Hello everyone, I’m David Raczka and today I want to go over my GR Aggro deck that I played at the Star City Games Open in Atlanta. This was the first major tournament since Gatecrash and there were plenty of options to choose from. So let’s take a look at my list and how I came about playing this deck.

The Deck:

4 Arbor Elf
4 Avacyn Pilgrim
1 Wasteland Viper
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Strangleroot Geist
4 Domri Rade
3 Hellrider
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Wolfir Silverheart
3 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Stomping Grounds
4 Rootbound Crag
6 Mountains
9 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run

Sideboard
4 Searing Spear
4 Pillar of Flame
1 Wasteland Viper
1 Hellrider
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
3 Wolfir Avenger

*I played 2 at SCG Open Atlanta but I suggest moving 1 to the sideboard for the fourth Domri Rade unless your meta is infested with decks that run Champion of the Parish, Experiment One or Stromkirk Noble.

 

Deck building Philosophy

So why play this deck? Well for me, there are three things I want when building a new deck. Coincidentally, they are the same three things all of the decks I have done well with have in common.

  1. Have 4 cards that draw extra cards.
  2. Play 8+ disruption cards.
  3. Have nothing else but under cost creature cards and lands main board.

Getting all that into one deck list is similar to packing a bag for a camping trip. The more items that serve multiple function the leaner and lighter the bag is. That is where sporks come along.

Deck Construction

Gatecrash provided two sporks in the same colors that complement each other very well: Ghor-Clan Rampager and Domri Rade. Ghor-Clan Rampager is a creature with respectable stats that can also serve as a removal spell when on the offensive. For example, attacking into Restoration Angel mana gets much better with Ghor-Clan Rampager in hand. Whatever creature they block with Restoration Angel you can bloodrush Ghor-Clan Rampager, assign four damage to the angel, and trample over for more damage. Domri Rade is another spork and the reason I built this deck. It synergizes perfectly with all three deck building goals. It draws cards, it kills creatures, and it works great with under cost creatures. Ghor-Clan Rampager and Domri Rade fulfill the basic requirements of goals #1 and #2.

4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Domri Rade

 

To fulfill the last goal we need men, and a lot of them! Due to Domri Rade’s -2 ability, we want men that can survive fights and destroy other creatures. One drop 2/2 creatures, while under cost, do not survive combat against anything we want to destroy with Domri Rade’s ability. This leads to using 8 mana accelerators to play more expensive threats quickly.

4 Avacyn Pilgrim
4 Arbor Elf

 

Although every game we would like a T1 mana dork followed by T2 3-drop, sometimes we do not have a mana dork so we need respectable two drops. Flinthoof Boar and Strangleroot Geist are decent at fighting so they make the team.

4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Strangleroot Geist

 

There are few creature cards at 3cc that are exceptional. I would like to play Boros Reckoner and Loxodon Smiter except both need a white a splash. Boros Reckoner may not seem like an intuitive choice, but a primarily green deck can use a combination of Stomping Grounds, Temple Gardens, Rootbound Crags, and Sunpetal Groves to cast him. In the future, I am going to experiment with these two cards in a similar shell.

For 4cc creatures we already have Ghor-Clan Rampager. Huntmaster of the Fells and Hellrider are the two best options I have found, although I am considering adding Yeva somewhere in the 75. Yeva has good stats that line up well versus Boros Reckoner, Hellrider, and Restoration Angel. In addition, flash helps versus Blind Obedience and Supreme Verdict. Right now I prefer Hellrider to Huntmaster of the Fells. Hellrider does damage faster.  Against decks like reanimator and Bant Hexproof that are pure races, Hellrider deals lethal a turn faster. The major advantage to Huntmaster of the Fells is that he costs one less red mana. That may not sound like much, but going from GG to cast Strangleroot Geist to 2RR to cast Hellrider sometimes does not happen. Huntmaster of the Fells may also be better versus UW/UWR Restoration Angel decks. The combination of making them play cards on their turn so Huntmaster of the Fells does not flip, as well as being able to attack into Restoration Angels when flipped is a proven combination of abilities to win with against those kinds of decks.

3 Hellrider

 

The 5cc creatures are awesome. I cannot believe they are legal and would play more if the curve could afford it. I find Wolfir Silverheart and Thundermaw Hellkite to be better than any other creature card at his mana cost in these colors. Thragtusk is not even a consideration. He does not fight well, attack well, or block well. In my mind, his card text should say 4G – Gain 11 life and draw a card.  That effect does not do much when people are attacking for 10+ damage with Silverblade Paladins and Hellriders. Thundermaw Hellkite deals a good amount of damage for his cost. He feels underwhelming compared to Wolfir Silverheart, who immediately buffs a fellow creature, blocks, and then attacks for 8. Therefore:

4 Wolfir Silverheart
3 Thundermaw Hellkite.

 

The only thing left to discuss is the lands. The mana base seems a little shaky at the moment. Sometimes Kessig Wolf Run makes it so you cannot cast your spells. It feels like if there was one more red and green source the mana would be much better. Gruul Guildgate is an option although I think the deck would lose more games because a gate came into play tapped then wins because it fixed your mana.

4 Stomping Grounds
4 Rootbound Crag
6 Mountains
9 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run

 

Wait… what about Wasteland Viper?!

Well, I searched through the cards I got at the pre-release and came across Wasteland Viper to improve the Mono-Red match up. Wasteland Viper proved to be great against T1 plays. It functioned similar to Pillar of Flame but we can cast it T1 on the play that we could not do with a Pillar of Flame. Wasteland Viper does also provide utility with Ghor-Clan Rampager because it allows you to attack into Angel of Serenity, Loxodon Smiter, and Thragtusk. What I find especially awesome about this play is that bloodrushing a Wasteland Viper allows you to assign 1 damage to the defending creature and trample over for the rest. The result is the opponent takes 4 damage, their creature is dead, your creature is alive. All for the low cost of one green mana! With all that being said, I played against only one Mono-Red splash white for Boros Charm and if there is not that much aggressive decks that rely on 1 drops, I would switch Wasteland Viper for whatever sideboard card you like best.

1 Wasteland Viper

Tournament Report and Sideboard Discussion

I want to discuss the sideboard while recapping how my experience at SCG Open Atlanta. I started the tournament with high hopes because I liked my deck choice a lot.

Unfortunately I played versus the best card against this deck’s strategy round 1. It really is not a strategy, but more of a single card: Blind Obedience. I am sure you noticed that the deck packs 14 haste creatures. A single Blind Obedience can prevent/gain its caster 15+ life against this hasty Gruul monstrosity. With my opponent on the play he went T2 Blind Obedience T3 Detention Sphere Domri Rade T4 Miracle Terminus to remove Hellrider and Arbor Elf.  I definitely lost that game.

Planeswalkers are your best friend because they have few creatures. In addition, Hellrider shines versus decks that do not block.

-1 Wastland Viper
-2 Wolfir Silverheart
+2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
+1 Hellrider

The next game I led off strong with T1 Arbor Elf into Strangleroot Geist, but he had T2 Blind Obedience again.  I got him down to less than 7 life with various creatures. I had four creatures in hand and a Flinthoof Boar with Kessig Wolf Run in play for lethal. He has no cards in hand. He draws for his turn and—Sphinx’s Revelation for 7….

0-1

 

After that I scoured the halls to see if my sense of the meta was that far off. I thought I would see multicolor midrange decks, Mono-Red splash white, Bant control, and Bant Hexproof primarily. I saw only a few people playing blind obedience decks, which was a reassuring sign.

I rattled off 2 wins against 4-color midrange and Jund. Wolfir Silverheart is very good versus both. I did not sideboard versus the 4-color midrange deck. Against Jund I still do not know how to sideboard. Garruk, Primal Hunter is awesome against them sometimes, but Wolfir Silverheart and Thundermaw Hellkite are already awesome. Adding more 5 drops is risky because you may have no early plays. I sometimes sided in Hellrider but he proved to be underwhelming as a 4-of because they have blockers that are made to block. When considering what to take out, I am thinking that Strangleroot Geist is under-performing; he does not match up well versus Pillar of Flame, Vampire Nighthawk, or Thragtusk. In addition, most Jund players will side out their Liliana of the Veils and Devour Flesh against you after seeing Strangleroot Geist and mana dorks.

This is what I am going to try against Jund until I get more testing:

-3 Hellrider
-1 Wasteland Viper
-4 Strangleroot Geist
+3 Searing Spear
+2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
+3 Wolfir Avenger

Searing Spear lines up well versus Vampire Nighthawk and an early Olivia Voldaren. Wolfir Avenger attacks better into Vampire Nighthawk than Strangleroot Geist and does not get hit by Pillar of Flame.

2-1

 

I faced Ryan Gilleland this round with Mono-Red with a splash of white for Boros Charm. Game one he got stuck on lands and could not draw the fourth land for Hellrider before double Thundermaw Hellkite got him. Game two was very close. Ryan stumbled on lands again. I calculated how much he could do next turn and the maximum was one less then my life total. Good thing I did not draw Stomping Ground this game! Wasteland Viper subtly won me both games.

Play

+1 Wasteland Viper
+3 Wolfir Avenger
+1 Hellrider
-4 Domri Rade
-1 Thundermaw Hellkite

Draw

+1 Wasteland Viper
+4 Pillar of Flame
-4 Domri Rade
-1 Thundermaw Hellkite

3-1

 

I then played Phillip Lorren with UWR Flash. I lost game one to 5 Azorious Charms (No, I did not have to call a judge, he played a couple with Snapcaster Mage). I then lost game two to mana flood. I had little experience sideboarding for this match up so I kept in Strangleroot Geist versus a deck that plays 4 Pillar of Flames, 4 Snapcaster Mage, and 4 Restoration Angel. Those Strangleroot Geists did absolutely nothing. Afterwards I thought of how I should have sideboarded.

+1 Wasteland Viper
+3 Wolfir Avenger
-4 Strangleroot Geist

 

There is some merit to Garruk, Primal Hunter instead of Wasteland Viper, but I rather be able to attack early and often without fear of Restoration Angel due to the Wasteland Viper.  If they decide they are not going to block because of Wasteland Viper, you might as well sideboard them out for Garruk, Primal Hunter and attack like you have it.

3-2

 

I then faced against Bant Control and won through Alchemist Refuge as well as a Sphinx of Revelation for 4. The main reason I won is that he did not T2 me with Blind Obedience so he got dealt a lot of hasty damage. Bant Control does not have many creatures so I brought in Garruk, Primal Hunter and Hellrider. Both are awesome versus slow decks with few creatures. Wolfir Silverheart is the worse 5 drop versus them so I cut him for the Garruks and cut Wasteland Viper for the 4th Hellrider. Wolfir Avenger seems better than Flinthoof Boar versus them, but I want to make sure I have enough two drops. I think shaving Flinthoof Boar is a trap. You need your early drops versus them so they tap out to wrath and then you can commit a five-drop to the board. Wolfir Avenger dissuades your opponent from wrathing in every way.

-2 Wolfir Silverheart
-1 Wasteland Viper
+1 Hellrider
+2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

4-2

I apologize to my round 7 opponent Mike Lee. I think he was on Naya Midrange but I do not recall very well.

5-2

 

I played against Max Kocsisszucs who played in style with Jynxes as lingering soul tokens. He was on Esper Control. Game one T2 Domri ultimated T6 and I won. Game two he crushed me in convincing fashion. Game three I played Domri Rade quick enough to ultimate T6 or T7 again and won convincingly. One thing I learned from this match up is Tribute to Hunger is very good versus Wolfir Silverheart. I sideboarded knowing he had multiples accordingly:

-4 Wolfir Silverheart
+2 Garruk Primal Hunter
+1 Hellrider
+3 Wolfir Avenger
-1 Wasteland Viper
-1 Flinthoof Boar

6-2

 

The next round was versus Jund. I told him he looked familiar and he responded that we most likely played near each other today. That was not the case. He looked familiar because he played Trace Hazen in the feature match running the same 75 as me! The good news is that Trace Hazen won against him 2-0, the bad news is that I did not. Game one he plays Rakdos Keyrune, Thragtusk, and Rakdos’s Return on turns 3-5 on the play. The Rakdos’s Return got my hand of Thundermaw Hellkite, Wolfir Silverheart and two other cards. The mana acceleration was key because if I got to keep Wolfir Silverheart I would have been in good shape. Game two I won easily. Game three I mulliganed to 6 and had Forest, Mountain, Kessig Wolf Run, Wolfir Avenger, Domri Rade, and Thundermaw Hellkite. I never drew the second green source to play the avenger. That is a mediocre hand but it is better than most 5 card hands.  I messed up sideboarding because I sided out Flinthoof Boars instead of Strangleroot Geists for Wolfir Avenger. If I was able to play T2 boar T3 Domri Rade, I would have been able to stabilize against his farseek, huntmaster of fells, huntmaster of fells hand. Strangleroot Geist does not match up well versus his creatures and dies to Pillar of Flame.

Sideboard like this versus Jund:

-3 Hellrider
-1 Wasteland Viper
-4 Strangleroot Geist
+3 Searing Spear
+2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
+3 Wolfir Avenger

6-3

 

I was tired at this point but I decided to play the last round for a chance to get into top 64. I played versus Four-color midrange but didn’t know it game one because I killed him turn 5 and he did not play any spells. I thought he might be on Human Reanimator. Game two I played a lot of creatures and his deck seemed to not deliver him the right cards to defend.

-1 Wasteland Viper
+1 Hellrider

I didn’t know what he was playing but he did not show me one drop creatures so I sided out the card that is good versus one drops for the card that is good for racing.

7-3


Conclusion

I enjoyed the deck and I enjoyed the tournament. I had one unlucky pairing round 1 and made mistakes the other two losses I had.  If I played better, especially with sideboarding decisions, I felt like I would have gone farther in the tournament.  I ended up 47th place, which is not great, but at least I did not go away empty handed.

In case you want to play this deck, here are two match ups I did not face but know how to sideboard for from testing:

Bant Hexproof and Human Reanimator:

-4 Domri Rade
-1 Wasteland Viper
+1 Hellrider

+4 Searing Spear

Both of these matchups are pure races so no combat trick or card advantage is needed.

 

Good luck to anyone who tries out the deck. It is a lot of fun and any time your opponent blocks, I hope you unleash the beast!