Let me put it to you this way: when I’ve finally decided to pick up Mountains in Extended, you know it’s probably a good time to look into red spells.
If you know me, you know that red is usually the color in the deck on the other side of my table. I’m a magnet for the Mono Red players, and my
sideboard has seen the likes of Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders, Obstinate Baloths, and Dragon’s Claws alike. So what deck could have caused me to drop my blue
and green exterior? What deck could have possibly caused me to purchase a playset of Goblin Guides?
- 4 Figure of Destiny
- 3 Ranger of Eos
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 4 Plated Geopede
- 4 Steppe Lynx
- 4 Cunning Sparkmage
- 2 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Spikeshot Elder
Call it a little Patrick Sullivan inspiration after watching him burn his way through the Edison Open with Goblin Guides and Lightning Bolts. Call it a
little Ryan Wall and Brandon Nelson innovation as they won back-to-back Midwest PTQs with nearly identical copies (73 of the same cards!) of Boros.
Call it whatever you want; one thing is for certain: this deck is on my short list of decks to PTQ with — and it should be on yours, too.
Extended has taken a dramatic shift since the release of Mirrodin Besieged. With the rise of Sword of Feast and Famine strategies, several decks have
had to scramble for position in their new landscape. The top dog right now seems to be the U/W Stoneforge Mystic-powered archetype, with a handful of
decks like Bant and Faeries right behind. As everyone is busy fighting the Sword of Feast and Famine war, Boros is a deck which puts the infamous sword
to good use while ignoring the one on the other side of the table.
On the surface, Boros is packed with the traditional trappings of an aggressive strategy. And of course, that image is no faÃ§ade: Goblin Guide, Steppe
Lynx, Plated Geopede, and their fellow brothers-in-arms are no slouches. Your opponent can be dead as quickly as turn 3 with your best draw. But more
than other beatdown decks, this deck boasts a robust endgame. If your Steppe Lynxes and Plated Geopedes bite the dust early, you still have a great
plan B — more like a plan A2, really — to spring into action with equipment and Cunning Sparkmages.
But that’s getting ahead of myself — let’s talk about the lands for a second first.
One of the things I love about this deck is how smooth the mana is. I suppose that I’ve just been playing one too many decks that cross their fingers
when they cast a Noble Hierarch or are filled with Tectonic Edges, but it’s relaxing to just be able to, y’know, always cast your spells. Twenty-five
lands is a healthy amount for a beatdown deck (though I’ve considered moving up to 26) but, thanks to the awesome landfall mechanic, our aggressive
draws are rewarded for playing so many lands. You’re seldom mana screwed, yet you rarely feel flooded thanks to the number of actions your lands can
take for you.
Because of all the landfall, all twelve on-color Zendikar fetchlands are a must. The original list I was working with even had a mix of three Evolving
Wilds and Terramorphic Expanses to capitalize on landfall even further, but I slowly whittled those numbers down. While the landfall is important and
you can often play around one land entering tapped, if you ever have a hand with two, it really throws off the deck’s tempo.
While your mana is smooth, you’re almost never going to want to keep a one-land hand anyway, so two Rugged Prairies are essentially free additions that
help you hit four red for Spikeshot Elder late in the game. You don’t want to play any more because of the increased potential to draw the double
Prairie as your mana source in the opening hand. Other than that, the deck is full of basic lands to keep your fetchlands active late into the game.
Since the release of Zendikar, landfall-backed assaults have been the cornerstone of aggressive strategies. This deck is no exception. Steppe Lynx
consistently deals four on turn 2, which can quickly chop their wall of life down. Of course, in addition to your landfall beaters, you have Goblin
Guide and Figure of Destiny, two of the best aggressive one-drops of all time.
But, as I mentioned, this deck is so much more than some burly quick beats and a Lightning Bolt to the noggin. Some draws can do that — but others let
you craft an elaborate, longer game. A lot of people will try and beat you by throwing Lightning Bolts, Disfigures, and Volcanic Fallouts at your early
creatures. Fortunately, this deck is prepared for that.
Your two Stoneforge Mystics let you find either your Sword — I don’t think I need to explain why that’s good at this point — or Collar to pair with
your Cunning Sparkmage/Spikeshot Elder to put the long game on lock. The Mystic herself is not a great aggressive creature, and you don’t want to draw
a lot of them. However, she essentially provides three pieces of both your equipments, ensuring you can establish her as a plan in the matchups where
you need to but don’t find too many when you’re counting on winning with an aggressive draw.
On top of your equipment, Ranger of Eos also gives you surprising reach, finding you double Figure of Destiny, a creature that serves double duty as an
awesome one-drop and a just-as-good eight-drop. If you already found your Collar or have a Sword down, Ranger can also pick up Spikeshot Elder, who can
end the game in surprisingly quick fashion. If you’ve never thrown a Sword over to an Elder, attacked, then tapped all of your lands to float mana with
the combat damage trigger on the stack, trust me, it’s as good as it sounds. Similarly, slinging your sideboarded Bonehoard over to an Elder is pretty
powerful. I definitely wouldn’t play without him.
Finally, Cunning Sparkmage provides a ton of long-game versatility. He may seem unassuming in Extended, but he’s much better than I expected him to be.
Besides the obvious Collar-Sparkmage combo that is good against every non-Valakut deck in the format, it picks off everything from Heritage Druids to
Noble Hierarchs to Vendilion Cliques and more.
It does a ton on its own and is a must-kill for a lot of archetypes. It also helps you craft a plan. In several games, I just established my plan early
by setting up Sparkmage-Collar, forced my opponent to expend resources shooting down my early creatures, and then dominated the long game. They get
better in multiples, and I’ve been happy with the full four.
There isn’t a ton to cover here because of the high creature density of this deck, but I’ll hit the important points.
Lightning Bolt needs no explaining, but Path to Exile might. Path is an awesome catchall removal spell that’s good against practically every deck
except maybe Valakut. Even the control decks are banking on creatures with equipment these days, and Path gets rid of those along with Baneslayer
Angel, Mistbind Clique (while leaving the rest of your lands untapped), Knight of the Reliquary, Rhox War Monk, Mirran Crusader, and more.
Additionally, don’t forget that you can use it on your own creature to pump up your landfall guys as well — that can be crucial when you’re trying to
push the last few points through!
The two equipment both serve different purposes and are both good on their own. Collar helps you race as well as fitting well on a Sparkmage or Elder.
Sword, on the other hand, is an excellent way to send a Geopede through the wall of green creatures or Faerie tokens decks leave hanging around. As
we’ve seen in Standard and Extended, the effect is quite devastating, and it’s no less powerful here. Being able to reuse your mana in a deck like this
is great, especially with cards like Figure of Destiny (once again, hit them, float mana, and easily level Figure into his ultimate form pretty
quickly) and Spikeshot Elder.
While you can play more equipments maindeck, you don’t really want to. Clogging up your fast draws is a legitimate concern, and you really don’t have a
need for Sword of Body and Mind in this deck.
Here’s how I’ve been sideboarding against the five most popular decks right now:
In the matchups that go longer and are going to be grinding affairs, you want to bring in the 26th land. Faeries is definitely one of those, and your
Ranger of Eos and Sparkmages are going to be hard at work. Though they will have Nighthawk and Mistbind Clique as targets for Sparkmage-Collar, I
haven’t found Collar to be great in this matchup.
While normally I want all the Bolts against Faeries, you don’t want too many reactive cards because you can still occasionally blow them out with an
aggressive draw. I’d rather cut a Bolt than a Path because Path deals with Mistbind Clique, which is one of the main ways you lose. Otherwise, just
know that most of the time the game is going to go long and you’re going to need to squeak out every advantage you can.
Why just one Fallout? Because I wanted a fifth card that was decent against Elves after I had all four Days of Judgment, and it just so happens that
Fallout fit the bill while simultaneously being a card you always bring in against Faeries.
This matchup is entirely a race. Therefore, you want to set your deck up to be in the best racing situation as possible. Your deck becomes mostly
one-drops after sideboarding, and hopefully Forge-Tender will protect you from any sweepers they have. From there, it’s all about maximizing your
damage output to kill them before they kill you.
The key card in this matchup is Safe Passage. Sometimes, especially on the draw, you’ll just be a turn too slow — that’s where Passage comes in. They
go for the Scapeshift or Titan, you Passage them to prevent all of the damage, and then you should be able to pick up the win. Additionally, it’s a
fine answer to a board-wiping Fallout. If you want a card you can bring in other matchups then consider Lapse of Certainty, but otherwise, while
narrow, Safe Passage is great at giving you the crucial turn you need.
One major tip for playing against Valakut: if you have landfall creatures, try to keep one fetchland uncracked. Their main weapon against you is
Volcanic Fallout, and if you can just prevent that from wrecking you, then you should be in good position to win.
Elves is easily your worst matchup, and it took me a long time to figure out the best way to beat them. All of the cards you’d think would be great,
like Arc Trail, actually aren’t that awesome. Leyline of Vitality causes a lot of problems, and once they set up a few lords, it shuts down your damage
engine. Finally, I figured it out.
The best plan I found was to just turn into a control deck against them. Your early creatures are quickly outmoded, so you board some of those out in
favor of a control plan. With four Bolts, three Paths, four Sparkmages, four Days of Judgment, a Fallout, and a Mortarpod, it’s almost like you’re
playing a R/W control deck in game two. Even if they realize they should hold some Elves back to not be blown out by your Day, it should hopefully buy
you the time you need to set up Sparkmage-Collar.
You need all four Days of Judgment because drawing one is crucial. You’re very unlikely to win without one. However, if you draw one and craft your
game around it, you can turn this horrendous matchup into one that is very winnable.
This is an awesome matchup for you. Their Swords and Mirran Crusaders don’t shut down any of your spells, and you have tons of efficient removal backed
by a quick start. Sparkmage is particularly brutal against them, and if they don’t shut off your Sparkmage-Collar immediately, then you’re going to
overrun them. All in all, it’s a combination that’s hard for them to beat and a highly favorable matchup.
Like Faeries, this is a grinding matchup. Fortunately, also like Faeries, it is favorable. As a reference point, when Ryan Wall won his PTQ with this
deck a few weeks ago, he ran straight through three straight U/W decks in the Top 8. It doesn’t seem like it should be so favorable on the surface, but
the combination of a quick start followed by a long game plan provides a lot more versatility than something like Mono Red might. Ranger of Eos is an
all-star here; try to never walk him into a counterspell if you can. Additionally, in the long game, protect your Figures of Destiny and force your
opponent to deal with each one individually. You don’t want to run two of them into a Day of Judgment.
Other cards to consider:
While working on this deck, I tried several different cards. Here are a few ones you might want to keep in mind while playing this deck.
There was originally one in the maindeck, but I never found it to be important enough to warrant a spot. With that said, if the metagame turns more
toward combo decks like Valakut where that one turn is crucial, the Bushwhacker may be the Goblin for the job.
Arc Trail is okay against some Elves draws and great against Bant. However, your Bant matchup is already fantastic, and I moved toward a different plan
for Elves, making Arc Trail not as important.
If Mono Red gets big, you may want to supplement your Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders with these.
I was thinking about bringing in more one-mana burn spells against Elves at one point. My current plan ended up being better, but fighting them up the
curve with Bursts and Bolts is okay too.
Sparkmage Boros deck has so many lines of attack and can do so much that I was blown away. Its versatility, longevity, and speed are all contributing
factors to its success. Do not think this is a deck you can just pick up and play, though. There are a lot of hard decisions to make regarding which
order to lead your creatures, when to crack fetchlands, and what plan you’re on.
In fact, I think my largest piece of advice for those playing this deck is to always know what plan you’re on. Are you just trying to race them? Are
you going to win the long game with Sparkmages? Should you be leveling Figure or deploying more threats? Always keep your plan in mind.
If you’d like to talk about the deck at all, feel free to post in the forums, tweet me@ GavinVerhey, or send me an e-mail at Gavintriesagain at gmail
dot com. I’d love to hear about your feedback and experience with this deck.
Otherwise, I’ll see you next this weekend coming to you live from the SCGLive booth in Dallas, Texas. Until then, have fun playing Boros! And remember:
attacking for four is the new attacking for two.
Rabon on Magic Online, GavinVerhey on Twitter, Lesurgo everywhere else