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Cleaving Through the Snow

“Bashing through the snow, swing in combat phase. 

Over blockers we’ll go, trampling all the way. 

Bones and beating ring.

Make enemies ignite.

What fun it is to raid and riot.

A slaying song tonight.”

It’s Turbo Time

Since it tis the Holiday season why don’t we start with Gruul. “If not gruul, then die!” I believe that is what Santa Claus said on that jolly night he flew over Ravnica. This article started as a look at the various Embercleave decks that we have available in the format, and it still is; but I want to see if there is something that we’ve missed with the powerful red artifact. Let’s start with the Christmas color themed version of the Cleave decks. 

Let's get the largest detriment to this list out of the way, the mana is rough for Gruul decks. That being said, we have some powerful cards in this list. A game where you curve is something like turn one Pelt Collector, turn two Rimrock Knight or Paradise Druid into turn three Gruul Spellbreaker or Questing Beast is extremely difficult to beat. Follow this up with an Embercleave and your opponent doesn’t have a snowball's chance in hell.

This deck is fast and it can run, run Rudolph right over almost any opponent...But wait! There’s more! Fast isn’t this decks only speed, with the addition of Edgewall Innkeeper, this deck can grind into the late game as well. Historically the main issue that decks like these have faced is the lack of card advantage. If pilots of Gruul decks of holidays past find themselves in a match where their opponent is interacting with their creatures, they run the risk of running out of gas and being at the mercy of the top of their deck. Innkeeper plus the various Adventure creatures in this deck help to prevent this loss of momentum into the later stages of the game. 

Here’s what you should think about and watch for when you’re smashing your way across the battlefield. Gruul Spellbreaker is one of your most versatile creatures, thanks to the Riot mechanic this ogre can come down and continue the assault or pick up a +1/+1 counter and set back on defense. Questing Beast should always be attacking, it trades with anything you opponent may have and has vigilance. Depending on what you’re one-drop is, your adventure creatures take on different roles. If you start with a Pelt Collector than it is better to cast them as creatures, while if you start with Edgewall Innkeeper you want to slow down a bit and cast the adventure side of your creatures.

“Jingle hells, jingle hells

Strangle all the way

Oh, what fun it is to riot

And Regisaur free to slay, hey

Jingle hells, jingle hells

Strangle all the way

Oh, what fun it is to riot

And Regisaur free to slay”

Who Said You Could Eat My Cookies?

Who here likes Swamps and Mountains? I think Krampus might be more your speed. Ole Saint Nick is too goodie-goodie for the likes of you. Zombies have more fun, is the saying I believe. 

This deck has been referred to as the “Splinter Twin” of this Standard format. The only real similarity is that is you combine two specific cards, in this case Embercleave and Rotting Regisaur, your opponent is dead unless they have some way to interact with the “combo”. That is love at first fright. This zombie dino will raise such a clatter that you’ll spring from you bed to see what’s a matter. 

Enough about ole Sandy Claws, let’s meet the helpers! We’ll start with number one bad egg, Knight of the Ebon Legion. Have you read this card? This may be the best one-drop ever printed. Don’t feel so bad Fervent Champion, you’re great too. 

Stormfist Crusader wasn’t a card I was excited to play at first, but this menacing knight and both sides of Order of Midnight are the gifts that keep on giving. Alter Fate is way more powerful when later in the game you can cast it, bring back a creature and cast said creature. Speaking of giving gifts, who doesn’t enjoy a White Elephant? Joke gifts are a tried and true tradition of holiday get together and Rankle, Master of Pranks is the king. 

Here are some tips, tricks and things to watchout for when playing this deck. The most common time that an opponent is going to remove your Regisaur is on you upkeep following the resolution of the discard trigger, so keep this in mind. Stormfist Crusader provides you with a continuing source of damage, because of this Spectacle will always be triggered as long as you have one on the battlefield. Speaking of Spectacle, Spawn of Mayhem may be one of the more important cards in this build. This creature also ensures that your Spectacle cards are “turned on” and comes down a turn early thanks to the reduction cost. 

“A flight or two ago

I thought I'd take charge

And soon, Miss Aurelia

Was gliding on my flank

The mount was lean and lank

Misfortune will be their lot

They got in drifting dive

And then they got upswept”

Happy Trails, Hans!

You know what would be useful if you fell off of a thirty five story building? Wings. Feather, the Redeemed is swooping in and harking the herald. Boros Feather decks were almost there as a tier one archetype last season and the almighty Cleave might be the rednosed guide we need to get it there. 

For the most part this is very similar to the list we have seen in seasons gone by, with the exceptions of the aforementioned legendary blade and Gods Willing. All of these one drops really give me a jolly, happy soul. 

The premium two-drops in this deck are Tenth District Legionnaire and Dreadhorde Arcanist, the first definitely wants to open their gifts first and our ole zombie wizard will be just fine with whatever ends up in our graveyard. 

Throne of Eldraine’s Castle cycle shows up in this version of the list as well with Castle Embereth and Castle Adenvale.

That’s not the only impact the most recent gift from WOTC has given us, we get to use Fervent Champion as well; with Javier Dominguez in your deck you can’t lose. Rounding out the list, we have the head elf of the Boros Legion Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice.

To make sure you are adequately prepared, I present some battle strategies and tactics. In practice, I have found that Tenth District Legionnaire is only second in importance to Feather herself. This two-drop can take over a game all by itself given the correct combination of spells.

When you have a Feather, the Redeemed on the battlefield go head and cast the spells that gain you some sort of increased damage or card advantage, Feather will make sure that you get them back. This ability allows cards like Gods Willing to become an offensive spell and a defensive spell. 

“Warning bells, warning bells

We’ve pushed it all the way

Oh, what fun, doesn’t sound right

In a high-powered Mizzium sleigh, hey

Alarm bells, alarm bells

It’s coming straight our way

Oh, what fun it is to crash

In a high-powered Mizzium sleigh”


Welcome to… I mean workshop everybody. I have previously covered an Izzet deck that plays Embercleave in a previous article, but this deck is a more aggressive take on that idea. Our very own Jack Frost enters the tale in this decklist; that would be Gadwick, the Wizened. Get it? It’s because he freezes stuff! Anyways, goblins are like elves right? We discussed this powerhouse before.  

Robber of the Rich is such a Grinch (not the Jim Carrey one, it’s the best and don’t challenge me) because he wants all of the little Whos down in Whoville to miss out on their Who pudding and roast beast. This card has yet to really hit it’s mark in Standard, but that may change very soon. 

Don’t forget to bundle up on this wild ride, but if you forgot your coat and scarf, I’m sure a Slaying Fire will warm you right up. This is a card that I’m more suspicious about in this list. We already have a triple blue spell in The Gadfather and we definitely want to cast Slaying Fire with Adamant. While I don’t believe that it is a deal breaker, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in games. 

I don’t want to just rehash what I said in my previous article. Brineborn Cutthroat, Brazen Borrower and Bonecrusher Giant are all still fantastic and we’ll leave it at that. 

Someone who has been a very good goblin this year is Legion Warboss, and you can get an Embercleave out so fast with this one in post-board games. 

Here are some things you may not realize or catch during a game. In the mirror, if both  players have a copy of Gadwick on the battlefield; make sure to attack before attempting to cast a blue spell to tap down your opponent’s blockers. You want to do it this way to keep your opponent from being able to tap down your creatures before you can attack. The Gad-dad is an impressive combo with the Brazen Borrower and Petty Theft, tapping two creatures and bouncing a nonland permanent. Ideally, you want to begin the game with a Brineborn Cutthroat on you opponent’s turn two end step. This can shift a game to easy mode in some respects, you use your removal and counterspells to disrupt you opponent and protect you threats on the battlefield.  

Buddy The Elf. What’s Your Favorite Color?

Embercleave serves as an in-game representation of the fabled Excalibur from Aurthurian legend, it is also the last thing that a Santa-sized sack full of enemies is going to see. Throughout Magic the Gatherings storied history, equipment artifacts have waned in viability. The mechanical workings on how they work are an invitation for a two-for-one in an opponent’s favor. The Flash mechanic give this equipment a leg-up in against this common occurrence, reducing the cost to only worrying about instant-speed interaction. To add to that the triggered ability on the artifact when it enters the battlefield and the cost reduction from attacking creatures, make Embercleave a CUT above the rest of the equipment that we have seen in Magic so far. 

I hope that everyone enjoys the holidays and has a safe and fun filled time. Don’t forget to come back and post what kind of MTG related goodies you get as gifts this year. I know I will, and with that I say Happy Holidays to all and to all a good afternoon, good evening and good night.

Good luck, I hope you lose!

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