Performance Check? Budget Pioneer RG Bard Class – Deck Guide

The itch to brew is a strong one. Sometimes you just see a card and are entranced by it. All of the words on it are perfect, the costs are just within the bounds of feasible and the effect it creates is something that’s seldom recreated elsewhere. On occasion, these cards actually deliver on that preconceived idea, while others fall just short and act as a brewer’s trap. With the average number of words on a card ever-increasing, these sorts of muses are more and more common these days as brewers fall for trap after trap as more cards are printed. Today, we’re going to be climbing out of one of those traps that I’ve fallen into, as we look at Gruul Bard Class. 

Note: Each Pioneer deck covered in this series is built at the time of writing to a $100 budget. This is in an attempt to keep things reasonable for those who are actually looking to buy into the format on the cheap while not skimping so much that the deck is completely without the power to keep up. Every deck showcased in this series has been personally tested and is being shown off for a reason, whether it’s the decks competitive aptitude, it’s ability to transition easily into a nonbudget version, or its capacity to teach a newer player a vital skill required to keep up in today’s competitive metagame.




Budget Pioneer Bard Class by Darren Magnotti


Header - The Deck

Bard Class combines elements of a classic creature beatdown deck with an element of surprise combo, with the ability to spend a turn “storming off” to fill the board with buffed up creatures cast for free and ready to attack for lethal. The deck takes advantage of each of Bard Class’s levels to create tremendous synergy that demands an answer, all while staving off the creature onslaught. Each card in the deck provides multifaceted utility, acting as a combo piece that is also generally serviceable as a standalone threat. 


Header - The Combo

Broadly speaking, the combo aspect of Bard Class requires a couple of steps and key pieces, a level three Bard Class being the first. This will provide the basis of the combo by limiting the amount of mana required to get things going as well as offering a constant stream of fresh cards and resources to work with.

Bard Class

With the level three Class in play, the deck is free to start casting legends from hand and exile, which will in turn put more legends into exile for further casting. It’s worth noting that Class’s abilities stack in multiples, so with two level three classes out, legendary cards cost RRGG less to cast, enter with two +1/+1 counters and exile four cards each. The planeswalkers alongside Birgi, God of Storytelling provide the additional fuel needed to churn through the deck at rapid pace.

Goro-Goro, Disciple of RyuseiGallia of the Endless DanceTarg Nar, Demon-Fang GnollZurgo Bellstriker

Eventually, the deck will have put out a board state large enough to take down the game in one or two attacks, which is further facilitated thanks to the haste granted by Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei. Gallia of the Endless Dance, Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll and Zurgo Bellstriker are completely free spells thanks to Class’s level two ability, so these are the primary targets to look for when sifting through the deck, though essentially every card will be cheap enough to cast at little or no cost, with each card providing yet another layer to the board state. The density of legendary cards will make comboing slightly tricky as it’s generally correct to only cast one copy of a given card at a time and not cast the additional copies, though sometimes doing so is correct such as when Birgi is in play or the first copy would have fewer counters on it than the second.

Jegantha, the Wellspring

While I don’t normally discuss the sideboard, it’s worth noting that Jegantha, the Wellspring can be cast in a pinch to keep the train rolling. This deck makes very regular use of Jegantha, so it’s definitely not one to forget about as happens to some companions. To end the game, the main options are attacking with the team thanks to Goro-Goro, or using multiple Xenagos, the Reveler’s first ability to activate Targ Nar several times and commit fewer creatures to combat, playing around the chance of dying on a crackback swing from an opponent who is able to tank the initial attack.

The combo looks very convoluted because there are several cards that switch roles when comboing off, and the lack of four-ofs in the deck makes it seem like there’s a lot more going on than there really is, but once all of the pieces are on the table and things are getting going, it’s fairly simple to navigate assuming that all triggers are remembered. Primarily, the combo will take up exactly one turn, and the deck will focus on being the creature beatdown deck during the turns prior and post combo.


Header - The Beatdown

With the complicated section out of the way, Bard Class is in a general sense a synergy-driven beatdown strategy. It utilizes Llanowar Elves alongside the Class’s second level to power out efficient threats ahead of the curve. There are several different packages that the deck can work with that synergize with each other in different ways.


Grumgully, the GenerousRishkar, Peema Renegade

Bard Class’s first level and Grumgully, the Generous allow most of the creatures in the deck to enter play larger than they normally would. Putting +1 counters on creatures is rewarded primarily by Rishkar, Peema Renegade which turns all of those creatures into mana dorks. Goro-Goro can also reward attacking with these modified creatures with its ability to make Dragons, though that more seldom comes up.


Magda, Brazen OutlawOgnis, the Dragon's LashJinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second

The Treasure package might seem rather innocuous here, but it is much more powerful than the few cards that make it up let on. Magda, Brazen Outlaw and Ognis, the Dragon’s Lash provide the Treasure generation upon attacks. Typically, these treasures will be used as a stockpile to help with the combo turn, though they can also generally be used to power out additional threats ahead of curve, which is usually where these bigger creature aggro decks want to be.

In combination with Jinnie Fay, Jetmir’s Second, however, these Treasures can turn into an army that doubles in size with each successive attack. By choosing to turn the treasures into Cats with haste, Ognis can then use those to create more haste Cats to beat in with the following turn. This isn’t something that happens often, but knowing that the line exists and is something that can be played toward is very useful. Xenagos, likewise, can further fuel the train on either axis by providing Ognis with more hasty creatures or have Jinnie convert the additional 2/2s into 3/1s. 

To properly navigate a game with Bard Class, it’s important to stick to a curve, or follow through with the line that will most effectively use all available mana every turn. While playing toward the combo can be an important factor in winning certain matchups like Mono-Green, Mono-Blue Spirits or Rakdos Sacrifice, the generic creature beatdown can also be the more important line to follow through with as well. Being able to identify the matchups where one plan may be more effective than another comes with experience, and is likely to change as the meta shifts as well. 


Header - How Does It Play?

Bard Class is an extremely fun ride, first and foremost. The deck offers some exhilarating and explosive turns that can give a huge and satisfying sense of big-brain. The combo turns in specific often feel like assembling a puzzle between navigating the cards exiled, mana management and replacing copies of legends already in play, and are very satisfying to pilot even if they aren’t the most fun to watch from the other side of the table.

In terms of the beatdown plan, while it isn’t at its strongest in today’s metagame, I would put it just shy of on-par with the likes of other more streamlined Gruul Aggro lists. The card choices seem almost irrelevant when everything is being bolstered by Grumgully and the Class, and frequently with a level two Class, the deck feels like it’s playing that unfair Affinity style game where it just dumps its hand on the table and cracks the opponent over the head with whatever it happened to draw.

As far as a record, the deck fared better than expected against a lot of decks higher up on the Pioneer tier list. I was able to beat Rakdos Sacrifice, Phoenix and Green Devotion pretty easily in my test games. Other decks (the ones that pack enough removal to matter) were a different story however, as Rakdos Midrange, Jeskai Control and Mardu Mediums were able to take the deck to town with relatively few interactive pieces. The general consistency of the deck felt great for how few four-ofs there are in the deck. The only variance that I saw was the typical issues of mana flood, which a green-red deck can only do so much to combat anyway.

On the whole, the deck felt powerful enough to keep up, and even where it struggles the fun play experience was able to make up the difference. 


Header - Upgrades


Pioneer Bard Class by On_a_Budget

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In typical Pioneer fashion, the major component to upgrades is the mana. Bard Cass greatly improves its odds with the addition of Mox Amber, which here takes the place of Llanowar Elves. This free, immediate mana source also triggers the exile ability of Class, which makes combo turns that much smoother while also making the deck generally more resilient to creature hate. The other notable inclusion is Klothys, God of Destiny, which greatly helps to bolster the beatdown plan of the deck with its indestructible body and inevitable clock that it presents. It also helps to shore up some of the more challenging matchups like Burn and Sacrifice with its life gain.

Outside of those, the deck is largely unchanged in terms of general composition. Some numbers have been adjusted to help shift the focus toward a more consistent combo turn, but the deck still largely performs the same.

That’s all for this one. Bard Class has been a favorite of mine since its spoiling, and the list has seen a lot of changes and growth in the months since. I always enjoy brewing and playing with these off-the-wall strategies as they’re capable of throwing a lot of opponents off since they aren’t included in the print-out sideboard guide that the opponent has packed. The rogue element can be very strong in this format and offer a lot of points where they really shouldn’t come from.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this look into one of my long term projects. I’m looking forward to a lot of new additions to this and a few other similar archetypes as pioneer’s card pool continues to grow as well. In the meantime, stay safe, play smart, and thanks for reading. 


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