There are thirteen cards in the format with riot. Four commons, five
uncommons, one rare, and three mythics.
Most of these cards seem fantastic to me. Even Wrecking Beast, which is a
hefty seven mana, can completely turn the game in your favor. The only card
that I don’t expect to be good is Ghor-Clan Wrecker. Four mana for a 3/3
menace or a 2/2 haste sounds too far below rate, but every other card can
really pack some punch. 4/4 haste for five is a card I’d definitely play in
most Limited decks. Same with a 5/5 for five. When both riot modes are
exciting, I expect the card to be quite good.
Burning-Tree Vandal, Clamor Shaman, and Gruul Beastmaster have a bit more
play to them. Attack triggers turn the game between haste or a larger body
into an entirely different debate. If you give Burning-Tree Vandal haste
but then your opponent casts a 3/3, you’re out of luck. You want to be able
to attack as many times as possible with these cards in order to maximize
their abilities. However, with both Clamor Shaman and Gruul Beastmaster,
you may be able to facilitate lethal off just one attack, depending on the
gamestate. Regardless, take a minute to think before you play these cards
with riot because the wrong decision can change the outcome of the game.
The bread and butter of aggressive decks in Limited is the two-drop slot.
You want a minimum of six two-drops, but I’d prefer eight or more to be
very happy about my deck. Limited has come a long way, and Grizzly Bears
simply doesn’t get there anymore (sorry, Feral Maaka). Territorial Boar
seems like it has enough upside for a common, and later in the game both
Gravel-Hide Goblin and Sauroform Hybrid become real threats that are
difficult to block. What makes or breaks an aggressive archetype is the
two-drops at common, and I think Gruul is just shy of where I want to be.
Admittedly, the uncommons are very good, but it’s difficult to tell if
that’s enough to push the aggressive riot archetype over the top. Gruul may
be better suited for a midrange deck that goes a little bigger and plays
more cards like Rampaging Rendhorn or Rubblebelt Recluse and hit hard with
After two-drops, the next thing I look at when evaluating an aggressive
archetype are the combat tricks. The cheaper the better, but sometimes the
cheap tricks don’t pack enough punch. Vampire’s Zeal was absolutely
fantastic in Ixalan, but usually the +2/+2 trick for one mana is
only okay. Gruul has access to Storm Strike and Stony Strength. Storm
Strike seems lackluster to me, but oh my god can Stony Strength facilitate
a blowout. One mana for one +1/+1 counter is fine, but nothing special.
However, the untap clause means I can spend one mana, permanently augment
my creature, and surprise block my opponent. This card may end up being
only okay if that counter doesn’t often let you eat a creature in combat,
but I have high hopes.
After the cheap tricks, the rest tend to be replaceable, yet fine to
include. Gift of Strength isn’t great, but if I’m in the market for a
trick, I’ll play it. Colossus, on the other hand, can kill out of nowhere.
Act of Treason and Burn Bright can be good in the right deck but are narrow
and are most likely relegated to the sideboard. Overall, the tricks are
good but nothing special. I think this still points to Gruul as a more
midrange strategy, but given the choice that riot provides, the archetype
may just be able to play both roles of an aggressive archetype and a
midrange stat-monster archetype.
It’s always important to consider the removal that a color combination has
available to it. One of the biggest issues with Gruul is the ability to
handle larger threats. Savage Smash and Titanic Brawl are the fight spells
that can remove big monsters if you have one yourself. It’s hard to tell
exactly how these removal spells will influence the evaluation of the Gruul
archetype, but it’s important to note that five toughness is the line where
most of these cards will not properly answer the threat.
The last note I want to make about Gruul is that, like Simic, it cares
about +1/+1 counters. Riot easily places counters on your creatures, which
turns Bolrac-Clan Crusher into a fantastic threat. Trollbred Guardian
giving your big guys trample is nothing to scoff at, and alone it’s
basically a five-mana 7/7 trample. I don’t plan on passing that card much.
Rumpling Ruin requires a bit more than I would like, but at least it’s on a
large body! Overall, I expect these cards to be at their best if you can
delve into Temur colors thanks to the wonderful fixing in the set, but they
all have a reasonable floor.
I’m excited to see where Gruul lands in this set. I have a bias towards
aggressive archetypes, so I’m hoping I can curve out with haste creatures
and bash face; however, after looking into the cards available, the more I
think that Gruul will be best as a normal midrange deck. Below is an
example of a good Gruul deck in Ravnica Allegiance Limited. It’s
aggressively slanted, but nothing like how fast Boros was in Guilds of Ravnica.