Building_on_a_Budget

A series of changes occur as part of today's playtesting process and the end result is not what Ben was expecting.

Gruul: The Wilding (Part 2)

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The letter W!elcome back to another edition of Building on a Budget! In this week's column, I'm going to finish evolving the Gruul Wilding theme deck, and take you on a roller coaster ride filled with pathos and excitement. Part one of this article can be found here, and part two of the article can be found here. Before I get started, let me tell you a little story.

I want to just have a small moment of silence for Goldy, my golden dojo loach. I had just added Goldy to my aquarium this past Sunday, and Goldy seemed to be getting along with all my other tropical fishes. Unfortunately, looks were deceiving – when my girlfriend Kate came home from college this past Wednesday, she found Goldy dead in the tank, covered in bite marks. Alas poor Goldy, we hardly knew ye. You were irreplaceable for the four days I got to know you, although by irreplaceable I mean that you cost me seven dollars and I'm going to use that money to buy a school of danios this weekend.

Enough of the maudlin stuff – on to the beatings!

This is where we left off last week. After much consideration, I've decided to name this deck Gruul Intentions. Thank you to everybody who suggested this name – I had several people post it in the forums and e-mail it to me, and I decided it was the best fit for this deck. Plus, everybody loves a pun – they are nature's weed-whackers.

I had just completely gutted the creature base, and moved towards a tramplicious scoop of double-Green mint ice cream with a cherry glaze. How did this new build play? Not very well, unfortunately.

Game #1: Tlowe65 (U/B Discard)

Wouldn't you know it, but the first person I face with my new build is playing the first deck I built for this column. Tlowe65 is piloting Debting Megrim. This can't be good for him, as that deck has problems handling quick beats. This proves to be the case, as I get a second turn Gruul Guildmage, put a third turn Moldervine Cloak on it, and ride it straight to victory. Even though Tlowe65 gets out an Icy Manipulator, he is low enough for me to finish him off by throwing lands via the Guildmage's Red ability.

Record: 1-0

That's the way I like to start things off. Unfortunately, it didn't help me playtest the deck a lot – all I got to do was drop a 2/2 creature and make him 5/5 on turn 3.

Game 2: _Clarity_ (W/G Tokens)

I get out a second turn Gruul Guildmage and put a third turn Moldervine Cloak on it (déjà vu?). _Clarity_ is short on mana, and puts Fists of Ironwood on my Guildmage. He was attempting to make guys who could chump-block, but it seemed like he forgot the second ability of Fists – giving guys trample. He succumbs to my 7/7 trampling Guildmage over the course of three turns.

Record: 2-0

Ok, Gruul Guildmage plus Moldervine Cloak is good. I've only cast four spells over the past two games, and I've won both games. Too bad I can't play a deck with twenty Moldervine Cloaks, twenty Gruul Guildmages, and twenty lands.

I want to take a second here to note that the past two games were not exactly conducive towards playtesting. Sure, I ran over my opponents, but what did I learn? That having a 5/5 creature on the third turn is good? Just because I was winning didn't necessarily mean that this deck was good – it only meant that I was getting amazing draws, and was able to capitalize on them. Every now and then you stumble on the golden formula and hit a deck that wins a lot more than it loses. Based on last week's testing, I'd say this wasn't the case here.

Game 3: Jack10473 (U/R Gelectrode)

Jack10473 opens with Mountains and Islands, and soon has down multiple Gelectrodes. And by multiple, I mean three. He also had instants and sorceries, and was not afraid to use them. Gruul Guildmages, Bramble Elementals – even Borborygmos himself, were all shot stone dead by Jack's army of weirds. He ends up killing me in a single turn from twelve life, thanks to six shots of Gelectrode, a Volcanic Hammer, and a card-drawing sorcery.

Record: 2-1

Game 3 was more valuable than games 1 and 2 put together. I learned that my deck has a serious problem removing creatures from the board. My horde of large Green and Red men were stopped cold by guys who had a combined power/toughness of 0/3! I start thinking here about which removal spell (or spells) would be best in this deck.

Game 4: Chunkymonkey04 (Witch-Maw Nephilim.dec)

ChunkyMonkey04 uses an early Journeyer's Kite to get the proper mana to cast Witch-Maw Nephilim. He then proceeds to Faith's Fetters and Putrefy everything in sight, making his guy bigger and bigger. Once the Nephilim gets to 11/11 and gains trample, I have no chance of winning.

Record: 2-2

My deck is not designed to race a creature that can get to 11/11 by turn 6. This is also the second match in a row where I basically can't deal with a one-toughness creature the turn is comes into play.

Game 5: BringerofWins (B/W Nantuko Husk)

BringerofWins is also playing a budget deck, and is running a Nantuko Husk deck. I get a quick start, with my only damage coming to his Pillory of the Sleepless – and I sacrifice the Tin Street Hooligan that is detrimentally enchanted to my Scorched Rusalka.

Record: 3-2

Game 6: ExpendibleOne (B/W Control)

This is the most frustrating game so far, as I have everything I need to beat down – Moldervine Cloaks, Gruul Guildmages, Fists of Ironwood, Bramble Elemental – but they are all negated by auras. ExpendibleOne draws three Pillory of the Sleepless and two Faith's Fetters within his first twelve cards (including his opening hand). He effectively starts the game at 28 life, and I end up losing three life a turn. I can't outrace having my first five creatures taken care of in this fashion, and end up succumbing to his Pillories.

Record: 3-3

Time for some major changes. First things first – the Skarrgan Firebirds have been pretty awful so far. I've drawn them in four games, and they've either sat in my hand, or hit the board as inconsequential 3/3's. The problem is that I don't have any way of reliably pinging my opponent (such as Viashino Fangtail or Honden of Infinite Rage), and if I'm breaking through for damage on turn six, chances are I'm already winning. This means that the Firebird is just suboptimal in my deck, and is easily cut.

The Scorched Rusalka has been great every time I've drawn her. She negates opposing enchant creatures, allows me to ping to enable bloodthirst, swings on the second turn to enable Scab-Clan Maulers, and allows for a late-game mass-sacrifice for the win. On the other hand, Dryad Sophisticate has been unimpressive – it dies easily and half the time is a vanilla 2/1. The irony here is that playing in the casual rooms has hurt the Sophisticate! The Sophisticate thrives on non-basic lands, and a lot of my opponents are playing budget decks – meaning no Shock lands, no Pain lands, no Tendo Ice Bridge – just a lot of basic lands. Even though the Sophisticate is a cheap (price-wise) card, it gets worse when you're playing against cheaper decks!

I'm tired of having my creatures negated by enchantments, but I still have a lot of my own enchantments in the deck. This makes Silhana Ledgewalker a perfect fit for my deck. It is extremely hard for my opponents to kill (outside of mass removal such as Pyroclasm or Wrath of God), yet I can still drop Moldervine Cloak or Fists of Ironwood on it. Ever better, it's virtually unblockable – and in theory the Ledgewalker will help me get through early damage for my bloodthirst guys.

On a whim, I decide to add Gruul Turfs for the deck, in exchange for three Mountains and a Forest. My deck is noticeably more Green heavy, and I want to see how the Turfs affect the pace of my deck. The last thing I want is to be bouncing a land on the third turn instead of playing Moldervine Cloak, but I also have a gap between my third and fourth mana, and my fourth and fifth mana – a perfect time to lay down the Turf.

Lastly, the one Wildsize comes out of the deck. It hasn't been particularly useful compared to the four Skarrg, the Rage Pits, four Fists of Ironwood, and four Moldervine Cloaks.

Here's how the deck looks after changes:

Out: -2 Dryad Sophisticate, -2 Skarrgan Firebird, -1 Wildsize, -1 Forest, -3 Mountain
In: +4 Silhana Ledgewalker, +4 Gruul Turf, +1 Scorched Rusalka

Game 7: Gord (G/W Lifegift/Storm Herd)

Gord casts a third turn Lifegift, and then proceeds to use every land-thawing trick in the book – Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kodama's Reach, and Wood Elves flow like wine. At first, I think that he's going to try to finish me with Natural Affinity. Instead, he casts a Storm Herd while at 25 life. Let's just say that my deck isn't equipped to deal with 25 1/1 flyers – yet.

Record: 3-4

I seriously want something that deals at least one damage to everything. The top candidate is Savage Twister – since I have large creatures, or can make creatures large through Moldervine Cloak, Savage Twister affords me some nice versatility. I can use it as a Wrath of God, or use it as a one-sided Wrath of God, depending on what the situation calls for.

Game 8: Quint24 (B/W Control)

This wasn't much of a game, as he gets stuck at three mana. He does cast a second turn Dark Confidant, but fails to find a fourth land within eight cards. He takes eleven damage from his Confidant (including a revealed Faith's Fetters), four from a Moldervine Cloaked, non-bloodthirsted Scab-Clan Mauler, and four from Gruul War Plow. He concedes after failing to find a fourth land for the fifth consecutive turn.

Record: 4-4

Man, I seriously wanted that Dark Confidant dead, because if Quint24 had drawn a fourth land that game, I'd have lost. My deck has two problems right now:

  1. Too many high mana-cost drops, which don't allow me to beat my opponent quickly or capitalize on their mana problems, and
  2. No ways to kill creatures that have hit the board.

I decide to solve #2 entirely by adding Savage Twisters, and the cards I take out are the higher-cost cards in my deck. If the Twisters help me win more, I might not need to add more weenies to the deck – but we'll see. That's what testing is for – seeing what does or doesn't work.

Out: -2 Ghor-Clan Savage, -1 Wurmweaver Coil, -1 Gruul Turf
In: +4 Savage Twister

Game 9: Kingwaffle (G/R Beats)

It's the mirror match, and Kingwaffle has an extremely aggressive draw. He drops Sensei's Divining Top on the first turn, follows it with a turn 3 Civic Wayfinder, then gets Kird Ape and Ronin Houndmaster on turn 4, and tops them off with a turn 5 Kodama of the North Tree.

I get an even faster draw. I get a first turn Scorched Rusalka, a turn 2 Silhana Ledgewalker (swing with Rusalka, 19), turn 3 Moldervine Cloak on my Ledgewalker (15), turn 4 second Moldervine Cloak on my Ledgewalker (8), shoot him with my Rusalka at the end of his fifth turn (7), and then attack with my 7/7 Ledgewalker for the win.

Record: 5-4

Did I mention I love Silhana Ledgewalker?

Game 10: Looser81 (Red direct damage).

It's a slow game until Looser81 drops Viashino Fangtail on turn 4. I follow by putting Fists of Ironwood on it, and then I attack with both my tokens the following turn. Fearing a trick, Looser81 shoots one and lets the other one through – and this allows me to drop a pair of 3/3 Scab-Clan Maulers. On the next turn, I drop two Moldervine Cloaks on one of the Maulers, and ride my 9/9 trampler to victory.

Record: 6-4

My lack of early drops are starting to bother me – I had two Maulers in my hand, and no way to get them to 3/3 except for a fluke blocking situation. Once they hit the board, they were dominant when combined with Moldervine Cloak – which is easily the most powerful and most important card in the deck so far. It turns my small guys big, and my big guys unstoppable.

Game 11: Rabid_Monkeys (B/G Husk/Golgari Germination/Dredge)

So much for my winning streak. Rabid_Monkeys stops up the ground completely with Nantuko Husk, Golgari Germination, and dredge creatures. Golgari Brownscale gains him two life a turn, and provides the Husk with a +4/+4 boost - +2/+2 from the Brownscale, and +2/+2 from the token made by the death of the Brownscale. As more creatures hit the board, the Husk proves to be something my deck isn't equipped to handle. I draw a Savage Twister, and realize I can't kill his board. In fact, the best I can do is leave him with a Husk and three 1/1 tokens. I don't win.

Record: 6-5

I might have had a chance in that game if I had drawn a Ledgewalker, but otherwise his deck is designed to stall the ground and delay the game until the Husk gets out of hand – and his deck worked admirably to that effect.

Game 12: Heffman (R/G Gruul)

Another mirror match. Heffman opens the game with a Leyline of Lightning plus a Kird Ape. I drop Silhana Ledgewalker and put two Moldervine Cloaks on it, but he drops creature after creature, I draw land after land, and I end up dying to Volcanic Hammer.

Record: 6-6

There are now two other problems with my deck, different from before. I've taken out a lot of the higher-end drops, so I have too many lands in my deck – this past game just highlighted that problem. I also do not have enough one-drops. I remedy both of these problems at once by taking out four lands in favor of four Llanowar Elves.

Out: -3 Gruul Turf, -1 Forest
In: +4 Llanowar Elves

Game 13: thedrkstheart (U/B Millstone)

I mulligan a hand with no lands, draw into a hand with no Forests, and end up drawing no Forests with multiple Green cards in my hand (including Llanowar Elves). I do get several Mountains and Skarrg, the Rage Pits, but they are about as useful as Boab inside an attic during an eclipse, and I die quickly to Belltower Sphinx and Dimir House Guard.

Record: 6-7

Well, that's what I get for taking out four Green-producing lands and replacing them with Elves. Actually, the problem probably isn't the swap – the problem is that my deck really doesn't want Skarrgs anymore. They haven't been very useful overall, as trample hasn't proved nearly as effective as I would have hoped. I play one more game and make sure I'm not color-hosing myself.

Game 14: Happy Gilmore (G/B Dredge)

I can't deal with Stinkweed Imps, and I end up getting destroyed by Moldervine Cloaked Stinkweed Imps. Time for some changes.

Record: 6-8

It's time for some major changes. By this point, my previous article had hit and a lot of people had made the suggestion to try out Galvanic Arc in the forums. I'm all for it – Galvanic Arc allows me to kill creatures (such as Stinkweed Imp), or allow my guys to win in combat (such as against Stinkweed Imp), plus I can deal three to the dome to enable bloodthirst, if need be.

The trample theme has not worked at all. Scab-Clan Mauler tramples naturally, Fists of Ironwood give a creature trample, and outside of Bramble Elemental, none of my guys are naturally big enough to make trample matter. In order to fix my color issues and to fit in the Arcs, I take out the last few trample cards from the deck.

Out: -1 Borborygmos, -2 Gruul War Plow, -4 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
In: +3 Galvanic Arc, +3 Forest, +1 Mountain

Alas, poor Borborygmos, we knew you not at all. I hadn't drawn you at all since that Gelectrode game way back when, but seven mana is a stretch for this deck at this point. If the end result of this deck had been a Borborygmos-focused deck, I definitely would have named this deck “Crush Them!” instead of “Gruul Intentions” – but such is life.

As a side note, the fifth build of Gruul Intentions has a total of zero rares, fourteen uncommons, and forty-six commons. I did not set out to make my deck virtually all commons and cheap uncommons, but that's just the way things turned out this week. I'm absolutely not hesitant to add rares to this deck, but the natural evolution lead it to a very cheap build.

Game 15: Wizard Smee (R/W)

I drop a second turn Gruul Guildmage, and put Moldervine Cloak on it the third turn. Wizard Smee has triple Boros Fury-Shield, and I end up taking fifteen damage from my own Guildmage. I end up dying to Skyknight Legionnaire the turn before I would kill him – but whatcha gonna do, you know? I was happy with how the deck performed, but sometimes your opponent gets exactly what they need to beat you.

Record: 6-9

Game 16: Hewhorocks (R/G control)

I get turn 1 Llanowar Elves, turn 2 Scab-Clan Mauler, turn 3 Moldervine Cloak, and turn 4 Moldervine Cloak. If only all of my games could run like this!

Record: 7-9

Game 17: Cdragon2k (U/R Wee Dragonauts)

I get Scorched Rusalka, then Llanowar Elves, then Fists of Ironwood. I push damage through his Wee Dragonauts by sacrificing whatever he blocks to the Rusalka, and then drop Bramble Elemental. He casts Mimeofacture to copy it, but I drop Galvanic Arc on my Bramble Elemental. This allows me to kill his Dragonauts, make two 1/1 creatures, and first-strike through his Bramble Elemental.

Record: 8-9

After this game, I realized that I was fairly disillusioned with Gruul Guildmage. Back at the beginning, my deck had a lot of mana to spare each turn. I have a much tighter early curve now, and I almost never want to spend the mana to activate either Guildmage ability. Most times, he's just a 2/2 Grizzly Bear that I hope to put Moldervine Cloak on. That's not great for this deck, so out he goes.

My question then is: what sources are there in Standard that can cause repeated damage to the opponent across multiple turns? I want something that will be able to enable my bloodthirst creatures, deal the last few points of damage to my opponent, or kill an opposing creature (something that the Guildmage frustratingly could never do). Here were the choices I came down to:

Orcish Artillery
Creatures:
Kumano, Master Yamabushi
Orcish Artillery
Viashino Fangtail

There were other creatures in the format that I could have put on this list (such as Frostwielder or Anaba Shaman), but I felt that they were inferior to the creatures above. Kumano would provide the largest body, but at the highest cost. Bramble Elementals already top my curve at this point, and I don't want to add more high-end creatures to the deck – I already took those out! This leaves Orcish Artillery and Viashino Fangtail as possible choices.

Spells:
Hanabi Blast
Honden of Infinite Rage
Leyline of Lightning

I don't like Leyline of Lightning, because in this deck if I don't draw it in my opening hand, it's a dead draw. Chances are that by turn 4, I'll have maybe one or two spells left to cast, making it four mana plus two mana for two damage. Hanabi Blast is a card I've always wanted to try, and Honden of Infinite Rage is a solid damage-a-turn card.

In the end, I choose to go with Orcish Artillery. My deck has no three-drop creatures, so the Artillery will help the curve – plus I am heavy on auras still (Three Galvanic Arc, four Fists of Ironwood, four Moldervine Cloak), so I want to have more (not less) creatures to put auras onto.

I also add a sole rare to the deck – one copy of Flame Fusillade. Flame Fusillade seems like a good finisher for a deck that can generate a lot of tokens, plus runs quite a few auras. Remember, you can tap an aura to deal a damage with the Fusillade, so putting Fists of Ironwood on a Bramble Elemental will result in at least six damage from a Fusillade (Bramble Elemental plus four tokens, plus the Fists of Ironwood).

I think that Honden of Infinite Rage and Hanabi Blast are definitely worth testing in this deck, so if anyone in the forums would like to try those cards out and let me know how they work, I'd be much appreciative – for my part, I found a build I was happy with.

Out:- 4 Gruul Guildmage, -1 Savage Twister
In: +1 Flame Fusillade, +4 Orcish Artillery

Game 18: Contrast (Goblns)

Contrast drops four one-mana cost goblins, and then drops Goblin King. I have a Mountain, and take eight damage on turn 4. I drop a turn 2 Ledgewalker, toss Moldervine Cloak on it the next turn, and then cast Savage Twister for two, taking out his entire team except for a Mogg Sentry. He knocks me down to two, but I end up winning with my cloaked Ledgewalker.

Record: 9-9

Game 19: Enzo17 (The million-dollar deck)

Enzo17 drops Loxodon Hierarch, triple Char, Birds of Paradise, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Tolsimir Wolfblood, double Lightning Helix, and other high-dollar cards over the course of the game. I get out Bramble Elemental, drop multiple enchantments on it, and use Scorched Rusalka to assault his life total. He kills me with his third Char the turn before I will be able to take him from 24 to zero almost entirely with Rusalka damage. The final life totals? 1-0 in his favor. I'm extremely happy that my deck performed this well against his extremely-expensive deck.

Record: 9-10, but a moral victory for that tenth loss.

Game 20: The Onion (W/G/B Enchantments)

I get no early drops, but kill his creatures with triple Galvanic Arc – including Watchwolf and Vulturous Zombie. I eventually get out guys plus Moldervine Cloaks, and ride them into the sunset.

Record: 10-10

Gruul Intentions ended up being a fun, viable deck in the end. I ended up going a lot more aura heavy than I would have thought possible, but they all worked well. Virtually none of the cards from the original preconstructed deck survived to the final build, but the ones that did (Scorched Rusalka, Bramble Elemental, Scab-Clan Mauler, Fists of Ironwood) ended up becoming the centerpieces of the deck. Although the trample theme didn't work out, the deck definitely felt very Gruul – get guys to the table, and make my opponents eat small, medium, and large helpings of the greens and the reds.

That's it until next week, when I break out an idea that I've been rolling around my head for over six months now! I leave you with my first poll, and one that I think a lot of you will enjoy. Take care, and may you have the Gruulest of intentions indeed.

 
 Great Googley Moogley! There sure are a lot of swell rares that haven't seen a lot of love in Guildpact! Which one should Ben build a deck around? 
Djinn Illuminatus, the big guy in the sky who will double your trouble
Earth Surge, the lord of making you animate your lands
Killer Instinct, and please print Street Fighter to go with Mortal Combat
Sky Swallower, and if you choose this one Ben will weep openly
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