Hello everyone! My name is Connor, aka Stratocaster90, and I'll be diving into a new Deck Tech series, exploring the Historic Format in Magic Arena. With the releases of the Historic Anthology sets and Jumpstart on Magic Arena, Historic has blossomed into one of the most enjoyable formats for both play and innovation.
Prior to the most recent Banned & Restricted announcement, Gruul was a top performer in Historic. The deck took a hit when Burning-Tree Emissary was suspended in the format, which may have slightly slowed the deck down, but the deck still performs well. While chaining several two-drop spells off of Burning-Tree Emissary in the same turn may no longer be an option, the deck is still capable of swinging fast or producing pumped up creatures which remains viable.
You can find the visual decklist on Aetherhub at: https://aetherhub.com/Deck/historic-gruul
The Main Deck
Half of this deck's creatures have haste or may enter the battlefield with haste thanks to the Riot ability, so needless to say it is an aggressive deck to start. Every time I go into a match with this deck my main goal is to end Game 1 as fast as possible before the opponent can find effective blockers and removal spells. The majority of decks I currently play against on the Ranked Match ladder are Aggro or Control, with few mid-range decks in between. Because of this, most matches are either an Aggro vs. Aggro race to the finish, or an Aggro race to beat Control before they can draw enough cards to find their board wipes and other key cards to control the board.
Unlike other aggressive Red decks that usually have a variety of burn spells like Shock or Skewer the Critics to finish off an opponent's life total with direct damage, this deck plays very few non-creature spells and therefore relies almost completely on its creatures to smash through any opposing defense. Knowing when to prioritize either haste or additional +1/+1 counters is key to finding success with this deck. In an ideal scenario the deck is able to take advantage of both haste and +1/+1 counters by allowing Pelt Collector to grow exponentially each turn when a slightly larger creature with haste enters the battlefield, overwhelming the opponent with a variety of threats. If the swarm of heavy hitting creatures can't end the game, Stomp or Embercleave can sneak in the last points of lethal damage.
Since the B&R announcement, two of the most dominant decks have been Red Goblins and Bant Ramp. Without being able to rush out more creatures from Burning-Tree Emissary I shifted focus of the deck more towards generating bigger creatures. Grumgully, the Generous may not look like much, but in a deck devoid of Humans the 3/3 provides occasionally crucial extra power and toughness for every creature that follows. Scavenging Ooze has also been a great addition to the deck, functioning as a threat that continues to grow, a source of life-gain against other aggro decks, and as an answer to cards that care about graveyards. Looking at you Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. While the new additions are nice, the two most important cards in this deck remain Questing Beast and Gallia of the Endless Dance. Questing Beast truly does it all. It can attack the turn it comes into play and then remains a formidable blocker on the following turn thanks to Vigilance. This is crucial against Red Goblins as it is one of the only creatures in the deck able to block and destroy Muxus, Goblin Grandee when it attacks. Questing Beast also gets around any annoying early game blockers like Wall tokens from The Birth of Meletis or Arboreal Grazer as well as Zombie tokens from Field of the Dead decks. Being able to also deal damage to enemy Planeswalkers when dealing damage to an opponent and shutting off damage prevention for your creatures is icing on the cake. Gallia of the Endless Dance on the other hand is the deck's card advantage engine. Attacking with three or more creatures is a very easy task for this deck, and Gallia can easily turn those extra lands or Llanowar Elves you don't need in your hand into more threats. Don't be afraid to start drawing more cards as early as possible with the ability. Being a card advantage engine, Gallia enters play with a target on the back, and sometimes being aggressive to draw more resources while you can is more important than holding Gallia back to get destroyed later.
Fun Interactions and Hazards
Beware: Domri's Ambush is great at pumping up a creature and simultaneously removing a threat, but be cautious if you are at a low life total; targeting your own Bonecrusher Giant with the spell will backfire and deal 2 damage to yourself.
The sideboard is a toolbox geared towards shutting down the various decks that are popular in the current meta and each card has a specific purpose. Alpine Moon shuts down Field of the Dead's ability to generate swarms of Zombie tokens early, but if that doesn't work in time Flame Sweep can clear the board. Return to Nature is another utility against cards looking to escape from the graveyard, but it can also stop combo decks that rely on enchantments which the rest of this deck doesn't have answers for. Anax, Hardened in the Forge gets brought in against any match-up that may utilize board wipes as a way to maintain a board presence after all creatures are destroyed. Surprise tip: Satyr tokens from Anax combo well with Gallia! This deck doesn't have any hard removal spells that kill creatures unconditionally, making for difficult match-ups against decks like Mono White Life-gain which can make creatures that are too large to deal with. Tibalt, Rakish Instigator stops life-gain for those decks and effectively shuts them down. The last sideboard cards are all geared towards control match-ups. Domri, Anarch of Bolas can prevent your creature spells from getting countered and also provides a reusable fight ability as well as an extra point of power for your creatures. Shifting Ceratops is a great answer to Blue decks and can run away with the game on its own if it isn't stopped by Aether Gust on the stack. Chandra, Awakened Inferno is great against more grinding match-ups as an inevitable win condition and can also wipe out swarms of Zombie tokens with the 2nd ability.
After Game 1 and sideboarding the deck becomes more mid-range but still tries to maintain its speed. I usually sideboard out all but one copy of Embercleave if the opponent expects it after Game 1. Domri's Ambush is also easy to sideboard out against match-ups that don't run many creatures.
This deck is a blast to play and offers a little more variety than a straightforward Mono Red Aggro deck. It is a capable aggro deck without the absurd explosiveness that may warrant a banning of any other cards, and will certainly remain as a go-to deck for me. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and I hope you benefit from it. Thank you to The Lotus Council for the opportunity to create MTG content! Stay tuned for more Deck Techs and be sure to follow The Lotus Council as well as my Twitter and Twitch accounts for future content!