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[Primer] Gruul Monsters - MTG Standard


God of Monsters
Gruul Monsters
R/G Aggro-Midrange
Deck and Strategy Primer

This is a Primer for a competitive "Gruul Monsters" Aggro-Midrange deck. Midrange can best be described as a strategy that seeks to play the best creatures and ride those creatures to victory. Midrange decks tend to play the most efficient creatures, making each one a must-be-dealt-with threat. In general, the creatures in a Midrange deck will be "better" than those in an Aggro deck--bigger, more resilient, and with greater play-value--and more numerous than those in a Control deck.

Gruul Monsters takes advantage of the powerful and efficient cards made available in Green and Red. It is a strong all-purpose deck and is a solid choice against devotion-based decks that often rely on card synergy and multiple pieces coming together.

As a competitive primer, this doesn't take into account budget or card restrictions. It suggests the best options of cards available.

Here is a list of card options available to us followed by the decklist I am currently testing:

Card Options:

Planeswalkers: Planeswalkers are critical for a Midrange deck. They survive the vast majority of board wipes (apart from Planar Clensing and the mode-specific Merciless Eviction, the latter of which rarely gets played). In addition, most G/R Planeswalkers synergize very well with high creature-counts.

Domri Rade - Domri works wonders in a Gruul build. When running high creature numbers (at least 24), you'll have about a 50% chance of drawing into a creature when you first use his ability (assuming a Turn-3 Domri, in which you likely have 50 cards left in your deck). His -2 Fight ability is excellent in conjunction with Gruul's value creatures like Polukranos, Stormbreath Dragon, Ember Swallower, and Arbor Colossus. Finally, his Ultimate Emblem is downright backbreaking if you can make it. It turns even a 2/2 Satyr into a must-answer threat. Recommend: 3-4 (Main).

Xenagos, the Reveler - Xenagos is excellent at what he does: putting bodies on the board. Whether that's by creating a 2/2 Satyr with haste, giving you extra mana to cast more beasties, or using his ultimate to hit a lot of your permanents, Xenagos can usually put you ahead on the board. Recommend: 2-3 (Main).

Chandra, Pyromaster - The new Chandra is pretty awesome. She's utilized very differently than most other Planeswalkers, used more as a source of card advantage via her "0" or as a way of keeping constant pressure on your opponent with her "+1." In a creature-heavy deck like Gruul, you aren't necessarily going to want to use her ultimate since you don't have very many spells to use. Still, she's a solid Planeswalker. Recommend: 1-2 (Main/Side).

Garruk, Caller of Beasts - Garruk is great with a high creature count. He's been most effective in the Gruul Devotion builds, where they can cheat him out on turn 2 or 3 and draw 5 cards (probably). And at 6 mana, he's a bit high on our curve. Nonetheless, he can be a solid addition to any creature-heavy build. Recommend: 1-2 (Main/Side).

Creatures: Creatures are the bread and butter of the Midrange deck. Gruul runs some of the highest value creatures in Standard, combining resiliency and value with cost-effectiveness and aggression.

Elvish Mystic - This is our standard 1-drop mana accelerator. He's great for getting our gat creatures out faster and allows for a turn-2 Domri Rade and provides us with some very powerful starts. Recommend: 4 (Main).

Experiment One - Generally more useful in Aggro-inclined decks hoping to hit harder earlier. In a Midrange deck, it quickly becomes somewhat lackluster.

Wasteland Viper - Usually a sideboard card against Aggro, this provides a deathtouch roadblock and allows you to Bloodrush your Polukranos and activate its Monstrous ability to clear the entire board. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Sylvan Caryatid - Your roadblock against the first turns of Aggro decks. And a mana-provider. And it has hexproof. It's pretty solid. Recommend: 3-4 (Main).

Scavenging Ooze - Ooze prevents any sort of graveyard-based shenanigans (especially using Whip of Erebos or scavenge). Gains you life against Aggro and grows bigger after a board-wipe against Control. Recommend: 3 (Main).

Kalonian Tusker - One of the most effective cost-to-power creatures, though it's "GG" cost can be difficult. More green-focused deck will probably want to focus on this guy. Recommend: 3 (Main).

Skarrg Guildmage - A very effective support creature. The Guildmage is a powerful threat against control. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Skylasher - In a world of Mono-Blue Devotion and Blue-based Control, anything with Flash, Pro-Blue, and Uncounterability is powerful. Though this is likely a more solid sideboard card. Recommend: 2-3 (Side).

Burning-Tree Emissary - In decks focusing on powering out your early creatures, this girl is great. Any Green or Red deck using Nykthos will want her, too. But in the Midrange decks, she's more of a liability. Recommend: 4 (Main - if you can use it).

Boon Satyr - Our go-to 3-drop. Flash and 4 power makes him great against Blood Barons and the like. He can also, in a pinch, help one of your own guys survive or eliminate an opposing creature. Recommend: 3-4 (Main).

Mindsparker - This guy is fine against UW decks, but is probably best as sideboard material, if that. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Reverent Hunter - Great in Green-heavy decks like Mono-Green. Decent in our build, but not the best use of 3 mana.

Witchstalker - Solid even if you're not playing against U or B. Hexproof is definitely a positive. Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Deadbridge Goliath - a 5/5 for 4 that you can use after it dies? What's not to love? Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Ember Swallower - a 4/5 that gets bigger and can cut your opponent's land. 5 toughness survives Mizzium Mortars, Warleader's Helix, Blood Baron, and Stormbreath Dragon. Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Ghor-Clan Rampager - The best pump-spell in the format--it can't be countered!!! And it's a 4/4 with trample in a pinch, too! Recommend: 3-4 (Main).

Nylea's Disciple - Sideboard against Aggro for when you need to gain some life back. Recommend: 2-4 (Side).

Nylea, God of the Hunt - If you're heavy into Green, she only helps. Provides a good place to put all your mana. Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Ogre Battledriver - A decent creature, especially if you want to hit quickly, but he's very vulnerable to removal and burn.

Polis Crusher - A very solid card. Immunity to Chained to the Rocks and Detention Sphere is a nice ability. The ability to kill both of those, or a god weapon, or Underworld Connections is also not bad. Recommend: 1-2 (Main/Side).

Polukranos, World Eater - a 5/5 for 4? And it gets even bigger? And it's removal? Wow. Great card. The legendary-ness is the only mitigating factor here. Recommend: 3-4 (Main).

Purphoros, God of the Forge - This guy is great if you have the creature density. He's a house with Xenagos, doing 2 damage per turn. But the Gruul Monsters decks tend to lean more towards Green-heavy mana costs rather than red. Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Arbor Colossus - A real house. Stops flyers dead and is a 6/6 for 5...and it gets bigger! Recommend: 2 (Main).

Kalonian Hydra - If you're playing guys with lots of +1/+1 counters, this monster is tremendous. But he struggles with being a removal-magnet. Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Stormbreath Dragon - The new dragon is a powerhouse of a card. Pro-white has its advantages, and he can grow bigger than almost any other creature in the format. On top of that, he punishes people who get too greedy with their card-draws. Recommend: 3-4 (Main).

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed - When you need a card to punish decks that don't play creatures, call on big old Ruric Thar. Hits Control and spell-heavy Midrange decks HARD. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Mistcutter Hydra - Like Skylasher, this is a great sideboard card against Mono-Blue and Esper. Unlike Skylasher, it can be huge. Recommend: 3-4 (Main/Side).

Savageborn Hydra - These X-costed hydras make good use of Gruul's ability to churn out huge amounts of mana. Savageborn makes even more use of it whenever you have the chance. Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Instants and Sorceries: Removal is limited in Gruul. Unlike Black-based decks, we're less flexible and don't have access to hard "kill" spells like Abrupt Decay, Doom Blade, Hero's Downfall, Dreadbore, or Ultimate Price.

Shock - a 1-cost burn spell. This can really take down the early Aggro decks and keep them off their toes. Recommend: 2-3 (Side).

Blood (Flesh // Blood) - Combined with our huge creatures, Monstrous abilities, and Ghor-Clan Bloodrushing, the "Blood" side can deal huge amounts of damage. With Sylvan Caryatid, we can also cast the "Flesh" side. Recommend: 2 (Main).

Clan Defiance - When Gruul gets going on mana, it really gets going. Clan Defiance can deal huge amounts of damage. Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Destructive Revelry - Naturalize + Shock to the dome. What's not to love about this sideboard card? Recommend: 2 (Side).

Gruul Charm - Take out those pesky flyers like Judge's Familiar, Cloudfin Raptor, and Nightveil Specter. Or make sure that none of those non-flyers can block you. Or tell Ashiok to suck it and give you your guys back. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Lightning Strike - A decent 3-damage burn spell. Pretty good with Chandra, too (dealing up to 9). But a bit limited and one-note.

Mizzium Mortars - A burn spell that deals 4, on the other hand, is great. Get rid of Loxodon Smiter, Blood Baron, Stormbreath Dragon, Archangel of Thune, Aurelia, Biomancer, Master of Cruelties. Or overload it and get rid of them all! Recommend: 3-4 (Main).

Plummet - Having trouble with Desecration Demon or other flying pests? Recommend: 2 (Side).

Anger of the Gods - Gets rid of Aggro decks, often at the cost of some of your own little creatures. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Peak Eruption - When Chained to the Rocks becomes more widely-played. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Time to Feed - With our much bigger creatures, this can help get rid of something we don't want to deal with later. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Bramblecrush - This card is amazing. Gets rid of lands, enchantments, artifacts, and Planeswalkers. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Enchantments and Artifacts: Gruul runs few Enchantments and artifacts.

Bow of Nylea - Makes your attackers much more difficult to block, helps you survive against Aggro, makes your guys bigger, and kills smaller flying creatures. Solid sideboard card. Recommend: 1-2 (Side).

Hammer of Purphoros - If you're running something like Kalonian Hydra, this is really fun. It helps your Red devotion tremendously.

Burning Earth - Great sideboard tech if you're expecting 3-color decks. Especially Esper or Jund. Not so great with all the monocolored and two-colored decks these days.

Nylea, God of the Hunt - See above.

Purphoros, God of the Forge - See above.

Utility Lands: There are much fewer utility-lands in this Standard season. Luckily, we can run the most effective of them.

Mutavault - One of the best man-lands ever printed. Mutavault gives you resiliency against Control and board wipes. Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx - If you can afford to run Nykthos, you'll almost never have to worry about mana. At the same time, the Monsters list runs less devotion. Recommend: 1-2 (Main).

Sample Decklists:

Creature (26)
2x Arbor Colossus
3x Boon Satyr
4x Elvish Mystic
2x Ember Swallower
3x Ghor-Clan Rampager
3x Polukranos, World Eater
3x Scavenging Ooze
3x Stormbreath Dragon
3x Sylvan Caryatid

Land (23)
7x Forest
6x Mountain
2x Mutavault
4x Stomping Ground
4x Temple of Abandon

Sorcery (6)
1x Clan Defiance
2x Flesh / Blood
3x Mizzium Mortars

Planeswalker (5)
3x Domri Rade
2x Xenagos, The Reveler

Sideboard (15)
1x Bow of Nylea
2x Destructive Revelry
1x Gruul Charm
3x Mistcutter Hydra
1x Mizzium Mortars
2x Plummet
2x Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
3x Shock

Please offer opinions/feedback and post your own decklists along with how testing has been going. I will update the initial post with your feedback, and can list your deck under the sample decklists if you want.