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Child of the Pack Art by Mila Pesic

Anatomy of an Archetype: Green-Red in Innistrad: Crimson Vow Draft

Welcome to the third edition of Anatomy of an Archetype where we are going to be talking about getting rowdy with one of my favorite decks from Innistrad: Crimson Vow, Gruul. I’ve had a lot of success with this archetype and this is the only green deck that I want to be drafting in Crimson Vow. With this guide you’ll be crashing that wedding with the wolves in no time – now including a example trophy (maximum wins) deck.


Play Style

Look at archetypes objectives

This deck plays similar to the majority of green red decks since the days of Kird Ape and Lightning Bolt, just drop your efficient creatures and try to force them through with cheap tricks and burn spells. I love this style as it leads to a lot of micro decisions as you are trying to go under most of the bombs in the format.

One of my favorite things about this deck is that you can build a great deck without being reliant on opening a bomb. There are so many great werewolf specific uncommons that you should end up with as long as they are opened.


Navigating the draft

What gets you into the archetype

The easiest way to get me to jump right into Gruul is to bust a Halana and Alena, Partners. I also don’t mind taking a Child of the Pack out of a weaker pack. Outside of those, I usually prefer to start out in red with an Abrade or Flame-Blessed Bolt to stay open to any of the red based decks.

Since green is not valued as highly as the other colors, it’s usually best to wait a few picks to see if green is “slap you in the face” open before jumping in. Things to look for are late Packsong Pup, Wolfkin Outcast, Child of the Pack, Weaver of Blossoms, or Hookhand Mariner. You’ll usually know by the end of pack one if you should be drafting this deck.


Top 5 Commons

It’s important to not just look at the data for highest win rate for games in hand in that particular color combination, but to think through why they are performing well in that particular archetype.

Abrade and Flame-Blessed Bolt are unsurprisingly the top two commons for yet another archetype. Cheap, instant speed removal combines wonderfully with your large, efficient monsters by letting you blow out double blocks or flip it to night while still being able to play your spells.

Wolf Strike is almost a necessity for me because it’s one of the few ways to deal with an opposing bomb. The fail case of doing nothing or getting blown out is a real downside that drops it below the red removal. Though if you play this right, it is typically three mana instant speed removal.

Hookhand Mariner is one of the criminally undervalued cards in this set as I still see them wheeling sometimes. The front is a perfectly fine creature whose stats line up well against the rest of the format. If it changes to night, suddenly you have a four mana 6/4 that is difficult to block wrecking your opponents face. 

Weaver of Blossoms is the rare mana dork who hangs out with the jocks as he has a solid body to go with that extra mana. Weaver basically forces your opponent to play a sorcery speed spell or have to deal with you suddenly having six mana on turn four.


Top 3 Uncommons

Based off of the color pair specific data

Rending Flame is a hyper efficient removal spell that can get past the x/4 problem that the rest of the red removal in this set faces. The only problem with this is that it still can’t touch some of the bigger bombs like Dreadfeast Demon or Hullbreaker Horror, but don’t let that stop you from windmill slamming this early.

Packsong Pup starts out adorable before quickly growing out of control into Clifford the Big Green Dog. While you do usually have to take these early pack one, you can usually get them later in pack three if you are the only werewolf player.

Alluring Suitor is just a solid card who doesn’t care that he’s playing for Team Jacob here. It creates difficult to block scenarios by being able to pump other creatures and also acts as a one time mana ramp enabling you to jump way up the curve. A friendly reminder that this doesn’t require itself to attack, just two creatures.

This is a deck that loves it’s uncommons and this list could have easily been a lot deeper.


Top 3 Rares

We’re going to ignore Mythic Rares here because you’re less likely to get them. It’s also pretty obvious which ones are busted and should go in any deck that can make the mana work. I need to note here that it is based on win rate in this color pair and not ranked from my personal opinion.

Halana and Alena, Partners is an answer this now or enter the scoop phase card. Your creatures piling on two +1/+1 counters and gaining haste every turn is almost impossible to deal with as even unassuming creatures suddenly turn into must deal with threats. I don’t really need to say more, if you’ve played with or against this card, you know.

Ulvenwald Oddity pressures your opponent early before transforming into a game ending bomb. I don’t care if he doesn’t fit the werewolf theme, it’s time to let the moose loose all over your opponents face.

Ill-Tempered Loner might be the most annoying card in the set to play against. If you are the aggressor and it’s night, your opponent might as well pick ’em up. While this card is always great, I think it’s even better on Arena where your opponent doesn’t have the time to calculate all the possibilities with this.


Curve considerations

Is there a part of the curve with a glut of playables (i.e the four drop slot in blue in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt)?

The four and higher drop slots can get clogged up pretty quick if the uncommons are flowing. I don’t mind having a heavier curve as long as I have a couple of Weavers or Reclusive Taxidermist to help me ramp up.

The one and two drop slots (which should almost be considered the same slot) can also fill up pretty easily so be careful you don’t over do it there and not have the required power to finish the game.


Adjusting card grades

It’s important to think about what cards are going to perform differently in the archetype you’re drafting so you can take advantage of picking them up later. It’s also key to find cards that provide a lesser, but similar effect to other cards that you haven’t been able to pick up.

Bump Up

Ballista Watcher is a beast in any deck, but it’s even better in Gruul where you are actively trying to turn it to night. If a big body that can clear out smaller creatures wasn’t good enough for you, it can also just end the game with a couple pings making your opponents last two blockers unable to block. This has continued to move up my pick order and I would probably take it over a few of the uncommons that the data says I shouldn’t. 

Child of the Pack is a great finisher as she makes her own wolves before turning into a giant beat stick and pumping up the whole party. It’s important to remember that you can’t make wolves once she’s flipped so make them on your turn before passing.

Hungry Ridgewolf is basically a grizzly bear in every other deck so you shouldn’t have much trouble scooping all of these up late. The extra power and trample, especially with pump spells, really makes a difference when you are trying to shorten the clock on your opponent.

Bump Down

Ceremonial Knife just doesn’t do enough to make the cut for Gruul. Adding one power doesn’t do as much for your creatures as it would in a deck with smaller creatures. I would much rather have cards that keep the pressure on like Falkenrath Celebrants to provide my blood.

Kessig Flamebreather is a wonderful card in Izzet, but you want more aggressive on-theme two drops in Gruul. While you do play spells, it’s usually not a high enough concentration to want this guy in your deck. 

Foreboding Statue is an acceptable card in almost any deck especially if you are trying to splash. The problem in Gruul is that you can get other cards that do the job better like Weaver of Blossoms.

Replacement

If you don’t get any Abrade or Wolf Strike, I would recommend settling for a Lacerate Flesh. I understand that this is the worst five mana red removal we’ve had in awhile, but not having interaction is a serious problem in any limited format especially in VOW.


Card advantage

What sources are available and how much do they matter to the archetype?

Card advantage isn’t really necessary if your opponent is already dead by the time you would play them. I would recommend picking up a copy or two of Falkenrath Celebrants as both a top end and for the card selection that the blood provides. 

Reckless Impulse also plays well in this deck as you usually have a low enough curve to not have to worry about hitting too many cards you can’t play.


Combos and Synergies

Ballista Watcher or Olivia's Attendants combined with Toxic Scorpion just rips through your opponents creatures like they are nothing.

Ill-Tempered Loner and Vampires' Vengeance usually just ends the game on the spot as long as it’s night and you have a few creatures. One of the most disgusting limited combos in this set as your opponent is rarely expecting to take eighteen to the face.


Splashing

Is it supported in this archetype and how much should you look to do it?

Splashing can be almost free in this deck depending on how many Reclusive Taxidermist, Weaver of Blossoms, and Evolving Wilds you have. I would happily splash a Wedding Announcement or similar bombs in this deck.


Deep vs shallow

How many drafters can a table support?

Red is a very deep color that you will most likely be fighting with other drafters over so prioritize the non-archetype specific red cards early. Green, on the other hand, is much shallower, but more open so you can get better cards later.

VOW Gruul can typically support 1.5 drafters per table.


Biggest Trap Cards

These sounded like a good idea….

I can see how people think that Into the Night would be a key card for this archetype. Turning it into night and filtering out your extra lands for other cards sounds like a great idea. The problem is that you rarely want to spend four mana and not really affect the board in this format.

Sawblade Slinger is another victim of the four drop slot being so full of quality creatures. I think in most formats this would be a great creature, but I end up cutting this one a lot. There just aren’t enough artifacts to hit and Abrade can already cover that in an emergency. The three toughness also really sets back it’s ability to fight zombies as a four mana kill target zombie at sorcery speed is pretty bad. 


Sideboard

Obviously ignore this in Bo1 land, but be on the lookout for these cards late in Bo3.

Witch's Web is a card I don’t mind having in the main deck, but I really want to make sure I at least have them in the sideboard because this deck can have some real problems dealing with flyers. 

End the Festivities is a great sideboard card, especially against Azorius. I tend to bring it in if I see three targets for it during game one. Being able to wipe out multiple Traveling Ministers for only one mana is one of the best feelings in the format.


Example Deck

A trophy deck that gives you a good idea of a build to aim for!

Gruul Example Trophy Deck
by j2sjosh
Buy on TCGplayer $17.79
Standard
best of 3
0 mythic
1 rare
3 uncommon
36 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (8)
3
Abrade
$0.75
2
Witch’s Web
$0.50
2
Wolf Strike
$0.50
Sorceries (1)
Lands (17)
8
Forest
$2.00
8
Mountain
$2.00
1
Evolving Wilds
$0.25
40 Cards
$12.02

Wrap up

Well that brings us to the end of the third edition of Anatomy of an Archetype. Thanks for reading and I hope this will help you run with the wolves on the way to victory.

I’m always open to feedback, let me know in the comments section what you loved, what you hated, or what you would like added to the next edition.

You can contact me in the comments section below or at:

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j2sjosh
j2sjosh

Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

Articles: 106

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