Last week I wrote about my second place finish in the Arena Community Cup with Gruul Aggro. I enjoyed playing the deck, so I had been playing it on the Ranked Historic ladder. However, Gruul is by far the most popular deck. As of this writing, I’ve played against Gruul sixty times and the next closest archetypes fourteen times. In order to gain an edge in the mirror, I built a bigger, slower version of the deck, which has carried me into the Top 10 of the Mythic ladder.
In this version of the deck, I’ve cut eight two-drops, including everyone’s favorite Gruul card, Burning-Tree Emissary. In their place, we’ve got four Lovestruck Beast, two Elder Gargaroth, and two additional lands. While Burning-Tree Emissary and Robber of the Rich allowed for the deck’s most explosive starts, in the mirror, they are just Stomp targets that get outclassed by the bigger creatures that start showing up on turns three and four and probably every other turn of the game. You really don’t want to draw one of those cards later in the game either.
Lovestruck Beast has been a brick wall against opposing creature decks. The removal normally brought in by most Gruul decks after sideboarding, Lava Coil and Redcap Melee, aren’t clean answers to the 5/5 body. You haven’t lived until your opponent has chump-blocked and spewed a Redcap Melee with land sacrifice to get rid of a Lovestruck Beast! The 1/1 body from the Heart’s Desire half of the card can be a valuable blocker when on the defensive or provide an extra attacker to reduce Embercleave’s casting cost. It also is a nice way to finish off Teferi, Time Raveler that bounced another creature.
Elder Gargaroth has more of what Lovestruck Beast offers, except even bigger as a 6/6, and has vigilance, reach, and trample because why not. The green Baneslayer Angel is especially punishing against creature decks, since it gets to play both offense and defense, while generating additional cards, 3/3 friends, or lifegain in a racing situation. While Lovestruck Beast can sometimes be removed by a 4-power creature and a Domri’s Ambush, Elder Gargaroth is usually only taken down by multiple blockers, and you usually get a card draw in those situations anyway.Big Gruul provides a great way to go over the top of the traditional Gruul Aggro lists, while still being agile enough to compete against the broader metagame. While there will be a shakeup in the Historic format with next week’s B&R announcement, I would be surprised if Gruul is not still a player in the format. Give this new version of the deck a try, and I think you’ll have good results. All you’ve got to do is believe in the ‘Cleave!