Archetype Spotlight: Gruul Fires / Stompy (GR Aggro Midrange)

Imagine this line of play

Turn 1: Land, Mana dork

Turn 2: Land, Invigorating Hot Springs

Turn 3: Land, Polukranos, Swing for 6

Welcome in to Archetype Spotlight. This series of post is focused on my approach to building archetypes. Each post will explore the game plan of the archetype, what type of cards will enable, special notes, and how it overlaps with other archetypes. 

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When Leo from the Thundercats joined Gruul


Game Plan:  Throwing down big creatures, giving them haste, and overpowering your opponent
Key Cards: Fires of Yavimaya (Really any haste enabler), Hasty creatures
Sub-Archetype: Ramp
Spicy Inclusions: Sneak Attack
Overlaps: Reanimator, WildFires
EDH translation: Xenagos, God of Revels| 


Gruul as a color combination has largely remained consistent throughout the years as a deck looking to hit people really hard and fast. This is a color combination that hasn't really excited me and my playgroup, but it impresses every time when it comes together. The color combination has been creature focused with a couple variations. Though this may make the color dull in terms of how the deck and colors can be played, the upside is the depth you get when many of the cards printed work well and at different power levels. Of the archetypes available, Gruul Fires is the deck I most associate with Gruul as it feels like a good stuff deck, but there is a theme and structure behind all of it. This can also be seen as a folly of the Fires deck since it is hard to distinguish.

Gruul Fires is a deck that has lost its name and significance to time. The term fires is now often associated with Fires of Invention which was a powerful deck during the Throne of Eldraine Era of standard and a strong contender in Pioneer. The Fires deck we are referring to are named after the card Fires of Yavimaya. The deck was a Gruul deck that wanted to shove down efficient, over statted creatures to quickly end your opponents. It is the perfect blend of the strengths of the two colors into a scary package. The green gives access to the best creatures in all of Magic, while the red acts as a support to either help the player close out the game or clears the way.  From how it has been played, it generally feels like a bigger version of the Boros Aggro deck that intends to use more 4 and 5 drops. They used ramp spells like Birds of Paradise to try to get their larger threats out as those would be better than anything their opponents try to play on curve. The deck supports these creature with haste enablers like Fires of Yavimaya or cards that already have haste as it allow these creatures to come down and swing immediately. The deck will often force the opponent to lose chunks of life or sacrifice their creatures to stem the bleeding.

Gruul Fires feels clean, brutal, and efficient when played correctly. 

Not Gruul?

Then Die!

-Borborymos, 2013 

Key Components

Haste Enablers

Haste is an important component of the deck. As mentioned already, it gives many of your creatures an immediate impact the moment they resolve. Haste enablers can take many forms with the best ones generally being reusable effects.

Fires of Yavimaya is the classic signpost of the archetype and 
the baseline for board wide haste enablers. At 3 mana, you are able to drop this down on turn 2 with the help of a mana dork, which then sets you up to play your real threats afterwards. The activated ability on the card allows you to have a combat trick on hand, adding utility if you ever draw it later. It's solid as a way to push more damage in or to trade favorably. 

There are variations on this card to better suit your cubes. Pick the one you think is best.

Rhythm of the Wild might be one of the best options for a haste enabler if you're not running a ton of tokens. The riot mechanic is great as it allows you the choice to either grow your creatures or come down swinging. Additionally, it ensures that your creatures are landing onto the battlefield. This matters vs blue decks since you're relying on your turn 3 and 4 plays, which are where more counterspells reside.

Invigorating Hot Spring is a decent alternative as it plays well with any creature buffing strategy. You can put a +1/+1 counter to a creature, permanently buffing it and granting it haste now. This effect is limited, but it does work with any creatures. You may also buff the same creature to continually grow it. The limitation of 4 counters may be irrelevant since games should end before that happens.

Lightning Greaves is a classic option found in most cubes and commander decks for the sole reason of giving protection and haste at the most efficient rate in the game. The combined total cost of 2 generic mana to play and equip the card is ridiculously low. The card has a similar play pattern to Fires due to the turn it comes down and the 0 equip cost. As a colorless card, it is playable in every deck and desirable in any deck with an emphasis on creatures. Since the card is an equipment you can only enable haste on one creature per turn, which normally isn't a real concern in Gruul Fires.

Swiftfoot Boots is a modern version of lightning greaves. It cost more to equip, however the shroud is now hexproof. This allows the card to be played with combat tricks, other equipment, and auras since hexproof does not stop these things from occurring. If you're looking for lower power, this is a solid option if Lightning Greaves are too good.

Boots of Speed is a solid option as well if you're looking for haste but not interested in the protection. This trades the protection and flexibility for an extra point of power. The card cost red mana to play and should occupy a slot in the red section vs. the other two boots, which are colorless. This restriction doesn't really impact this deck as you are already in red, however only red decks will want to take this. The equip cost is cheap and allows for easy re-equipping. 

Surrak the Huntcaller is in a unique spot for this deck since it is one of the few Green haste enablers. It is conditional, but the requirements are negligible in most situations. Surrak himself already covers 5 points of the needed 8. Acquiring the other 3 power is not difficult thanks to the creature quality in these colors. This will translate to this card having haste often and always being active in subsequent turns. Outside of these factors, the card has the benefit of being overstatted for its cost, but it's a hard sell without the extra keywords.

Halana and Alena, Partners is a very strong option that is effective in marrying the two colors together for this archetype. It gives one of your other creatures haste and pumps up their power with +1/+1 counters. Even if you do not play another creature, you may opt to target something just to give it counters. On its own the creature does struggle to make an impact, but alongside other creatures, this will quickly pump out damage and overwhelm your opponents.

Xenagos, God of Revels is the suped up version of Alena and Halana. You trade the ability to permanently grow your creatures with just straight doubling their power. This has generally played amazing every time it lands with it leading to the end of the game within 1-2 turns. On its first turn, I normally see this card leading to 6-8 damage minimum being dealt and it only snowballs from that point. The card is generally never a creature and thus it can be a do nothing enchantment when you're behind. In other situations, the game is coming to an end.

Ramp Spells

This section is pretty straightforward and I won't go into too much depth regarding ramp spells. The main goal of ramp spells is to hit 4/5 mana early to play your large threats. With this goal in mind, you're generally aiming to include cheap forms on ramp in the form of mana dorks and rampant growth style cards. Since your deck excels at the 4/5 drops, you're not as interested in the 3 mana ramp spells.

Mana dorks are the most common inclusion for ramp. They are generally the cheapest form of ramp and can be played earlier than any other forms of ramp other than moxes, Black Lotus, and the popular commander mana rocks. They are more vulnerable to removal because they are creatures, however they are also able to do more than just ramp mana when needed. These cards is where the term "Bolt the Bird." comes from and for good reason. Opting not to respond to them can easily let the game allow your opponent to take over the game. You have a lot of variety, so choose the one that is best suited for your environment.

 For 1 mana options, you have all of the variations of Llanowar Elves at your disposal. These can only generate 1 type of mana, but this is almost never an issue and they are the most budget friendly. There is also the Hierarchs and Birds, which you access to more colors of mana and other things, but they are not as cost friendly. What's great about these ones are that they ease you into playing things as early as turn 2. 

At 2 mana, these dorks are slower and I generally do not prefer them as I run an abundance of 1 mana options. They do have upsides that make them worth considering. The most common one is that they are able to generate any colored mana. Their non-mana abilities these card have are generally better or more interesting to play with and varied. The best options at this cost are Sylvan Caryatid (hexproof and 3 toughness make it an amazing blocker) and Rofellos (he's broken with forest). 

Land ramp cards like Rampant Growth are a solid inclusion because these are much more difficult to interact with since it brings out a land. There is a tradeoff as lands primarily produce mana and the cards tend to be on the slower side. Rampant Growth is the most commonly available and cheapest version of this card. Other variants include Three Visits, Nature's Lore, and Sakura Tribe Elder. No matter which of these you take, the end result should be the same.

 Just to reiterate, 3 mana ramp spells are not what you are generally looking for because you would normally play them on turn 3. There are edge cases that where they will play amazing, but that is generally if you play on turn 2 after a turn 1 mana dork.

Enchantment ramp is a middle ground option between the two that offers the speed of mana dorks but are less vulnerable due to their status as noncreature enchantments. They make lands tap for an additional effective mirroring the efficacy of mana dork when dropped early. Even should you draw them later, you are able to use them right away as there is no summoning sickness. These play really well with land untappers and can contibute to insane big plays. Be aware, there's a limited number of these types of cards at the 1 and 2 mana cost.

The last style of ramp other than the really weird ones is being able to play extra lands per turn. Exploration is the poster child of this, but it's a busted option and less budget friendy. This style of ramp is reliant on the player's hand, thus they play best with consistent card draw and there are variations in design where these do draw cards. They are more potent as they offset the drawbacks of bounce lands by allowing you to play the additional land you just bounced. The cheap cost (mana wise) variants are in the form of Exploration, (double) Explore, and Summer Bloom. 

Lotus Cobra needs to be singled out as it is just different from everything else. This effect is found only on two cards currently with the other being the recent (May 2023) Nissa, Resurgent Animist at a higher mana cost. If you had yet to play this card, be aware it often leads to wildly explosive turns. This becomes more pronounced when played with fetchlands and other forms of land ramp. In a vacuum, its ability allows players to consistently hit 4 mana by turn 3 which is inline with your other options of ramp already. With synergies, let your imagination run wild. Just imagine this sequence:

Turn 1: Land, Exploration, Land 

Turn 2 Lotus Cobra, 2x Fetchlands

Absurd amounts of mana being played.

The Creatures of Face Smashing

The meat of this deck is the creatures/threats you will be using to pummel your opponent's down. You are generally looking for big creatures that have solid keywords or powerful effects. This list can easily be adapted to various budgets and play preferences, so don't let this be the end all be all, do you.

Polukranos, World Eater is the card that jogs my memory the most when I think of what to include (Theros- RTR standard was when I started). A baseline 4 mana 5/5 with no keywords isn't the most exciting card nowadays, but it works and that's all that matters. The card does have the ability to become monstrous for a scaling amount of mana does make up for its vanilla presence since it is both removal and a pump to make the card even more threatening. 

As mentioned before already, Surrak, the Huntcaller has stats similar to Polukranos but doubles in functionality as a haste enabler. This can make it a hasted beater.

Voracious Hydra is an amazing option for this deck due to its flexibility. Functioning as either creature removal or a huge beater, this will make a huge impact to the board state at any point in the game. As removal, expect big tempo swings as they lose a creature and you gain a fatty. With double counters, you have trample to make every extra point of power worth it. Combine with a source of haste and this card is plain disrespectful.

Along a similar line of play is Flametongue Kavu. This has been a cube staple since forever and it still sees play even now. Though it doesn't have keywords, having 4 power and a Flame Slash on entry is a  tempo swing similar to what you already see in Voracious Hydra. A lot of the same logic and play patterns exist and while the Hydra can scale with more mana dumped in,  it has a wider range of variance and choices, where as Flametongue Kavu is much more consistent and simpler.

Rampaging Raptor is a newer addition that is easily at home in this deck. This has been called red's Questing Beast and for good reasons. At the baseline of just keywords and stats, the card is already strong and makes for a great inclusion into this list. Having haste and trample is a godsend as it invalidates attempts to chump block and gives this card an immediate impact from the pressure it applies. Adding on the other abilities is what gives it a significant edge over its competitors. The firebreathing opens up more play paths for the following turns and is greatly boosted by the trample. The last bit about planeswalkers and battle isn't as important since you are generally aiming to finish them off, though in games that go on a bit too long, it starts becoming a factor.

Glorybringer is a classic that has fallen out of favor, but still packs a punch and can shift the game state quickly. A hasty flier with decent power and toughness that can easily lop of 1/5 of your opponents' life on entry makes it easy to understand why people like this card. The option to exert the card (keep it tapped for a turn) to remove a creature is the big appeal. This function is also why some players have opted out of the card. The card is still amazing last chance I got to play with it.

As much as I hate this card, Elder Gargaroth cannot be downplayed with how powerful it is and how much better it becomes in this shell. Adding on haste to this creature puts it into realms beyond absurd since its ability triggers from attacking or blocking. The card does way too much and generates too much value. Its flexibility allows it to maintain relevance in any situation at any point in the game, while also being the perfect card to stabilize your life total. With its three keywords, this card makes for both an amazing attacker and blocker with vigilance ensuring it will always be available to block. The overall package on this card is absurd and might be too strong especially against aggro.

Thundermaw Hellkite, classic option that still holds strong. Large flying body that will end the game or potentially blow out your opponent. At 5 power, this is easily chunking away at your opponent's life. The ETB ability, though it seems conditional isn't something to ignore either with impact that varies depending on the match up. This ability is a massive tempo blow out deck that use spirit/bird tokens (Lingering Souls/ Emeria Angel) and the faeries (Vendilion Clique/ Brazen Borrower) since they only have 1 toughness. Even should these creatures not die, it clears the way of flying blockers, so not only will the dragon be able to swing cleanly, your other creatures will be able to as well. If they manage to survive that first hit, they most likely aren't surviving a second hit.

Inferno Titan is probably my favorite option of the bunch. Large beater with a powerful enter and attack ability. From general play patterns, this card will clean up boards of smaller creatures opening up the path for your other creatures to swing in. When given haste, it will be able to trigger its ability twice upon entering. This is absolutely devastating as the card will be able to distribute 6 damage as deemed best. On an empty board, this essentially means 12 damage on entry with haste and each turn after being a subsequent 9 damage (3 from ability, 6 from attacking). To top it off, it even has firebreathing to push even more damage. Timeless option.

Minsc and Boo, Timeless Heroes has been a bane on the legacy format since its printing and it is no different here. Upon entering this card comes on 2 bodies: a planeswalker and a Boo token. In a vacuum, you will have a growing Boo token that has trample and haste. It generally starts off at a 1/1 and grows by +3/+3 with each activation of Minsc. This makes the Boo token a 4/4 and a 7/7 the next turn. Without interaction from your opponent, this card will easily deal 20 damage within 3 turns. To make matters worse, even if the Boo token is removed, it will return at the next upkeep as long as Minsc is around. You are also able to use the counters ability on your other threats as well. Should you need to push in more damage, flinging your creatures will be an option. This is just a snippet of why this card is amazing, you really have to play with this card to better understand. Because of this, if you are worried about balance, be aware of this card.


Here are some additional cards to help round out this deck. They are more general cards that any deck can run thus they didn't deserve a detailed section. 

Your removal suite will primarily consist of burn spells and fight style cards. Clearing the way is important in your deck as not all of your creatures will have the toughness or evasion to swing favorably. Your burn spell will also double as a way to deal direct damage. This is important to finishing games especially against control. Unlike other aggro decks, Fires is slow enough that control has a bigger window to stabilize the game and ending your chances of winning.

Much in the same line, Temur Battle Rage and Embercleave are powerful tools that help you win more consistently. They do two things for the deck: increase your damage output and provide evasion for your creatures via trample. Double strike is one of the quickest ways to increase your damage output and it plays will with any other pumps you have available. These two card also have the same mana cost as many other prominent instant speed spells, making them often unexpected and players will often not account for them. Thus as a total package, you are normally dealing near lethal- lethal amounts of damage out of nowhere especially since you're playing fairly large creatures.

Kiki-Jiki, the Mirror-Breaker/ Fable of the Mirror-Breaker are an interesting top end to include in this deck. They essentially function similar to Haste enablers, but aren't. What they do instead is create and extra temporary body that has haste. This is amazing if you are looking to double up on powerful effects/creatures like Inferno Titan. They are dependent on your creature quality and can be difficult to bring out, but once they stick around, their impact can be felt.

Seething Song is a busted option that adds a combo esque edge to the deck. The card generates enough red mana to drop down a 5 drop and should be treated less as a ritual and more like a red Show and Tell. Depending on the format, the card can be cast as early as turn 1 in a convoluted manner (or off a Black Lotus). Even without assistance, being able to drop a 5 drop on turn 3 is fairly hard to achieve even with ramp. If you want to add that element to the deck, this card is an easy inclusion in.

Kessig Wolf Run has been a staple in this deck and for good reason. As a land, it doesn't take away from the cards you can include in your deck, which makes it easy to include in any Gruul deck already. Its ability pumps your creatures and gives them trample, stuff you already want to be doing in this deck. This makes for an amazing mana sink since it scales off as much mana as you want to put in it. Better yet, there's no timing restrictions on it, making it feel very similar to Temur Battle Rage. I've seen it end games with a thopter token since the player was getting flooded but the opponent couldn't stop the flier.

Spicy Variants

There's several variants you can take with this deck if you want to add an edge to it. Unlike some of the other deck variants, the ones found in this guide only need a single card to change them.

The first is Sneak Attack, which is a deck built around the namesake card. Your goal is to quickly drop down Sneak Attack and cheat down a ton of creatures. This deck feels similar in playstyle to Gruul Fires and utilizes a lot of the same creatures. In fact that namesake card can be used as a haste enabler, though it is not preferential to do so. The main difference is that Sneak Attack opens you up to more creature options since the ability is not restricted to in color creatures. 

Wildfires is a variant that feels very at home in your playstyle. The deck utilizes the namesake card to cripple your opponent's board with what seems like a symmetrical effect. You take advantage of this effect by created a board state that is less impacted by this effect. This involved playing creatures with 5 toughness and using ramp to get the effect early. A lot of what you are doing with Fires fits this description already, so the adjustment won't be as drastic. Just be mindful to grab 5 toughness creatures and some ramp.

Cross Pollination
This section will cover what decks overlap with this deck. I will avoid mentioning universal staples as those cards are just good everywhere. Overlap is part of a good drafting experience since it means that players won't end up with unplayable cards. 

The cross pollination on this deck is pretty straightforward as it takes the good elements of both colors and puts them to use in this package. If you want to get more specifical, the deck does have a lot overlap with ramp decks as they will use the same ramp spells and by that extent, there is also overlap with elves because the deck uses elves to produce mana. Looking into a more red focused direction, many of your threats are great curve toppers for the aggro and midrange decks.

Translated to EDHcube

This deck has an easy translation into commander cube since it primarily plays value cards. As an aggressive deck, its power get scaled back significantly due to the different environment. You are going from needing to deal 20 damage to needing to deal 120 damage to 3 players. Many of your creatures do not scale well and you'll need to provide the right support in order for this deck to remain a threat in a multiplayer environment. You are still able to pack a punch and deal massive damage, but this is only one player. There are several ways to mitigate or overcome this issue. Running anthems that provide a huge boost in damage like Overrun or Pathbreaker Ibex is normally a solid plan as it invalidates any of their blockers, while normally adding like 50ish damage to your board. This will be enough to wipe 1-2 players out, possibly all 3 if their lives are low enough. Combining this will cards that add an extra attack step like Aggravated Assault should be enough as sometimes you have the damage, but not the right number of swings.

The best suited commander for this deck is Xenagos, God of Revels as he is hard to kill and adds a large amount of damage. He overlaps with creatures that care about power to and will be an amazing option for Gruul stompy decks in your commander environment.

Sample Decks

Gruul Fires with some Combos

Leaner, build of Gruul Fires

Combo heavy version of Gruul Fires

The End Step

Been a while since I released one of these as they do take more time. Gruul Fires has always been a deck that is scarred in my memory, thanks to RTR-THS standard meta, when Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos just stomped out my monowhite deck. It's just a great deck to watch being played since it is easy to understand and generally easy to pilot. Its inclusion into cubes is almost seamless thanks to only really wanting the element of haste. The lack of clear gimmicks has been a concern for some cube designers as some feel big creatures is not a distinguishing trait. Though within recent years, WotC has been addressing it with Landfall, adding more cards to the Gruul pool. I find that it doesn't often create memorable moments, which is why Gruul fires will still be the choice for me.

Outside of blog writing, I've been also working on my YouTube channel running a general magic podcast with my friends and making YouTube shorts about cube. It's been an interesting endeavor and I plan on continue working on it, but I don't find it as enjoyable as writing these articles for a variety of reasons. If you want to take a look, just click this link here.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Please leave a comment or complaint below, I like the interaction. If you want to support me, please consider heading over to Patreon, ad money is kinda low, but it's currently the only way to maintain the upkeep for domain name. Thanks.


  1. This is an excellent write-up! As a new cube designer, my playgroup and I have been struggling to decide what to do with Gruul. Landfall seemed like the best option, but Fires seems right up our alley with more cross pollination to other decks. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Fires has always played great for me and my play group. It's flexible and seems very close to just another gruul good stuff deck with a bit of spice that gives it character

  3. Thank you for the solid read


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