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Against the Odds: Devoted to Garruk


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 116 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a planeswalker tribal Against the Odds poll, and in the end, it was our green planeswalker Garruk coming out on top with a pretty easy victory. As such, we are heading to Modern this week to play a deck that features every Garruk! I'm calling the deck Devoted to Garruk, and while it's true that we are a Mono-Green Devotion shell, we have some sweet Garrukian twists for closing out the game, involving an artifact I've wanted to test out for a long time: The Chain Veil! We've played Liliana and Gideon tribal in the past; can Garruk Tribal work as well? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Devoted to Garruk (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Devoted to Garruk (Games)

The Deck

Garruk is a tricky planeswalker to build around because pretty much all of the versions of Garruk ever printed do similar things: make tokens (3/3 Beasts or 2/2 Wolves), along with a secondary ability—which can be card draw, ramp, or, in rare cases, removal—and then an ultimate that again deals with creatures (often pumping them until end of turn). Combined with with the fact that most Garruks are heavily green means it's hard to build a Garruk tribal deck that's about removal and playing a fair game of Magic. Plus, Garruks are expensive, with the cheapest being four mana and the others ranging from five to seven mana, which means we really need to be a ramp deck to even have a realistic shot at casting all of our Garruks in a fast format like Modern. 

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All things considered, this means that there's really only one good shell for Garruk tribal: a devotion-based ramp deck, which not only helps us cast our Garruks quickly but gives our Garruks additional utility by using their green mana symbols (for example, Garruk, Primal Hunter's three) to add extra mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. While Green Devotion is the perfect shell for Garruk, there's also a problem: we have to make sure that Garruks really matter and are the focus of the deck and that we're not just playing a Green Devotion deck with a bunch of Garruks thrown in. The good news is we have a sweet Garruk-based combo to win the game after we make a bunch of mana, so let's walk through the deck step by step.

Ramp

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First up, we have a massive 12 one-mana ramp spells to get our game started. The package of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl is perfect for our Garruk deck because when we get our nut draw of Arbor Elf on Turn 1 and Utopia Sprawl on Turn 2, we have enough mana that we can cast one of our four-mana Garruks (like Garruk Wildspeaker or Garruk Relentless) on the second turn of the game! Meanwhile, Birds of Paradise is just a backup mana dork with the upside of fixing for the black mana we need to cast Garruk, Apex Predator, the one black card in our main deck.

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The second part of our ramp plan involves Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Wistful Selkie. Wistful Selkie isn't all that powerful of a creature, but it does have three green mana symbols, which means it works really well with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. As for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, it's the most important non-Garruk card in our deck. Thanks to all of our one-mana green spells and Wistful Selkie, it's often adding five or even 10 mana, and the amount of mana it adds grows as we get more and more Garruks on the battlefield.

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While tapping for five mana (for example) with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is great, the land becomes even more deadly in conjunction with Garruk Wildspeaker, which can untap it (and another land) to add even more mana and cast more Garruks. In theory, with the combination of our mana dorks, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and Garruk Wildspeaker, we can cast our most expensive Garruk—the seven-mana Garruk, Apex Predator—as early as Turn 3. While using our ramp package to cast the Garruks we have in hand one by one is fine and we do win some games simply by ramping into Garruks the old fashion way, we also have a card that can allow us to get all of our Garruks at once.

The Combo

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The primary goal of our deck is to use all of our ramp to cast a Genesis Wave for a minimum of 10 mana, which is enough that we can reveal the top seven cards of our deck and put any permanents (including any Garruks) we find onto the battlefield. If this isn't enough to win us the game on the spot with the help of our five Garruks, hopefully we find an Eternal Witness so we can return the Genesis Wave to our hand along with another copy of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx (or a Garruk Wildspeaker to untap our Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx) so we can immediately Genesis Wave again for even more mana. The end result of this process is that we typically end up with all five of our Garruks on the battlefield, often along with the rest of our deck—which is the first step to winning the game.

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Once we Genesis Wave for all of our Garruks, the first step is to use Garruk, Primal Hunter, Garruk Relentless, and Garruk, Apex Predator to make tokens, which gives us two 3/3 Beasts and a 2/2 Wolf. While all of our Garruks can do other things as well, with Garruk Relentless shooting down opposing creatures on Turn 2 or 3, Garruk, Primal Hunter doing a pretty good Harmonize imitation by drawing us some extra cards, and Garruk, Apex Predator killing our opponent's creatures and planeswalkers, their main purpose in our combo is to make tokens.

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After making tokens with all of our Garruks, we use Garruk Wildspeaker to untap two lands (generally a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and a land enchanted with a bunch of Utopia Sprawls) and use those lands to activate The Chain Veil, which we should have on the battlefield from our Genesis Wave. The Chain Veil allows us to activate all of our planeswalkers an extra time, which means we make two more 3/3 Beasts and another 2/2 Wolf with our various Garruks. We also get to activate Garruk Wildspeaker again, and since we just plussed Garruk Wildspeaker to untap lands, we now have enough loyalty to ultimate and Overrun, making all of our 3/3s into 6/6s and 2/2s into 5/5s, which is almost certainly enough trampling power to win the game.

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Finally, to give all of our Garruk tokens haste (and a bunch of other abilities), we have Akroma's Memorial, which we can also Genesis Wave into, as we are putting most or all of our deck onto the battlefield. Then, we simply attack with all of the Overrun tokens from our double-activated Garruks, which also happen to have flying and haste, and win the game on the spot with a huge chunk of damage!

The Backup Plan

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Garruk, Caller of Beasts is the one weird Garruk that doesn't really fit into our combo since it doesn't make creatures, so instead, it is part of our backup plan for winning the game. The most powerful ability on Garruk, Caller of Beasts is the 3, which puts a green creature into play from our hand for free, so the idea is we can use Primal Command to tutor up our single Progenitus and then simply drop the Progenitus into play for free with Garruk, Caller of Beasts and use the 10/10 protection from everything to close out the game in just a couple of turns!

The Matchups

Devoted to Garruk is basically a goldfishing combo deck that doesn't really interact with the opponent very much, which means we are mostly racing our opponent. Against midrange creature decks like Death and Taxes, Jund, and Abzan, this plan usually works pretty well, since we can chump block with Garruk tokens if we need to and then go over the top of whatever our opponent is doing with our combo. On the other hand, we often have a rough time against combo decks like Storm, since we can't really interact with our opponent and their combo is usually faster than our combo. Control can also be tricky, since the opponent can just counter our Genesis Wave, but the ability to sneak in a Garruk on Turn 2 is a good way to steal games in matchups where the Genesis Wave plan is bad. Finally, as for aggro, it's really hit or miss and depends on our draw and our opponent's draw. Sometimes, we can combo off just fast enough to win before they kill us; in other games, we're just a bit too slow, although things get better after sideboarding when we can bring in Thragtusk and Scavenging Ooze to gain some life.

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches and won three, giving us a 50% match win percentage, along with winning eight of our 15 games, good for a 53.33% game win percentage, which makes Devoted to Garruk slightly above average for an Against the Odds deck. More importantly, our Garruks themselves were great, and most of our wins came from our combo. While we did struggle with counters on occasion and especially with fast, unfair decks like Dredge, being able to win with just a board full of Garruks and The Chain Veil was super sweet and made some bad losses more than worthwhile!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Next week is right in the middle of the holiday season, which means we should probably have a holiday special. Which of these holiday-flavored decks should we play next week (most likely in Modern)? Let us know by voting below!

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*Note: We might not play these specific cards; they are just examples of the various themes on the poll.*

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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