Gatecrash: Gruul Goliaths Review (Part 2 of 2)
Primal fury time! Though Jimi’s Dimir Dementia may prefer to keep to the shadows, the Gruul have forced them out into the open for a titanic showdown. Will it boil down to who has the biggest club, or will a knife in the back settle the score?
I’m on the play in the opener, and lead with an Arbor Elf. Jimi plays a Swamp and passes. Back to me, I don’t have anything to play so I swing in for an early nick. Back to Jimi, she then deploys a Wight of Precinct Six off an Island.
Now turn 3, the Elf pays off as I add a Primal Huntbeast a turn ahead of the curve, which Jimi fails to match with a Gutter Skulk. Back to me, I swing in with the Huntbeast for 3 to put Jimi down to 16, then follow with a Zhur-Taa Swine. Jimi then lands a Dimir Keyrune, using it to fuel a Death’s Approach on my Swine. With nothing in the graveyard yet, it’s a minor irritation.
Thus on turn 5 I’m able to swing in for the full 8, compelling Jimi to chump the Swine with her Skulk. With her down to 13, I ratchet up the pressure with a Ghor-Clan Rampager, and end the turn. Back to Jimi, she summons a Dinrova Horror, forcing me to recall the Rampager to hand and discard a card (a Gruul Keyrune). It’s a setback, but not an insurmountable one. One Ground Assault later, the attack lanes are clear once more, and I attack for another 8 points of damage. Jimi offers up the Wight to the Swine this time, going down to 10. Recasting the Rampager, I then end the turn. Jimi plays a Mortus Strider, but defeat is in the air.
A 13-point attack on turn 7 seals Jimi’s fate. Though she’s able to block the worst of the bunch, a bloodrushed Rubblehulk brings the game to its inevitable conclusion.
After trading land drops for two turns, Jimi opens the game with a turn-3 Mortus Strider which is met with a Centaur Courser. She then adds a Balustrade Spy, milling me for two cards. I play a Gruul Guildgate, then attack for 3 with the Courser for the game’s first blood. I then double down with a Slaughterhorn, and pass the turn.
Now turn 5, Jimi counterattacks with her Balustrade Spy for an opening 2, then she plays a (2/2) Wight of Precinct Six and a Dimir Keyrune. I then swing for 6 with both beaters, which Jimi reduces to 3 after chump-blocking with the recursive Strider. I then bring out the Scab-Charger before passing. Next turn, Jimi plays Coerced Confession. She strikes a rich vein in the creature-heavy Gruul Goliath, seeing me mill off three creatures out of four. That puts her up three cards in hand, and makes her Wight of Precinct Six an imposing 5/5. She then summons a Duskmantle Guildmage and passes the turn. Back to me, I I attack with everything for 8. Clearly worried about trickery, Jimi blocks the Charger with her Spy, intercepts the Courser with her Wight, and takes 3 to go to 11. The Courser dies, making the Wight even stronger. Undaunted, I then summon the Ruination Wurm.
A turn-7 Death’s Approach nerfs the poor Wurm to the tune of -5/-5, after which Jimi begins the attack. The Wight and Spy turn sideways, hammering me for 8. She then adds a Mortus Strider and passes. Back to me, I attack for 5 with the Slaughterhorn and Charger. Jimi blocks the Slaughterhorn with her Strider, going down to 9. I then summon a second Ruination Wurm, looking to move towards the endgame. Unfortunately, Jimi’s holding removal- a Totally Lost– and off goes the newly-summoned Wurm back to the top of my library. She then triggers her Guildmage to mill me for 2, seeing the Wurm safely into the graveyard. In addition, the extra body in the ‘yard ratchets up the Death’s Approach on the first Wurm, killing it as well. It’s a superb play from Jimi, prying my defense wide open. With nothing available on defense, she alpha strikes me for the win.
Another quiet start sees Jimi’s turn-2 Welkin Tern as the game’s first play. Back to me, I play a Gruul Keyrune and pass, while Jimi attacks wth the Tern before adding a Gutter Skulk.
My turn 4 is a blank, leaving me open for Jimi to claw away 4 points of life after adding a Dimir Keyrune. Still, thanks to my own I’m able to accelerate into a Ruination Wurm. Jimi then adds a Vedalken Entrancer, attacking for 2 more with the Bird.
Down to 12 life, I attack on turn 6 with the Wurm, forcing Jimi to offer up the Skulk. Next up is a Gruul Ragebeast, which immediately fights Jimi’s Entrancer. She responds with a Coerced Confession, but only sees one creature milled off. The Tern comes in for 2 more, then she passes. Back to me, I swing for 13 behind both behemoths, catching Jimi full on the chin. Next up is a Duskdale Wurm, which thanks to the Ragebeast kills off Jimi’s Tern. With massive, lethal damage on the table, Jimi draws, then concedes.
Thoughts & Anaysis
There’s an iconic scene in the movie Spinal Tap- a mockumentary about a heavy metal band- where guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and documentarian Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) are discussing Nigel’s musical gear. After discussing several guitars, Nigel then directs Marty’s attention to an amp. I can do the scene no justice here, rather directing the reader to a viewing of it, but suffice it to say that the scene’s punch-line, “ours to go eleven,” was very much on my mind as I piloted Gruul Goliaths to some success against Jimi’s Dimir.
This wasn’t just because of the guild’s bloodrush mechanic, though that was certainly a part of it. It was also because of the massive beaters the deck seemed to be able to produce almost at-will, against an opponent that didn’t expose its vulnerability in the early game. The Dimir wanted a little time to put its plans into motion, and that little bit of extra time was all the Gruul needed to kick theirs into high gear. Often I found myself tempted to use a creature in its bloodrush mode for extra pressure, only to realise that the best pressure came from a demoralising string of mid-range and closing beaters. Jimi could solve one, maybe two… but how to cope with three or four? Especially when the most reliable method- blocking for trade- is almost completely denied due to the deck’s ability to turn many of its best creatures into combat tricks. Gruul Goliaths is a scary thing to block.
The ‘eleven’ aspect also refers to the creatures themselves. Thanks to the added difficulty of a second colour needed to cast a particular card, some of the gold-bordered creatures here are very aggressive for cost. While Centaur Coursers are about what you’d expect out of Green, add Red and now you’re looking at Ghor-Clan Rampagers, Ruination Wurms, and Zhur-Taa Swines. These are big, aggressively-priced creatures that are must-answer threats for any opponent, and I was able to deploy one after the other. Other Red/Green decks may go to ten, but the ability to brng a stream of massive and efficient threats on-line while having the ability to pump on the attack truly makes this deck an ‘eleven’ of the Red/Green beats archetype.
As for faults, although the removal package isn’t all that impressive, it seldom seemed needed. Instead of reacting to whatever Jimi put out, instead the games were more defined by her reacting to what I was doing- just the way the Gruul would want it. That said, a little direct damage (a la Searing Spear) would have given the deck an added layer of versatility, being able to finish off a wounded foe without ever having to engage the red zone. Additionally, it must be said that this deck is perhaps the most mana-hungry of the lot in many ways, given the high cost of its top-of-curve closers. Having 26 land in the deck is no substitute for actual ramping, though, and the deck’s ramping suite was a little suboptimal. Ranger’s Path was a superb option, moving the deck from mid-game to late-game at a stroke. The Keyrunes were acceptable, and Verdant Haven not all that enticing. This is an area the deck could use a little improvement upon in any retuning.
Hits: Everything a Red/Green player could want in a deck, from massive beatsticks to a delightfully sadistic mechanic in bloodrush; excellent rare choices
Misses: Supporting suite somewhat spotty, including ramp and burn
OVERALL SCORE: 4.40/5.00
The playtest washed away some of my doubts, above all the hungry mana curve and the relative lack of 2-3 drops required to stabilize the board position. Despite its flaws(ramp is far from optimal and some choices are questionable: TWO fire elementals and only one Rampager?), the deck offers a fast, frenetic and fun experience, just what any Gruul mage wants! Bloodrush is an interesting mechanic, a lot more subtle than it seems at first glance: any creature spell is a potential burn/removal piece, thus giving the player(and the opponent) more choices to ponder when starting the attack phase.
A final note on the Ragebeast: it’s costly and inconsistent as a one of, but when it lands…you can go up to one hundred(to quote Jay’s own quote)
I love the Ragebeast… it’s such a solid card, especially in a R/G deck that aims to be dropping huge creatures in the first place. The fight mechanic has recently been shoring up a lot of green’s weakness. My only rub with the Ragebeast is that it doesn’t have a “you may” clause – that is, if you want to play a small creature, you have to be sure it won’t just get swallowed up by an opponent’s. Then again, this is R/G, so that shouldn’t be too big of a problem.
A good battle and a good review. Disappointed in how the Diir deck did, but my experience has been that it needs some delaying tactics such as hand of binding to get going and Gruul won’t let it get started. The Gruul are interesting in that you can do either/or with the creature pump and in going against them you need something that hits their hand for cheap.
Bloodrush is quickly becoming one of my favorite mechanics in Gatecrash.
Also It seems that the dimir deck is a bit fickle in how it plays, I’m curious to see how they meddle with it at GatheringMagic.
its bring btw 😛
I really like these reviews, even if I don’t buy Precons anymore. Have you considered making a Youtube Channel to film these duels? It would be lots of fun.
What I noticed at the prerelease was similar to what happened during these playtests: many people didn’t use Bloodrush, and preferred to just get the creatures themselves out on the battlefield. It goes to show how versatile this deck is, not even needing to use it’s own mechanic to win, and still going strong. This deck will shine in constructed, where ramping can be set up easier.
Also, noticed lots of similarities to the Venser vs Koth Duel Decks (Koth’s deck, not Venser’s) where there is lots of burn that relies on masses of lands to increase the damage output.
At first I supposed the reason for the spotty removal suite was to encourage deck building in either a more midrange direction, cutting out the ramp and high-end fat, or to double down on the ramp and cut the less impressive small creatures. If that was the case, though, why would WotC choose both rares to be at the 6-7 drop range? I’d expect new players to want to play with their cool shiny rares, even if the resource base doesn’t adequately support it.
There’s one thing I don’t really understand, reading both reviews one after the other : how did the Dimir ranked higher (4.75) than the Gruul (4.40), considering that both seems to have few misses and that, reading the reports, the Dimir seems to have some real trouble in answering quick threats (like seen against both the Boros and the Gruul)? Despite being a big fan of the shadowy sewer-dweller ninjas, it seems to me that the big bad goliaths preconstructed works better…
Because they had a great time playing the Dimir Deck. During the Prerelease I also played Dimir and hardly won a match, but I still had a great time with them because it’s so much fun.
OK, haven’t seen it this way 😉 I understand how fun playing the Dimir is, considering I’ve won the In store pre-release myself playing them and have done some epic stuff with them ^^
I won my second Gatecrash prerelease event with a Gruul deck. And I loved the epic moment when an unblocked 2/2 managed to do 16 damage. Epic, simply epic. Gruul smash!
I don’t understand why all the new precons have 25-26 lands? Take 2-3 out and put in 2 ramp spells or signets. There was a time when 24 was the normal! What has happened to the world?
The new Gruul are epic (The bloodthirsty old ones were pretty good too), and as it was said above, they don’t need to use its mechanic to win, since most of the time another efficient body on the battlefield is the better option.
However, hold onto one or two bloodrush creatures and attack with a few creatures when they are low, then pump the creep they didn’t block for bazillions of damage. I have died from 14-10 life in a single blow so many times by now that i truly fear this guild.
Tip: Be careful against bloodrush, it can’t be countered because it’s an ability. Pretty bad for us blue mages, we aren’t safe even behind our counter barriers :S
This deck could have at least used Mugging, that feels sort of Gruul.
Other than that i guess Bloodrush counts as burn and removal, the deck didn’t seem to have any real problem in that area.
I love Spinal Tap.
Is it just me, or have most of the Gatecrash Intro Packs had good creature selections but spotty support?
Seems to be a theme they have gone through in gatecrash. Removal has been limited or conditional throughout with more emphasis being put on creature and creature tricks/support
Love the way you write :-). Starting a Magic deck analysis with the words “here’s an iconic scene in the movie Spinal Tap- a mockumentary about a heavy metal band-” is part of what keeps my coming to this site ^^. Keep it coming!
Now, the deck… Wow, it is really a hardcore creature selection. I’m a bit surprised how tactically the bloodrush mechanic is. When i first saw it, I thought “Okay, so this enables you to power through for some lethal strikes”. I had not considered that it would make your opponent hesitate to block. Excellent mechanic design. I really look forward to see how you’ll meddle it. Right away, I consider if you could add some Rakdos or Boros cards… On a final note, it’s fun to see how different the deck works from Mob rule, the last R/G deck we saw.
Great review, as always. You are the only blogger I can think of that would find a way to tie Spinal Tap into a Magic review and make it work. The beaters in this deck are incredible. Looks like a lot of fun to play!
This deck looks kind of fun. Nice job and great review as always!
Not surprised to see Gruul on top. Dimir got the raw end of the stick for gatecrash. Bloodrush is an awesome mechanic for the red/green beatdown decks.
To be honest, I was not as impressed with bloodrush at first sight since I had not realized many of its implications, as well as proper field test at first. But it’s an excellent alternative mana sink to play certain creatures before you can cast them. I like it in the sense that it gives creatures the option to act as a spell, flexibility and alternatives make for good cards(see the charms and guildmages for example).
Gruul goliaths did have a slight problem with the 2 and 3 drops, but after that it seems like smooth sailing. The 4 drops onward seem very impressive and efficient, and it only gets better up from there. As for 2 and three drops, I would have liked at least another copy of Skinbrand Goblin and Slaughterhorn, not only for being flavourful but also their bodies become quite relevant at the beginning, where bloodrushing them as needed can add up quickly. The deck didn’t seem to rely on bloodrush too badly, since it comes at the steep price of losing a creature instead of playing it, but the added reach and combat trickery is well worth it. Holding back to some bloodrush spells to get key swings in can add a lot of psychological factors to the game, and if the opponent doesn’t block, you can play the creature in the second main phase. Overall the deck seems like a blast to play and an excellent take on what could be a very boring and overdone archetype in magic.
This gruul deck just seemed too fast for the scheming ways of the dimir. Enjoyed the games and glad that Jimi at least got to show some dimir brilliance in the second game!
One thing I love to see is when aborted mechanics make it into the set. In RTR Rakdos had paincast, and in this set you have the ragebeast.
Have you described the rating system in another article?
No, I’ve talked about them on occasion in comments, but nothing concrete. An article is in the works, though!