Dog Days? How About Beast Days Of Summer!

Bennie tells you about a few Garruk decks that caught his eye at #SCGRICH and #SCGINVI and shares the lists they inspired him to come up with.

As July gives way to August, I’ve been thinking a lot about my good buddy Garruk. Planeswalkers come and go—some good, some bad, some ugly (broken)—but as a green mage I’ve got to give it up to Wizards for not making a single stinker in all of Garruk’s incarnations. They are all very playable and downright good, and I think it’s fascinating that this summer we’re going to have three very playable Garruks in the mix just when the Magic rules change to make drawing multiple copies of the same planeswalker much more than having backup for when your opponent deals with it.

I’m not sure if we’ve all fully grasped the implications of this new development on the planeswalker front, but this summer Garruk Relentless; Garruk, Primal Hunter; and Garruk, Caller of Beasts give us ample opportunity to explore the potential.

A couple weeks ago at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Richmond I noticed that Charles Gindy got a little bit of notice for a deck that he and some friends had designed to take advantage of Garruk, Caller of Beasts. He did a deck tech video on it and had a nice run before falling short towards the end, though I think one of the other guys might have done better overall. Here’s his list:

And his deck tech:

Pretty straightforward: play all of the mana-accelerating creatures you can get your hands on, play a turn 4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts, activate his ability to put Craterhoof Behemoth into play, and kill your opponent on the spot. As a backup plan, Gavony Township can pump your team a little slower, but with a little help from Elvish Archdruid, your Elves could get there on their own.

One particular nice thing about the deck: not only did he run a playset of Caller of Beasts, but he also ran a playset of Garruk Relentless, a proven tournament-caliber card. Before the new rules having eight copies of Garruk would have run you into all sorts of problems, but now you’ve got a lot more options, taking advantage of the very sort of thing I was talking about.

Here’s Gindy’s deck in action in round 6 of #SCGRICH when he was 4-1:

This match illustrates what a severe disadvantage the deck has against Jund Midrange and against Olivia Voldaren in particular. Bonfire of the Damned and Curse of Death’s Hold are also massive beatings. Watching the deck get swept by the best deck in the format has me pretty concerned about its viability in this incarnation.

Meanwhile in the same Open, an actual mono-green deck also featuring Garruk, Caller of Beasts performed quite a bit better:

Richard’s deck trims out the non-Elf mana dudes and adds in some more resilient creatures in Predator Ooze, Strangleroot Geist, and Mutavault plus the sort of pumps we all love to slap on our fighting Oozes. He trims down both Garruk and Craterhoof Behemoth down to two copies, making the deck a little less reliant on its early mana creatures surviving long enough to go off with the big spells. I think we can learn some lessons from this approach as we work on our Garruk decks going forward.

This past weekend at the StarCityGames.com Invitational there was also a Standard Open, with William Jensen making it all the way to the finals with a list that certainly built on a lot of what Gindy had going on the week before:

This deck was designed by Zvi Mowshowitz, and he wrote about it on the Premium side (Hypermana Deckbuilding). I have no idea if he got any inspiration from Gindy’s deck or whether he cooked it up concurrently, but it certainly has the hallmarks of Zvi’s approach to deckbuilding that produced Mythic some years back.

You can read coverage of Jensen’s win against Jund Midrange in the semifinals here and coverage of Jensen’s loss to Jund Midrange in the finals here.

From that finals match coverage: “Huey defeated Jund Midrange in the semifinals and had managed to go through all eleven Swiss rounds and the quarterfinals without facing the overwhelming favorite once.”

Reading that finals match, it becomes crystal clear that this sort of deck is really just a huge underdog to Jund Midrange and that Jensen got extremely lucky in the semifinals to draw well while his opponent did not and to dodge the most powerful and popular deck in the format to get to the Top 8. I’m not saying the deck is bad, just that it seems to be a dog to Jund.

Bonfire of the Damned, Olivia Voldaren, Tragic Slip, Doom Blade, Putrefy, Golgari Charm, Rakdos’s Return. These cards are just individually devastating to all but the most explosive draws from this sort of deck, and when drawn in multiples they set the Jund deck up to just crush the Elves deck. But I do think this deck and Gindy’s—and even Nguyen’s deck—nicely showcase how powerful Garruk, Caller of the Beasts is and how it’s perfectly fine to draw multiples of them.

What if we blended the two styles of deck?

Strangleroot Geist, Voice of Resurgence, Thragtusk, and eight planeswalkers give this deck tons of resistance to decks trying to kill off all our creatures. I’m still pondering the best way to handle Olivia Voldaren. Garruk Relentless can search up Angel of Serenity if it survives long enough in the Veil-Cursed version, but if there’s an Olivia out there, what are the chances it’ll stick around that long? Fiend Hunter seems like the best solution, but it’s not like it can’t be easily killed by the host of removal Jund has at its disposal. It does have the advantage of being able to reset Olivia back to a 3/3, which can then be killed by Garruk Relentless.

While snooping through the decks from last weekend, I also ran across this one that got the wheels turning:

Not to say this isn’t a mighty fine deck, but I couldn’t help but wonder about a G/B “Garruk and Super Friends” approach.

Just kill every damn thing and let a giant Scavenging Ooze or Vraska Assassin token finish things off? I kinda like it. I almost want to stick a Haunted Plate Mail or two in here!

One last idea I have that I haven’t seen anywhere else:

Yep . . . turn 4 Slime a land, turn 5 Progenitor Mimic the Slime, and make new Slimes every upkeep! Sure, that isn’t exactly new but Garruk, Caller of Beasts gives a few new dimensions as a way to refuel your hand to keep up the pressure or being able to play your Garruk and drop the Mimic down in the same turn.

Okay, maybe there’s a reason why I haven’t seen this anywhere else . . .

What do you think is the best way to take advantage of the plethora of good Garruks we have available during this new era of planeswalker goodness? Let me know in the comments below!

Before I go, I want to make sure all Commander fans know that Richmond Comix is having another one of their awesome Commander tournaments Saturday, August 10th. They’re going back to basics, with no limitations other than the standard rules for Commander, so anything goes! A ton of prizes will be given out—I’ll hopefully have a list to share next week—and there are still two sweet MJ Scott legendary Dragon Spirit alters to give away as Bennie Smith Spirit of EDH Haymaker Awards. If you’re in the area, make sure to come by and join us on our Hero’s Journeys!

Take care,


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