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Author’s note: this article is written assuming you have basic knowledge of the mechanics behind the Magic: the Gathering card game and will use terms and phrases contingent on that knowledge.
back in full effect thanks to the recent launch of Gatecrash, the guilds are once again at war. Thanks to the second set in the Return to Ravnica block, all ten guilds from the MtG and Ravnica universes are back and taking center stage. As with every set released in the game, Gatecrash has launched with a variety of intro packs intended to show players the ins and outs of the new mechanics and tactics that tie in with the set. Recently, I have been given a chance to look deeper at the Gruul Goliaths intro deck thanks to our friends at Wizards of the Coast and have to agree with the Gruul mentality that bigger is definitely better!
Gruul Goliaths is all about big creatures and showing a bit of muscle. The creatures in this deck, and this guild in general, are just dying to show their strength on the field and are able to do it both in your hand and on the battlefield. The Gruul clans have a unique gameplay mechanic in the form of Bloodrush, which allows you to discard creatures in your hand for their Bloodrush cost in order to pump up the strength of an attacking creature. The Bloodrush cost is often less than the casting cost of the creature in question and because of this, you can quickly turn a two- to three-mana creature into a serious heavy hitter.
Let’s look at the roster of the deck:
|13 x Forest
||12 x Mountain
||1 x Gruul Guildgate
|1 x Arbor Elf
||2 x Centaur Courser
||2 x Disciple of the Old Ways
|1 x Duskdale Wurm
||2 x Fire Elemental
||1 x Foundry Street Denizen
|1 x Ghor-Clan Rampager
||1 x Gruul Ragebeast
||1 x Primal Huntbeast
|1 x Ripscale Predator
||1 x Rubblehawk
||2 x Ruination Wurm
|1 x Scab-Clan Charger
||1 x Skaarg Guildmage
||1 x Skinbrand Giblin
|1 x Slaughterhorn
||2 x Viashino Shanktail
||2 x Zhur-Taa Swine
|1 x Alpha Authority
||2 x Ground Assault
||2 x Gruul Keyrune
|1 x Pit Fight
||1 x Predator's Rapport
||1 x Ranger's Path
|1 x Verdant Haven
||1 x Volcanic Geyser
The strategies behind this deck are straight forward; the Gruul Goliath experience is simply about pummeling your opponent with a non-stop onslaught of damage. There are a lot of creatures here: 24 creature cards spanning 18 different creatures. This means that the attacks are frequent and varied. Plus, as I mentioned before, thanks to the Bloodrush mechanic these beasts don’t need to be on the field in order to have an impact on battle. With five of them available for two mana or less (casting cost), you can flood the field rather quickly. Then, once you have bodies on the battlefield, you can begin sacking stronger creatures for their Bloodrush cost to make those one- or two-mana creatures heavy hitters. This is definitely a deck for the offensively minded Magic player! Let’s look at some sample hands with me playing first without incorporating any mulligans (no draw on the initial play):
Game 1 Hand:
|2 x Mountain
|1 x Gruul Guildgate
|1 x Foundry Street Denizen
|1 x Scab-Clan Charger
|1 x Rubblehulk
|1 x Ruination Wurm
From the start, we have the ability to get a land and a creature on the field in the form of a Mountain and the Foundry Street Denizen. While we can’t attack at this point, we are poised to make our initial assault on turn two for a minimum of 1 damage so there is a bit of pressure on our opponent to get a blocker on the field. We already have two creatures cards in our hand with Bloodrush, so the armory is already building. Plus, the Denizen gets a buffer of +1/+0 whenever I play another red creature, so he has a bit of explosive offense even without the Bloodrush mechanic!
Draw 1: Primal Huntbeast
After drawing our first card, a Primal Huntbreast, we have to make a decision. There are two lands that could be played and I would choose to go with the Gruul Guildgate. The reasoning behind this is that the second mana would not benefit us this hand in terms of playing any cards this turn. The Guildgate enters the field tapped, so I want to go ahead and eat the tapped turn now while there isn’t a lot of pressure on me; plus, we will have the ability to tap for green mana once it becomes accessible on my next turn.
Depending on what my opponent played their first turn, I may consider attacking with the Foundry Street Denizen as long as they didn’t put ant creatures on the table; the card is only a 1/1 and I wouldn’t sacrifice it this early in the game if they had a potential blocker. Any damage that could come my way during my opponent’s next turn would simply be taken in order to keep him on the field.
Draw 2: Disciple of the Old Ways
Now things are going to get fun! After drawing the Disciple and playing of our remaining mountain, we are now stocked with a hand full of creatures and three mana after our second draw. The only creature that I could put on the field would be the Disciple of the Old Ways, which I would do without hesitation. The decision that I would have to make now would be whether or not to spend my remaining Mountain to add first strike abilities to the Disciple.
My decision to add first strike would be based solely on my opponent’s creatures on the field. If they have anything larger than a 1/1 creature on the field, I will simply hold my position for this turn and not attack. If they have yet to play anything, or have only a 1/1 creature on the field, I would activate first strike on the Disciple. If it is a 1/1 creature, I would attack wit only my Disciple to either score 2 quick damage or take out their weak blocker; however, if they don’t have any creatures on the field I am sending everything to knock three points off of their total life.
Draw 3: Duskdale Wurm
While it hurts to not draw a land on any of my first three draws, the Bloodrush mechanic shows its value here. My mana reserves have not increased at all, which means that I cannot play any additional creatures based on what is in my hand. However, I do have two cards that can be spent using this mechanic in the Rubblehulk and the Scab-Clan Charger. Given a choice between the two, I would rather have the Rubblehulk on the field in its natural form when I get the chance thanks to its varying stats (based on my land reserves). The Scab-Clan Charger is going to be spent towards activating Bloodrush since there are no cards to be played at this point.
Since we will be moving directly into the attack phase, I would send both of my creatures at my opponent and await their blocking decisions. Depending on their decisions, I would buffer one of them with the Charger to get +2/+4 and ensure both their survival and the defeat of one of their creatures. If, by some strange chance, they don’t have any blockers, I am getting an additional +2 damage to them, which will have them reeling with only 11 life after my constant attacks.
Things look pretty decent at this point. We are either in good or great position for the rest of the game at this point. the only thing that could have thrown a wrench into our gameplan would be if the opponent would have been able to get a lot creatures onto the field early. If so, we would be going toe to toe with them and be on the verge of launching a major assault should we get one of the behemoths in our hand on the battlefield. If not, we will have had our way with their life points and reduced it to almost half within three turns. Either way, I would feel confident going forward.
Game 2 Hand:
|2 x Mountain
|1 x Forest
|1 x Gruul Guildgate
|1 x Foundry Street Denizen
|1 x Ground Assault
|1 x Ripscale Predator
Things look a little familiar as we start our second game. Just like before, we will start off by playing a Mountain and getting our Foundry Street Denizen onto the battlefield early on. Just like last time, we’re sitting with our finger on the trigger at the end of our first turn and there is a little bit of pressure on the opponent before they even draw their first card.
Draw 1: Primal Huntbeast
Just like last time, my decision here is based on the play of my opponent. If they put a creature on the field, I will play a Forest and use my Ground Assault to quickly deplete their defenses. Most people would likely hold onto this card for later in the game, but I want to make a statement early on that I am here to do some damage. This would open them up for a quick attack from my Denizen for a quick point of damage. If they don’t have a creature on the field, I would go with the Gruul Guildgate for the same reason that I did last game. Playing it in this situation would give me the ability to sit through the card’s tapped phase without feeling the effect. For the purpose of the rest of this example, we are going to go with this scenario.
Draw 2: Ghor-Clan Rampager
We are now armed with a big beast that can play a role both on the field and in my hand. Right off, we’ll play the Mountain which gives us three mana to play with. The aggreesive part of me wants to save the Rampager for my next turn, when I will actually be able to get him on the field rather than sacrificing him for his Bloodrush cost to pump up my Denizen. Since I didn’t use it last hand although I had the option (going with my set scenario here), I would use my Ground Assault sorcery to take down any defenses they may have mounted on the field since my last turn. This is all meant to set me up for my next turn.
Draw 3: Skinbrand Goblin
This is what I have been waiting for! After playing the Forest in my hand, I can now place a heavy piece of armory on the field in the form of my Ghor-Clan Rampager. This 4/4 creature with Trample may not be able to attack this turn, but he is a fierce blocker who can bring some major offense to the table my next turn. Plus, playing him will buffer my Foundry Street Denizen to a +2/+1 for the remainder of this turn.
Things are definitely looking good a this point. while I may not have delivered a lot of damage at this point, I am poised to unleash hell in the next couple of turns. I have the Ghor-Clan Rampager ready to begin swinging next turn which will either do some major damage or take down some defensive creatures as well as the ability to put my 3/3 Primal Huntbeast on the field next turn. I also have the option of either playing my Skinbrand Goblin as a creature which will put another creature on the field and buffer my Foundry Street Denizen for a turn or cash it in for its Bloodrush cost to give something a +2/+1 bonus. Since my Rampager has Trample, it would likely receive the most benefit from this buffer since its damage would flow over to the player.
As with all intro decks, Gruul Goliaths is simply meant as a starting point. Players are encouraged to find cards to enhance the deck and tailor it to your own style(s). The obvious additions are to increase the amount of Pit Fight, Gruul Guildate and Ground Assault cards in your deck; both of these cards work especially well in this deck and it is in your best interest to add mroe to your armory. In terms of original additions, I added the following from the two booster packs that came included with the deck:
: Adding to the cheap creature of the deck is this interesting one-mana creature that takes advantage of the set’s Evolve mechanic. This is a one-mana, 1/1 creature that will grow in power as you build your army on the battlefield. Any time that you play a creature that is stronger in either the power or toughness rating than the Experiment One, you add a +1/+1 counter to it. Considering the size of some of the creatures in this deck, this small creature could quickly become a monster. I would actually like to get a few more of these for this deck in addition to the one I got in the boosters.
: This is a very cheap Enchantment that can help add some major offensive power to an already powerful deck. For only two-mana you can get both a +3/+0 buffer and force your opponent to sack two creatures in blocking the enchanted creature. Since most of your creatures are likely strong anyway, thanks to either their base stats of the Bloodrush mechanic, this card will have you both inflicting major damage early on and quickly depleting their creature ranks.
The Gruul Goliaths deck is a lot of fun and reminds me of what got me hooked on Magic the Gathering in the first place. This deck is hard hitting and heavily, offensive-minded. There is a lot of fun to be had with this deck, especially after you do some fine tuning with a couple of additions. Definitely consider picking this one up!