Borboygmos; art by Todd Lockwood
Gruul is one of the ten guilds of Ravnica, specifically the red-green guild. In brief, Gruul is associated with primal nature. It is one of the more aggressive guilds, with large creatures and plenty of ways to push damage through throughout the game, all while feeling very connected to nature.
To give you a better picture of Gruul, Gruul has two main mechanics: Bloodthirst and Bloodrush. Bloodthirst appears on creatures, and if an opponent was dealt damage this turn that creature enters the battlefield with additional +1/+1 counters on it based on the Bloodthirst number. For example, Ghor-Clan Savage has Bloodthirst 3, so it would enter the battlefield with three +1/+1 counters on it. Bloodrush also appears on creatures, and it allows a player to discard a creature card to give bonuses to an attacking creature. The bonuses match the creature’s size and abilities exactly, so Viashino Shanktail which is a 3/1 with first strike gives +3/+1 and first strike with its bloodrush ability. Together, these abilities paint a clear picture of Gruul as being focused on creatures and combat.
Your challenge this week is to make a card which fits into Gruul. It must be red and/or green, and it can be any card type, though it should not be legendary. (Since legendary status is reserved for the guild leaders.)
Lay of the Land
Gruul loves nature, that much is fact. But unlike the Selesnya Conclave, Gruul believes that nature is best when it is growing wild and free, without imposing order upon it. Nature is an unstoppable force, full of wonder and power, which deserves to be unshackled and given space to grow and flourish. Anything that uses lands is an option for your card. And note, Gruul does not believe that the land needs to be protected from everyone else, rather everyone else should be worried about protecting themselves from the land. Gruul will even turn lands into weapons, either creatures or direct damage, with effects like Skarrg Guildmage and Gruul Guildmage. So, any card which cares about using lands is an option for your card, whether it be searching for more lands, destroying lands, turning lands into creatures, etc. Gruul is not picky when it comes to lands.
This connection with nature doesn’t stop with just the lands though, Gruul is also skilled at making more mana, ranging from the lowly Wild Cantor to the mighty Zhur-Taa Ancient. And all of this mana is useful, because beyond the lands and mana Gruul also uses some of the largest wild creatures around, including cats, snakes, and even dinosaurs. All manner of predatory beasts are fair game for your design, just so long as they feel aggressive and predatory in nature. Or just abandon subtlety altogether and design a massive monster like the (Common!) 7/6 Ruination Wurm.
Blood and Thunder
If there’s one thing Gruul loves more than nature, it’s smashing some skulls. Gruul is great at finding ways to attack in the early game, and in the middle game, and in the late game. As long as your opponent is still standing, the Gruul are still swinging. Small creatures like Wild Cantor help get in early damage to trigger bloodthirst, and also provide options for later to play a large beast a turn early to keep the pressure on. Cards like Burning-Tree Emissary allow Gruul to play multiple threats early, overwhelming the opponent with numbers. Even past the early game, Gruul has creatures which can grow in power over time, such as Rubblehulk and Savageborn Hydra to make sure the opponent never feels too safe. Complementing this aggression is a little bit of destruction. Gruul hates artifacts, so combining an aggressive creature or another effect with artifact destruction like Tin Street Hooligan is one more option.
You could also focus specifically on Bloodthirst or Bloodrush. Creatures with Bloodthirst themselves could have some ability which cares about the creature’s power, such as trample or first strike, or have an activated ability that somehow keys off of its power. Enabler cards for Bloodthirst could be small creatures that are difficult to block, either because of evasion or haste. Or they could be cards which do direct damage to an opponent such as Rumbling Slum. As for Bloodrush, creatures with Bloodrush should be costed efficiently enough that players have a choice to make between which side is more valuable, and should typically help the attacking creature survive with a high enough toughness boost for the cost so that it’s not a two-for-one. As for supporting Bloodrush, again, abilities that work well with high power will also work well with Bloodrush. Bloodrush is also flexible in that it allows pumping any creature, so effects like Wild Beastmaster scale powerfully with Bloodrush effects. Or you could make a card which helps get creature cards back from the graveyard to hand, so that they can be used for Bloodrush again, such as Wildwood Rebirth. (Note that it is instant speed so that it can be used during combat, making the Bloodrush a surprise.)
This design was fairly simple. I started with a creature that could turn lands into creatures. I didn’t want players to feel too reluctant to use this ability and lose their lands though, so I also included a way to get lands back when they died. To round it out, I decided to also allow it to put lands into play from hand to give it a little bit more nuance. (Note that the ability to turn lands into creatures is hybrid because both red and green can turn lands into creatures, but the ability to put lands into play is both red and green both to show an evolution between abilities and also because that ability should require green.)
Hopefully Gruul Elementalist demonstrates what the Gruul are all about: Nature and smashing face. But I’m sure all of you can create cards that are even better at showing the potential of Gruul. And, if you need just a little more inspiration to design a card for Gruul, just remember Borborygmos’s favorite sayings: “Crush them!” and “Not Gruul? Then die!”