Boros Isn’t Going Anywhere

A lot of players are downplaying Boros’ success at the Pro Tour as a mixed tournament result, but that’s where Abraham Stein may have some disagreement! Get your Knights and Soldiers prepped to take on SCG Vegas!

Leading up to Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, I was so excited to see
what would come out of the woodworks in what has been a wonderful return to
the world where we get to play a diverse Standard format. When coverage for
Day One began on Friday, I was a little surprised how much of the field
decided that Golgari Midrange was the best choice for the tournament
considering how much of a known quantity it was. Even while focusing my
efforts on Modern, I had taken time to play Golgari through some leagues on
Magic Online where it felt that all my opponents had specifically decided
that Golgari was the deck they had to beat.

As I got ready to leave SCG Regionals on Saturday evening, I read something
that surprised me even more, six copies of the same archetype were in the
Top 8 of the Pro Tour and it wasn’t the one that most players had settled
on. The news that Boros Aggro had six players and Golgari had zero in the
Top 8 was exciting and worrisome to me; most of the players had been wrong
on what the best deck was but what would the rest of the data show? Is
Boros too good? After looking through the decklists from the Pro Tour I’ve
got good news

Boros isn’t broken.

It’s just
really good.

It has always been an accepted idea that threats in a format dictate the
answers, but last weekend it seemed like the threats players were worried
about weren’t really the right ones. Well, maybe they were the right things
to be afraid of with the big showing Golgari decks had, but they left
themselves open to arguably the best threats in the format.

History of Benalia has been unsurprisingly one of the biggest pillars of Guilds of Ravnica Standard thus far as a standalone powerhouse
able to win a game on its own. In similar fashion, Adanto Vanguard also has
the capacity to run away with a game and be difficult to slow down playing
any form of reactive strategy due to how freely it can gain indestructible.

Beyond these two cards making Boros Aggro a great deck for the Pro Tour,
the best strategy that a base white deck has in Standard right now is to
flood the battlefield with creatures and enable cards like Legion’s Landing
to give them access to both speed and reach. Among the field of Pro Tour
Boros Aggro decks, there was a good amount of dissenting opinions about
what the best cards to play were that would fill out the rest of the deck,
but here were the three most distinct takes.

Out of these three, our Pro Tour Champion Andrew Elenbogen had what was the
closest to the stock list coming into the weekend. His approach of flooding
the battlefield and following his cheap creatures up with Venerated Loxodon
and Benalish Marshal to grow them all is a tried and true one when it comes
to white-based creature strategies. Something notable about his decklist is
that he has Snubhorn Sentry, a card that is almost certainly only good if
you can ascend to receive the city’s blessing and was not really popular
among most other Boros players in the field.

Luis Scott-Vargas and the rest of his team had a much more innovative take
on the archetype, leaning in towards synergy rather than raw power level.

These three cards together provided some blisteringly fast starts that not
only provided a life total advantage in combat-based matchups, but also
made the deck’s gameplan more dynamic. A big drawback of playing a deck
like Boros Aggro is that very often if you can’t use your combat step to
good utility, you fall behind fast. Having the capability to chip in some
damage with a Healer’s Hawk that grows your ground team or Leonin Vanguard
rewarding you for what you already plan on doing really helps to keep
combat moving in your favor.

Jeremy Dezani and his more token-oriented Boros deck showcased not only
Pride of Conquerors but a full playset of Heroic Reinforcements as
additional effects to leverage an early presence on the battlefield.
Jeremy’s deck was distinct from LSV and Elenbogen’s decks in many ways that
seem to hedge themselves towards one big flashy combat step for a gigantic
chunk of the opponent’s life total, as opposed to whittling it down with
cheap 2/1 creatures. While I think this is a much more fragile strategy and
is a little less consistent, a huge upside of the way Dezani built his deck
was the flexibility of range his sideboard could cover rather than being
forced into just one plan of attack.

All three of these takes on aggressive Boros strategies show how diverse
the threat base of Standard can be, but moving forward the most important
thing to do with Boros is going to be picking the right ones. It isn’t
often that a deck as simple as this has as many options for playable cards
as it does right now; just look at the lineup of one-mana creatures we get
to choose from.

Each and every one of these one-mana creatures has their merits – they’re
not all just generic Savannah Lions and Suntail Hawks with flavor text –
and picking the right ones for the rest of your deck can be a little

The obvious best ones that were played the most at the Pro Tour were
Dauntless Bodyguard, Legion’s Landing, Healer’s Hawk, and Skymarcher
Aspirant. The first two of these have obvious synergies and additional
value in being either another Knight to go with History of Benalia that
also protects your important creatures or being the second coming of
Thraban Inspector.

The other two illustrate the importance of flying creatures as a method of
reach and simplifying sticky situations involving clogged battlefields.
Beyond the obvious first two though, any one of the other one-drop
creatures can have very sound arguments made for their inclusion, or
exclusion, from Boros Aggro in the coming weeks.

This week, I really liked Andrew Elenbogen’s choice to play Snubhorn
Sentry, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had to do with the Venerated
Loxodons in his deck that they wound up there. A particularly punishing
sequence against decks like Jeskai Control–which rely heavily on Deafening
Clarion in the matchup–can be producing multiple X/4 creatures in a turn.
Snubhorn Sentry and Venerated Loxodon together accomplish just that at a
very low cost, a silent nod to the sweepers of the format.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that I would want to be focusing on doing
that in a deck like LSV’s. As I mentioned earlier, his deck was built
around making Ajani’s Pridemate as good as it can be.

Obviously, that meant
having a lot of his one-mana creatures gain him life either through combat
or incidentally was the correct deckbuilding decision to enable what can be
such a powerful card. Regularly in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour, LSV had
starts that could add a Pridemate to the battlefield, move through combat,
and pass the turn with the creature being a 4/4 poised to grow into a 5/5
at least come the next turn.

Building aggressive decks when the format has developed is just like
building the control decks but backwards: you must pick the right tool for
the right job. If the format is full of Boros Aggro mirror matches, it
might make the most sense to play more creatures with flying or more of the
lifegain synergies to have the edge in the racing scenarios. The core of
your gameplan should never change too much and casting a lot of one-mana
creatures and attacking with them is the goal, but don’t be afraid to adapt
the way the core of your deck is working to fit in new ways to attack a

These two threats that had seen success in Magic Online decklists over the
days leading up to the Pro Tour fell out of favor and for good reason. They
weren’t doing as much as the cheaper alternatives players had access to,
and while they may have seemed uncuttable on the surface only weeks ago,
they don’t fit the things these Boros Aggro decks are trying to accomplish.
In a similar fashion, you should consider replacing cards that feel they’re
not pulling their weight moving forward into the Standard format, no matter
how good they once were.

The cat is out of the bag and Boros is the aggressive deck that players
should be gunning to beat at SCG Vegas this weekend. Anticipating the
answers that will come at you and the way you’ll be targeted is everything
when it comes to being the beatdown.

All four of these cards showed up in sideboards of Boros decks over the
weekend and play into the diversification of threats against removal that
you really want to take advantage of in Standard. Just
one month ago
, I talked about how dangerous the white-based aggressive decks could be if
they started to explore additional colors for versatility. Aurelia,
Exemplar of Justice and Experimental Frenzy both were ones I thought
merited a lot more exploration to fight back against Golgari at the time,
but really, they are excellent not against just Golgari but any strategy
trying to put Boros in the corner.

The advantage aggressive decks have had since the dawn of Magic has been
the privilege to ask the questions at the table, force control to have an
answer, and if they get it wrong, they lose. Through good deckbuilding and
strong sideboard plans, this becomes increasingly difficult for the
opponent to handle, as they can only increase the number of answers they
have access to, not how they draw them.

As the last few years of Standard formats have shown us, a versatile aggro
deck can be one of the scariest things in Magic. While I don’t think Boros
Aggro is anywhere near Mardu Vehicles or Rakdos Aggro of formats old, it
has certainly cemented itself as a contender a cut above the rest in Guilds of Ravnica Standard.

To say I’m excited to see how the format shapes up as the clock ticks down
towards the Invitational at SCG CON Winter would be an understatement.
There’s so much to be seen about how the metagame reacts to the Pro Tour
and how decks and archetypes will evolve to try to stay on top. Don’t let
that stop you from sticking to your guns, though. We already saw Golgari
win events in back to back weeks. If you get it right, there’s no reason
Boros can’t too.