Hiya! I’m back, with an article on a serious format this time. Sushi requested 93/94, but I’m only willing to put you through so much pain.
My version of Gruul Aggro is set to capitalize off of Burning-Tree Emissary, with 23 cards in the deck being able to benefit off the extra mana ~ not including the other copies of Burning-Tree Emissary.
Aqua's Gruul Aggro in Pioneer
3 Gallia of the Endless Dance
4 Experiment One
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Voltaic Brawler
4 Reckless Bushwhacker
4 Pelt Collector
4 Gruul Spellbreaker
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Bonecrusher Giant
4 Stomping Ground
4 Game Trail
3 Klothys, God of Destiny
3 Aethersphere Harvester
4 Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle Display
The four Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle Display may be a bit much, but I’ve found UR Ensoul to be one of the toughest decks to beat – we have very little that beats a turn 2 or 3 5/5 off of Ensoul Artifact or Skilled Animator. It’s true that a Darksteel Citadel doesn’t die to Battle Display, but at that point we’re probably losing or racing anyway, and I don’t really think Fade Into Antiquity is where I want to be. Yet.
Our game plan is relatively simple: play things, beat face, and maybe drop an Embercleave on something to beat even more face. To go more in-depth, you play threats in the first couple turns, maybe refill your hand with Gallia of the Endless Dance, and push through damage with Embercleave, Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp, and Ghor-Clan Rampager.
Looking at the Pioneer meta (https://www.mtggoldfish.com/metagame/pioneer#paper), the top 5 decks at the time of writing are Mono-Black Aggro, 5c Niv to Light, UB Inverter of Truth combo, UW control, and UR Ensoul Artifact. Of these, two are playing Aether Gust, which isn’t as big of an issue as you might think. Either they bounce something relevant, and we put it back on top and maybe get extra value out of the Adventure side of cards. There’ll be the corner case where it bounces an Embercleave and we get blown out, but that shouldn’t come up too often, and even then they’re gusting a combat trick, and not one of our threats.
Against Mono-Black we bring in 3 Klothys, God of Destiny, 3 Aethersphere Harvester, and 2 Shadowspear. The lifegain’s very relevant against a deck full of 2/1s for 2, and Aethersphere Harvester can block Spawn of Mayhem for a few turns. Klothys draining for two, removing their recursive threats like Gutterbones, Bloodsoaked Champion, and Dread Wanderer while also having the upside of occasionally being a huge body that they can’t interact with outside of Self-Inflicted Wound as well makes her our best card against them.
5c Niv is a little tougher. They get Blood Baron of Vizkopa out of their sideboard, which is mostly just a 4/4 lifelinker. I typically bring in Klothys again for reach, as well as Cindervines. Here, Embercleave is the best card ~ it can shut down Blood Baron’s lifelink and sometimes kill a Niv-Mizzet Reborn.
UB Inverter Combo is probably one of our worst matchups ~ but that’s because Inverter has a favorable matchup against mostly everything. Their maindeck Fatal Pushes and Tyrant’s Scorns make this matchup close to unwinnable, and it doesn’t get much better post-board. While we can bring in Cindervines, there isn’t much else for us, and we just need to race their combo.
UW Control is actually pretty easy for us ~ don’t overextend into Supreme Verdict, and we play more threats than they can answer. Be sure to play around Absorb, which is one of their best cards against us. Their Teferi, Time Ravelers and Teferi, Hero of Dominarias are mostly single target removal spells before we kill them. An important interaction to note is that Teferi, Time Raveler‘s static ability turns off our Embercleave‘s cost reduction ~ we’re forced to play it main phase and then they know it’s coming. Post board, Klothys comes in again as reach and a clock, as does Cindervines.
UR Ensoul comes down to a race 90% of the time. Their deck only has Shrapnel Blast and Wild Slash as interaction, but they’re really fast. Bring in all of your lifegain pieces EXCEPT Klothys ~ she’s too slow, and while she can be a blocker forever, you’d rather have another card that beats face. This is the matchup where Shadowspear and Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle Display shine. Another thing to note is that you can Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp a Bomat Courier or Gingerbrute in response to Ensoul Artifact or Skilled Animator‘s ability.
That’s all for now!