A Complete and Definitive Guide to Gruul Kaheera Fires

Gruul Kaheera Fires Deck Guide

Hi there! I’m Delmo, writing for MTG Arena Zone for the first time. You can follow me on Twitter and my stream on Twitch!

As you may be aware, I’ve been forcing Gruul Kaheera Fires to be a tier deck since the very first days of Ikoria, and a lot of people took my lists on ladder and tournaments with great success. Some still say that this deck is a meme, or that we just high-rolled results, but I firmly believe that it is an established tier deck this meta and can compete for the highest spots.

In this guide, I will not merely analyze the 75 card decklist and explain it, but I want many other important considerations within the archetype, and how you can build your own version of Gruul Kaheera Fires according to your liking and playstyle!

Let’s embark on this beautiful journey hand-in-hand with our beloved Orphanguard.

Why should I play Gruul Kaheera Fires instead of Jeskai Keruga Fires?

First of all, because this is an aggro deck. I know it may not seem like one, but that is the main reason that this deck is a completely different animal from Jeskai Fires. Jeskai’s gameplan is to control the early turn with removal and Teferi, then end the game with a 1-2 turn explosive attack. We are not like that. We are a proper aggro deck in our playstyle.

Kaheera Gruul Fires is an Aggro-Midrange deck that use Fires of Invention just to enhance the later turns in which a normal aggro deck struggles to compete with this meta’s power plays.

We have a companion that threatens the opponent starting (potentially) from turn 2 if you Grazer turn 1, and our objective is to end the game as fast as possible.

The second reason is because green is great. And by Green, I mean Questing Beast and Shifting Ceratops. These two cards are so strong in this Standard environment that you basically play Green only for them. Shifting Ceratops is the best card against the top tiers right now (Yorion+Treachery decks and Temur Reclamation), and Questing Beast is the best 4 drop in the entire game against basically everything.

The third and final reason is in Arboreal Grazer. This little adorable sloth skyrockets the winrate of the deck if you drop it turn one, letting you do what Jeskai Fires can do a turn earlier. A turn earlier, in Standard nowadays is A. LOT.

Let’s start building our deck, shall we?

The Staples

Kaheera Gruul Fires leaves you the opportunity to toy with some flex spots in the list according to your meta and playstyle, but of course, as with any other archetype, it needs some cards to be staples in every list.

Kaheera, the Orphanguard (Companion):  Well, of course. Why Kaheera? Kaheera is the best companion because Beasts, Elemental and Dinosaurs are actually what Gruul colors have in this Standard in terms of big monsters. It’s a natural fit for a Fires deck like this and a 3 drop always in hand helps to stave off death from aggro weenies. Vigilance works amazingly well with our big hitters (especially with Ceratops for the reach ability to block blue fliers like a certain Bird Serpent, or blue threats in general like a certain Elder Giant).

Arboreal Grazer: As said before, this is one of the main 3 reasons we are playing this instead of a Jeskai Fires deck. You have to play it, and as a full playset. Grazer is your best t1 in every single situation, except for a couple of fringe scenarios that we’ll discuss later in the Mulligan paragraph.

Questing Beast: Again this is pretty much self explanatory and discussed already. You can either choose to play 3 or 4 of them. I prefer 3 because of the legend rule and the number of 4 drops we have, but it’s not wrong at all to play the full playset if you really want to ensure the Beast on turn 4 and have backup if it gets removed. Plus, you can always discard excess copies to..

Cavalier of Flame: Fires + Cavalier of Flame is basically the meaning of a Fires deck (Damn I miss M20 so much). You have to play the full playset of Cavalier because IT’S FIRES. For any of you that were living under a rock for the last year, I’ll explain in detail. Cavalier of Flame gives you access to card draw and double drops on turn 5 with Fires, which still enables him to use his ability since Fires doesn’t actually expend your mana. In this deck. though, you are not full sinking your mana into the CavaFlame ability; you leave something open for..

Shifting Ceratops: Yes, this protection from blue hasty guy is a staple, even if it always has been treated as a sideboard card in most decks since his release. The reason is, of course, blue’s dominance in the meta, but with the mana available thanks to Fires, Ceratops is strong even against aggro decks game 1 because you can use his abiity without losing tempo at all. Even if it’s not mandatory to run the full 4 copies in the main deck, I think that at least 3 copies are staples.

Fires of Invention: I’m not explaining what Fires of Invention does but mostly why is this a Fires deck instead of a normal aggro deck. Aggro struggles these days because the control and combo decks have so much value that they just run you out of gas. Fires is not gas by itself, but enables both power plays that end the game, or value plays that give you long-term plans (drawing with Enclaves, discarding lands to Cavalier). Obvious 4-of staple.

Quartzwood Crasher: Some of you will think that this is not a staple by itself, but mostly one of the options you can run to fill your 5-drop quota. I think this is the only GOOD option we have on 5 in Gruul. The first brew of the decks ran Cavalier of Thorns, and the deck was not that good at the time because of Thorns being basically just a 5/6 body. This deck doesn’t need recursion from the graveyard or more ramping other than t1 Grazer. Crasher is an army by itself: it tramples, gives you bodies to block after a swing, and autowins against small creature decks that can’t remove it. This is everything you need and want as a brother-in-arms with Cavalier of Flame. You play at least 2 copies of this in every single list.

The Options

We now know what we absolutely need to start our Kaheera Gruul Fires deck; this means now we have freedom of choice for the rest of the deck! Yay!

Of course, you can meme with every red or green card imaginable, but I’ll help you with choices that actually win games.

Embercleave: Even if some think this is a staple, it’s not. You can play and win with the deck without believing in the cleave, but it is sure a great addition to close games earlier and bypass blockers. Cons are that this is really bad against Teferi. Even if you decide to include this is your main list, you should definitely side this out game 2 against every deck that tries to “slow this down”.

It’s a safe choice for a 1-of if you struggle to finish your list, a strong 2-of if your gameplan is to hit hard and fast every game, but never more than 2.

Thrashing Brontodon VS Gemrazer: You can run both, one, or none. Both are really good against any artifacts or enchantments, but whether you should play them or not, and in what number, depends on what you want to actually accomplish with the deck. Brontodon is super good against any Fires mirror or Yorion decks, but sacrificing it to destroy something is a huge tempo loss. Gemrazer is faster for that, but requires you to hit Grazer turn 1; otherwise it’s just a 4 mana 4/4 reach trample, which of course is not terrible. The highrolling potential of Gemrazer turn 2 swinging for 4 damage is strong, but less reliable than the body of the Brontodon itself. This is completely fine in every combination of numbers you want to play this 2, but I would never play more than 5 total (example: 4 Brontodons 1 Gemrazer, or 3 Brontodons and 2 Gemrazers, never something like 4 and 3).

Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate VS Vivien, Arkbow Ranger: As with the Brontodon VS Gemrazer debate, you can run one, both, or neither of them. Just never exceed 2 copies in combination (2 of one of them or 1 of both).

VivienFive is a strong value late game card. It’s grindy and gives you tools to just not concede against a super control deck that tries to outvalue you even if you haven’t killed them by turns 6-7. The -2 lets you fetch a Questing Beast or a Ceratops while just playing one of the big hitters. However, the card is super slow against Aggro and doesn’t accomplish much against combo decks that win in one big turn.

VivienFour is an amazing tempo play, even if you just curve into her after Kaheera turn 3, making the Orphanguard a 5/4 vigilance beater. She works as removal and buff but is completely useless without a creature on the board, as opposed to VivienFive which is value in herself. I personally prefer VivienFour in this meta because there are not that much of grindy control decks; most control Yorion decks are just super combo swingy decks that you can’t outvalue, but you should try to kill them faster than they can secure their Agent of Treachery wins. If the meta switches to pure control decks in trying to counter those, VivienFive is better.

Maindeck Removal: You can play in your main 60s Fire Prophecy, Scorching Dragonfire, or Domri’s Ambush in an amount that I think shouldn’t exceed 3 copies of one or in combination.

Fire Prophecy really helps you dig for your good cards while removing a small threat, but the fact that it can’t hit planeswalkers is sometimes a real pain. Dragonfire instead, hits walkers, exiles things to avoid graveyard recursion, but doesn’t help with fixing your draws. Domri’s Ambush is the best removal in our colors due to its ability to remove everything of any size, but needs something on the board on our side to be effective, which can be difficult in the first 2 turns. All three are good options in the main deck if you want to run removal game 1, but if you prefer to dig more into your deck and leave the removal for the sideboard, a good choice can be..

Adventurous Impulse: 1 mana cycle digging to ensure a land drop or a creature on curve. Can’t go wrong with that. If you decide you don’t require removal maindeck, a couple of Impulses really help for consistency.

Zilortha, Strength Incarnate AKA I have a name only for rulings and set flavor but I’m actually Godzilla, King of the Monsters: If you decide to not run 3 copies of Crasher but you want to spice up your life a lil bit, you can try Godz-Zilortha. A 7/7 trampler body for 5 is good of course as it hits for a damage more than Crusher, but you are losing the army a Crusher can provide for more survivability of your stuff. The text on the card might be confusing, so I’ll explain it in a simple way: the amount of damage one of your creatures needs to take in order to be killed is equal to its power. This means the 7/3 Zilortha needs 7 damage to die (Grazer needs 0 lol). Combined with the attack buff of Cavalier of Flames, this means your board is pretty much unkillable in combat trades, which can be relevant in some matchups, especially the mirror.

Keruga, the Macrosage: You know you can play Companion cards in your deck as a normal drop right? Well, Keruga in this deck is amazing just by itself even if you leave Kaheera in charge. I love it as a 1-of in my lists because, even if it cycles itself, it’s gas. If you manage to draw 2 or more, it’s just bonkers. An average pattern of t4 fires t5 something + Keruga is so good that you don’t miss another big hitter instead of Keruga, cause you’re just drawing it! Of course, this beautiful hipposaur is not a must for any list, but I think it’s good enough that it’s a must in MY lists every time, ever since I thought about it and tried it out.

Creeping Trailblazer + Scampering Scorcher: These two cards together almost form a complete different sub-archetype. You can play 4 of each, losing a bit of endgame value to have a full aggro playstyle in the early turns; that can be really good against greedy Yorion decks. With Trailblazer, you have a 3/3 beater with Kaheera on 3 and a safe way to mutate Gemrazer consistently, now that you have 4 Grazers and 4 Trailblazer as targets. Going t4 Scampering Scorcher after untapping with Kaheera is so much hasty damage; if you manage to live the dream curve of Trailblazer, Kaheera and Scorcher, you are actually attacking for 15 damage on turn 4. Yep, it’s that strong. I call this the “lil elementals approach”. This way of building the deck is super good if you want a faster more glass-cannony deck that can close games out of nowhere and has more hasty threats after sweepers, at the cost of the consistency of a more midrangey approach.

Both ways are viable, it just depends on your personal playstyle.

We have our cards now, but we have to play them!

The Mana Base

After a lot of testing, the land count of this deck should always be 28.

Not 27, not 29. Twenty-eight.

Let’s go stats! One of main reasons this decks just doesn’t autowin everygame is flooding. Flooding is your main opponent, and playing 29 lands lead too many times to dead draws. 27, however, leads to some awkward unkeepable hand with 2 lands 2 grazers. The best balance I found in percentages of time I screwed, flooded or actually played a game of Magic is 28.

Then, your manabase should have way more Green than Red because your plays before Fires require a lot of double Green, especially your Companion, and you can play Cavalier of Flame off Fires of Invention sometimes anyway.

Bonders’ Enclave is our Castle Vantress; sometimes even better, but I don’t thing you should ever run more than 2 because colourless lands in the first turns are so bad in this deck.

Ketria Triome is another really good land for this deck because, even if we don’t need the blue mana, being able to cycle with Fires basically for free is superb, and having access to more double-colored mana is nice.

You can consider Fabled Passage as a 1-2-of; it’s good of course, but awkward with Grazers, so be prepared. A couple of example mana bases:

2 Bonders’ Enclave
9 Forest
6 Mountain
3 Ketria Triome
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon
1 Bonders’ Enclave
10 Forest
5 Mountain
2 Ketria Triome
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon
2 Fabled Passage

We have our maindeck done! Now we need to look at…

Sideboard Options

In green/red, we have some good tools against this meta, alongside the colorless options.

Grafdigger’s Cage: I think this card is a staple at least as a 2-of in every sideboard right now; it counters so many things like graveyard recursion, Winota triggers, and Lukka shenanigans.

Scorching Dragonfire: If you are running some in your maindeck, you should definitely run the rest of the playset in your sideboard. This card is so good against Aggro and having a single early removal just changes the game completely, while waiting for sweepers like..

Flame Sweep: This is our best tool against aggro; the instant speed is a nombo with Fires, but usually you just fire this off on their turn 3 to have your turn 4 big tempo with Fires + something. The 2 damage kills most of aggro’s cards while leaving your stuff alive; just remember to plan when to play Kaheera, as she’s the only card that dies to Sweep if you are not playing the Lil Elementals version. If you are, you want of course to side out some copies of the Elementals, playing the rest AFTER a Sweep.

Cindervines: This is solid removal + damage output against Yorion decks and Temur Reclamation; it’s way faster than Brontodon and you usually can get 3-4 damage from this before firing it off.

Fry: Fry is a good removal option mostly for Jeskai Fires and Yorion decks, but it’s also super good against random Flash decs you encounter, and even against some Mono White All that Glitters decks as basically a fifth early burn.

Storm’s Wrath: I personally prefer Flame Sweep over Wraths because Wrath kills big stuff, even your own. If against aggro you like to be completely control-focused in the early turns and drop the big guns after clearing everything, Wrath is the card for you, If you like to be proactive by playing creatures from turn 4 onwards while still clearing the critters later, Flame Sweep is better.

Mythos of Vadrok: This is another solid option to clear the opponent’s stuff while keeping yours alive; it lacks the amount of damage Sweep and Wrath can do to a wide board, but can be used as a single target removal too if you just do 5 damage to a thing (looking at you Obosh).

The Akroan War: This card just obliterates Jeskai Fires. I was considering this as a staple 2-of in the sideboard in Ikoria’s early days and almost thinking about maindecking a copy. If you steal a Cavalier of Flame, it’s basically game. Nowadays though, normal Jeskai Fires is played a lot less, while still being in the meta. I think you should still play 1 Akroan War in your sideboard, because it’s really good in the mirror, against decks with Uro, against Sultai ramp, and against Obosh aggro decks.

Sorcerous Spyglass: This stops Ovens, Planeswalkers, and Cavalier/Kenrith. It can be a fine addition to your deck, but I usually tend to avoid it because, sometimes, you are just down a card if they don’t draw the card you’re looking to name, and you used 2 mana and a card just to look at opp’s hand. Still, even that can be useful and, in general, this is a card you can safely run in your sideboard as a 1-2-of.

More Removal in general: Fire Prophecy, Lava Coil, Domri’s Ambush, everything. If the meta switches suddenly to aggro, you can fill the remaining spots in your sideboard with more single-target removal without feeling bad about it.

The Mulligan Phase

Quick Mulligan discussion before going into the list and matchups.

You ideally hope for 3 lands + grazer + fires as the perfect hand. Remember that you are an aggro deck, so don’t be afraid to mulligan to 6 to find a playable curve. If you mulligan below 6, sometimes you want to ditch the Grazer and just curve out normally, because you’re losing too many cards in hand with him. You can risk 2 land hands on the draw pretty safely; a hand with more than 1 Grazer is almost never a keep unless you are sure to have 5 lands and a five drop turn 3.

So, after this, you should be able to build your own Kaheera Gruul Fires deck!

Decklist

Here’s mine for an example:

Sideboard Guide and Matchup Analysis

Taking this list, here’s the sideboard plan and matchup analysis against the most relevant decks in the meta.

You should be able to adjust your sideboard plan with the cards you choose to run in your list, after reading this and understanding what’s good against what decks, and what’s not.

Yorion Lukka

InOut
+3 Grafdigger’s Cage
+2 Cindervines
+1 Domri’s Ambush
+1 Fry
-2 Embercleave
-2 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
-2 Fire Prophecy
-1 Fires of Invention

You can’t outvalue them, so you have to kill them as fast as possible while avoiding their main threats. Cindervines on 2 is a blessing and helps a lot, removing Fires or ECD asap. Embercleave is super bad against Teferi and so is Vivien. Try not to overextend into Shatter the Sky and play one big hasty threat at time.

Non-Lukka Yorion

InOut
+2 Cindervines
+1 Domri’s Ambush
+1 Fry
-2 Embercleave
-2 Fire Prophecy

Cycling

InOut
+3 Scorching Dragonfire
+1 Fry
+3 Flame Sweep
-4 Shifting Ceratops
-1 Quartzwood Crasher
-1 Keruga, the Macrosage
-1 Fires of Invention

We don’t play blue, so we can’t rely on counters to stop Zenith Flare. What we can do, is remove their threats and kill them while they cycle to fill the yard and shoot Flare at us. They struggle to keep up with big things if dropped early enough. Mulligan for removal!

Temur Reclamation

InOut
+2 Cindervines-2 Fire Prophecy

Our maindeck is basically already good against them, with Ceratops being the absolute MVP.

Curve out, hit them hard and fast. Sacrifice your Brontodons IMMEDIATELY for Reclamation.

Jeskai Fires

InOut
+1 Domri’s Ambush
+1 Fry
+1 The Akroan War
-2 Fire Prophecy
-1 Embercleave

We basically do what they do, but faster. Don’t ignore a Teferi for damage to the face unless you are killing them. Post sideboard, if you land an Akoran War on an opponent’s Cavalier of Flame or Kenrith you just win the game on the spot. Cindervines is not good against them because removing Fires doesn’t remove their threats, and it’s a tempo loss.

Winota

InOut
+3 Grafdigger’s Cage
+3 Scorching Dragonfire
+1 Fry
+3 Flame Sweep
-2 Embercleave
-1 Keruga, the Macrosage
-2 Quartzwood Crasher
-2 Thrashing Brontodon
-1 Gemrazer
-1 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
-1 Fires of Invention

Even if Cages stop Winota from triggering, the best strategy is just keep on killing whatever the have on the board in the first 3 turns and drop the monsters afterwards. Usually, a Fry on Winota turn 4 is enough to ensure a win, but if you manage to keep the board clear before her, even better.

Sacrifice

InOut
+3 Grafdigger’s Cage
+3 Scorching Dragonfire
+3 Flame Sweep
-1 Keruga, the Macrosage
-2 Cavalier of Flame
-1 Fires of Invention
-4 Shifting Ceratops
-1 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger

This is our best matchup; after game 1, we have so much removal and our threats are way better than theirs. Be sure to have some Grazers down to sac for the Priest of the Forgotten Gods if you didn’t manage to remove it, and just trample them to oblivion.

Obosh Aggro (Mono Red, Mono Black, Rakdos)

InOut
+3 Scorching Dragonfire
+3 Flame Sweep
+1 Domri’s Ambush
+1 The Akroan War
-1 Keruga, the Macrosage
-2 Cavalier of Flame
-4 Shifting Ceratops
-1 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger

Almost the same as Sacrifice decks, you want to keep their critters in check and overpower them with your bigger board. Don’t be too impulsive with Akroan War because it’s ONLY to steal Obosh; you use it on something else ONLY if you are going for lethal on that turn.

Sultai Ramp

InOut
+1 Domri’s Ambush
+1 The Akroan War
-1 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
-1 Quartzwood Crasher

This is a hard matchup because Extinction Event and Casualties of War are a nightmare for this deck. If they land both of them, there’s just nothing you can do about it.

Try not to overextend and play your threats wisely around Event (basically, try not to have your whole board odd or even), and Ceratops are again your best friend. The Akroan War is for Uro and Cavalier of Thorns, and helps the MU a lot.

Gruul Kaheera Fires (Mirror)

InOut
+1 Domri’s Ambush
+1 The Akroan War
-1 Fire Prophecy
-1 Shifting Ceratops

So, your best weapon is that you have read this guide.

But, if the opponent also has read this guide, you need to remove Kaheera asap because who can keep her alive usually wins the game due to his thing being slightly bigger than the opp’s. Removing Fires is just a tempo loss, and mostly, like every mirror match, this is a quality of draws match.

The Akroan War is the best tool you have from game 2 on, and should be used wisely and in a NON greedy manner; try to use it in the best turn possible for tempo even if you are not killing them on the spot.

Wrapping Up

Well, this concludes our journey through every single secret of this deck, that I always look on ladder upon as a proud parent.

Finally, you have the tools to completely master the archetype and make it your own, creating your own 75 cards list and using it best!

I hope this helps anyone who was already playing the deck, and who was curious about it but not well-informed about it enough to build/play it at their best.

Until next time, stay safe, play Magic! Ciao!

Delmo

Delmo

Twitch / Twitter

0 0 vote
Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
21 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Refjke
Refjke
4 months ago

Matchup vs Temur elementals?

Refjke
Refjke
4 months ago
Reply to  Delmo

Ok. Ty! And vs temur clover – ceratops out and creature removal in?

Katame
Katame
4 months ago

What’s your take on Migratory Greathorn in the deck? t1 grazer, t2 greathorn seems ok.

Josegruul
Josegruul
4 months ago

Really interesting guide.I will get my big gruul weapons and start to the deck tech for win the shops tournaments in fisic Magic.Any recomendation for fisic Magic about this flexible deck?Ty so much for this wonderfull guide😉

Lionel
Lionel
4 months ago

Great guide! And kudos on coming up with such a fun deck! Im playing Gruul midrange (no fires) n am just 3 wins shy of Mythic. Your idea on the elementals version of this deck is very novel to me. Can I ask if you think the elementals version of your fires deck will do better against Yorion Lukka Cycling and Rakdos Sacrifice, or the current version you are using? Also, how do you think an elementals version of Gruul midrange (no fires) will fare against the same 3 decks? Thanks a lot!

TBoneMalone
TBoneMalone
4 months ago

Just wanted to say–as a new player to Magic–this guide is awesome and you should be proud. Especially considering this is your first guide. Thanks for the hard work and attention to detail!

Kael Fraga (@FragaKael)

Great guide man! I can’t go out of Gruul, its get so amazing each new collection drops. Thank you a lot for your work in this article. I have one question, what about Yidaro?

Kael Fraga (@FragaKael)
Reply to  Delmo

Gotcha! Thank you man!

Markus
Markus
4 months ago

Hey Delmo, thank you for this great and detailed guide! Up to now, I didn’t really like one of the top meta decks and wanted to play Gruul. Gave your deck a spin yesterday in ranked and got to 6-0, had one mirror and jeskai fires, which I both won as well. Feels great, will try it out in Bo3 next.
Keep up the good work!

Kris
Kris
4 months ago

Been playing my own version of this and been crushing the bo3 ranked ladder.

My own two cents: two of fire leyline in the sideboard. Against decks that have a lot of effects that target you and your perms (like bant yorion) it’s absolutely insane. 1 condervines plus 1 leyline is 3 damage on every teferi bounce, ECD, aether gust, you name it.

Yinlik
Yinlik
4 months ago

Hey Delmo, your guide is great and this deck is fun! May I know your view on lovestruck beast? I think it can smooth out the curve and it is an amazing blocker vs aggro.

Pedro
Pedro
4 months ago

How about Yidaro or The Great Henge as replacement for the second embercleave?

gilgamesh
gilgamesh
4 months ago

Love this deck and this guide. For removal I’ve been using purphoros intervention. The downside is it can only target creatures, and if played as a 2-drop it’s only 2 damage. But the upside is being able to take out bigger creatures, as well as having the flexibility to choose the other option if you don’t need removal. An X/1 trample elemental is pretty good in this deck. Just remember that you have to hard cast it when fires is out.
Any thoughts on splashing blue? Growth spiral feels like a perfect card for the early curve and balancing out the inconsistency of not always drawing grazer, but of course you hate to draw it later in the game. Blue also makes the royal scions, Illuna apex of wishes, and perhaps primal empathy available. I tried it with decent results but can’t decide whether I like it enough to keep it.

Pedro
Pedro
4 months ago

Better yet, how about Chandra, Awakened Inferno instead of the second Embercleave? A board clear can come in handy for longer games! Great guide!

gilgamesh
gilgamesh
4 months ago

Hang on, Purphoros’s Intervention absolutely can target planeswalkers. Even more reason to choose it over the other removal options.