Gruul Aggro Historic Deck Guide
Hello everyone! There’s so many cool and exciting decks to cover in Historic right now so it’s no surprise we have to pay penance to Historic’s premiere aggro strategy, Gruul. Gruul has seen some significant ups and downs through Historic’s lifecycle, starting as the best deck, then it was bad because of Winota, then Burning-Tree Emissary got suspended making it nearly dead.
However, a lot of things have changed from a few months ago. A lot of Historic’s main offenders have been banned, and Burning-Tree Emissary got unsuspended! If you’re looking to smash face in Historic, here’s a great place to start. Per usual, I started with someone’s base and worked on it from there. For Gruul, we chose Martin Juza’s list.
This list looked super clean and was a great base to start off of. With some matches, I quickly realized that there were a lot of decks trying to abuse the graveyard, either completely like God-Pharaoh’s Gift or minorly with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. With that in mind, I knew I wanted to implement a bit more graveyard hate than Martin initially had. Let’s take a look at my version.
Not much had to change for me to be happy with the list, and the only card I completely nixed from my list that Martin played was Turntimber Symbiosis. I believe that the life loss was more important than occasionally having a 7 mana play. Maybe I can see this in Standard, but in Historic, the game should be functionally decided by turn 7 if it hasn’t already ended, making Symbiosis kind of moot. If you’re looking to take this into best of one, I highly recommend this list with no changes. Having a smattering of different cards is always good for the higher variance nature of best of one. Let’s talk about the rest of the card choices.
2 Kazandu Mammoth: One of the best MDFCs around. Mammoth can be a land in a pinch and a strong beater in most other scenarios. This card isn’t mandatory by any means, but having a few extra lands lying around is always nice, especially when attached to a reasonable card.
4 Llanowar Elves: The best one drop creature in Historic. Games you get to play this on turn 1 always look significantly better than games you don’t, but you are by no means reliant on playing an Elf turn 1 every game. If you do though, going 1,3,4 is such a backbreaking curve for most decks to deal with.
4 Pelt Collector: We can’t always have Llanowar Elves turn 1, so Pelt Collector has you covered there. You could have the dream curve of Pelt Collector, Burning-Tree Emissary, and Zhur-Taa Goblin, but it’s more likely you’ll get to attack for 2 on turn 2 then 3 on turn 3. Very reasonable card and does a lot for its mana cost.
4 Burning-Tree Emissary: One of the cards that really puts Gruul over the edge. A Grizzly Bear is not the most exciting, but it is when it costs functionally 0 mana! If you have to play this out without another play it does feel somewhat bad, but whenever you get to cast something else off the trigger you feel so far ahead. As you’ll likely notice, although it’s not difficult to achieve, the deck is built so that all the 2 drops can be cast off of Burning-Tree Emissary to maximize its value.
2 Gallia of the Endless Dance: I seem to be lower on Gaalia than many other people, but she is a fine creature. She overperforms if you get to attack with her and two other creatures to activate the draw trigger, but otherwise she’s just a hasty 2/2.
2 Scavenging Ooze: I feel like no matter the deck I put this in, it overperforms. Scavenging Ooze is a main deck way to deal with graveyard decks and a mana sink later in the game. Even when neither deck is utilizing the graveyard, Scooze can eat all the creatures that have died over the course of the game to make a very scary threat.
2 Zhur-Taa Goblin: A hasty 2/2 or a 3/3. Nothing terribly exciting, but it is effective.
4 Gruul Spellbreaker: The premium 3 drop for Gruul in Historic. A sometimes hexproof 3/3 with Haste and Trample or a beefy 4/4 is so good in strategies like this. Most of the time you’re going to give this Haste unless you need it to outsize other creatures in creature matchups. A nice thing to take note of, this gives Hexproof to itself and you on your turn which can randomly hose some cards like Settle the Wreckage.
3 Questing Beast: This novel of text is as good as ever at getting your opponent dead. I really like the 3/3 split between this and Collected Company as each is better in different situations. Use this as a late game tool to deal the last few points of necessary damage.
2 Shatterskull Smashing: This will be a land a good amount of the time, but randomly having a decent removal spell is very nice.
1 Domri’s Ambush: I’m not sure if it’s the most necessary, but I do like the misers Domri’s Ambush to have a piece of strong removal in the deck. Really good in creature matchups to make your dude bigger and killing their best thing.
3 Collected Company: The second of the three late game cards Gruul has access to. Collected Company is a powerful card as you’ll almost always get 2 cards that have a total mana cost higher than what you invested into Collected Company in the first place. That being said, 3 does make sense in this deck as we don’t have a plethora of strong hits that other Company decks tend to have, but it’s still quite the powerful option.
2 Grafdigger’s Cage: The best hate card in Historic. Use this to stop Graveyard shenanigans (this doesn’t work against God-Pharaoh’s Gift), or library shenanigans like Muxus or Aetherworks Marvel. Be mindful that Cage also turns off Collected Company so you should probably board them out when bringing Cage in.
3 Abrade: Creature removal that can also tag artifacts is very high value in Historic. Good against any small creature decks or decks reliant on an artifact like Aetherworks Marvel, Witch’s Oven, God-Pharaoh’s Gift, or Embercleave.
1 Scavenging Ooze: I really like Ooze when you have a deck reliant on the graveyard, so one more can’t hurt.
3 Klothys, God of Destiny: Like Scavenging Ooze, I’m a Klothys junkie. I mainly have 3 of these due to Sultai being very popular on ladder and this is a great way to deal with Uro. This is also powerful against the other graveyard decks and Rogues which is seeing some play as well. If graveyard decks become less popular, feel free to shave some copies but I would always keep 1 as it’s a great hit off of Collected Company.
4 Rampaging Ferocidon: Until Uro gets banned, you need to play this feisty Dino to stand a chance. Denying Lifegain is really important and really only comes in against Uro decks and decks looking to really flood the board like Goblins. This can randomly hose niche strategies like Mono-White lifegain as well.
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance: See! There is a card from Kaladesh here! Chandra is not just the best card out of Kaladesh, but easily one of the best Planeswalkers in Historic. Bring her in when you need to enact a bit of a grinder gameplan.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARD GUIDE
The Historic meta is still in a pretty large flux, but I can highlight what I believe are currently the important matchups.
|+3 Abrade||-4 Pelt Collector|
|+1 Scavenging Ooze||-2 Gallia of the Endless Dance|
|+2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance|
This matchup will turn into a value war to see who can get the most out of the cards they have. You can just have either side curve out and the game ends quickly, but the mirror tends to go a bit longer than expected. Take out low impact cards for some removal and grinder options.
Unlike the mirror, Mono Red isn’t as effective at grinding you out so you mostly have to stall until you can go over the top of them. The most problematic card in the matchup is Hazoret, but if you go wide enough, you can circumvent it being an issue. Scavenging Ooze is also a great tool as you’ll be trading creatures early and often to avoid getting run over. Embercleave can be good, but you’re generally trading so often that it can be really difficult to find a spot to use it, and very bad if you draw multiple.
|+1 Scavenging Ooze||-4 Llanowar Elves|
|+3 Klothys, God of Destiny||-1 Gallia of the Endless Dance|
|+4 Rampaging Ferocidon||-4 Bonecrusher Giant|
|+2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance||-1 Domri’s Ambush|
It’s unfortunate that one of Historic’s most popular decks is quite a challenging matchup. You want a strong, aggressive start to get under them, but also enough cards to grind them out when they inevitably have a lot of interaction which is a very hard balance to strike. The biggest cards you need to worry about are Uro and Nissa, but this deck is very good at covering Uro. Unfortunately, the only way to deal with a Nissa is to have a large enough board where she isn’t good but that just extends you into a wrath. Do your best to balance having a good enough board to pressure your opponent but not holding back too much that you make your clock too slow.
|+2 Grafdigger’s Cage||-2 Kazandu Mammoth|
|+3 Abrade||-2 Gallia of the Endless Dance|
|+4 Rampaging Ferocidon||-2 Scavenging Ooze|
|-3 Collected Company|
In this matchup, speed is the name of the game. You are a faster deck so ideally you shouldn’t have too much trouble, but we have some removal and hard hitters like Ferocidon in case you can’t just curve them out. Keep their hasters and Krenko off the board and Muxus won’t be as scary, but ideally, you killed them before Muxus becomes relevant.
|+3 Abrade||-4 Pelt Collector|
|+1 Scavenging Ooze||-2 Gallia of the Endless Dance|
|+4 Rampaging Ferocidon||-2 Questing Beast|
This matchup is very challenging as Kor Spiritdancer can be near impossible to kill for this strategy. Your best bet is to have a strong curve and a removal spell to slow down their development. Having a strong curve and cutting Pelt Collector is an awkward contention, but it’s hard to grow Collector large enough to be a relevant threat.
That’s what I have for today! If you like my content and want to see more of it, you can check me out on Twitch! Have a great day!