Guildpact: Gruul Wilding Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s go time for the Gruul, the wild and savage sort-of guild in Guildpact. And what better deck to stand in my way than the cold and calculating Orzhov, as piloted by Sam?
Sam’s on the play for our opening clash, and we both spend our first turn playing land and passing. Next turn Sam continues the trend, but I’m able to deploy a Dryad Sophisticate off of mine. Back to Sam, she plays a Shrieking Grotesque, compelling me to discard a deadweight Skarrgan Skybreaker. Then I swing in for 2 with my Sophisticate for first blood, letting me trigger the bloodthirst for a Scab-Clan Mauler.
Now turn 4, Sam plugs the hole in her defense with a Souls of the Faultless, then fires back for 2 of her own in the air. I then attack in for 5 with both beaters, pumping my Mauler with a Wildsize when Sam moves to block it with her Wall. This kills the Souls, but does backlash me for 4 damage while spilling over an additional 1 to Sam thanks to the Mauler’s trample. As the dust settles, Sam’s actually up 1 life to rest at 19, while I’m down to 14. Next turn, Sam attacks again with the Grostesque, then adds a Plagued Rusalka. I counterattack with my pair, and Sam lets them pass. This puts her down to 14, and lets me play a Bloodscale Prowler with bloodthirst.
Sam counters with a turn-6 Blind Hunter, syphoning off 2 life from me. I then play a Beastmaster’s Magemark on my Prowler, swinging with the team. Sam’s compelled to trade out her Rusalka for my Sophisticate, then gang-blocks the Prowler for the other trade. That lets her haunt my Mauler with her deceased Blind Hunter. Down to 14, Sam next replaces her losses with a Belfry Spirit, while I replace mine with a Gruul Guildmage.
Now turn 8, Sam then brings out a Poisonbelly Ogre, a punishing card for those of us looking to play lots of creatures and a nice addition to her bleeder arsenal. I send in the Mauler, and Sam gang-blocks with the Ogre, Belfry Spirit, and a Bat token in case I look to pump up the Mauler with my Guildmage. I do, and they all head to the graveyard, with the haunt from Sam’s Hunter triggering on my Mauler. Sam then haunts her remaining Bat token with the dead Belfry Spirit. Back to her, she plays an Infectious Host and swings in for 1 with the Bat. I play a Bramble Elemental and pass.
Sam sends both the Bat and Host into the red zone on turn 10, and I opt to suck it up and kill the Host with my Elemental. That drops me down 2 more life to end up at 4. She then catches me dead to rights, finishing off the Elemental with an Orzhov Euthanist. Whoops. I’m doomed and I know it, even as I play a Dowsing Shaman and Scorched Rusalka.
Now turn 11, Sam sends the Bat in for 1, then adds an Ostiary Thrull. Back to me, I recover the Beastmaster’s Magemark with the Shaman, then stick it on my Guildmage. Sam taps it down once her turn rolls around, though, and swings in for 2 with the Euthanist and Bat. I block with my Rusalka, popping it to ping Sam for 1. Down to 2 life, I then untap and stick a Wurmweaver Coil on my Guildmage, leading the charge for a 12-point attack. Though Sam’s cut down to 3, it’s all I’ve got. She kills me the next turn.
This time the shoe’s on the other foot, with me laying land for my first two turns and Sam nabbing a second-turn play, a Mourning Thrull. My next turn is a blank outside for a land drop, while Sam opens her account with a 1-point swing in the air. She then doubles down with an Orzhov Guildmage and Plagued Rusalka.
Now turn 4, I play my own first creature, a Scorched Rusalka, not the most impressive play in the deck. Sam fires in for 4 once she untaps, and I go ahead and accept the trade of Rusalkas. Down to 16, I finally land a real threat- a Bramble Elemental. This time Sam sits back after playing a land, and passes without incident aside from sending in the Thrull. She’s now at 23 life.
I stick a Wurmweaver Coil onto my Elemental on turn 6, putting a pair of 1/1 Saproling tokens onto the board. I then turn the Wurmweaver sideways, carving a 10-point chunk out of Sam’s life total. At the end of the turn she triggers her Guildmage’s lifegain ability to go up to 14. She then adds an Agent of Masks, but next to my Elemental it looks almost puny. I look to close out the game when I next add a Fists of Ironwood to the Elemental, giving me a total of six Saproling tokens. With trample, the Elemental’s unstoppable. Sam shoves her poor Thrull in the path, but she knows she’s got no answer. She scoops after her next draw.
Sam leads with a Swamp for our final game, while I drop a Wild Cantor off an opening Mountain. Next turn she plays a Plains and passes. After sending in the Cantor for an early point of damage, I then pop it for mana to play a Bloodscale Prowler with bloodthirst.
Now turn 3, Sam lands an Infectious Host and passes. I swing for 4 to drop her to 15, then add a Gatherer of Graces. Next turn Sam adds a second Host and ends her turn, while I stick a Fists of Ironwood on the Gatherer. This puts me up a pair of Saprolings, and I attack in for 2.
A turn-5 Orzhova, the Church of Deals lets Sam then bring in a Poisonbelly Ogre. That’s a problem, but when I next place a Beastmaster’s Magemark on the Gatherer to maker her a 4/5, in I go again to leave Sam at 9. Down but far from out, Sam responds with a Souls of the Faultless, as if daring me to attack. With no real burn in the deck, I’m compelled to oblige since crushing things in the red zone is the only way to get around them. I attack with the Gatherer, and Sam blocks with the Wall. It dies, but not before healing her for 4 and draining me for the same, though the 1 point of spillover damage from the Gatherer puts her at 12 (the Magemark gave it +1/+1 for being blocked).
Now turn 7, Sam plays an Ostiary Thrull and passes. I swing for 4 with the Gatherer, then add a Scab-Clan Mauler with bloodthirst, losing a point of life from the Poisonbelly Ogre in the process. Sam drives the point home with an answering Blind Hunter after a 3-point attack off the Ogre, and it’s now an even game at 10 apiece. Next turn I fire back with the Mauler. Sam gang-blocks with her Hunter and an Infectious Host, but I Wildsize in response. This triggers the Host’s life loss for me, and Sam then haunts the remaining Host with the Hunter. Sam’s now down to 8 with me on 7.
Sam’s turn-9 Pillory of the Sleepless on my Gatherer takes it right out of the equation, and the +1/+1 bonus it gets for having another aura on it is exactly zero consolation. Back to me, I lose 1 life from the Pillory right off the bat, and Sam taps down my Mauler with her Ostiary Thrull. Despite taking an early beating her deck is now doing exactly what it wants to be doing. I fire in for 4 with the Prowler, and Sam trades out for her Ogre. I then replace it with an Indentured Oaf and pass. Back to Sam, she plays a Plagued Rusalka followed by a Blind Hunter, and that’s me down to 4 life. I lose one at my next upkeep, then scoop. I can’t stop damage in the air, and her deck has bled me out. I die with four cards in hand- Borborygmos, a pair of Skarrgan Skybreakers, and a Wurmweaver Coil- none of which I could cast.
Thoughts & Analysis
Not unlike Code of the Orzhov, Gruul Wilding seems to be trying to do a bit too much with its allotment of sixty cards. There are at least three different approaches the deck is trying to take, with auras.dec, bloodthirst.dec, and fatties.dec all competing for space. This would be less of an issue if there was any kind of synergy there, but on the whole all three have different wants and needs.
The auras strategy has plenty of auras to dish out, though there aren’t a lot of great targets to put them on outside of the usual suspects. Gatherer of Graces is strong, while the Saproling tokens generated by the Bramble Elemental aren’t especially useful to the deck since there’s no incentive for numbers and no Overrun-style finisher. Fatties, meanwhile, has to beg, borrow, and steal time any way it can since the deck for whatever reason is devoid of ramp options to make them feasible options. And bloodthirst? Poor bloodthirst has to do all its work the hard way, since there aren’t a lot of ways to reach across the table. The Sparkmage Apprentice and Scorched Rusalka help, but what this deck- in all its forms- really want is burn spells.
Overall, this was a rather disappointing entry into the Ravnican guild pantheon. The Gruul are supposed to be wild and ferocious, but that’s not the impression the deck gives off. Sure it has its moments- see game two’s crushing win behing a Wurmweaver Coil- but for those games, you’ll get a lot more of the others- rationing out your creatures based on what you can afford, and with few ways outside the red zone to do anything about what your opponent is up to.
Hits: In a removal-light environment, the weight of auras rises significantly and can steal games
Misses: No burn suite in a Red deck, and no ramp package in a Green deck full of fatties and combat-minded creatures makes for a very poor effort; mana curve packed with potentially crippling fat creatures which can congest your hand
OVERALL SCORE: 3.50/5.00