It’s packed with undercosted, game-winning fatties and the means to cheat them into your enemy’s face, but it’s also home to some of the worst cards ever printed in Duels of the Planeswalkers. Can this red/green deck even compete?
Ultimately, the answer is yes, but victory will come at a cost. If you’re willing to put in the time and energy to unlock this deck’s full potential, you’ll be paid tenfold over in rage-inducing victories. And aren’t rage quits what Magic is all about?
Fight makes right
Let’s start with the good: Berserker Rage is home to some of the most brutal green and red cards in Magic the Gathering. While early turns are sparse on offense, utility creatures and enchantments help pave the way for heavy hitters like Rumbling Slum and Shivan Wurm. These are extremely impressive critters that your opponent won’t be happy to see, and the beats don’t really stop there. Ramping up into larger threats, Borborygmos and Apocalypse Hydra are more than happy enough to pound your opponent into submission. If you can keep even one or two of these monsters in play for just a few turns, you’re nearly guaranteed a win.
Of course, these beasts of hurtin’ are all big targets for removal, and the majority of your threats don’t have protective powers like Shroud or Regeneration. As such, you will find yourself topdecking against removal-heavy opponents (Obedient Dead and yes, Grim Procession, come to mind). For this reason, it is important not to load up on too many instants and enchantments, as drawing a Rancor late-game probably won’t help you turn around a bad battlefield situation.
The green (and red) mile
Luckily, losing steam isn’t one of the primary concerns of Berserker Rage, as the deck contains myriad methods for pushing through the final points of deadly damage. Creature buffs like and Colossal Might and the aforementioned Berserk can pump your pulverizers to epic proportions, and many of your creatures have “power matters” effects that will greatly amplify under these conditions. Using Wildsize on a Tattermunge Maniac that’s equipped with Mage Slayer will produce a lot of synergy-fueled damage, and that’s with a relatively small pump target. It’s just as easy to imagine casting Berserk on a 5/5 monster that’s unblocked (making it 10/5), then Flinging it for another ten damage after combat. Expect to pull a lot of explosive, game-winning moves like this out of your ass as early as turn five.
Sure, that’s not going to be the norm, but with so many sources of power-boosting, trample, and sac-f0r-damage effects, your enemy isn’t really safe as long as you have creatures left alive. Cards like Fog Bank and various regenerating blockers won’t really do much to protect their owners from your battle-enraged beasts. And if a creature stall ever gets to epic levels, a lucky Soulblast can pretty much end the game on the spot (hint: you win).
Forced into a corner
Unfortunately for green/red fans, most of the “cool” cards for Berserker Rage fell into the purview of my 13-card teaser trailer. In other words, the majority of this Gruul deck is bottom-of-the-barrel filler, with many of the exciting and powerful options existing only in the unlock roster.
While that’s not a problem that will hinder the long-term viability of Berserker Rage, it does mean that unlocking cards is going to be painful. Much like Dream Puppets, this deck will be fighting uphill battles until it can swap out a good ten or so cards, and earning even an initial dozen victories won’t be easy. It’s sort of a vicious cycle, so this is one of those decks where I’m just gonna go ahead and suggest you buy a DLC unlock key. Your time and sanity are certainly worth more than one dollar!
Sadly, the other problem with having so few viable cards (even if they are very viable) is that it leaves little room for creativity. Out of the 60 picks in my build below, I’d venture to say at least 52 of them are must-haves. As such, you won’t be seeing a lot of variation in Berserker Rage builds once players finalize their decks lists. There aren’t enough good creatures to choose from, and the ones that are good are so good they’ll never be sideboarded out. Likewise, several utility spells (Berserk and Fling come to mind) are so vital to victory that you should all but assume they’re in every Gruul deck.
That said, I do believe the deck list suggested below, with minor variation, can compete with many other mid-tier Duels entries. And now that there are basically 20 decks in the game, the odds that you’ll be constantly facing down overpowered builds is fairly low anyway. So get cracking on your unlocks, start busting skulls, and enjoy your explosive, hilarious wins!
Berserker Rage deck list
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|Creature||1||Deus of Calamity||6/6||(rg)(rg)(rg)(rg)(rg)|
Created with the MisterP deck editor.
Berserker Rage card-by-card analysis
Apocalypse Hydra: 4.5
While the art is trying its hardest to give you Neon Genesis Evangelion flashbacks, the card itself is one hell of a powerhouse. With only an X+2 mana cost, it’s flexible enough to come out early if necessary (hey, you can always recast it with Shivan Wurm). But this card obviously shines when you have seven or more mana to spend on this world-ending wonder. Not only will Apocalypse Hydra arrive at double the normal size, but you’ll have tons of counters and mana to spend on pinging enemy creatures or bypassing your opponent’s defenses entirely.
Berserk isn’t a fair card, since fair cards don’t typically win the game for you at instant speed for one mana. And if you doubt the power of Berserk, just ask yourself how balanced a card is if it can supply five damage for one mana (when used on a 5/5 creature, for instance). Kind of fair? How about the second Berserk, which grants +10/+0 for just one mana? Exactly. As with other power-pumping cards, Berserk pairs well with Fling, Mage Slayer, and, well, creatures. Run both and do your best to not feel guilty winning with them.
Berserkers of Blood Ridge: 1.5
Hey, Berserk is a powerful card, and this deck is called Berserker Rage, so surely Berserkers of Blood Ridge is good, right? Actually, it’s terrible. It has the same auto-attack feature you see on Tattermunge Maniac and Bloodrock Cyclops, which is already a problem. But whereas Maniac is undercosted (making it good) and Cyclops is value-costed (making it bad), this card is overcosted, making it terrible. I would have given it a lower score, but the reality is a 4/4 body isn’t necessarily terrible in Duels. Still, you shouldn’t use this, ever.
Blitz Hellion: 3.5
The prospect of swinging for seven damage on turn 5 is fun, but Blitz Hellion really shines when you hold it back until later. When cast with a few mana leftover, you’ll have the option to cast (or the option to bluff) Berserk, Fling, and the like. Saving this thing for turn eight might be worth it, for instance, if you can equip Mage Slayer, which is unspeakably mean. Or, if you have ten mana, you could cast Blitz Hellion, attack, then use Shivan Wurm to get it back. If all this sounds convoluted, it is, which is why I haven’t rated this single-use beatstick higher.
Bloodrock Cyclops: 2.0
In a deck with Centaur Courser, Bloodrock Cyclops is the strictly worse option. Being forced to swing every turn is a huge drawback, and unlike Tattermunge Maniac, you’re not even getting a bonus point of power/toughness as a tradeoff. If it were a 4/3, 3/4, or 3/3 with an ability (like haste or first strike), it would be a much better deal. As-is, the only upside to this card is that your opponent won’t suspect combat tricks when you attack into unfavorable odds, since they know you don’t have a choice.
Boartusk Liege: 5.0
As with many of Berserker Rage’s 4-drop creatures, this one is a winner. Just by hitting the table, it gives most of your early creatures +2/+2, with the mono-color chumps still receiving a +1/+1 bonus. If you already have a Tattermunge Maniac, a Witch, and a Centaur Courser in play, that is a lot of extra damage coming through this turn. To boot, it’s also a decent critter itself, with enough toughness to withstand several common removal attempts. Expect your opponent to audibly groan when this hits the battlefield.
Espensive at seven mana, the leader of the Gruul Clans is nonetheless a powerhouse that must be dealt with. He’s an inherently scary threat just by himself, but his secondary ability (especially paired with built-in trample) means he can upgrade your army even if he sneaks through a single point of damage. With so many ways to boost his power in Berserker Rage, that shouldn’t be a problem. So, even if our illiterate friend here doesn’t survive more than one attack or two, you’ll get a lot of +1/+1 counters to remember him by.
Branching Bolt: 4.0
I’m not going to pretend that Branching Bolt is a great spell in general, but in Berserker Rage, it pays its own way. Since the deck has so many ways of plowing over blockers, it sure is nice to have a way of outright eliminating them. This is also one of the only methods (other than, say, Apocalypse Hydra) of killing off troublesome utility creatures like Azure Mage or Gelectrode. The option to hit two targets at no additional cost is also great. You’re not likely to get a 2-for-1 with this card frequently, but when you do, it will be a devastating play.
Breath of Fury: 2.5
As with Act of War, I cannot really recommend Breath of Fury for a few reasons. Sure, it can create insane combos where you swing in five times in a row, but setting up that kind of scenario isn’t easy, and depends a lot on your enemies’ board positions. Plus, Breath of Fury is basically all-or-nothing, since once it’s in play it will drastically limit how you will want to assign attackers. Ultimately this is a Johnny card intended for niche, constructed gameplay and, as such, it doesn’t really fit into Berserker Rage or Duels of the Planeswalkers in general.
Centaur Courser: 3.0
The less bad version of Bloodrock Cyclops, it’s a vanilla 3/3 for three mana. It’s not an exciting card by any means, but it can certainly be a decent play, especially when you consider that other Duels of the Planeswalkers decks are full of 2/2 creatures at the same converted mana cost. You’re rarely going to draw Centaur Courser and feel relieved, but it’s also a very safe card that can sometimes be relevant mid-to-late game. You might as well use them if you have nothing better to do on turn 3.
Chameleon Colossus: 5.0
Another powerful turn 4 play, the Colossus has made his mark in other decks and returns to help Borborygmos get the Gruul in line. Its ability to double in size (then quadruple, and octuple, etc.) is impressive and will force a response from any enemy. It obviously goes well with all the trampling damage that’s already available in Berserker Rage. And of course, protection from black is a big boon in a greed/red deck, since black is one of the few colors that can instantly remove or easly block/regen fatties.
Colossal Might: 4.0
While mediocre in constructed play, Colossal Might shines in Berserker Rage thanks to this deck’s relatively narrow focus. It’s the perfect way to get your initial Tattermunge Maniac over defenders while simultaneously eliminating them. And later on, it’s a nasty pairing with Mage Slayer, Berserk, Fling, or just any final, lethal attack. The fact that it can save your valuable creatures from damage (though not as effectively as Giant Growth) adds value to this otherwise aggressive card. You should probably run all of them.
Essence Warden: 3.0
Hey, look: it’s a color/timeshifted Soul Warden! You know, that white 1/1 creature that bumps up your life total whenever new friends come to play? The only problem is that while Wardens certainly do do a lot of work in lifegain and token decks, Berserker Rage isn’t one of them. It’s not a bad first turn drop against, say, Peacekeepers, but you’re never going to get more utility out of Essence Warden than maybe 4-6 life points. Stick with Tattermunge Maniac if you’re looking for a first turn drop.
Feral Animist: 2.5
With enough mana, this little witch doctor can grow to immense size. But without evasion or a lucky Fling, that’s really not enough. Ultimately, Feral Animist requires other cards just to be worth using, and even then he’ll typically be a one-hit wonder, due to his terrible toughness. Yes, you can in theory make him an 8/1 and attach Mage Slayer to him, but that costs nine mana and can only be done (realistically) once. You’re far better off spending green and red on stronger effects or simply using more efficient creatures.
Fires of Yavimaya: 4.5
As a general rule, I hate global enchantments, but Fires of Yavimaya is a notable exception. Since it can be sac’d for an instant boost at any time, the effect is always welcome, even when your creatures are no longer affected by summoning sickness. And hey, the primary ability isn’t shabby either, especially since most of your scary monsters appear after turn 3. Get this flame into play early, and your opponents will be facing a torrent of high-speed damage for the rest of the game.
Having mentioned Fling in nearly half the cards in this deck guide, it should come as no surprise that it’s a highly rated card. Fling is a great finisher for any time your enemy’s life total is in the red zone, and it’s also a great way to get extra mileage out of something that was going to die anyway. Best of all, Fling synergizes perfectly with lots of power-boosting effects in Berserker Rage. Following up a Berserk or a Mage Slayer attack (or even a normal attack) with Fling is absolutely devastating, especially given the size of many Gruul creatures.
Gruul Guildmage: 4.0
Paired with Orzhov Guildmage as being one of the most “meh” Ravnica wizards, this creature’s activated abilities are very expensive. But unlike its black/white brother, Gruul Guildmage has the capability to actually affect the board. As long as you’re sitting on four mana, you have a way to save creatures from doom, as well as a method for turning topdecked lands into pain for your opponent. It’s not the most efficient card, but it carries its own weight both early and lategame. Being so easily castable and a decent 2-drop sure helps.
Gruul Scrapper: 0.0
Normally I don’t give cards a score of zero, but Gruul Scrapper is so bad I don’t want anyone anywhere ever thinking “maybe I should put this in my deck.” No, you shouldn’t. This is easily the worst card in Berserker Rage and one of the worst cards in Duels of the Planeswalkers. I’m not going to try to explain why, but if you use it and lose, don’t be surprised.
Mage Slayer: 4.5
The deck’s only equipment is also one of the best cards you could possibly play. Once equipped, it gives your creatures a type of pseudo-double strike/pseudo-trample, sending free damage straight past defenders on every attack. It pairs brutally with effects like Berserk and Colossal Might, and with high-power creatures in general. If your opponent cannot shut down Mage Slayer, even late game Tattermunge Maniacs are a threat, as they essentially become “free” direct damage. Don’t overlook this nasty knife.
As with any card you’ve actually heard of from Urza’s block, Rancor is ridiculously overpowered. For one mana, you get a nearly unlimited amount of free damage as this aura bounces around between your creatures over the course of the game. The fact that so many effects in Berserker Rage care about power only makes this (single) inclusion better, as it’s a cheap way to sneak an extra four damage in with Mage Slayer or Berserk. There is absolutely no reason you should leave Rancor out of your deck build.
Rumbling Slum: 4.5
Do you like creatures that end the game in one to four attacks? Then Rumbling Slum is for you! Coming out as a 4-drop, this angry set of buildings is a sizeable 5/5. And not only that, but its quake-tastic footsteps cause additional damage to everyone in the game on your upkeep. It sounds like a downside, but if you have Rumbling Slum in play, odds are you have the life lead already. As with Berserker Rage’s other fatties, this one is well paired with Fires of Yavimaya, Mage Slayer, Berserk, and Fling. Turns out that M.A. in Architecture was worth it, eh?
Runes of the Deus: 3.5
Five mana for an aura is a lot to ask, but then again +2/+2, trample, and double strike is a lot to get in return. And hey – the cinco mana cost is actually a tempo win, since you have so many viable 4-drops to play this on. Dropping these runes on, say, Rumbling Slum means you can swing for fourteen mother-lovin’ damage on turn five. In other words, if your opponent doesn’t have an immediate response, they’re gonna be sleeping with the fishes (or the merfolk, as it were). Of course, you can always be 2-for-1’d on this card, but if you aren’t, you’ll probably win right away.
Sacred Wolf: 3.5
While I don’t really understand what’s so holy about this hexproof hound, it’s certainly a decent option at three mana. She’s got enough power to be a threat on offense or defense, and can’t be easily removed by the jerk sitting across from you. Having hexproof instead of shroud means you can still drop Mage Slayer or Colossal Might on her when needed, though it’ll usually still be a suicidal move, thanks to her single point of toughness. You might need to run these if only to stall until your bigger beasts come into play.
Shivan Wurm: 4.5
I don’t know how you’d feel about a 7/7 hitting the board on turn five across from you, but I’d bet most of your enemies are going to feel very unhappy about it. Especially if you have Fires of Yavimaya in play. And hey, if you have Fires out, you could replay your bounced creature with haste, too! This card’s drawback is tiny compared to the whopping size of what you get. If you can enhance this Wurm with Berserk, Mage Slayer, Colossal Might, or Fling the game is pretty much over. Half a point off in case you have no other creatures in play.
Silverback Ape: 3.0
A vanilla 5/5 for five mana. See: Centaur Courser.
Skarrgan Skybreaker: 2.0
Want to pay seven mana and possibly end up with a 3/3 creature? No, I didn’t think so. While you’d never actually do that, the fact that Skybreaker has such limiting restrictions on when he can enter the battlefield simply doesn’t help his case. Even with the +1/+1 counters, it’s still an overcosted card. The sacrificial ability will certainly do a lot of damage, but using it this way basically turns Skarrgan Skybreaker into an extremely expensive, onerous Blaze. Do yourself a favor: avoid this creature.
One of the biggest problems most agro decks have is running out of steam in the midgame. You’ll sneak in a lot of early damage, but then fall to topdeck mode, where even your best creatures lose out to control cards your opponents may be using. With Soulblast, you have an explosive way out of deadlocks: chuck all your creatures directly at your enemy. Sure, it’s desperate, but it’s also extremely likely to instantly win the game. And because Soulbast is an instant, it can also be used in response to situations when you’d be losing creatures anyway.
Spellbreaker Behemoth: 5.0
Look, being uncounterable is great and all, but let’s face it: most decks in the game don’t have counters, and the ones that do don’t have a lot of them. So, for the most part, you’ll be playing the Behemoth solely for its gigantic, undercosted body. Dropping this on turn 4, especially after a Fires of Yavimaya, is extremely demoralizing for your foes. And with the option to double Berserk or Berserk/Fling or Berserk/Mage Slayer on the following attack, you have a lot of outs for a “cheap” turn 5 win.
Stonebrow, Krosan Hero: 3.5
Stonebrow was meant to be used in a trample-heavy deck, but when it comes to stampedes, Berserker Rage isn’t exactly brimming with them. Sure, your Shivan Wurms will appreciate becoming temporary 9/9 fatties, but they’re the exception. Of course, you can always spend mana to grant trample via Colossal Might, Tattermunge Witch and the like, but that means Mr. Krosan Hero isn’t exactly pulling his own weight. His weight, however, is nothing to be laughed at (he’s sensitive), so at the very least you get a 6/6 on attack.
Tattermunge Maniac: 4.0
In contrast to Essence Warden, this war-crazed 1-drop fits perfectly into Berserker Rage’s theme. You get a scary little baddie to start off the game with, and can keep him relevant for a few turns with the threat of Colossal Might and other pump spells. Tattermunge Maniac’s actual utility will depend on a bunch of factors, including whether you play first or second, or how soon your opponent plays a 3+ toughness blocker. This card will rarely win you the game, but it will often soften up your foe enough for an easier late game push.
Tattermunge Witch: 3.5
Whether you want to play with a Goblin Piker when there’s already one in your deck for less (see the other Tattermunge cousin) this card is worth considering. At first glance its ability looks good, then you read it again and it seems bad, then you try it a couple times and decide it’s okay. Basically, for two mana you can trample through enemy blockers, but you can’t punish on unblocked creatures. This effect is obviously more powerful the more creatures and mana you have in play, but if you can eke even three points through, you’re making gains.
Terramorphic Expanse: 3.5
Because Berserker Rage relies on tempo so much more than some other dual-colored decks, Terramorphic Expanse is a much bigger risk. Playing it could keep you locked out of a vital first turn Tattermunge Maniac or an important second turn Colossal Might. Is it worth running? Probably, yes. But definitely don’t use all four. For this deck, two to three copies is a much safer bet.
Ulasht, the Hate Seed: 3.5
With such a cool name, you kinda wish this legendary monster would be a little bit more… I don’t know… hateful? In a token or weenie based deck, it would be pretty easy to drop Ulasht on turn 4 as a gigantic monstrosity, but you’re much more likely to end up casting it as a 4/4 most of the time. That’s not bad or anything, and the option to break this creature up for damage/tokens is cool, but most of your other 4-drops are simply more efficient. You can still get impressive results late game, so don’t completely count this plant out.
Ulvenwald Tracker: 5.0
This guy was absolutely sick in Pack Instinct, and he’s arguably better in Berserker Rage. Sure, your creatures are, on average, smaller than those in the mono green pile, but the option to use anything on your side of the board as direct damage is even more important as your smaller guys become obsolete. Now your early game plays can be used to deter pesky low-toughness creatures. And, as always, your fatties will still shut down the entire enemy half of the battlefield. An indispensable addition to any Berserker Rage build.
Vengeful Rebirth: 3.5
While the effect is cool and can definitely net you some nifty damage, Vengeful Rebirth’s cost makes it a bit of a tempo speedbump. If you cast it turn 6 on a creature you lost on turn 4, you’ll be using up your entire turn to do four damage. Then, on turn 7, you’ll be playing a creature that was costed to make an impact three plays earlier. See the inherent problem here? Vengeful Rebirth sounds cool when you read it, but it won’t make a big splash most of the time. It’s best used as a topdeck lategame after board wipes, but even then, it’s just okay.
Wickerbough Elder: 4.0
What’s this? A creature that gets more powerful once it has activated a single-use ability? Wickerbough Elder is a great pick for Berserker Rage, since it offers a solid body and a much needed removal effect, all in one. It does kind of fight for attention at the precious four mana slot, but the option to kill off enemy Panoptic Mirrors or Pariahs or Debtor’s Knells for “free” is a strong one. This isn’t necessarily an auto-include, but is certainly top-rate sideboard material if you’re seeing tons of annoying artifacts and enchantments.
I’m torn on this card. A +2/+2 trampling boost is certainly a nice thing to have, and instant card replacement is also nice, but is it worth three mana? That factor alone greatly influences the tempo at which this card can be played, losing the ability to help your early Tattermunge Maniacs and providing a smaller boost for game-finishing attacks. You could technically run both this and Colossal Might, but with Berserk and Rancor also in the decklist, Wildsize seems like the worst overall option.