Ravnica Allegiance Review: Gruul

Hello everyone. Yesterday I spoke about the Azorius cards. Today it’s Gruul’s turn so let’s dig in.

Gruul Clans

Initially a noble guild in charge of maintaining the wilds and natural areas of Ravnica they have nearly been written out of The Guildpact, and the laws that protect citizens of Ravnica. Left on their own this guild has become wild, savage, and ferocious looking to take back the lands it has lost…and more. Although other citizens of Ravnica view the Gruul all the same there are seven clans, the most notable The Burning Tree clan, and each one can function independently from each other. This makes this guild one of the most unique, and diverse guilds of them all.

Domri Rade, depicted here on Domri, Chaos Bringer (awesome name) is the current leader of The Burning Tree clan defeating it’s former leader Borborygmos in battle with the aid of (who else?) Nicol Bolas. You may be disappointed at this being a four casting cost planeswalker, but keep in mind we do have Llanowar Elves in Standard so this can be played on turn three. Let’s take a further look at what Domri brings this time.

  • +1: You add a red or green mana. If that’s used to cast a creature it gets Riot. That’s a new mechanic for this guild where you can choose if the creature gets haste or a +1/+1 counter as it is played. I’ll mention this mechanic more later.
  • -3: Look at the top four cards of your library, reveal up to two creatures, put this in your hand. The rest go on the bottom of your library in a random order. This is pretty strong, but requires your deck to be very focused on creatures. After you see some of them this may not be a bad thing.
  • -8: You get an emblem where at the beginning of each end step you create a 4/4 red and green beast token. Yes. EACH end step. This is pretty strong in a multiplayer setting (EDH anyone?) so don’t dismiss it.

This is a pretty strong planeswalker, and possibly the best one in the set. It entices you to play more creatures which, if you identify with this clan, you are going to be doing anyway. The art on this version of Domri really tells me more of who this character is than that of his original version Domri Rade.

This was the first Gruul card we were introduced to when previews for Ravnica Allegiance started appearing, and…wow. This card is insane. Here we have another example of Riot. Notice how you can either have it be a hasty 3/3, or wait to attack next turn by playing this as a 4/4. The options this gives you can really make dealing with creatures in this guild quite difficult. Now let’s say you use Domri, Chaos Bringers first ability to use that mana to cast Gruul Spellbreaker. You now have two instances (not triggers) of Riot. So this can be a 4/4 with haste, or a 5/5. Riot is one of the strongest keywords I have ever seen a Magic: the Gathering card since Infect, and the Gruul Clans are going to stomp on everyone.

Gruul Spellbreaker also has an appropriate name as you can not kill it with cards like Cast Down, can’t bounce it with Warrant (which we looked at yesterday), nor will Seal Away exile it as long as it’s your opponent’s turn. Cards that shut off control decks ability to play at instant speed will be problematic for those players to deal with. Suddenly Settle The Wreckage seems to be the one getting wrecked. I can see this seeing some Modern play in Gruul Ponza Scheme (G/R Land destruction) decks.

You want more Riot? Well here you go. Ravager Wurm not only blows up a transformed Search For Azcanta, but if you choose not to do that it can destroy the opponent’s only blocker. Oh and Riot would give it haste if you choose. This creature is super strong, and anyone playing this clan will want to pack a pair in their main deck. Creatures that of themselves are removal spells are some of the strongest an aggressive deck can play. Keep in mind that Riot will resolve, and then you chose what you want to do with the card. If your opponent has a Niv-Mizzet, Parun in play you can give Ravager Wurm +1/+1. then fight Niv Mizzet. Strong.

Yet more Riot cards, and this time on a favored creature type with Zhur-Taa Goblin. Goblins are some of the most beloved creature types in Magic’s 25 year history, and this one will most assuredly reach the hearts of goblin fans out there. A 2/2 for two mana might not be a bear anymore. It might be a goblin. Of course you can hold him back a turn to make him a 3/3, but that wouldn’t be any fun now would it?

Speaking of favored creature types we have a dragon in this set…AND YES IT HAS RIOT! Skarrgan Hellkite is a five costed dragon that has an ability that only works if it has a +1/+1 counter on it. It’s mana cost suggests that this is the card you play the turn after you play Domri, Chaos Bringer, but what if I told you there was another way to get that counter and haste?

Rhythm of the Wild is one of the cards at the top of most people’s lists of cards to discuss, and there’s plenty of reasons why. Coming down early it protects you from your creature spells being countered, and also gives them the Riot keyword. So that dragon I spoke of above can be a 5/5 with haste for five mana, and not be countered. Absolutely absurd for us control mages. Luckily this card is only an uncommon, but still it’s going to be a card you’ll want to have for your super aggressive deck.

Now we get to a ridiculous card that will be seeing a lot of play. Thrash allows your creature to deal damage TO PLANESWALKERS, which then allows you to attack the opponent with that creature. That’s bonkers. Sure the Threat side is nice, and if you did the right side first you have something for the left side, but still this card is quite pushed. A Gruul deck would be limited on it’s removal spells, but this one here seems to fit perfectly with a deck built around the Gruul Clans. Have your counterspells ready, friends.

In conclusion

My issue with this guild, and how it was designed, is about as big as the ambitions of the Gruul Clans. I have a feeling, just like before with the design of Dissension that there was a concern Azorius decks would be “too good” (FYI they wouldn’t have been) so Domri and company were all pushed super hard. I understand having a need to design cards to have this constant push pull between archetypes, but the Gruul cards seem to bring this over the top…which is kind of in theme anyway. This could also be the guild to play at pre-release due to it’s aggressive nature.

That’s it for today. Short, and to the point, the Gruul Clans aren’t complex as they put on the full court press with the Riot mechanic. Tomorrow I will look at the cards from the Orzhov Syndicate. Are there cards from Gruul you like that I have not mentioned? Leave a comment below, and make sure to follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter.

Until tomorrow…


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