Relief from Boros Boredom

Feature Article from Bruce Richard
Bruce Richard
5/16/2017 11:01:00 AM
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Is Boros really boring?

Boros abilities all involve attacking. Whether creatures get benefits for attacking in groups, attacking with artifacts on the battlefield, or otherwise, Wizards has decided that red and white is best represented by the military, and the military in Magic is best represented by creatures attacking.

This doesn't inspire most players who have been playing for a little while. Boros appears to be a one-dimensional guild that seems to put its eggs in one basket. Other guilds have ways to disrupt their opponents' plans, or offer up some level of resilience through recursive creatures. Other guilds have commanders that offer interesting abilities that accentuate some part of that guild's skills or an ability that can send your deckbuilding into a place that color pair doesn't often go.

In the end, every color pair can win by attacking with creatures. The other pairs may not have the combat tricks Boros has, but everyone has creatures who can attack, so Boros seems less interesting since it really only has one way to go.

Now add in the card draw and mana ramp problems. Neither white nor red are particularly good at getting extra lands onto the battlefield. They have some options (Mana Flare style options in red and Land Tax abilities in white) but they are limited. This makes it difficult for Boros decks to play the big spells and creatures that other guilds get because they have eight or 12 mana available when Boros is still barely at six.

The card draw aspect is even more frustrating. Not only is Boros limited by the cost of the spells it can cast, but in too many games, it just doesn't have spells to cast at all. With limited card draw options, Boros sees too many games where it comes out of the gates strong, but after the first mass removal spell, it never seems to recover. The cards in hand were spent getting in front and there was no way to replace them when they were lost. Boros needs the extra card draw to get new creatures on the battlefield and attacking. Without it, the Boros player is left drawing cards off the top of their deck, playing what they find and hoping for the best.

And yet, given the limitations, I have a Tajic, Blade of the Legion deck that I enjoy playing and it has a win rate that is better than any other deck I'm currently running! Let me go through the deck with you so I can show you how I've tried to limit the deck's weaknesses and accentuate the positives, all while running a deck that is engaging to play and fun for my opponents!

The deck can play either wide or high, and can also do both! Games tend to be won with Tajic attacking one opponent alone as at least a 10/10 creature while the mass of creatures and tokens swing at another opponent. Opponents tend to recognize Tajic as a threat, but the tokens often come down and have haste, so that can shock opponents. An unkicked Conqueror's Pledge with cards that give creatures plus two power and haste can mean 18 points of damage that is hard to stop, even if you know it's coming!

The ability to see Tajic as a threat is one thing, but being able to do anything about it is quite another. Since I'm likely swinging at two opponents at once, I generally attack the opponent who is less likely to be able to handle Tajic. Once someone has been hit for 10 commander damage, they are practically forced to operate as though they are at one life, which dramatically changes how the game is played.

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The key to this Boros build, and why this deck is fun to play, is to not explode out onto the table as fast as possible. While the deck appears to be an aggro build, the limited card draw and ramp demand that you slow things down and treat your permanents with care. Aurelia, the Warleader is a great card, but there is no point in playing her into an unprotected board; each play needs to be carefully measured!

Ramp

The limitations here are very real, but you can't just ignore it and hope you'll draw the lands you need. Most Boros decks tend to rely on mana rocks to get them through, and this deck is no different.

1 Boros Signet
1 Sol Ring
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Boros Keyrune
1 Journeyer's Kite
1 Sword of the Animist
1 Solemn Simulacrum

This package simply isn't deep enough. I could add more mana rocks, but I feel like I'm already in a dangerous place being so reliant on artifacts in a metagame where Vandalblast and artifact removal is fairly common. While I've heard kickback in the comments about Journeyer's Kite, it has been an all-star for me in this deck. My opponents never target the Kite, preferring to save their removal for more actively dangerous artifacts. With its ability to get one land after another, the Kite has gotten me out of a number of tight mana situations. Since my early turns tend to involve getting a couple of creatures on the battlefield then sitting back, I regularly have the three mana to activate the Kite. I recommend activating it as often as possible, even if it is likely you are going to end up discarding the land. Having a large hand tends to discourage early attacks, especially when you have mana up, so even if your hand is full of lands, most players are not tracking exactly what you're holding.

Card Draw

1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Reforge the Soul
1 Mentor of the Meek
1 Skullclamp
1 Sun Titan
1 Sunforger

This set of card draw is more potent than it initially appears. While the Sad Robot is what it is, Reforge the Soul has been amazing. While you generally don't want to overcommit to the battlefield, the deck can get its cards on the table quickly, so discarding a single card or two to draw seven is a huge bonus. I've even been able to use the miracle cost a few times which shows how little setup the deck needs to cast Reforge. Mentor of the Meek and Skullclamp are handy in a deck with a lot of small creatures and this deck has those in spades. Card draw that can be used again and again is essential. Sunforger technically searches for a card and most often is searching for Swords to Plowshares or Boros Charm, but it does provide card draw.

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Sun Titan is a little different as it isn't specifically card draw but card recursion. For this deck, the recursion can be the best way to find the card I need. Between the mana rocks, Swords, smaller creatures and inexpensive enchantments, the Sun Titan "draws" (and plays out) a lot of the cards I need.

Tokens

1 Assemble the Legion
1 Nomads' Assembly
1 Conqueror's Pledge
1 Decree of Justice
1 Rise of the Hobgoblins
1 Cloudgoat Ranger
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Too many Boros decks work to accumulate damage on the opponents in the hopes of getting them to lower life totals later in the game. This deck relies on a rush of tokens to hit the field and take players out in one shot. Admittedly, you are very unlikely to bring a player from 40 to zero, but 20 to zero is very possible. This surprise factor plays into several wins as players overcommit to an attack, not expecting you to be able to mount such a large attack so quickly.

Muscle

1 Path of Bravery
1 Daru Warchief
1 Field Marshal
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Akroma's Memorial
1 Gleam of Battle
1 Crescendo of War
1 Angel of Jubilation
1 Balefire Liege
1 In the Web of War

You wouldn't want to commit a bunch of 1/1 tokens to the battlefield without ways to make them bigger. This stack increases the token size, making each one a formidable force your opponents will really want to stop. I particularly like In the Web of War. It offers that pump for your tokens and the haste you want to swing immediately. It also works in a pinch when you are casting Tajic for an early swing!

The key is not committing more than two or three of them to the board at any one time. Slamming half a dozen tokens is great, but putting Akroma's Memorial, Angel of Jubilation, and Field Marshall on the battlefield telegraphs the play and is reason enough to wipe the board even before the tokens arrive. And don't forget about Skullclamp! Once these cards start filling the battlefield, this card draw engine dries up!

High

1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Trailblazer's Boots
1 Sunforger

I haven't forgotten about the commander of the deck! The Swords and Trailblazer's Boots are there primarily to get him through any defense a player may have, with the pump the Swords offer proves to be a nice boost. With this deck, Tajic is rarely attacking alone, so when you add the Battalion bonus, along with a pump or two from all the ways to pump the tokens, Tajic reliably hits for 10 or more on his own. With all the new commanders often focusing on improving your board state or making your other creatures better, it is getting more rare to kill someone with commander damage, so his hit can often be a surprise to the player sitting at forty life or more. Many Boros decks find the commander to be interchangeable, but for this deck, Tajic brings a balance and forces opponents to consider a variety of attacks.

Dudes

1 Firemane Avenger
1 Captain of the Watch
1 Mirror Entity
1 Iroas, God of Victory
1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Anger
1 Aurelia, the Warleader
1 Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Mother of Runes

These are many of the expected cards for a Boros deck. The card that produces the most surprises is Mirror Entity. In the rare situations when your token army is cast and survives through to the next turn, Mirror Entity does great work. I'll put four mana into it and all those 1/1 tokens become 4/4 creatures, plus any pump effects still on the battlefield. The Mirror Entity also works well with Tajic, making him a base 4/4 or more if you are willing to commit more mana. Tajic as a 6/6, plus battalion, plus Balefire Liege bonus made for 13 points of commander damage to finish an opponent in a recent game!

Others

1 Boros Charm
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
1 Insurrection

Boros Charm and Wild Ricochet have made for great surprises during a game when everyone was expecting nothing from me until my next turn. I should remove Purphoros and Insurrection as they tend to be boring and predictable. The key is finding something to replace them that offers the powerful shift in play that they do!

The fun for me with this Boros build lies in the strategic play. Other decks rely on your decisions about which card to play or which line of attack you want to make. With this deck, the fun lies in balancing your board power with the cards you keep in hand. You don't want to commit your cards to the battlefield too quickly. I'm always trying to hold something back in case of the mass removal spell. I want my opponents to use their removal and keep their attention on other players. When the time is right, the deck hits the players hard and wants to win very quickly, so overcommitting early can be a death knell.

Let the others think your Boros build is simply the one-trick pony they are expecting. For Boros, the way you pilot the deck makes all the difference!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned




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