Many people had low expectations for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms in the Standard format since it is the eighth set being printed into an incredibly powerful card pool. However, the Dungeons & Dragons inspired set has had a clear impact. While most of the archetypes in Standard are tried and true, many decks have been upgraded and changed to accommodate and account for new staples. For example, most red decks have added Burning Hands, green decks have added Ranger Class, and black decks typically include some copies of Power Word Kill. These changes have resulted in some shifting in the metagame as well, and it seems that Sultai Ultimatum decks and Mono-Green aggro have gone out of style. In their place, Naya Winota, Cycling, and Gruul have risen!


As someone who frequently gets the itch to play the beatdown, I have been taking Gruul Stompy decks for a spin, and I have been very impressed with their power. Gruul is easily the best aggro deck in the format and I have been working hard to master the intricacies of the deck. Although control players will scoff at this, it is a not-so-hidden secret that aggro decks are more skill-testing to play. With a little practice however, this deck will have you stomping opponents life totals in no time. 

MTG Arena decklist

4 Bonecrusher Giant
4 Cragcrown Pathway
3 Den of the Bugbear
4 Edgewall Innkeeper
3 Embercleave
3 Esika’s Chariot
9 Forest
3 Goldspan Dragon
4 Jaspera Sentinel
2 Lair of the Hydra
4 Lovestruck Beast
4 Magda, Brazen Outlaw
5 Mountain
4 Ranger Class
2 Rimrock Knight
2 Shatterskull Smashing

3 Burning Hands
2 Klothys, God of Destiny
2 Ox of Agonas
2 Redcap Melee
2 Roiling Vortex
2 The Akroan War
2 Thundering Rebuke


The list I have been playing is fairly typical, but each card has an important role to play. The plan A for Gruul is to quickly get a lot of power onto the battlefield and overwhelm opponents. Jaspera Sentinel and Lovestruck Beast are great at doing this and Embercleave is there too in case you need a little help to finish them off. In games where you can’t quickly overrun opponents there are a variety of other options. Edgewall Innkeeper, Ranger Class, and Esika’s Chariot can all help make a wide board that just can’t be completely blocked. Goldspan Dragon can be used to fly over an opponent’s defenses and give the final few points of damage. When all else fails, the creature-lands Lair of the Hydra and Den of the Bugbear can finish games, even after a board wipe.


The ideal start for this deck is Jaspera Sentinel followed by another one-drop and a two-drop on the next turn. From there it is easy to set up an advantageous board or an Embercleave turn. The next best start is to focus on Edgewall Innkeeper and adventure creatures. Often times it is best to play a Bonecrusher Giant or Lovestruck Beast without actually using its adventure in order to draw cards and attack with them sooner. Against decks playing lots of removal, Esika’s Chariot is incredible and will often create an advantage in the midgame. Other games, a Lovestruck Beast is all that is needed to push through for damage or shut down an opponent’s offence. Overall, the individual card quality of the deck is very high and the curve is very smooth. Thanks to the new creature lands, even the mana base of the deck is powerful. In my experience playing the deck there aren’t any matchups that are particularly bad, Gruul always has a shot of winning with its beatdown approach.


The sideboard for Gruul is centered around removal and on ways to finish off opponents without using creatures. Burning Hands is a great answer for Lovestruck Beast, Koma, Cosmos Serpent, Elder Gargaroth, and more. Redcap Melee is a necessary instant-speed answer to Winota, Joiner of Forces which is a very popular card these days. Thundering Rebuke is a broader answer for everything from Rogues to Cycling. Klothys, God of Destiny and Roiling Vortex come in against Ultimatum, Control, and Rogues. I often sideboard out copies of Goldspan Dragon post-board because opponents will often bring in spot removal that handily takes care of the five-mana creature. When on the draw against other aggressive decks, I will usually take out some copies of Embercleave, which is ineffective on defense. The fourth copy of Magda, Brazen Outlaw is another frequent cut, since it is worse in multiples.


Vs. Naya Winota

This seems to be the most commonly played deck in Standard these days, and it is a close matchup for Gruul. Bringing in removal for their key creatures – Winota, Joiner of Forces, Kenrith, Returned King, and Blade Historian – is a huge help. I usually take out Goldspan Dragon since it dies to Redcap Melee and also cut a few dwarves since they are the least important creatures in the deck.


+2 Burning Hands

+2 Akroan War

+2 Redcap Melee

-3 Goldspan Dragon

-2 Rimrock Knight

-1 Magda, Brazen Outlaw


Vs. Temur Lukka

This is a good matchup because Gruul is often just a little too fast for Temur. By the time a Lukka player lands a Koma, Cosmos Serpent, this deck can usually completely overwhelm them with Embercleave or an insanely wide board. In post-board games, Burning Hands provides a clean answer for Koma, and for Lovestruck Beast. Once again they will often bring in Redcap Melee so I cut Goldspan Dragon


+2 Burning Hands

+2 Akroan War

-3 Goldspan Dragon

-1 Magda, Brazen Outlaw


Vs. Sultai Ultimatum

Sultai has the tools to fight aggro decks, but Gruul makes it more difficult than ever with Esika’s Chariot, Ranger Class, and Edgewall Innkeeper all providing ways to power through board wipes and spot removal. Speed is typically the most important aspect in this matchup since Gruul has no way to actually fight against a cast Emergent Ultimatum. Roiling Vortex also provides a tough-to-remove threat that can chip in lots of damage in long games. Bonecrusher Giant is less effective in this matchup so I typically cut most of them.


+2 Roiling Vortex

+1 Klothys, God of Destiny

+2 Burning Hands

-3 Bonecrusher Giant

-1 Magda, Brazen Outlaw

-1 Goldspan Dragon


Vs. Cycling

Cycling is a difficult matchup but with a good draw the Gruul deck can still quickly overpower them. The main issues are Zenith Flare and Improbable Alliance and sadly there aren’t any easy answers for those cards even after sideboarding. Since Gruul can’t counter the Flare and also doesn’t have any effective Disenchant options, the only option is to aim for maximum speed and try to race the Cycling opponent. To this end, I typically take out the more expensive threats and only bring in a little removal as well Klothys, God of Destiny. Klothys helps control opponent’s graveyards and can often become a creature as well if the opponent doesn’t have much removal.


+2 Klothys, God of Destiny

+2 Thundering Rebuke

+1 Redcap Melee

-2 Goldspan Dragon

-2 Esika’s Chariot

-1 Magda, Brazen Outlaw


Gruul is a great deck and its straightforward gameplan means it will likely have a place in the Standard metagame all the way until rotation. Moving forward I think the deck could be tuned to better attack the metagame. Since I often find myself cutting Goldspan Dragon when sideboarding I am tempted to replace them in the maindeck, potentially for a copy or two of Akroan War. However, it is impossible to predict exactly what answers the format will require. Luckily, this deck will be the one asking the questions in most scenarios, and the answers matter much less than the amazing threats that Gruul can deploy.


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One Response

  1. Justin Hill

    You mentioned that you couldn’t think of any “Disenchant” style cards to combat Improbable Alliance, but there are a couple in Standard for Green — Return to Nature, and the new one from AFR You Find a Cursed Idol. You Find a Cursed Idol gives you the option for a little mana ramp and scry, which might benefit both the Cycling and Ultimatuum matches to speed out creatures and damage, so that may be the slightly better include here….I can’t think of a Standard graveyard recurring card, beyond maybe Kroxa or Quakebringer, that would worth the third mode on Return to Nature, and both of those cards are not huge in the meta right now….


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