Embercleave Gruul Aggro Standard

Believe In the ‘Cleave: A Guide to Gruul Aggro in Standard

Last week during the metagame challenge on Magic Arena, I failed to make a good run with R/G Aggro multiple times. Pairing green with red seemed worse to me than blue, which gives you access to Oko, Hydroid Krasis and counterspells in the sideboard. However, the biggest reason for my failure seemed to have been my approach to how to build the deck.

This weekend, Javier Dominguez won Mythic Champion V with R/G Aggro. While he certainly didn’t have the best record in the tournament (11-7), it is clear to me that he had a great version of the deck.

Before the Top 8 on Sunday, I was helping Stan Cifka prepare for his quarterfinal match against Javier. Stan was on our Bant Ramp deck, while I played the enemy. I liked the way the deck played out so much that I kept laddering with it after our testing session, all the way to a top 10 mythic rank.

I made a few changes to Javier’s list, most notably maxing out on Kraul Harpooners and Collision/Colossus.

I’d expect the Simic-based Oko decks to be about a third of the metagame now and Kraul Harpooner is an amazing answer to Gilded Goose that leaves them down a card and you with a 3/2 body in play. It’s also an answer to Hydroid Krasis in the late game and it usually triggers your Pelt Collector twice, because it leaves play with the extra power bonus. It’s a cheap, high-power creature that works well with Embercleave.

Collision/Colossus is another way to kill a big Hydroid Krasis or Gilded Goose early on, but most notably works very well with Questing Beast and Embercleave. Deathtouch + trample means you only have to assign 1 damage to every blocker, so if you get your opponent low enough, the combination of Colossus + Questing Beast is very often lethal no matter how big a creature they have. Adding 4 to your creature’s power is also very nice when Embercleave gives it double strike.

Questing BeastEmbercleave

Keep in mind that Collision/Colossus has two modes. I see a lot of players trying to trample for a few damage over a blocking Hydroid Krasis when they could just kill it first and attack for the full amount.

The card that I cut is Bonecrusher Giant. It’s a nice value card, but this deck wants to play fast. Spending your second turn to Shock something doesn’t really fit into your game plan, although being able to find it as a finisher in the late game with Once Upon a Time could be nice.

I thought one of the main reasons why this deck ran a high number of Bonecrusher Giants was that it survived the Realm-Cloaked Giant’s board clear effect, but with Golos/Field gone, that is no longer a thing.

I also added the third Embercleave because this deck really wants to draw one every game.

Once Upon a Time feels very important in the deck because it helps you curve out and fix your mana. You can easily get stuck on GGGR in play with double-red cards in hand and vice versa, so don’t cut it even when sideboarding.

What I like about Javier’s version is that he cut Domri from the deck and just focused on playing a creature every turn so he can get Embercleave down as soon as possible. I tried Sarkhan instead of Skarrgan Hellkite, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea in a Simic/Bant world when they can just bounce the token with Teferi or Brazen Borrower or fight it with a Wicked Wolf. Sure, they can bounce/fight your Hellkite too, but at least you did 4 damage with it.

Robber of the Rich and Wildborn Preserver were pretty unexciting when I tried them.

Some cards that might be worth considering if the metagame changes a little bit are Living Twister against Mono-Red/Mono-Black and possibly Cindervines against Jeskai Fires planeswalker decks.

Here is my current version:

Gruul Aggro in Standard

4 Stomping Ground
9 Mountain (343)
10 Forest (347)
4 Kraul Harpooner
4 Pelt Collector
3 Skarrgan Hellkite
4 Gruul Spellbreaker
4 Zhur-Taa Goblin
3 Paradise Druid
4 Questing Beast
4 Collision/Colossus
3 Embercleave
4 Once Upon a Time

3 Domri's Ambush
2 Shock
2 Thrashing Brontodon
3 Veil of Summer
2 Redcap Melee
3 Lovestruck Beast/Heart's Desire - Showcase


Arena Export

4 Kraul Harpooner (GRN) 136
4 Pelt Collector (GRN) 141
3 Skarrgan Hellkite (RNA) 114
4 Gruul Spellbreaker (RNA) 179
4 Zhur-Taa Goblin (RNA) 215
4 Collision // Colossus (RNA) 223
4 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259
3 Paradise Druid (WAR) 171
9 Mountain (ELD) 262
10 Forest (ELD) 266
3 Embercleave (ELD) 120
4 Once Upon a Time (ELD) 169
4 Questing Beast (ELD) 171
3 Domri’s Ambush (WAR) 192
2 Shock (M20) 160
2 Thrashing Brontodon (M20) 197
3 Veil of Summer (M20) 198
2 Redcap Melee (ELD) 135
3 Lovestruck Beast (ELD) 165


Throne of Eldraine Standard Top 50

Sideboard Guide

Simic/Bant Food

Out: 2 Zhur-Taa Goblin, 1 Collision/Colossus

In: 3 Domri’s Ambush

We are bringing in 3 more non-creature spells, so even though Collision/Colossus is great in this matchup, I think it makes sense to keep the creature count still as high as possible.


Out: 4 Collision/Colossus, 4 Kraul Harpooner

In: 3 Domri’s Ambush, 2 Redcap Melee, 3 Lovestruck Beast
Don’t think you want Shock here as all the relevant creatures other than Pelt Collector have more than two toughness.

Esper Doom Foretold

Out: 4 Collision/Colossus, 2 Paradise Druid

In: 3 Veil of Summer, 3 Lovestruck Beast

They will be killing your creatures, so pump spells are horrible here.


Out: 4 Collision/Colossus, 4 Kraul Harpooner, 3 Embercleave, 1 Paradise Druid

In: 2 Shock, 2 Redcap Melee, 3 Lovestruck Beast, 2 Thrashing Brontodon, 3 Domri’s Ambush

Here it’s better to control their board with removal spells rather than trying to kill them fast with Embercleave. Your creatures are bigger, so just make sure you kill Steam-Kin and Torbran and you should be fine.


Out: 4 Collision/Colossus, 2 Kraul Harpooner, 2 Embercleave

In: 2 Shock, 3 Lovestruck Beast, 3 Domri’s Ambush

This matchup is similar to Mono-Red, but Harpooner can kill Rankle. Sometimes they also have a lot of random blockers in play, so I like to keep exactly 1 Embercleave to make sure I can’t draw two.

Jeskai Fires

Out: 4 Collision/Colossus, 1 Kraul Harpooner

In: 3 Lovestruck Beast, 2 Thrashing Brontodon

Try to play around Deafening Clarion, which usually means making your Gruul Spellbreaker 4/4 unless you are swinging for lethal damage.

As usual, here is where you can find streaming/posting about Magic!

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