Building Blocks: GR Anaheim

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I was requested last time to battle through a Daily with Marc Lalague’s GP Anaheim-winning list, and I’m a sucker for legitimate requests. Here’s the deck:

Well then. That was a fairly short Daily, so let’s go over what we learned. First, I don’t like the GR deck in this metagame. It’s the epitome of a middle-of-the-road deck, with a lot more negatives than positives. Let’s just look at a pros/cons list for the deck:


  • Fairly good game against every deck in the format, both Game 1 and Game 2. You’re not really horrible in any matchup, since you are aggressive with sufficient removal to clear the way against aggro or to protect yourself.
  • Lots of sideboard options with green and red cards, with Tree of Redemption and Bonfire of the Damned for extra control.
  • Can be an aggressor that transforms into a slower board-control deck.
  • Your mana-fixing is very good; it’s rare a game goes by without you having every type of mana you need.
  • Hellrider and Wolfir Silverheart are both very good cards.

Warning: My cons list is going to be pretty long, since I think it’s a little more important to explain why I think something is bad.


  • You’re devoting 11 slots of your deck pretty much just to straight fixing. Borderland Ranger is a fine card, and the best of its class, but Dawntreader Elk has to sacrifice itself to fix your mana, which sometimes you can’t afford to do. Abundant Growth does replace itself when you play it, but it sadly is still taking up slots in your deck that could improve your matchups, not just your ability to cast Strangleroot Geist into Hellrider.
  • You’re pretty much an underdog in every matchup Game 1. The deck puts up an initial front of aggro, with your Geists and your Hellriders and your Silverhearts, and uses Bonfire and Devils Play to clear the way. However… sometimes you have to use those cards defensively to stop yourself from dying, and you lose a lot of momentum to play your threats so Silverheart isn’t just a 4/4 and Hellrider does a little more than just 4 damage. You also draw a bunch of mana-fixing, which is great, but those cards don’t do a whole lot. Grizzly Bear is a fine card, but it pales in comparison to their Cloistered Youths, Strangleroot Geists, or even Scorned Villagers.
  • The main con is that you’re a bad version of other decks. You can’t out-aggressive Boros, Jund, or Naya, and you can’t out-control the various Miracle decks. You can sideboard to be more aggressive against Miracle and more controlling against aggro, but you can still draw all the aggressive or control cards Game 2 in the wrong matchups.
  • Falkenrath Aristocrat is a terror and I can never beat it.

Note that I’ve yet to play against Reanimator with this deck. Reanimator has fallen in popularity with the advent of a ton of Jund and Boros, but I assume the matchup is about even. They can durdle and you can kill them quickly enough, but they can also just churn out a quick Griselbrand and you’ll stare at it, questioning your life decisions.

So, it’s pretty obvious I don’t like this deck. It puts up sporadic results still, but it just feels underpowered for the format. There are better Hellrider decks, there are better Wolfir Silverheart decks, and there are better Bonfire of the Damned decks. Jamming them together isn’t the worst thing in the world, but the shell around them isn’t nearly as good as the other options. And note that I’m not just 0-2ing this one Daily and writing the deck off; I’ve played a few days’ worth of Dailies with the deck, and only cashed a couple of them.

That said, I could be wrong. I didn’t win the GP, after all, and this deck did. Help me figure out what I got wrong in the comments, if you please.

Thanks for reading!

Gard on MTGO
@leemcleo on Twitter

-Lee McLeod

  1. Good to see some more block. I’m very sad at the state of the format post-avr, but good to see some more block content ^_^

  2. round 1 game one, you could have devil’s played the the champion on turn 2, then use pillar on turn three and swing with giest. nothing you can do about his nut draw on game three. draws like that and the fact that boros is still the cheapest deck in block (only added 4 Silverblade Paladin) is why it will continue to be everywhere online.

    round 2 game one, the key to trying to compete against jund is keeping the non aristocrat creatues off the board, so instead of playing your own ranger turn three, you could have killed his ranger with devil’s play, assuring that he won’t throw his aristocrat out turn four and giving u maybe a turn or two to get some offense going. misclicking the mountain in game too really cost you about 5 damage and maybe he doesn’t get to sac and slip the hellrider later on.

    I agree that the GP winning version is wrong for the online metagame, but I think it just needs a little tuning. I’m not a fan of abundant growth, despite the card draw, because it only fixes mana and does not ramp. dropping them for more removal (like a 3rd and 4th brimstone volley) and putting in a couple of Cavern of Souls to help with the mana fixing might help. since bonfire is such an awesome card, mise well go all in and play three of those in the maindeck as well.

    Thanks for giving this deck a try. The post avr block format is not much different than the pre avr format in my opinion…beat boros, But at least block has an excuse whereas standard and it’s 7 set format has an even bigger problem. U/W Delver!

  3. Thanks for the continuing block coverage, a few thoughts:

    1) As you know a winning deck *often* isn’t the best deck or best build, just look at 3 sulfur falls.dec, so I’m a little surprised you are playing a list this close to the GP winner, just because it won the GP.

    2) Increasing Savagery is part of the anti-aggro “Savage Tree” combo, the counter on the tree allow you to gain life and grow the at the same time. Tree is much less powerful without the combo. I don’t actually think it is that impressive or consistent so I took both pieces out of the board.

    3) You are correct in your assessment of this build to a degree especially when it come to the elk: it is awful and this deck doesn’t need *that* much mana fixing, or the need to ramp to 5 on turn 4: your 4 drops are plenty powerful. There are two legit options that are both better:
    A) add 4th pillar, 2 garruk main, and 4th huntmaster instead. Yes, this plumps out the 4 drop slot, but it adds more threat density and early answers instead of durdly chaffe.
    B) Use scorned villager in this slot, when he isn’t removed he is a huge improvement, because while you don’t care that much about hitting 5 on t3 being the first to 4 is big in this format. When flipped he also powers up you devils plays/wolfruns, getting you to the point where you can cast/flashback for 10+ much several turns earlier than normal which can be key.

    4) Your dislike of this deck really showed in R1 as you were (self admittedly!) sloppy in play, and also made several mistakes. Many of them you caught, but in R1G3 you seemed so overwhelmed by his start that you didn’t even think things through: you have to block with your geist there it saves you life, grows the geist (allowing it to trade with a bigger champ next turn) and avoids the pillar blowout. Your only chance (and a slim one) is to survive to start raining down your hand of huntmasters and double block away his champs. Maybe that wouldn’t have worked anyway – but you have to play to your outs.

    5) This is a classic midrange deck in the you have to accurately assess your role, not in the abstract but in a given situation and make the correct decision.

    6) I hate bonfire in this deck (probably because I hate elk). Unless you miracle it you can’t reliably cast it for enough early enough to deal with hexproof threats before they get pumped and not enough decks rely on mana dorks in the current format. However, both geistflame and brimstone volley are really important to shoring up this decks weaknesses. Geist flame as a 2 of out of the board in particular can answer problematic 1 drops *and* can help against Aristocrats. I have often flipped my huntmaster on t5 shooting down the aristocrat then responded to their sac with a geist flame, and sometimes flashed ‘flame back to respond to the second sac.

    In summary, maybe RG is out of step with the format – I’ve been playing std the past week – but I’ve never liked this particular build of RG, and I think strait RG has the power an consistency to compete in the meta with a little tuning.

  4. ..chirp chirp… always fun when an author asked for comments/discussion and then doesn’t participate.

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