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