Duel Decks- Garruk vs Liliana: Garruk’s Deck Review (Part 2 of 2)
One thing I derive a lot of personal satisfaction from is seeing Magic players improve their game. Jimi’s been playing a lot lately, between the site’s reviews and the Precon Championships, and more and more I’ve been finding her ever the more worthy opponent. In a game where even the pros admit they make multiple mistakes in each game, I’m always looking to improve my skill as well. As I’d find, piloting Garruk would put these skills to the test. We set the table for the customary three matches, and here are our notes from the clash.
A slip back through time to Urza’s Sage awaits us on our first turn, as Jimi (on the play) leads with a Polluted Mire, while I reply with a Slippery Karst. These are some of my favourite lands in the game- simple yet elegantly designed.
That leads to creatures on the turn following. Jimi hits my hand with a Ravenous Rats (scoring a Stampeding Wildebeests), while I pull out a Wild Mongrel. Advantage to Jimi, though, when she turn-3’s a Fleshbag Marauder. Sure she loses the Rats, but there goes my Mongrel as well. All I have to show for my troubles is another Forest, and I pass turn.
Turn 4 now, and Jimi swings for 3 with the Marauder. I play a Genju of the Cedars on the Karst, and activate it to fire back for 4. The Marauder earns its keep, chipping away at me on turn 5. When I look to return the favour and push the Genju back into the fray, Jimi hits it with a Snuff Out. I replay the Genju, this time on a Forest, and pass.
Another Marauder attack on turn 6 leaves me at 11 life, and it’s followed up with a Ghost-Lit Stalker with enough land behind it to make it a real threat. Unable to let that stand, I blow a Lignify on the Stalker, then erect a Vine Trellis to obstruct Jimi’s marauding. Jimi keeps the pressure up, however, by introducing my Trellis to its Hideous End, allowing her Marauder to cross over once more. I’m now down to 6.
Looking to stabilise, I go in with the Genju (taking Jimi to 12 life), then trot out an Albino Troll to guard me. Alas, Jimi’s got an answer there, too, Enslaving the Troll and whacking me with the Marauder once again. For my part, I cast a Basking Rootwalla, then attack with the Genju. Jimi chumps with the Lignified Stalker.
Once Jimi’s turn 9 upkeep arrives, the Albino Troll dies (its Echo cost unpaid), but not before Enslave deals me 1 damage. To replace it, Jimi casts Rise from the Grave and takes my Wild Mongrel. For my part, my turn is a blank.
Jimi then summons a Keening Banshee, and I have to pump my poor Rootwalla to save it. Nevertheless, after drawing a Forest and with no answer to the Banshee, I am forced to concede.
Another tapped-land opening, with my Treetop Village being met by her Polluted Mire. I then play a turn-2 Vine Trellis for some ramp and defense. Jimi plays a Ghost-Lit Stalker followed by a Deathgreeter.
Next turn, I refill my hand with Harmonize and pass. Jimi takes advantage of my Trellis being tapped to sneak in for 2, then plays a second Ghost-Lit Stalker. I have an easy answer on the follow-up, with a turn-4 Serrated Arrows. Back to Jimi, she swings with the team and I cut one of the Stalkers down with the Arrows. Still, she’s in for 2, and I’m now at 16 life.
Undaunted, I activate my Treetop Village on turn 5 and swing, taking Jimi to 18 (she’d been at 21 thanks to the Deathgreeter), then follow up with a Wirewood Savage. Jimi’s turn 5 is a blank.
Thanks to steady land draws and the Trellis, I’m able to squeeze out a turn 6 Plated Slagwurm after swinging for 2 with the Savage. Jimi’s follow-up Vampire Bats are almost laughable, and she knows it. But it’s about to get much worse.
On turn 7, I refill again with a second Harmonize, then drop a Rancor on the Slagwurm. I swing with the team, and take Jimi down to 4 life. She chumps the Savage with her remaining Stalker, and gains a life from the Deathgreeter. Over to her, she plays Drudge Skeletons (which I immediately kill with the Arrows), and Jimi has no option but to scoop.
A fittingly epic contest, it starts normally enough with Jimi playing a Swamp and a Genju of the Fens. I drop a Forest then pass. Next turn, she trots out the Ravenous Rats (netting Invigorate). I go aggro and lead with an Albino Troll.
Once again, Jimi’s in with a turn-3 Fleshbag Marauder, killing both the Rats and the Troll. Back to me, I replace my Troll with a Wirewood Savage. Siezing the opportunity, Jimi slays the Savage with a Vicious Hunger, taking her to 22 life. Although I have little in hand to ramp to, I go ahead and drop a pair of Vine Trellises once it’s my play.
Now turn 5 with little action in the red zone, Jimi brings out the reliable Ghost-Lit Stalker, while I counter with the reliable Serrated Arrows. When Jimi swings with her critters next turn the Marauder is an easy kill with the Arrows, while I let the Stalker through. She goes ahead and kills a Trellis anyway, using a Tendrils of Corruption to do it. It’s now a 26-16 game, and my turn 6 is a blank.
Next turn, Jimi activates the Genju of the Fens and swings in for four, sending the Stalker in alongside. I burn an Arrow to kill the Stalker, and am now down to 12 life. With few options, I grimace and lay an Elephant Guide on my remaining Vine Trellis- not exactly how I envisioned playing that spell, but it’ll have to do. Back to Jimi, she lays out a Bad Moon and swings with the Genju. I block with the Trellis, and nothing happens. Again, my turn 8 is a blank.
The good news is, all Jimi has for turn 9 is a Swamp, while I decide to go “all in” on my turtling and add a Rancor to the Trellis, figuring I’ll likely get it back at some point. Needing just one more Swamp to be able to pump the Genju enough to kill my Trellis, she gets it after drawing a card for her turn 10 Phyrexian Rager. I’m praying for an Indrik Stomphowler as I draw, but only get a Slippery Karst. I cycle it… and pull the Indrik! I don’t have the land to cast him, but am content to wait a turn.
It’s now turn 11, and Jimi swings in with the Rager and the Genju. I block the Genju with my Trellis, and she taps out to kill it. The Rager gets in for 3, but now I have a 3/3 Elephant token, and the Rancor returns to hand. I play the Indrik, and her Genju aura is destroyed. I breathe a sigh of relief, but it’s hardly over. Jimi follows up with a Twisted Abomination.
Still, help is on the way. As if knowing I was on the ropes and his deck was in the spotlight, Garruk Wildspeaker shows up to
bail my ass out lend his might to the cause. I play Garruk, use his +1 to untap a couple of land, then Lignify the Abomination and put a Rancor on the Indrik.
Now turn 13, Jimi kills the Indrik with Tendrils of Corruption and Ichor Slicks the Elephant token, swinging in for 3 on Garruk. He’s now at 1 loyalty, and certainly unhappy about it. Still, I manage topdeck an answer in the form of Treetop Village, which I untap to build Garruk’s loyalty to 2 as well as provide a blocker for him. Jimi’s turn is a blank on turn 14, and she doesn’t attack. Back to me, I use Garruk to make a 3/3 Beast token and enchant it with a pair of Rancors- it’s now a 7/3 Trampler. I still have the mana for the Village, and pass.
Jimi swings in with the Rager on turn 15, and I animate the Treetop Village to block after using my last Arrow to give the Rager a -1/-1 counter. I’m unable to save the Village, however, when Jimi follws up with a Keening Banshee and finishes off the wounded Village. I swing in with my 7/3 Beast, Jimi chumps the useless Abomination and is now at 22 life. I use Garruk’s builder, and pass.
Thinking she’s got Garruk squarely, Jimi sends in the Banshee but I kill it with a Windstorm. She glares at me, plays a Wall of Bone, and passes. I go in for 7 again, and she uses the Wall to soak up some of the damage before regenerating it. She’s now at 20 life, while I’m sitting at 9. I then summon a Blastoderm, and use Garruk to create another 3/3 Beast.
Jimi’s turn 17 is a blank. I attack with my 3/3 Beast, my 7/3 Beast, and my Blastoderm, cutting Jimi down to 12 after blocking with her Wall. I then cast Beast Attack to add another 4/4 token to my forces. I then take a gamble and use Garruk’s last loyalty counter to create one more 3/3 Beast. All Jimi can offer on turn 18 is a Faerie Macabre, and the Overrun in my hand isn’t even needed to get there. Thanks to Garruk’s timely intervention, I’ve manage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Thoughts & Analysis
Samantha has a Standard deck with four Llanowar Elves, four Arbor Elves, four Leatherback Baloths, and assorted efficient beaters like Garruk’s Companion in it. As a Green beaters deck, the thing screams. Although Garruk embodies just that sort of deck (indeed, his M11 namesake critters are both present in it), his own Duel Decks offering is- pardon the pun- a beast of an entirely different stripe altogether.
Certainly it has efficient brutes- the Blastoderm, the Albino Troll, even the Plated Slagwurm are all very strong bruisers, but in attempt to perhaps give the full “Garruk Experience,” there are also too many noncreature spells to be found here. Generally in such decks, I’ll refer to them as “noncreature support,” but in Garruk’s deck they took every bit as centre a stage as the critters.
It is, perhaps, too much of a good thing. Green’s reach is largely restricted to the battlefield, and it has diminished abiltiy to influence the game outside of that (whereas as you saw, Liliana was slinging around removal like it was candy). Diluting the creature count with various tricks and toys makes for fun gameplay, but certainly at the cost of consistent power. Too many times I found myself staring at my cards in hand, wishing I had more nasties to cast.
It’s often held that Green is completely weak to flyers, as it has only a few (and dedicated) ways to deal with them. I’ve never held this to be axiomatic. Green deals with flyers just fine, but it does so through the application of overwhelming pressure, keeping those flyers grounded and held back for defense. Being creature-light takes away some of the ability for Green to exert board control.
Still, it’s a fun deck and seems reasonably balanced against its enemy, if these games seem any indication. Certainly Game Three reveals just how swingy Planeswalker cards in these decks can be. It’s not quite an automatic “you win!” card, but it’s about as close as you’re gonna get. Garruk won me that game almost singlehandedly, full stop. Still, it makes for a nice ‘random’ element in the Duel Decks.
Pros: Decent creature selection; Serrated Arrows a fantastic inclusion; Rancor one of the game’s best creature auras; good creature choices
Cons: Not enough creature choices, and too many noncreature spells; a bit heavy on the mana curve’s back-end with little in the way of ramp
FINAL GRADE: 4.0/5.0