Gruul Aggro Deck Guide – Throne of Eldraine Standard – November 2019
Introduction to Gruul Aggro
Welcome to our guide to Gruul Aggro! I have been climbing the November new season with this deck with moderate success thanks to some excellent resources available at the moment, especially after Javier Dominguez’s Mythic Championship winning deck.
In the current metagame, Gruul Aggro is definitely not in the best position as its matchup versus the Oko Food decks is not hugely favored. However, it still has good matchups against other decks across the board, is quick and consistent – which is why I chose the deck to climb the ladder with. If you like smashing face, then read on, as we go through the ins and outs of this deck!
Gruul Aggro Decklist
Deck 4 Kraul Harpooner (GRN) 136 3 Paradise Druid (WAR) 171 3 Skarrgan Hellkite (RNA) 114 4 Gruul Spellbreaker (RNA) 179 4 Pelt Collector (GRN) 141 4 Questing Beast (ELD) 171 4 Zhur-Taa Goblin (RNA) 215 3 Collision // Colossus (RNA) 223 4 Once Upon a Time (ELD) 169 2 Embercleave (ELD) 120 10 Forest (WAR) 264 4 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259 9 Mountain (WAR) 261 2 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115 Sideboard 1 Shifting Ceratops (M20) 194 2 Redcap Melee (ELD) 135 2 Shock (M19) 156 2 Thrashing Brontodon (RIX) 148 2 Veil of Summer (M20) 198 3 Domri's Ambush (WAR) 192 3 Lovestruck Beast (ELD) 165
Deck updated: November 3, 2019
Gruul Aggro is true to its name, being an aggressive deck that has primarily evolved to use creatures that curve up as they get bigger each turn, rather than relying on smaller cheap creatures and burn spells. The deck’s strength is supported by the newly introduced cards from Throne of Eldraine – primarily Questing Beast and Embercleave.
With the abundance of planeswalkers in the current Standard metagame, it is important to recognize when to rush your opponent’s health down or play the safe and longer game by attack your opponent’s resources. Most of the time, it is correct to go straight to the face and apply continuous pressure. This depends on a match by match basis, which we explain in the matchup and sideboard guide below.
On a similar note, another crucial decision point to make is the use of the Riot mechanic on the Gruul creatures and recognizing when to give them haste or a +1/+1 counter. We explain this in more detail in the card choice section below.
In a format where Once Upon a Time is legal, it is especially important to make correct mulligan decisions. On the other hand, it also allows you to keep hands with even just one land given you have sufficient one and two drops (ideally a Paradise Druid if mana starved) to play.
There will be interesting mulligan decisions as you play games, but Gruul Aggro first and foremost is a deck that wants to curve out and apply pressure as early as possible. This is even more important in a Standard environment where being on the draw gives you a significant disadvantage. For this reason, you want to maximize your chances of finding the first turn Pelt Collector and subsequent two, three drops. Some examples:
- If you are on the draw and your first play is Zhur-Taa Goblin, it is probably not good enough.
- You are on the play and Kraul Harpooner is your first play. This is fine as it at least take down Gilded Goose with it and prevent a second turn Oko.
- Having two Embercleaves in your hand may not be too bad as Oko can turn it into an Elk, so a backup one could come in handy, given your hand has no other non-creature cards.
- 4 Pelt Collector: With the loss of Llanowar Elves, this card is seeing play as the only one-drop in the deck of choice to apply pressure to your opponent right out of the gate. As explained above, you want to prioritize finding this card in your opening hand, whether it be via Once Upon a Time or a mulligan. The second copy is not as good as the first one though, and also remember the ability also triggers on creature death – relevant for cards like Kraul Harpooner.
- 4 Kraul Harpooner: There are four copies in the deck to help fight against Gilded Goose. It gets a little bit worse on the draw if you are using it solely for this purpose, but sometimes has other relevant targets such as Hydroid Krasis and Rankle, Master of Pranks. If Food decks become less prevalent, you can reduce them.
- 4 Zhur-Taa Goblin: Curve filler two drop, and most of the time it is correct to put a +1/+1 counter on it. Having haste is definitely a nice option to have though when you need to pressure your opponent.
- 4 Gruul Spellbreaker: The quintessential Gruul card, and usually it is better to give it haste, unless you want to dodge Deafening Clarion.
- 2 Bonecrusher Giant: This is a great card in a vacuum, and is definitely better in a slower format. As the only burn spell in the deck, sometimes you need that extra 2 damage or kill that Gilded Goose, but the card just falls short of being your ideal draw.
- 4 Questing Beast: This card is almost tailor made for this deck, primarily due to having haste. Giving a deathtouch creature trample via Embercleave or Collision // Colossus is a great combo, as all but one damage tramples over to the opponent or planeswalker.
- 3 Skarrgan Hellkite: I found that most of the time if I did not give it haste, the game will be out of reach or was not confident I could untap with it the next turn. Unless you are trying to avoid specific spells like Lava Coil, giving it haste will be better.
- Embercleave: One of the reasons this deck is so great is because of Embercleave. Questing Beast is the best target, as explained above, giving it trample is a great way to deal tonnes of damage. You can definitely warrant a third copy in the deck as you are always happy to draw it or see it in your opening hand, but the second copy is essentially a dead card so I can see arguments for 2 or 3 copies.
- Collision // Colossus: This card is rarely bad in many matchups. It can also snipe down Hydroid Krasis, Rankle, Master of Pranks, Gilded Goose and so on. At worst, it squeezes out an extra 4 damage in a pinch.
- Once Upon a Time: One of the best cards in Standard is another reason why this deck can be so consistent. Your goal is to find the first turn Pelt Collector, smooth out your curve, or fix your mana. It is also good as a late game card to find exactly what you need to finish off your opponent.
There are no Fabled Passage as you really do not want lands to come into play tapped and Once Upon a Time also helps fix your mana to some extent. Sometimes the double mana cost cards do hurt though if you get them in the wrong order.
Matchup and Sideboard Guide
The most important matchup to focus on. Being on the play will make you a bit more favored, as you have a chance to prevent a second turn Oko with Kraul Harpooner. Wicked Wolf will be your worst enemy here, and sadly there is not much you can do. Remember Domri’s Ambush can activate Skarrgan Hellkite if it comes to that.
In: 3 Domri’s Ambush
Out: 1 Zhur-Taa Goblin, 2 Bonecrusher Giant
Versus Golgari Adventures
Gruul is favored in this matchup as the deck is just too fast for the Fires deck, but the scariest card you need to watch out for is Deafening Clarion. I don’t like the Bonecrusher Giant here as it gets into the clarion range.
Versus Azorius Control
Versus Simic Flash
Javier Dominguez makes an excellent point regarding Redcap Melee against Simic Flash, as it gives you an easy way to deal with their Nightpack Ambusher, which you will not be able to keep up with once they resolve it.
This is more of a general guide as you want Redcap Melee against Red decks (don’t see those too often these days), but the idea is that your big creatures will be hard to push through – especially with the addition of Lovestruck Beast.
Thrashing Brontodon can come in handy for the opposing Embercleave and blocks favorably due to its 3/4 body. Redcap Melee can be good here, as it can kill most of the opposing creatures bar Lovestruck Beast.
- October 29, 2019: Mythic Championship V Champion and Gruul Deck Guide by Javier Dominguez
- October 24, 2019: Believe In the ‘Cleave: A Guide to Gruul Aggro in Standard by Martin Juza
- November 3, 2019: Deck guide undergone major overhaul for Throne of Eldraine Standard.
- June 7 2019: Deck added.