Greetings, readers, and welcome to the fourth installment of my Top Soldiers Of article series! In this series, I review what I believe to be the top 10 non-legends and the top 3 legends in each color combination. Remember that these are simply my opinions, and this article series is simply here to give you, the reader, some ideas of hidden gems you might have yet to discover for your EDH decks. This week’s article focuses on the combination of red and green commonly referred to as Gruul.
Gruul is very much about its creatures; it aims to overwhelm the opponent with large, aggressive, must-answer creatures turn after turn after turn. That being said, it also has a wealth of powerful spells and effects aimed at mass haste, mass pump, or the destruction of practically any permanent on board. Without further ado, let’s jump straight into the top 10 list. We begin with;
#10 – Wilderness Elemental
We start off this list with a rather unassuming creature; it costs 3, has 3 toughness, trample, an arbitrarily large amount of power, and is a really strong aggressive creature.
What makes Wilderness Elemental stand out is the pressure it creates. Being dropped on turns 2-3 can easily give it 4 or more power to start out with, already making it above the curve in most matchups. If your opponents don’t have a blocker for this, they’ll die very quickly to it.
Lategame, this thing can very easily skyrocket to upwards of 25 power for 3 mana, and if you have a haste enabler, you can really catch an entire table off-guard by dropping this little critter.
It’s true that 3 toughness is rather easy to punch through, but in a world where first strike is scarce and spot removal is even moreso, a multiplayer-inclined, a card like Wilderness Elemental thrives.
#9 – Clan Defiance
I have a huge soft spot for Clan Defiance. For one, any spot removal spell that’s a 2-for-1 or better automatically piques my interest. Secondly, if it has decent value at any stage of the game, that’s even better. But what makes it shine in my eyes is how good it is lategame at killing people. It’s the win condition spot removal spell!
There are often times when multiple permanents become threats to the table. For those instances, cards like Ashes to Ashes are very strong. I feel like Clan Defiance is a good comparison to a card like Ashes to Ashes. There are vast differences between the two cards, but they functionally do the same thing; kill things.
Clan Defiance is not without drawbacks. The biggest drawback it has is of course, Wild Ricochet just eats this thing alive. Protection also runs rampant in EDH, so being the colors of both Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Feast and Famine is a bit of a letdown. Regardless, the potential this has to end games and threats to the board alike is not to be ignored, and it still has insane value for just one card.
#8 – Domri Rade
Domri Rade, like his good friend Garruk, Caller of Beasts, is a planeswalker who merits inclusion in any deck for lending itself to a creature-centric strategy, all the while being easy to protect due to how many creatures a Domri Rade deck will tend to have.
Domri is also a very strong outlet for spot removal, and while Ulvenwald Tracker does the same thing, the Tracker doesn’t draw you cards, nor does it threaten an incredibly daunting board presence with an outright absurd emblem.
Having anything more than 2 power be dropped while that emblem’s in effect means your opponents are in for a world of hurt, and are virtually helpless to stop it. It’s not that easy to make work, but if you get a fast enough start, and can protect Domri long enough, the dream can easily be lived.
#7 – Sarkhan Vol
It may seem odd to have back-to-back Planeswalkers on this top 10, but Sarkhan Vol lends itself to a similar yet altogether different strategy from Domri Rade. It acts as both an off-and-on Glorious Anthem, while at the same time being a haste outlet akin to Thousand-Year Elixir, making it very potent in lists that contain things such as Priest of Titania. (I may or may not have put this card this high on the list because of a certain Elfball player)
My favorite part about Sarkhan Vol, however, has always been the Threaten effect. Control this and a Greater Good, and watch your opponent cry as you reap the rewards of their most powerful creature, generating your own resources while destroying your opponent’s most useful ones.
The ultimate is not to be ignored, though. Obviously, this was geared heavily towards running multiples, as paying 6 loyalty to make dragons and then dropping a second copy to give them haste very obviously ends games in 20-life formats, but the effect is very powerful alongside Doubling Season, and great in creature-count-matters lists such as Thromok the Insatiable.
#6 – Vexing Shusher
There’s only so much I can do to exemplify how biased I am towards this card, but I have to respect the more powerful options the color combination allows and keep myself humble by not making a rather hit-or-miss creature like the Shusher #1. Instead, it takes sixth place.
It does what it does, incredibly well – it keeps blue decks honest. There are board states that must be dislodged, and the Shusher does just that when you need it to. It makes sure that what you intend to happen happens. Such a creature is very easily for a player like me to get attached to.
It’s great offensively or defensively, whether you’re crushing the board with an iron fist and want to resolve your game-winning Primal Surge, or you just want to make sure your Blasphemous Act destroys their Consecrated Sphinx.
Also, I’m that much more partial to the card because I own a promo copy of it, and the watermark and foiling are just beautiful, not to mention how pretty hybrid cards’ coloring already is, especially red and green hybrids.
#5 – Deus of Calamity
The Deus is one of ten hybrid Avatar creatures from Shadowmoor and Eventide. It’s definitely one of the best ones of this cycle, as 6 power and trample for 5 mana is already a very strong deal.
What makes the Deus absurdly powerful, however, is its ability to snipe utility lands from people. This effect is very much telegraphed, but it creates a soft rattlesnake effect on the board; “Don’t let this guy do 6 damage to you if you want to keep your Reliquary Tower.” Aside from that, if you have any sort of pump or protection available to you, this thing can threaten the table with or without blockers. Good luck blocking this thing when it’s got a Sword of You attached to it.
#4 – Dragon Broodmother
I’m told by a lot of people that in a multiplayer format, Force of Nature is really good. While I think it has potential, and I’ve seen the card generate stupid amounts of tokens, I much prefer when those tokens fly and don’t cost 8 mana to generate. While more color-intensive, I feel Dragon Broodmother is the superior option to FoN.
The tokens it creates not only fly, but act as a sac outlet for all the other useless creatures you have, allowing you to create a rather large token that your opponent has to deal with. Not only that, but while they might have dealt with the token, they won’t always have also dealt with the Broodmother, who’s ready to give birth to more hungry hungry hellraisers to end you with. Overall, I’m a huge fan of what I feel is the superior multicolor Force of Nature as both a token monster and a win condition all its own.
#3 – Gruul Ragebeast
Gruul Ragebeast may seem like a card you’ll want to pass up at first glance, being a 7-mana dork without trample, but there are a lot of things to consider that make this card incredibly powerful.
First of all, it impacts the board immediately if it resolves. Being a 6/6 is a bit of a letdown, meaning it doesn’t survive fights with most behemoths of the format (but it does notably clip Consecrated Sphinx!), but it can still at the very least remove a valuable midrange creature or even just an annoying utility dork.
Second of all, every concurrent creature you bring out, including tokens, impact the board immediately when they enter. This can be a good or bad thing, because fighting a creature is not optional, but it does hilarious things with creatures like Sprouting Phytohydra (provided you can give it power somehow), Maelstrom Wanderer and Ogre Battledriver. Regardless, decks that run this can typically either stream nonstop fatties or just run this headlong into opponents and not care whether it lives or dies.
Overall, Ragebeast has a lot of value, and it’s really easy to make work on top of that. It’s a bit of a biased pick, but I’m convinced people just haven’t caught on to how useful it is. It’s repeatable removal, being a 2-for-1 most times on its own and can be so much more than that if you have the right board state for it.
#2 – Dragonlair Spider
Don’t get me wrong – while I think Dragon Broodmother is more powerful outright, decks that want either will want both, and Dragonlair Spider just does more for those decks than the Broodmother does. Getting a token off every spellcast is more often than not going to equate to getting at least one token on each opponent’s turn, if not way more than that, and whether you’re dropping Goblin Bombardment or Triumph of the Hordes, you want quantity over quality.
What I also like about the Spider is that it has much better combat stats than the Broodmother, despite being on the ground, and it can also wall Consecrated Sphinx forever. There are little nuances that make the Spider better in decks that want either that or the Broodmother, but if you’re not working with creature numbers matter effects, the Broodmother is the more outright powerful card.
#1 – Decimate
I don’t think Decimate being at the top spot comes as a surprise to anyone. It’s perhaps the most powerful spot removal spell in the format, but with a rather innocuous restriction – you have to have the targets. Whereas at the time of print, the enchantment part was a little more difficult to make work, nowadays, between Gods and 7-mana kill-you enchantments, there’s a hearth of targets to destroy with this, and it’s not like Wizards is printing less bonkers enchantments these days.
Really, though, you can’t ask for more in a spot removal spell. It destroys everything. There are plenty of bomby targets for each mode, ranging from Caged Sun, Akroma’s Memorial and Memnarch to Sheoldred, Whispering One, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Consecrated Sphinx to Vicious Shadows, Omniscience and True Conviction to Maze of Ith, Gaea’s Cradle and Cabal Coffers.
Overall, the card will almost never be bad, and what’s more is that if you’re able to cast it more than once (through things like Eternal Witness, Anarchist or Charmbreaker Devils), you can start locking the board out of casting whatever mode has the fewest targets.
I have to admit, while the Gruul legends are flexible, most of them are frail at best, relying on their general to be effective. The three I’ve chosen are either independent of other cards to be effective, or powerful enough on their own to completely dominate the board. Without further ado, let’s begin with:
#3 – Radha, Heir to Keld
Radha graces the list for a number of reasons. The first is that she’s a 2-mana 2/2, hitting the board very quickly and threatening general damage very fast. (Trust me, I’ve tried; and while it failed miserably, being able to turn 2 kill someone with the god draw was just too tempting an offer to pass up)
The second is her creature type – Elf Warrior. While the latter is not nearly as notable, being a red and green Elf that adds mana is just too good to pass up for most players looking to add red to their Elf lists.
The third are her mana abilities. Like I said, I admit I’ve tried (just a little too hard, perhaps) to make the RR on attack translate to 21 general damage on turn 2-4 (and every time they print a new pump spell that gives 3 power for a single red mana, I just want to go back and try it again), but it hardly ever ends up doing anything but making Ezuri, Renegade Leader‘s Overrun effect cheaper. Being a dork herself also allows you to have some silly plays where you ramp yourself stupid into a turn 3 Sylvan Primordial.
Overall, I really like what Radha does, and while I’m guilty of trying the cheesiest all-in strategy with her possible, just writing this makes me want to try it again, because when it worked, it worked hilariously well.
#2 – Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Ruric Thar is an extremely powerful creature that lends itself to the purpose of smacking control decks silly. They want to cast Wrath of God, they’re gonna pay. They want to cast Omniscience, they’re gonna pay. Basically, almost every solution to Ruric Thar involves pain for your opponents, and, if you’ve built around Ruric Thar well enough, pleasure for you.
Obviously, being forced into attacking every turn is the tradeoff, but being a 6/6 on turn 6 is very powerful, and in green, it’s very easy to get this out earlier than that, pressuring your opponents extremely quickly.
Also, having both vigilance and reach is great game as well, as it attacks with recklessness and blocks with impunity, being a valuable creature in combat. Suck it, Consecrated Sphinx!
#1 – Thromok the Insatiable
Well, I’ve mentioned him already in this article, and many of the cards in this article are very powerful in a Thromok deck, so if you’re surprised, I don’t know what to tell you. Thromok is extremely deadly and can very easily catch people off-guard, threatening lethal damage extremely fast, and with haste or trample (devour Anger and Brawn, For Value (TM)!), it can come out of nowhere to just end people.
Tokens are very easy to spawn in green, and in red and green, you have gems like Tempt with Vengeance, Artifact Mutation and Kessig Wolf Run to generate enough tokens to make Thromok lethal very easily. 5 creatures is all you need, but the more you have when you have trample, the harder it will be for your opponents to block it.
Of course, Thromok is not without its weaknesses. For one, you’re pouring your board into it, incentivizing removing it from the equation to exhaust your resources. Secondly, it’s a creature without hexproof that wants to attack, meaning Condemn and Maze of Ith will end its reign of terror.
Still, Swiftfoot Boots exists, and there are way too many enablers for Thromok to count. It’s a fun general to play, can take the route of either Warp World or Primal Surge, and can very easily be made competitive if you have the right money cards (Gaea’s Cradle prime among them). I’m just sad I don’t see more of the Hungry Hungry Hellion when I play EDH, because I have a soft spot for him, myself.
There you have it; my top picks for Gruul. If you disagree with my choices, or if there’s a card you thought should have been on this list, please let me know. I very much appreciate feedback as always.
Next week, this series will continue on with the final allied dual-color combination, Selesnya.
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586
M14 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508
Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617
Let’s Talk M14:
Painting a Target:
Planeswalking and You:
Stacking Up Commander 2013:
The Slippery Slope:
Trial & Error: