This past weekend was MagicFest Kansas City. Turns out the event was actually in Overland Park, which is a cool twenty minutes from my house. I woke up Saturday morning with only one thing on my mind: to qualify for the Mythic Championships. This has been a huge goal of mine for a while, and I want to give myself the best shot of making that happen every time I can. Therefore I made Gruul my weapon of choice for this Standard tournament.

Gruul ended up having the highest conversion rate for day two, so I made a good choice. I started off 7-2 to join that group, but stumbled on day two and eventually dropped to play the Standard Mythic Championship Qualifier. While my record wasn’t great, that came down to three problems: Izzet Phoenix, missed land drops, and Hostage Taker.

So how do we solve these issues? Adding a second copy of Forced Landing to the sideboard is a good start. It checks Arclight Phoenix, Kefnet, and Crackling Drake, plus Rekindling Phoenix and Skarrgan Hellkite in the mirror. Going up to 25 lands also helps. Hostage Taker makes Lightning Strike more effective than Shock, so I adjusted the split.

Here’s where I am with the deck right now:

Standard Gruul Midrange

Creatures (23)
Llanowar Elves
Gruul Spellbreaker
Living Twister
Rekindling Phoenix
Skarrgan Hellkite
Thorn Lieutenant

Spells (12)
Lightning Strike
Domri, Anarch of Bolas
Sarkhan the Masterless
Lands (25)
Rootbound Crag
Stomping Ground

Sideboard (15)
Lava Coil
Viven Reid
Thrashing Brontodon
Forced Landing
Fiery Cannonade
Ripjaw Raptor

Growth-Chamber Guardian has not impressed me much, so I chose to play Thorn Lieutenant instead. It lines up well against Shock and Teferi, Time Raveler, and it curves perfectly into Domri, Anarch of Bolas. Living Twister hasn’t seen much play yet, but it lines up well against Red, White, and Esper Hero decks. Plus is gives us something to do with extra lands.

Sarkhan the Masterless pairs very well with Domri, and in removal-heavy matchups it can present two or more threats. If you expect an aggressive metagame, playing another Shock over a copy of Sarkhan makes sense.

Nullhide Ferox has been getting a lot of hype, but I’m not sure it fixes any of the deck’s issues. While it is almost unbeatable on turn three, evasive threats like Sarkhan attack more effectively in the current Standard metagame.

Overall I think Gruul is a pretty solid choice for the Standard part of the SCG Invitational this weekend and moving forward. I’m not sure it’s the best deck, and I don’t know what is; but it’s a good deck.

Sideboard Guide


Out: -4 Llanowar Elves, -3 Domri, Anarch of Bolas, -3 Sarkhan the Masterless
In: +3 Lava Coil, +3 Thrashing Brontodon, +2 Ripjaw Raptor, +2 Vivien Reid

I’ve found this match up is pretty much all about Experimental Frenzy. You can beat that card two ways: either destroy it with Thrashing Brontodon or Vivien Reid, or apply enough pressure to win through it.

Llanowar Elves lines up poorly versus Goblin Chainwhirler. Domri doesn’t impact the board immediately, and because of that it allows red to run you over. I think it’s correct to try and lower your curve a bit, because you’re cutting ramp and don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of expensive cards in hand.

Esper Hero

Out: -1 Domri, -4 Rekindling Pheonix
In: +3 Thrashing Brontodon, +2 Viven Reid

This matchup is pretty tough, but this variation of Gruul puts up a good fight. I’m not a huge fan of Rekindling Phoenix in this match up because Esper has Despark and Teferi, Time Raveler to bounce the token. Thrashing Brontodon can answer Ixalan’s Binding and apply early pressure to planeswalkers while also being good against Oath of Kaya.

I like shaving one copy of Domri because of Kaya’s Wrath—drawing a bunch of Domris after a Wrath resolves is a really easy way to lose the game. Vivien Reid helps a ton. Lyra Dawnbringer it can be pretty hard to deal with without playing cards like Collision // Colossus, so having two Vivien and two Domri to check Lyra is huge.

Feather decks

Out: -4 Thorn Lieutenant, -3 Domri
In: +4 Lava Coil, +2 Ripjaw Raptor, +1 Forced Landing

This match up can be pretty hard because of how good Reckless Rage is against us. Looping Feather, the Redeemed with Rage is really really hard for Gruul to beat, which is why I board in Forced Landing as it kills Feather through Sheltering Light.

Remember that your opponent’s creatures take two damage from Reckless Rage, so it’s often correct to leave up Shock or Lightning Strike to take out something like Dreadhorde Arcanist or Feather.

Gruul Mirror

Out: -2 Shock, -4 Lightning Strike, -3 Sarkhan, -1 Thorn Lieutenant
In: +4 Lava Coil, +2 Vivien Reid, +2 Forced Landing, +2 Ripjaw Raptor

This build has an advantage in the mirror because of Living Twister and Forced Landing. Having a few extra answers to Skarrgan Hellkite and Rekindling Phoenix is huge, and while also having Living twister and Vivien Reid for board stalls.

Evasion is pretty key in the mirror. Sarkhan provides a solid plan; but if they have a unchecked Rekindling Phoenix, Sarkhan gets significantly worse. Try to save Lava Coil for the phoenix, even if you can use it on something like Gruul Spellbreaker.

Izzet Phoenix

Out: -4 Rekindling Phoenix, -2 Shock, -2 Lightning Strike
In: +4 Lava Coil, +2 Forced Landing, +2 Ripjaw Raptor

This matchup is typically pretty hard for Gruul, but this version has a plan. Forced Landing and Ripjaw Raptor go a long way. Because they have Lava Coil, I’d rather have Ripjaw Raptor than Rekindling Phoenix.

Try to take the aggressive role, for example by playing Gruul Spellbreaker as a 3/3 with haste. The longer the game goes, the more powerful the Phoenix deck becomes. I choose not to board in Vivien—it’s too expensive for a removal spell that only answers half their threats.

Sultai Dreadhorde

Out: -3 Living Twister, -2 Shock, -1 Lightning Strike
In: +4 Lava Coil, +2 Ripjaw Raptor

Dreadhorde decks usually struggle versus the aggressive decks. Here I’m really only worried about answering Wildgrowth Walker. Rekindling Phoenix and Skarrgan Hellkite go over the top effectively. I’m not a big fan of Living Twister here because I don’t want to block.

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