Standard Gruul Aggro Deck Guide: The Current Best Deck of Standard

Reckless Stormseeker Art by Manuel Castañón
Reckless Stormseeker Art by Manuel Castañón

Hello everyone! Today I’m going over what I think is the best/strongest deck in Standard right now: Gruul Aggro. Gruul got a really bad rap in 2022 as the mana was a bit awkward, but I contended that it had the highest card quality in the format. Between Esika’s Chariot and Goldspan Dragon, it was hard to argue that any other deck played more of the top cards.

gruul aggro
51.4% global win rate
1.82% metagame share
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best against
vs izzet dragons ️
64.3% win rate
14 tracked matches
vs temur midrange
60.0% win rate
5 tracked matches
vs selesnya ramp
57.1% win rate
7 tracked matches
worst against
vs mono-green aggro
38.5% win rate
39 tracked matches
vs mono-white aggro
20.0% win rate
5 tracked matches
vs mono-black control
14.3% win rate
7 tracked matches

I will admit though, the deck certainly wasn’t without faults. The mana was definitely an issue and it lacked another solid 3 and 4 drop beyond Kazandu Mammoth and Esika’s Chariot respectively. Since we already knew that there was going to be a Gruul dual, the bar was pretty low as we just needed a solid 3 and 4 in Gruul colors, and it’s safe to say we got that. Both Reckless Stormseeker and Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope seemed like easy inclusions to the deck and I went to creating the first iteration of Gruul.

Innistrad Gruul Aggro
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Aggro
best of 3
10 mythic
33 rare
4 uncommon
13 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (1)
Creatures (21)
2
Kazandu Mammoth
$1.38
1
Primal Adversary
$11.99
4
Goldspan Dragon
$191.96
Instants (4)
4
Play with Fire
$1.96
Sorceries (4)
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (4)
4
Ranger Class
$67.96
Lands (22)
5
Forest
$1.25
4
Mountain
$1.96
4
Rockfall Vale
$31.96
60 Cards
$507.34
15 Cards
$80.85

I based this list mostly off of my 2022 iteration, but the logic seemed solid without playing any of the cards. I wanted a good curve, especially in the 2 drop area, a smidge of early interaction with 4 Play with Fire, and plenty of hard hitting late game. Since it was just a smattering of good cards, the deck unsurprisingly performed well for me. It was fast and extremely brutal, doubly so for any opponent that ever stumbled. Furthermore, the new cards in the deck all, at a minimum, played out pretty well. Reckless Stormseeker was performing excellently as it was such a punishing card and Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope, although worse than I thought she would be, still quite powerful.

The hardest part of the deck was figuring out the sideboard plan as we didn’t have access to many threats we wanted to sideboard. With a bunch of games under my belt, I figured there were small main deck and sideboard changes I wanted to implement. Let’s see where I’m currently at.

Gruul Aggro
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Aggro
best of 3
12 mythic
31 rare
4 uncommon
13 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (1)
Creatures (25)
2
Kazandu Mammoth
$1.38
1
Primal Adversary
$11.99
2
Moonveil Regent
$27.98
4
Goldspan Dragon
$191.96
Sorceries (4)
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (4)
4
Ranger Class
$67.96
Lands (22)
5
Forest
$1.25
4
Mountain
$1.96
4
Rockfall Vale
$31.96
60 Cards
$537.34
15 Cards
$72.91

The core has stayed the same, but there are 2 obvious changes to the main board. First, I realized through playing it that although Gruul is in theory an aggro deck, it’s best games where when it operated more like a midrange deck. Dragonkin Berserker has been a pet card of mine and it did perform reasonably, but when you can just play a Tangled Florahedron and ramp into an Esika’s Chariot on turn 3 instead, it’s hard to justify playing a 2/2. With that change, the deck wanted a few more 4 drops and I’m currently opting for Moonveil Regent which has played out quite well so far.

The second change was the exclusion of the Play with Fire which is easier to explain. There aren’t many small creature decks in the format and it doesn’t kill the creatures I really want it to kill. I’ve seen other Gruul lists play some Dragon’s Fire or Thundering Rebuke main which seems reasonable, but I don’t love playing 2 mana removal main board. I could definitely see playing a few copies of Thundering Rebuke if the popularity of Smoldering Egg increases, but I like the maximum threat density of my build.

For the sideboard, I had an initial plan of transforming into a midrange deck in the post board against the mirror where I max out on removal and play more Arlinn and a few copies of Consuming Blob which seemed like a great hedge. It turned out that although that plan works in theory (and it was decent in practice) both Arlinn and Consuming Blob were significantly worse in creature mirrors than I anticipated. I was specifically disappointed by Consuming Blob as it was challenging to get it to a 4/5 which is where it could be a really effective blocker. With that, I needed to change the plan, but I will note that I think Consuming Blob is going to be a great card in some deck that can get more permanent types in the yard. So, I just went a bit harder on interaction and called it a day, a plan that’s been effective.

NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS / POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS

Meteor Swarm Art by Olivier Bernard
Meteor Swarm Art by Olivier Bernard

Flameskull

If you wanted more anti-control measures, this could be an interesting board option. It’s really hard to keep down forever and you can hypothetically cast something better instead if you wanted to.

Zariel, Archduke of Avernus

You may think I’m memeing, but I think this card is actually pretty reasonable. It’s worse than the other 4 drops, but if you wanted to play fewer Arlinn, you could do worse than this.

Song-Mad Treachery

It’s really hard to say right now if playing a 1 of in the main deck is just the strictly correct option. If the meta continues towards the creature deck trend, I will definitely replace a Mountain with this.

Meteor Swarm

This isn’t something you’d typically see in Gruul, but it is a clean answer to Wren and Seven if they minus. In most scenarios though, you could kill the Wrenn and Seven token, something else, then attack down Wren which could be a huge blowout!

Lotus Cobra

In theory you would want Lotus Cobra over Tangled Florahedron as you can attack with Cobra and produce mana, but I found it to be less consistent over all. I’d rather guarantee the mana every time rather than getting in 2 damage every now and again.

Masked Vandal

I’m unsure if this is better than Outland Liberator at this point in the meta. Outland Liberator will always nab an artifact or enchantment and that guarantee likely makes it better, but Masked Vandal does do it for free so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Gnarled Professor

I like Gnarls Barkley, but it’s not worth losing sideboard slots when we already have other great 4 drops.

Wrenn and Seven

Right now there seems to be a great divide in Gruul players between Goldspan Dragon and Wrenn and Seven. Goldspan is the traditional option, but Wrenn is disgusting with Chariot. Obviously you know where I stand, but why? Although I think Wrenn has a higher ceiling than Goldspan, it also has a lower floor. If you don’t have Esika’s Chariot, you’re getting a walker that makes a 4/4-6/6 on average which then finds lands, which is decent. Furthermore, if you get to attack uninhibited with an Esika’s Chariot, it seems super unlikely you’re losing that game anyway. However, Goldspan attacks the turn it comes in, produces a lot of mana, and can’t get killed without netting some sort of value. In specifically rhe mirror match, I can see Wrenn being better as Goldspan can be more easily blanked, but in general I think Goldspan is higher upside. Al that said, there’s also a decent chance that I’m wrong and Wrenn is the correct choice, adjust accordingly.

Brushfire Elemental

Brushfire is cool, but much worse than your other options now that Fabled Passage has rotated.

Tovolar, Dire Overlord

Although we don’t have an excess of Wolves or Werewolves, Tovolar is still a 3/3 that gives some portion of the deck Curiosity. I’m not sure where I’d find the room, but it is definitely a card worth considering, doubly so if the deck moves to play a few more Werewolves or Wolves naturally.

MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING

Outland Liberator Art by Randy Vargas
Outland Liberator Art by Randy Vargas

MIRROR

INOUT
+1 Outland Liberator-1 Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope
+4 Burning Hands-4 Jaspera Sentinel
+1 Thundering Rebuke-2 Magda, Brazen Outlaw (-4 if bringing in Tangletrap)
+2 Heated Debate-1 Primal Adversary
+2 Tangletrap (if you see Goldspan Dragon)

This boarding may seem awkward, but you really want to max out on removal as a lot of your creatures are very low impact. You really want to functino as a midrange deck that kills important things early and then plays bombs late. To that end, there is consideration to board in Inferno of the Star Mounts as well since that’s functionally unkillable for Gruul. This boarding can also be effective against Monogreen and Werewolves as well.

IZZET DRAGONS

INOUT
+2 Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope-4 Jaspera Sentinel
+1 Inferno of the Star Mounts-2 Kazandu Mammoth
+2 Snakeskin Veil-1 Primal Adversary
+2 Tangletrap-2 Moonveil Regent
+2 Heated Debate

The game plan here is trying to minimize the effectiveness of their removal as much as possible. All the creatures boarded out get killed by their removal pretty easily while being relatively expensive (with the exception of Sentinel which is too low impact) so we want to bring in more effective threats and removal or their Dragons. Although this game can really extend on, realistically they only have so many relevant threats so grinding them down is a very reasonable game plan.

ORZHOV MIDRANGE

INOUT
+2 Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope-4 Jaspera Sentinel
+2 Snakeskin Veil

They don’t have much removal so you want to force them to use it in scenarios where they don’t really want to. Your creatures are larger than theirs so you can put them in awkward spots with attacks and then follow up with a sticky threat that doesn’t get blown out by a board wipe. This matchup can definitely be challenging, but it’s far from unwinnable.

SELESNYA LANDFALL

INOUT
+1 Outland Liberator-1 Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope
+4 Burning Hands-4 Jaspera Sentinel
+1 Thundering Rebuke-4 Magda, Brazen Outlaw
+2 Heated Debate
+1 Inferno of the Star Mounts

This is a rough matchup as they can go a lot bigger than you making both your aggressive and grindy plans not optimal. My best advice is to go with the grindy plan regardless as it seems extremely unlikely you can get under them effectively when any reasonable curve they have is going to roadblock your aggression really well. You could transition back into a fast deck if you’re on the play, but sometimes they really only have one threat that theyre looking to win with and this plan better answers that.

DIMIR CONTROL

INOUT
+2 Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope-4 Jaspera Sentinel
+2 Snakeskin Veil

Same board plan as Orzhov and same game plan more or less. Gruul is generally really good against these decks as you have so many back breaking threats that can singlehandedly kill if left unanswered and you can just keep chipping away with your early threats as well. The general way to play against this matchup is deploy enough threats where they can’tcan’t just sit back on single target removal and draw spells, force them to wipe the board, then reolve a high impact card like Arlinn, Chariot, Goldspan Dragon, etc.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Primal Adversary Art by Ilse Gort
Primal Adversary Art by Ilse Gort

99% of the time you’re going to want to minus Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope on her front side to get the Wolves, but you can play around a Goldspan Dragon attack by using the +1 so keep that in mind.

Generally you want to play Tangled Florahedron as a creature to ramp,, but if you need the land or it makes your curve much better, definitely jam it as a land.

Try to save your Treasure tokens when you can to activate Magda’s ability, you can get to 5 Treasures more often than you’d think. However, I’ll pretty much never give up on a double spell turn just to save a Treasure.

Playing out Reckless Stormseeker as early as possible can start the day/night cycle which can make your additional Stormseekers and Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope much better later in the game if it happens to be night.

I try to hold Primal Adversary as long as possible since the more it’s kicked, the more brutal it is. Playing it on 3 or even 5 is fine, but far from insane, however once you get to 7+ then you border broken territory.

If you’re sandbagging lands and spells, try not to hold lands in your hand because of Moonveil Regent. You may have a turn where you can deploy Regent and immediately cast another spell to activate it’s ability and losing a land for no reason is sad.

Unlike other decks, activating creature lands before deploying threats can be fine if it increases your clock substantially or you’re playing around something on their turn.

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.

7 Responses

  1. BermyBerry says:

    Thoughts on Saryth, the Viper’s Fang? I slot one in for a Regent. Giving DT to my attackers has been productive, while Hexproof has helped too

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Definitely interesting. Have no idea how good it is to be honest. I’m a bit skeptical but it does have a lot of good text on it so it’s probably reasonable.

  2. Niksodus says:

    You remove Jaspera Sentinel in every matchup. Have you tested the main deck without it?

    • DoggertQBones says:

      That’s a great question that has a really long answer but I’ll try to shorten it. The idea is that in game ones for aggro decks, the best course of action is to be as proactive as possible which Jaspera helps with as the best defense is a good offense. Once you reach the post board you can swap them out as being aggressive is likely to not be as effective since 99% of our opponents are going to board in such a way to stymie our aggression rather than them becoming more proactive themselves so we want to cut cards that are great if we only care about going fast.

  3. AbieKS says:

    Really enjoying playing this deck! Any suggestions for the white weenie matchup? I’ve got a couple Crush The Weak that I board in but I kept getting womped pretty good!