Welcome Back Big Fella: Exploring Garruk, Cursed Huntsman

Our favorite big, angry planeswalker is finally back, and Patrick Chapin awaits his Throne of Eldraine Standard debut with several sweet brews!


It’s a time of opportunity, of excitement, of mystery…

…of Garruk?!

Ok, before getting into Elspeth, Sun’s Champion 2.0, let’s get a little
perspective, here. Dominaria, Core Set 2019, Rivals of Ixalan, and Ixalan are
all rotating out; so a number of basic assumptions might not be true
anymore, and some cards that never really got the spotlight might now be
poised to play defining rolls.

Barkhide Troll, for instance, might prove a pretty serious player. It’s not
going to be trivial to cast in some decks; but for decks that can, it’s a
powerful battlefield presence for just two mana that isn’t a dead card
against control decks. It can protect itself, pressure planeswalkers, and
even benefits from which removal spells are rotating and which remain.

Lightning Strike rotating out is particularly interesting, even if it was
sometimes unreliable against Barkhide Troll, anyway. Chandra’s Triumph just
isn’t the same.

Red decks are losing the ability to go to the face with their three-damage
spells pretty hard. A lot of potential waves could shake out from that, but
it’s already going to be so chaotic, with such an upheaval to the pillars
of the format. What are the new pillars of the format, anyway? While some
Teferis are rotating out…

…sadly, not all of them are. Teferi, Time Raveler is here for another
year (including allegedly being the central character of Core Set 2021). Any decks we build for Throne of Eldraine
Standard are going to need to be built with this card in mind from the
ground up.

Ok, so back to big daddy.

This dude is eight foot two.

This raises a lot of questions.

Like, aren’t those pretty big gingerbread people?

And what’s up with all these seven-foot tall guards? Is everyone just tall
in Eldraine?

And why does Garruk move so slowly compared to how fast the watery milk
drips? If it’s just slow motion, why does the watery milk drip so fast?

And once we’re going down that road, you gotta start to wonder what’s up
with that milk in the first place? Like, why is it so watery, and why do
they keep it in urns? And doesn’t anyone care that the urns aren’t cool, as
evidenced by the lack of condensation, when they are broken open and
exposed to warm and hot temperatures?

If we’re gonna unravel this thing, we’ve got to start somewhere, so it
might as well be breaking down the rate of the new marque planeswalker.

−3: Destroy target creature. Draw a card.

So, if we just start from the position of six-mana to kill a creature, draw
a card, and still have an extremely powerful planeswalker on the table,
we’re kind of already doing it.

Why do I think it’s fair to describe Garruk at two-loyalty as an extremely
powerful planeswalker?

0: Create two 2/2 black and green Wolf creature tokens with “When
this creature dies, put a loyalty counter on each Garruk you

Compare this zero ability to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. You’re making tokens
twice as fast, which will just completely run away with the game in short
order. I think people are really underestimating just how big of an army
this gives you, and fast.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is basically the gold standard for six-cost
planeswalkers. Her +1 ability only put 3/3 worth of tokens on the table
each turn, to say nothing of having less reliable of a -3 ability.

Ahh, but Garruk doesn’t +1 with his token-making ability. It’s just a

Is it? Is it really? The Wolves each give a loyalty on death, and if Garruk
ever gains a single loyalty point, he’s live to ultimate right there. With
two Wolves coming down immediately, you can actually be in a spot where the
other person can’t even attack your Garruk unless they’re sure they can hit
it, as the mere act of chump blocking with both Wolves means Garruk could
ultimate and live to keep menacing your opponent.

−6: You get an emblem with “Creatures you control get +3/+3 and have trample.”

Dear lord. This card is bananas.

When you’ve got a really powerful six-drop, once of the first questions to
ask is how you can play it ahead of schedule. After all, every turn Garruk
is down early could potentially be two more 2/2s with upside.

Deathsprout is already a major beneficiary of rotation, with cards like
Vraska’s Contempt, Ravenous Chupacabra, and Hostage Taker all out of the
way. That Deathsprout ramps you straight into six for Garruk, and now we’re
talking about a potentially foundational piece of the format.

Why only three Garruks?

I could easily be wrong. I just want to try a split in some decks, as there
are going to be spots where drawing one of each is going to be way
better than having a second copy of Garruk. That said, there’s nothing that
says you’ve got to cap out at four six-drops, anyways.

Ok, yeah, your mana curve can get a little dicey. Still, it’s not out of
the question, if the acceleration really suits it. We do have other things
to do with our mana though. For instance, with most of the Rampant Growth
options gone, Beanstalk Giant is looking like it might be one of the better
ramp options, even if it’s only medium in the abstract.

While some adventure cards are going to be played without the adventure
mode a fair bit, Beanstalk Giant is likely to be pretty lopsided, in this
regard. A seven-cost Dakkon Blackblade isn’t exactly the greatest thing

What makes Beanstalk Giant more attractive is its use as an Untamed Wilds.

That the land you get is untapped means you might be able to maneuver
things so that you are only effectively spending two mana, rather than
three. One obvious way to do this is with one-cost spells, like Duress,
Disfigure, and Shock.

While three-mana to find an untapped basic isn’t that short, it is a
little short. Fortunately, we still get the big body, as part of a
powerful, if somewhat clumsy, late game.

Throne of Eldraine
is already confirmed to have no rare dual lands. Maybe there’s some sneaky
cycle of uncommon allied duals; but for the time being, it’s looking like
the enemy color combinations have two powerful duals, while allied color
combinations have just one. Beyond that, folks will need to use stuff like
Dismal Backwater and Dimir Guildgate, or get fancy.

While the above list doesn’t make the greatest use of Vraska, Golgari
Queen, it should be noted that she might just line up excellent with the
format. She’s such a natural predator of Teferi, Time Raveler and half a
dozen other planeswalkers.

While I’m kind of interested in trying out creatures that bring a little
bit of beatdown, like the Troll and the Guardian; the more natural way to
build a Golgari Ramp deck is with some of the two-drop accelerators.

Once we go so far as to pack Circuitous Route, one has to wonder if we
shouldn’t just go all the way to Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Field of the

Plenty of folks are going to assume with the rotation of Scapeshift, that
Field of the Dead is dead. If we look at the trends from late in the
season, however, more and more people were playing Field of the Dead decks
with two or even zero Scapeshifts.

It is kind of sweet, how solid of a hit Beanstalk Giant is when you
activate Golos…

With Elvish Rejuvenator gone, ramp decks have lost a valuable chump
blocker. Maybe we’re supposed to revisit Arboreal Grazer?

While I acknowledge this might be the world we live in; I’d like to dream a
little bigger, first. What about Risen Reef?

While Risen Reef doesn’t appear to have gained any new Elementals, to speak
of, it’s still a powerful card and a powerful engine.

Without the red elementals, I’m just not sold on Yarok, the Desecrated.

It’s not like we don’t already have pretty compelling business at five and
up, anyway.

Hydroid Krasis is one of the stronger cards to survive the rotation, and
with how frequently it gets played for six mana, I suspect Sultai decks
will be quicker to shave Garruks than most.

Yeah, sadly, not an Elemental. Still, as far as two-mana accelerators go,
this one is pretty spicy. You’ve got to appreciate the beatdowns, but I’m
generally interested in two-drops that beat, anyway. One possible snag,
however, is its inability to make black mana. I’m not sure we’re actually
going to be able to play it alongside Deathsprout ; and there’s a pretty
good chance, we’ll have to make those Paradise Druids or Incubation Druids,
before long.

If we really want to get our money’s worth out of Maraleaf Pixie, maybe we
should be putting it alongside Thief of Sanity. Yeah, of course that
doesn’t “curve right”, but Maraleaf Pixie is going to be better than most
at drawing a kill spell. Besides, Duress into Thief of Sanity is actually a
pretty dope Turn 3.

Once we’re going down the Thief of Sanity path, we’ve got to take a look at
Gilded Goose. It’s no Birds of Paradise; but at least it gets you that
first mana. What’s more, even if it gets killed, that three extra life
could be real attractive, as the game drags on. Another benefit it has over
Birds of Paradise is just how big of an impact it can have later,
potentially gaining three extra life every turn (while also having the
ability to get you a little extra mana in a pinch).

Overall, I think this card is quite good, and with the rotation of Llanowar
Elves, it should be well-positioned to make an impact, right out the gate.

One avenue I considered for Garruk was in some sort of Jund deck. After
all, he’s historically done quite well for himself there. I’m not so sure
it’s actually right, this time, however.

You get access to some passable removal spells, but it’s not like any of
these are particularly stellar. Do we even want more removal anyway?

Beyond that, what does red even offer?

This just can’t be the way to do it. With just a single Temple, Jund’s mana
is meaningfully worse than Sultai’s. We’d better be getting more than just
some roleplayer removal spells, and all I found suitable here was Chandra.

The problem, of course, is that we already have access to unreal sixes. How
much do we gain by making one a Chandra?

I think, if we’re going to look at red, we’re probably going to have to
look at an Elemental approach instead. Otherwise, I guess maybe we could
use some Riot creatures and be one of those sorts of decks, but I’m not
sure how much Garruk is even bringing to the table, in that case.

As for white…?

Now there’s a card that pairs well with Garruk!

Ajani, the Greathearted’s -2 ability means you can put Garruk down and
potentially ultimate him immediately. That could be out of this world, if
we’re playing a token deck.

While we do have access to Temple of Silence, if we want it, it’s kind of
off-message with Golden Goose.

Besides, we’ve still got plenty else to do for one. Flower is a classic, at
this point, and Lovestruck Beast’s Heart’s Desire is actually an excellent
one-mana play, all things considered.

To really appreciate Lovestruck Beast, we need to start with Heart’s
Desire; and to really appreciate her, we’d do well to look back to another
potent cantrip one-drop.

Thraben Inspector may have that extra point of toughness, but Heart’s
Desire doesn’t actually charge you the two-mana it took to use the
Inspector’s Clue. Instead, you just have access to a three-cost 5/5, at
will. It has a drawback, sure, but with the token-makers we have access to,
that’s probably going to be better than a normal card an awful lot of the

Obviously, Heart’s Desire is the perfect teammate already, but there’s no
shortage of alternatives, if anything should happen to her. We do have to
be mindful of how Lovestruck Beast changes our game, however.

A card like Trostani, which would normally be good in this kind of deck,
can actually be quite awkward, since it’s next to impossible to have a 1/1
to motivate the Beast, while you’ve got Trostani. Trostani may be high
impact enough when it lives to make up for the dyssynergy, but I wouldn’t
start there.

Instead, we’ll want to focus on buffs from stuff like Ajani, Greathearted
and Venerated Loxodon, since we can +1/+1 our whole team, and then
follow-up with a one-drop to ensure the Beast keeps brawling.

One strategy we’ll want to consider is a planeswalker-centric deck topping
out with Garruk. How we’ll make the mana work is going to so heavily depend
on what else is in Throne of Eldraine, however, I’m holding off on
this one until we get more info.

Instead, our final Garruk deck of the deck is just kind of leaning into the
green beatdown stuff that looks so attractive to me day one.

And since that one pretty much speaks for itself, here’s a bonus list:

And no, there’s not supposed to be a Witch’s Cottage in there…

For an in-depth breakdown of one of my favorite cards previewed so far,
Rankle, Master of Pranks, check out Paulo’s first look,

What can’t this card do?!

Now, if we can just find a way to fit it into a Garruk deck…