Last week we took a look at Strixhaven’s influence on Historic, including the creation of new decks, reprinting of strong cards from previous iterations, and the strengthening of other cards. Some decks didn’t need a lot of additions, such as the subject of today’s article and one of the most played decks of the ladder: Gruul Aggro.
GRUUL AGGRO – DECKLIST
The linear, easy-to-read list plays mostly creatures and 4 Embecleave, probably the strongest equipment ever printed for aggro decks. The game plan is characteristic of the archetype: make creatures put constant pressure on your opponent and win as quickly as possible.
The deck’s simplicity makes it suitable for everyone, from beginners to the format to experienced players who want to play the strongest aggro.
The deck’s one-drop is Pelt Collector, a staple card for green-based aggro decks since its appearance in Guilds of Ravnica. It’s a creature that can quickly put pressure and works perfectly with Burning Tree Emissary. Imagine making a turn one Pelt Collector and turn two Emissary into Voltaic Brawler where you have a 3/3, a 2/2 and a 3/2 on turn two. This wins the game in most cases. Then you have the iconic Llanowar Elf, one of the strongest mana dorks, that works great in the opening hand and ushers in ample choice during turn two.
Let’s move on to two-drops where you find the most important card in the deck, Burning Tree Emissary. This is an incredibly powerful card that was the main reason the Naya Humans deck was effective. This two-drop is needed when opening a hand. You may prefer to open a hand without a one-drop, but this card should always be present.
Scavenging Ooze is a versatile card that is strong in most match-ups. It’s useful against control decks like WUR and has the ability to respond to cards like Mizzix’s Mastery or Torrential Gearhulk. It can play against decks like Sacrifice because you can exile Cauldron Familiar or Woe Strider. This is useful against Lurrus Deck and other aggro decks because it recovers lives and has a good blocker on the board.
Concluding two-drops, there is not much to say about Voltaic Brawler, which will be a 4/3 trample for two attacks.
On to three-way drops, the Ahn-Crop Crasher is a must for aggressive decks. Its 3/2 haste and ability to prevent a creature from blocking makes it essential in match-ups that use blocks, such as Aura.
The Bonecrusher Giant is now a permanent MVP of red decks due to its removal and creature functions. You will often find yourself playing it in turn three as a 4/3 to put pressure on your opponent. Often it will come in handy to deal 2 damage, maybe in a mirror where you kill your opponent’s one-drop, and it will force your opponent to play around it if they’re on Aura. It’s one of the cards to always have in your 75.
Kazandu Mammoth is an important three-drop because you may play it as a land since you may not make the third/fourth land when playing only 21.
Gruul Spellbreaker ends the turn on a high note. It’s an interesting card that will push damage and provide a good 4/4 blocker with 3 mana in match-ups where board control is needed.
Embercleave is probably the strongest equipment ever printed for an aggro deck. It makes any attack a nightmare for the opponent and playing around it is not easy.
GRUUL AGGRO – SIDEBOARD
Now let’s analyze how the deck performs against the tiers most present in the metagame and how to side in and out.
There aren’t combo answers or a way to slow the game down, this match-up is a race against time, and you have to put pressure to win as fast as possible.
Scavenging Ooze is useless in this match-up. Collected Company gives you two creatures with haste to win the game, making it the better choice for turn four.
The eternal struggle between aggro and control is reflected in this match-up. You have to use your resources and play around your opponent’s Wraths and decrease the value they make out of their cards.
Collected Company makes a post-Wrath to help you restart. Casting one at the end of our Opponent’s turn forces they to counter it and that allows us to play our turn more quietly, perhaps resolving a Chandra that could be decisive.
This difficult management match-up will be board-based and resolved by Embercleave. Your goal will be building a good board making appropriate trades.
If the main deck situation is even, then the post-side improves due to Collected Company’s value.
The match-up is terrible pre-sideboard. You don’t have interaction with your opponent who can make a giant creature using Auras, has a high card draw, and will gain life. Excepting the chance that luck is on your side, you can’t do much.
An additional 4 Magma Spray post-side will hopefully kill one Sram and the Spiritdancer and make life less difficult. However, despite this, the match-up is still bad post-side.
The match-up is balanced in the first game. Your opponent can answer your small creatures and won’t have big problems on the board. Despite bigger threats from your opponent, like Crackling Drake, your situation improves as the game progresses because your opponent must play around the fatal Embercleave.
The situation gets worse post-side. Your opponent has useful cards like Anger of the Gods and Abrade, and you gain Magma Spray and Cage, which are not bad but not good enough to win the game.
This deck is a great compromise between ease of play and performance. Anyone can play it without too many problems, and after a couple of games the plays will become easier. As such, I recommend this deck!