Standard Gruul Adventures Deck Guide: May 2021 Update

Hello everyone! Today I’m going to go over what I consider to be the best aggro deck in the format: Gruul Adventures. Gruul Adventures rose to prominence in Zendikar Rising standard, but saw a sharp decline in play with the introduction of Kaldheim. Since then, it had modest success, but nothing spectacular. It took the work of Raphael Levy to start and innovate the archetype once more. Let’s take a look at what he created.

Magda Gruul by Raphael Levy – #1 Mythic – April 2021 Ranked Season 

Creatures (29)
1
Tangled Florahedron
4
Edgewall Innkeeper
4
Jaspera Sentinel
4
Magda, Brazen Outlaw
4
Rimrock Knight
4
Bonecrusher Giant
4
Lovestruck Beast
4
Goldspan Dragon
Spells (5)
4
Shatterskull Smashing
1
Song-Mad Treachery
Artifacts (7)
4
Esika's Chariot
3
Embercleave
Lands (19)
4
Cragcrown Pathway
1
Fabled Passage
9
Forest
5
Mountain
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Redcap Melee
1
Snakeskin Veil
2
Masked Vandal
2
Roiling Vortex
2
Klothys, God of Destiny
2
The Akroan War
3
Elder Gargaroth
2
Ox of Agonas

This was an extremely interesting take on the archetype as Magda, Brazen Outlaw worked extremely well with Jaspara Sentinel and Esika's Chariot to pump out Treasure tokens to have more explosive turns. One of Gruul’s issues coming into Kaldheim was that it struggled against “bigger” variants of the Adventures archetype like Naya and Temur. However, with these changes, it looked like Gruul was able to start competing. Although I think this is a great take on Gruul, Will Pulliam got second with his iteration of Gruul at an SCG $5k which looked like an improved version of Levy’s archetype. Let’s take a look.

Gruul Adventures by Will Pulliam – $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier (2nd) 

Creatures (27)
4
Kazandu Mammoth
2
Tangled Florahedron
4
Edgewall Innkeeper
2
Jaspera Sentinel
4
Brushfire Elemental
1
Scavenging Ooze
4
Bonecrusher Giant
4
Lovestruck Beast
2
Goldspan Dragon
Spells (3)
3
Shatterskull Smashing
Artifacts (8)
3
Esika's Chariot
4
Embercleave
1
The Great Henge
Enchantments (1)
1
The Akroan War
Lands (21)
4
Cragcrown Pathway
4
Fabled Passage
9
Forest
4
Mountain
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Primal Might
1
Redcap Melee
1
Snakeskin Veil
2
Roiling Vortex
2
Scorching Dragonfire
1
Wilt
1
Klothys, God of Destiny
1
Phoenix of Ash
1
Soul Sear
1
The Akroan War
1
Elder Gargaroth
2
Ox of Agonas

He nixed the Magda package and leaned down the deck overall, both things I’m a fan of. Although Magda can be very good, it was very low impact by itself and really needed Jaspara Sentinel or Esika’s Chariot to synergize with it lest you have a 2/1 that makes one Treasure. Since he was no longer reliant on Magda, Will could go down to 3 Chariot and 2 Sentinel so you still have a reasonable chance to draw them, but less of your draws include multiple copies of cards you only want to see one of. Using what I learned from Will, I played his version a lot and made minor adjustments to what I thought were minor issues with the deck. Let’s take a look.

Gruul Adventures 

Creatures (26)
4
Kazandu Mammoth
4
Edgewall Innkeeper
2
Jaspera Sentinel
4
Brushfire Elemental
2
Scavenging Ooze
4
Bonecrusher Giant
4
Lovestruck Beast
2
Goldspan Dragon
Spells (4)
4
Shatterskull Smashing
Artifacts (8)
3
Esika's Chariot
4
Embercleave
1
The Great Henge
Enchantments (1)
1
The Akroan War
Lands (21)
4
Cragcrown Pathway
4
Fabled Passage
9
Forest
4
Mountain
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Primal Might
1
Redcap Melee
1
Snakeskin Veil
2
Roiling Vortex
2
Scorching Dragonfire
2
Klothys, God of Destiny
1
Phoenix of Ash
1
Soul Sear
2
The Akroan War
2
Ox of Agonas

Very little has ultimately changed, mostly just nixing the Tangled Florahedron as that card constantly underperformed for me. Playing it on 2 felt like a liability and playing it as a land generally messed up the curve. Shatterskull Smashing has consistently been a much better land and of course can come into play untapped. For the board, as much as I love Elder Gargaroth, I feel that this is a 2 Klothys, God of Destiny metagame. With applications against Rogues, Sultai Ultimatum, and Rakdos which is growing in popularity, having double the odds to draw one of the best cards in those matchups seems solid. Lastly, I’m a The Akroan War junkie. As much as I like Wilt, it’s a lot less high impact compared to another copy of War.

Overall, this take on Gruul is what I think a perfect blend between what worked for Gruul historically and the innovations Levy made to the archetype. The deck is fast, plays to the board well, and grinds effectively to boot. If you were a Gruul fan in the past, I highly recommend this deck.

MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING

Esika’s Chariot Art by Raoul Vitale
Esika’s Chariot Art by Raoul Vitale

TEMUR ADVENTURES

INOUT
+1 Primal Might-4 Brushfire Elemental
+1 Soul Sear
+2 The Akroan War

The plan here in straightforward, try to kill them before they go completely over you. This may seem like you want to be fast, but that could also mean grinding them out depending on the game. Brushfire Elemental is pretty atrocious in this matchup as both Bonecrusher Giant and Lovestruck Beast completely blank it most games. Keep the pressure on and try not to get blown out by Brazen Borrower.

ROGUES

INOUT
+1 Snakeskin Veil-2 Jaspera Sentinel
+2 Scorching Dragonfire-2 Goldspan Dragon
+2 Klothys, God of Destiny-3 Embercleave
+1 Phoenix of Ash-1 The Akroan War
+2 Ox of Agonas

Game one Rogues is going to be tough as you are much clunkier, but the post board games become much easier. With 5 extremely high impact cards, grinding through them becomes a lot more realistic. Do your absolute best to play around Crippling Fear when you can as that’s the way they can sneak back into seemingly won games. 

SULTAI ULTIMATUM

INOUT
+1 Snakeskin Veil-2 Jaspera Sentinel
+2 Roiling Vortex-2 Scavenging Ooze
+2 Klothys, God of Destiny-1 The Great Henge
+1 Primal Might-1 The Akroan War

You want to hit Sultai hard and fast. You can’t realistically beat a resolved Ultimatum so getting them dead before they can cast it is imperative. Klothys and Roiling Vortex help a lot as they both give incremental damage that can kill them even if they land an Ultimatum so prioritize those cards highly. As a specific tip for both this deck and any others playing Roiling Vortex, it’s better to save it for as late as possible so they can’t kill it on curve with a Binding the Old Gods. Play it out if you have nothing else to play on curve, but keep that in mind.

MONO RED

INOUT
+1 Primal Might-4 Brushfire Elemental
+1 Redcap Melee-2 Goldspan Dragon
+1 Snakeskin Veil-2 Embercleave
+2 Scorching Dragonfire
+1 Soul Sear
+2 The Akroan War

Remember that in this matchup you are the “control” deck. Your cards outsize and outvalue theirs so being patient and going for maximum value with your cards while also keeping your life total high is imperative. Most games you’re going to completely overwhelm the board and kill them in 1-2 swings so don’t worry about getting in chip damage if it means they can do the same to you.

RAKDOS

INOUT
+1 Snakeskin Veil-2 Jaspera Sentinel
+1 Scorching Dragonfire-4 Brushfire Elemental 
+2 Klothys, God of Destiny
+2 The Akroan War

Rakdos can be tough as they have many ways to steal and kill your guys, but you have unbelievably powerful cards in Klothys, God of Destiny, The Great Henge, Embercleave, and Esika's Chariot. All of these are extremely high impact and are just better than their cards so although the matchup should be bad in theory, if you draw decently you can still outvalue them pretty easily. Play around their steal effects when possible and make a huge board with Embercleave to finish them off.

IZZET DRAGONS

INOUT
+1 Redcap Melee-2 Jaspera Sentinel
+1 Snakeskin Veil-2 Scavenging Ooze
+2 Klothys, God of Destiny-2 Embercleave
+1 Soul Sear-1 The Akroan War
+2 Ox of Agonas

Izzet is a control deck, but instead of strong catchup cards like board wipes, they have actual pressure with their Dragons. Keep the pressure on so they don’t feel comfortable tapping out for a Dragon and them whack them with a great spell when they finally do. 

TIPS AND TRICKS

Jaspera Sentinel Art by Raoul Vitale
Jaspera Sentinel Art by Raoul Vitale
  • Curve is king. Play Kazandu Mammoth out as a land if it helps your curve although it’s tempting to hold it for the creature half.
  • Edgewall Innkeeper is amazing as a card advantage engine, but it has a lot of other utility like making mana with Jaspera Sentinel, crewing Esika's Chariot, or being a body for Embercleave cost reduction. With that, I tend to run them out more aggressively than most unless you’re in a grindy matchup.
  • Most players are deathly afraid of Edgewall Innkeeper and you can use this to your advantage. If you run out the Innkeeper and don’t play an Adventure creature, most of the time players will just kill it on sight out of habit, whether it’s correct or not. You can use this as bait for a better play the following turn.
  • Although Scavenging Ooze is a 2 drop, it works best played later in the game when it can eat something immediately when it comes in. This is doubly true against decks like Rakdos and Rogues where interacting with the graveyard is extremely relevant.
  • This may be obvious, but you don’t always have to cast the Adventure half of Adventure cards. It feels bad to lose value, but if it leads to better plays in the future, keep it in mind.
  • Esika's Chariot can copy any token you control, not just creature tokens. Copy a Treasure if you need more mana for that turn and consider copying a 1/1 token over a 2/2 if you want to insulate your ability to attack with Lovestruck Beast.
  • Embercleave is busted so don’t be afraid to throw away a creature in an attack to stick it. 
  • When The Akroan War hits chapter 3, if you have a Jaspera Sentinel or Esika's Chariot, you can hold Full Control and tap down the creature you stole to kill it that way. This comes up extremely often and is an interaction a lot of players miss.
  • Although it’s tempting to crack Fabled Passage to get in maximum damage with your Landfall creatures, you can also hold it to prevent your opponent from killing them with damage based removal if you believe they have some. 
  • As I keep saying, Curve is King. Holding Passage for Landfall creatures is smart, but if it badly disrupts your curve, it’s rarely worth it.

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is a streamer and high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, GW Company in Historic, and Temur Koma in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and teaching! Twitch Discord

1 Response

  1. WVTARHEEL says:

    I’ve uploaded your version of the deck to the client, after playing a slightly tweaked version of Levy’s Magda build for the last few weeks. I am not sure the brushfire elementals and kazandu mammoths actually improve anything. Removal of the florahedron and Magda gives you NO ramp on turn 2 at all, making your turn 3 and 4 plays a lot less dynamic. You can tap brushfire with Jaspera, but then you aren’t attacking with it which feels like quite a waste. Plus, as a tap land, the mammoth slows things down compared to dropping an untapped land, and it’s another 3 drop in a deck full of good 3/4 drops with adventure creatures, klothys, chariot, etc. The mammoths slow the deck down a lot. With Magda, when she combos with jaspera sentinel, you can have three creatures on the board at the end of turn two. You can be playing goldspan dragons on turn 3, or akroan war, an esika’s chariot, or both sides of a lovestruck beast even if you miss your third land drop. Doesn’t always happen but even when she gets stomped, the treasure token stays. Brushfire elemental does nice early damage but is just garbage in so many matchups, it’s really amazing how that card went from a Gruul staple a few months ago to trash due to the changes in the meta.

    I truly enjoy these articles, especially yours, and this is another well written, great piece that contributes a lot to the community, please don’t take this as overly negative as I am a big fan of yours. But I am not sure you have actually improved this deck, I think you slowed it down while also not adding a stronger top end. Maybe I am missing some synergies? I may continue to play it and try to work out some more synergy with it, but I’m not sure it’s better than the Levy style Magda Gruul.

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