During my preparation for Mythic Championship 7, I had a lot of success playing Gruul.
At first, I was experimenting with builds including Sarkhan and other planeswalkers as a way to try to beat the Cat-Oven decks, but I quickly realized that the way to go is to simplify everything and just beat people down with Embercleave.
This is my current list:
4 Gruul Spellbreaker (RNA) 179 9 Mountain (ELD) 265 4 Rimrock Knight (ELD) 137 9 Forest (ELD) 269 4 Lovestruck Beast (ELD) 165 4 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115 4 Embercleave (ELD) 120 4 Edgewall Innkeeper (ELD) 151 4 Pelt Collector (GRN) 141 4 Paradise Druid (WAR) 171 4 Questing Beast (ELD) 171 4 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259 2 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244 Sideboard 2 Domri's Ambush (WAR) 192 2 Thrashing Brontodon (M20) 197 4 Shifting Ceratops (M20) 194 2 Cindervines (RNA) 161 3 Embereth Shieldbreaker (ELD) 122 2 The Great Henge (ELD) 161
Once Upon a Time got banned, making your mana base a bit worse and lowering your odds at starting with a turn 1 Innkeeper or Pelt Collector, but turns out this deck still has what it takes to perform well in this format.
You can find the final part of my climb to #1 Mythic on Magic Arena on the constructed ladder here.
This list is based on the deck Javier Dominguez, Seth Manfield and Martin Mueller played at MC6 to a 66% winrate.
The idea is that you lower the curve a little bit, cut Skarrgan Hellkite and add Edgewall Innkeeper and some adventure creatures, giving you a great card draw engine.
Rimrock Knight is a great replacement for than Zhur-Taa Goblin, as you can use it as a decent combat trick, but it’s also a fine target for Embercleave.
Lovestruck Beast should have probably been in the deck ages ago, as it gives you two creatures for the price of one card, which is really important for Embercleave, but also a one drop, which this deck struggled with in the past. Between Innkeeper and Pelt Collector, you are running enough 1/1s in your deck to make sure it can attack.
Bonecrusher Giant was something that I previously wasn’t a big fan of in Gruul decks, but it does make a lot of sense here when the 4/3 body usually comes with an extra card.
The list looks pretty simple with a lot of 4-ofs, but the truth is that those cards are just best at what they do and everything works together really well. I tried cards like Sarkhan, Domri, maindeck Shifting Ceratops, removal spells and other stuff, but eventually just wanted four of everything that’s in the deck.
The problem with the other cards was that I didn’t really want to ramp into everything, I just wanted to curve out. Playing Domri into Sarkhan sounds good in theory, but you are not really creating any real board presence, as Domri doesn’t protect itself very well and the Sarkhan token just often gets bounced by Teferi, Time Raveler. Paying 5 mana for a 4/4 flier just isn’t very appealing in this format.
What are the good and bad matchups?
This decks good matchups are most of the Cat-Oven decks, but it largely depends on their build. I like my matchup against Jund Cat quite a bit because they take a lot of damage from their lands and have less Murderous Riders to answer an instant-speed Embercleave. On the other hand, some versions of G/B Cat started running maindeck Thrashing Brontodons, which can be very annoying. I also like this deck against combo decks like Temur Reclamation and other aggro decks like Monored, where Lovestruck Beast is an absolute monster.
The bad matchups are decks like Esper control with a lot of removal and cards like Kaya’s Wrath, but luckily those decks don’t seem to be very popular at the moment and most of the decks I’ve been facing on ladder don’t seem to rely on the very much, as they are running lands like Island and Mobilized District. Another problem for this deck is Rotting Regisaur, which is too big for your creatures to attack through and it usually eventually kills you with an Embercleave. Unfortunately, Red-Green doesn’t have any great answers to it other than trading it for a Questing Beast.
Games against UW Control and Flash decks like Izzet and Simic can be very interesting because there are many cards you usually have to play against and Embercleave is not at it’s best in these matchups. Luckily, we have a full playset of Shifting Ceratops in the sideboard which is probably the best card against them in the entire format.
What are you looking for in an opening hand?
The game plan with this deck is pretty simple – all you want to do is curve out and pressure your opponent as much as possible. Having a creature on turn 1 is very important as it adds up to a lot of extra damage and makes Embercleave cheaper. Ideally you start with a Pelt Collector or Innkeeper and follow up with something like Rimrock Knight and Bonecrusher Giant, adding pressure to the board while drawing you more cards, which helps you make land drops and find Embercleave. One-drop into Paradise Druid into Questing Beast on turn 3 is also a very strong opening.
You want to throw away hands that are too slow or have too many lands. For example a hand of 5 lands, Questing Beast and Embercleave is an easy mulligan.
Shifting Ceratops – Comes in against decks like U/W Control and Izzet/Simic Flash. Best card against them by a significant margin. I don’t recommend bringing it in against other creature decks just for the stats – your creatures are already big enough.
Thrashing Brontodon – Great against Jeskai Fires, as it survives Deafening Clarion and is a good answer to other Embercleave decks. Don’t don’t bring it in against Golgari or Jund Cat-Oven decks, as focusing on disrupting their synergies just makes you slower and overall hurts your game plan more than theirs.
Cindervines – Another answer to artifacts and enchantments, but cheaper and can deal some extra damage. Not entirely convinced it’s better than more Brontodons though.
Domri’s Ambush – removal for important creatures like Runaway Steam-Kin, Torbran, other Innkeeper decks.
Embereth Shieldbreaker – I like this as an answer to Witch’s Oven where you replace Rimrock Knight with it after sideboard. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to make this swap in the maindeck if you are expecting a lot of Oven decks in your local metagame. It’s also great against Esper Doom, where it kills all their Golden Eggs and Guild Globes.
The Great Henge – one of the best cards against decks with a lot of removal and grindy decks like Green-Black adventures. Not super necessary to have, but it can be crazy powerful sometimes and you are a great deck for it with a lot of high power creatures like Lovestruck Beast and Questing Beast.
Tips and Tricks
– If you have Embercleave on Questing Beast, you only need to assign 1 damage to every blocker because of Deathtouch.
– Sometimes you will want to play Pelt Collector after playing a bigger creature to make sure it stays as a 1/1 and you can attack with Lovestruck Beast. It’s a bit counter-intuitive and it’s easy to get excited and play a Pelt Collector + Gruul Spellbreaker in this order, only to realize you have now made your Pelt Collector a 2/2 and you are now attacking for 5 damage less.
– Teferi in play doesn’t mean you can’t play Embercleave. Don’t forget it attaches to a creature when it comes into play even when you cast it for 6 mana in your mainphase.
– Likewise, you can also cast Embercleave at other times than just combat phase. For example against U/W Control, I sometimes cast it at the end of their turn so that if they counter it, they have to tap out and I can resolve my Questing Beast or something similar.
Sideboard here greatly varies on their exact build. Pelt Collector isn’t great if they have a lot of Wicked Wolves and the Great Henge can be medium if they have a lot of artifact removal.
On the draw you can bring in Cindervines as well to have more answers to Embercleave, on the play I just like to be aggressive.
I like bringing in Cindervines as an answer to Prison Realm.
As usual, this is where you can find me:
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