Gruul Midrange, or Gruul Monsters as I prefer to call it, is the hottest new aggressive deck in Standard. Coming off the back of a GP Kyoto victory, understanding the power of this archetype is crucial to success in Standard.
Traditional Standard (Best of Three)
Gruul Midrange, or Gruul Monsters as I prefer to call it, is the hottest new aggressive deck in Standard. Coming off the back of a GP Kyoto victory, understanding the power of this archetype is crucial to success in Standard. Largely coming to prominence through positive Reclamation and Mono Blue matchups, Gruul also boasts powerful sideboard options in a variety of matchups. The deep sideboard options of Green combine with the game-warping threats of Red to create a force to be reckoned with.
No aggressive deck would be complete without efficient threats, and Gruul is no slouch in this department.
Growth-Chamber Guardian — representing a powerful midgame body attached to a recursive threat against other aggro decks, Growth-Chamber Guardian cements its place in Gruul as a form of proactive card advantage.
Kraul Harpooner — One of Standard’s iconic sideboard cards, this Draft powerhouse serves as an additional early game threat while scaling into a removal spell in the mid to late game. The invaluable ability to pick off Pteramander allows Gruul to have both a proactive and a reactive game plan.
Dire Fleet Daredevil — This Rivals of Ixalan rare has supplanted other two-drop options as the third option, scaling in similar ways as Growth-Chamber Guardian. In the early game, a 2/1 first striker can beat most others in combat while functioning as a red Hostage Taker of sorts later in the game. The ability to cast a Lava Coil or a Thought Erasure can prove backbreaking in their respective matchups, cementing Dire Fleet Daredevil’s place in Gruul lists.
Goblin Chainwhirler — Perhaps the most powerful threat in aggressive matchups, Goblin Chainwhirler’s value is directly associated with the amount of one toughness creatures in the format. Largely in response to the success of Wilderness Reclamation decks, aggressive strategies are on the rise. Goblin Chainwhirler gives Gruul a dominant presence in these matchups, earning itself 4-of status.
Gruul Spellbreaker — Midrange decks tend to be vulnerable to spell based removal spells such as Settle the Wreckage, and Gruul Spellbreaker shuts off this strategy. Spellbreaker also serves an extra burn spell against Esper Control, as they lack an effective answer to the hasty 3/3. Against other aggressive decks, the ability to become a 4/4 represents a significant roadblock.
Rekindling Phoenix — A recurring theme among Gruul is the flexibility of its threats. Rekindling Phoenix represents a resilient and evasive threat that can function as an incredible defensive tool against most aggressive strategies, against both Mono Red and Mono Blue alike. Don’t leave home without four copies.
Skarrgan Hellkite — A natural curve topping threat to Gruul, Skarrgan Hellkite can outclass most flying creatures and serves as an additional hasty threat. When facing opposing flyers, the ability to become a 5/5 blanks otherwise troublesome Rekindling Phoenixes. Five mana can prove to be troublesome, so Skarrgan earns its place as a 3-of.
Boasting the best removal spells in the format, Gruul can control the pace of the game long enough to deploy its top end threats.
Lava Coil — Acting as a clean answer to Rekindling Phoenix while functioning as an additional answer to early game threats like Runaway Steam-kin or Wildgrowth Walker, Lava Coil is an integral component to success in an aggressive metagame
Lightning Strike — Fulfilling a similar role as Lava Coil but more flexible, Lightning Strike is the only 4-of removal spell in the main deck.
Shock — Functioning as additional copies of Lightning Strike but offering the deck a Turn 1 play, Shock is a versatile main deck option. In addition, access to a one-mana removal spell mitigates the drawback of Gruul Guildgate.
Collision/Colossus — Emerging quickly as the primary reason to play Gruul following the Mythic Championship, Collision/Colossus is a maindeckable interactive spell that synergizes with First Strike. With the emergence of Mono Blue, removal spells for flyers became prominent portions of the metagame.
Lava Coil — Extra copies of lava coil reside in the sideboard, expanding the potential sideboard removal suite. In matchups where Lava Coil is great, you want the full playset.
Shivan Fire — Serving as an effective complement to Shock, Shivan Fire trades the ability to hit the opponent for the upscaling damage to creatures. The ability to kill an early Goblin Electromancer and a Crackling Drake cannot be understated and earns Shivan Fire 2-of status.
Cindervines — Perhaps the singular most important sideboard card Gruul has access to, Cindervines punishes both Esper Control and Nexus alike. With some of the most powerful board states in Standard, a common avenue of attack is with sweepers and spot removal. Cindervines functions as extra reach in removal spell heavy matches while acting as enchantment removal against Wilderness Reclamation.
Status/Statue — A recent piece of tech, Status/Statue allows Gruul to utilize Goblin Chainwhirler as a one-sided sweeper against Sultai and Azorius Aggro. With no way to generate Black mana Status/Statue is limited to the Status portion, but even combining with Dire Fleet Daredevil to kill larger creatures can be effective.
Legion Warboss — A more recent innovation to Gruul, Legion Warboss can serve as an effective replacement for dead removal spells in slower matchups while shoring up a weakness to sweepers. Two copies is a great starting point, with extra copies dependent on the metagame.
Domri, Chaos Bringer — Threats that are not vulnerable to traditional removal spells are crucial to transformational sideboard packages, and Domri is no slouch in this department. Supplanting Rhythm of the Wild as the go-to sideboard option against control decks, Domri is likely to draw multiple cards over the course of the game. He lacks the ability to interact with board states in the same way as Vivien, a natural tradeoff for a lower cost.
Vivien Reid — Fulfilling the role of card advantage engine and interactive element, Vivien is powerhouse threat in grindier matchups like Esper Control or Sultai. Against decks packing Hydroid Krasis, Vivien Reid threatens to push through extra damage by removing this powerful threat.
Arena Standard (Best of One)
Modifications to acknowledge a Mono Red heavy Best of One format for Gruul are minor, as the deck boasts many tools for fighting creatures. Still, adaptation is important, and I’ll go over some options below.
Deathgorge Scavenger — Complimenting the trade-heavy aspect of the Mono Red matchup, Deathgorge Scavenger can buy just enough time for larger threats to end the game. It can also act as an answer to Rekindling Phoenix without playing Lava Coil.
Wildgrowth Walker — The explore package is powerful at stabilizing games against Mono Red but lacks the closing power of other options.
Merfolk Branchwalker/Jadelight Ranger — As with Wildgrowth Walker, the primary value of Branchwalker and Jadelight lies in the synergy with Wildgrowth Walker, and can bury Mono Red in insurmountable life gain.
Shock — Additional copies of Shock are natural replacements for Collision/Colossus, though having a main deck answer for Esper Control’ Lyra Dawnbringer is important. Avoiding too much damage early in the game allows Gruul to race Mono Red, so Shock is an effective option.
Regisaur Alpha — Replacing Skarrgan Hellkite as a dominant five drop, Regisaur Alpha is resilient to Mono Red’s efficient removal. The additional body also enables Gruul to end games more quickly than in Traditional Standard, compensating for the lack of a sideboard.
With those in mind, I would play this version in Arena Standard queues.
Thanks for checking out this week’s Standard Deck Tech, and let me know what you think in the comments below. As always, you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PariahPopular.