Boros at the World Championship

Feature Article from Craig Wescoe
Craig Wescoe
8/2/2013 10:01:00 AM
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This week is the World Championship and I finished in fifth place, losing to Josh-Utter Leyton in the penultimate round when playing for Top 4. Next week will be my tournament report where I talk about my preparation and my experience, but today I would like to focus entirely on sharing with you the deck I played in the Standard portion of the event, a deck I thoroughly tested and which takes advantage of many of the new cards from M14. I would play 74 of the 75 I played in the event if I were able to do it again, and I'm confident this is the best white weenie deck in the format – and also a very good metagame choice overall, even for players who do not ordinarily gravitate toward white weenie.

I played the following Boros deck to a 2-1 record, beating UWR Flash and Naya while losing to a different UWR Flash deck:

Boros Humans by Craig Wescoe
Finished 5th - 8th Place at 2013 Magic World Championship - Standard
Main Deck
Sideboard
3 Banisher Priest
4 Champion of the Parish
2 Doomed Traveler
4 Fiendslayer Paladin
4 Knight of Glory
4 Silverblade Paladin
4 Sublime Archangel
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Creatures [29]
3 Brave the Elements
4 Searing Spear
Spells [7]
4 Clifftop Retreat
1 Mountain (245)
11 Plains (233)
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Slayers' Stronghold
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]


1 Banisher Priest
1 Brave the Elements
4 Burning Earth
2 Fiend Hunter
1 Mountain (245)
3 Nearheath Pilgrim
3 Rest in Peace
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


The metagame for the World Championship ended up being mostly Jund and UWR Flash. I expect these to be the biggest decks moving forward, with Kibler's Gruul deck also being a player. Boros is well-positioned in such a metagame. The only change I made from the deck I ran at Worlds is I had a third Fiend Hunter instead of the fourth Burning Earth. Given how the metagame currently looks, I would play the appropriately modified list above, running the Burning Earth over the Fiend Hunter.

At its core, this is a Slayers' Stronghold deck. The land plays a central role in most matchups. Against aggro decks are plan is to attack with a 4/2 vigilance, first strike, lifelink Fiendslayer Paladin each turn. Against Flash our plan is to attack freely into Restoration Angel with Stronghold open, forcing them to wrath our board, at which point we'll immediately Rebuild with hasty attackers via the Stronghold. And against midrange decks our plan is to attack freely into Thragtusks with our first strikers, a plan that Slayers's Stronghold enables.

The second most important card in the deck is Sublime Archangel. The Archangel allows us to deal large chunks of damage against Thragtusk decks. Going up to 30-40 life is ordinarily a death sentence to an aggro deck, but between Silverblade Paladin and Sublime Archangel, that usually only translates into two to three turns before they're dead. Also, have you ever attacked with a Fiendslayer Paladin with a Sublime Archangel in play? I raced a 20/20 Lifelink Invisible Stalker with this combo while testing my Bant Hexproof matchup on the airplane en route to Amsterdam. I was at 130 life when I finally killed him.

The third most important card in the deck is Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. I've been a pretty firm advocate of only running three copies of Thalia because drawing multiples is usually crippling for an aggro deck since they are legendary and clogging your hand is the worst thing in the world for a tempo deck. In this deck, and especially in this metagame, however, I am confident that four is the right number. Our creatures hit harder than most other aggro decks and having a turn two Thalia dramatically increases our chances of winning against the slower decks of the format (see UWR Flash). It's also great against Hexproof.

The fourth most important card in the deck is Champion of the Parish. Wait, isn't Champion of the Parish the whole reason to play a nearly monowhite humans deck? Well, yes, it is, and it's the best thing in the entire format that you can do on the first turn. It is, however, merely the fourth most important card in the deck. Champion into Thalia into pretty much anything is nearly impossible to beat by any deck in the format. Our deck does not rely on having to have a big opening like Champion into Thalia though since turn three Silverblade Paladin and turn four Sublime Archangel kills the opponent on turn five without any other card being needed (attack for eight with Paladin then 12 with Angel).

Some other cards in the deck can look like all-stars as well. If you were watching the video coverage of my match against Willy Edel at Worlds, you saw my Banisher Priests take out his Boros Reckoner and Avacyn's Pilgrim and then Brave the Elements to counter his overloaded Mizzium Mortars. Brave the Elements is also a great way to race past creatures that were intended to be used for blocking or for protecting attackers from Azorius Charm. It's also our answer to a miracle Bonfire of the Damned, something Faith's Shield could not do for us pre-M14.

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Knight of Glory and Fiendslayer Paladin make like difficult for Jund as well as for any deck trying to attack or block. When I don't draw Thalia, Knight of Glory still allows Champion of the Parish to attack as a 3/3 Wild Nacatl on the second turn. It also combines quite well with Silverblade Paladin, allowing you to attack for six on the third turn even without a one-drop.

Doomed Traveler serves a few different roles. Primarily he is protection against edict effects (Liliana of the Veil, Devour Flesh, Tribute to Hunger, Barter in Blood, etc). He is also a reasonable proxy for Champion of the Parish on turn one, especially if followed up by Knight of Glory since then it's like you're attacking with an Isamaru, Hound of Konda on the second turn. Thirdly, he allows us to race by single or double chump blocking in creature mirrors. Oftentimes the token created is particularly important because it provides an evasive body for the Sublime Archangel exalted triggers. Lastly, it allows us to immediately keep a large amount of pressure following a wrath. If you follow up a wrath with a Silverblade Paladin and then activate Slayers' Stronghold to give the Paladin haste, the remnant spirit token allows this play to result in 10 points of damage instead of just four (since you can pair it with the paladin. If edict effects become more popular I could see running more copies, but right now I think two is a good number.

Banisher Priest and Searing Spear are our ways to get rid of a problematic creature. There usually aren't very many creatures that make combat difficult for us but Boros Reckoner and Huntmaster of the Fells are two such creatures that I would rather just get rid of. Olivia Voldaren is another one. The priest is slightly better than Fiend Hunter in this deck because it's less of a dead draw against control decks. Searing Spear is a great answer to Huntmaster since you can tap out to play an enticing threat (such as Silverblade Paladin, then attack and pass. Then they pass back hoping to flip their Huntmaster. You then Searing Spear it on your upkeep with the transform ability on the stack. You then successfully Time Walked the opponent for two mana, but you had to pay it on your upkeep. Pact of Time Walk? Spear is also capable of going to the dome, especially in multiples, catching a Sphinx's Revelation deck off guard when they think they have time to wait an extra turn before firing it off. I have beaten many a large Sphinx's Revelations by casting Searing Spear to kill them in response.


Sideboard Guide

UWR Flash

IN: 4 Burning Earth, 1 Mountain, 1 Brave the Elements
OUT: 3 Banisher Priest, 2 Doomed Traveler, 1 Searing Spear

Searing Spear is our answer to Izzet Staticaster, a card that is very good against us if we do not have a spear. So we have to leave in enough copies to make sure we have one for it. Just be sure not to use it on anything else unless necessary (e.g. a Restoration Angel blocking a first striker). Killing an Augur of Bolas with it post-board is almost always wrong no matter how right it seems at the time. Burning Earth is our way to punish them for tapping out or for trying to Ambush us with a Restoration Angel during combat for value. It's a card that mostly straight up beats them if it resolves. Their only answer is a pair of Detention Spheres or a Ratchet Bomb ticked up to four counters. Wear // Tear is a card I consider running a couple copies of in the sideboard. If you choose to do so, I would bring one or two of them in for this matchup as a way to protect your Burning Earth from their only outs to it.

Jund

IN: 4 Burning Earth, 1 Mountain, 1 Brave the Elements
OUT: 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 2 Doomed Traveler, 1 Banisher Priest, 1 Silverblade Paladin

Burning Earth is slightly more brutal against Jund than it is against Flash because they cannot counter it. It is essentially a one-sided Armageddon against them. Their best card against us is Lifebane Zombie, followed by Bonfire of the Damned, Olivia Voldaren, and Huntmaster of the Fells. We have Spears and Priests for Olivia and Huntmaster. We have Brave the Elements for Bonfire. We don't really have any specific answer for Lifebane Zombie. It's a card that will almost always two-for-one us. Fortunately it's not a devastating two-for-one since a 3/1 creature doesn't match up well against our first strikers, angels, or… well, anything actually. It's mostly a discard spell with a somewhat significant body attached, especially in multiples unless we can gain life off a Fiendslayer Paladin or just race them. Our curve gets bigger post-board, giving us more high-impact action cards to win the game with even after they took our Sublime Archangel or our Paladin with the Lifebane Zombie. Doomed Traveler is much better game one against Jund while they still have their Liliana of the Veils in their deck.

Hexproof

IN: 3 Nearheath Pilgrim, 1 Brave the Elements
OUT: 4 Searing Spear

Banisher Priest is not good against them unless they are running Fiendslayer Paladin, at which point it can be stellar. Brave the Elements allows us to alpha strike through a big lifelink creature. On paper this matchup looked tough and so my plan was to have a bunch of Oblivion Rings and War Priest of Thunes in the sideboard. Upon testing it, however, I found that I was crushing the deck handily (something like 7-1 in games pre-board). Our clock is on average a turn faster than theirs, so even when we're on the draw, we can often force them into having to leave their large creature back to block, even if it has lifelink. We are even favored to win the long games since Fiendslayer Paladin (or Nearheath Pilgrim) in conjunction with Silverblade Paladin and/or Sublime Archangel allows us to keep pace with their ever-growing hexproof creature. It's not uncommon to be attacking each other back and forth for 15+ points of damage with a single creature each turn. My most recent test game finally ended when he couldn't keep pace with my 26/26 double striking Paladin, despite having a 20/20 lifelink Invisible Stalker. These games can be very fun, especially from our side – beating the hexproof deck at its own game.

Junk Reanimator

IN: 3 Rest in Peace, 1 Brave the Elements, 1 Banisher Priest, 1 Burning Earth
OUT: 4 Searing Spear, 2 Doomed Traveler

Rest in Peace is much better against Junk Aristocrats than it is against Junk Reanimator, but I definitely want to draw one in this matchup and play it the turn before they acquire enough mana for Unburial Rites. RIP forces them play as a midrange Junk Ramp deck, a strategy that is usually still good enough against a white weenie deck, but not so with this build. We actually don't care much about Thragtusk. If we take out their ability to gain real card value (which is exactly with RIP accomplishes), then casting Angel of Serenity to consume our board is basically their only way to win. Brave the Elements stops this plan from succeeding while Banisher Priest gives us a follow-up answer in case we don't have the Brave. The Priests' primary roles, however, are taking out opposing mana accelerants to buy us time to win (or at least set up for the Brave the Elements) before the Angel comes down. Doomed Travaler and Searing are just pretty low impact and so they are the cards I would bring out.

Monogreen Elves (splash white)

IN: 1 Banisher Priest, 2 Fiend Hunter, 1 Brave the Elements
OUT: 4 Fiendslayer Paladin

This is the matchup where I just want a million Nekrataals and to cast them every turn of the game. Early they hinder the deck's mana acceleration, then they take out the big threat when they finally hit five mana. Then if we have Thalia in play, it is difficult for them to ever get enough mana to cast their Garruks. Meanwhile, our Banisher Priests are smashing them in the face, closing their window to draw out of the situation. Brave the Elements also allows us to alpha-strike through them when things start to get out of hand and it looks like they could Craterhoof Behemoth us for lethal on the following turn. It also can take down large monsters in combat sometimes on defense, saving us from getting two-for-one'd or losing an important creature (e.g. Silverblade Paladin or Sublime Archangel). It also lets us attack Garruk Relentless to death without it ever killing our Banisher Priest, an otherwise important card for them in post-board games against us. I take out Fiendslayer Paladin not because it's bad against them but rather because all out other three-drops are so much better and they we don't want to clog ourselves with so many three-drops.

Monored / Gruul

IN: 3 Nearheath Pilgrim, 1 Banisher Priest, 2 Fiend Hunter, 1 Brave the Elements
OUT: 4 Silverblade Paladin, 1 Sublime Archangel, 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

These matchups are mostly about staying alive long enough to turn the corner. Our lifelink creatures are our biggest assets and Fiendslayer Paladin is our best card. Our plan is to force them to use their burn spells on our creatures, which is what the Fiend Hunters and Banisher Priests accomplish. Brave the Elements is a natural foil to this strategy that we are forcing them into. It also protects the Nearheath Pilgrims and Sublime Archangel in important scenarios. Thalia is decent but not good enough to compensate for drawing multiples (unlike against blue decks), so I cut two. Sublime Archangel is similar since holding multiple four-drops can keep us from stabilizing. Silverblade Paladin is our worst card because it can't deal with Boros Reckoner, dies to any burn spell, and is simply not as good as the rest of our cards or the cards we're boarding in. It's admittedly sweet when paired with a Nearheath Pilgrim, but just about any in the deck is sweet when paired with the Pilgrim in this matchup.


Conclusion

The UWR Flash deck Shahar Shenhar and Tom Martell played is difficult since they have so much early removal and Izzet Staticaster in the board. The version Shuhei, Ben Stark, Juza, Yuuya, and Cifka played is much less difficult because they have cards like AEtherling main that do nothing and they do not have as good of a sideboard plan against us. Jund can be close if they have four Lifebane Zombies main but can also be a blowout in our favor if we draw our cards in the right order. Brave the Elements and Sublime Archangel are great against them. Our sideboard plan against both is to bring in four copies of Burning Earth, a card that neither deck can realistically beat if we resolve it against them. In short, this deck is highly internally tuned, positioned well against the top decks, and can make for some very fun and interest games that often play out in very different ways. Give it a try.

Craig Wescoe
@Nacatls4Life on twitter



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