I've been trying to make G/R decks work in Standard for a while with varying degrees of success, none large enough to commit to playing the Gruul clan in a high-level event. For the most part, my lists have been built around the synergy between token generators and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar to create aggressive curves that match-up well against traditional spot removal and also have the power to recover from sweepers.
Perhaps I should have been focusing on what the Gruul clan has historically done best, smash face like some sort of prehistoric caveman with a loose grasp on language and how to use tools.
Hanweir Garrison attack!
Incendiary Flow kill!
Thunderbreak Regent make fire!
Simple. Brutal. Efficient. What the Gruul lack in nuance and charisma, they more than make up for in strength and fearlessness. And that's what this deck represents. All the creatures represent great rates for aggressive creatures with some rare exceptions that give the deck the power to go long.
The thing is, Nissa, Vastwood Seer may not attack as effectively as some other options, but it ensures you make your land drops so your other creatures come down on-curve. This is an often underrated need for bigger aggressive decks, but it's very important since you need to play your threats as early as possible to develop an advantage as your cards are typically poor when played from behind.
That is why Ulvenwald Captive is such an underrated addition. It lets you accelerate out your big threats while also being able to transform into a threat when the game goes long so you minimize your risk of flooding. Once again the simple logic of the Gruul reigns supreme: Big creature on turn 4 good! Big creature on turn 3 better!
The other additions from Eldritch Moon come in the form of red burn spells, giving the deck a critical mass of reach. Being able to end games from six to nine life makes each threat that much more potent, especially considering how difficult it is to contain Hanweir Garrison and Ulrich of the Krallenhorde in combat or Thunderbreak Regent with removal.
I'm a bit surprised to see only one copy of Hanweir Battlements, given that the potential for meld is so great and its normal ability is so useful in this type of deck. Even a adding a second as a 25th land could be right, since it provides a small mana sink.
Magic offers us plenty of opportunity to show off our intelligence, but it's important to not overthink things all the time. Let's get back to our primal roots and apply some old-fashioned beatdown.
- 3 Den Protector
- 2 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Hanweir Garrison
- 1 Mirrorwing Dragon
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 4 Thunderbreak Regent
- 3 Ulvenwald Captive
- 1 Dragonlord Atarka
- 2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- 2 Ulrich of the Krallenhorde