Andrew Colman – The Puzzle Box: The Elegance of Gruul

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Welcome back to The Puzzle Box!

This week we’re going to be digging into the red and green sections of our cube. Referring to the Gruul clan as elegant is certainly counter-intuitive, if not counter-cultural. But when you break it apart into red and green, and then break those two colors down into what they do at their core, we see they are both elegant. Red takes the shortest path to victory20-0 ASAP, and all the cards serve a similar purpose. The main one is to attack: the red deck want to deal 20 as fast as possible, not play a defensive game. Simple and elegant. Green is not known for its cleverly elegant cards like blue’s Vendilion Clique, but collectively, green comes together. Green’s main focus is to get mana resources out faster and play bigger guysthat’s it: simple and elegant. When you put red and green together, that is when they get confused: one wants Goblin Guides, the other wants Terastadon, and apparently only they know how to fight it out. Silly Gruul.


There are, however, two cards in this list that do not do that which I stated red’s mission to be, and I think one of them deserves some attention: Wildfire. It is the lone card in this section that does not go along with the plan of 20-0 ASAP. However, it’s worth its lonely existence because it is a deck in itself. Basically how it goes is, first you pick a Wildfire and then take green ramp cards, mana rocks, and land destruction spells. When you are able to add in its P3K version, Burning of Xyne, it greatly increases the consistency of the deckit just gets out of hand.  Being able to destroy a board full of creatures and eight lands is just incredible value for six mana.  You’ll also want to keep an eye out for Armageddon if you end up finding enough mana rocks. The creatures you are looking for in this deck are mana makers and any castable creatures with toughness five or morethis way they don’t get burned up in the fire. The game plan goes as follows: get up to six mana, play your titan or whatever you have that survives the Wildfire, then cast it, hopefully when your opponent has only four lands out. You should ideally be casting Wildfire on turn four. Then proceed to apply the beats with your Wildfire-proof creature.


Red is one of the best colors to splash because its removal is so cheap and efficient. This is one of the biggest reasons the mono-red deck does not come together for someone who is trying to draft it. I think it’s worth mentioning that this section only cost $15, because many of the best mono-red cards are common and therefore not expensive. This is very good news for the rest of the cube because we’ll have a little wiggle room in the colorless section. Not only does the colorless section have more cards than the WUBRG section, but its cards are on average more expensive because they can go in every deck.




Green has a few more options than red, but what it really wants to do is to play Pelakka Wurm or Terastadon on turn four or five. Cards like River Boa are cards that don’t particularly fit inside the core of what this color does, but have a high enough power level on their own to warrant inclusion in smaller lists. Also, finding affordable/powerful green two drops can be a bit difficult. River Boa ends up being a free win against black decks and provides infinite blockers for when you are setting up the turn when you play your big fatty.


Green is also probably the best midrange color in the cube. It has the beefy cards at three mana which you can normally play on turn two with the help of an elf on turn one. Landing a Troll Ascetic  and being able to untap with it is one of red’s worst nightmares, because if you just keep your regeneration mana up, the red player is going to have a hard time coming up with profitable attacks for the rest of the game. A green midrange deck will almost always be paired with white, red, and/or black to make up for its lack of removal.


Again, one of the cards to which I would like to bring attention is a new one from the Commander 2013 set: Curse of Predation. In the late game, one of the best things to do with your irrelevant or top-decked mana elves is to feed them to a Skullclamp and rip through your deck finding exactly what you need. I cannot tell you how many times I have top-decked an elf with the clamp on the table and proceeded to draw six cards because I just kept pulling all of my elves and clamping them away. The look you get from your opponent across the table is one of pure disgust! If you aren’t so lucky to pick up the clamp, Curse of Predation does a great job of getting those mana elves back in business. If I have CoP in my deck I am more than happy to play four elves, because I know I’ll usually have one on turn one, and they wont be the worst top-decks later in the game.


Another pet card that I think does not get nearly enough attention in cubes is Kessig Cage Breakers. When you have this card in your deck, especially if you have a way to go dig it out,  it really changes the way you interact with combat and the game in general. You become more than happy to recklessly push your guys into the combat when it seems like trading is in you opponent’s favor. Or you can feel better about chump blocking with your mana guys because they will create serious value for you later. Combining Skullclamp with Kessig Cage Breakers can be absolutely game breaking. I have found that this card is actually better at digging you out of a tough spot than many of the other five-drops we find in the green section.



I have had a request for the spreadsheet that I showed in the article on the white section.  Don’t worry, I will get it all together as a string of images in one of my future installments. What I plan to do is make a Google doc in which you can enter the size of the cube you’d like which will scale all of the numbers to that size. It is worth noting that this is not the formula on how to build a cube, it is just a very solid starting point. With this document you’ll be better able to tweak  you archetypes and make your cube just how you and your playgroup likes it. After all, that’s what this is really all about. So look for that spreadsheet soon.


As always, thanks for hangin’.


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Andrew Colman

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Andrew Colman

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    • Drew on December 20, 2013 at 11:17 am
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    I love that you are doing this!!! I have a question, does mindspark elemental from m14 work well in the 3cc red section. Do you think that two artifact hosers that important? Keep up the great work and I look forward to playing this cube with my wife!!!

    1. Hey Drew, good name!

      Thanks for the encouragement it is awesome to see people picking up cube because of this series! As far as the 3 cmc spot, it is typically the weakest spot in red. But you are right, 2 artifact haters is a bit over kill since we’re not going to have the swords. I think Guttersnipe would be a good fit there, enable counter-burn a little more. I’ll see if I can get in there and change it. This has been a great experience so far.

      I would be curious to know how cheaply someone can actually put this cube together. Either from scratch or from stuff you already have around. Please let me know how you go about building it and a price tag if you feel like sharing it!

      Thanks again


    • Drew on December 21, 2013 at 1:04 am
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    Guttersnipe is a great idea!! Did you mean to only include 34 cards in green? It seems like so far you have been going with 36 per color. Would Briarhorn be a good addition to the green suite? When each set comes out I simply pick up the singles that seem solid to me. So I actually have a good amount of the cards in your cube. So far my cart on starcity is 74.68 but I am waiting on your guild-colorless section before ordering.

    1. Look at me, punts everywhere in this instalment of the puzzle box. The two missing cards in green are Regrowth and Cultivate. I’ll get that changed right away. The Briarhorn would be an auto-include if the +3/+3 were counters rather than until end of turn. That an issue with cube in general is the lack of combat tricks. I used to play Strength of the Tajuru because it’s an X spell and it leaves counters but it ultimately got pushed out by cards that were more powerful in more situations.

      Here we have the beauty of cube. It ultimately doesn’t matter what I think because you are designing for you and your group. This list will also have a lot more flexibility in it’s card slots because the over all power level of the cards is lower so there are some cards, like Briarhorn, that would hold their own for now. Depending on what you like/want you way want to keep the power level around where it is and have cards like Briairhorn be more playable. That would be a great way of expanding to a larger size in finding the top tier cards in peasant lists add them to this one.

      So many options! And you have helped me come up with some idea’s for continuing topics for this series!

      I love all this interaction guys! Keep it coming!


    • Martin Coppersmith on December 22, 2013 at 7:08 pm
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    Well, I have the MM pack lists converted into a total card content list. Updating it this week to include CMC, rarity, color and spell/creature columns.

    Next week I need to decide on archetypes to track.

    There are the general card archetypes: aggro, mid range, stompy, control, burn etc

    There are also the deck archetypes that the designers tried to include: storm, artifacts, giants etc.

    I need to identify these and track them seperately to determine relative density of each within the card pool created by the set of boosters.

    • Zaz on November 4, 2014 at 6:39 am
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    Errata: Curse of Predation, Sakura tribe elder, and Eternal witness, are missing from the green cost list, but they are in the green type list. On the other hand the cost list has Regrowth, Cultivate, and Farseek, so maybe it cancels out?
    Also the Green Suns Zenith and the Kodama’s Reach have been split into two cards each in the cost list, so it is 35 cards instead of 33?

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