Stone Rain Art by Alexis and Justin Hernandez

Historic Gruul Ponza Deck Guide: Turn 2 Stone Rain is Great

Jumpstart: Historic Horizons is finally here! With a lot of great cards coming in, the Historic metagame is going to take a new and exciting shape.

By the time you read this column Jumpstart 2 is probably going to be available, many new archetypes will be rising, and other old acquaintances will have powerful new tools. Nevertheless, today I’m here to share with you one of my best MTG decks, one that I played for more than 200 matches allowing me to reach #473 Mythic.

Llanowar Elves into Stone Rain is a classic maneuver, and it turns out that sometimes the old ways are the best.

Luis Scott-Vargas

Turn 2 Stone Rain can win a lot of matches on its own without a doubt. Ponza shines when the meta has greedy mana bases. When I was playing this a month or two ago, Jeskai Control and Five-Color Niv-Mizzet were 2 of the 3 most popular on the BO3 ladder (Izzet Phoenix was holding the 2nd place). This being said, having the capability of disrupting mana bases and getting ahead on tempo, made this deck a powerful choice.

Yes, it’s a reality that now with Historic Horizon everything is going to change, but many powerful archetypes surely will remain as strong contenders, like the aforementioned Jeskai. Also, many of the new available strategies are going to depend on extremely greedy mana bases (like Jund and Temur, decks analyzed in Doggert’s newer column The Top 5 New and Most Improved Historic Decks with Jumpstart: Historic Horizon), and that will be where I will use the move again; turn 1 Llanowar Elves, turn 2 Stone Rain.

First, let me introduce to you the list I was playing in June:

[sd_deck deck=”wyj8IdpTT”]

Definitely AFR and Historic Horizons have cards to upgrade this list, like Den of the Bugbear, Lair of the Hydra, or Unholy Heat, but one shines overall:

Seasoned Pyromancer is in my opinion the best card that HH is bringing to us. It can be played in any red deck, doesn’t matter the archetype. 3 bodies now, 2 more later, hand fixing, 4 power for 3 mana. No matter where you look, just a few cards in MTG history can do all Seasoned Pyromancer does so many things in such an efficient way.

I’ve been studying how the new sets are going to reshape Ponza. Since the release of AFR manlands, the room for improvement and this deck really started to shine. Now we get one of the best tools that Gruul Midrange has in Modern, so I’m pretty confident about trying this archetype a second time.

Before I present you my updated Gruul Ponza list and explain the changes, let me elaborate on how the original decklist works, the function of every card in it, and how I used to sideboard against all the meta back in June when I reached Mythic with it. This last part is important because even if the meta is going to be wild these first Jumpstart weeks, having a solid foundation on how to adapt against different strategies would be helpful, regardless of the archetypes that claim the throne of the new Historic metagame.

Surely I’m going to try this archetype after HH arrives, and a new Sideboard guide could be done depending on how the metagame stabilizes. Let me know in the comment section if you’re interested!

Plan Explanation and Card Choices

Archive Trap Mini — Goblins of the Multiverse: Zendikar
Goblin Ruinblaster Art by Matt Cavotta

The plan of Ponza is pretty straightforward: Play a turn 1 ramp spell, disrupt our opponent’s mana base, and then play a threat. 

Llanowar Elves and Gilded Goose are our best choices to achieve the first part of the plan. Both of them give us the possibility of playing three mana spells on turn 2 which is essential for the existence of this archetype and the reason why we have more three mana cards than any other mana cost in our deck.

Stone Rain and Goblin Ruinblaster are the tools for the second part of the plan. Destroying a land on turn 2 can stagger a lot of decks and doing so with Stone Rain while we are on the play is just amazing. Goblin Ruinblaster, on the other hand, is a dual purpose card. It allows us to destroy a non-basic land and exert pressure at the same time. If you play Modern, think of it as a tiny Bloodbraid Elf (2/1 instead of 3/2) that always cascades into a land destruction spell.

Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner and Klothys, God of Destiny serve multiple purposes themselves. Even if both cards are not one mana ramp spells, putting either of them into play as early as turn 2 is almost just as good as playing Stone Rain. On the one hand, Kiora enables Glorybringer or Elder Gargaroth on turn 3, a play that can close a game on its own while letting us draw cards and keep up the gas while doing so. On the other hand, in addition to the ramp, a turn 2 Klothys could be just enough to beat certain decks, a big reason we play three.

Scavenging Ooze and Bonecrusher Giant are amazing cards on their own and are almost auto-included if you play their colors. Besides Tarmogoyf, Ooze is maybe one of the best two mana drops on Green in the history of the game and a pretty solid play.

Glorybringer and Elder Gargaroth are our choices for fulfilling the last part of our decks plan. Firstly, Glorybringer is great in most matchups, and it being a good card regardless of what our opponent is playing is amazing! Against control decks it lets us apply pressure fast, the 4/4 hasty flier can enter the battlefield on turn 3 forcing them to respond immediately. Against aggro decks, it gives us the capability to outrace them as it allows us to eliminate an opposing threat and at the same time exert pressure (and untapping it with Kiora is an extraordinary interaction here). In regards to Elder Gargaroth, against control we need 1 turn before it can impact the game. Once this happens, an uncontested Gargaroth can close the game in just 2 turns, and against aggro, most of the time it’s the best way to put a brake on their aggression. 

Finally, our last mainboard non land card is Chandra, Torch of Defiance. If you play Red as one of your primary colors in Historic, having this planeswalker in your 75 is a must. Her amazing flexibility lets us play a pair on the mainboard, this due to the fact that she can help us in the 3 steps of our game plan at the same time: ramping when needed, killing a creature thereby disrupting our opponent’s plans or being a serious threat that could give us the game if it’s not answered asap.

Matchups and Sideboarding – Before HH Metagame

Shifting C.. | M20:
Shifting Ceratops by Izzy

Jeskai Control

+2 Fry-1 Bonecrusher Giant
+1 Shifting Ceratops-1 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
+1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno-1 Glorybringer
-1 Elder Gargaroth

This was a pretty close matchup, but we are greatly favored if we were on the play. Fry has one main purpose, getting Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Having the opportunity to do this at instant speed and leaving our opponent out of answers for it (beside Aether Gust) gives us the upper hand. Remember, in this matchup we are the beatdown! That’s the reason we kept 3 of the Bonecrusher Giant and Scavenging Ooze even if most of the time it’s just a 2/2 for 2. Putting one of the Bonecrushers in play on turn 2 as 4/3 if we don’t have Stone Rain is a great play (better than most of us might think). 

Glorybringer and Elder Gargaroth are great, but we had to exert pressure as hard as we could. That’s why we changed a pair of our 5 mana value creatures for uncounterable threats like Shifting Ceratops and Chandra, Awakened Inferno. Both of them can enter the battlefield more easily, applying pressure in a way that is more difficult for our opponent to interact with. 

One Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner comes out even when she is great for drawing cards against attrition matches because Jeskai has Narset, Parter of Veils whicht makes Kiora less effective. The interaction with Glorybringer is almost not needed, but having the ability to ramp us up to 5 on turn 3 is worth enough to keep a pair of them on the mainboard against Jeskai. If you prefer, bringing out 2 of them while keeping 4 Giants, that’s also a good choice.

Izzet Phoenix

+2 Grafdigger’s Cage-4 Stone Rain
+2 Magma Spray-4 Goblin Ruinblaster
+2 Abrade-1 Gilded Goose
+2 Fry-1 Elder Gargaroth
+2 Anger of the Gods-1 Llanowar Elves
+1 Arasta of the Endless Web-2 Glorybringer
+1 Shifting Ceratops-1 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
+1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno

This is one of the matches when we transform our deck from Ponza to GR Midrange. Most of their spells cost 1 or 2 mana and they play just 2 colors, so it’s better for us to lower the curve of our deck and have interaction rather than try to disrupt their mana base. Remember, identifying our role in every matchup is key to achieving victory, and in this case we are the defenders. 

Grafdigger’s Cage is amazing, it stops Arclight Phoenix, Ox of Agonas, Faithless Looting, and Finale of Promise! Magma Spray, Abrade, Fry, and Anger of the Gods are our ways to stall the game to a point where we have control of it. Spray and Anger get rid of the Phoenix permanently, Abrade and Fry let us kill Stormwing Entity and big Sprite Dragons, while Anger is best for answering big turns where our opponents tries to make all in plays by making 2+ Phoenixes attack at the same time. 

Arasta, the Endless Web is in the sideboard for this match in particular. If you can make it on the board it’s going to stick there for a while unless our opponent has a Lightning Axe (they use 2 most of the time) or have a great Beacon Bolt (1 on sb). Until then, Arasta is going to buy us enough time to skyrocket our chances to win.

Shifting Ceratops is another great card here. it’s going to enter the battlefield most of the time because they have just 2 Aether Gust on the sideboard and it can gain reach! This plus pro blue makes them have a really hard time dealing with it.

Finally, big Chandra serves a dual purpose: Being an uncounterable pseudo wrath and putting a really hard clock to beat for our opponent.

5c Niv-Mizzet

+2 Fry-1 Bonecrusher Giant
+1 Shifting Ceratops-1 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
+1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno-1 Glorybringer
-1 Elder Gargaroth

One of our best matchups (don’t know if the archetype is going to remain as a big contender, but if so, Ponza has the upperhand, and is a great example of how this archetype punishes heavenly greedy mana bases). Destroying a land against a 5 colored deck makes it stumble a lot and delays their plans heavily. We sideboard identically to our Jeskai matchup, but we have to pay attention to the reasoning behind the cards changes a little bit. There are two different popular versions of the deck; the one with Drown in the Loch and the one without it. In the first one Fry goes for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Hydroid Krasis, on the second one we go for Krasis, Kaalia, Zenith Seeker, and The Scarab God

The first version is the best place where we can play Shifting Ceratops, because it avoids Loch, Teferi -3, and can pass through Krasis and Niv, while being able to face off against a Scarab God versus the second version is really valuable. This plus the fact that it can’t be removed with Lightning Helix or Kolaghan’s Command and that it can gain haste and reach make it really good overall in this match up. Chandra is great against the Loch version, and it does not fall short against the 2nd version either for one big reason: both versions have a lot of spot removal! That being said, having thethreat of an uncounterable planeswalker is a good move because the +2 puts a clock on them even if they have Vanishing Verse or Binding of the Old Gods. 

Special note: Raugrin Triome was the only land the first version plays 4 of. Go for it asap. Indatha Triome and Savai Triome are the most important lands of the second version, they play 3 of each, so they are gonna be your main targets for land destruction. Identifying both versions is not too hard if you get used to it. One has Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Cling to Dust, Drown in the Loch, and Mortality Spear, while the other plays Kaalia, Zenith Seeker, Klothys, God of Destiny, The Scarab God and Kolaghan’s Command. The easiest way is to be aware of how fast and how many Raugrin Triome they play.

Mono Black Aggro

+2 Magma Spray-4 Stone Rain
+2 Abrade-2 Goblin Ruinblaster
+2 Anger of the Gods-1 Llanowar Elves
+2 The Akroan War-1 Gilded Goose

Monoblack is a pretty popular deck so you’re bound to run into it often. Surely other aggro strategies like Humans are going to gain popularity, but this is a great example of how we can face mono colored decks and get ahead, even if they have a low curve and play only one color making our land destruction ineffective.

They’re the beatdown, and it’s because of this that we have to defend ourselves in the best way we can. Magma Spray is a premium removal here: Dread Wanderer, Gutterbones, and Skyclave Shade are recursive creatures, and being able to remove them from the game permanently is great. As a plus: Knight of the Ebon Legion is a 2 toughness creature. Meanwhile, Abrade has 2 primary targets, Rankle, Master of Pranks and Faceless Haven (this land is the reason we keep 2 Ruinblasters). 

The Akroan War is on our sideboard for two reasons: Koma played in Temur Creativity (a deck that is going to get some updates in HH), and defending ourselves against aggro in general. In this particular case: Rotting Regisaur, a 7/6 for 3, is really hard to beat when our removal are damage based. This enchantment at the right time can win us the game easily.

Note: The Akroan War doesn’t have to target Rotting Regisaur every time. On many occasions, getting rid of it with the third step of the saga while we are able to block it, is the best way. Note 2: Try to think about Spawn of Mayhem every time you exert Glorybringer, as it’s our primary way of getting rid of it, so having a dragon ready for that is mandatory.

Gruul Aggro

+2 Grafdigger’s Cage-4 Stone Rain
+2 Magma Spray-4 Goblin Ruinblaster
+2 Abrade-1 Llanowar Elves
+2 Anger of the Gods-1 Gilded Goose
+2 The Akroan War

This was probably one of our toughest matchups. We pack a lot of removal in the sideboard, but the fact that they can overcome our 1-1 trades with Collected Company is something that puts a lot of pressure. If the meta shifts to more CoCo decks, a third Anger of the Gods could fix this problem, but for now I think that our sideboard lets us fight Collected Company decks decently enough. The decision of 2 The Akroan War in the sideboard came when Temur Creativity deck became more popular. It’s almost the only way a red/green deck can fight against Koma, and doing that made our matchup against Gruul and Mono Black and any aggro decks even better.

Try to stick the Grafdigger’s Cage one turn before you think they could Collected Company you, dropping the Cage early tends to let them plan their moves better and can allow them to easily play around it. If we can bait their Abrade first, a mid game cage could seal the deal in our favor.

Note: 2 of our mana creatures go out when we side out our Ponza cards and side in our removal. This is because we are now not hurried to play a three drop on turn 2 and it is common to pass with our mana open for an instant speed removal on their end of turn.

Selesnya Company

+2 Grafdigger’s Cage-4 Stone Rain
+2 Magma Spray-4 Goblin Ruinblaster
+2 Abrade-1 Llanowar Elves
+2 Anger of the Gods-1 Gilded Goose
+2 The Akroan War

We sideboard in the same way against Gruul, but we have different reasons and have to take that in consideration for optimal play. Selesnya can’t play a bunch of turn 2 drops with powerful Burning-Tree Emissary plays, their creatures don’t have haste, and they don’t play Embercleave. On the other hand, they can slow us down with Archon of Emeria and Skyclave Apparition can take care of Chandra and Akroan War. They side in Giant Killer too so, instead of trying to stave off their heavy aggression , this is more like an attrition match where we have to find good trades until we find a Gargaroth. The only way they can deal with it are the 2 before mentioned Giant Killers. 

Having a lot of 4 power creatures makes our opponent unable to interact with all of them with just 2 sideboard cards. That being said: Always “bolt the bird” (kill the turn 1 mana creature on sight) to slow them down (they play 20 third drops, even more than us!), remember the Apparition and the fact that you get a big blocker when killing it; I’ve won a lot of matches just blocking or attacking with 3/3 or 4/4 apparition tokens. Abrade is mostly for Archon of Emeria, Kazandu Mammoth or Reidane, God of the Worthy, but don’t forget they play 1-2 copies of The Great Henge too. Always remember the Glorybringer + Kiora interaction (exert and the -1). In creature based matches it’s incredibly powerful.

Azorius Auras

+2 Magma Spray-4 Stone Rain
+2 Fry-4 Goblin Ruinblaster
+2 Anger of the Gods-1 Gilded Goose
+2 The Akroan War
+1 Shifting Ceratops

This was another of our tough matchups, in fact one of the hardest. When I started playing and testing Ponza, this deck wasn’t on our radar, but in the last days of June with the good tournament results this archetype had, it became one of the top 6 most represented decks on the ladder.

It’s hard, yes, but it is not unwinnable. Our biggest enemy is Adanto Vanguard. Taking care of that little vampire is almost impossible for red/green based decks and our best chance is borrowing it with The Akroan War. Try to save the enchantment for the biggest creature they have and you could get the game in just a couple of turns. Until then, we have to kill everything on sight with our removal. From time to time it is better to keep 4 mana open to cast two removal spells on their turn than playing Chandra on ours. Shifting Ceratops goes in because of one main reason; they are going to side in 4 Cerulean Drakes, and having the dinosaur for dealing with it is incredibly good.

Creativity Decks


+2 Abrade-1 Klothys, God of Destiny
+2 The Akroan War-1 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
+1 Shifting Ceratops-1 Glorybringer
+1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno-1 Elder Gargaroth


+2 Abrade-1 Klothys, God of Destiny
+2 Fry-1 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
+1 Shifting Ceratops-1 Glorybringer
+1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno-1 Elder Gargaroth

These are other decks that sprouted without warning in the last weeks of June and surely they’re going to remain relevant, but the fact that one is playing 3 colors (Temur), and all of them are really sensitive to mana disruption (they need to cast a 4+ mana sorcery to win) put us in a fairly good position.

These decks try to win with different combinations of cards. Temur is going for Koma, Cosmos Serpent, while Izzet is looking to cast Indomitable Creativity for x=2 to win on the spot with the The Locust God + Sage of the Falls combo. In both cases, Abrade is a must because making them lose a Creativity target could rip their plan into pieces. This card can also kill the dwarf that Dwarven Mine makes or destroy the treasure from Prismari Command .

The difference between The Akroan War and Fry when compared against each other is the fact that Akroan is our best answer against Koma, while Fry could break the Locust God combo in an uncounterable way. Most of the time the Izzet version is going to tap out against non blue decks for a x=2 Creativity, so Fry could easily win the game. We side Shifting Ceratops and Chandra, Awakened Inferno in because both of them have counters, that said, diversifying our threats with 2 uncounterable ones makes it easier for us to close the game.

Updated List and Changes Explanation

Glorybringer Art by Sam Burley

[sd_deck deck=”RBCPOIPLl”]

+4 Seasoned Pyromancer-1 Klothys, God of Destiny
+1 Den of the Bugbear-1 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
+1 Lair of the Hydra-2 Bonecrusher Giant
+1 Glorybringer-1 Elder Gargaroth
-2 Rootbound Crag

At the beginning of this column we discuss how amazing Seasoned Pyromancer is. An extremely efficient card like this is going to be everywhere, trust me. If the deck is playing red, 4 Seasoned Pyromancer is likely going to be there. This shaman is a staple in any Gruul deck played in Modern (even now, after all Modern Horizons 2 meta shifts), and now it’s going to be a cornerstone of the new Historic metagame. It’s inclusion would make this deck better in any imaginable conception. Better against aggro because it provides a lot of blockers, better against attrition matches because handfixing, better against control because it is pressure with 3 bodies instead of one, pushing out the wrath effects of our opponents. My first 4 wildcards after HH arrives are going to be 4 of this mythic creature.

I let this deck rest during AFR because of all my work on Standard 2022 guides, but with this update, Den of the Bugbear and Lair of the Hydra are up to play. Having another way to pressure slower decks without compromising our board is great, and even against aggro, having additional bodies for combat serves us well. I’m not sure about the numbers, because I think Lair is better overall, but Den is better against control (because it works like Goblin Rabblemaster or Legion Warboss so depending on how the meta stabilizes in 2 or 3 weeks, we could be playing 1-1, or a different 0-2 approach.)

The last change is pushing Glorybringer to 4 (decreasing Elder Gargaroth to 2 but keeping our heavy beatters at 6). This has one important reason behind it, cutting cards for 4 slots for Seasoned Pyromancer was extremely hard, and 2 Bonecrusher Giant had to go. Shifting 1 beast for 1 dragon makes our chances of having removal for crucial instances increase.

Klothys, God of Destiny and Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner gave up two spaces for Seasoned Pyromancer. Klothys can win games when coming into play on turn 2, and Kiora ramps us in a very efficient way for playing 5 mana spells on turn 3, but in both cases, they are complementary parts of our plan instead of core parts, so, after a few games we can measure how this change goes and adjust quantities. 

Notable Jumpstart: Historic Horizons Exclusions

Timeless Witness Art by Durechenko Alexander

I really tried to sneak 4 Unholy Heat in this new list. This card is amazing and is a staple in eternal formats even if it is just a newly printed removal. The problem with this in Historic is the lack of Mishra’s Bauble. The delirium part is the thing that makes this card incredible, but you need 4 different types of cards to make it work. We have a pair of Fabled Passage to put some lands in our graveyard, creatures and sorceries, but we lack instants and artifacts. Even if we put some instant speed removal into the main board, having an artifact is mandatory most of the time, but after checking for a while, there’s no 0 mana artifact that could make the cut. The only viable option in my mind is trying a 4 Relic of Progenitus mainboard list.

Timeless Witness is something like the big sister to Eternal Witness, and from time to time in the olden days, Eternal Witness was present in some Ponza builds. It allows us to destroy another land in later turns by recovering a Stone Rain or any other similar spell like Plow Under, and get a second use of our removals, while providing us a good body for trades. Timeless Witness could do the same, the problem is that it costs 1 more mana, but the Eternalize part could be vital in longer games. Maybe I will try 1 copy. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Goblin Dark-Dwellers is another Ponza player acquaintance, especially in Boros builds. In those times, these goblins could do the trick of taking a Boom//Bust from the graveyard selecting Boom as the target while choosing the Bust part while resolving. Even if this was fixed in the rules later, Dark-Dwellers remain valid in some builds where you have 8 land destruction spells, like 4 Stone Rain and 4 Molten Rain or Pillage. The problem here is that in Historic we only have 4, the Stone Rain and the other 4 land destruction effects are our Goblin Ruinblaster. If Wizards makes my dream come true giving us Pillage or even Molten Rain in any future Historic Anthology release, these Goblins are going to be part of my testing plans.

Final Notes

When Blood Moon is good, RG Land Destruction is good.

Eric Froehlich

Playing Ponza is a ton of fun! (for us). The main reason to play this archetype back in June was Jeskai and 5c Niv were the most popular decks (besides the fact I used to play Ponza before in other formats, and when I saw the chance I couldn’t let it pass by). Now, with Jumpstart: Historic Horizons, it will depend on the meta if land destruction is viable or not in a competitive way, but even then, we have a lot of tools to play against greedy mana bases and an amazing new tool, Seasoned Pyromancer! GR Ponza could be your deck of choice without a problem and I’m surely going to try it.

Ponza tends to be a meta call deck (for example, like Dredge on Modern) but besides that, even in harder environments, it’s always a great deck to pilot. Remember our plan: Ramp-Disrupt-Threat, until next time, stay safe.

Card Kingdom - Double Masters 2022
Default image

A full time MTG content creator. Started playing Magic in 99’ with the release of Urza’s Destiny, 3 times Grand Prix attendant (1 as a player ending #78 and 2 as a judge). Mexican, lover of coffee, Korean culture, languages and ex-LoL coach.
Follow me on Instagram, Twitch, or Twitter.

Articles: 46

Leave a Reply