Gruul at the Mythic Invitational

Raphael Levy

Raphael Levy


The Mythic Invitational took place on MTGA on the September 10th. Format was Historic, top 16 of the tournament would qualify for the Grand Finals happening in October.

Thanks to my top 8 finish at the Players Tour’s Finals, I already qualified for the Grand Finals, so I didn’t have as much on the line as some other people. Nonetheless I wanted to do well to follow up my previous good finish.

On a Journey to Find the Best Deck

GravecrawlerGate to the AfterlifeGod-Pharaoh's Gift

My first attempt at exploring Historic was with Mono Black Gift. I had a pretty good feeling with the deck and spent most of the first days trying to tune it to the metagame. Quite quickly though, the deck felt short against Jund and Goblins, and I didn’t feel comfortable against control decks either.

Bolas's CitadelCollected Company

So I moved on and tried what seemed to be the most successful decks of the metagame: Goblins, Jund Sacrifice, Sultai… Long story short, I couldn’t win two matches in a row with any of these decks. Jund Sacrifice, may it be with 《Bolas’s Citadel》 or with 《Collected Company》 felt too clunky.

Muxus, Goblin Grandee

With Goblins, I whiffed my 《Muxus, Goblin Grandee》 triggers more than 60% of the time. I know this is just unlikely, but I didn’t want to leave my fate in the hands of a Legendary Goblin that had betrayed me so many times as I was just getting to know him.

Uro, Titan of Nature's WrathNissa, Who Shakes the World

Sultai, and most control decks didn’t quite do it for me either. I just don’t want to play 28-land decks, and I didn’t feel I had time to master the format in time to be comfortable with any of them.

So I went on exploring. I tried a bunch of different decks, including Burn (that I dropped after I played against 《Timely Reinforcements》 repeatedly), Mono Brown that became Mono Brown with White, Mono Brown with Red with the help of Eliott Boussaud – which I really liked- but didn’t quite win enough.

Encounter with Gruul

Back to square one a couple of days before deck submission. In the meantime, Dominic Arens won a MTGAZONE Historic Open with Gruul. I wasn’t a fan of Gruul pre-bans (when 《Burning-Tree Emissary》 was still legal), but I gave that one a shot.

For the first time in days, I managed to win not two, but 15 matches in a row, leveling my account up to Mythic in a matter of just a few hours. I was sold.

The weird thing was, every time I wanted to change a card and replace it by something else, I felt I was making a mistake. The numbers in the deck were just correct.


Primal MightElder Gargaroth

Let’s talk about the spells first. I wasn’t sure about 《Primal Might》 at first, but then I played against 《Elder Gargaroth》 and found out it was the only green or red removal able to reliably get rid of the beast.

Collected CompanyEmbercleave

The deck is built around 《Collected Company》, and that’s why you’re not seeing cards like 《Questing Beast》. It sure put a big restriction on the deckbuilding, including the number of spells we’re running. That’s also a reason why there are only two 《Embercleave》. A great card sure, but that you don’t want to have too many copies of when you look at the top 6 cards of your library for creatures.

1 Drops

Llanowar ElvesPelt CollectorLovestruck Beast

The curve for creatures seemed calculated wisely. Ten one drops seemed like the correct number. 《Llanowar Elves》 are an obvious 4-of, however, people seem to argue about 《Pelt Collector》. I’ve never been a fan of 《Pelt Collector》 as it’s a pretty poor draw in the late game, but great in the early game. Drawing too many of them over bigger creatures can be a liability and it feels like two of them is the right number for this deck.

2 Drops

Robber of the RichEarthshaker KhenraScavenging Ooze

Six Haste creatures in the two-drop slot were good too. 《Robber of the Rich》 and 《Earthshaker Khenra》 put a lot of pressure against slow opponents and give you extra value if used correctly.

Incorporating 《Scavenging Ooze》 in an aggro shell made the deck a scary opponent for every graveyard based strategies and gave it the flexibility that most aggro decks are lacking.

3 Drops

Rhonas the IndomitableKlothys, God of DestinyGruul SpellbreakerBonecrusher Giant

The deckbuilding question really comes from the three-drops. I like the one-ofs of each 《Rhonas the Indomitable》 and 《Klothys, God of Destiny》. They work great in the deck but you don’t want to hit two of the same in one game.

The 《Gruul Spellbreaker》 are an obvious choice when you want to smash face, 《Bonecrusher Giant》 give you the access to removal for 《Conspicuous Snoop》 and a strong body.

Lovestruck Beast

How about 《Lovestruck Beast》? We mentioned the ten one-drops (《Heart’s Desire》 is drop 7-10) but how is the 5/5 as a 《Lovestruck Beast》 target? Well, good and bad. Good because it’s big, a good way to sneak in a lot of damage with 《Rhonas the Indomitable》 or 《Embercleave》. Bad because it can’t always attack.

The thing I really liked about it was that it provided two creatures, one with an even cost (the token), one with an odd cost (《Lovestruck Beast》), which is relevant when playing against 《Extinction Event》.

Rampaging Ferocidon

I believe the alternative would be 《Rampaging Ferocidon》, by far the most important card of the sideboard. The 《Rampaging Ferocidon》’s cost is Odd (what most of your deck is), doesn’t activate 《Rhonas the Indomitable》, but is such a beating against both Goblins and 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 decks.

If I had to change something to the deck, it would be that. Unfortunately, the couple of days of testing the deck didn’t allow me to come to that conclusion by myself before the tournament – since I was really the only one believing in Gruul in my small test group- so I had to settle with the dinosaurs in the sideboard.



As for the sideboard, I wanted to be able to adapt to small creature decks, including Goblins. Adding just a few interactive spells did a great job at gaining just the extra turn or two before they could resolve a lethal 《Muxus, Goblin Grandee》. The deck was great against control anyways, so no need to change too much.

Basically, I felt the deck was really strong against control decks, fine against most of the field and might be struggling against goblins and Jund with 《Cauldron Familiar》s (while being favorite against non-cat Jund).

I’m not gonna lie, I was surprised at how many Goblin decks were submitted for the tournament. I didn’t think that deck was good to begin with and I started to wonder if I didn’t just miss something.

For more insight behind my thought process, I highlighted the segment where I talk about it on stream here:

Day 1

5-2 after Day 1 was satisfying. I believe I played fine overall (which changes from other regular tournaments). The fact that I managed to change my sleeping schedule probably worked in my favor. On Tuesday, I went to bed at 6 am to wake up at 3 pm, I repeated that on Wednesday so I could be fresh at 6 pm on Thursday when the tournament started for us Europeans.

Round 2

From what I heard, people were upset about my play here (Round 2, game one against John Rolf):

I played that game in my head after the match and wouldn’t have made any other play: face was the place. Some would argue that I needed to send everything to 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》 and prevent 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 from stepping in on the following turn.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Now keep in mind that John was only running one 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》, that for the SMORC play to not be good, he needed to have a removal (that I kinda thought he had since he played an 《Overgrown Tomb》 Untapped), 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 in hand, and that I didn’t draw any of my 15 outs on the following turn (3 《Bonecrusher Giant》, 4 《Robber of the Rich》, 2 《Earthshaker Khenra》, 2 《Gruul Spellbreaker》 and most likely 4 《Collected Company》).

On the other hand, committing my whole turn to kill 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》 would have opened a lot of opportunities for him to draw more removal, or even play another 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》.

Had I known John’s hand, I would probably have had to sens the token. However, the scenario where he blocks my token, kills my 《Scavenging Ooze》 with 《Eliminate》 and 《Extinction Event》 on the next turn would have left me with no board at all. But maybe that was the mistake? Again, the only card John needed, was his one 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》.

Except for that, the day went smoothly. I lost to Efro who killed me on turn 4 on the play and on the draw with Mono Red Goblins in round 4. I was happy I could get revenge on Sultai in round 6 and that I could beat 3 Goblin decks through the day.

Day 2

Up until round 11, everything went smoothly with a couple of risky keeps that paid off. Also had some interesting situations to navigate:

Round 9

Round 9 against Oliver Tiu on Mono Red Goblins, on the play, mulligan to 6:

Keep or Mull? If keep, what do you bottom?

Pelt CollectorRampaging FerocidonRampaging FerocidonCollected Company

I kept, sent 《Collected Company》 to the bottom… And drew a 《Rootbound Crag》 right away, killed the first prospector into double 《Rampaging Ferocidon》 which meant game.

Round 10

You can find game 2 and 3 of my match against Matt Nass on the coverage:

Quite a brutal game 3 if you ask me!

Round 11

Round 11 against Eric Hawkins on Mono Red Goblins.

Game 3, on the play. My hand is:

Llanowar ElvesRobber of the RichGruul SpellbreakerGruul Spellbreaker
Rampaging FerocidonShockStomping Ground

I keep and draw two lands in a row (thanks to the MPL addon ^^). A couple of turns later, here’s the board state:

Him: 12 life, 3 lands, 《Krenko, Mob Boss》 (Summoning Sickness) and a 《Wily Goblin》.

My board: 3 lands, 《Rampaging Ferocidon》, 《Gruul Spellbreaker》, 《Llanowar Elves》. My hand: 《Gruul Spellbreaker》, 《Rampaging Ferocidon》, 《Robber of the Rich》.

What’s the play?

I deploy 《Gruul Spellbreaker》 and send everyone. He blocks the 《Llanowar Elves》 with 《Krenko, Mob Boss》 and goes does to 3.

On his turn, he plays another 《Wily Goblin》 (down to 2), cycles a 《Gempalm Incinerator》 to kill my 《Rampaging Ferocidon》. On my turn, I can play 《Robber of the Rich》, send the team and attack for exactly lethal.

From then on, things didn’t quite go as well as they did until then. The deck had just delivered too much already! From flooding to whiffing with 《Collected Company》s to witnessing Goblin perfect draws, my run ended in quite a bit of a disappointment.

8-6 to a 36th place finish.

While the end of the tournament was indeed disappointing, there’s a lot of good coming out of this tournament. Gruul was not an expected deck for this Mythic Invitational. Bringing a deck no one had faith in and actually being in contention for so long was a source of satisfaction.

Going 6-3 against a deck I thought would be an even/below average matchup is also quite a feat. The main thing here is that I learned how to play and sideboard against it.

To Fit the Metagame

If I had to play the deck again, I’d probably run something like this:

Replacing 《Lovestruck Beast》 by 《Rampaging Ferocidon》 makes your Goblin matchups so much better as well as your 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 matchups. Not sure if Goblins are going to be as popular as they were at that tournament, but better come prepared…

Redcap Melee

You’re also freeing slots for your sideboard where you can add 《Redcap Melee》 to fight both 《Krenko, Mob Boss》 after board and 《Nightpack Ambusher》. I was missing these in my match against Carlos Romao (Temur Flash) in the penultimate round.

As for the sideboard guide, with 《Rampaging Ferocidon》 in the main, it becomes pretty obvious. Bring in the removal you need when playing against creature decks and replace the creatures you think won’t make a difference.

Rampaging Ferocidon

For example against Goblins, take out the 《Earthshaker Khenra》s and a few more two-drops (a mix of 《Scavenging Ooze》 and 《Robber of the Rich》s) and the gods. Your plan is going to be killing the key goblins (《Skirk Prospector》, Lords and 《Conspicuous Snoop》) while hitting hard with your three-drops and locking up the game with 《Rampaging Ferocidon》.

Don’t bring more than 5 or 6 as you’ll dilute your deck too much and make your 《Collected Company》 more likely to fail.

And since the metagame is going to shift very soon, I’ll probably try to give you an update on the list when the dust settles down.

Thanks everyone for your support and see you at the Grand Finals!

Raph (Twitter / Twitch)

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Raphael Levy

Raphael Levy Raphael Levy is a veteran player from France. His Pro Tour debut was 1997 and he is unstoppable since then. He played 91 Pro Tours continuously and became the very first player who reaches plying 100 Pro Tours at 2019 Mythic Championship I. During the long career he also achieved so many great results like 3 PT Top 8, 23 GP Top 8 with 6 wins, and won World Magic Cup 2013 as a French captain. He was elected Pro Tour Hall of Fame at 2006 and earned over 750 Pro Points. Read more articles by Raphael Levy