If you read my last column (and if you didn't, shame on you: it nailed one of the decks that "came out of nowhere" in tournament play two weeks before it became a thing), you're aware of the power of
Experimental Frenzy. It's a powerful fix to the problem that most aggro decks have when they run out of cards in hand but haven't quite closed the game out. And even it has issues: there is no pain quite like finally resolving a Frenzy and then flooding out with lands and not being able to do anything about it. But what if you DON'T want to play tiny creatures and go wide? And what if there are solutions to flooding that could not only avoid it, but have your mana floods BENEFIT you?
When I saw Seth (PBKASO) cover a deck from a Small Japanese Tournament (TM) that used
Experimental Frenzy but helped avoid the issues inherent in the card, I knew I had to try it. On top of everything else...it's a really flexible list that's GUARANTEED to get better when Ravnica Alliances releases in a month!
14 Forest 3 Mountain 4 Rootbound Crag 2 Timber Gorge 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Dryad Greenseeker 4 Merfolk Branchwalker 4 Treasure Map 1 Kraul Harpooner 4 Steel Leaf Champion 4 Wayward Swordtooth 4 Experimental Frenzy 1 Nullhide Ferox 2 Regisaur Alpha 2 Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar 1 Ghalta, Primal Hunger 2 Banefire 2 Shapers' Sanctuary 3 Lava Coil 2 Crushing Canopy 3 Deathgorge Scavenger 2 Fiery Cannonade 2 Thrashing Brontodon 1 Banefire
Experimental Frenzy is a card that essentially exiles your hand and replaces it with the top card of your library. As long as you can play that card, you get to try to play the NEXT card on your library if you'd like. But as I mentioned, what happens if you don't WANT to play that card, or if you hit two lands in a row? You're just stuck. You in essence blank your entire turn, and often times in the Boros and mono-white decks, this is enough loss of tempo for you to lose the game. Our deck attempts to bypass this by playing creatures and artifacts that help us bypass this downside and turn it to our advantage. We do this in two different ways.
First, we play cards that let us manipulate the top card of our deck and either put it on the bottom of the deck or in the graveyard if we don't want it.
Dryad Greenseeker is the most basic way we accomplish this. Since bricking out on lands is a thing, Greenseeker allows us to "check" the top of our deck (which we already know if we have a Frenzy down) and put that land into our hand so we can see the next card in line. Of course, we can't play it there while
Experimental Frenzy is on the battlefield, but that's a small downside if we think we're going to win and can even be an advantage in the late game.
In the early game, Greenseeker helps us make sure we hit our land drops and that three points of toughness make this a relevant blocker against aggro strategies in the early game and doesn't die to
Treasure Map lets us ramp in the early game and can put cards we don't want to play with Frenzy on the bottom of our deck. There's also a strange benefit here to resolving multiple Maps that doesn't exist in other decks. Many times, attempting to flip multiple Maps is a bridge too far to be of much benefit since you'd rather have either the scry or the Treasure tokens but not both. In this deck, there are many instances where you'd love to have two Maps so you can flip the first one and use the scry ability on a later one once Frenzy resolves. Finally,
Merfolk Branchwalker is a relevant body early, and its explore trigger doesn't break our heart with Frenzy on board since we automatically get to decide whether we want the next card or not.
Second, we play a card that lets us "break" the one rule that can neutralize Frenzy in the late game: only being allowed to play one land per turn.
Wayward Swordtooth might be the key card in our deck because it does so many things well. It allows us to play multiple lands (often as early as turn 3) to get to four mana as quickly as possible. Its ability stacks with multiple resolved Swordtooths, which is insanely good with Frenzy. I've played many turns with a Frenzy resolved when you play three lands, skip the fourth by using
Dryad Greenseeker to move it to your hand, AND cast multiple creatures, AND get the City's Blessing which convert Swordtooth into a 5/5 beater for just three mana. Of course, there's a downside to all of this: in the early game, if you don't have multiple lands in hand it does flat nothing. This is a big downside when there are multiple fast decks in the meta that can race past the Swordtooth and kill you before you get settled.
The rest of the deck consists of powerhouses that try to take advantage of the number of lands we can play as well as annoying (and sometimes uncounterable) threats that forces the opponent to play a reactive game. It's hard to pass up
Steel Leaf Champion in a deck that can play it since it's a great blocker and attacks for huge chunks of damage.
Nullhide Ferox is just a one-of, but it tends to freak people out when you play it. Opponents will often spend 6+ mana to kill it in the next turn, but obviously its presence is a non-bo in a deck trying to resolve artifacts and sorceries (especially post-sideboard). Reggie (
Regisaur Alpha) is a powerhouse that puts seven power/toughness over two bodies for just five mana as well as sometimes enabling our one-of
Ghalta, Primal Hunger to come down and attack immediately.
The two primary finishers are
Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar and
Banefire. Multani is the more interesting and flexible of the two. In general, you're getting a minimum 5/5 with trample AND reach (which is great in a world of
Healer's Hawk and
Crackling Drake) but also grows with every land you grow. While the ability to retrieve it from your graveyard to your hand at a cost of two lands back to your hand and two mana seems steep and almost impossible with a Frenzy on board, but there's a couple of weird times when this actually works out, ESPECIALLY if you already have a
Wayward Swordtooth on board, and I'll try to explain as best I can. When you have a Frenzy on board, your hand tends to accumulate two types of cards: lands and additional copies of
Experimental Frenzy. Both are often blanks that you want to move to your hand rather than try to play. So a play that I've done more than once is to spend mana to blow up Frenzy on your opponent's endstep, then return Multani to your hand by tapping two lands (and returning the tapped lands to your hand), replaying the lands with the Swordtooth ability, and then replaying Multani for effectively four mana with another Frenzy ready to be played on your next turn. This is something that the Boros and mono-white decks simply don't want to do 99% of the time.
Banefire will take substantially less explanation. Since we end up with several bonus lands on the board if we're deep into our deck,
Banefire ends up being an uncounterable win. Neat.
The sideboard is a mix of creatures and spells that work against the major decks in the current meta.
Lava Coil is the most efficient removal spell.
Fiery Cannonade is a cheap, efficient board wipe (although I did run into a UB Pirates deck that was especially FeelsBadMan).
Shapers' Sanctuary is a card draw engine that is also a "may" ability in case we have a Frenzy down and don't necessarily want to draw that next card.
Crushing Canopy is effective in a format full of fliers and enchantment-based removal,
Deathgorge Scavenger eats cards in the graveyard that you'd rather not be there as well as gets you a couple of points of life that can keep you alive in the aggro matchups.
Thrashing Brontodon does much of the work of Canopy and has a big butt that comes along with it.
The careful reader will note that there are two cards different from the original list, and I chose these for budget reasons. I like to keep the decks that I recommend to you a reasonable cost (especially on Magic Online, which is where I do the majority of my play). The original list has a single copy of
Vivien Reid, where I play a single copy of
Kraul Harpooner. Is Vivien a better card? Of course. It protects itself by killing something the turn it comes in, it draws you through your deck to find the creatures you need, and its ultimate breaks board stalls. Is it $20-30 better? Hard to say. I'd obviously play it if you have one, but Harpooner's ability to kill a big flyer when it enters the battlefield is a nice substitute.
I also have an additional copy of
Fiery Cannonade in the sideboard instead of a single copy of
Star of Extinction. If I were going to update this deck, I'd start here. In my experience in competitive play, you often end up in board stalls where you're just trying to find your finisher. If you'd rather break the board stall because you think you have the advantage in rebuilding, it's a great card.
Gruul Frenzy is a deck that can be competitive at FNM while using a game plan which very few people are going to understand in the first game against it. It does incredibly broken things when it goes off, and it's cheap to boot. But maybe the BEST thing about the deck is that it's going to improve a great deal when Ravnica Allegiance is released in January. You'll notice that the mana base is a bit clunky with
Timber Gorge serving as a really bad dual land. However, Allegiance brings
Stomping Ground at minimum, along with the possibility of Gruul two-color cards that may help the deck rise even higher. Give it a shot, and let me know what you think about it!