Gruul Midrange Deck for Theros Standard

September 21, 2013 | Posted by Dee

Before the first card of Theros was spoiled, I prepared for post-rotation Standard by analyzing the card pool without Magic 2013 and Innistrad block. When you took out those cards, you were left with Return to Ravnica block and Magic 2014. These cards would make up 79% of the new Standard environment.

Of course, Theros has a big impact on new Standard, but you get a head start when you understand the rest of the card pool. 79% is a pretty big chunk of a metagame.

One of the things I discovered in my pre-Theros analysis was how strong red/green looked. Out of the two color combinations, blue/white and green/white were the front runners but red/green was close behind.

Basically, much of Brian Kibler’s Red/Green Aggro list would be still around. Powerful cards like Domri Rade, Scavenging Ooze, Ghor-Clan Rampager, and Elvish Mystic were staying in the format. Plus, you had decent replacements for the other cards.

With Kibler’s deck in mind, I rebuilt the red/green shell using the pieces we had left. Then, Theros was spoiled. The new card set changed the deck slightly, making it more midrange with the addition of Xenagos, the Reveler.

Here’s where I’m at right now. This decklist has been testing very well.

R/G Midrange
Creatures (25)
Spells (11)
Lands (24)
Sideboard (15)

Click the links below to buy cards from this deck on eBay.

Main Deck Analysis

[Buy Xenagos, the Reveler on eBay]

For our ramp creatures, we have 4 Elvish Mystic and 2 Voyaging Satyr. I tested both Zhur-Taa Druid and Gyre Sage but neither provided a significant advantage.

Voyaging Satyr gives us double red mana by untapping a Mountain or dual land. She is easier to cast than Zhur-Taa Druid. She saves us two life while giving us red mana by untapping Stomping Grounds.

She gives us red mana right away with Temple of Abandon even though it enters the battlefield tapped. In a pinch, she surprises opponents by untapping Mutavault at a key moment.

With all the creatures we have to play to make Domri good, we have to be very careful about our spell suite. I’m running Flames of the Firebrand over Mizzium Mortars because Flames is stronger against fast red aggro decks and I believe they will be an issue in the early stages of the new metagame. Flames is often a two for one against the red deck by killing two small creatures like Burning-Tree Emissary and Young Pyromancer.

Kalonian Tusker made the deck because it is the only 3/3 for two mana in red/green in the entire format. The poor man’s Flinthoof Boar does a lot of work.

It is a great blocker for Domri Rade and against early aggressive creatures like Ash Zealot and Precinct Captain. It is a great fight target for Domri against those 2/2 creatures. Also, it gives you early pressure against slower decks. The three power is good for running over Sylvan Caryatids.

To make room for Xenagos, I had to cut creatures for Domri’s +1 ability. Kibler decklists had around 29 creatures. This deck only has 25. However, the new scry lands from Theros combo well with Domri’s ability.

Xenagos started off as a two-of but escalated to the full playset because I kept seeing Desecration Demon in a variety of decks. Feeding the demon 2/2s may not be the best or most efficient way to deal with the Demon, but it holds him off while we work towards better options or swing in for the win.

After going up to 4 Xenagos, I wanted to take advantage of his first ability so I upped the mana curve. Compared to the mana curve of Kibler’s deck, this one actually has three six-drops instead of three two-drops. That’s an extreme change but Xenagos gives us a lot of mana and the scry lands help us find mana too.

[Buy Domri Rade on eBay]

The combination of Domri and Xenagos is pretty sweet in attrition-based matchups. Domri brings more creatures to your hand and Xenagos uses the ones you already cast to produce mana to play Domri’s friends onto the table.

Stormbreath Dragon and Ruric Thar, the Unbowed provide the top end that we need to finish out games. The new Dragon is a solid card because it has relevant abilities.

Protection from white blanks premium removal like Detention Sphere, Azorious Charm, Orzhov Charm, Banisher Priest, and the new Chained To The Rocks (sidenote: extremely flavorful card). Haste is good against board sweepers like Supreme Verdict. Also, with all our ramp, making Stormbreath Dragon monstrous is not hard at all.

Before the Theros spoilers came out, I had Kalonian Hydra at the five-drop spot. But I expect Supreme Verdict to be a major card so I swapped it out for Stormbreath Dragon. Also, haste is good against strong sorcery speed removal like Dreadbore and Mizzium Mortars.

Ruric Thar worked better than expected in playtesting. I mainly wanted him against slow decks because of his six damage ability. But then, I played against someone who dropped Stormbreath Dragon and didn’t attack. I was confused… until I realized that Ruric Thar has reach!

Scavenging Ooze isn’t quite as powerful as before since Snapcaster Mage and Unburial Rites will be leaving Standard but it still fits nicely into this deck. It becomes as big as Kalonian Tusker with just one exile activation of a creature card.

It’s often a powerful cheap play in the mid and late game because it can grow quickly once you have a decent amount of green mana. Also, Scavenging Ooze’s lifegain is useful for beating fast red decks and racing other creature decks.

Ghor-Clan Rampager is the utility Swiss army knife in this deck. It’s a flexible card that’s good in many different situations. The bloodrush is great at killing your opponent quickly when you’re in aggro mode. +4/+4 and trample is very much undercosted at two mana.

If you draw multiple Rampagers, sometimes you just kill your opponent out of nowhere by just buffing up a creature more than once and trampling over for a ton of damage. Also, I think planeswalkers are going to be huge post-rotation. Rampager’s bloodrush is great at killing them.

As a 4/4 trampler for four mana, Rampager comes down as a solid creature. It blocks the small creatures of aggro decks and puts pressure on control decks.

Sideboard Strategy

[Buy Chandra, Pyromaster on eBay]

While your sideboard should be suited for your particular metagame, this sideboard has cards to beat decks you’re likely going to run into early in the season.

Chandra Pyromaster is our main card against slow midrange and control decks. For example, I think Jund Midrange and Golgari Midrange (The Rock) will be major players. These decks can bring in Lifebane Zombie against you to gain card advantage.

Chandra is a great card against the 3/1 Zombie because she shoots him down while gaining loyalty. Then, she starts giving you card advantage with her -0 ability.

While Mono Red Aggro is still a big threat, there’s a good chance you’ll face off against slow three color control decks with a lot of nonbasic lands and few creatures. From a mana base standpoint, the new scry lands make the format slower, which allows these decks to flourish.

We’ve got Burning Earth to beat them. The enchantment is a massive beating especially when you combine it with early aggression, Ruric Thar, and 11 planeswalkers. To make room for Chandra and Burning Earth, cut 3 Flames of the Firebrand and 3 Ghor-Clan Rampager.

One warning: I wouldn’t bring in Burning Earth against every deck with a lot of nonbasic lands. If they have a lot of creatures, Burning Earth is not that good because they can just race you.

The two most common cards to take out when sideboarding are Flames of the Firebrand and Ruric Thar. These cards are the most situational. Remove Flames of the Firebrand versus decks with few small creatures. Ruric Thar comes out for Kalonian Hydra against fast decks to lower your curve.

Act of Treason is there to beat big creatures like Desecration Demon. It’s pretty sweet to sac Xenagos tokens to keep the Demon at bay and then after it gets huge, you steal it for a turn and attack for a bunch of damage.

Fade into Antiquity makes the deck over Destructive Revelry because it gets around the indestructible nature of the God cards in Theros. Hunt the Hunter is just very efficient removal versus green heavy creature decks.

Gruul Clans, Charge!

[Buy Stomping Ground on eBay]

One thing I like about this deck is its thematic and flavorful feel of the Gruul guild. The Gruul Clans live a life of warfare. This deck captures that with a high creature count and the aggressive nature of bloodrush and haste. You definitely need to be in attack mode to win with this deck.

The planeswalkers feel like generals, or clan leaders, leading the charge of huge creatures. They recruit more troops to the battlefield and increase their productivity. Also, they function like artillery, softening up your opponent’s army and resources so that the troops can come on through and engage your opponent head on.

Our overall strategy is pretty straight forward. Play mana ramp creatures early to cast big guys and planeswalkers right away. Drop a Kalonian Tusker as an early aggressive creature that can also stay back to guard the planeswalkers.

We gain mana and card advantage from Domri and Xenagos, which allows us to power out a continuous stream of big creatures. Spot removal is inefficient when we’re gaining so much value from the planeswalkers.

Supreme Verdict and Angel of the Gods can slow us down, but they don’t deal with our two-pronged planeswalker attack. Xenagos immediately gives us a hasty attacker and we can keep drawing creatures with Domri to rebuild our army.

What do you think of this deck? Now that we have the full Theros spoiler, do you see anything else that could make the cut? Maybe there’s a new threat we have to consider?

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

23 Responses to “Gruul Midrange Deck for Theros Standard”

  1. thg on September 21st, 2013 8:01 pm

    Sylvan Caryatid provides any color mana, so could be cast with two forests and still produce a red mana the following turn. A little more flexibility than Voyaging Satyr. And, it’s hexproof.

  2. Dee on September 21st, 2013 8:18 pm

    Hm, good point. Sylvan Caryatid does seem better. Thanks!

  3. Kampai on September 21st, 2013 10:00 pm

    Again, great article Dee and would use this article as a starting point for my gruul midrange deck. What are your thoughts on running polukranos? I think it has game against mono red variants, automatically eats a doom blade and could be a huge threat when left unchecked.

  4. Dee on September 22nd, 2013 4:14 pm

    Cool, thx.

    Let’s compare Polukranos to the other four drops, Ghor-Clan Rampager and Xenagos. It’s bigger than Rampager but it doesn’t have the flexibility of bloodrush or trample. With monstrosity, it can get even bigger while killing another creature. This ability seems good with Xenagos.

    Xenagos is better against spot removal and board wipe spells. Plus, his mana ability allows you to have a higher mana curve with three six-drops.

    Also, Polukranos is legendary so you may not want to play the full set.

    I think he’s decent enough. I would try something like +2 Polukranos and -2 Rampager. That might be pretty good if the format does not have a lot of removal that kills Polukranos.

    I probably wouldn’t cut even one Xenagos in this particular build unless you cut a Ruric Thar or two because of mana curve reasons.

    Actually, I’m glad you brought up Polukranos because if he’s not that good in the main deck as the other four drops, he seems better than Kalonian Hydra in the sideboard. He comes down earlier against fast decks while being bigger.

    If you do add some Polukranos to the main deck, I would take out the Hydras in the sideboard for a bigger, cheaper creature like Ember Swallower.

  5. Kyroon on September 22nd, 2013 4:50 pm

    Is savage summoning something that could/should find its way in?

    It would make your creatures that little bit bigger against fast decks plus make your stuff uncounterable. Plus if by chance the game goes pretty late, flashing in a ruric-thar would be quite the surprise

  6. Kyroon on September 23rd, 2013 12:27 pm

    Been thinking about what I asked yesterday about savage summoning and have come to the conclusion that I do not believe there is room for it. There just isn’t any reasonable swap to make for it. However, magma jet I am thinking is a must but the only reasonable swap I can see would be magma jet instead of flames. I want to think that I would rather have the Scry ability to better set up my next turn than have that 1 extra damage but I also really like the possibility of taking out more than 1 little guy. What are your thoughts?

  7. Dee on September 23rd, 2013 6:14 pm

    Magma Jet is solid. I think testing it over Flames is a good idea. Let me know how it goes. :)

    Not a fan of Savage Summoning. It’s card disadvantage and I think removal is bigger threat than counterspells. Plus, much of the cards you want against counterspell decks are not creatures (the planeswalkers and Burning Earth).

  8. Kyle on September 28th, 2013 10:12 am

    I have a gruul creature deck “Don’t Feed the Hydra”, im putting in 2 of the Nemesis of the mortals, due to my bloodrushing making it more cost effective also looking into tossing in Mistcutter Hydra, for the haste/protection.
    but also using Savageborn hydra/Kalonian Hydra/ also have domris need some xenagos, and put in satyr hedonist/burning-trees/ elvish mystics, and I have of course scavenging oozes

    jus a hard hitting blood rusher, but im looking for opinions on what to replace Flinthoof boar/Lighting Mauler/ Strangleroot Geist and suggestions

  9. Dee on September 28th, 2013 3:28 pm

    I’ve played against Mistcutter Hydra with a Grixis Control deck. It was pretty good. Also, it looks decent versus Esper Control.

    To replace those cards you mentioned, you can try out Kalonian Tusker, Boon Satyr, and Gyre Sage.

  10. Jake on September 28th, 2013 4:45 pm

    What are your thoughts about Ember Swallower in standard? For my current decklist (I’ve been trying to design one, might not be viable for competition but it’s fun), I have:
    4 Scavenging ooze
    4 Boon Satyr
    4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
    4 Magma jet
    4 Anger of the Gods
    2 Domri Rade
    2 Xenagos, the Reveler

    What are your thoughts about those? Anything you think should be removed, and what do you think it should be replaced with?

    Thanks, Jake

  11. Dee on September 28th, 2013 5:14 pm

    I’m not sure about Ember Swallower. I haven’t played with or against him enough.

    I think Lightning Strike is better than Magma Jet because there are key three toughness creatures you want to kill like Fleecemane Lion, Call of the Conclave, Nightveil Specter, and Kalonian Tusker.

    I don’t like Anger of the Gods because it could kill Ooze and Boon Satyr. You don’t need eight removal spells in a midrange deck. I would cut Anger for Elvish Mystic. Mana ramp is super important in any green midrange deck.

  12. hugo on September 29th, 2013 2:25 pm

    I’ve been playing R-G mid range for a while (I started at DGM and wasa reluctant to invest in Innistrad cards by the time I started playing standard) and I’m wondering what are your thoughts on Garruk, Caller of Beasts.

    I found that my main problem later in the game is that, once I dropped one or two of my bombs, if they get removed/stalled, and Domris +1, while awesome, becomes a big decision vs -2 him to remove something from the board. Garruk allows to fill my hand with creatures, and the next turn, cast one for free, and one that I pay for (I play 8 mana ramp, 2 garruks instead of your 4 Xenagoss).

    Xenagoss looks nice, but I’m worrying if I’ll lack cards later in the game, what is your experience with it?

  13. Dee on September 29th, 2013 4:52 pm

    I haven’t played Garruk, Caller of Beasts so I’m not sure how good he is. In this deck, I’d rather have Ruric Thar as my six-drop. While this deck is midrange, it is pretty close to aggro and Ruric Thar fits that strategy better than Garruk, Caller of Beasts.

    This deck doesn’t really care about drawing cards because it is on the aggro side of midrange. It’s midrange-aggro rather than midrange-control. It just wants to deal a lot of damage early with Kalonian Tusker, bloodrush, haste tokens, and haste Dragons.

    Oftentimes, all that aggro is enough to win the game. If it isn’t, the deck finishes off the game with Ruric Thar or Domri’s ultimate.

    Regarding Domri, if you use his -2, that doesn’t mean you can’t use his +1 next turn, so he’s still going to be a source of card draw. Actually, that’s how I usually win with Domri. I use both those abilities multiple times in a game to just wreck my opponent. I usually don’t need to ultimate him to win.

    Xenagos is in the deck because he fits the aggro theme. Having a continuous stream of 2/2 haste tokens is pretty aggressive. Also, the tokens are great at neutralizing Desecration Demon, a creature I expect to see a lot.

    Note that the 2/2 tokens are basically card advantage. Even though you’re not actually drawing cards like Garruk, Caller of Beasts, you should consider the tokens as cards. How do you generally put a 2/2 creature on the board? You spend mana and cast a card.

    Think of Xenagos’s -0 ability as drawing a Blur Sliver and casting it for free. That’s pretty awesome card advantage for only four mana especially since haste is arguably the best ability for creatures.

    Plus, Xenagos’s +1 ability helps me cast Ruric Thar and make Stormbreath Dragon monstrous to further the aggro theme.

    I would not compare Xenagos and Garruk because they have different mana costs. Garruk should be compared to other six-drops or maybe five-drops and seven-drops but not a four-drop like Xenagos.

    That said, if you have eight mana guys, your deck is probably not as aggro as mine. In that kind of deck, Garruk might make more sense than Ruric Thar. I’m not sure because I haven’t tested a R/G Midrange deck with eight mana guys.

  14. Nelson Andersen on September 29th, 2013 6:45 pm

    So I want to run a R/G deck now that rotation has occurred. I played around with a lot of different types and I though about a creature/burn deck. It was ok, but just didn’t have the right flow, it was like a tie between aggro and mid range. Then I came across this article. Here is my deck
    4x Elvish mystics
    2x Voyaging Satyr
    2x Scavenging Ooze
    4x Kalonian Tusker
    4x Boom Satyr
    4x Domri Rade
    2x Polis Crusher
    4x Ghor-Clan Rampager
    2x Xenagos
    4x Stormbreath Dragon
    3x Ruric Thar
    4x Mizzium Mortars
    8x Forest
    6x Mountains
    4x Stomping Grounds
    4x Temple of Abondon
    I am torn between voyaging satyr and sylvan caryatid. Voyaging satyr can attack with a Ghor Clan Rampager thrown in on an empty board, but sylvan caryatid can add a red source even when I don’t have any mountains and she is hexproof. I am only running 2 scavenging oozes because I like the life gain and it is good in many set ups, but I find that most often I don’t have the mana to keep pouring into it when I have so many creatures to play, especially with a Domri out. I love boon satyr because I can flash it in as a blocker to get rid of a key creature my opponent attacks with, I can bestow it onto my Stormbreath Dragon, and it is still a 4/2 for 3. I’m only running two Xenagos really because I don’t want to pick up 2 more while they are still expensive(I expect them to go down). Finally I have 2 Polis Crusher because at my local shop enchantments are heavy and I like a 4/4 trampled for 4 that still has something to do if I get flooded with mana. That is my deck, I was wondering if you had any advice or tips.

  15. Dee on September 29th, 2013 7:47 pm

    Looks solid.

    I would go up to 24 lands. Your deck has a higher mana curve than Kibler’s original list but two less lands.

    I would cut a Mizzium Mortars and a Ruric Thar and add a Mutavault and a Forest.

  16. Johhny on September 30th, 2013 8:44 am

    Hi, I’m loking to play more competitive now days when new standard is forming. my plan is also to use red-green agrro deck, but i have some issues. that is, i don’t know what rest of cards to put in my deck. so far a have this list(32 cards, and 21 lands):

    Elvish Mystic x4
    Burning-Tree Emissary x4
    Domri Rade x3
    Xenagos, the Reveler x2
    Ghor-Clan Rampager x3
    Purphoros, God of the Forge x2
    Sylvan Caryatid x3
    Stormbreath Dragon x2
    Lightning Strike x3
    Legion Loyalist x3
    Dryad Militant x3

    7x Forest
    7x Mountains
    4x Stomping Grounds
    3x Temple of Abondon

    I have to mention that my local shop has a lot of players with green-white voice’s, blue-white Aetherling control, and red-green agrro decks.

  17. John on September 30th, 2013 7:02 pm

    I have been looking at this deck list and I love it. I just don’t think 4 flames of the firebrand and 4 Scoozes are good. My thoughts are that drawing into multiple scoozes is not a good thing, you only need one on the field at a time, More than that is useless and it takes up a slot in your hand at that point.
    About the Flames, It seems situational in the aspect that its 3 mana for 3 damage, although it can be spread out it just seems to costly and slow, especially with the sorcery speed. You can’t threaten your opponent during their turn for an advantage with sorcery’s, and I think there is more of an advantage being able to block something and then magma jet it to finish it off if you dont have that ghor-clan in your hand. Plus magma jet sets you up for your Domri +1 into your Xenoga +1. Such a sweet combo, lets you dig farther for better value. Plus if you are about to ult xeno, you can magma to get rid of any non creature/land cards in the way. What do you think? I was thinking of replacing the 2 oozes with 2 miziums for the extra removal, but this shouldnt be a problem with scry lands and magma 2 scry allowing you to work around your non creatures. Thanks!

  18. John on September 30th, 2013 7:03 pm

    ^ meant to say 3 flames not 4

  19. Dee on October 1st, 2013 12:50 pm

    @ Johnny

    If someone here can help Johnny build a solid deck with his cards, that would be great. I don’t have much experience building strong decks from limited card pools.

    Let’s see the Magic Game Plan community help a fellow reader. :)

    Also, I would ask your question at the Standard Forums in MTG Salvation or their Competitive Standard Forums. They might be able to help you.

  20. Dee on October 1st, 2013 5:51 pm

    @ John

    Changing Flames for another removal spell is perfectly fine. The Flames spot is a “flex” spot. You should play a card that fits your metagame. That card could be Lightning Strike, Magma Jet, Mizzium Mortars, etc. or even a combination of different cards.

    Not a big fan of cutting the Oozes for more removal. The deck is midrange-aggro not midrange-control so you need enough cheap creatures to pressure your opponent. It’s based on Kibler’s list and he only played three removal spells.

    Plus, with the addition of Xenagos, you don’t have as many creatures for Domri as Kibler’s list so I would be very hesitant to cut creatures for noncreatures.

    Scavenging Ooze has tested pretty well so I’m hesitant to cut any copies. It’s still pretty good especially since Mono Red Aggro won the first SCG Open this past weekend.

    If you want to cut two copies, I would replace them with creatures. Here is a list to consider:

    Gyre Sage
    Satyr Hedonist
    Reverent Hunter
    Mistcutter Hydra
    Boon Satyr
    Dryad Militant
    Experiment One (better with the Sylvan Caryatid version)

  21. Hvati on October 7th, 2013 12:55 pm

    I like this Idea so much that I bought the card I needed, had to cut down 2 stormbreath dragons and a mutavault because of cost but I might add them later. I put in 2x Ember swallowers and decided to have Flames of the Firebrand as sideboard and Mizzium Mortars mainboard. I can’t wait to test it out!

  22. Brian Jimenez on October 11th, 2013 2:52 pm

    What about dropping a ruric and stormbreath to put in two mistcutters. I’ve used xenagos +1 to swing in big. I haven’t run into many creatures with flying/reach in the decks I’ve played against with the exception of desecration demon

  23. Dee on October 11th, 2013 7:19 pm

    That seems good since Mono Blue Devotion is doing well at the Pro Tour. I do like -2 Ruric +2 Mistcutter better because Stormbreath is better than Ruric.