Pioneer Gruul Boats Tips, Tricks & Sideboard Guide
07/04/2023 · 13 min read
RG Boats is hands-down one of my all-time favorite Pioneer decks, but lately, it hasn't exactly been making waves in the competitive scene. That all changed with the release of Phyrexia and the addition of some seriously intesting new cards. Today, I'll be diving into the details of this deck list and offering up a sideboard guide to help you tackle some of the format's top-tier decks.
My current version of the deck
|4 Llanowar Elves||$0.49|
|3 Scavenging Ooze||$0.49|
|4 Elvish Mystic||$1.29|
|4 Bonecrusher Giant||$0.69|
|4 Reckless Stormseeker||$5.49|
|4 Migloz, Maze Crusher||$0.49|
|3 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship||$5.99|
|4 Esika's Chariot||$11.99|
|3 Obliterating Bolt||$0.59|
|3 The Akroan War||$0.49|
|1 Karplusan Forest||$2.79|
|3 Copperline Gorge||$1.49|
|3 Stomping Ground||$15.99|
|1 Stomping Ground||$15.99|
|2 Cragcrown Pathway||//||$6.99|
|2 Lair of the Hydra||$2.99|
|2 Boseiju, Who Endures||$42.99|
|1 Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance||$4.49|
|3 Karplusan Forest||$2.79|
|1 Copperline Gorge||$1.49|
|3 Rending Volley||$4.49|
|1 The Akroan War||$0.49|
|1 Klothys, God of Destiny||$4.49|
|1 Jegantha, the Wellspring||$0.79|
|2 Outland Liberator||$0.79|
|1 Reckoner Bankbuster||$5.99|
|3 Unlicensed Hearse||$11.99|
|1 Lukka, Bound to Ruin||$0.99|
With this list, player Hamuda managed to secure a top-8 finish in both of last week's challenges, demonstrating just how well-positioned the deck is in the current meta. Given these impressive results, I decided to pick up the deck once again and managed to pull off a 5-0 run in the leagues with the same 75-card list. At first glance, some of the card choices didn't make much sense to me, but as I played more games with the list, I realized just how thoughtfully constructed and well-designed it truly is. Now, let's dive into discussing some of the specific card selections in this deck.
MIGLOZ, MAZE CRUSHER
Upon first glance at the decklist, I was immediately struck by the inclusion of 4 Migloz, a legendary card, taking the place of another seemingly crucial card: Lovestruck Beast. However, after playing several matches, I realized just how vital this card is to the deck and how well-positioned it is within the current meta. Migloz is an incredibly versatile, aggressive creature capable of single-handedly ending games, proving difficult to block in combat while also providing an answer to artifacts and enchantments in the main deck. These card types are prevalent in the format, with notable targets including Leyline Binding, Enigmatic Incarnation, Esika's Chariot, Witch's Oven, and Fable of the Mirror Breaker.
The fact that Migloz is a legendary creature has minimal impact on the overall game plan, as it enters the battlefield with a target on its head. Additionally, we have the option to utilize all of its modes, exhausting its counters and creating a new Migloz to use its abilities once again.
Some decks opt for other 2-drop creatures that are theoretically more aggressive, such as Werewolf Packleader and Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard, but I've always favored Scavenging Ooze, and it's starting to appear more frequently in decklists. It's a fantastic choice for a deck that engages in numerous combat trades, as you capitalize on deploying the largest creature in play while gaining life and also acting as graveyard hate. This provides additional security against decks like Abzan Greasefang and the now-popular Atraxa Neoform.
KLOTHYS, GOD OF DESTINY
Klothys occasionally shows up in RG Boats decklists, but it's worth noting how effective she is against one of the top decks in the metagame, BR Midrange. The deck has virtually no answers to the goddess, and she even hinders the use of certain cards like Kroxa and Graveyard Trespasser. However, I believe the primary reason to run her is Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. Klothys acts almost like a praetor but also negates Sheoldred's effects during your draw steps, preventing you from losing life and keeping your opponent from gaining too much life.
Playing the deck
The card we most want to see in our opening hand is Elvish Mystic/Llanowar Elves. With this, we can better execute our game plan by dropping a 3-cost creature on turn two, or even accelerating an Esika's Chariot on turn three. However, keep in mind that the format is filled with removal and discard effects, especially after sideboarding, so we need to know when to keep hands with a smooth curve and when to keep strong hands to ensure a solid mid/late game against certain types of decks.
EXAMPLE HAND #1
One of the best hands in the deck, it's incredibly tough for the opponent to respond to an Elf/Stormseeker/Esika curve hitting the field and immediately creating another token. This generates immense pressure and board presence, and even in the worst-case scenario where the opponent deals with the Elf on turn 1, it's highly unlikely that we won't be able to play a Vehicle by turn 3 with two more Elves in play. For Game 1, aim for hands that have a stronger curve, but don't mulligan too aggressively in search of this hand, as the deck functions exceptionally well as a midrange strategy, consistently making land drops and deploying powerful vehicles and creatures in the mid-to-late game.
EXAMPLE HAND #2
Even in a deck with mana dorks, I'm not a fan of keeping hands with just one land. As mentioned, this is a solid midrange deck, and any respectable midrange strategy needs to consistently hit its early land drops. Having two Elves might make it worth considering keeping on the play, since even if one Elf gets removed, another will likely follow in the next turn. However, I still prefer a 6-card hand where I can effectively execute my game plan, making consistent land drops and still having the opportunity to play the powerful cards in the deck.
EXAMPLE HAND #3
Just a side note on the hand in this match: we're up against a Rakdos Midrange. With that in mind, even though it's a hand with 5 lands, I believe it's a keep. The deck has a lot of discard effects, so the more we mulligan, the better our opponent's discard options become. We can also consider the fact that we've removed some mana dorks from the deck, as this isn't a race type of game; it tends to be more drawn out, and we can't afford to have too many bad draws when we're in a topdeck war against one of the best midrange decks in the format. Therefore, I'd keep this hand, as we also need to take into account that the quality of cards we can draw is quite high, and we have all the lands we need to execute our game plan.
Matchups & Sideboard guide
One of those matches where play/draw/opening with an elf really matters. We have some powerful tools to secure the win, with The Akroan War being one of the key components, so save it to steal a troublesome creature like Cavalier of Thorns. Our elf-to-Reckless-to-Chariot curve is formidable, but Old-Growth Troll can pose a significant challenge, as it blocks effectively and ramps up when it dies. Migloz is an aggressive card that can take on Cavalier of Thorns if there isn't another creature to assist in blocking. An interesting play we have with Scavenging Ooze is to kill/exchange with the troll in combat, and with the ability on the stack, remove the creature from the graveyard to prevent it from ramping. After sideboarding, we'll want the full set of The Akroan War, but our main deck is already well-tuned for this matchup.
A match against Rakdos is generally favorable, but don't be fooled. Their decks have been preparing better for this matchup, especially after sideboarding. Vehicles can be a nightmare for the opponent to deal with, but even a turn 2 Migloz can apply significant pressure and serves as an answer to Fable of the Mirror Breaker. The Akroan War is crucial, particularly when stealing Sheoldred. Remember that if you have a vehicle in play during the saga's final chapter, you can use the stolen creature to crew the vehicle, causing it to deal damage to itself when the ability resolves.
Post-sideboard, we want the full set of The Akroan War, and we also bring in Klothys, which helps to mitigate the damage caused by Sheoldred, as well as delay or even prevent Kroxa from returning to the battlefield. Outland Liberator also plays an important role in destroying Fable of the Mirror Breaker, one of the cards that can provide a significant advantage to the opponent.
This matchup is a bit unfavorable, as our opponent doesn't seem too concerned with our strategy, easily removing creatures one-for-one or countering with Make Disappear and bouncing back from Fable of the Mirror Breaker. Our curve is strong, but their combo is better, and we don't even have time to steal with The Akroan War since the worm usually hits the field as a 30/30. In game one, there isn't much we can do, so we mulligan for aggressive and curved hands, hoping we're not hit with their combo.
However, the inclusion of Migloz has taken our deck to another level, as our opponent can't remove it with burn spells, and it singlehandedly answers Fable and any potential artifacts they use to resolve Creativity. Additionally, Migloz is highly aggressive and a real clock. Overall, the matchup is unfavorable, and we don't have a well-tuned sideboard to prevent the combo, but we do have artifact destruction cards that can at least slow down the combo, and Migloz makes game one a bit more even.
Skysovereign is too heavy, so we swap it for lighter threats.
The Elf curve into Reckless Stormseeker is truly powerful here, as they lack effective responses to the werewolf, and their draw/go strategy becomes significantly worse when facing a creature that makes the night far more dangerous. We can bounce back well from Supreme Verdict, largely due to the presence of Esika's Chariot. Migloz's presence also adds immense pressure, as it's an aggressive creature that can evade The Wandering Emperor through its first ability.
After sideboarding, we bring in an efficient removal spell for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which can occasionally hit a Lyra Dawnbringer or Baneslayer Angel. Precisely because of these cards, we cannot take out all of The Akroan Wars, as they will likely have targets. Outland Liberator is another threat to the draw/go strategy that can potentially destroy a Temporary Lockdown or even a Shark Typhoon. Bankbuster provides us with card advantage and can also be an aggressive creature, while Klothys acts like a Roiling Vortex, to which they have limited answers and can deal considerable damage in the mid/late game. Lukka is another card to flood the board post-sweepers.
One card I'm considering for the sideboard is Thrun, Breaker of Silence, which excels in this matchup and may make a return to the list depending on the meta.
Pressure is the key here - in Game 1, play aggressively to chase the perfect Elf -> large creature curve, as we don't have much to do against the combo. After sideboarding, the opponent may switch gears and bring in cards like Zacama and Elder Gargaroth, so we can't afford to take out The Akroan War. Unlicensed Hearse helps against the Lier plan and counters Bala Ged Recovery. Overall, there's not much we can do against this deck, so we must mulligan in search of hands that apply significant pressure on the opponent.
Mirror matches can be heavily influenced by who has the advantage of opening with mana or an elf, but even if you're on the play, you can still gain the upper hand by destroying your opponent's elf. These games can be incredibly fast-paced with Reckless/Esika or more grind-heavy, featuring removal spells, board presence, and Skysovereign attacking from above. After sideboarding, we typically increase our removal options for artifacts and enchantments.
There's no secret formula, but being on the play can provide a significant advantage, whether you're ramping up to threats or responding to your opponent's moves. Additionally, it's crucial not to miss any land drops, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to mulligan.
Another one of the best matchups for the deck. A simple The Akroan War can be devastating, despite the presence of Hopeful Initiate. We have some massive creatures, can flood the board with tokens, powerful vehicles, and highly efficient removal spells. Remember to save Obliterating Bolt for Adeline, and note that some lists have started using Brave the Elements again, so don't be afraid to use Stomp as a spell. Post sideboard, it gets even better, with more removal options for any big creatures they might play.
The presence of Scavenging Ooze greatly improves Game 1, as few decks have removal for it pre-sideboard. Moreover, this is another matchup where Migloz shines, thanks to its aggressive nature, immunity to opposing Skysovereigns, and ability to destroy the opponent's vehicles. After sideboarding, we increase our hate cards, but I'm not a fan of playing Rending Volley, as it's essentially a response only to Greasefang. Sometimes we need to survive against Esika's Chariot, and I believe that graveyard hate and artifact destruction cards are enough to keep the opponent at bay. If the opponent brings in cards like Sheoldred, we should keep some copies of The Akroan War in our deck. The deck is currently performing well and is one of the solid reasons to play RG Boats.
One of the newest decks in the format, we've got a good match-up with The Akroan War stealing an Atraxa, which can easily turn the game in our favor. However, we must be cautious of Stubborn Denial. Additionally, Scavenging Ooze in the main deck can undermine graveyard resources, despite the opponent having cards that can dump a large number of cards all at once. After sideboarding, we increase our graveyard hate and include a full set of The Akroan War to enhance our chances of stealing Atraxa.
RG Boats remains one of the top-tier decks in the format, and the addition of Migloz to the main deck helps to tackle unfavorable matchups while further enhancing the already strong ones. Retaining its aggressive core, it can easily curve out unsuspecting opponents, while also boasting a solid mid-to-late game. This grants it the versatility needed to emerge victorious against any deck.
Until next time!
If you liked this article maybe you will also find interesting on of the following ones Pioneer Azorius Control Sideboard Guide, Getting ready for the Vintage Qualifier: Doomsday Cheatsheet & Sideboad Guide, Modern 5C Creativity Primer & Sideboard Guide, Legacy Delver decks: In-depth and Sideboard Guide, A fresh take: Rakdos Scamless In-depth & sideboard guide
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Hi, my name is Lucas de Almeida Hervás. I'm 31 years old, married, and I live in Indaiatuba/SP, Brazil. I've been playing Magic the Gathering since 2009, but I've been making a living off of it since 2019 through leagues and tournaments on Magic Online. For those who don't know me, I'm 2.17 meters tall, hence the nickname "the tallest Magic player in Brazil."
Published: 2023-04-07 00:00:00