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Budget Magic: $92 (37 tix) Gruul Sneak Attack (Standard, Magic Arena)


ನಮಸ್ತೆ, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we are heading back to Theros: Beyond Death Standard to play a deck I've been wanting to build for a while: Gruul Purphoros. So far, we've seen Gods like Thassa, Deep-Dwelling and Heliod, Sun-Crowned get most of the hype in Standard, but Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded's ability to Sneak Attack creatures into play has the potential to be incredibly powerful in the right shell. Our plan today is to use Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded (or backup Purphoros Ilharg, the Raze-Boar) to cheat game-ending threats like Drakuseth, Maw of Flames and Terror of Mount Velus into play, potentially allowing us to smash our opponent for more than 20 evasive damage as early as Turn 4! Howraz good is Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded in Theros: Beyond Death Standard?  Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Gruul Sneak Attack (Standard)

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The Deck

Gruul Purphoros is a combo deck. Our game plan is to set up a board state where we can smash our opponent for more than 20 damage with one big attack. Rather than trying to interact with our opponent's game plan, our entire main deck is dedicated to combo pieces, tutors, and card draw to help us find our combo pieces as well as ramp to help speed up our combo kill. Basically, think of Gruul Purphoros as Legacy Sneak Attack but in Standard!

Step 1: Ramp

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Our big payoffs cost somewhere between five and seven mana, and while there are games where we simply make land drops and naturally cast cards like Ilharg, the Raze-Boar and Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded, in many matchups, playing these cards on Turn 5 is just too slow. Paradise Druid and Incubation Druid help to solve this problem, adding extra mana to the battlefield and allowing us to get to our big, game-winning payoff cards a turn earlier. With the help of Paradise Druid and Incubation Druid, our best draws can kill our opponent as early as Turn 4, which is quite fast for Standard!

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We also have a single copy of Irencrag Feat, which is extremely powerful when it is good but can be very inconsistent since it does nothing if we don't have a big finisher in hand, making it a really bad top deck in the late game. The biggest upside of Irencrag Feat is that it allows us to hard cast big finishers like Drakuseth, Maw of Flames or Terror of Mount Velus as early as Turn 4. In some games, we can also use it to activate Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded several times, essentially getting around the drawback of only being able to cast one more spell after we resolve Irencrag Feat.

Step 2: Sneak Attacks

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One of the best parts about Gruul Purphoros is that it is a very redundant combo deck. When it comes to cheating big finishers into play and winning the game with one big attack, we have two five-mana options in Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar. Our deck is built in such a way that if we can resolve either Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded or Ilharg, the Raze-Boar and keep them on the battlefield for just a single turn, there's a pretty good chance that we'll win the game when we untap by Sneak Attacking one or two big things into play. 

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Rhythm of the Wild does two things for our deck. First, it allows us to beat counterspells, which would normally be very good against our deck since we're trying to revolve expensive sorcery-speed threats. Second, thanks to riot, it can give our creatures haste. While Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded offers haste to our team as well, if we don't have a Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded, Rhythm of the Wild is especially helpful in supporting the Ilharg, the Raze-Boar kill since if we have the right payoff in hand, a hasty, uncounterable Ilharg, the Raze-Boar represents more than 20 evasive damage to our opponent in just one attack.

Step 3: The Payoffs

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So what are we cheating into play with Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar? Two massive Dragons! The best finisher in our deck is (oddly) a themed booster exclusive in Terror of Mount Velus. Thanks to giving our entire team double strike when it enters the battlefield, it's surprisingly easy to 20 our opponent when Terror of Mount Velus hits the board. Imagine this simple curve: Turn 2 Paradise Druid, Turn 3 Rhythm of the Wild, Turn 4 Ilharg, the Raze-Boar with haste thanks to Rhythm of the Wild, attack with Ilharg, and put Terror of Mount Velus into play (with a +1/+1 counter, thanks to Rhythm of the Wild). This leaves us with a 6/6 trampling, double-striking Ilharg and a 6/6 flying, double-striking Terror—a total of 24 evasive damage on Turn 4! We can do a similar trick with Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded. Putting Terror of Mount Velus and Drakuseth, Maw of Flames into play adds up to 24 flying damage along with some extra damage from Drakuseth, Maw of Flames' attack trigger.

One thing to keep in mind with our payoffs is that Drakuseth, Maw of Flames works much better with Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded than it does with Ilharg, the Raze-Boar since when Ilharg puts a creature into play, it is already attacking, which means we don't get Drakuseth's attack trigger (although a 7/7 flier is still fine). On the other hand, Drakuseth, Maw of Flames is insane with Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded since we not only get a 7/7 flier but also get to throw 10 damage at our opponent or their things, which is a pretty insane deal for a three-mana Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded activation. 

Step 4: Adding Consistency

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One of the big challenges of our deck is making sure we can consistently find a Sneak Attack and at least one (and sometimes two) finisher to close out the game. Thankfully, we have a bunch of card filtering to help. Thrill of Possibility and Honor the God-Pharaoh both allow us to discard a card we don't need (keep in mind that Drakuseth, Maw of FlamesPurphoros, Bronze-Blooded, and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar are all legends, making them good discards if we have more than one in hand) to draw two fresh cards. Meanwhile, Shared Summons is our best way to set up our combo, allowing us to snag whatever two creatures we need to win the game (Ilharg, the Raze-Boar plus Terror of Mount Velus if we have Rhythm of the Wild or Drakuseth, Maw of Flames plus Terror of Mount Velus if we have Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded) at the end of our opponent's turn, untap, cheat them into play, and (hopefully) win the game. The only problem is that thanks to Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, we already have a lot of five-drops in our deck, which means we only get one copy of Shared Summons thanks to curve concerns. 

Wrap-Up

Gruul Purphoros was surprisingly strong. We went 4-1 in our video matches (with the slight asterisk that I scooped two duplicate matches in game one to try to keep the video diverse), getting some super-explosive, fast Turn 4 kills along the way. Our one loss came to Mono-Red Aggro, which is a really strange matchup since we can't really interact with our opponent's game plan and then can't really interact with our game plan, so the winner is usually whoever can goldfish into their kill faster. While I think we have a shot with our best draws, it is a tough matchup.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Gruul Purphoros wasn't how fast our deck was but how resilient it could be. We played some very interactive matchups where our opponent was able to repeatedly deal with Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar with cards like Teferi, Time Raveler and Elspeth Conquers Death and were still able to piece together wins. One of the upsides of the deck is that thanks to Incubation Druid and Paradise Druid, if our opponent can deal with our Sneak Attacks, we'll eventually be able to hard cast Drakuseth, Maw of Flames and Terror of Mount Velus. And while not as exciting as our Turn 4 kills, tapping seven mana for a massive Dragon can still win a lot of games in Standard. 

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I'm not sure there are any, at least to the main deck. I was really happy with how the deck played, being a solid combination of resilient, consistent, and fast. I'm sure the sideboard could probably be improved (a sweeper like Storm's Wrath might be a good option to fight against Mono-Red and other creature-based aggro decks), but in general, the deck felt solid.

All in all, Gruul Purphoros was a blast. It offers some of the fastest kills available in Standard and is actually pretty good at fighting through the most common hate cards in the format. Because we only need one turn to win the game, we put our opponent under a ton of pressure to be able to immediately answer Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded or Ilharg, the Raze-Boar because if they are just a single turn too slow, they are very likely dead! If you're looking for something different to play in Theros: Beyond Death Standard, give Gruul Purphoros a shot!

Ultra-Budget Gruul Purphoros

Now for the bad news: I don't think there's really any way to get Gruul Purphoros into the ultra-budget price range. The most expensive cards in the deck are Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, but these are also the most important cards in the deck, and cutting even a copy or two will really reduce the consistency of our combo kills. Furthermore, we're already playing a very stripped-back mana base with just a single shock land, so the easiest trick to getting a budget deck into the ultra-budget price range (cutting back on the mana) isn't really an option for Gruul Purphoros.

If you're looking to play the deck for a little as possible, you can cut the one copy of Stomping Ground for another Mountain and drop the two Shifting Ceratops from the sideboard for a sweeper of some kind (although losing Shifting Ceratops will make the matchup against Dream Trawler decks worse) to save about $15, but that still leaves the deck in the $75 price range, which I think is about as cheap as it can go without cutting key combo pieces.

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Meanwhile, the non-budget build of Gruul Purphoros doesn't get any major additions to the main deck apart from improved mana, with Stomping Ground and Fabled Passage. Otherwise, it gets a handful of sideboard upgrades in Storm's Wrath, Cindervines, and one Chandra, Awakened Inferno

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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