Welcome, friends, to the first in my new series, Slice of (Colour) Pie, where I’ll be discussing the different colour combinations of magic, and how they can be utilised in Commander/EDH. Today, I’m going to be sitting down with my good friend Nahiri, for some Boros pie!
Red/White,otherwise known as Boros, seems to be considered by many as the weakest colour combination in commander. This is mostly due to it’s lack of versatility; you don’t have a great deal of options when playing red/white, and the ones you do have aren’t always effective. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t build a fun deck in these colours, and with a strong enough focus, you could even build a good one! With that being said, let’s analyse the strengths and weaknesses of Boros in edh.
Strengths and Playing to them
Red/white provides some fast, aggressive creatures, such as Monastery Swiftspear, Akroan Hoplite, and Cerodon yearling, as well as some board-wide buffs in the form of Anax and Cymede and Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran. This allows red/white decks to quickly build up a board of attackers, and swiftly reduce an opponents life total. A particularly effective card for this strategy is Assemble the Legion. This card gives you more and more creatures the longer it sticks around, and can be game winning if your opponents don’t deal with. If you really want to commit to creature tokens, another potential inclusion could be Krenko, Mob Boss. Once he starts tapping, the goblins can get out of hand really fast, especially if you play other goblins too, such as Boros Recruit or Hearthfire Hobgoblin!
A personal favourite strategy of mine, that everyone else at the table will hate (I could take it or leave it. – Unmistakable), is mass land destruction. Casting Armageddon, or Cycling Decree of Annihilation, when you have Assemble the Legion out and your opponents are lacking in creatures can win you games – especially if you have something to buff those tokens…. Maybe Gideon, Ally of Zendikar? Pop him down and -4 straight away for a permanent creature buff your opponents can’t remove!
If you do plan on going down the mass land destruction route, then I highly recommend Avacyn, Angel of Hope. 8 mana is super high for a deck we’re branding as aggressive, but when you destroy all your opponents land and keep your own? They’re probably going to give you the game. To help remedy this, why not run my favourite planeswalker, Nahiri, the Harbinger? Get her to -8 (Very easy since she only takes 3 turns to ultimate!) and you can find Avacyn straight from your deck. Granted she’ll return to your hand at the end of turn, but you’ll have the mana to cast her again whilst your opponents sit and give you dirty looks! And of course, if you have money and don’t want to destroy your opponents land, Blood Moon is always an option!
In addition to all this, red/white enables the use of staple removal cards Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. In addition to this, we can also compliment it with plenty of burn spells, from Lightning Bolt to Lightning Helix to Boros Charm (the most versatile instant you could ask for in these colours; Burn an opponent, mini Avacyn, or even double strike!). In a similar vein, red/white (white in particular) is great for enchantment removal, so if you find yourself against stax or pillowfort, you’re going to be able to breeze past your opponents Ghostly Prison/Propaganda/Authority of the Consuls (providing the player allows them to resolve, of course). With a flexible suite of cards like Disenchant, Austere Command or Return to Dust, enchantress decks have plenty to worry about from a Boros player.
Weaknesses and What to Look out for
Whilst all the aggressive strategies and mass land destruction are a lot of fun, they aren’t without their down sides. Any blue player at the table is going to want to counter your mass land destruction if they can, and whilst Avacyn and Boros Charm are great, there is still a high chance of your opponent wiping the board, be it with Wrath of God, Damnation, or even Black Sun’s Zenith (that last one getting around indestructible too!). Unfortunately, red/white lacks the graveyard retrieval of green and black, so board wipes can be devastating! If your opponents then get rid of Assemble the Legion too, you could find yourself struggling to stay in the game.
Due to the aggressive nature of the pairing, Boros decks often have difficulty playing the long game – this certainly isn’t helped by their commanders! (Amen. – Unmistakable) As Unmistakable broke down for us a month or so ago, Boros doesn’t really have the choice in style other pairs do. A lot of the best choices want to be attacking, and in multiplayer tapping out every turn is an easy way to die. Couple this with a lack of draw (covered in the next point), and you’ve got a section of decks that either go hard and win, or run out of gas sometime after the first boardwipe and never quite recover.
At risk of making the weaknesses seem more plentiful than the strengths, this colour combination finds itself distinctly lacking in both the ramp and draw categories without green or blue, meaning you may find yourself running low on cards if you splash out early. Nahiri, the Harbinger is helpful in this aspect, as her +2 ability allows you to draw, even if you then have to discard, and cards such as Tormenting Voice work the same, allowing you to somewhat filter your hand. However, these both pale in comparison to the grindy value engines of Rhystic Study, Phyrexian Arena or Sylvan Library, and unless you successfully protect a Mentor of the Meek or go all in for Mind’s Eye, you’ll find yourself hurting in a stalled game state.
These points, alongside an arguable lack of interaction compared to other colour combinations, are things to be wary of when constructing a Boros commander deck; However, don’t let them put you off. This colour combination can still be a lot of fun, and can work particularly well at a more casual, friendly commander table (Yes, I see the irony in using the term friendly when talking about a mass land destruction deck!).
Key cards and potential Commanders.
I’ve mentioned already some of the more powerful cards the Boros guild has to offer, but for those that like a quick list, here’s a few of the best, and some of my favourites, along side some potentially heads for your deck!
Assemble the Legion: I could spend days talking about how this is the best Boros card printed, with its constant, increasing threat if unanswered. This is an auto include if you want justice to be swift and merciless – it also happens to be one of the most consistent grindy Boros win conditions out there!
Avacyn, Angel of Hope: Making all your stuff indestructible is simply fantastic. Protecting your stuff and letting your board swing with impunity is almost always going to be great for you.
Archangel Avacyn: See above. Also, a great choice for a Commander, as she identifies as white and red thanks to her flip side. Having Flash in addition to her entry effect can make her particularly fun to spring on your opponents!
Boros Charm: Again, indestructible is the best key word! In addition to that, you can use this card to push through damage with the double strike clause (or a cheeky commander kill), or rarely it can end up being that extra damage you needed to kill off one of your opponents!
Armageddon/Decree of Annihilation: Effectively the same (although the latter is cycle instead of cast). With a board full of creatures, taking away your opponents land can crush their hopes of stopping you…. And the looks on their faces are priceless (Isn’t that right Crazy?)
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight: Another potential Commander, and one Dr Jank uses at the head of a damage doubler deck using enchantment based burn (maybe we could get a deck tech some time Doc?). Doubling the damage you can deal will allow you to decimate your opponents at great speed, before they can answer you!
Aurelia, the Warleader: The best commanders are the ones that help you hurt your opponents – and this babe brings the pain in spades! What was that, a second combat step you say? Why yes I will, thank you!
Nahiri, the Harbinger: She draws you cards, she removes threats, and she tutors for your best creatures. And did I mention she looks great doing it? #MtgCardCrush
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar: This guy makes you creatures. Hell, this guy is a creature if you want him to be. But let’s not kid, we all know he’s coming in, dropping that emblem like it’s hot, and leaving again straight away – he can be a token engine while you’re ahead, but unless you’re dropping him on curve, it’s rare for a Boros deck to keep up steam into the midgame in Commander.
So there we have it guys, a quick breakdown of Boros in EDH. Many people consider it the weakest colour combo, but I hope I’ve inspired you all to give it a try, get brewing, and see what you can come up with! I’d love to see any lists that you guys create if this article inspires you, and any comments on what you thought of my run down! Until the next tea party, it’s bye from Yamikarac!