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Standard Deck Guide – Gruul Adventure (GP OKC Top 8)

Last weekend, I made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Oklahoma City with Edgewall Innkeeper, Gruul Spellbreaker, and Embercleave.

Gruul Adventure

 

4 Edgewall Innkeeper
4 Pelt Collector
4 Rimrock Knight/Boulder Rush
3 Paradise Druid
4 Bonecrusher Giant/Stomp
4 Lovestruck Beast/Heart's Desire
3 Gruul Spellbreaker
4 Questing Beast
1 Skarrgan Hellkite
1 Domri's Ambush
4 Embercleave
2 Castle Embereth
2 Fabled Passage
9 Forest (347)
7 Mountain (343)
4 Stomping Ground

Sideboard
3 Embereth Shieldbreaker/Battle Display
3 Shifting Ceratops
3 Thrashing Brontodon
2 Cosmotronic Wave
2 Domri's Ambush
2 Skarrgan Hellkite

Arena import:

4 Embercleave (ELD) 120

4 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115

4 Edgewall Innkeeper (ELD) 151

3 Gruul Spellbreaker (RNA) 179

4 Lovestruck Beast (ELD) 165

3 Paradise Druid (WAR) 171

4 Pelt Collector (GRN) 141

4 Questing Beast (ELD) 171

4 Rimrock Knight (ELD) 137

1 Skarrgan Hellkite (RNA) 114

1 Domri’s Ambush (WAR) 192

2 Castle Embereth (ELD) 239

2 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244

9 Forest (XLN) 276

7 Mountain (XLN) 272

4 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259

 

3 Embereth Shieldbreaker (ELD) 122

3 Shifting Ceratops (M20) 194

3 Thrashing Brontodon (RIX) 148

2 Cosmotronic Wave (GRN) 95

2 Domri’s Ambush (WAR) 192

2 Skarrgan Hellkite (RNA) 114

Why did I choose Gruul Adventure?

I like synergy-driven aggro decks in general, so I decided early on that I wanted to build around Embercleave. In testing for Grand Prix Oklahoma, I focused on two Embercleave decks: Mardu Knights and Gruul Adventure. I got good results with both on MTG Arena (mostly in Platinum and Diamond at the start of the month) but I did best with Gruul Adventure. My 17-3 record with the deck on MTG Arena helped me cruise to Mythic, and that was good enough for me to lock it in.

At the same time, Simic Flash was on the uptick after a breakout performance at Mythic Championship VII. I figured that the combination of Edgewall Innkeeper (which will draw a card even when the creature is countered) and a low mana curve (so that threats can go under their countermagic) would yield a good matchup. Indeed, Simic Flash was the most popular archetype in Day 2 at the Grand Prix, and I believe Gruul Adventure is well-positioned right now.

The basic strategy of the deck is pretty simple: curve out, turn creatures sideways, and believe in the ‘Cleave. To be fair, when Once Upon a Time was still legal, Gruul Adventure was much more consistent. A turn-one Edgewall Innkeeper now happens less consistently, but it is still a powerful card draw engine when we draw it. And with the post-ban addition of Paradise Druid and Fabled Passage, the deck’s colored mana consistency is still good enough even without Once Upon a Time.

Main deck card choices

My list is similar to the one that Martin Juza took to #1 Mythic and the one that Esther Trujillo brought to Mythic Championship VII. Like Martin and Esther, I view all one-drops and adventure creatures as essential four-ofs that you need for curve-out and synergy purposes. For the remaining slots, my choices were slightly different from theirs:

  • Only 3 Gruul Spellbreaker – Its stats are excellent, and it can be nice to have a hexproof creature to attach Embercleave to. However, with Lovestruck Beast and Bonecrusher Giant already filling the three-drop slot, I saw no need to max out on three-drops. We prefer to curve out and spend all of our mana on every turn of the game if possible.
  • Only 3 Paradise Druid – Drawing multiples is generally weak, and we are not really ramping into four-drops. Since we already have 15 green sources and 15 red sources in our mana base, we don’t need more than 3 Paradise Druid to fix out mana. To ensure I hit my early land drops, I prefer 24 lands and 3 Druid over 23 lands and 4 Druid.
  • 4 Embercleave and 4 Questing Beast – While I board out a copy of each legend in a variety of matchups, especially when I’m on the draw, they are among the most powerful cards in the main deck, and they help beat recurring Cauldron Familiars. They also combo well together, so I prefer to run them as four-ofs and maximize my chances of drawing at least one of each in Game 1.
  • 1 Skarrgan Hellkite – I felt that 4 Embercleaves as the top-end was a little low, especially for a deck with 27 mana sources, so I wanted to add a little bit of oomph to the top-end of the curve. 
  • 1 Domri’s Ambush – It is sometimes difficult to punch through high-toughness blockers like Rotting Regisaur, Cavalier of Thorns, or Lovestruck Beast. Domri’s Ambush is the best removal spell for that task. However, since many opponents only run Lovestruck Beast in their sideboard and since I wanted to emphasize the creatures plus Embercleave plan in Game 1, I only made room for a single Domri’s Ambush in the main deck.
  • 2 Castle Embereth – Castles are free value in your mana base. The power boost is particularly nice when you control several 1/1 Human tokens or a creature with double strike. With 13 Mountains in the deck (including Fabled Passage) I will have drawn a Mountain for Castle Embereth on turn 3 about 93% of the time (I did the math) which seemed good enough to me. 

Sideboard card choices

  • 3 Thrashing Brontodon and 0 Cindervines: Most decks only have four enchantments or artifacts to destroy (say, 4 Fires of Invention or 4 Embercleave) and then Cindervines is too likely to be a dead card. Thrashing Brontodon also answers those pesky permanents, but it’s never dead, will wield an Embercleave, survive Deafening Clarion, and block their attackers.
  • 0 The Great Henge and 2 Skarrgan Hellkite: While curving Lovestruck Beast into The Great Henge is sweet, I often had games where The Great Henge cost five mana, and at that point I had already played all of my creatures. I also played games where The Great Henge did not overpower the card draw engines of Jund Sacrifice or Golgari Adventure in the late game. Hence, I cut them and opted for a more aggressive top-end in Skarrgan Hellkite. The Dragon will happily fly over their ground blockers for the win. 
  • Two Cosmotronic Wave: I often found myself staring down Rotting Regisaur, Cavalier of Thorns, Lovestruck Beast, and/or a bunch of other blockers, and I wanted additional ways to break through such ground stalls. After a Gatherer deep dive, I found Cosmotronic Wave, which seemed perfect for the job. Not only could it set up a potentially lethal alpha strike but also it would sweep utility creatures like Edgewall Innkeeper, Risen Reef, and/or the 1/1 Human tokens from Lovestruck Beast. I had to sift through boxes of bulk cards at Storm Brew Games the night before to even find them—thanks Corbin for the help!—but they served me well.

Tips and tricks

  • You can’t cast Embercleave mid-combat when they control Teferi, Time Raveler, so be sure to get rid of the planeswalker on the turn before.
  • If they do control Teferi, then you can still flash in Embercleave in your end-of-combat step for the discounted cost after dealing lethal combat damage to Teferi. On MTG Arena, hold full control to cast it in this step.
  • Deathtouch and trample is still a combo, as you only have to deal one point of damage to every blocker and can trample over for the rest. Hence, a Questing Beast wielding an Embercleave is deadly.
  • A Questing Beast punching via Domri’s Ambush is always lethal too. Another way to take out a high-toughness creature is by pumping one of your creatures via Rimrock Knight before having it punch with Domri’s Ambush.
  • If you target your own Bonecrusher Giant with Domri’s Ambush or Rimrock Knight’s adventure, it will deal two damage to you. Be careful.
  • If you use Rimrock Knight‘s adventure on a creature that’s about to die, then its power may get large enough to get an extra counter on Pelt Collector.
  • Skarrgan Hellkite doesn’t care where the counter came from, so if you gave it haste earlier then it’s a particularly good target for Domri’s Ambush.
  • Skarrgan Hellkite can ping your own creatures. I won one game where I killed my own Paradise Druid that was blocked by a lifelinker when my opponent was counting on that life to survive combat.
  • You should sometimes Stomp your own creature, for example to grow your Pelt Collector or to counter your opponent’s Stomp. Specifically, if they Stomp your Pelt Collector on turn two and your Stomp it in response, then their spell is countered and they won’t be able to cast Bonecrusher Giant later.

Sideboard Guide

I tend to board differently on the play and on the draw. 

When I’m on the play, I prefer to keep my deck focused on the plan of curving out and casting a cheap Embercleave. The main deck is perfect for that, and it doesn’t leave much room for Domri’s Ambush or Skarrgan Hellkite. It is often hard to find cards to cut, as you can’t cut adventure creatures without making Edgewall Innkeeper worse, you can’t cut Edgewall Innkeeper or Pelt Collector without making Lovestruck Beast worse, and you can’t cut Paradise Druid without making your colored mana consistency worse. I also generally still like the Questing Beast / Embercleave combo, although I’ll cut a Questing Beast against decks without planeswalkers and against blockers like Bonecrusher Giant, and I’ll cut an Embercleave against decks with too much instant-speed interaction. But usually, Gruul Spellbreaker is the go-to card to cut because you don’t need it for any synergies. Alternatively, when adding Embereth Shieldbreaker, you can swap out Rimrock Knight.

On the draw, opponents generally have more time to set up their defenses, and they might also turn into the aggressor. Since you may have to be blocking, Rimrock Knight and the fourth copy of Embercleave get worse. Additionally, the fourth copy of Questing Beast gets worse (because you have an extra draw step to find multiples) and Paradise Druid is no longer a necessity (because you have an extra draw step to find the right colored mana). Finally, I am less inclined to board in Cosmotronic Wave on the draw because you may find yourself on the defense.

As a final note, Jeskai Fires is the only matchup where I board out Lovestruck Beast because its 1/1 Human token rarely survives against Bonecrusher Giant, Deafening Clarion, and Teferi. Accordingly, I board out Edgewall Innkeeper against them as well.

With all that in mind, here is how I was usually boarding at the Grand Prix.

Vs Simic Flash

PLAY: 

In:

Shifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting Ceratops

 

Out:

 

Domri's AmbushSkarrgan HellkiteQuesting Beast

DRAW:

In:

Shifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsDomri's AmbushDomri's Ambush

Out:

Skarrgan HellkiteEmbercleaveGruul SpellbreakerParadise DruidQuesting Beast

 

Vs Jund Sacrifice

PLAY: 

In:

Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayEmbereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayEmbereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplaySkarrgan HellkiteSkarrgan Hellkite

Out

Rimrock Knight // Boulder RushRimrock Knight // Boulder RushRimrock Knight // Boulder RushDomri's AmbushGruul Spellbreaker

DRAW:

In:

Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayEmbereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayEmbereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayDomri's AmbushDomri's AmbushSkarrgan HellkiteSkarrgan Hellkite

Out:

Paradise DruidParadise DruidEmbercleaveRimrock Knight // Boulder RushRimrock Knight // Boulder RushRimrock Knight // Boulder RushGruul Spellbreaker

Vs Jeskai Fires

PLAY:

In:

Skarrgan HellkiteSkarrgan HellkiteDomri's AmbushDomri's AmbushThrashing BrontodonThrashing BrontodonThrashing BrontodonShifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting Ceratops

Out:

Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire - ShowcaseLovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire - ShowcaseLovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire - ShowcaseLovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire - ShowcaseEdgewall InnkeeperEdgewall InnkeeperEdgewall InnkeeperEdgewall InnkeeperBonecrusher Giant // StompBonecrusher Giant // Stomp

DRAW:

In:

Skarrgan HellkiteSkarrgan HellkiteDomri's AmbushDomri's AmbushThrashing BrontodonThrashing BrontodonThrashing BrontodonShifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting Ceratops
Out:
Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire - ShowcaseLovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire - ShowcaseEdgewall InnkeeperEdgewall InnkeeperParadise DruidEmbercleaveBonecrusher Giant // StompBonecrusher Giant // StompBonecrusher Giant // StompBonecrusher Giant // Stomp

Vs Simic Ramp

PLAY:

In:

Cosmotronic WaveCosmotronic WaveDomri's Ambush

 Out:

Skarrgan HellkiteGruul SpellbreakerGruul Spellbreaker

DRAW:

In:

Cosmotronic WaveCosmotronic WaveDomri's AmbushDomri's Ambush

Out:

Skarrgan HellkiteEmbercleaveParadise DruidParadise Druid

Vs Golgari Adventure

PLAY: 

In:

Cosmotronic WaveCosmotronic WaveSkarrgan HellkiteSkarrgan Hellkite

Out;

Gruul SpellbreakerGruul SpellbreakerGruul SpellbreakerDomri's Ambush

DRAW:

In:

Domri's AmbushDomri's AmbushSkarrgan HellkiteSkarrgan HellkiteCosmotronic Wave

Out:

EmbercleaveParadise DruidParadise DruidGruul SpellbreakerGruul Spellbreaker

Vs Izzet Flash

PLAY:

In:

Shifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting Ceratops

Out:

Domri's AmbushSkarrgan HellkiteQuesting Beast

DRAW:

In:

Shifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting Ceratops

 

Out:

Domri's AmbushSkarrgan HellkiteQuesting Beast

Vs Rakdos Knights

PLAY:

In:

Thrashing BrontodonThrashing BrontodonDomri's Ambush

 

Out:

Gruul SpellbreakerGruul SpellbreakerRimrock Knight // Boulder Rush

DRAW:

In:

Thrashing BrontodonThrashing BrontodonThrashing BrontodonEmbereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayEmbereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayEmbereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayDomri's AmbushDomri's AmbushSkarrgan HellkiteSkarrgan Hellkite

Out:

Rimrock Knight // Boulder RushRimrock Knight // Boulder RushRimrock Knight // Boulder RushRimrock Knight // Boulder RushEmbercleaveEmbercleaveQuesting BeastGruul SpellbreakerGruul SpellbreakerGruul Spellbreaker

Vs Azorius Control

PLAY:

In:

Shifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting Ceratops

Out:

Domri's AmbushSkarrgan HellkiteEmbercleave

DRAW:

Shifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting Ceratops

Out:

Domri's AmbushSkarrgan HellkiteEmbercleave

Vs Mirror Match

PLAY:

In:

Cosmotronic WaveCosmotronic WaveDomri's AmbushSkarrgan Hellkite

Out:

Questing BeastQuesting BeastGruul SpellbreakerGruul Spellbreaker

DRAW:

In:

Domri's AmbushDomri's AmbushSkarrgan HellkiteSkarrgan HellkiteThrashing BrontodonThrashing BrontodonThrashing BrontodonEmbereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayEmbereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayCosmotronic Wave

Out:

Questing BeastQuesting BeastEmbercleaveRimrock Knight // Boulder RushRimrock Knight // Boulder RushGruul SpellbreakerGruul SpellbreakerGruul SpellbreakerParadise DruidParadise Druid

Discussion

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