Hello folks! Happy December 26th! This is my final article of the year 2017!
I was initially trying to come up with a fun holiday infused Top Ten List for those that celebrate Christmas that finished yesterday. And as I did so, I realized that since both of the colors of Christmas are common gold combinations in Magic, this would be a pretty cool concept.
So, what are the best Red and Green cards of all time at a kitchen table? There are 169 cards that are both Red and Green without adding another color to the roster. That’s a lot of cards! I looked at the all, and I think I’ve played all but three of them at some point in time in my game playing days, as it’s my 2nd favorite color combination to draft for Abedraft (a draft I have of every card ever printed save for around 15 that are too pricey to pickup).1 My favorite color combo is Rakdos, but Gruul is pretty close. Burn and Beats baby!
What are the best? Note that this list, like all of my lists, is more about casual Magic, Commander, and other multiplayer formats than Standard or Legacy. Thus a card that dominated the formats it was legal in or has regular play in Modern or Legacy like Atarka's Command, Wild Cantor, Burning-Tree Emissary, Huntmaster of the Fells, Manamorphose, or Bloodbraid Elf, would still need to prove it’s chops at the kitchen table. (One of them clearly should and will make the list below . . . )
Which one is a Top Ten all time card?
Time for our list?
Honorable Mention: Khenra Charioteer
This is really more of a “This is my Favorite Gruul Card Printed This Year” award rather than really a Top Ten, but take another look at how awesome this thing is! For a quick investment of 3 mana, you acquire a 3/3 with trample. That’s a little better than most mono-Green options like Trained Armodon or Nessian Courser. Only a few are in the conversation. However, our Jackal Warrior (why not a Pilot as well?) is great at giving your whole team the trampling love as well, and it works strongly with most creatures that are printed. Khenra Charioteer is a great backbone for your deck. On-curve, good early for smashing, good later to breaking out of board stalls, and plays well with others. What’s not to like?
Now time for the Top Ten proper!
10. Spellbreaker Behemoth
Spellbreaker Behemoth plays into three major vectors that all work very well together to create one of the best support creatures in the color. First, like Vexing Shusher or other cards, Spellbreaker Behemoth can’t be countered. That’s nice, it’s guaranteed to hit the battlefield. Once it does, no other bigger creature spells you rock can be countered as well. Now you don’t have to run a dedicated Naya-big guy deck for this to matter. Playing Commander? How big is your leader? Big enough to not be countered? And there’s one other thing this does as well. It’s size! 5/5 for 4 mana? I’m in! Welcome to the Gruul beats!
9. Shivan Wurm
In an era of clear power creep for creatures, Shivan Wurm is still a powerful card. It hasn’t been antiquated by later rules for size. A 7/7 body is something special when given trample and tethered to a quick five-mana cost. The only “disadvantage” is self-gating one of your own dorks on color back to your hand. I often use it to reload a creature with a powerful enters-the-battlefield trigger such as Flametongue Kavu or Acidic Slime. I can’t tell you the number of Ghitu Slinger’s I’ve sent back to my hand for another Shock to something with this. Unlike a lot of other similar effects, Shivan Wurm isn’t dithering around! It smashes fast out of the gate!
Oh, and by the way, isn’t it a fun five-drop after your #10? Wouldn’t you love to drop a 3-drop like Civic Wayfinder that has a useful ability, then the Spellbreaker, and then this? Man that’s sexy good. Next?
8. Fires of Yavimaya
Oh yes, Fires of Yavimaya. It’s aged a little since it was printed, when it dominated Standard and led to one of the most fun dominant Standard decks of all time! Power out Fires with Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves! Drop 4-drops and swing. Flametongue Kavu! Saproling Burst! Rith, the Awakener! Thornscape Battlemage! That was a good time when Timmy met Spike for a powerful haste-enabling Smash Machine. And it’s still heavily played in casual land as a haste bringing enchantment. However, others have been printed since, some of which have shown it’s age a bit. (Check #2 below for an example, and even #6 for another). But it earned its spot here, and won’t ebb from our sight anytime soon. Long may Fires of Yavimaya burn!
(For a similar free-haste effect, see Xenagos, God of Revels).
7. Clan Defiance
It may not look sexy, but Clan Defiance is the best X damage spell in Gruul, and better than most Red options with its ability to shoot down two creatures as well as Blaze an opponent. Note that you deal damage to a target, so it could be any target. I can shoot Bob’s flyer and ground creature, and then kill Lynette who was at 5 life too. That puts it into an unusual situation of impacting the board and killing someone at the same time, which is very important when dialing it up against multiple players. Killing two creatures is awesome and gives you card advantage, and it’s pretty common that you’ll run into both flyers and non-flyers as well, not really limiting your options as much as you might think at first.
6. Arlinn Kord
Don’t let the power of Arlinn Kord slip you by. As the 2nd true flip Planeswalker on both sides (Garruk Relentless into Garruk, the Veil-Cursed was the first), Arlinn offers a lot of options. And unlike her Garruk pal, Arlinn can flip back and forth from one side to the other, as needed. That gives her five distant abilities that you can use. That sort of flexibility wins matches. Let’s drill down into Arlinn . . .
She is no joke. All of her abilities work very well together as well as at the kitchen table, and she’s never a dead draw. On an empty board she makes beaters, with topdeck mode she can haste-enable your creature to hit first, she can kill or trample out of a locked board state, and more. The only issue she has is that you often have to plan ahead to ensure that the abilities you want are on the board. And that’s why two ‘walkers hit higher.
Speaking of which . . .
5. Domri Rade
Who’s my favorite Gruul Planeswalker (literally, not figuratively, as another ‘walker hits higher)? Domri Rade! Domri is great at supporting a creature-heavy deck. Domri draws cards. Domri allows your dorks to fight other dorks. Domri can basically turn your team into game-winning powerhouses. Domri is. This trio of abilities is very strong in Gruul, because Gruul is one of the most creature-centered color combinations out there. Only Selesnya is arguably more about creatures. Nothing with Blue qualifies. Rakdos, Orzhov, Golgari and Boros include too many control and empowered elements from non-creature sources to really qualify. It’s Selesnya and then Gruul in the top two spots, so Domri plays into that perfectly. Domri’s war dance is simple. Fight! For Your Right! To Fight!(See what I did there? You are welcome . . . )
4. Bloodbraid Elf
Gruul isn’t exactly a color that easily gives card drawing or quantity from its effects. Where it can draw some cards and add in some value is with a creature like Bloodbraid Elf. Just as its reputation in tournament tables is unparalleled, so is its play-value here as well. You see it played all of the time in Commander or casual gaming. There are a bunch of reasons why:
- It’s an Elf. Despite the recent love for Merfolk, Pirates, and Dinosaurs, Elves are . . . well . . . they are Elves. They will always be one of the most iconic and played tribes in the game.
- It’s a moderately sized body with haste. You can cast and drop the Angry Elf and then swing immediately for three damage. It has an immediate impact on the game.
- Cascade is Awesome — You don’t have to run it with Ancestral Vision or Hypergenesis and play around with your deck. Even a mild miss, like Llanowar Elves or Rampant Growth has a lot of value, and it only gets better with a stocked deck.
With all of the known aspects of this Elf, it’s a big deal at the kitchen table too!
Decimate is an amazing removal spell. It often is used to destroy four major things. It can singlehandedly deal with a ton of annoying crap from one player. I once used it on a single player’s Academy Ruins, Mind's Eye, Akroma, Angel of Wrath, and Sylvan Library. That was a good Decimate! And that’s the value of Decimate. Other than Planeswalkers, there is nothing that it can’t just kill right now. The only issue is that you have to have all four targets to cast it. Much like Hex, that limits the card a little more than you would like at times. It’s not a four-mana Hull Breach with everything optional. But what it does bring to the table it does a great job with, and the more players that you are facing off against, the more likely you are to have fearsome threats to silence. Silence them away with a little Gruul decimation!
2. Sarkhan Vol
If you read my columns, then you know how much I adore the first run of Sarkhan. It’s still one of the best Planeswalkers for multiplayer or casual gaming ever printed. The +1/+1 and haste will make it better than Fires of Yavimaya, and the additional options of Threaten or make a quintet of 4/4 Dragons are both really strong abilities too. But I’ll often just sit on the Fires of Yavimaya + Gaea's Anthem even after I’ve got ultimate loyalty because of just how board-altering the first +1 ability is.
1. Dragonlord Atarka
In some color combinations, the big butt of a Dragonlord is harder to manage. That’s not true of Green though! Green and Red can drop this booty all day long and zark your enemies. By flexing the damage across multiple bodies or ‘walkers, you have the flexibility to kill a few different foes. I have killed anything from five saprolings to a Liliana Vess and her 2/1 Specter minion. The Dragonlord is very practical at smashing on arrival. But an 8/8 flying, trample presence for just seven-mana? Our Good Elder Dragon is the most powerful creature in Gruul with a board presence that dominates tables. No other card on this list wins as many game or scares as many foes as this one does.
I hope that you liked this Top Ten? What did you think? Anything I missed? Anything that you want to try out in your next casual deck? I definitely see this as the launching pad of a series of the other nine color combinations as well. Gruul smash begin!