Tribal Attractions: Standard Giants
- Gianluca Aicardi
Our long, collective Oko nightmare is over, and with the Food tyrant out of the picture, now Standard opens up to experimentation once again. No better time than the present to try something big, something new, something Naya, something brewed.
Since rotation hit Standard with the release of Throne of Eldraine, hardcore tribal players have been searching for something to replace the treasure trove of playable tribes that was lost with the exit of Ixalan block. Knight has been the most conspicuous case, the only one that fully made it into the competitive scene. On the other hand, Faerie never really materialized, and Elemental had its fifteen minutes of fame, then evaporated. Another golden tribal opportunity was there though, yet it went mostly unnoticed—which is ironic, since its protagonists are very hard to miss.
Giant has never been a major tribal force in the past. Sure, it gave us the Titans in Magic 2011, but they're all 6-mana finishers that can't realistically combine their talents in the same deck. With Golem stealing all the best colossal cards, the most playable non-Titan Giant in Magic history was probably Brion Stoutarm, a card that never exactly made a splash anywhere. What's worse, until last month, their tribal interactions amounted to the clunky specimens from Lorwyn block, like Sunrise Sovereign and Borderland Behemoth.
Fortunately, Throne of Eldraine was quite the giant leap for the big guys, thanks to a trio of powerful rares. Now our Giant friends can not only field a grand total of twelve in-tribe cards that are individually strong enough to feature within many top-tier decks. These three new members also happen to play very well with each other, in one case sporting a very powerful tribal synergy ready to be mercilessly exploited.
This right here is already a killer curve for a Giant deck: at 2 you can kill something with Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp, then at 3 you can drop the Bonecrusher itself or ramp via Beanstalk Giant // Fertile Footsteps, every step getting you one turn closer to asymmetrically sweep the board with the 5-mana mode of Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off—and once the dust has settled and its gargantuan hand has retreated, you'll be nearly ready to deploy your bigger threats.
Of course, Realm-Cloaked's one-sided "Wrath of Giant" is the critical element of this newfangled Giant Tribal: it allows to overcome its own and Beanstalk's major flaw of lacking trample or any other way to leverage their considerable power against the opponent's life total. In fact, if we can expect the first Cast Off to act as a countermeasure to stay in the game, we expect the second instance of the sweeper to be followed by an alpha strike of massive Giants that were already on the battlefield, untouched by their brother's destruction and now unimpeded by those pesky, tiny blockers.
It's a trifecta of efficient double plays, where Bonecrusher deals with early threats in both modes, Beanstalk and Realm-Cloaked's Adventure spells curate the midrange portion, then their huge bodies take over the late game.
Grinding Your Bones
Before putting these three jumbos inside a deck and see how that looks like, let's answer the unspoken question, "What if I wanted to go more tribal than this?" The current Standard does contain a few other Giants for sure. In fact, there's a total of fifteen of them that are legal—and though none of them compares with the Naya triplet, some are indeed playable. The most high-profile is Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig: unfortunately designed for monocolored builds and neither easy to cast on curve nor very effective in our deck.
More interesting are the two Gruul 4 drops, Sunder Shaman from Ravnica Allegiance and Rampart Smasher from Throne of Eldraine. They could fill a spot that our Giant curve currently leaves vacant, with their same-sized bulky body acting as sort of a slower Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire with some extra abilities. However, the Shaman is harder on the mana requirements, and we can't expect to have it out on turn four in a deck that also wants double white mana on 5; and while his hate for artifacts and enchantments is potentially useful, we'll rarely if ever manage to trigger that ability. Meanwhile, the Smasher can prove somewhat useful against Knight decks, which makes it the most recommended main-deck option to increase the tribal count, as well as the reason why I ultimately went with the latter in the sideboard of my list.
And here's the smashing list.
I've already described the tri-Giant wonder curve, but there's more than that to the deck. Let's break it down to its essential components.
The ramp: When you have eight 7-mana cards around—an insane proposition at face value, although mitigated by the lower Adventure costs—you have to take ramping seriously. Beanstalk Giant is a good starting point, but even the jolly green dude will require some help. This comes in the form of a high land count paired with Arboreal Grazer, which also doubles as a solid all-purpose stopper early on. Soon enough we'll get around to cast Circuitous Route, which still is the most rewarding ramp spell in the Standard pool. Its presence on the list could suggest the use of at least one Gate per color pair, but I didn't feel like the fixing was worth the addition of more tapped lands, as we already use Temple of Triumph in place of Sacred Foundry to sculpt our draw a little. If Theros: Beyond Death makes Temple of Abandon and Temple of Plenty available once more, we'll get to mix and match our scry lands.
The countermeasures: If Bonecrusher's Shock doesn't hit hard enough and Realm-Cloaked's Day of Judgment doesn't come fast enough, Prison Realm and Deafening Clarion are there to try and buy us the time we're going to need to more thoroughly sterilize the board and/or dominate it with the towering presence of our larger Giants. Both are 3 drops with further upside: Prison Realm gives us more scrying, which is always welcome when your deck includes that many lands and high-cost spells; and Clarion's lifegain lines up perfectly with the impressive stats of our finishers, sometimes working as a way to extend the game even when the Giants aren't able to connect.
The support: This is, at the end of the day, a ramp deck with control elements, and that kind of strategy always craves ways to dig into the library for solutions or payoffs to sink all that mana into. Escape to the Wilds is an underrated, larger-than-life card draw that hasn't found a proper home yet but packs a lot of potential. If you cast it after a first round of ramping, you'll have the resources to turn it basically into a draw five for 5.
And you know how I previously mentioned that Realm-Cloaked Giant's prejudiced board sweep makes up for the fact that these Giants are sorely unequipped to trample over any blocker? Well, you know what else could solve this problem? Giving them trample to begin with! That's why Vivien, Arkbow Ranger is any tall guy's dream girlfriend. A 12/12 Beanstalk Giant, or larger, is a fairly possible sight on a battlefield on which this deck is active, and that's the moment you'd wish for your potentially game-ending behemoth not to end up painfully neutralized by some random 1/1 token while a sad trombone plays in your head.
Admittedly, with only Grazer and Bonecrusher as low-cost creatures, this is not a build where engineering a turn-four Vivien is that much of a desirable prospect, not least because 3 green mana by that point aren't at all guaranteed in a triple-colored deck. But while her three copies can be partially used as flex slots to strengthen the early game when facing aggressive opponents, the benefit of having Vivien out when one of our finishers attacks is very much worth the inclusion, even not counting the other things she can do, like weaponizing a Giant's body to remove some annoying creature or planeswalker, and, worst case scenario, going into the sideboard to fetch a Rampart Smasher if we need gas.—This is where one might think adding some other Giant to the sideboard to act as a silver bullet could be useful. But there really aren't many of them that fit such description, and Vivien is almost never used for this purpose anyway.
All in all, this is a fun deck that can make some trouble for your FNM opponents when the stars and the giant feet align. When trying it, you may notice it sort of plays similarly to a Fires of Invention deck, and indeed it could be reworked to add the red enchantment in the main—or even in the sideboard for some surprise transformative shenanigans come game two. After all, ramping helps build the Fires, letting them fuel bigger things, and nothing's bigger than a Giant.
Even if I feel like the size of an entire realm should amount to something more sizeable than a 7/7 …
Tribal Attraction Archives
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