Tabletop Review: Dragon’s Maze: Gruul Siege Deck (Magic: The Gathering)

Dragon’s Maze: Gruul Siege Deck (Magic: The Gathering)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Cost: $14.99
Release Date: 05/03/2013
Get it Here:

Dragon’s Maze is the newest Magic:The Gathering set, continuing the storyline and feel of the Guilds of Ravinca line. Wizards of the Coast was kind enough to send us the Gruul Siege deck before release so that we could showcase it here for you, our readers. I have to admit, I was hoping for the Orzhov Power deck as I think it is the best of the five, but it is what it is. I have to admit I’m not really a fan of Gruul Siege though. I think it’s the weakest of the five decks for this set and I’m not especially a fan of the bloodrush mechanic nor the cards in the deck. Still, as we look through it, perhaps we can find ways to salvage what’s here.

Oddly enough, for a very creature oriented deck concept, Gruul Seige doesn’t have the most creatures of the Dragon’s Maze starters.It also has the second most non creature spells of the five. This right there was a red flag for me. Of the twenty-four creatures in the deck, ten are Red/Green cards. Of the other spells, six of the ten require both Red and Green Mana. So as you can imagine, you’re not going to be playing any cards your first round except land. Only six cards in the deck require two Mana, so with Gruul Siege, expect your opponent to have an early advantage and remember you’ll need to play the long game with this deck.

There are twenty-six lands with this deck, ten Mountain, twelve Forest, and four Gruul Guildgates. Considering the deck uses more Red mana than Green, the Mountain and Forest quantities should be reversed. The Gruul Guildgates are your typical tapped dual lands – in this case Green/Red ones. There are also three Instants, two Enchantments, two artifacts and three Sorceries in the deck. The lone Green Instant is Predator’s Rapport, which for 2G, you gain life equal to the combined power and toughness of a creature under your control. That’s pretty sweet for only three mana. With a R/G deck, imagine the ways you can pump up a creature before using this spell. Giant Growth anyone? Even a pumpable Shivan which you then send out to do massive damage. The two red Instants are Volcanic Geyser and Pit Fight. Volcanic Geyser is basically a Fireball that costs an extra R and Pit Fight is 1 G/R. With it you choose one of your creatures under your control and then have it fight another chosen creature. Kind of a mini attack phase. It’s a decent card if you have a crazy powerful creature in play, but otherwise it is a waste of space in your deck. I’d replace this with either a copy of Mending Touch (G to regenerate a creature) or Weapon Surge, which for only R gives a target creature +1/+0 and first strike. Spend 1R more and all your creatures get that ability. For a deck that is so based around attacking every round with creatures, I’m shocked Weapon Surge isn’t in here.

The two enchantments in Gruul Siege are both Gruul War Chant which, for 2RG gives each attacking creature that you control +1/+0 and they can only be blocked by two or more creatures. Nice. Both Artifacts in the deck are Grrul Cluestones. These 3 colourless Mana cards act as a Red or Green mana provider (one or the other each time they are tapped), but for RG a tap and a sacrifice you can also draw a card. I personally would keep them unless you are really desperate. With any dual colour deck, the land your draw can be a crapshoot and so having something that guarantees one of either is pretty important. At the same time as you won’t get one of these out until at LEAST your third turn, they aren’t as helpful as they could be. There are two of the same Sorcery card in Ground Assault, which for RG is basically a non instant but far more powerful Lightning Bolt. Ground Assault does X damage to a target creature where X is the number of lands you control. This means Ground Assault is a nice cheap way to take out your opponent’s biggest creatures, letting your behemoths trample them. The other Sorcery is Armed/Dangerous which is one of those new gimmick “split cards” that I think shows M:TG is really stretching for new inclusions. If you haven’t encountered split cards yet, basically it is two cards printed on one. You can pay the Mana cost for one, the other or both if you have them. In this case Armed is 1R and gives a target creature +1/+1 and double strike while Dangerous forces all creatures able to block a single target creature for 3G. It’s an interesting idea, but maybe I’m just too old fashioned as so far, I haven’t really warmed up to the idea or concept. In my time with this deck, it’s very rare you’ll get the chance to use both in an effective manner The majority of the time you’ll just be going with one or the other. I’d switch this out for either Awe for the Gullds (2R and only dual colour creatures can block this turn) or Phytoburst (1G and target creatures gains +5/+5 for the turn)

So as we see, the non creatures are a mixed bag, and you’ll probably want to retool that section of the deck to truly make it playable. The creatures are similar. As mentioned there are twenty-four in the deck: six Green, eight Red, and TEN G/R. Again I go back to the fact the number of Mountains and Forestsshould be reversed. Let’s look at the green creatures first. We have two Sruli Gatekeepers, two Kraul Warriors, one Skarg Goliath and one Slaughterhorn. Sarulli Gatekeepers are interesting defensive creatures, which is unusual for an all offensive creature deck. For 3G you get a 2/4 creature. Kind of pricey, right? Well if you have two Gates in play when they enter the battlefield, you gain a whopping seven life. That ability is a tempting reason to keep them, but you only have four gates in this deck, meaning the odds of having two in when you play a Gatekeeper are exceptionally low. The Kraul Warriors are another disappointing Green creature. For 1G, you get a 2/2 creature. That’s Grizzly bears territory and not bad. They do have a special ability where for 5G, they gain +3/+3 until the end of the turn. Wow, is that an overpriced Giant Growth or what? SIX mana for +3+3? That’s a terrible deal. You can do so much better and so far, the Green creatures are 0 for 4 in this deck. Slaughterhorn is an interesting creature. It’s a 3/3 for 2G but has the Bloodrush ability where for G, you can discard Slaughterhorn and give a target creature +3/+2 until the end of your turn. I’m really not a fan of Bloodrush cards as I’d rather have the extra creature and the 3/2 every turn instead of a temporary boost. There are times when it can be helpful, but the name of the game in this deck is to overrun your opponent with powerful creatures and if you’re discarding them for a slight advantage, you won’t even get to win the numbers games. I’d rather play a Thrul deck than a Bloodrush deck to be honest. The last Green creature is an awesome one though. For 6GG, you get a 9/9 Skarrg Goliath with Trample. Yes please. It also has a Bloodrush ability where for 5GG, you can discard the Skarrg Goliath and give a target creature +9/+9. This is interesting but again, for one mana more you get the +9/+9 EVERY TURN instead of as an expensive one shot boot. Really, I’d only keep the Skarrg from these creatures and I’d strongly considering putting in a Maze Behemoth. It’s 5G but it’s a 5/4 creature with trample. It also gives all multi-coloured creatures trample as well and considering the bulk of the creatures in Gruul Siege are gold cards, it’s hard to imagine why the Behemoth wasn’t in the started. Put it in people!

There ARE EIGHT Red creatures in the deck, but there are only four different cards. Cobblebrute is a 5/2 for 3R without any special text. It’s straightforward and you get two of them. A little pricey and easy to take down, but not terrible. You also get two Viashino Shanktails. These also cost 3R but are only 3/1 creatures. OUCH. They do have First Strike though, which helps them out, although one point of pestilence and you’ve wasted eight mana. The Shanktail also comes with a Bloodrush ability. 2R and you can discard each to give a target creature +3/+1 and first strike until the end of your turn. In terms of Bloodstrike cards, these are amongst the better ones, although it’s still pricey. I mean, this is a G/R deck and I hate to keep harping on this but Giant Growth is only G and gives you far better stats for a fourth of the mana. You also get three Rubblebelt Maaka which are the best Bloodstrike cards in the deck. 3R for a 3/3 creature is nice but the BloodStrike ability is also decent. For R, you get +3/+3 until the end of the turn if you discard a Maaka. Out of all the Bloodstrike cards in Gruul Siege, this is the only one I can give a thumb’s up to across the board. You can actually get a decent use out of it, especially for the low cost. The final Red creature in Gruul Siege is Ripscale Predator and it’s awesome. 4RR for a 6/5 creature that can only be blocked by two or more creatures. THIS is the kind of card that should be in the deck. Unfortunately, it’s not to be. If you’re looking for some more interesting choices for the deck consider the following two cards. Maze Rusher is a 6/3 creature for 5R. it has Haste and it gives all multicoloured creatures Haste as well. Remember the bulk of Creature cards in this deck are gold, so this should be a no-brainer. Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers is a nice card for creature control to. It’s 3R for a 2/4 creature. If you have two or more Gates in play, you gain control of an opponent’s creature till the end of turn. Said creature untaps and gains Haste. Use this to turn your opponent’s best creature against it and have it take part in your massive siege.

Now for the ten Gold creatures. You have ten cards but six different ones. You get three Zhur-Taa Druids, which cost RG and are 1/1 creatures that can be tapped to add G to your mana pool. In addition, when you tap for mana, the Druid also pings for 1 damage on each opposing player. Not bad! I like these guys. Cheap and multi-purpose. There are two Feral Animists in the deck. These cost 1RG for a 2/1 Goblin. Spend another three Mana and the Animist gains +X/+0 untilt he end of the turn, where X is its current power. Under normal circumstances that would make this a +4/+1, but with the various power-ups in this deck, it can get even higher. Unfortunately, there are no real permanent bonuses here for them and that 1 toughness limits their usefulness. Gruul Siege gives you two Ruination Wurms, which I like. For 4RG, you get a 7/6 creature. Straightforward and handy. Remember that Behemoth I suggested adding to your deck? That would give these guys TRAMPLE. Yes, please. The Zhur-Taa Swine is a 5/4 creature for 3RG that has the Bloodrush ability. 1RG and discard the Swine to givea creature +5/+4 until the end of the turn. Not as bad as other Bloodrush cards, but it’s again something I’d rather have in play every turn. The Ghor-Clan Rampager is a pretty sweet card. 2RG gets you a 4/4 with Trample. That’s cheap. It also has the second best Bloodrush ability in the deck. Only RG and you can discard the Rampager to give something +4/+4 and Trample until the end of the turn. Still, I hate to keep beating a dead horse, but +4/+4 trample every round or just as an instant? Not much of a choice, especially in the later stages. Finally we have Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. This card is listed as an Ogre Warrior, but as it has two heads that would make this an Ettin. For 4RG, you are getting a 6/6 creature with tons of special text. It has Vigilance, which is awesome. It also has reach. So six mana for a six/six creature that does tap when it attacks AND it can block fliers? Why is this a Legend? Boo! It also deals 6 damage to a player anytime they cast a non creature spell. Pretty awesome…until you realize it affects you too. Still, that’s not that bad of a drawback compared to say The Lord of the Pit. The other catch is Ruric Thar has to attack every turnif it is able too, but as a 6/6 creatureyou shouldn’t worry too much. Want to make him even better, add that Behemoth already!

So all in all, while Gruul Siege is a bit underwhelming and even possible the worst premade Magic: The Gathering deck I’ve seen in years, it’s still got potential fi you’re really willing to rework it with cards from other sets, Something like Domri Rade would be another great Legendand we can all think of some great Red or Green cards to improve this deck dramatically. That said, I still think you should invest in Orzhov Power or Azorius Authority over Gruul Siege. Even Rakdos Revelry is a much better choice. There is a reason why the Gruul guild is currently ranked 10th out of 10 in the Wizard’s Play Network and this deck is only going to further enhance its image as the J.O.B. Squad of Ravnica.



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4 responses to “Tabletop Review: Dragon’s Maze: Gruul Siege Deck (Magic: The Gathering)”

  1. 8z0kts6 Avatar

    Split cards have been around since Invasion. Mark Rosewater talks about them here:

    My gripe with the new version of split cards isn’t that they’re split. It’s that a good number of the cards are too expensive as single halves. I think the card design should have made fuse cost (0), (1), or maybe (2) colorless depending on the combo, so that the single halves could cost a little less. Perfect example: Profit and Loss. Both halves should cost (2) CMC, with fuse costing (1) so that both halves would cost (5) to play at once, but either half would cost (2) to play by itself.

    But I also liked Invasion a lot and really wish it were considered a modern set, because in many ways it really was the first modern expansion.

    1. Alexander Lucard Avatar

      You’re right – there IS an older version of Split cards, along with a very different version by the same name from Unglued. I missed out on Invasion and didn’t know they were there, but I saw the ones in Ravinca, so when I said “new,” I didn’t mean BRAND NEW, but “newer” compared to abilities like pumping, planeswalk and all the abilities that I grew up with back from Alpha on. Since they’ve been around for a decade I’ll amend that a bit. ;-)

      I completely agree with you on the new batch of Split cards. I have an article on the new set of Split cards that goes live Weds where I look at them and discuss how overpriced they are. Each half tends to cost way too much for what they do and combined? Yikes.

      There’s a lot about Dragon’s Maze that I feel could have been done better. Obvious this Gruul Siege deck is one of them, but there are several tweaks I’ve have done to cards to make them better. Bloodrush is terribly implemented on a lot of cards for example. Murmuring Phantasm should be a flying wall. little things like that.

  2. […] It’s best paired with gold heavy decks and it’s one of the few things that can make the Gruul Siege premade deck somewhat playable. This is definitely a powerful card for a low cost. They key is […]

  3. […] also launch day for the set on May 3rd, so hopefully these two previews and our review of the Gruul Siege deck from Friday has helped you to decide if you’re picking up any packs from this set or […]

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