.

[draft]Clan defiance[/draft] [card]Clan Defiance[/card] was incredible for me, probably the best card in my entire pool and arguably one of the best rares in the set. I had one game where I could use [card]Gruul Charm[/card] to kill a flying creature very early in the game, but I held off because I had [card]Clan Defiance[/card] and wanted to get the full two-for-one out of it, and I ended up taking too much damage and just losing to burn. That said, in most of my other games this card was just silly, multiple times I just got to slam it for 4 or so, killing two creatures and blasting my opponent’s face for some damage. It acts as a kind of super [card]Branching Bolt[/card]/[card]Searing Blaze[/card]/[card]Fireball[/card].

[draft]Domri rade[/draft]

I have always said basically any planeswalker is going to be amazing in Limited, since most of the time it will have an effect on the game and then cause your opponent to adjust their behavior to try and destroy it. They have to attack the ‘walker, and not your life total, which is basically a form of life gain as well as the fact that they will often be doing something to a defending creature to get there, be it removal or bloodrush. [card]Domri Rade[/card] was excellent for me, his +1 ability isn’t all that hot, but if you can use the fight and net a creature out of it, then it’s an amazing card. His ultimate is very hard to get to and pretty bad in general, one game I had no creatures and multiple [card]Pit Fight[/card]s in hand, and I just kept having to use his +1 to try and hit any creature, even when he was up to 10 counters I still couldn’t use his ultimate.

In the end, I really liked playing with Gruul, and [card]Ember Beast[/card] is one of my new favorite cards. I think I learned a lot about the cards I played with in my deck and the aggression of the format—especially Gruul, and the stress put on bloodrush.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter

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