Hello TCGplayer readers! This past week was very exciting as the Magic documentary Enter the Battlefield was finally announced to be released on April 25th! It was pretty hard to keep quiet about it for the past two-and-a-half years and I'm ecstatic that I can finally share the news.
In my article last week I promised a deck that was suggested by you guys. After gathering votes from the comments section in my last article, I created a Twitter poll and from there our fate was decided: The Gitrog Monster was the clear winner with 44% of the votes.
What card should I build a deck around for my TCGplayer article on Monday?—Melissa DeTora (@MelissaDeTora) April 14, 2016
The Gitrog Monster was a card that I played a lot of during my time in R&D and it went through many changes. I was really happy with this card in its final form. It's huge and has a powerful ability that you can take in many directions. You can really just jam this guy in any deck that can support his color requirements and he will just gain value and card advantage naturally. You can also, of course, build a deck that looks to abuse his card-drawing ability. That's what I attempted to do today.
When I look at The Gitrog Monster, it really makes me want to play a deck that can get as many lands into my graveyard as possible. Here are some ways we can do that.
Tormenting Voice and Magmatic Insight—Both of these cards are pretty mediocre on their own. You aren't gaining any additional cards when casting these, you are just filtering out cards you don't need for random cards off the top of your deck. Red isn't a color that is known for strong card draw, but these spells are acceptable if you have some reason you want to discard, such as to play madness spells or discard lands to fuel The Gitrog Monster. These red sorceries seem like a natural fit for a Gitrog Monster deck.
Chandra, Flamecaller—Chandra has been tearing up Standard as she's arguably the most versatile Planeswalker in the format. She has the capability of getting a large chunk of damage in, wrathing the board or just gaining some better cards in your hand. With a Gitrog Monster in play, using her zero ability is really strong. As long as you discard at least one land card you can gain an extra card. Doing this a few times in a game can really add up.
Molten Vortex—Seismic Assault 's younger brother really shines in a deck utilizing The Gitrog Monster. Each land you discard not only does two damage to anything but also replaces itself, and you're pretty unlikely to run out of lands. The only limitation this card has is you can only use it as many times as the amount of red mana you have available.
Evolving Wilds—In this new Standard format, Evolving Wilds is necessary for fixing your mana in a three color deck. Thankfully the format is slow enough where the land entering tapped isn't too punishing. Evolving Wilds is great with The Gitrog Monster in play, but the coolest interaction is that you can play Gitrog on turn five and then play Evolving Wilds as your extra land for the turn. Then, even if your opponent has a removal spell before you're able to untap you can still get your Explore and an extra card too.
Self-Milling—There are lots of options for self-mill in Standard right now such as Gather the Pack, Vessel of Nascency and Crawling Sensation. However these cards are pretty weak without The Gitrog Monster on the battlefield, especially if we aren't playing any other cards that have synergy with self-mill. While these are some great options for a The Gitrog Monster deck, I'm unlikely to include these cards as they are just worse than the other options available.
We have some ways to get lands into our graveyard to trigger The Gitrog Monster. Where do we go from there?
Traverse the Ulvenwald—Traverse is definitely one of the strongest Standard cards in the set and it's great at all points in the game. In a The Gitrog Monster deck, it plays the role of mana fixer early. We're playing three colors so casting Lay of the Land is a fine early play. Late in the game, Traverse acts as a tutor for your Gitrog Monster or any other creature or land in your deck. Traverse allows you to play a toolbox style deck with many one-ofs and a wider variety of cards.
Pulse of Murasa—Pulse of Murasa is a card I really like a lot and I built a deck around it before Shadows over Innistrad came out. I really like Pulse in a control or slower midrange deck because it does a lot of things: It buys you time against aggro decks, and it ensures you don't miss a land drop against midrange and control decks. We should have plenty of lands entering our graveyard if we're playing a The Gitrog Monster deck. If you don't need lands being able to return a threat to your hand is pretty nice, but honestly I return a land more often than not.
Groundskeeper—Groundskeeper is a hidden gem in Shadows over Innistrad and has amazing synergy with The Gitrog Monster and Molten Vortex. However, it's very weak on its own and probably not a card we can afford to play main deck. It's great against decks that are slower, like a midrange or control deck. The combination of Groundskeeper and Molten Vortex plays a lot like Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows. It takes a while to get going but once you have the combo out it's really hard for opponents to keep creatures on the table. Add The Gitrog Monster to the mix and you have a card-drawing engine that's hard to stop (until your opponent draws a removal spell for your 1/1 of course).
After all's said and done, here's our decklist:
Disclaimer: I do all of my testing on Magic Online these days and Shadows over Innistrad was not released at the time of my writing this article. This deck is where I'd start testing, built on theory only. Now that that's out of the way, here's my reasoning for my card choices that I have not previously explained.
2 The Gitrog Monster—This is our namesake card, so why only two? As a five mana legendary creature, the last thing you want is for a few of these two get stuck in your hand. Traverse the Ulvenwald helps us find him and we are pretty likely to hit delirium in our deck with ways to discard cards ( Tormenting Voice), and our opponents removing our creatures and Planeswalkers.
1 Goblin Dark-Dwellers—The Goblins are great, but just like with The Gitrog Monster, you don't want too many five-mana creatures stuck in your hand. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is a nice tutor target for Traverse the Ulvenwald, and even has the strong interaction of recasting the Traverse to find something else. Overall it's just a great card and I'd like to find room for a second copy.
4 Sylvan Advocate—Our deck needs a defensive creature to cast on turn two and this is the best one for the job. It's great at both playing defense against those Mono-White Human decks or offense against the slower Esper Control lists. Our plan is to play land every turn, and maybe even two lands on turn five, so we are expecting to "turn on" Sylvan Advocate every game.
3 Radiant Flames—Our deck is slow and we don't want to get run over by aggressive decks. It may be risky to play three mass removal spells in our main deck, but Tormenting Voice and >Chandra, Flamecaller can help filter them away if we need to.
2 Ultimate Price, 2 Fiery Impulse—Some early removal spells to deal with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or aggressive creatures. They are easy for us to cast (we don't want to play stronger removal with heavier color requirements like Grasp of Darkness or Ruinous Path), and they give us options for Goblin Dark-Dwellers.
3 Arlinn Kord—Arlinn Kord is too good not to play. Arlinn's definitely stronger in a creature deck, but there doesn't seem to be a good R/G deck that revolves around creatures right now. We're probably not going to get good use out of Arlinn's creature-pumping abilities but the sequence of making a Wolf Token and bolting something is too strong to ignore. Our deck has ways to protect Arlinn (Sylvan Advocate and creature removal), but she is self-protecting on her own too. She also helps fuel delirium for Traverse the Ulvenwald when she dies.
1 Ulvenwald Hydra—I haven't seen many Ulvenwald Hydra in Standard lists and I'm not sure why. It's a somewhat stronger Primeval Titan and the lands we can find are incredible right now. Usually we're going to be searching up our Westvale Abbey first, but if we draw Hydra very late in the game we can go for Rogues' Passage. In this deck Hydra starts as a 7/7 and only grows every turn, and Rogue's Passage makes it lethal fast. Just like with our other one-of creatures, it's a great tutor target for Traverse the Ulvanwald and Pulse of Murasa can return it, so playing only one copy is justifiable. Just watch out for Declaration in Stone.
We're playing twenty-five lands and most of them provide us with red mana to get the full value out of Molten Vortex. Four Evolving Wilds are a necessity to help us color-fix, give us delirium and draw more cards with our Gitrog Monster. Green mana is the most important as we need it for our early Traverse the Ulvanwald to find our other colors, or to help us cast Sylvan Advocate on turn two.
3 Duress—Duress is obviously for the control matchups, but it's also important against white decks that run Declaration in Stone, the best removal spell against this deck. I wouldn't board it in against twenty land White Weenie, but you want it against white midrange decks, Bant Company, or any other slower deck that runs Declaration.
2 Kolaghan's Command—Our deck is creature-light, and decks play removal, so our creatures are going to die frequently. Kolaghan's Command is there to bring them back and it also doubles as removal or discard. It's great against black-based midrange or control decks, but pretty weak against Declaration in Stone decks.
3 Groundskeeper—I explained Groundskeeper earlier, but the idea is that you want it against decks that are boarding out their small-toughness removal like Languish, Grasp of Darkness or Fiery Impulse. Those cards are ineffective against most of our creatures, so I'd expect most decks to side them out. Groundskeeper gets under Counterspells well and is great against control. The combo of The Gitrog Monster, Molten Vortex and Groundskeeper is pretty cute. and quite strong once it gets going.
3 Kozilek's Return—We need Kozilek's Return against White Weenie. I'd rather play Flaying Tendrils here but that seems tough on the mana, especially because we're going to want to cast it on turn three most of the time.
3 Roast—We can't deal with big Eldrazi well and that's where Roast comes in.
1 Clip Wings—Sometimes you just need to kill a Dragonlord Ojutai or Archangel Avacyn. Clip Wings is very low flexibility, hence only one copy.
The Gitrog Monster is a very well-designed card and I expect to see a lot of it in many Standard decks over the next eighteen months, whether it's Jund, Abzan, Sultai, or just Black-Green. Green and Black don't get to draw cards this easily very often so we have to take advantage of it when we see it! As I said earlier, this deck is untested and I look forward to giving it a try on Magic Online (Shadows over Innistrad should be out by the time this article goes live). I hope you give it a try too. I'd love to hear your feedback.
Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!
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