There’s a war being waged on the plane of Ravinica in the Magic: The Gathering multiverse.
It’s a war being fought amongst the guild of Ravinica and the battle ground is Wizards’ latest card block named Gatecrash. Gatecrash features ten different guilds each with their own history, motivations, and of course, cards. One of these guilds is a wild organization of clans named the Gruul. I spoke to Mark Rosewater lead designer for Magic: The Gathering about the Gruul and how this loose affiliation of wild clans is causing trouble for the rest of Ravnica’s guild.
Comics and Gaming Magazine: The Gruul guild features red and green magic. Red is the colour of chaos and destruction while green is the colour of tranquility and rebirth. How do these two opposite concepts work together in the Gruul guild and their member clans?
Mark Rosewater: Green embraces nature but not just the serene side. Green also represents ferocity and the state of being feral. Green can be just as wild as red. In addition, green with its reliance on instinct paired with red’s reliance on impulse both fight against their shared enemy blue’s love of intellect and carefully thinking out each action. Red and green both follow their gut and embrace the carnage that often results.
CGM: The Gruul don’t seem to be a faction that would accept alliances easily. What can you tell me about the Gruul reaction to the “guildpact” and subsequent peace?
MR: That is one of the big unsolved mysteries of the guildpact because you are correct that the Gruul are the last guild to want to be part of anything structured that would limit what they could do. Rumors have it that they were somehow bribed offering them things they wanted in the moment knowing that the leaders of the Gruul would not think long term.
CGM: Is there a specific type of individual or player archetype that you feel is represented by the Gruul guild?
MR: The Gruul is one of the guilds that lines up well with the Timmy psychographic. It also tends to be the colour combination that is most attractive to a lot of beginners as its goals align with what new players like to do. (Note that these two groups overlap in areas but are not the same thing.)
Another way to think of it is this: in Magic as in life, there are thinkers and there are doers. The Gruul clan is very much for the doers.
CGM: Are there any clan leaders who would have a good shot at unseating Borborygmos as Alpha of the Gruul clans?
MR: If Borborygmos was easily replaced he wouldn’t be one of the few leaders that lasted from Ravnica block until Return to Ravnica block.
CGM: The Gruul seem independent and strong willed by nature how did a loose affiliation of nomadic clans unite under one banner?
MR: As guilds go, the Gruul is the one that is least tight-knit. The group is together more out of necessity than desire. They band together (and even then only loosely) because they trust others like themselves more than they trust the other nine guilds.
CGM: Of the 10 guilds that call Ravnica home who would you say is the rival of the Gruul?
MR: The Gruul consider every other guild their rival. They learned long ago that trust is not a luxury they can afford.
CGM: What types of card synergies can be found among the red and green magic of the Gruul?
MR: Red and green overlap in power pumping, trample, fighting, mana ramping, artifact destruction, land destruction and both have larger creatures at lower rarities. The two colours work well in getting out large creatures and then attacking with them.
CGM: The Gruul are currently ranked 10 out of 10 among the guilds of Ravnica. Why do you think planeswalkers haven’t been gaining points with the Gruul?
MR: I feel if you could magically make every Magic player sign-up that the Gruul would be much better represented. I don’t think it’s an accident that the guild most about doing your own thing and ignoring whatever else is going on has the lowest sign-up.
CGM: Is there a philosophical doctrine followed by the Gruul or is their culture and tradition a hodgepodge of those found in other guilds?
MR: I think the Gruul doctrine is to do what feels right. Follow your gut. Follow your heart. Do the things that matter and don’t sweat the rest. The Gruul isn’t about writing things down so this is mostly just passed along through stories and oral exchanges.
CGM: Since the Gruuls ideals put them in direct conflict with the nature of Ravinica do you think that the guild will adapt effectively or will they eventually grow weak and fade away leaving the other more organized clans to fight for supremacy?
MR: The Gruul are all about adapting. They’re survivors and that means they do what they have to. The Gruul aren’t about to grab for any power but that also means they don’t have a target on their head. Also, the other guilds have learned it’s dangerous to mess with the Gruul. I don’t think the Gruul are going anywhere.
CGM: Each guild in this set features some exclusive mechanics, what abilities are unique to the Gruul guild?
MR: The Gruul’s mechanic is bloodrush. It allows them to use their resources to be as aggressive as they can. (Bloodrush allows you to discard certain creature cards to essentially turn them in to Giant Growths that can boost an attacking creature.)
CGM: Since release, what’s the player’s reaction to the Gruul been?
MR: The Gruul’s reception has been good especially in limited where they have been shining.