Piercing Prey in Modern with Gruul Obosh
- Marin Magda
Every time Ponza, the red-green posterboy of Modern, becomes viable, it disappears again rather quickly. Despite its upsides, it often struggles to close the game, while the prevalence of Astrolabe isn't helping either. Against all odds, it enjoyed a glorious return to the spotlight recently, thanks to Ikoria.
With hundreds of different decks that you can play in Modern, it's not surprising that not all of them can be competitive. Some age badly, never receiving an appropriate update as new sets hit the shelves, while some appear out of the blue due to said sets. Some manage to remain relevant over the years, whereas some are constantly in between, rarely or never managing to leave a lasting mark on the metagame.
Such is the story of Red-Green Midrange, or Ponza, which traditionally seeks to disable and/or destroy enemy lands and close out the game before the opponent gets a chance to recover. The problem is it doesn't always happen in that order, and all the land interaction pieces exponentially lose power as the game goes on. The land destruction aspect specifically has now disappeared from lists, but the Arbor Elf-Utopia Sprawl combo never left. Still, you need to draw it, or you'll be much slower. This is just one of the many pitfalls troubling this deck.
Another is that even turn two Blood Moons aren't as powerful as they used to be because of Arcum's Astrolabe. Ever since the release of this problematic artifact, any deck that features snow-covered basic lands, of wich there are many thanks to fetchlands, can just keep doing its thing. At one point, Urza decks actually started to play Moons themselves because of this!
It gets even worse as soon as you get closer to the five mana mark. In most cases, you need to have beefy creatures comfortably sitting in your hand and have to hit your opponent in the head with them until they're dead. The deck often relies more on creature effects than on stats, making the goal of dealing lethal damage even tougher. That's where Obosh, the Preypiercer comes in!
So This Deck Is Good Now?
With Ikoria online, the Modern decks are now divided into two sections: those that have a companion and those that don't. The third one would eventually have decks that are still trying to incorporate a companion, such as Titan decks, but the point still stands. Those that feature a companion, specifically Lurrus of the Dream-Den or Yorion, Sky Nomad, are at a tremendous advantage before the game even begins. Not only do they start with an eighth card in hand, they have a broken eighth card in hand!
For this reason, people didn't initially pay much attention to Obosh, whose power level is in the middle but still dangerously high. For this deck, the timing of its release couldn't have been any better. First it started posting a bunch of X-0 finishes on Magic Online, thanks to some additional 3-drops and facing decks more vulnerable to the good old Magus, now it gets a companion too! Just as it was going down a bit in popularity, Obosh put it back into the top tier, where it seems to belong.
As Obosh stepped onto the scene, the only key card that Red-Green Midrange has truly lost is Bloodbraid Elf. Inferno Titan was also relatively frequent, but of much smaller importance while the Preypiercer is legal. Since its arrival, the deck actually runs fewer late-game creatures, but is still much stronger. You don't need Inferno Titan or Stormbreath Dragon. Obosh is just that good. After the banning of Mycosynth Lattice — which along with Karn, the Great Creator costs an even amount of mana — there's basically zero reason not to invite the company of Obosh now. The current MTGGoldfish sample list illustrates this perfectly.
|KoDiamonds' Gruul Obosh, Modern League 5-0|
Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp, Klothys, God of Destiny, and Seasoned Pyromancer are all relatively new creature cards that have had a serious impact on their own, so cramming them together sure makes for a powerful deck. Because of Obosh, there is no Scavenging Ooze, but at least we have Kitchen Finks to help battle all those aggressive Lurrus strategies.
Monored Prowess, the deck that was formerly tier one, has also experienced a return to favor because a card that helps replay prowess beaters is all it needed. It found exactly that in Lurrus, so it truly is a force to be reckoned with. Before this deck broke through, Gruul Midrange used to run a full playset of Magus of the Moon, but the Obosh version started alternating between them and copies of Blood Moon.
Both Lurrus Burn/Prowess and Lurrus Jund have many ways of killing the Magus, but the Moon is much harder for them to take down. Some versions of Gruul Obosh even include a few copies of Birds of Paradise as well, which further increases the chances of getting to play a turn two Moon. That should keep the prowess-oriented burn decks from casting Lurrus, after all. If that happens, they are much easier to defeat, especially since there already is some removal in the Gruul deck to confront other creatures.
There are great sideboard options against these decks too, such as Anger of the Gods and Life Goes On. Relic is still around, and there's even the occasional Firebolt that tends to help. For the current metagame, it's a really good thing for a deck not to rely on graveyard synergies.
Against control/Yorion decks, playing a turn two Moon can still help, as well as not having many noncreature spells. These opponents "only" have Supreme Verdict as a way to kill everything at once, so pressuring them is still possible. Veil of Summer and Choke are common residents of sideboards across the globe. You do well to use them if you're expecting a lot of control or of the so-called Uroza. Because of Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, Choke is also insanely good against Primeval Titan decks. Losing Damping Sphere is still no small deal, but Gruul has a big pool of sideboard options, so it can live without it. Also, don't forget that you can try out different main-deck options as well, such as Grim Lavamancer.
Different Takes on Gruul Obosh
Companions are so strong that you can experiment with various builds at much higher success rates than you'd see otherwise. Even if your preferred win condition doesn't work, your companion, in this case Obosh, is more than decent as an alternative. Because of some cards nobody used to care about and/or synergies between newer and older cards, there are some crazy versions of this deck that managed to end up going 5-0 in Modern Leagues.
Gruul Lukka Obosh
Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast has quickly made the transition from somewhat overlooked planeswalker to one of the major players of Ikoria Standard. His work is not as noticable in Modern, but that might change, as everybody is trying to use him to force early Emrakuls. Planebound Accomplice can help speed up the process to a point where you can pass your second turn with Emrakul in play, provided your hand is nearly perfect.
A turn one Arbor Elf followed by turn two Utopia Sprawl can generate a total of four mana right away, which is the exact amount you need to cast and activate the Accomplice. Slam Lukka, exchange the Accomplice for the big Eldrazi, and that's that. Although you won't often be able to do the trick this early, it's not as if Emrakul on, say, turn four couldn't also win the game on the spot. Not to mention that Lukka is essentially a one-card combo and Emrakul typically kills in one swing.
Figures, this deck can't run any 5-drops and works a little differently than the usual Gruul Obosh, so the list looks different as well:
|RetroGaming86's Gruul Lukka Obosh, Modern League 5-0|
Gruul Kiki Obosh
Thanks to Hyrax Tower Scout, an unassuming common card from Theros Beyond Death, a variant of the deck that relies on the old-school Kiki combo, came around. This variant doesn't jump from 3- to 15-mana creatures, but from three to five by using Eldritch Evolution. Then, once you have Scout and Kiki-Jiki on the battlefield, you jump from one 3/3 to fifteen million 3/3s.
You can tap Kiki-Jiki to create a token that is a copy of a Scout. This Scout will then untap Kiki upon entering the battlefield, so you can do it again, and again … Since these, like Kiki-Jiki itself, have haste, they are able to attack for an arbitrarily large amount of damage.
Just don't forget that you can use the Evolution not just to fetch Kiki, but also to fetch a Hyrax Tower Scout, or whatever else the current game state may call for. Again, if you can't find a way to assemble the combo, you can still win through Obosh beatdown.
|Rvng's Gruul Kiki Obosh, Modern League 5-0|
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