This is the Rhythm of the Wilds

by Simon Nielsen on 23 January 2019, Wednesday

Simon Nielsen

While I might have expressed my love for Snubhorn Sentry in an earlier article, what really gets me going is Stomping Ground and everything that entails.

I’ve played a lot of Red-Green Valakut in Modern, obviously sporting the full playset of those gorgeous lands. The very same ones helped me to my first big achievement when I won a World Magic Cup Qualifier in 2014 with this magnificent Gruul Aggro deck:

(Keep in mind that this was a time when the best decks played maindeck Lifebane ZombieTidebinder Mage or Supreme Verdict!)

The Third Coming of Stomping Ground

But enough reminiscing about the past. Naturally, with the third coming of Stomping Ground, I want to look at ways to build a similar aggressive Gruul deck. I’m so sad that Thrash // Threat can’t target players. And I will never get a good Ghor-Clan Rampager replacement. But what I do get is this beefed up version of Fires of Yavimaya

I’m sure you heard of it. Its ascension upon us has been heralded for decades. During the 90s Corona sang about it, accompanied by contemporary electro beats:

“This is the rhythm of the wild / The wild / Oh yeah / The rhythm of the night”

Or something like that. 

I also distinctly remember George Michael's soft voice singing his famous quote:

“Guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm of the wild.”

Get into the Rhythm

Rhythm of the Wild can do so many cool things. Not only do you always have the option to give your creatures haste, but whenever that’s not useful you instead get a sort of anthem-effect. On top of that you get to make the poor Azorius players’ new Absorb worthless. 

The most fruitful interaction springs from a wonderful collaboration between the guilds of Simic and Gruul. That way you profit from the ability of Rhythm of the Wild to sneak +1/+1 counters onto your creatures. Growth-Chamber Guardian is a prime example of this.

I must say I'm hooked on Growth-Chamber Guardian. Over just a couple games it has grown on me and shown itself to be more than a crab rare. Now I feel quite attached to it and for me it has clawed its way to the prime candidate for the most format-defining card of the new Standard.

It’s just the fact that you pretty much have to kill it on turn 2, otherwise you'll face down a 4/4 which is a decent size in the early game and have allowed your opponent to fetch up another one.

But where it gets really exciting is with other ways of planting a +1/+1 in its face. This is where Rhythm of the Wild comes in. With the enchantment in play, you don't even have to pay the three mana. Just give it a counter with riot and you've created yourself the beautiful spawn between a Squadron Hawk and a Watchwolf.

Not Gruul? Then Die!

If we interlock these new interactions with my vision of an aggressive Gruul deck, we get something like this:

This my starting point for Gruul after playing a couple of matches.

I started with 4 Kraul Harpooner and a couple Ghalta, Primal Hunger in the deck, because they both synergize together and both put on incredible pressure with haste from Rhythm of the Wild. But the deck doesn’t exactly power out Ghalta that well. Compared to Mono-Green Stompy builds, we lack the 5-power 3-drops and have fewer creatures overall. Furthermore, Kraul Harpooner is fragile with only 2 toughness and will often run into blockers even when you give it haste.

Zhur-Taa Goblin on the other hand convinced me through and through. With flashbacks to Flinthoof Boar, this card is just a Watchwolf with upside. Because when you need haste, it's usually very very good.

Hasty Ferox and Warboss Synergies

Nullhide Ferox with haste. That's one of the scariest sentences I can come up with. Usually when you play that card on turn 3 on the play, you can get an attack in before the opponent gets ANY chance to interact with it. Well, now when you curve Rhythm of the Wild into it, you get the same effect. And if you manage to do all this with a Llanowar Elves, you get TWO attacks in before the opponent can interact. That's a big yikes.

I'm not sure if Legion Warboss really fits the deck, but works well with haste and shines with Llanowar Elves, so I want to give it a shot. It also gets help from another new addition: Integrity // Intervention.

I don't know yet if it's the right call to play this off-color split card, but I noticed that it can be problematic to break through if you face down any bigger creature. I also wanted some more reach, and the addition of a playset of Temple Garden fixes this easily. That one even casts Integrity in case you need to use your red mana elsewhere!

For the sideboard, it's mostly a mess right now. I will note that Biogenic Ooze impressed me a lot more than I anticipated, and this is a card I will explore further. It's also a good alternative candidate as a value 5-drop, as Vivien Reid doesn’t exactly combo with Nullhide Ferox.

There’s Always a Bigger Fish (or Dragon) 

One card that I've omitted from this last list isSkarrgan Hellkite (admittedly I did forget about it when I built the deck). This is one that also works particularly well with Rhythm of the Wild, as you really want a +1/+1 counter on it but also would like to get in for 5 free damage.

This version does not have a manabase to support double Red costs, but perhaps you could fix this with a bigger version that includes another card that works wonderfully with Rhythm of the Wilds ability to cheat counters onto creatures.

Simon Nielsen's Bigger Gruul (Standard (Ravnica Allegiance) - Others)

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Incubation Druid becomes the most absurd mana dork when you play it after Rhythm of the Wild. If you have two in play, you can even give your druid haste to act as a ritual!

I'm not sure if this deck has enough mana sinks to take advantage of the Incubation Druid, but what it does have is scary big monsters!

I'm not as sold on Nullhide Ferox in this version, and maybe I run a couple of Fight with Fire in the maindeck. That is one way to take advantage of the mana generated by Incubation Druid!

But what happens if we really set out to take advantage of the interaction between Rhythm of the Wild and Incubation Druid?

Elfball 

Both Growth-Chamber Guardian and Incubation Druid are Elves. So they slot right into the combo Elf deck I tried to make work last autumn. This deck can both take advantage of Rhythm of the Wild as well as the extra mana from our Druid. Take a look!

Simon Nielsen's Elfball (Standard (Ravnica Allegiance) - Others)

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Essentially we just want to draw through our deck, provide mana with Marwyn, the Nurturer to cast an endless stream of cantripping elves until we finish the game in one big hasty attack.

Now I’m not actually sure if Steel Leaf Champion and Pelt Collector even belong in this deck, but they do act as a neat beatdown plan B. After all Pelt Collector is still a 1-mana Elf and a turn 2 Steel Leaf Champion  is still quite nice.

An Alternative Elvish Approach

However, the mana situation keeps me worried about Steel Leaf Champion. Because if we want to avoid Guildgates, we need to play at least 3, preferably 4, Mountains to support Rhythm of the Wild and Red sideboard cards. And that’s too many Mountains for a deck that might sometimes want to cast Elvish Clancaller and Steel Leaf Champion on the same turn.

I found a pretty neat way to get around the problem to some degree with the inclusion of Unclaimed Territory]. It taps for green mana for Steel Leaf Champion and your other elves, but it also lets Incubation Druid tap for Red mana for Rhythm of the Wild!

It is possible that these issues are too much, and Steel Leaf Champion needs to go. And if that one is gone, then Pelt Collector looks a lot less appealing. We could instead focus on a more combo-centric build. Steel Leaf Champion could even be a sideboard card.

Considerations to replace them with could be:

Druid of the Cowl for even more mana.

More Vanquisher's Banner]. In a true mana-heavy combo-version, we’d want the full 4 copies.

Incubation // Incongruity. This one helps you dig deep towards your combo and doubles as a removal spell with the addition of some Breeding Pools and the ability of Incubation Druid to tap for Blue with an Unclaimed Territory in play.

Stony Strength. I saw Yuuya Watanabe play this one on his stream and I think it’s pure genius. It can both whirl up your mana in combination with a Marwyn, the Nurturer but also supercharge an Incubation Druid early.

This deck didn’t get further than the FNM tables last time around, but with this new set, I’m more than willing to give it another spin. At least the exploratory phase is fun!

Almost Mono-Red burn

I have only played a couple of matches of the format so far, but one deck in particular stood out as a scary early contender. With some new burnspells and Blood Crypt introduced to the format, I thought it was time to dig up the Red-Black Burn decks that caused some stir in the beginning of the last format.

I started out as more of a Rakdos deck, until I realised that the only real black spell I wanted was Sovereign's Bite and I could still fill up the deck even without it. So, I decided to make the manabase much more consistent to never let a basic Swamp get in the way of my plan to cast multiple 1-mana spells a turn. This also let me put Goblin Chainwhirler in the sideboard.

Behold, the power of Mono Red Buuuuuurn!

Simon Nielsen's Rakdos Burn (Standard (Ravnica Allegiance) - Others)

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While it may look clunky with all those 3-drops, twelve of them actually only cost one mana under the right conditions which makes the deck play out very smoothly.

Light up the Stage was better than I anticipated (remember to read that it says “Until the END of your NEXT turn”) and got upped to 4 copies. And now we have this very clean product.

This deck is fast and can be hard to interact with. But it also has enough card advantage that if it wants to, it can just decide to point burn spells at the creatures. Postboard you can go for full control with the aid of Theater of Horrors

While this was not a Rhythm of the Wild deck, it's one of the early contenders for best deck in Standard. This was mostly just a warning that you should make sure you pack some hate for this deck or can otherwise beat it if you play Standard in the early days of the new format. Otherwise, maybe consider showing up with it yourself and punish those who are unprepared for it and brought 12 shocklands.

This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with Snapcardster.com.




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