[WAR] Standard Gruul Monsters

This spoiler season has by and large been the most memorable I have ever experienced and it seems everybody is losing their minds. There is something in this set that has excited every single person I have talked to. And yesterday, they dropped the God of all Boar, Ilharg, the Raze-Boar. I finally snapped and had to brew up my next deck for the season, which resulted in what we have below.

This deck features five cards from War of the Spark, as pictured below for your ease of understanding.

This deck started as an ode to the Boar God, but slowly morphed into Gruul Monsters.

Living Twister is kind of a placeholder in this deck. It’s mostly fine, can give us some real reach, and makes it easier to run 22 lands in a deck with 10 nonland cards that produce mana. I am genuinely intrigued to see if this card works well, as it seems good on paper, but only time will tell.

This isn’t about breaking Ilharg, it’s about worshiping and getting value out of him. The dream is a turn one Llanowar Elf, followed by a turn two Domri, Anarch of Bolas, followed by a turn three Ilharg, followed by an attack step that puts in our favorite God-Eternal, doubling our Llanowar Elf’s and our Ilharg’s power, making for an attack of 23 damage on our fourth turn, 14 of which has Trample. This is going to force blocks, which will either be chump blocks on Rhonas or an unfavorable trade for our opponent, putting a two or three mana creature in front of our 4/1 Llanowar Elf.

The Core

Llanowar Elves and Incubation Druid: Our boys that hit the ground first. Small cost, and gives us the explosive potential we need to threaten a far superior board state. The downside to these guys is just how good of a target they make in the early game, and how dead of a draw they are in the late game. This second offense is negated as much as it can be by Incubation Druid, becoming larger in the late game. This can also have extremely explosive potential if a Domri’s Ambush is cast on the Druid.

Growth-Chamber Guardian, Gruul Spellbreaker, and Rekindling Phoenix: All of these are good threats. Growth-Chamber Guardian has a huge amount of card advantage behind him, threatening to quickly swarm the board, Spellbreaker gets in hard and fast depending on what we need, and Rekindling Phoenix requires specific answers. In addition, flying over to kill Planeswalkers will be huge in this next Standard season.

The Support

Domri’s Ambush: The most important part of this card is that larger word that comes after “Target creature” that reads “Planeswalker”. This card is absolutely absurd, being able to kill a Planeswalker out from behind blockers. Not only can this answer a serious creature threat, but it’s a fight card that’s not dead against control decks. This card is the real deal for Gruul removal.

Domri, Anarch of Bolas: Gruul had the theme of “screw control” in Ravnica Allegiance, and it’s carried over into War of the Spark. This new Domri does a lot for us, including potentially hitting the ground on turn two, give us the surprise power for a lethal swing, ramping us into uncounterable Boar Gods, and can even act as removal. I was expecting the worst for a Domri going into this spoiler season, but WotC absolutely delivered for me on this one.

Rhythm of the Wild: Rhythm is a card that I haven’t main decked in a short while, but it’s good to have our friend back. This is essentially our insurance to make sure we have a solid three drop to add to the board on turn two if we have a turn one Llanowar Elf that doesn’t die. It requires specific answers, being an enchantment, and it makes us go bigger or faster, whichever one we need.

The Finishers

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar: This is the culmination of my efforts to please the Boar God. I truly believe this is the best shell for Ilharg; Not a deck that forces otherwise unplayable cards like Zacama, Primal Calamity and Impervious Greatwurm, but a deck that takes advantage of the raw value that Ilharg can give you. Even if you just naturally curve into this guy, he will be good. He has above curve stats, an attack ability, and even comes back after being removed.

The only thing we’re trying to take advantage of is attacking with him as quickly as possible. Ilharg will end games within two attacks, almost assuredly.

God-Eternal Rhonas: A lot of the people I’ve talked to haven’t been very high on Rhonas, and I honestly have no idea why. His body is on (arguably above) curve, and his ability adds one metric crap ton of pressure to the board if it doesn’t end the game immediately. He has the built in protection of being just a few draw steps away if he’s murdered, his only actual drawback being you have to already have a board state, which is why we play 29 creatures.

Hydroid Krasis: Krasis is our only blue splash, which, I know, makes the deck Temur, but the purpose of the deck is much more aligned with Gruul than it is Temur, at least philosophically. Hydroid Krasis gives us the big mana dump at the end of the curve that let’s us refuel and ready up for the end game. It’s awkward with Ilharg for sure, but sacrifices must be made.

War of the Spark is bringing so many new ideas to everybody’s mind, that I’m not sure what Standard is going to look like. It’s for this reason that I did not design a Sideboard, as designing a Sideboard blindly defeats the purpose of a Sideboard. If I had to guess, I would say the format is going to consist of fairly even control, midrange, and aggro splits. True, Planeswalkers are plentiful, but there isn’t a good or easy way to abuse them. There are some very sweet decks that I would love to see pop up, such the Infinity Ral combo, and a true Super Friends deck would be thrilling to witness in Standard again.

My friend, this Standard season will be one to remember.