Gruul Aggro Deck Guide – Theros Beyond Death Standard – January 2020
Welcome to our guide to Gruul Aggro! This archetype is all about using your ahead of the curve creatures to quickly and consistently beat down your opponent. This deck is a great choice if you enjoy smashing face and taking advantage of the softer metagame that a new set usually brings. Read on, as we improve the already pre-existing archetype to make it even better with the new Theros Beyond Death cards and go through the ins and outs of this deck!
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. The deck had been in a limbo since the movement to Gruul Adventures and taking advantage of Edgewall Innkeeper’s card draw engine, but now the deck finds itself needing to get there quicker with more threats.
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.
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 Paradise Druid is your first play. Ideally you can turn this into a turn three Questing Beast.
- Two Embercleaves makes one card essentially a dead draw.
Theros Beyond Death Cards
Let’s discuss the potential cards that Gruul Aggro could benefit from in Theros Beyond Death below. There’s a lot of possibilities to be tried and tested, so let’s delve right in!
- Gallia of the Endless Dance: This card is an interesting one, providing a small card advantage engine. Cards like Robber of the Rich fills the same kind of niche, so probably worth trying but likely not strong enough.
- Klothys, God of Destiny: The most obvious inclusion in Gruul Aggro, and it shines in longer games where it can deal 2 damage a turn and even buy some time. Occasionally, you may get mana off Fabled Passage but don’t rely on it. The 4/5 body is also quite underwhelming. It will be interesting to see its future inclusion.
- Tectonic Giant: This card competes for its spot with Questing Beast, and is likely too slow for Standard.
- The First Iroan Games: This card performed quite decently during testing, as it provides another 1/1 for Lovestruck Beast and you are almost guaranteed to draw the two cards in this deck. It still does not provide interaction with your opponents and will likely compete with cards like Klothys, Bonecrusher Giant or Domri’s Ambush.
- Phoenix of Ash: It’s worth trying this over cards like Gruul Spellbreaker or more likely Bonecrusher Giant. This card can deal damage immediately and provides late game power which Gruul lacks in its current form.
- Nessian Hornbeetle: This card has a slightly bigger ceiling than Zhur-Taa Goblin and Paradise Druid, and does work well with Klothys.
- Destiny Spinner: Another possible maindeckable two drop, its 2/3 body makes a huge difference and its second ability is more useful than it looks because it will usually make a 1/1 for Lovestruck Beast.
- Temple of Abandon: Lands that come into play tapped are rarely good for aggressive decks but you have to admit the mana base is pretty bad and we have a lot of double mana cost cards like Questing Beast and Embercleave. Is the trade off worth the scry?
- 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. Ideally this card will be in your opening hand. The second copy is not as good as the first one though, and also remember the ability also triggers on creature death. If you play this card well by sequencing your spells then it can go a long way.
- 4 Paradise Druid: Mana accelerant and just a 2/1 for 2 mana to fill the curve.
- 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.
- 4 Lovestruck Beast: A 5/5 for 3 mana is a fantastic deal for Gruul. Remember that the only 1/1 in the deck are the tokens it generates and Pelt Collector so be careful when putting counters on them using Domri’s Ambush.
- 4 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.
- 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.
- Domri’s Ambush: Gives some form of interaction with your opponent. It’s not always essential, but nice to draw sometimes to clear blockers or get rid of that pesky Nissa as soon as possible.
There are no Fabled Passage as you really do not want lands to come into play tapped – sometimes the double mana cost cards do hurt though if you get them in the wrong order. Temple of Abandon is a possible inclusion but coming into play tapped is a huge downside and Scry is likely not good enough to make up for it.
Matchup and Sideboard Guide
Theros Beyond Death has just been released so the metagame is still fresh! We’ve tried to keep it as general as possible, and will be updated once we have a better idea of the final decklist and decks in the meta.
Versus Mono Black Devotion
In: 2 Domri’s Ambush
Out: 2 Zhur-Taa Goblin (play) or 2 Paradise Druid (draw)
In: 1 Return to Nature
Out: 1 Paradise Druid
Versus Azorius Control
Versus Simic Flash
In: 2 Domri’s Ambush, 2 Cosmotronic Wave
Out: 2 Questing Beast, 2 Gruul Spellbreaker
- January 19, 2020: Deck guide updated for Theros Beyond Death Standard.
- November 3, 2019: Deck guide undergone major overhaul for Throne of Eldraine Standard.
- June 7 2019: Deck added.