As I wrote about last time, I had been testing and liking Mono Blue Tempo. I was especially excited to see some great players like Reid Duke and the eventual Mythic Championship winner, Autumn Burchett, bring the deck to the first Mythic Championship. I wanted to try out their lists as I started working towards getting Mythic rank on Magic the Gathering Arena.
I started in Bronze and knew that I had a long way to go. I expected to go on a tear with Mono Blue until people caught on to the deck – what I didn’t expect was for people to have already begun to make adjustments to the blue menace. I faced Kraul Harpooners and Atzocan Archers galore across my first six matches, only winning two. If opponents were already clued into how to beat Mono Blue, I knew that I needed a change.
Next, I tried out Luis Scott-Vargas’ Izzet Phoenix deck. While the deck has some absurd draws, I found that just as often as I was putting three Arclight Phoenixes into play on turn four, I wasn’t able to find a single copy in the top half of my deck. I won five of nine matches, and knew that I needed to move on to something else. I tried a more traditional Drakes deck, splashing green for Hydroid Krasis and Crushing Canopy. The deck wasn’t great, and these splash cards weren’t solving the problems that Drakes often has.
It was after these matches that I realized that I wasn’t fighting the meta the way that I usually would. Instead of building decks with fliers and interaction, what if I built the best Kraul Harpooner deck. One that presents a clock while eeking out small advantages. I looked to the Golgari Undergrowth deck of last season for inspiration. This is the deck that I played to an 8-4 record through Silver and into Gold 3 before feeling like I should move on to something else.
Honestly, it feels like this archetype is really close, and can be tuned to whatever you expect in a meta. With access to so many value creatures like Kraul Harpooner, Plaguecrafter, and Ravenous Chupacabra, Mono Blue and Drakes are favorable matchups. Unfortunately, midrange decks can easily outsize you. Izoni, Thousand-Eyed and Molderhulk are the trump cards for midrange matchups. The sideboard is easily customizable as well – I don’t think that this is the best build by any means, but it worked well for me.
I was browsing decks and came across Shaheen Soorani’s fair Sultai Reclamation deck. It’s a control deck that just uses Wilderness Reclamation for value to cast a huge Krasis on your turn and hold up counterspells on your opponent’s turn. The deck was a lot of fun, and I loved sideboarding in Thief of Sanity, but it was a little too fair. I went 9-8 with the deck, and was getting frustrated that it wasn’t consistently showing off its power.
Stuck in Gold 2, I was left wondering how I could ever start climbing, because every deck I tried felt like a 50/50 deck – for every match that I won easily, I would lose the next just as badly. It probably wasn’t quite that extreme, but that’s how it felt. I was looking for a new deck – something that fit in with my aggro tendencies. I came across Tim Wu’s write-up from the Mythic Championship: Gruul SMAAAAASH!!! I took one look at the decklist and was hooked instantly. I made only a few small changes to the list and dove back into the ranked queue with this:
Do you ever pick up a deck and just get how it plays? You have a good idea of how to order your spells, and you start winning based on your intuition? That’s how this deck and I fit together. It seemed like I was making good plays, playing to my outs and getting lucky, and I started winning. I went 11-3 with the deck over the first two days, good enough to jump into Platinum 4. I consulted Wu’s write-up and sideboard plan often, and I really think he was onto something. The Status // Statues come in against big green decks and let us actually have a chance against Sultai. I got the combo with Goblin Chainwhirler in a number of games, and never lost after I did. Cindervines is the most impressive card in the sideboard. It turns Nexus matchups into the Gruul deck’s favor, and it also plays an important part against Mono Red. Often you can stabilize games against Red at around ten life, but a resolved Experimental Frenzy gives the red deck an edge. Cindervines takes away that advantage and lets us close the game with one or two big threats.
Over the next three days I went 26-4, which was good enough to put me into Mythic! Some tips and tricks that I learned about the deck during my climb:
- Against Nexus decks, always destroy Wilderness Reclamation on sight. Search for Azcanta can usually stay around until right before it flips if you have something better to do with your mana.
- Learning which mode to choose on your Riot creatures is very important. Often against control or Nexus decks, choose haste to get damage in while you can. Against other creature decks, getting a bigger body is often more important than haste.
- Remember that Status works with Skarrgan Hellkite as well as Goblin Chainwhirler! It also gives a power and toughness boost – I’ve used it to punch through for lethal damage and save a creature during combat.
- Trample and deathtouch also work well together – Status targeting a 4/4 Gruul Spellbreaker not only kills your opponent’s creature, but deals four damage.
- If you have the mana, you can adapt a second time in response to a removal spell targeting Growth-Chamber Guardian.
- Unclaimed Territory names Warrior most of the time, but it can name Phoenix or Dragon in a pinch!
I encourage you to give this deck a shot. It may look like a pile of random creatures and burn, but it plays as much more than that. If you enjoy combat math, combat tricks, and want a solid matchup against Mono-Blue, then this is the deck for you. Happy climbing!