Gruul do not introduction.
BLOODRUSH IS NOW!
Not to be confused with Rush of Blood (which does not give trample but can be used defensively), bloodrush is badass, and we have a leading candidate for bloodrush frontrunner.
While Ghor-Clan Rampager is a relatively simple concept, there is actually a lot of depth to the design. To start with, bloodrush marks the return of one of the most open-ended mechanics in Magic, channel. Like kicker, there are a million possible mechanics that are all subsets of channel (like cycling), which at their core are really just split cards. The narrower application (being all pump effects that target attackers) is very welcome and will surely make the flavor resonate more loudly.
Bloodrush cards should be evaluated like all split cards (i.e., Charms with, in this case, two modes), at least as a first step. Not all of the bloodrush cards have been previewed, but already it is clear that WotC has gone to great lengths to give them each their own feel. It is totally awesome that bloodrush not only gives stats equal to the discarded creature's stats but also gives its keywords. It makes it easier to conceptualize the flavor, as well as leads to a greater variety of cards.
Since every bloodrush card is effectively a combat trick, there is a good chance that most of them will be balanced with an eye to Limited (where combat tricks tend to perform much better than in Constructed). However, it is also a new mechanic, so there is little doubt that R&D pushed a couple in the right ways to ensure the mechanic shows up in Constructed.
Ghor-Clan Rampager is one such pushed creature.
Because the bloodrush costs vary so greatly from creature to creature, as do the stats, there are sure to be some bloodrush creatures that are mostly about the creature that happen to have the option to bloodrush in the right spots, while there will be some that are the complete opposite. There may even be some that ride the line.
A good rule to keep in mind is that if one of the two modes is good enough to play on its own, the card is already at least solid. It is worth remembering that humans are notoriously bad at evaluating the value of options, at least Magic players when it comes to options in Magic (but really everybody when it comes to everything). On one hand, cards that are situationally powerful when they work right look better to people than they really are. On the other hand, cards that provide reasonable options that are flexible (and different from each other) are always underestimated.
Remember, 90% of the tournament scene was not impressed by Cryptic Command when it first came out.
So the somewhat unfortunately named Ghor-Clan Rampager (really rolls off the tongue, don't you think?) is a split card, but what are the two modes?
Well, it's pretty obvious that a 4/4 trampler for four, while certainly decent, would not change Standard on its own. Bloodfray Giant is only a 4/3 base but is easily unleashed into a 5/4 (that can't block). While not the exact same as a 4/4 trampler for four, they are at least close.
What about the flipside?
Now we're talking! Colossal Might was a real thing, and two points of toughness help make up for not being able to use the card to save a creature from a random burn spell (outside of combat, anyway). The uncounterable bit is a minor bonus, but every edge helps. The point is that the Rampage mode is totally awesome, with a high power level that is supposed to be balanced by it being somewhat situational.
Except that "balance" is thrown out the window since you can also turn the situational blowout card into a reasonable body. While it is true that a 4/4 trampler for four isn't always going to be good, it is going to be good a decent amount of the time. And whenever you don't want a sick pump spell, the chances that you want a 4/4 trampler go way up (as the most likely problem is that you need more creatures at the moment, not more pump spells).
Not impressed? Just imagine every attack phase from here on out. Any blocks? You're losing your guy and taking a ton, not to mention surely losing mana on the deal. Rampaging is very effective against blocking.
This card is very easy for people to underestimate because +4/+4 for two mana is a thing you can already get, as is a 4/4 trampler for four. People always underestimate utility. Boros Charm, on the other hand, benefits greatly from the fact that you can't buy "make all your permanents indestructible." You can't even buy two mana deal four, these days. The real reason Boros Charm is good is its flexibility and how low the opportunity cost is for some of the things it does. The real reason people like it is because it does splashy things that you can't do elsewhere.
Ghor-Clan Rampager only does things that are less flashy and more easily replicated on their own. In fact, every bloodrush creature competes for some of the same coolness points in the eyes of most. Still, the rate is super-efficient and the numbers are in just the right spot, so I am going to go out on a limb and predict not only that it will be good and see play (that much is assured) but that it will take only weeks before most people remember always thinking it was decent...
Interestingly, Boros Charm may actually hurt Ghor-Clan Rampager's playability a little, as Boros Charm is also a combat trick that can be traded for four to the nug. As far as four-drops go, there certainly is no shortage of competition there, either. Despite these monstrous hurdles, I think Ghor-Clan Rampager will find some homes. Before I get to some of them, it is worth noting a few other twists that thicken the plot.
First of all, bloodrush lets us play with a ton of creatures that function as spells. This lets us abuse any card that counts creatures in your deck. For instance, Domri Rade wants a particularly high creature count. How lucky, then, that even our "spells" count as creatures. Whether its Lead the Stampede types, Call of the Wild types, or Survival of the Fittest types, the Rampager is worth extra value.
Next, it is worth remembering just how valuable the creature card type is beyond just checking for it in your deck. It is notoriously easy to reuse and exploit creatures in the graveyard. Whether you are Reanimating them, Living Ending them, Gravediggering them, or just want to fill your graveyard with creatures for things like Splinterfright, a creature going to a graveyard is generally more exploitable than an instant, at least in terms of label.
Finally, bloodrush doesn't count as a spell. There may not be a lot of Arcane Lab effects in Standard, but what about Thalia? Save a mana. The bigger game, however, is the interaction against Aurelia's Fury, one of the killer new Boros cards that would normally be able to lock a player out of being able to play any noncreature spells. Bloodrush doesn't count, though, giving Aurelia's Fury an Achilles heel against Gruul packing bloodrush.
What kind of deck might use Ghor-Clan Rampager? Well, it has to be a deck that appreciates both the Ghor-Clan and the Rampager modes. There are a lot of possible directions we could go, so let's just sketch a few out and see what they look like. This first list focuses on the "your spells can be creatures, too" aspect of the Rampager.
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Experiment One
- 1 Flinthoof Boar
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Hellrider
- 2 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 3 Skarrg Guildmage
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 3 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 3 Wolfir Avenger
- 2 Wolfir Silverheart
Ulvenwald Tracker is a chronically underappreciated card by people not named Brian Kibler. If you are building a green creature deck that has the biggest creature on the table a fair percentage of the time, you should really check this guy out. It isn't just that he has a good rate (and he does), but he also provides such a valuable dimension to green creature decks. A reusable source of not only card advantage but of board control, he lets you play sort of a classic "Sligh" game.
Experiment One is a really good Magic card that should be tried in all sorts of places. There aren't a ton of true "combos" in here, but just having Wolfir Avenger in your deck makes him a lot more threatening. Strangleroot Geist has chances of double value with him, but more impressively, Ghor-Clan Rampager's ability to be a big creature will sometimes lead to pumping your team.
Skarrg Guildmage is an interesting one.
While not as immediately crazy powerful synergistically as Zameck Guildmage, for instance, Skarrg Guildmage does give us something productive to do with our mana and is kind of good on his own. I also want to try Flinthoof Boar somewhere now that we have access to Stomping Ground. Besides, diminishing returns, and maybe next month playing less than four will be crazy, but for now...let's do it for science.
Giving all your creatures trample is a cool ability, but it is definitely one of those abilities that you don't use most of the time. When you do, though, it can be game winning. The primary reason we want this guy is for his land-animating ability. By the time you have mana to be activating this guy, putting your land at risk is a relatively small risk. What do you get in exchange?
Well, at the bare minimum you get Koth's primary ability. Spending four mana to deal four damage? That's a pretty good deal when you don't have to spend any cards. This guy can really beat up on people without removal. After all, as long as you have the land to fuel him, creatures blocking is not really that big a deal. He can even power through a Thragtusk relatively easily!
This is only part of the offensive aspect of Skarrg Guildmage, though. Glimpses of his true power start becoming apparent when you consider just how solid of a six-drop he is. You play him, immediately animate a land (that you didn't play this turn...),and now you have a 4/4 haste creature that can't really be killed in combat easily. Even if your opponent has a removal spell, they will generally want to remove the Guildmage. If they do that, you are still up a Boros Charm worth of damage without spending a card (since they traded their removal spell for your Guildmage).
While it will be relatively rare, you can actually animate two lands in the same turn. In fact, if tappers ever come back, you can actually get where you want to be with just seven mana by tapping the land that gets tapped to power another one inside of combat.
Four mana to deal four damage might seem like a lot, but the opportunity cost is low and it can be so easy to underestimate options that let us be mana efficient. Remember how good Raging Ravine was? It's surprising how often this kind of abilities get used if the card is providing functionality in the meantime (like being a land or a bear).
The attack ability is a pretty solid tool for playing around Supreme Verdict or Mutilate since it lets you put a ton of pressure on people without having to commit more creatures to the board. However, the ability is not purely offensive. After all, you can still block with the land if you like. That is a pretty healthy-sized body, so there is a good chance it could do some respectable work on defense (possibly even saving you some mana if you also tap it to help cast a Searing Spear or Boros Charm after blockers).
If somehow 4/4 isn't big enough, you can actually still use Skarrg Guildmage as a source of chump blockers (as long as you can pay the bills). In a similar vein, if you are ever in the market for sacrificial fodder, this can be a source of extra creatures every turn (late). Be warned, it sadly does not combo with Experiment One to power him all the way up to four because the lands don't actually have power or toughness when they "enter the battlefield."
Touching on trample for a minute, it isn't just that he can make your land a 4/4 trampler, it is that Wolfir Silverheart can be even more devastating. This isn't the best deck for the trample ability, but if you combine it with Nightshade Peddler, you are a happy camper since every point beyond the first tramples over for all of your creatures. Additionally, the trample ability is really nice with Deadbridge Goliath if you play a build with him. Not only is he a fine target to give trample to, but whatever he +5/+5s is going to love it.
As for Domri Rade, he gets pretty sick when you have this many creatures. A more in-depth breakdown can be found here.
Let's take a look at deck that uses some very different elements of Ghor-Clan Rampager.
- 1 Daybreak Ranger
- 3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 4 Immerwolf
- 4 Mayor of Avabruck
- 1 Pyreheart Wolf
- 4 Reckless Waif
- 3 Scorned Villager
- 2 Skarrg Guildmage
- 4 Wolfbitten Captive
While Werewolves hasn't really cracked the high-tier Constructed scene yet, the format does appear to being moving in a better direction for it. For starters, a lower percentage of opponents have blue instants than in the past. Next, Gatecrash will have a variety of new tools for Gruul, the natural Werewolf deck colors. As a matter of fact, every single bloodrush creature is a combo with Werewolves since bloodrushing doesn't count as a spell.
Skarrg Guildmage is also a nice option for things to spend our mana on instead of casting a spell. It's possible we want some number of Full Moon's Rises in here or more Moonmists, though we probably want to be careful how far we push the Wolf/Werewolf tribal theme. Immerwolf and Mayor of Avabruck is already a solid package that doesn't require stooping too low.
The one-ofs may look odd, but remember that we aren't talking about playing this in a tournament yet. When trying new cards, you get more data by playing one of a bunch of things you want to try instead of three copies of a third as many cards.
What if we just want to blast people for four or more damage and ensure that we can punch with our creatures?
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 4 Experiment One
- 1 Flinthoof Boar
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Hellrider
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Stromkirk Noble
That's right, the reprinting of Stomping Ground means the same thing it did last time. Naya is not always a "midrange" shard. Temple Garden, Sacred Foundry, and Stomping Ground make possible some mana bases that come out hitting hard, though just like last time these mana bases will be "ok" but still somewhat unreliable.
There is a good chance that not playing Thalia is foolish, but we do have a fair number of spells it would disrupt, not to mention a relatively low land count. Then again, maybe Boros Charm does that work for us.
Searing Spear might be ok, but I'd kind of rather just attack with all my guys and Rampage. That seems like it will deal more damage on the average than Searing Spear, plus will kill bigger creatures.
Selesnya Charm would be a totally reasonable card here, perhaps just as a one- or two-of, but it does kind of overlap with Ghor-Clan. Ghor-Clan is better both as a pump spell and a creature, even with Selesnya Charm fitting the mana curve better, so you really have to want the removal spell mode to make it work.
What about Gruul Charm?