A few weeks ago I wrote about my work on drafting Gruul (red-green) decks. I have tried to move on to other archetypes, but I can’t stop drafting this deck. Apparently the consensus is that red is the weakest color in Dominaria draft. I’m not so sure about that. But my default approach is to draft the open deck, and lately I’ve been seeing a lot of good Gruul cards.

Here’s the most ridiculous version I’ve drafted:

Gruul Force Five

Creatures (16)
Bloodstone Goblin
Corrosive Ooze
Ghitu Chronicler
Keldon Warcaller
Hallar, the Firefletcher
Yavimaya Sapherd
Krosan Druid
Llanowar Envoy
Keldon Raider
Siege-Gang Commander
Grunn, the Lonely King
Verdant Force

Spells (7)
Karn, Scion of Urza
Shivan Fire
Song of Freyalise
Haphazard Bombardment
Saproling Migration
Gift of Growth
Jousting Lance
Lands (17)
Mountain
Forest

Sideboard (19)
Broken Bond
Nature’s Spiral
Arbor Armament
Gaea’s Protector
Rampaging Cyclops
Keldon Warcaller
Ghitu Lavarunner
The First Eruption
Fervent Strike
Frenzied Rage
Howling Golem
Guardians of Koilos
Lingering Phantom
Caligo Skin-Witch
Dark Bargain
Rat Colony

Karn, Scion of Urza is a nice pull from pack three, but I only saw him once in my quick 3-0 romp through the league. Verdant Force is my most-drafted rare. People pass it to me all the time, and I can’t pass it up. This format is slow enough that Verdant Force comes down and takes over the board. I even managed to race a gigantic Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar in the finals of this one. Kicking Krosan Druid for ten life helped too.

The real powerhouse in the deck is Song of Freyalise. That card is stupid. I won a game stuck on three lands when I drew Song of Freyalise and chained it into Siege-Gang Commander and Verdant Force before crushing on stage three.

Gruul draft decks tend to be midrange with little card advantage. Wizards has printed more green card draw in recent years, but even so these decks tend to lose steam. They require crafty play to force through lethal damage, walking a delicate balance that often comes up short. But in Dominaria, the archetype has real ways to dig through the deck. Keldon Raider does surprisingly great work even when you want to keep hitting land drops. Ghitu Chronicler is amazing, rebuying removal and token-makers as needed to keep the pressure on or help recover board position. Memorial to Unity helps refill late without wasting a card slot.

There are various rares you can pick up as well. Haphazard Bombardment has been good to me, and is another rare that always seems to get passed around. In an attrition game, it knocks out three permanents, and that tends to be good. I’ve even had success blowing up a bunch of lands, usually when I’ve already killed their creatures. And then there’s The Mending of Dominaria. I love this card, and I absolutely loved playing this deck to another 3-0 league:

Mending Wall

Creatures (14)
Ghitu Chronicler
Bloodstone Goblin
Elfhame Druid
Sporecrown Thallid
Yavimaya Sapherd
Krosan Druid
Keldon Overseer
Keldon Raider
Juggernaut
Fire Elemental
Primordial Wurm

Spells (9)
Saproling Migration
The Mending of Dominaria
Shivan Fire
Fiery Intervention
Fight with Fire
Grow from the Ashes
Jousting Lance
Haphazard Bombardment
Lands (17)
Memorial to Unity
Mountain
Forest

Sideboard (17)
Pierce the Sky
Broken Bond
Arbor Armament
Fiery Intervention
Radiating Lightning
Seismic Shift
Run Amok
Fervent Strike
Frenzied Rage
Ghitu Journeymage
Champion of the Flame
Skittering Surveyor
Powerstone Shard
Isolated Chapel
Blessing of Belzenlok
Demonic Vigor

This deck has nowhere near the raw card firepower of the Karn/Song deck, but it may be even more consistent. It certainly has more removal, plus two Ghitu Chroniclers to keep it flowing. This deck had so much recursion that it felt Orzhov—it’s rare to do this using only red and green. In my favorite sequence, I killed a 5/5 with Fight with Fire, cast The Mending of Dominaria, returned a Ghitu Chronicler, kicked it to buy back the removal spell, and then wiped my opponent’s board kicking Fight with Fire using the extra lands from the saga’s third stage.

Dominaria draft is full of removal, but there aren’t that many creatures you have to remove. That rewards careful planning, but a recurive engine makes your decisions easier. Another nice feature of this deck is the general crappiness of the creatures. What exactly are you going to kill with a removal spell? Other than a couple big creatures, everything is interchangeable. The only must-kill target is Sporecrown Thallid, and only then if it’s accompanying a collection of Saprolings. Perhaps grinding with mediocre creatures, backed with copious removal and recursion, is the best strategy in the format. It certainly has worked well for me.

This weekend I’m heading to Grand Prix Washington DC to play some Dominaria team sealed. I don’t think my deep Gruul research will be that useful, since that isn’t a combination you usually find in team sealed pools. But who knows? I’m hoping I get to play something different, since Gruul is all I ever get passed in drafts.

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast. He used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he pans the planeswalker points for bronze, or whatever happens to be the cheapest metal that bots will buy.

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