Boros in Pauper

For the better part of the past two years, Boros decks have been at the top of the Pauper metagame. And for the overwhelming majority of that time the best Boros deck has been a midrange build commonly called Boros Monarch. The search for the Boros is going to require careful study of the metagame. Now that Pauper will be getting competitive Leagues and its own format championship, I expect decks to adjust and evolve with an increased frequency. Boros is never going to go out of style for one main reason: it has a great matchup against Delver decks. Cheap removal combined with creatures that match up well against the blue menace means that Boros decks will always be a factor. The question remains: which one is best for any given moment? Today we’re going to look at some different options.

Until the advent of the monarch mechanic, red and white decks relied on a combination of Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk in concert with Prophetic Prism and Ichor Wellspring to generate card advantage. Some versions splash blue for Mulldrifter while others tried to go wide by sacrificing the Wellspring to Kuldotha Rebirth. The printing of Thraben Inspector gave the strategy a way to draw cards and more or less saw the death of Mulldrifter builds, shifting the deck firmly to Boros. Eternal Masters gave the deck a tool in Rally the Peasants, and combining Kuldotha Rebirth with Battle Screech gave Boros a way to leverage those tokens into wins.

Kuldotha Tokens

BatJones22, Top 8 at October 21 Pauper Challenge

But Palace Sentinels changed everything. Now the deck could draw enough cards to see its powerful burn suite of Lightning Bolt and Galvanic Blast. Some players had already moved away from Kuldotha Rebirth but the addition of Palace Sentinels gave the deck a lock down on the late game. Rebirth was at its best off an early artifact land as a way to apply pressure while slower strategies were setting up. The free draws from Palace Sentinel meant that Boros Monarch could lean on its late game and not have to worry about stealing wins with tokens—that’s why the burn spells are there.

Boros Monarch made two other changes from those older Boros builds. First was replacing Ichor Wellspring with Alchemist’s Vial. Without Kuldotha Rebirth there was little need for the “goes to graveyard” clause on Wellspring whereas Alchemist’s Vial helps to defend monarch. The second big change was leaning on Prismatic Strands. Strands helps to protect the crown from the large number of mono-colored aggro decks in the format.

The result has been one of the better Pauper decks. The Monarch is completely unfair in heads-up Magic and Boros Monarch is best at winnings the game of thrones. It also makes best use of the crown with its burn suite. Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher can deal a decent amount of damage and games often end in a flurry of Bolts and Blasts made possible by drawing extra cards.

Boros Monarch

Benitos, 1st place at November 4 Pauper Challenge

Last month a new Boros deck popped up. If we are looking at the family tree, this build was a descendant of the Kuldotha Rebirth and Battle Screech builds that melded with mono-white go wide decks. Instead of using Kor Skyfisher and Prophetic Prism as a card advantage engine, it instead leveraged tokens as card advantage. In addition to Battle Screech, this build of Boros also ran Raise the Alarm and Squadron Hawk to help turn Rally the Peasants into a game-ender.

The token build still sees a ton of cards. Faithless Looting helps to turn late game lands into new cards or dumps Sacred Cat and flashback spells into the bin to extract just a little bit more value. All these spells help to make Seeker of the Way into a legitimate threat.

Seeker of the Way was downshifted in Iconic Masters and it has been put to work ever since. It’s seen play in blue cantrip strategies, Mono-White Heroic, and in Boros lists as a way to leverage removal spells into extra damage. Faithless Looting works especially well here as it helps dig to even more prowess triggers. Combine this with a bevy of spells that can be cast from the graveyard—in the case of Prismatic Strands and Battle Screech, without additional mana investment—and you have the recipe for a card that can steal victory from the jaws of defeat.

Boros Bully Tokens

Deluxeicoff, Top 4 at October 7 Pauper Challenge

The first iteration of Boros Tokens has yet to repeat its success from early October. While capable of powerful draws it lacks the robust plan of many other decks in the format and despite running Prismatic Strands it left Palace Sentinels on the sideline. Considering that becoming the monarch is one of the best things you can do in Pauper, this appears to be a pretty significant exclusion. So it was not a surprise three weeks later when this list took down the Pauper Challenge.

Boros Tokens

Janicestone, 1st place at October 28 Pauper Challenge

Janicestone’s list is what happens when you take the basis of Deluxeicoff’s list—that 1/1 bodies are better than fresh cards—and take it to a logical conclusion. The latter list understands that sometimes you need cards and Thraben Inspector is a concession to that—one the deck makes easily. Thraben Inspector is a workhorse of a card, helping to blunt early assaults while replacing itself. It becomes a threat in its own right with the help of Rally the Peasants. Palace Sentinels is too good to ignore as it helps enable the Faithless Looting plan. But the real innovation here is in the removal suite.

Zero Lightning Bolt.

Lightning Bolt and Galvanic Blast are absurdly good Magic cards. In Boros Monarch they often help to close out games. Boros Tokens uses its creatures as reach, so it makes sense that they want to get through damage. The shift is subtle but when combined with Seeker of the Way it makes sense to move away from instants and towards sorceries. Flame Slash is one of the better removal spells in the format as long as you do not care about going to the dome. Firebolt is a guaranteed 2-for-1 in a format full of 2-toughness creatures and Journey to Nowhere handles almost everything. And they all pump Seeker of the Way on your own turn. The result is a deck that leans on connecting in combat. This can present a problem, as many decks are packing Fog effects these days. That’s where Rally the Peasants comes in.

Rally is an exceptional force multiplier and much of its strength comes from threat of activation. Opponents have to respect the possibility that you can win from nowhere thanks to Rally the Peasants’ ability to potentially quintuple your damage output. The result is that Boros Tokens can often chip in for damage early and force the other side to spend their prevention effects in the anticipation of Rally.

These decks are a far cry from the red and white lists that just dominated the Top 8 of Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica. While they all have an aggressive bent, only the Deluxeicoff deck resembles a traditional token beatdown strategy. The others are all firmly midrange. Red and white, together, are similar to black and green in other formats. They have reasonable threats and solid removal, and just enough card advantage to stitch it all together. Basically, Boros is Jund.

So which build is best? Despite the advances in Boros Tokens, I still think that traditional Boros Monarch is the best deck for Wind-Scarred Crag. It is not that the token strategy is wrong, but rather that its main avenue to victory is incredibly fragile. Electrickery sees heavy play and even in the face of Lumithread Field it is possible to wipe an opposing army without too much trouble. Boros Monarch does have some pinch points. Artifact lands are vulnerable to Gorilla Shaman—a common sideboard inclusion—and the deck does lean on a very slow card draw engine. I do think that running slightly more robust creatures like Kor Skyfisher is correct, but I also think that Seeker of the Way is too strong to ignore. Moving forward I think looking at a Monarch build that eschews Glint Hawk and the cantrip artifact package for Seeker of the Way, some token generation in Battle Screech and Cenn’s Enlistment, and utilizing Faithless Looting and Cathartic Reunion could be the way to go. Such a build would allow for the inclusion of a copy or two of Rally the Peasants to steal wins, maintain the graveyard synergy so prevalent in the latest iterations of the deck, and add Kor Skyfisher to the mix.

Boros isn’t going anywhere. A good matchup with one of the best decks in the format and access to a versatile arsenal of removal means that it can be tuned and tweaked for almost everything. In this new age for Pauper, being able to adapt will be increasingly important. If the past two years are any indication, Boros is perfectly suited for that task.

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