I think the mantra of the deck is if you can’t beat them, steal their best cards. Gruul Food is basically a green food deck with red to get the decent removal of red. Mainly Embercleave, Bonecrusher Giant and Akroan War. You also get some utility with Shatterskull Smashing being a land and a decent removal spell in the late game. Gruul Adventures has always had an issue dealing with Mono Green Food, due to the large creatures and the constant card advantage and life gain in Great Henge. With Gruul Food, you get the Feasting Troll Kings to give you a large body to prevent aggro and more Henges to help survive and get more gas. This deck sacrifices some of the early game damage that Gruul Adventures has, to shore up the mid and late game options. The idea that taking two of the top tier decks in the meta and compromising on them is interesting, I don’t know if you can do this with other decks but it’d be interesting to see if you could add something to help deal with your biggest issues. Most of the other decks are either 3 colours like the Yorion decks or are leaning heavy towards aggro or control and can’t really cut cards for others.
The deck itself has a fairly straight forward game plan, you want to start off with getting at least 1 three drop creature in play so you can hope to get Great Henge down early. That or you get Castle Garenbrig down and can play a 6 drop Kogla or Feasting Troll King down on turn 5. After this you kind of grind out your opponent as much as possible before they find a way to remove your creatures permanently. With the Troll King enabling his own recursion it is a bit harder to deal with him without exile. The deck feels more midrangey since it’s too slow to be an aggro deck but also does not have enough late game cards that can win the game outright such as Ugin or Dance of the Manse or looping Yorions.
The deck as seen above shows that your main costs are going to be green with red being more utility than outright power. Also you have less copies of certain cards than you would in normal Adventures or Food, only 3 Feasting Troll Kings, 1 Embercleave and so forth. This is to allow you to draw more options than you normally would if you had more. With a dual colour deck, those 4 pip and 3 pip green cards will be difficult to hard cast. Which is where the lands come in, having Castle Garenbrig to give you the mana to play those large 6 cmc creatures is what will allow you to cast them efficiently and not worry about securing those 3 or 4 green mana sources.
My main hands that I hold will have a 3 cmc creature, Kazandu Mammoth or Lovestruck Beast are the best since they will allow you to play Great Henge sooner. I also like hands that give you your draw engine in Goose and Trail of Crumbs. Having this in your hand is worth keeping because you will be able to start getting free draws by turn 3.
The 1 Embercleave may seem like too few to be worth it but you don’t really need it, it’s a nice to have and will be dependent on the deck your opponent is playing. Your focus is to get Troll out first and Embercleave just helps later on. Embercleave is still great and worth having in the deck, we want a way to run over our opponents creatures if needed.
The Ketria Triomes are nice even if you have no blue cards that need the extra colour. It helps to get you both red and green and if not needed you can always cycle it, which is more often what you do with the card. I find unless it’s in my opening hand I will usually cycle it over playing it. Your highest pip for red is 2, so usually having 2 red sources is enough to play all your red cards. I like going up to 3 or 4 if I board in more red cards after game 1. Usually in game 1 having 2 red is enough.
In the sideboard is again more red to handle removal, with Soul Sear for planeswalkers and indestructible creatures. Ox and phoenix for the Rogues matchup and more Embercleaves to be more aggressive against control decks. While I think the sideboard is okay, there can be changes made to deal with your current meta. More escape creatures to deal with Rogues or more red removal to deal with aggro decks.
Best of 3 Matchups
This entire meta has been mainly Gruul Adventures, Rogues and Yorion. Though from the above matchup record you can see that during this run Mono Red Aggro made a return. The thing is Mono Red isn’t very good in the meta and I’m assuming it’s probably being played by newer players who don’t have a full collection to build the current meta decks. Also it’s late in the set, so with Kaldheim coming out at the end of the month it makes sense that I’m seeing non meta decks more often. With the deck ending up 29-21, this ties it with the Rogues list but also 42 of these matches were in Diamond 4 and up, while Rogues was only Gold and Platinum. I would consider this list better than Rogues but has much worse matchups when compared to Rogues.
I’m going to start focusing on how to play against the top 3 matchups I played against since it’ll hopefully be helpful towards the current meta.
I played against Gruul 6 times in the 50 games and went 3-3. This matchup shouldn’t be as hard to play against but Adventures is a bit faster and has a simpler draw engine in Edgewall Innkeeper. You really need to have Bonecrusher to deal with it and also decent ramp into your bigger creatures. Getting a Troll King down on 5 will usually lock the board in your favour but you won’t be doing that every game while Adventures will most likely be getting their small aggro creatures in play consistently. After sideboard they will usually bring in Akroan War for the Troll Kings and artifact removal for Henge. I don’t really like changing up the game plan much but will bring in Wilt and another Ooze to handle Embercleave, Akroan War and the early creatures. If you’re on the draw I would drop the Trail of Crumbs and bring in the Soul Sears. The Soul Sear can handle Vivien and most of their large creatures. The way you lose is if they get Henge going before you do, because they will most likely draw into Embercleave before you can prepare for it.
Esper Yorion Doom:
I faced off against this specific Yorion Deck 6 times and went 4-2. I’m hesitant to say that this is a good matchup even with the positive record. Gruul Food isn’t fast enough to kill them before they get to the mana they need. I think most of my wins were due to them drawing dead or not getting the mana they need. They have a lot of good removal for our creatures but they have to use it efficiently. Doom Foretold is a pain but you have fodder that you can sacrifice to it if needed though I’d rather just let it die and have it off the board. My sideboard plan is to remove most of my removal, Akroan War, Kogla are gone. I usually remove 1 Wicked Wolf, keeping the other 3 is okay because you can go indestructible to deal with their non exile removal. I drop a Witch’s Oven keeping one is good to sacrifice your creatures in response but you don’t need two of them since your plan is to push early. I bring in Embercleave, Vivien, Ox, Trail of Crumbs and Ooze. We want more early plays with Ooze as well as being able to exile their graveyard so Elspeth Conquers Death and Dance of the Manse won’t get them value, the extra Embercleave is there to push for damage and Trail is your draw engine.
This deck eats Rogues alive, this brings in two decks that the Rogues deck already has issues with. I had 7 matches against Rogues and went 6-1. Their only game plan against you is to mill you, going over top of you with fliers won’t really work due to your decent removal package. The Wicked Wolves will help in removing the Soaring Thought Thieves and with food can also remove the Guild Enforcers. If you keep applying pressure and force them to make bad blocks or to take too much damage, you’ll win. There’s not much they can do against you since normally they want to hold up counterspells or Into the Story. After sideboard, you should bring in all the escape creatures and all the Viviens. That will mean main decking 65 cards total, which will help against mill. I would drop an Embercleave, Akroan Wars and a Kogla. You’ll have to try and get out your creatures without them countering them but usually you can afford to throw some towards making them use up their counterspells so you can put something more valuable down. They don’t have an answer for Great Henge once it resolves so you can push even harder after that. Be aware of which Rogues deck you are playing against, the non Lurrus one may have a better matchup due to Zareth San stealing your Trolls/Henges.
- The deck floods quite a bit and I’m not sure the best way to deal with it. I’ve had a few games where I have a Henge down and only draw lands. Maybe boarding out some will help in games 2 and 3 but I’m not sure you want to get rid of too many.
- When playing against Dimir Control or Yorion lists that use Elspeth’s Nightmare, remember that Shatterskull Smashing is a spell so play it as a land if you have it in your hand before the second phase.
- I like getting red mana to two and then mainly going green unless you have multiple red spells that need more than two. You really need the green mana for Ooze and your larger creatures.
- Play your Witch’s Oven before a creature so you can sacrifice it if needed. Most decks don’t have an instant speed response to Witch’s Oven other than blue.
- The activation ability of Feasting Troll King is actually an interrupt on your turn, so you can use it as a response to graveyard hate if you have the food up for it.
- Be aware of the trigger order of Great Henge, always have it trigger before a Wicked Wolf so you get a 4/4 wolf to fight with.
- I like playing Akroan War as a finisher, but if you do use it as a midgame play, try to steal a creature you know you can chump with one of their creatures on the forced attack turn. It’s much easier to play when you have a Witch’s Oven down to sacrifice it at end of turn, in this situation steal their biggest threat.
- Due to more occurrences of Mono Red Aggro, I wanted to say the matchup doesn’t feel as easy as it should be. Most of the creatures you have work really well against the Mono Red plan, but the slowness of the deck puts you in a hard place to win before they do. I think you have to make sure you have Lovestruck Beasts and Bonecrusher Giants to stall towards your mid game. Once Great Henge or Trolls are down you’re good until they board in Akroan War.
- If I sideboard in a Soul Sear it is usually when I’m on the draw. You never really want to be reactive when you’re on the play and would rather add as much pressure as possible.
- Kogla is surprisingly good and if you have a 1/1 Lovestruck Beast token out and the Beast is dead you can bounce the token, mana available of course, to protect Kogla. Be aware the token is removed upon bouncing.
- I find the early turn sequencing to be rather difficult due to being in a situation where you’ll end up playing your spells inefficiently due to the amount of possible tap lands you can have. Goose on 1 to possibly play a three drop next turn but then only Kazandu Mammoth fits this line because the other 3 drops would lose value being that they would rather have their Adventure side be cast first on turn 1 or 2.
- Due to Gruul Adventures being prevalent in the meta, if you are losing early you can hold back playing the food side of the deck and fake out being a Gruul Adventures deck, which will make your opponent sideboard incorrectly for game 2.
- The deck plays 63 cards maindeck, which is strange and I don’t have a good reasoning for it but if you wanted to cut down to 60. It would probably be a land, a Troll King and maybe a Bonecrusher Giant.
Gruul Food is better than I expected in the current Zendikar meta. It handles Rogues and Temur lists really well and is fairly even in matchups against Gruul and Mono Green Food. While suffering more against control decks I don’t feel like I played against enough control decks to prove whether that is true or not. I did well against Esper Yorion Doom but worse against all the other control lists. The deck compromises on early aggro to be more resilient and beefy in the mid to late game but it is still a deck that wins from beating down your opponent. Against control I feel like if they have enough tools to deal with you creatures through exile in some cases, you won’t be able to make a comeback. Also a plus is that it can throw your opponent off if they think you are playing Gruul Adventures. There aren’t many days left before Kaldheim comes out and this may not be a good choice moving forward but it may still be able to win a few games early before the Kaldheim meta settles.