Standard Gruul Adventures Guide: August 2021 Update

Magda, Brazen Outlaw Art by Slawomir Maniak
Magda, Brazen Outlaw Art by Slawomir Maniak

Hello everyone! Today I’m going to do an update on one of my favorite decks in Standard: Gruul Adventures. Before I dive in, let’s take a look at the list I’ll be referencing for August.

AFR Gruul Adventures v2 

Creatures (25)
4
Edgewall Innkeeper
4
Jaspera Sentinel
4
Magda, Brazen Outlaw
2
Rimrock Knight
4
Bonecrusher Giant
4
Lovestruck Beast
3
Goldspan Dragon
Spells (4)
4
Shatterskull Smashing
Artifacts (6)
3
Esika's Chariot
3
Embercleave
Enchantments (4)
4
Ranger Class
Lands (21)
4
Cragcrown Pathway
4
Den of the Bugbear
9
Forest
2
Lair of the Hydra
2
Mountain
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
3
Redcap Melee
3
Burning Hands
2
Roiling Vortex
2
Klothys, God of Destiny
3
The Akroan War
2
Ox of Agonas

When people think of Gruul, most people think of a fast aggro deck, which definitely isn’t untrue in this case. Starts like Jaspera Sentinel into Magda, Brazen Outlaw is absolutely nuts and you can easily drop your whole hand starting turn 3. Furthermore the deck has such a good curve it’s really easy to just roll over opponents before they can stabilize with a few creatures into an Esika's Chariot, Goldspan Dragon, or an Embercleave.

Generally speaking though, these decks are a bit fragile and can fold to a few too many interactive spells. However, this isn’t the case with this Gruul deck.

Not only can this deck be extremely fast, it can grind unbelievably well. How is this possible? Step one is the Adventures package. I really doubt that anyone who plays Magic at all hasn’t heard of the terrible reign of the Adventures cards. Lovestruck Beast and Bonecrusher Giant as they are really strong spells on both halves, allowing you to get a lot of mileage out of your cards. Furthermore, you have Edgewall Innkeeper to squeeze even more value out of these Adventure cards.

Lastly, the deck’s top end is also very powerful. Esika's Chariot is both a great proactive play, a huge threat, and really hard to favorably interact with. Goldspan Dragon has been a staple in Standard since it’s release, and it does a huge amount of work here as well by killing quick and gaining a mana advantage. Finally, you have access to a huge swath of creaturelands with Den of the Bugbear and Lair of the Hydra so even if you run out of gas early, you still have plenty to do with your mana.

Gruul is an extremely powerful strategy as it can really do it all. You want to be fast? Check. You want to play to the mid game? Check. You want to grind well? Check. This flexibility is the reason Gruul is one of my favorite decks.

MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING

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

TEMUR LUKKA

INOUT
+3 Burning Hands-2 Rimrock Knight
+3 The Akroan War-4 Ranger Class

Temur Lukka can definitely be rough as beating a resolved Koma, Cosmos Serpent is quite difficult and killing them before they can make that happen is also challenging, but this is far from unwinnable.

The Akroan War is disgusting against them as stealing a Koma is such a powerful tempo swing and if they don’t have a Brazen Borrower, they will likely lose to that play. Furthermore, we have enough removal that we can realistically kill their creatures they would look to Lukka so their plan isn’t even that effective.

NAYA WINOTA

INOUT
+3 Redcap Melee-2 Rimrock Knight
+3 The Akroan War-3 Ranger Class
-1 Embercleave

Naya is the new kid on the block and you have to highly respect it if you want to beat it. We play 3 Redcap Melee as killing Winota, Joiner of Forces and Blade Historian is the absolute highest priority we have.

Furthermore, The Akroan War is excellent against them as you can dismantle their board quickly if they can’t kill you before all 3 chapters go off.

Keeping their board clean is the most important part of this matchup as Winota can propel them so far ahead, but if you can keep their non-Human count low, your more powerful cards should take over.

SULTAI ULTIMATUM

INOUT
+2 Roiling Vortex-4 Jaspera Sentinel
+2 Klothys, God of Destiny-2 Rimrock Knight
+2 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, God of Destiny 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.

MIRROR

INOUT
+3 Redcap Melee-4 Jaspera Sentinel
+3 Burning Hands-2 Rimrock Knight
+3 The Akroan War-2 Embercleave
+2 Ox of Agonas-3 Goldspan Dragon

In the mirror you want to play as the Control deck as trying to aggro out the Lovestruck Beast and Bonecrusher Giant deck isn’t the best idea. For this we really trim on our aggressive elements and leverage all of our removal and board in the Ox of Agonas for even more longevity.

It’s not impossible to get run over in the mirror especially if they have a quick Embercleave and an unanswered Esika's Chariot, but with this much removal it’s definitely possible to effectively control the board.

MONO RED

INOUT
+3 Redcap Melee-2 Rimrock Knight
+3 The Akroan War-1 Magda, Brazen Outlaw
+2 Ox of Agonas-3 Goldspan Dragon
-2 Embercleave

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.

ROGUES

INOUT
+2 Klothys, God of Destiny-3 Goldspan Dragon
+2 Ox of Agonas-1 Embercleave

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. 

CYCLING

INOUT
+2 Redcap Melee-2 Rimrock Knight
+2 Klothys, God of Destiny-2 Ranger Class

Cycling can be difficult if they have a really fast start with Flourishing Fox or Valiant Rescuer, but this is generally a solid matchup for Gruul. Embercleave is just insanely hard for them to beat and Klothys, God of Destiny is similarly a huge pain for them. Keep the pressure on early and don’t let up.

JESKAI MUTATE

INOUT
+3 Redcap Melee-2 Rimrock Knight
+2 Klothys, God of Destiny-2 Ranger Class
-1 Goldspan Dragon

Similar to Cycling in a way, Jeskai is trying to stall long enough to win, which in this case is until they can either combo you or beat you to death with a Goldspan Dragon. The best way to prevent that is to keep the pressure on constantly and also have a Redcap Melee available if they try anything funny. If you’re unsure if you should commit more to the board or hold up removal, generally holding up removal is safer as they can really go nuts from no board state later in the game.

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.

Prioritize leveling up Ranger Class last as it’s a nice thing to do with your mana, but generally weaker than your other options.

Rimrock Knight is a Dwarf so you’ll get a Treasure if you attack with it with a Magda, Brazen Outlaw out.

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.

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 also works with Koma, Cosmos Serpent as you can use the Snake it produces to tap itself down. This comes up extremely often and is an interaction a lot of players miss.

Be really careful when equipping Embercleave to a creature land if you are planning to use Treasures. Arena will always prioritize tapping lands over treasure and tapping the land you intended to attack with is a really easy way to lose.

Similar to the Raging Ravine interaction, activating Den of the Bugbear twice will produce 2 Goblin tokens on attack. This will be pretty rare, but it’s good to know.

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

5 Responses

  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.

  2. RainbowPenguin says:

    Thanks for writing! This is another nice article, but there are a couple points that seem odd:
    1) Against sultai ultimatum, you write that it’s important to be fast, yet you’d board out jaspera sentinel while keeping the innkeepers. If you want to have the best shot at killing them as quickly as possible, wouldn’t it make more sense to do the opposite? If the issue is not having enough 1/1s for lovestruck beast, you could try rejigging the lands to have 4 lair of the hydra, so you could animate one of those as a 1/1 if needed.
    2) In the mirror, you advocate going for the control route, but also caution that it’s possible to get run over by embercleave hands. That’d suggest that it might be better to try and go the aggro route when on the play, and keep in your own embercleaves?
    Finally, a (somewhat unrelated) question: From the Rogues side, would you change anything when boarding against gruul?

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Excellent questions!

      1) So you do want to be faster, but the issue with Jaspera Sentinel is that it’s a non starter assuming Sultai kept any reasonable hand. Maybe if you’re on the play and you go Sentinel into Magda it would be good against Sultai, but it has a few problems. First, you have to tap another creature to produce the mana which may make you choose between attacking and developing. Two, it doesn’t turn on Lovestruck Beast. Three, it incentivizes you to play into wraths. When I say fast, I more mean beating them down quickly.

      2) I’m saying that you can lose to the Embercleave draws for two reasons: one because even if you board like I do its not an 100% guarantee that you can control the board effectively (but thats implicit so it’s probably a bit confusing being there), but more importantly to understand the mirror dynamic. Even if you leave one big creature alive, that can be enough for them to Cleave you to death so you should really be looking to trade cards as often as possible if you believe they stayed the course with their game plan.

      3) Assuming you’re referencing my article, the list is a bit different but the boarding still tracks. Take out the slow cards and bad interaction for creature interaction.

  3. Polhusay says:

    Great read, the equip embercleave to a manland actually cost me a game but the double den activation won me the match and now on to day 2 of the qualifier. Thanks.