Three Strikes at the Pro Tour Top 8: Beating Colossal Gruul by Dave Shedden

The Crown Duels – Graduating from DOTP to the wider game by Dave Shedden

Beating the Pro Tour Top 8 Decks – How to Beat Colossal Gruul in Standard

On Monday, we took a budget swing at the king of the Pro-Tour hill, Mono-Blue Devotion. Well, my axe hand is itchy again.

Strike two

Before we get started: a note on budgets

I’m going to operate on a tighter budget restriction for this column and Friday’s.

Several of you rightly called me on the inclusion of Thoughtseize (and some other, less marquee cards) in a budget deck – a choice which illustrates the wide spectrum of what is considered affordable.

This column is supposed to be for everyone, so with that in mind, I’m going to hold myself to the lowest possible cost in making the strategies tick. Thanks for keeping me honest, folks.

In the Cross-hairs today… Polukranos and friends

Makahito Mihara’s explosive Gruul deck may not have made it past the semi-finals of the Pro Tour, but having watched him take a couple of bad mulligans en route to that defeat, I’m inclined to believe the deck is better than even a Top 4 slot suggests.

I’m not alone: former PT champion Jacob van Lunen has already touted Colossal Gruul as the best deck in Standard.

One way or another, I reckon we should get our battle plan sorted for facing down this monstrosity.

What makes Colossal Gruul powerful?

This strategy is powerful and versatile. In its primary mode, it can play as the ‘Combo deck’ Mihara intended, exploding onto the board with the power of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

Nykthos engine

The interaction between these cards is absurd. Whenever an engine exists that will allow a deck to break the normal restrictions of mana development, it must be paid close attention. There is a reason why 66% of the Power Nine are mana accelerators – casting big things, too fast is just exceptionally powerful.

In its secondary mode, the deck can just throw down a bunch of extremely solid mid-range cards and go toe-to-toe with anyone.

Awesome midrange

Each of these cards is powerful and potentially game-dictating if left untouched. Should we be able to cut the deck out of its combo plan, we’ll still need to work out a way to shut down these hard-hitting permanents.

What are Colossal Gruul’s weaknesses?

In a statement eerily similar to the one I made about Mono-Blue earlier this week: the deck relies on having a board presence to abuse its Nykthos engine. We are talking about another devotion deck, after all, so we shouldn’t be unduly surprised.

Small creatures

To attack Colossal Gruul, we need to attack the small creatures which both accelerate its mana conventionally and ratchet up its devotion count to empower Nykthos.

Cards I like against Colossal Gruul

My plan is going to be simple: pillage the foundation of the Gruul deck (its small creatures) and execute the larger threats as they arrive. On top of that, I plan to attack their Nykthos engine in a truly unpleasant fashion… but I’ll save that tasty plot for last.

Firstly, a card I think will shortly have its time in the sun. This is the tool with which I want to scourge away the enemy’s tiny men:

Anger and shock

That said, I want a little bit of insurance against the eventuality that their fast starts outpace my ability to play Anger. I want Shock, too, to pick off a crucial Elf or Satyr and buy me time to burn the world.

As for the selection of big planeswalkers and monsters which represent the deck’s higher end, I have a special tag team in mind:

Kill all the things

That’s right – I’m just going straight for Route 1.

Once I’ve blown up enough of the opponent’s minions, It’ll probably be time to start killing them. Since our baseline is the Gruul deck, I have two choices for this role – one more unusual than the other.

Demon and Primordial

When playing with Anger of the Gods, I agree with Gerry Thompson: Desecration Demon is awesome. Anger clears out all the traditional fodder which players might sacrifice to keep the demon tapped, leaving only the agonising choice of throwing away premium creatures vs. being punched in the face.

The Primoridal is part of a related plan.

Once I’ve killed some of Gruul’s larger, tastier threats, my preference would be to finish them off in short order. That becomes a lot easier when I can have a free Polukranos or Arbor Colossus to speed up the clock!

One last thing… I can’t resist going after their lands.

Kill all the lands, forever

I realise I have deep-seated problems. Feel free to stage an intervention when you sense the moment is right.

The Decklist

Here’s where I’ve got to with this particular brew:

Decklist - lands

Decklist - ones

Decklist - twos

Decklist - threes

Decklist - fours

Decklist - sevens


I’ve seen prettier curves, I grant you… this thing has a spare tyre around its middle to rival my own.

However, before you mock me for my three-drop addiction, let me explain what we’re trying to do here:


Moving on, 25 lands and a couple of Keyrunes is plenty of mana, but we’re going to need it. After we blow up all the creatures and planeswalkers we see, we’re going to start smashing their lands, again and again.

Say no to non-basics

The manabase does include a Shockland in Blood Crypt, which I know has raised some budgetary eyebrows before… but please, believe me when I say that any cash you invest in a Shockland has been well spent. Other cards in your standard decks will come and go, but these lands are the bedrock of the Modern format and will probably stay relevant and useful for as long as you continue to play Magic.

Now it’s over to you

  • Think the list is absolutely terrible?
  • Think it’s a remarkable achievement for a 30 minute brew?
  • Have a better way to beat the Gruul deck on a budget?

Let me have it in the comments!

Also, I’ve been showered with decklists from other enterprising brewers since Monday’s article went up – so much so that I’m thinking about putting something together which profiles their work for you. If you’d like to feature in such a highlight-reel, get your decklists to me on Facebook by the end of the week.

small thumbs upUntil Friday, stir the cauldron and savour the fumes… we be brewin’.

Thanks for reading, thanks for playing.



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