Play Dumb Decks, Win Dumb Prizes: Gruul Grinning Ignus
Ricky takes us through one of the wilder decks in the format, with Grinning Ignus, a combo aggro deck that is sure to turn heads.
You! Yes you! Do you want to go infinite in Pioneer without complaints of “Nykthos this, or Chain Veil that”? Have you always wanted to play a turn one elf and not receive groans? Well let’s stop those pleas to ban Karn and make our opponents call for a ban on Grinning Ignus. In today’s class we will learn that Grinning Ignus can go infinite with anything, even a Phyrexian ham sandwich. If all else fails, we’re still playing Stomping Grounds so the backup plan of beating down is still real.
Birgi, God of Storytelling
Defiler of Instinct
Light Up the Night
Lair of the Hydra
Den of the Bugbear
Boseiju, Who Endures
A Grinningly Good Time
Before we get to the deck, let’s look at our Ignus math to better understand the situations where our opponent is just dead. Grinning Ignus is a three-drop that for one Red will jump back to our hand and add the mana required to cast it again, 2R. Simple enough, but the card gets even better with a Birgi, God of Storytelling in play – adding one Red whenever we cast a spell. This makes it so that we can indefinitely bounce and recast the Ignus. So far, that alone accomplishes… Nothing! However with Hazoret's Monument in play we further lower the cost of Ignus, netting us infinite colorless mana and infinite rummages. Bada-bing bada-boom, we can now dig for something like a Light Up the Night and cast it with a huge X to win the game. Birgi, Ignus and a Prosperous Innkeeper? That’s infinite life. Runaway Steam-Kin can also produce infinite mana when the combo gets going. What if we had Birgi, Ignus, and a Devilish Valet? Well that’s infinite Trample damage on our next attack. Defiler of Instinct in the mix leads to infinite damage to any target. There are also circumstances that can go infinite outside of Birgi, such as a combination of Defiler, Innkeeper, and Runaway Steam-Kin all working together. Wow, that’s a lot of infinite combos, and yes, you will be tested on them at the end of the article.
What’s wild is we haven’t even seen every combo yet, just the infinite ones. Let’s take a deeper look at Defiler of Instinct. This four-drop lets us pay two life to reduce a Red permanent spell’s cost by one Red. This means we can make Ignus cost a mere two generic, which means that for the cost of two life we can perform one loop of the Ignus as described above. With Defiler acting as both a mana cost reducer and a win condition, we are effectively able to perform the combo with just the two cards if we ever find ourselves in a place where we have at least twice as much life as the opponent. This of course is also eased with the inclusion of any number of Prosperous Innkeeper.
Starting the turn with a Devilish Valet and an Ignus, we can trigger Valet X times where X is the number of lands we control that tap for Red. With four lands, we can swing with Valet for 16 Trample, which in most cases should get the job done. If X is five, then that’s an attack for 32, which almost always result in a deceased opponent. Speaking of beating down though, not every game will result in a combo-kill. Fortunately the deck is also adept at simply attacking. Valet alongside any of our plethora of creatures puts big damage on the board, and Defiler is a 4/4 First Striker that can stomp over most non-Sheoldred creatures in the format. While I don’t like to plan for fail states, it’s important to make a note of our options when things start to go south. Let’s next look at the supporting cards that hold this deck together.
Now most decks that play Green in pioneer play eight mana-Elves to create explosive starts, and this deck is no different. All eight mana-Elves are happily at home here, however we are much less upset when they end up eating a removal spell, as our deck is specifically hungry for Red mana rather than extra Green. The Green mana can definitely be helpful, and playing Hazoret’s Monument on turn two is great set up for a combo win, but I would use the Green mana from Elves before tapping other Red lands on our turn. Tangled Florahedron is another mana dork who can be an extra land in a pinch, allowing us to get away with a very slim 20 real lands. Prosperous Innkeeper acts as yet another mana generator, giving us even more of that all-important Red mana via its Treasure token. All of these mana-generating creatures are important for two main reasons. The first of which is that most of the key creatures in the deck are costly, and we want to get them into play as early as possible. The second comes with reading Hazoret’s Monument’s second ability, which allows us to filter through our deck to find any missing pieces we need whenever we cast a creature.
Since we are a deck where we win if we can assemble any combination of two to three creatures, most of which cost three mana or less, it only makes sense that we play Collected Company. Company is a staple in many creature decks, but instead of aiming to put raw stats on the board and swinging, we are going to try to just win off our Company assembling our missing combo pieces. Birgi and Ignus are the key creatures to find here, with both coming from the same Company almost assuredly winning the game. Company on the opponent’s end step is always a great play and the one we should aim for, but when we are facing down pressure main phase Company is also acceptable, especially if you already have one or two combo pieces in play. As long as your opponent is tapped out, honestly any time is fine to fire away, even during your own Upkeep. 😉 The last card on this list is the one copy of Light Up the Night. The X-spell that we can shove our limitless mana into to burn our opponents face. We’re playing this one over some of the other legal versions like Rolling Thunder or Banefire because it functions as a reasonable spell when you aren’t doing the dirty thing with it as well, though its flashback can’t actually be paid in this list so its utility mostly comes from the first half. Because we’ve got a diversity of threats and ways to win the game, we don’t need to worry about conserving this one and can feel free to use it as a removal spell if need be.
The Beatdown Backup
The sideboard pivots into some cards that let us play an honest game. Three copies of Lovestruck Beast and Bonecrusher Giant allow us to pressure our opponent in a more traditional sense, and are good cards to hit off of Collected Company. In order to make room for these bruisers, I like to board out Hazoret’s Monument. With Abrade’s rise in popularity, and the card’s overall clunkiness, it’s an easy cut for matchups where we don’t need to try and turbo out a combo kill. Keeping our opponent’s focus split between both the combo and post-board beatdown plans will make their lines tougher for them to figure out. For example, if they tap out for a removal spell in our combat step, they could lose to an infinite combo in main phase two. Conversely, due to the main combo core of Birgi, Ignus and Innkeeper, I find myself almost never boarding these cards out.
For matchups against decks that are built on interaction and for those matchups we play Shapers’ Sanctuary so removal spells put our opponent card down against us. While, Rending Volley exists to help us in the Mono-White and Greasefang matchups. Killing the right creature at the right time should give us the time to combo off against these decks that bring a lot of pressure really fast. Scavenging Ooze is a card I feel is underplayed in the meta right now. It hates yards, gains life, and brings big beats for a small cost. It’s good in the Phoenix and Greasefang matchups, and any aggro decks just for the ability to get big while gaining life. The two copies of Phyrexian Revoker are to help stop Karn in mono green. Playing the “Legs” version of pithing needle means it CAN attack, but we really care more about being able to hit it off of Company in response to a Karn cast. These could be Pithing Needle but seeing as we want them exclusively to shut down Karn and this creature dies to a chump blocking elf we mainly play Revoker to be a needle that plays well with Collected Company. Finally we play a Reclamation Sage to kill hate cards like Dampening Sphere, and also to kill Leyline bindings and Fires of Invention. Honestly, enchantment removal has reached a point in Pioneer where it’s almost main-deckable.
Leave ‘em With A Smile
Well you might need your sideboard notes to refresh yourself on all the different ways you can combo your opponent in this deck, but if you’re a Johnny at heart and want to find all the pieces to the mousetrap I think this deck is right up your alley. The deck can honestly feel strong against opponents who don’t understand what it is you’re doing, and if you like an aggressive bent deck that can stop mid way through and casually make infinite life, then that’s the consistently wild type of play you’ll find from Ignus combo. There have been some Temur variants around lately playing risen reef and a heavier elemental theme. I don’t think that’s a bad build, but I do think it’s a more roundabout way to play the deck as opposed to just jamming combo pieces and attacking with them. All in all, I’ve really loved this deck in all the testing I’ve done and the many iterations I had before finally sticking with a list for the article. This deck will get MUCH better with the upcoming Fast Lands from the Phyrexia set upcoming and will fix a lot of problems with the mana base and how greedy we get for our colors in this deck. As always if you build this or a similar deck i wanna know about it, and have fun playing dumb decks and always winning dumber prizes.