Gruul Aggro is an aggressive creature deck that overwhelms your opponent's board. The deck enjoys curving out and dropping large threats each turn. I have piloted it to a 7-1-1 record in two weekly Standard Showdowns at Get Some Game. I love playing Steal Leaf Champion and other aggressive creatures. The deck is budget friendly as it excludes Vivien Reid and Rekindling Phoenix. While I believe you can add one or two Vivien to the sideboard, it is not a requirement. The Immortal Sun is also a card that can get swapped out of the sideboard for a Shapers' Sanctuary, Dire Fleet Daredevil, or Domri, Chaos Bringer. Your best match-ups are against other aggressive decks. The worst match-ups worst against Sultai and Grixis mid-range decks. I have played a few causal games against a Sultai player and lost them all. You really need Rekindling Phoenix or Sharrgan Hellkite to have a chance. Control is beatable since most of your creatures are individual threats. You must be careful not to over-extend into a board wipe. I will go over the deck list, sideboarding, and a recent tournament report.
After playing this current deck list, I recommend the following changes:
Esper Control: -2 Lava Coil, -4 Collision // Colossus, -1 Lightning Strike, +1 Vivien Reid, +1 Domri, Chaos Bringer, + 3 Cindervines, +2 Legion Warboss, (I would add the Immortal Sun on the Draw for a Lightning Strike)
Reclamation: -2 Lava Coil, -2 Collision // Colossus, -2 Nullhide Ferox, +1 Vivien Reid, +1 Domri, Chaos Bringer, + 4 Cindervines
Mono Blue: -3 Nullhide Ferox, -1 Pelt Collector, -1 Collison // Colossus, +2 Shivan Fire, +2 Lava Coil, +1 Legion Warboss
Mono Red: -2 Collision // Colossus, -1 Kraul Harpooner, +2 Lava Coil, +1 Shivan Fire
Mono White: -3 Collision // Colossus, -3 Kraul Harpooner, +2 Lava Coil, +2 Shivan Fire, +2 Fiery Cannonade
Sultai Mid-range: -2 Kraul Harpooner, -2 Nullhide Ferox, +2 Lava Coil, +1 Vivien Reid, +1 Domri, Chaos Bringer, (I would add the Immortal Sun on the Draw for a Lightning Strike)
Gruul Aggro Mirror: -3 Kraul Harpooner, -1 Lightning Strike, +2 Lava Coil, +1 Vivien Reid, +1 Domri, Chaos Bringer
Standard Showdown Tournament Report: 4-0 Record, 1st Place out of 15 People
Match 1: 2-1 against Josh on Temur Reclamation
Game 1 began with a typical curve of Llanowar Elves into Steel Leaf Champion. I followed up with a Nullhide, putting a fast clock on the board. My opponent stumbled on blue mana and was unable to recover.
Game 2 went a lot longer as my opponent hit repeated land drops with Growth Spiral and countered several threats. He was able to land a Wilderness Reclamation and stole my Ripjaw Raptor off Entrancing Melody. I started to flood out around that time and was unable to land another threat. After my opponent dropped a Hydroid Krasis, I decided to concede.
Game 3 was quite close. I got off to a fast start chipping away life as my opponent kept drawing answers. He hit a few Growth Spiral and Chemister’s Insight to stay in the game. Life totals kept swinging as he drew back to back Hydroid Krasis. I finally landed a Ghalta, Primal Hunger that he was unable to counter or kill.
Match 2: 2-1 against Bram on White/Red Aggro
Game 1 starts with Llanowar Elves eating a shock. I drop a Pelt Collector followed by Steel Leaf Champion. My opponent makes a few small creature drops and starts trading resources with my larger creatures. He stumbles on three mountains and the game is over fairly quickly when Nullhide Ferox hits the board.
Game 2 goes much better for my opponent as he plays a flurry of spells killing my smaller creatures and dealing me damage. I am unable to stabilize the board with any big creatures. He has Lava Coil, Goblin Chainwhirler, and all the right answers to finish me off.
Game 3 goes better for me as I land a Pelt Collector and Steel Leaf Champion. My opponent drops Ghitu Lavamancer and a Goblin Chainwhirler on the board. He misplays a sequence by casting Fanatical Firebrand and sacrificing it to hit me for one damage. Next, he hit me with a Skewer the Critics and Wizard’s Lightning. What he should have done was waited with mana up to catch me blocking with Steel Leaf Champion on the Chainwhirler. Before combat damage, he could have killed off the Steel Leaf Champion with Fanatical Firebrand. He could have better utilized his mana for another creature and hit me with the spells next turn. I was able to put him on the backfoot by playing additional blockers and swinging in with Steel Leaf Champion. He could not recover from the board state and a lethal attack the following turn.
Match 3: 2-0 against Carl on Esper Control
Game 1 I got lucky with my opponent stumbling on three mana. He was unable to draw a 4th land in three turns with a Kaya’s Wrath in hand.
Game 2 went much longer as my opponent hit land drops and double blue for counter spells. He wiped the board twice with Kaya’s Wrath. I drew well getting to four mana and kept playing threats. One turn, I cast Dire Fleet Daredevil to Thought Erasure his hand. He promptly countered the spell with an Absorb. I knew he had a trump card in his hand that he wanted to protect. On five mana, he cast Teferi, Hero of Dominaria to tuck my Steel Leaf Champion. This left me with a lonely Daredevil on board with him at eight life. I luckily drew The Immortal Sun with six mana available to stop Teferi and begin drawing additional cards. I made a mistake by attacking Teferi instead of my opponent because I thought Mortify could hit artifacts. This gave my opponent two extra turns to find an answer. I was able to attack for lethal before he could get enough mana to cast Chromium, the Mutable.
Match 4: 2-1 against Jaiden on Azban Knights
Game 1 started off with a Llanowar Elves into Growth-Chamber Guardian and Gruul Spellbreaker. My opponent played a Knight of Grace, Knight of Malice, and Vraska, Golgari Queen. I was able to keep putting pressure on him by having larger threats on the board. He kept playing small creatures while I played Nullhide Ferox and a Steel Leaf Champion. I was ultimately able to deal lethal damage before he could get a History of Benalia to trigger its third chapter.
Game 2 went much better for him. He started off with curving out multiple knights and a History of Benalia. Whenever I stabilized the board with a Steal Leaf Champion or Spellbreaker, he had an answer to them. After playing Vraska, Golgari Queen followed by Vraska, Relic Seeker; I was in a bind. It felt like I was one step behind the whole game and lost to his board.
Game 3 began with playing Llanowar Elves into a Pelt Collector, Growth-Guardian, and Spellbreaker. He was able to stick early knights and a History of Benalia. Luckily, I drew a Thrashing Brontodon to stop History of Benalia from hitting its third chapter. We traded several threats and exchanged attacks. I had to kill an Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants before it took over the game. I chained Growth-Guardian's adapt activation to dig them out of my deck. Unfortunately, I made one crucial misplay by not dropping a 6th land before adapting for my 4th Growth-Guardian. My opponent was able to cast Assassin’s Trophy on it in response to the first adapt activation. Had I had a 6th land in play, I could have activated again to find a crucial blocker. Thankfully, I drew a Nullhide Ferox the next turn to block. Meanwhile, my opponent played back to back History of Benalia putting a short clock on me. I was dead next turn based on the current board state of knight tokens. My board just had an Adapted Growth-Guardian and Nullhide Ferox. The only card in my hand was a Collision // Colossus. I had sided out three of them after the first game but added one back. My opponent was at eight life and could take exactly lethal if he only put one blocker in front of each of my creatures. I could cast Colossus on the Nullhide Ferox for four mana and deal exactly lethal through a two-toughness knight token. As an act of desperation, I attacked with both creatures and my opponent blocked accordingly. I cast Colossus on the Nullhide Ferox and my opponent was shocked without an answer in hand. I had just won the match and tournament. My opponent commented after that he had not seen Collision // Colossus played earlier in the match and did not anticipate it.
Barcelona Wine Bar is a new restaurant addition to the South End neighborhood of Charlotte, NC. They are located at 101 W. Worthington Ave. Suite 110 and open daily from 4 p.m. to late night. Barcelona serves Mediterranean cuisine centered around tapas and shareable plates. They offer a plethora of wines by the glass and an additional wine list for ordering bottles. The restaurant is centered around a large, full bar with indoor and outdoor seating available. Currently, Barcelona does not accept table reservations. You must be present to join a wait list.
The wines by the glass list contains a large assortment of wines from Spain, Portugal, Uruguay, and Chile. While the vast number of choices may be overwhelming, I am sure you will find something to your liking. There are many varietals available for white and red wine lovers. I recommend the Cabernet Franc/Malbec Quieto if you are interested in heavier reds.
The highlight of my recent visit was the food. Their menu includes charcuterie, tapas, ensaladas, and entrees for two or more people. The tapas dishes were the highlight of my recent visit. Our server recommended two or three tapas per person due to portion sizes. One point worth noting is they can add an extra piece to some plates for a small charge. For example, the oysters come with three, but there were four of us dining together. While everything we had was great, our favorite tapas were the Grilled Hanger Steak, Jamon & Machego Croquetas, and Pork Belly.
We had an opportunity to try a few of the desserts at Barcelona. Ashley loves Olive Oil Cake and was excited it was on the menu. She asked if they had any Spanish Churros, but the manager informed us they were not available. Instead, he gave us complimentary dessert for the inconvenience. The Olive Oil Cake, Mango Sorbet, and Cheesecake were fantastic. I normally abstain from ordering dessert, but I definitely recommend trying them at Barcelona.
Everything we had regarding food, wine, and service were great. The staff at Barcelona offer a phenomenal level of service for a brand new restaurant. It is a true challenge providing a high level of service to customers when there is a constant wait list and fully seated bar. I highly recommend Barcelona for any occasion. It is a great addition to South End and a new favorite of mine.
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