Boros Deck Wins in Extended – Rocking the Mock Tournament

Last weekend, Brian David-Marshall ran a small Extended mock tournament at Neutral Ground, inviting some of Magic’s great and good to sling the overpowered spells. Paul rocked up with Boros Deck Wins, and attempted to fathom Frank Karsten’s sideboard plans for matchups across the board. While he didn’t win the whole thing, his thoughs on the deck are very interesting… invaluable for those running the Little Red (and White) Men at their coming PTQ.

The folks at Neutral Ground have started a tradition of holding a mock tournament prior to an upcoming constructed PTQ season. In the past, these tournaments have been able to predict some of the more popular and (more importantly) successful decks for the relevant season. Brian David-Marshall (how many of you realize that David is not Brian’s middle name, but rather part of his last name?) was proactive amongst a sea of lazy gamers and managed to organize a pseudo-formal tournament of 14 players. Since information is the goal, proxies were allowed and open conversation was had throughout matches regarding the correct play. After all, knowing that a good player playing Blue/White Tron beats a bad player playing Boros does us no good.

In addition to providing the group with vital information regarding the meta-game and how certain pairings play out, I was also using this tournament to personally get “back into” Constructed mode. As is the case with most of the non-professional Magic playing world, I’ve been playing exclusively Limited for quite a while now. That, in addition to a hiatus I took from Magic about two years ago, has left me a little behind in the curve regarding decks, deck names, strategies, and some card interactions. The last time I played with a lot of these cards was at the Legacy Grand Prix in Philly last year, when I came in eighteenth with Tog. Consequently, I sometimes think up what I think is a great card for [insert deck name here], only to find out it is not legal in Extended. EG: Brainstorm, in [any deck]. Oh bother.

At any rate, I was hoping to get to know the format a little better, not only in terms of which deck beat another but also regarding specific in-game interactions and decisions. As for the tournament itself, the rule was to bring a deck you would play in a PTQ, with the caveat that some people were asked to volunteer for certain decks as we wanted representation that we might not have otherwise. I ended up with Boros, sans any elaborate tech. So boring (sobering?) in fact that I played an exact list from Frank Karsten. To save you some time, here’s the list.

Nothing surprising, and pretty straightforward. I proxied up the deck (I wonder how many cards have died to a Sharpie) and was ready to head into NYC after work. I showed up late, obv, due to Lincoln Tunnel traffic, but not too late so all was good.

Here’s the breakdown on the decks represented:

Aggro Loam – 1
Boros – 3
BWGR – 1
Dirty Kitty – 1
Green/White – 1
Heartbeat – 1
Rock and Flow – 1
Scepter-Chant – 2
TEPS – 2
Trinket Angel – 1

It isn’t a perfect representation of a full metagame, but it is certainly a good place to start. My first round pairing was a mirror match. The data collected wouldn’t help determine the best deck to play (by definition, all mirror matches are 50%) but the match would prove useful with regards to my personal goals for the night.

I lost in 2 games, though they were not super fast like one expects Boros games to be. I lost the first due strictly to my inexperience in the match-up. I foolishly used a Barbarian Ring to kill a creature that did not have protection from Red. Two turns later a Priest was beating me down and I couldn’t stop it. In the second game I was overly aggressive with my board development, dealing about nine points of damage to myself in the early turns. He then got out an active Jitte, which ended things in short order. Had I stayed back with my mana earlier and limited the damage to four or five, I would have survived another turn and drawn a Jitte of my own. I was speaking with Mike Flores afterwards and he kindly and colorfully asked me, “Who is the Beatdown?” Clearly I was trying to be the beatdown a little too hard. In the mirror matches it is very draw dependant, and while my draws were fine, I was trying to force the issue and wasn’t thinking about the long-term game plan (or, more accurately, didn’t have one to think about).

I followed up the loss with an easy win against Heartbeat. In the first game he had few lands and I had a Molten Rain. Even though it didn’t deal any damage due to his basics, it totally blew him out of the game. The second looked worse for me. He had 2 Sakura-Tribe Elders early and had pretty good development while I was stuck on 1 and 2 lands. There was some discussion regarding how to split a Fact or Fiction (and also a Gifts) that I found helpful in getting a better understanding from the opponent’s viewpoint in each instance. Despite my mana issues and his great opening, I was able to win thanks to some slower pressure and Pyrostatic Pillar.

After that I had another mirror match. I was able to stall his lands with a Molten Rain in game 1, which then promptly was sided out. I have to admit, I knew the deck was more complex than its simple demeanor lets on, but I thoroughly did not realize the full extent. The deck requires a lot of pre-planning and strategic use of every single card, down to the lands. The decisions about which land to play, which land to search for, if it should be tapped or not carry a heavier degree of importance with them than their spell-casting counterparts. The deck can throw out a 2/3 Kird Ape (requiring Mountain and Forest) and follow it up with a Silver Knight (requiring two Plains) on turn 2 – how crazy is that? You really have to think about not only what you have, but what you’re more likely to draw (will I need more Red, or White? What if my Forest gets killed? Can I afford to let the Ape be 1/1 for a turn to give me a turn 2 Knight?). All of these questions, and far more, come into play on virtually every turn. I was actually kind of impressed. I also never more wished I had Pat Sullivan sitting next to me telling me which plays to make. When he attacks, he does it with purpose. Every time. I’ve never seen him blindly send in the team, or autopilot a game. I’d like to see a Dave Price versus Pat Sullivan Beatdown Showdown in the spirit of Rocky VI. Now that’s something I could learn from.

But I’m getting off topic. In game 2 I had two Jittes to his none. He did kill one, but number two put it out of reach for him. I was again reminded why equipment is so silly. Remember Clamp?

My plan thus far for sideboarding in the mirror had been to remove four Molten Rains, and some mix of Sudden Shock and Savannah Lions adding up to four, pending largely on if they had Lava Dart or not. I would bring in one Ancient Grudge and the obvious pants package of four Jitte and three Cloaks. I like the plan a lot, and am even kind of tempted to say taking out eight one-drops and leaving in your Sudden Shocks is right. The games are mostly about protection from Red, right? So maybe just having pro-Red guys and Kird Apes as your men is the way to go. Of course, it sounds a little odd to bring out eight creatures and in creature enhancers. More testing is needed.

My final round was against Scepter-Chant. I was on the draw and on turn 1 he played out a land, Mox, and Scepter on Fire / Ice. I was a little worried, to say the least. Of course, his hand was severely depleted so when I got out 2 Soltari Priests I was able to force through damage. I also drew into a Molten Rain to help things along. The game was very interesting as I still had to think about when to play the other creatures in my hand (namely the Lions) to maximize damage. I brought in two Pillars and the Grudges and took out four and two of Sudden Shock and Lion. Billy Moreno and I were discussing and we basically didn’t know which was worse. I now think that the Lions are worse due to all of the ways they die, but I am still not 100%. As I’m writing this I’m trying to figure out why all four Pillars weren’t in. This is the kind of situation you want to sort out before going to a tournament, so that you’re not just randomly bringing out cards. There should be a set plan. I’m sure Frank had one for this deck, I just haven’t figured it out yet.

Game 2 his draw was less impressive, but so was mine. I was struggling a little on lands and he was short on White mana. He then got out a Scepter on Helix and I didn’t have a Grudge. Game 3 he played out a morph that I couldn’t kill, but he then didn’t have the second White to flip his Angel. He followed up with a Scepter on Helix, but this time I had the Grudge. I also had out two protection from Red guys, and the next turn killed his morph.

I ended the day at 3-1, which is kind of what I expect from Boros. I gained some more respect for the deck, and really kind of liked playing it, which is a step away from the norm for me, as I usually like combo decks. If the PTQ was today, I’d be playing Boros. There’s still a week to go though, so who knows.

The rest of the tournament went well. Steve Sadin won with Aggro-Loam, beating Flores and his Green/White deck (aimed at destroying Boros) in the finals. BDM was there with his digital recorder to record what I’m sure are several podcasts for top8magic.com. Afterwards we met up with Wang and had some midnight dinner. A good night to be sure.

This is clearly, despite our best efforts, a small sample size. I’m hoping to have more of these tournaments soon so the data can start to become statistically significant. I’ll be at the PTQ in the Philly area the first weekend of the New Year and hope to have more numbers, as well as a report on how I do. Enjoy the New Year (this will be posted after you’ve already enjoyed it).

Wizards has put up their Orb of Insight again in anticipation of the release of Planar Chaos (pre-order yours from StarCityGames.com now!). I spent some time looking around, here’s what I found. Let me know in the forums if you’ve found something interesting.

Spellshaper – 5
Madness – 8
Sliver – 24
Rebel – 8
Split second – 2
Storm – 0
Suspend – 12
Fungus – 5
Haste – 13 (keep in mind 12 suspend)
Shadow – 3
Flanking – 2
Flying – 27
Protection – 7
Trample – 8
Flashback – 0
Flash – 6
Buyback – 0
Cycling – 0

Echo – 9
Fading – 0
Kicker – 9
Threshold – 0
Morph – 10
Amplify – 0
Provoke – 0
Affinity – 0
Entwine – 0
Equip – 0
Imprint – 0
Fear – 1
Scry – 0
Sunburst – 0
Ninjitsu – 0
Dredge – 0
Bloodthirst – 0
Haunt – 0
Replicate – 0
Forecast – 0
Recover – 0
Copy – 1
Color – 3
White – 8
Red – 3
Green – 10
Blue – 1
Black – 2
Coin – 1