Last updated on April 6, 2021
Brushfire Elemental | Illustration by Campbell White
This deck is a piece of aggro art. Sitting at just over 58% win rate tested over 10,000 games, this is the best deck in BO3 Standard as of right now. Just a few weeks ago, you might have seen me mention that Gruul wasn’t doing so well because of its mana base. I took a good look at the current metagame and tested various builds I could find online. And all I can say is that I take my words back on the statement that Gruul isn’t Standard viable.
Evolving Wilds and Fabled Passage not only fix your mana almost perfectly, since we run mostly 2- and 3-drops, but having a land coming into play tapped is much less of an issue. These fetch lands trigger some powerful landfall effects, which we’ll get into shortly.
I’ve scoured the web and present to you what may very well be one of the best Standard Gruul lists I’ve come across. If you’re looking for something to grind in the Mythic ladder with or simply to reach Mythic in the first place, Gruul Adventure has your back.
Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate | Illustration by Lius Lasahido
As always in very Gruul fashion, the strategy revolves around curving into a powerful Embercleave. However, in contrast to a traditional Gruul aggro list, we have mostly 2- and 3-mana cost creatures. This allows some flexibility with lands coming into play tapped and early mana fixing by cracking a fetch on turn 1.
This deck, however, also uses cards like The Great Henge and Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate. As I stated in my mono green deck guide, I’m not a massive fan of having Vivien in the mainboard because Ugin, the Spirit Dragon exists in the meta. Usually. Thanks to the strong curve, though, it actually works out nicely most of the time.
Let’s have a look at what each mana slot has in store for you.
The 1-drop slots in this deck are relatively light. We have Edgewall Innkeeper that functions as a draw engine combined with our adventure spells. Our second “1-drop” is Lovestruck Beast, or rather the adventure side of it.
Unlike most Gruul decks that rely on a good 1-drop, the main power goes to the 2- and 3-drops, so let’s get into those right away!
Brushfire Elemental is a fantastic card. Its ability to get +2/+2 for each land entering the battlefield is incredible. Our fetches tend to be slow, especially Evolving Wilds, but playing one on turn 3 and cracking it right away can buff this elemental into a hasty 5/5. If you happened to already have a second one on the field from the previous turn, you’re attacking for 10 damage on turn 3.
Scavenging Ooze is a format staple at this point. With all those pesky mill and graveyard decks around, being able to eat up all those juicy creatures to gain +1/+1 counters is super valuable. I think it’s one of the main reasons this deck was able to rise to the tier 1 slot.
Lovestruck Beast is an excellent 3-drop that doubles up as a 1-drop thanks to its built-in adventure.
Both the Mammoth and Lovestruck Beast are at 5 power under normal circumstances on turn 4. These creatures reduce the mana cost of The Great Henge to just 4 mana. If you cast Embercleave on curve, they deal 12 or even 16 damage with the Mammoth if you cracked a Fabled Passage.
The last 3-drop we run is Bonecrusher Giant. A solid 4/3 creature with a built-in Shock effect as an adventure. The adventure side costs 2 mana compared to a 1-mana Shock, but it helps to make sure damage can’t be prevented. This is great in response to a creature attempting to get protection during a block because the damage will go through anyway.
The End of the Curve
I’ve spoiled this quite a bit already by mentioning both Embercleave and The Great Henge, but both of these are excellent turn 4 plays. Embercleave gives your creature +1/+1, double strike, and trample. At the same time, the Henge lets you play the long game by adding a +1/+1 counter to each non-token creature entering the battlefield and allowing you to draw a card.
Since the Henge has such a high CMC, it becomes difficult for Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to remove with its minus ability. Once this is on the field, you can go wide relatively quickly thanks to the nonstop card draw on top of mana generation. This card is also handy against mono red because of the lifegain whenever you tap it. So if you’re ever in danger of losing, just play defensively and heal yourself for a few turns.
Finally, we have Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate. I mentioned earlier I’m not a huge fan of having this in the mainboard, but for Gruul it just seems to fit. Having this available as a means of getting back into the game after a board wipe is great thanks to Vivien’s minus two ability. You can also create a 3/3 creature with a keyword of your choice as this card comes down, so it’s able to protect itself quite well.
The deck runs a decent amount of removal in the form of Bonecrusher Giant, Scorching Dragonfire, and Shatterskull Smashing. While the Shatterskull is more of a utility land with a removal spell attached to it, it can be useful to remove two of your opponent’s creatures when you’re flooding.
The primary removal slot goes to Scorching Dragonfire. Not only does it deal three damage, but if the creature dies this turn, it gets exiled. This is perfect for getting cards like Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger exiled early on to save you the headache. You simply cast this spell on a hand-casted Kroxa. Since it’ll sacrifice itself, it gets exiled by dying in the turn Dragonfire hits it.
Bonecrusher Giant repeatedly proves itself to be an excellent staple for red-aligned decks. Being able to double up as removal and a strong creature is perfect.
Lands and Tech Cards
Cragcrown Pathway is a very important card here because it helps you mana fix for either double red or double green. Always play this one with care to make sure you don’t miss casting Embercleave or The Great Henge on turn 4.
Other than lands, the deck runs a single copy of The Akroan War, which can help win games by stealing a big creature from your opponent’s side of the field.
Mulliganing goes as follows:
- Make sure you have either a 1- or 2-drop in hand (Lovestruck Beast counts as a 1-drop);
- Make sure you have either Lovestruck Beast or Kazandu Mammoth;
- Have either Embercleave or The Great Henge;
- Have mana fixing available for whichever cards from the above rules, either double green or double red.
Keep in mind that fetch lands and Cragcrown Pathway help you fix whichever color you’re missing.
The sideboard has some useful tools. Many of them are aimed at strengthening our primary strategy.
Klothys of All Trades
Klothys, God of Destiny is a card that’s great against many decks. Against mono red, it provides lifegain; it provides ramp against control decks; against graveyard decks, it offers a way to keep their critical pieces exiled. It’s just an all-around solid card.
Having one of these cards in the mainboard is usually enough. Still, a second copy for consistency against the cleave decks is useful.
Questing Beast is one of the cards that I really wanted in the mainboard. Still, with Kazandu Mammoth and Brushfire Elemental being able to close the game as early as turn 4, it often remains uncast when it’s included. The Beast is great at hunting planeswalkers, so I always make sure to side it against those matchups.
Discard and Mill Matchups
Ox of Agonas is a card many Gruul players are currently running in the mainboard because of all the discard and mill decks around. If you’re facing a tremendous amount of these in your meta, you can always go ahead and put three copies in the mainboard instead of Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate, The Akroan War, and The Great Henge.
Mono White and Aggro Matchups
Tips and Tricks
One of the tricks that I already mentioned is to use your fetch lands as a means of triggering landfall for Brushfire Elemental and Kazandu Mammoth. However, there are situations where I go as far as leaving several fetches on the field uncracked so that I can crack them all at once during a big Embercleave turn.
Remember that cracking one Fabled Passage puts your Mammoth at 7 power, so keeping a fetchland uncracked would allow it to deal 20 damage with an Embercleave. This’ll rarely happen but you can sometimes one-shot your opponent when it does.
If you’re facing an opponent that runs Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, make sure to keep your Questing Beast in hand as long as possible. Casting this creature after they used a minus X ability is usually enough to both deal damage to your opponent and destroy Ugin with the Beast’s secondary effect.
One card I’m considering adding to this deck is Grafdigger’s Cage. I see a lot of Rakdos decks around, and I feel like the Scorching Dragonfire and Klothys, God of Destiny slots may not be enough to keep them under control.
I’d likely take out copies of Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate and The Akroan War in favor of Grafdigger’s Cage, but the amount of Rakdos decks in the current metagame is declining. If they go up again, keep this in mind to snatch yourself a few copies of this artifact and put it in the sideboard.
Off on an Adventure
Lovestruck Beast | Illustration by Kev Walker
Gruul Adventure is a great deck. It’s fast, it’s strong, and it’s pretty resilient moving into the late game. Cards like The Great Henge easily facilitate comebacks thanks to the drawing power. It shines best in BO3 thanks to its solid sideboard but also performs well in BO1.
The deck manages to hard counter most of the top tier decks in the format. Still, because of its popularity, you’re likely to encounter quite a few mirror matchups. At this point in time, this deck represents over 21% of the BO3 metagame.
I’ve been having an absolute blast grinding my way to the top 1200 in Mythic the past days. I just love the consistency Gruul Adventures provides time and time again. There will be games you lose by not hitting the fourth land, but there will be plenty of games where you win on turn 4 without your opponent being able to interact with your board state whatsoever. A pure joy to play, and I hope you have as much fun with it as I have.
If you’re looking for a more ramp-focused version that plays a lot of these same cards, be sure to check out our guide on Temur Ramp with Obosh as the companion.
Don’t forget to pop a comment down there if you’ve got a question or suggestion, or head over to our Discord for a more in-depth conversation. With that said, see you all soon with a new top tier Historic deck guide!
PS: Have you tried our MTGA deck tracker Arena Tutor yet? You can use it to keep track of all your decks and stats in one beautiful looking app.