Boros Deck Wins in Extended – Examining the Numbers

If the coverage from Worlds is to be believed, almost half of the coming Extended field will comprise of Boros Deck Wins. Of course, whether that number is inflated due to the laziness of the players at Worlds remains to be seen (NB: I played BDW myself, and it wasn’t because I thought it was the best deck in the format). Josh brings us a detailed breakdown of the components present in the more successful BDW builds, and suggests his own composite build from the debris. BDW will be a force in the coming Extended season… are you ready for it?

Boros Deck Wins in Extended, while maybe not the most powerful or broken choice, was certainly the most popular deck choice at Worlds this year. Today, I take a look at fifteen of the Boros Deck Wins builds that went 5-1 or better, in an attempt to deduce what makes the deck tick.

All cards are presented predominantly in the maindeck of the Boros Deck Wins (BDW) decks, unless otherwise noted. I’m only listing creatures, spells and the notable non-basic lands (i.e. lands with a main focus that isn’t mana).

Cards present in all fifteen decks: Savannah Lions; Isamaru, Hound of Konda; Silver Knight; Lightning Helix (The only four-of spell in every single list)

Cards present in nearly every deck (eleven or more): Grim Lavamancer (14/15); Goblin Legionnaire (13/15); Soltari Priest (11/15); Firebolt (13/15); Sudden Shock (12/15); Molten Rain (12/15); Umezawa’s Jitte (12/15, sideboard card); Barbarian Ring (13/15, with nearly every list having one or two copies)

Bubble Cards (eight to ten of the fifteen decks): Lava Dart (10/15); Eiganjo Castle (9/15); Kataki, War’s Wage (10/15, usually sideboard); Sulfuric Vortex (9/15, sideboard); Disenchant (8/15, sideboard)

Possibilities and oddities (one to seven of the fifteen decks): Char (6/15); Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep (5/15); Armadillo Cloak (3/15, one playing three maindeck, other two had three sideboard); Kird Ape (2/15); Vindicate (1/15); Pillage (2/15); Paladin en-Vec (2/15, one had it maindeck, the other sideboard); Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] (1/15, one copy); Jotun Grunt (5/15, sideboard); Dwarven Blastminer (5/15, sideboard); Tormod’s Crypt (4/15, sideboard); Ancient Grudge (3/15, sideboard); Pyrostatic Pillar (3/15, sideboard); Worship (3/15, sideboard, always a one-of); Pyrite Spellbomb (3/15, sideboard); Fledgling Dragon (2/15, sideboard); Pithing Needle (2/15, sideboard); Tivadar of Thorn (2/15, sideboard); Ronom Unicorn (1/15, sideboard); Phyrexian Ironfoot (1/15, sideboard); Eight-and-a-Half-Tails (1/15, sideboard); Pacifism (1/15, sideboard); Mystic Crusader (1/15, sideboard)

Land Breakdown
22 land — 8
21 land — 6
20 land — 1

Fewer than ten fetches — 4
10 fetches — 7
11 fetches — 4

Random Observations

  • No deck ran fewer than eleven one-drops, the maximum was fourteen.
  • Every version had at least seven two-power one drops.
  • All but one deck had eleven burn spells or more maindeck.
  • The average mana curve was around 1.7-1.9.
  • Only four sideboard cards were adopted by even half of the lists, only two of which were played in two-thirds of the lists.
  • Every single list had at least five creatures with protection from Red.

Basic Analysis
As you can tell, the main creature base is nearly set in stone. Every list ran the two-power men for the early game and all but one ran Grim Lavamancer. Silver Knight is also ubiquitous with the deck now, rounding out nearly every single listing as a four-of except for one list, which ran only one. Goblin Legionnaire rounds out the cast of regulars and I’m only surprised he wasn’t in all fifteen of the top decks, simply because his abilities come in so handy when facing mirrors all day.

Soltari Priest has also enjoyed a large amount of popularity among the winning lists, though his numbers tended to fluctuate based on how many slots were left. It seems a number of people are adding him as a one-of or two-of to round out their lists with a slot receiver small evasion creature that can’t be burned off.

The burn listing was probably the most interesting piece of data that I had a chance to go through. Lightning Helix held its spot as one of the best burn spells ever printed and was played as a four-of in every single list. Firebolt also held its popularity over from last season, with the flashback ability being more relevant than ever in dealing with drawn-out creature struggles.

Sudden Shock wasn’t the automatic four-of that everyone thought it would be when the card was first spoiled. That isn’t a knock on its power or to say it didn’t see quite a bit of play (80% is pretty good I hear), just that it wasn’t the end-all be-all. That said, expect more Sudden Shock as the season continues, especially if BDW’s and Goblins’ popularity stay high.

Char on the other hand went from “How many?” to barely relevant in the off-season. Just over a third actually ran the card, and none of the decks ran more than two. The reasoning for this can be seen in the streamlining of the deck to cut its curve down to the bare minimum, along with Sudden Shock coming in with a more relevant ability. The future seems bleak for the card, as Worlds was dominated by aggro decks, but perhaps if control like Scepter-Chant and Counterbalance decks catch on, we’ll see a return of the heavier burn compliment once seen in BDW.

Lava Dart… good old Dart. Only two-thirds played Lava Dart and the exact numbers were scattered across the board; some were singletons to fill in that last slot, while others ran it as a key component to winning the mirror. Its usefulness has slowly dropped as the average creatures butt gets bigger in aggressive decks, but the power it can hold in the mirror cannot be denied.

This leaves us with the only non-creature, non-burn spell in the deck: Molten Rain. Of course it’ll typically deal two damage anyway because every single deck in the format outside of Heartbeat runs a significant number of non-basics to aim at. Thanks to the huge number of duals, fetchlands, and sacrifice lands in the format, land counts are also at an extremely low level, meaning a third-turn Rain or well-timed one on a splash color is more devastating than ever.

Question: How many decks did you read that ran fewer lands than BDW does?
Answer: INFI

I rest my case.

The composite list we then gather from the statistics is something along the following:

Composite Boros Deck Wins

22 Creatures
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Savannah Lions
4 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
4 Silver Knight
4 Goblin Legionnaire
2 Soltari Priest

16 Spells (13 burn and 3 LD)
4 Lightning Helix
4 Firebolt
3 Sudden Shock
3 Molten Rain
2 Lava Dart (Alternatively, round up and add the fourth SS + Rain)

22 Land
10 Fetchlands
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Barbarian Ring
1 Eiganjo Castle
3 Mountain
2 Plains

Obviously the numbers are a little funky; you would probably want the fourth Molten Rain and perhaps a different “slot” card over Dart, so you can play with the deck a bit. However, you’ve got a basic idea of just how many cards all the winning BDW decks shared and a good idea of the specific numbers. Let’s now take a step back and look at some of the less-commonly cards played for some difference making potential.

Notable tech played in maindecks
Kird Ape was played in two (Jeroen Remie and Wessel Oomens) of the BDW decks to gain an advantage in the mirror and Zoo matches, as three toughness tends to outdo many of the spot removal spells and aggressive creatures BDW plays. Not to mention it’s another two-power one drop for a deck that always wants to play a two-power bugger ASAP.

Augustin Serrati went so far as to splash Green and run maindeck Armadillo Cloak like the Zoo and G/W/R aggro decks to help smash other aggro decks. Remie and Oomens also seemed to share this strategy, though only post-board. This solution seems a bit extreme until you realize over half of the 300 players at Worlds were running aggressive decks that just pout if you Cloaked up Silver Knight or Soltari Priest. Add to that the answers you gain in the board like Ancient Grudge, Krosan Grip and a few other notables.

Bram Snepvangers decided to run Black for Vindicate in his maindeck. This is actually a really solid maindeck answer to any nasty enchantments / artifacts coming his way, like Worship or Isochron Scepter, instead of scooping it up and going on to game 2. In addition, it fills the land destruction role with Molten Rain, giving him a full eight LD effects while not being as bad a topdeck once you reach the mid-game. It also gives him a way to deal with opposing Silver Knights, Fledgling Dragons, or Soltari Priests in the mirror match without diluting any board slots.

Sideboard Observations
Worship was played as a one-of in three different people’s boards, which could’ve led to at least a few blowouts. Consider that just over half the BDW decks in the sample pool have answers to a Worship, and that every single deck runs enough Pro: Red guys to make it a serious impediment, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this as a more comprehensive board strategy in the future.

Fledgling Dragon has fallen out of favor with nearly every single sideboard plan. It seems the current preference is to throw down Umezawa’s Jitte and go to town on the opponent. That whole “not dying to burn” thing combined with life gain and creature removal seems pretty good, I hear.

On the cheaper side of creatures though, we have Kataki, who saw widespread sideboard play. This could help explain Affinity’s dismal performance, but otherwise Kataki doesn’t have many decks it can really annoy. Against Tron, it turns Signets into mana sinks and against the Sunny Side (Eggs/Second Sunrise) deck it can force eggs to be sacrificed a little quicker. Otherwise, it’s not really an amazing board card at the moment.

The other two sideboard cards to see significant play were Disenchant and Sulfuric Vortex, which shouldn’t require too much explanation. After that, the most notable board card that saw play in a third of the decks was Dwarven Blastminer, an easy way to trash Tron decks. Of course, at this point in the time, that same kind of brilliant analysis of “blow up dem dar land-ama-bobs” can be applied to almost every deck in the format, so I’d expect this little guy to catch on the most out of the cards listed.

Out of the other random sideboard cards, Phyrexian Ironfoot seemed like a decent option since it doesn’t really take anything away from the manabase and is just too big to kill via normal means. If the main plan is to clog up the board and eventually win via three-point swings, burn and Jitte, it may be worth a closer look. Ironfoot did make me a little sad that we didn’t get to see anybody running Razor Golem in the deck. Both are 3/4, both are typically three-drops, and both stay around to block after attacking. On the other hand, Ironfoot is snow; that’s gotta give it bonus points or something.

That’s all from me for now; hopefully the data crunching has been helpful for those of you who haven’t had a chance to really go over the lists yet. Worst case you got to see a few of the more… inspired ideas to win the mirror match as well as the most popular sideboard cards when developing your own. So good luck with constructing (or trying to beat) the optimal Boros Deck Wins.

Josh Silvestri
Team Reflection
E-mail me at JoshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom