Brews are everywhere after the release of a new set, as players try out new cards that catch their eyes and search for the next Tier 0 deck. This is great for expanding the sights of the few and bringing hidden gems to light, but it makes it damn hard to find out whats the real deal, whats just a one day wonder and what doesn’t make the cut, especially if you don’t have infinite time to grind ladder, see what other people are playing, then try it for yourself. The Dusk Road Deck Series is an attempt to separate out the notable decks and bring them to the attention of the public.
What is Stonescar Gearcruncher?
The first deck in our series is Stonescar Gearcruncher, which is the neutral name I’ve chosen for the Grenadin focused Gearcruncher decks that have been popular recently. While some players will be more familiar with the Combustion Ramp deck popularized by SamOnion, this particular deck is closer in form to the Midrange decks piloted by players like Unearthly and LightsOutAce, which developed out of the Witching Hour lists many people immediately turned to when the Dusk Road released.
That’s a lot of core cards! A nearly complete 73/75 of the core cards have been generally agreed upon, which does not leave a lot of room for adjustment. This version of the deck currently plays 30 power sources, as do many other pilots, though the specific breakdown of the sources varies from player to player. Some play Seeks, some play fewer waystones, some are even trying off color crests! The “correct” power base has yet to be found, but 30 sources, or something close to 30, is probably correct.
How does the deck work?
If you’ve ever played a Witching Hour deck in the last year, you’ll be somewhat familiar with the playstyle of this deck. You play units defensively, using them to trade with your opponent’s units and chump early and often. Almost all of your unit producing cards create multiple bodies that you can throw in front of an oncoming Titan, which buys you time to reach 7 power. Once you do, your namesake card takes over the game. Gearcruncher brings along a new Grenadin for every Grenadin in your void – its very common for the first Gearcruncher to bring six or seven friends, and the second one to completely fill the board. Most decks aren’t prepared for a single card reload on this scale, and once in play Gearcruncher shoots down the enemy units with ease – 12 damage kills every unboosted unit in the game.
Gearcruncher gives you your one card stabilization and win condition – but how do you actually get ahead? Madness + sac outlet turns your opponent’s units against them, and Combust is as powerful a removal spell as ever. Scraptank can in theory threaten the opponent, but often eats removal before it really gets going. The real card advantage engine of the deck is Stonescar Scrapper, which sacrifices two units to draw 2 cards. This puts you way ahead when Gearcruncher is dumping ten units into play for 1 card, and even a lowly Grenadin Drone provides 2 units for 1 card. Aggressively Scrapping your units will draw you into more units, which will keep the chain going and bury your opponent in card advantage.
Once the board is stabilized and you’ve got one of your draw engines going, your opponents will often concede – they’re out of resources and you’re just getting started.
Stonescar Gearcruncher is very good at playing the ground game against aggro or midrange decks. Go-wide decks are somewhat perturbed when they find that you go just as wide as them, but have the stronger late game. Aggro decks relying on 2/1s like Skycrag do not have a fun time slogging through an army of Grenadin, and any Rakano deck without plate just gets chumped forever. Midrange decks have similar problems – they’re slower out of the gate and put fewer units into play, so without Crystallize or similar board breaker they have no hope of getting though.
The deck is also excellent against single target removal. Only Scrapper and Gearcruncher really matter, and you’re able to get their key effects immediately before your opponent can kill them anyways. Much like Chalice, your opponent is welcome to toss their Deathstrikes and Annihilates at your replaceable 1/1s.
Gearcruncher has a better chance than many sacrifice decks against modern control. Its namesake card requires mass removal all by itself, and there are some card advantage engines in the deck to keep cards flowing, but on the whole you’d much rather be facing someone with a lot of units than someone with a lot of spells. The three real things that crush Stonescar Gearcruncher are the same three problems that Chalice used to have – Flyers, Overwhelm, and Burn.
All your units are grounded, so you’re relying on removal spells to bring the aerial units down. A deck with lots of flyers can easily punch in for lethal damage without ever looking at the ground. Overwhelm units are a related problem – you’re always trying to block with 1/1s, and overwhelm makes chump blocking a fools errand. In much the same way, Argenport Instigator makes chump blocking worse and can be a pain to deal with.
The deck lacks effective lifegain (Devour and Scrapper giving you a small amount) so the deck is vulnerable to being burned out if it drops too low. Due to this weakness, Gearcruncher decks are incentivized to start chump blocking well before most other decks, as even if their health total drops to a relatively safe twelve, they take so long to win and have so few good burn targets that they’re vulnerable to giving their opponent the time they need to draw two obliterates, four torches, whatever.
Gearcruncher decks do have plenty of weaknesses and they’re not easy to solve, but against decks that do not play to these weaknesses they are very difficult to beat. Gearcruncher decks employ some powerful cards and great tribal synergies, and are very difficult to counter with traditional answers like silence and removal. Steward of the Past, for example, does almost nothing against this deck. Beatable if you’re ready for it, Gearcruncher decks are the bane of the unprepared. Be aware of this powerful Grenadin tribal deck!