When you talk to someone about Ravnica booster drafts in general, they will very often mention how bad it is to be the Boros drafter. I’m saying the Boros drafter because in my experience about one in three drafts has only one person drafting that guild, and there are very rarely more than two. Everyone knows the reason for this as it is straight-forward: the majority of the Red cards are not playable compared to the cards other colors would have in the same spot on a pickorder-list.
An example: Red has only Galvanic Arc and Viashino Fangtail as very good commons, while Green has all of Bramble Elemental, Civic Wayfinder, Fists of Ironwood, Scatter the Seeds and Siege Wurm. Furthermore, most of the White/Red guild-cards are best in the early game (aggressive cards), so they’re not very good to splash for either. It’s very often so that when you draft Boros, you’re locked into that guild and can’t easily move out of it. And since Boros is the least deep of the four guilds, you have to hope that you’re one of very few Boros-mages.
This is where an ability to read repeated signaling and keep track of what you’re sending out yourself is crucial. If you move into Boros too quickly, you might get trapped as it’s too early in the draft to be sure of other drafters’ colors. If you do it too late, you’ve probably sent out lots of Boros cards yourself and the drafter across from you might have moved into it. If you think you have a good read on the draft you could opt to move into it, but it’s usually a lot safer to stick to the other guilds, all of which are quite deep.
There is a problem with this strategy though: the guild is not so deep, so there will be a lot of packs empty on Boros cards. The gold cards are most important for the deck not only because they are the deck’s best cards, but also to upgrade a card like Rally the Righteous from playable to great. There are only two "real" Red commons (Arc and Fangtail) and all of the good White cards are split between you, about three Selesnya drafters and maybe another Boros drafter or Golgari drafter splashing it. As I said earlier, drafting Boros is always a gamble because of how hard it is to get out of it once you’re in it without wasting a lot of picks, and because it’s simply not deep enough to consider dry packs signals.
Another way to draft Boros is to cut it from the start, so hopefully nobody else will move into it. Any Boros deck can be either really good or really bad, and this method of drafting will show you the extreme ends of these two outcomes. If someone on your right side happens to be drafting Boros as well and you don’t notice it in time to switch to a different guild, your deck will consist mostly of Courier Hawks, Viashino Slashers, Boros Recruits and Centaur Safeguards and you’ll be happy to 1-2 the pod. On the other hand, if no one to your right picks up the Red/White cards early and you manage to cut most of the good cards for it, you could end up with all of the good Boros cards in the draft and an insane deck. I’ve done so many drafts in which I saw great cards like Skyknight Legionnaire or Thundersong Trumpeter as late as tenth picks and wished I would have drafted Boros.
Last, I’d like to suggest two cards whose quality in the Boros deck you might have overlooked if you haven’t drafted Boros often enough:
Rally the Righteous
I mentioned this card earlier, and I’m doing it again as a card like this is crucial as a finisher in the deck. This card makes all of the gold cards that much better, obviously highlighting Thundersong Trumpeter. Other cards that function similarly are Incite Hysteria, Boros Fury Shield, Flame-Kin Zealot or Bathe in Light.
The deck relies on its gold cards a lot, and you want to get those out as early as possible for them to be most effective. In this deck, you usually want White/Red on turn 2 or 3, and double-Red or White/Red on turn 4. Boros Signet or Garrison aren’t as good in the deck because they slow you down and you just want to play threats as soon as possible and Terrarion can easily slip in on turn 1 or in between somewhere.
I hope I’ve clarified the subject of this column to you; drafting Boros is always a gamble in some degree, regardless of how well you can pick up and send out signs, because of how dry packs can be on Boros cards. The best way to try and figure it out is to draft as often as you can, and be prepared to try and force Boros from time to time and see how it works out; it could go either way of two extremes.