2, Jul, 24

Innovative Hyperaggressive Deck Takes Combo Metagame by Surprise!

Article at a Glance

If you followed Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3, you know just how dominant Nadu combo was. Not only was the deck quite heavily represented, but it also dominated the top tables. In the top 16, 10 players were playing Nadu combo. There’s a good chance the deck gets banned, and perhaps even an emergency ban could be in order.

For those who decided not to register Nadu, it was super important for them to adjust their strategies accordingly. If you’re not playing something highly interactive, chances are you need to be trying to end the game extremely quickly.

This is exactly the approach Biran Boss took to fight through the combo-heavy metagame. Nadu combo and Ruby Storm play little to no interaction whatsoever, so Brian structured his deck to win the game at blistering speed. As such, he registered a sweet Gruul Prowess shell with some unique choices for the metagame, piloting the deck all the way to a top 16 finish. His innovations paid off, and for as long as Nadu combo sticks around, this archetype has a lot of merit.

Typical Prowess Cards

Slickshot Show-Off | Outlaws of Thunder Junction

The creature base for the Gruul Prowess deck doesn’t feature anything out of the ordinary. Playsets of both Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage appear in the one-drop slot. With a flurry of noncreature spells at your disposal, it’s easy for these pesky threats to threaten a great deal of damage very quickly. Unsurprisingly, Dragon’s Rage Channeler shows up here as well. Between Fetchlands, Mishra’s Bauble, and a variety of spells that we will get to in the next section, enabling Delirium is incredibly easy.

Then, at the two-drop slot, we have Slickshot Show-Off. Slickshot Show-Off has been a premier addition to red aggressive decks in Standard, Pioneer, and Modern alike. Prior to Slickshot’s printing in Outlaws of Thunder Junction, Prowess decks relied on cards like Sprite Dragon or Questing Druid.

Sprite Dragon is not only worse than Slickshot at outputting damage quickly, but it’s also very vulnerable to Orcish Bowmasters. Questing Druid, while great in grindy matchups, is a bit slow. As such, Questing Druid is relegated to the sideboard here for attrition battles, and Slickshot takes the two-drop slot as a hyperaggressive, evasive threat.

Of course, all these creatures have one thing in common: they all reward you for playing noncreature spells. With this in mind, the deck plays a high density of ways to trigger Prowess. Lava Dart is a crucial piece of the puzzle, acting as two spells in one card. Sacrificing a land is a real cost, but if you’re killing the opponent the same turn, then the cost is essentially irrelevant.

Getting to pick off a one-toughness creature like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer or Orcish Bowmasters early is nice, and from there, Lava Dart sits in your graveyard ready to help push damage at any point. Even pointing copies of Lava Dart or Lightning Bolt at the opponent’s face can help close games. This deck is all about efficiency and speed, and as we will see, the intriguing card choices fit this mold.

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The Need for Speed

Monstrous Rage

Traditionally, Prowess shells in Modern have featured many ways to churn through your library and generate value. Izzet shells, for instance, played cards like Expressive Iteration and Preordain once it was unbanned. These types of cards pair well with Prowess creatures in the sense that they pump your threats while simultaneously ensuring that you don’t run out of noncreature spells to cast.

You won’t find any cards like that in this decklist, though. Outside of a singleton copy of Underworld Breach, there are no value-oriented cards in the maindeck. Instead, this deck opts for pump spells that help get the opponent dead as quickly as possible.

Scale Up can give a huge stat boost to your small creatures. Mutagenic Growth provides a free way to pump your creatures out of nowhere, helping you push your advantage or protect your creatures from damage-based removal. Monstrous Rage helps increase damage through blockers, which can be exceptionally important against Springheart Nantuko out of Nadu combo.

No card is more indicative of this Prowess deck’s gameplan shift than Assault Strobe. Assault Strobe’s presence signals the importance of casting a flurry of noncreature spells on the same turn, even if it means exhausting resources. The combo of Scale Up and Assault Strobe is brutal when combined with Slickshot Show-Off. If you Plot Slickshot turn two, you can cast it for free turn three, cast Scale Up and Assault Strobe, and immediately attack for 20 damage in the air! Throw in a Blossoming Defense for protection, and you’re in business.

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The Combo Killer

Ruby Medallion

At the end of the day, it’s very clear that this configuration of Prowess won’t be successful in every metagame. Not having access to more cantrips and copies of Underworld Breach would be a huge downside if more players were playing midrange piles, but that’s just not the world we live in.

Obviously, beating Nadu with blazing speed before they get their combo set up is strong. However, Nadu isn’t the only strategy in consideration here. Ruby Storm, Living End, and Through the Breach Eldrazi all feature very few ways to kill creatures. This puts Gruul Prowess in a great spot for as long as it flies under the radar.

There are still decks out there to be weary of, of course. This gameplan is extremely weak to cards like Solitude out of Jeskai or Esper Goryo’s, for instance. With so much of the metagame focused on a multitude of combo decks and how to stop them, though, it makes sense why Gruul Prowess would overperform at large. If you’re tired of losing to these types of strategies with slower decks, consider giving this decklist a shot and taking a new approach.

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