Epic Experiment - Grumgully Affinity

(Grumgully, the Generous| Art by Milivoj Ćeran)

Epic Preparations

Hello, EDHREC fans! I’m Bernardo Melibeu, and this is Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual strategies, changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up is half the fun.

This week we'll be exploring one of the most interesting commanders released in Throne of Eldraine. He's a very generous Goblin whose versatility makes him incredibly fun to build around: Grumgully, the Generous.

Each other non-Human creature you control enters the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it. 

Observation 1:

While I appreciate the versatility of the card, I feel that there's something wrong with the non-Human cards of Throne of Eldraine. They feel a lot like Changelings, whose support is helpful, but may erode a little bit of a tribe's unique identity.

Observation 2:

Persist creatures come back into play with a -1/-1 counter, which Grumgully's +1/+1 counter would eliminate. With a free sacrifice outlet, that means we have a important combo piece in the command zone, and with red in the color identity, we even have great ways to capitalize on the infinite ETB triggers that result from this combo.

Observation 3:

Grumgully, the Generous puts counters on both nontoken and token creatures entering the battlefield. This opens up quite a few ways to build him, and makes Animation Module, in particular, quite strong.

Observation 4:

As a Goblin commander, Grumgully seems great. A Metallic Mimic in the command zone is awesome, and access to green creature-based tutors and card draw can really boost the consistency of the tribe.

The Old Formula

As we can see, the average Grumgully list tries to utilize the interaction between Grumgully and creatures with Persist to make infinite ETB effects with a sacrifice outlet. There's also a low-key Goblin tribal strategy hidden within those cards, which we can see with cards like Goblin Matron.

The Epic Ingredients

Back in April, I wrote about an Olivia, Mobilized For War build that sought to use her as a way to put counters on Modular creatures. When Modern Horizons was released, I saw some great additions to that list. Then Throne of Eldraine was spoiled, and with it came this very strange Goblin, with crazy art and basically the same ability I was using Olivia for. The best part is that Grumgully is a Gruul commander, meaning that we actually get +1/+1 counter support from green, which is something we didn't have when we were in Rakdos!

Grumgully is great as a support for this kind of Affinity aggro, because the robots used in the deck are never Humans that Grumgully would ignore. This, combined with the counter support from green, means that we go tall pretty quickly. Modular creatures are a great way to keep from getting blown out by single-target removal, since the counters can just go to another creature.

Some of the new cards available to us really shift the list into overdrive. Sword of Truth and Justice is great protection against target-based exile removal and has the powerful upside to Proliferate our counters, while Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Hardened Scales are great ways to increase the number of counters that we get, turning even our smaller creatures into giants.

Not only do we get those amazing enablers, we also get plenty of great support! Inspiring Call is flexible card draw that can be used as the ultimate "Gotcha!" against a control player's Wrath of God. Getting to play The Great Henge is always a treat, and accruing even more counters while drawing cards is an amazing feeling. Death's Presence effectively gives all of our creatures Modular, and even stacks with the actual Modular creatures.

Like its Rakdos counterpart, we are also packing a reanimator package to get full advantage of our death triggers. The Goblin trio of Goblin Engineer, Goblin Welder, and Daretti, Scrap Savant are great source of constant in-and-out-of-the-battlefield triggers. Scrap Mastery is also always a great way to come back into the game. Just be careful about possible enemy artifacts coming back, too.

The Mixture

The list packs a lot of punch, especially with all the great support that gives our creatures combative keywords. For haste, we have Thopter Engineer and Rhythm of the Wild. Tuskguard Captain gives trample to all creatures with +1/+1 counters (which is basically all of them). Cauldron of Souls also helps us protect ourselves against board destruction.

For standalone threats, we have Traxos, Scourge of Kroog, which is a nice beater regardless of counters, since we can constantly untap it. Stonecoil Serpent is also a great beater that can grow regardless of how much we support it, but we also have plenty of support to give it.


For our opening hand, we're looking for easy access to our commander. Even though they won't necessarily allow us to play our commander before turn three, a two-mana rock like Gruul Signet is a great way to accelerate our turns without sacrificing our curve. Also, as an aggressive deck, we need a few creatures to go with our hand. If we happen to find an Animation Module, this is an army-in-a-can, and can pretty much carry us all the way if we manage to keep Grumgully alive.

The early game is pretty much divided into two parts: before Grumgully, and after Grumgully. The first part is all setup, which means that we'll be building towards playing our commander, so we're either developing our mana or playing support cards, like Hardened Scales. Transitioning to the mid-game involves capitalizing on all the preparations we've made. In other words, curving out on mana is the most important part of our plan.

In the mid-game we should have a strong board presence, with our commander making any creatures we play just a little bigger. This is where we need to find the "bigger guns" and support cards like The Great Henge, Daretti, Scrap Savant, or even Cauldron of Souls. These cards help us survive the point of the game where people start casting Wraths, since sheer brute force won't get us through them alone.

In the late game we have all sorts of epic plays, from great draw spells (Rishkar's Expertise), to great finishers (Triumph of the Hordes), or even comeback tools like Scrap Mastery. We're vulnerable to a removal-heavy opposition since we tend to need a wide board, but since we can go pretty tall pretty fast, it eases the burden of having to close out quickly.

Epic Results

For those seeking potential upgrades, planeswalkers are great additions to the list. There are many Gruul planeswalkers that can provide the needed support for our creatures and synergize pretty well with our counters and our Proliferate effects. In that vein, Doubling Season is a great addition to the list if we're adding more planeswalkers.

For faster acceleration in more aggressive metas, Curse of Opulence can help us get ahead of the opposition. On the other hand, Darksteel Forge (and probably some more ways to cheat it into play) can help fight through more control-oriented metas. The list goes pretty deep with artifact creatures, so cutting some of the them to add more streamlined card draw might help balance the deck out.

That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Is this a well-oiled machine? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!

Bernardo has been playing(on and off) since portal and somehow manage to survive mirrodin block while being a total casual(beast tribal ftw?). He loves all the shades of blue and being the one saying "nope", while holding a full grip of cards in hand.