FFfreaky Friday – Boros Bushwacker: States Edition

The 2009s State and Provincial Championships is just a day away. This is going to be a great tournament and I hope everyone is prepared. If you are not, don’t worry, because this week’s article features my latest take on Boros, interviews with some of the best in the game, and answers to every question I got last week. Let’s dive in!

Since the beginning of the season I have been a big spokesperson for Boros. It’s got the most powerful start in the format and can kill out of nowhere. My current list, which can do just that, has made me very happy.


This list is very different from all of its predecessors. Other decks in the format have changed enough to be able to deal with the creature swarm this deck used to be able to generate. Elite Vanguard was not a great card in the beginning but has been getting worse and worse as the weeks go on. Making the deck faster and burn-oriented is a great way to keep people on their toes.

Many players will play incorrectly against this version. They’re used to Kor Skyfisher and Teetering Peaks, not Terramorphic Expanse and Hellspark Elemental. Opponents will take unneeded damage because they think the deck doesn’t have a deep late game. They’ll be surprised; the burn range in this deck is much better then it was before.

Earthquake is a card many of you questioned from my last article. This card is not just a burn spell. Earthquake is the best card in this deck because of its ability to reset a bad board position and deal necessary damage to keep them in range. It is also a very good way to deal with Sprouting Thrinax tokens and still be able to swing that same turn.

The most powerful thing this card does is lets you destroy every creature on the board except for your landfall-triggered creatures. This ends games very quickly. Imagine playing a sac land, triggering it, then casting Earthquake to wipe out their X/2s and X/3s, before swinging with your 4/5s and 5/5s.

Kor Skyfisher is no longer in the deck because it’s not aggressive enough. You don’t have any more [card]Teetering Peaks[/card] to pick up and more games are won with the initial Goblin Bushwhacker attack. Hellspark Elemental fits the role much better. Dealing six damage for four mana is very efficient. He can help you get those unbeatable draws when a turn one Steppe Lynx hits the board.

The last non-conventional card is Terramorphic Expanse. This card is good. Whenever a landfall creature is in play, it acts the same as a Teetering Peaks, but has the ability to grab white. This is very important in a deck that has very bad mana. It also is another sacland that you can hold to fend off Jund Charms and other two-damage effects.

There was a lot of talk about Goblin Guide not being good enough. I agree the card is worse since Teetering Peaks left the deck, but it still merits its place. This is a different deck then the other Boros Bushwhacker lists, but it still wants Goblin Guide, just for different reasons.

I consider four life for one land a great trade. This deck isn’t trying to win the long game. This deck loses games when opponents can play out their hand. Giving them a free card usually isn’t going to hurt when you get them that much closer to death, especially since this deck has a ton of reach that doesn’t care about card advantage in the mid-to-late game.


This is the hardest matchup this deck has. It’s a fight of slower but better spells. Your goal in game one is to deal as much damage as possible. Don’t try to get to the late game if you don’t have to. Setting up great Earthquakes is a great way to win this matchup, but isn’t usually possible.

I like to hold Hellspark Elementals in my hand for Blightning padding when I get the opportunity. It’s like an old strategy I had in Hawaii with Sedraxis Specters. When you have a read on Blightning it’s a great play to get down to two cards in hand. Your opponent will think getting rid of the last two cards is more beneficial than dealing with the board position, then they take an unexpected three damage, which can turn a game from a loss to a victory.

Sideboard in:
1 Celestial Purge
2 Harm’s Way
3 Hell’s Thunder

Sideboard out:
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Path to Exile
1 Goblin Bushwhacker
1 Elite Vanguard
2 Burst Lightning

I still want to be as aggressive as possible but I do like the -1 Bolt for +1 Purge. Bushwhacker can still win games, but you only need one and you usually only want to get it off of a Ranger. Hell’s Thunder works like the Hellsparks by adding to your burn count and making Blightnings worse. Char to the dome, anyone?

Harm’s Way is a great way to surprise your opponent with an extra 4 points of damage. Playing Harm’s Way correctly is very difficult, though; the best way is to get one of their 2-for-1s to go in your favor. When you stop Jund’s 2-for-1 spells, they will struggle to come back and win.

Again, Earthquake plays a great role in dealing with Thrinax tokens, Siege Gang Commanders, and simply finishing games by dealing the last few points of burn.


Game one is a bit harder then it would be with the old version. Hellspark Elemental is a lot worse than Skyfisher and can make for some very awkward situations. Earthquake, however, shines. This card is a silver bullet. Play aggressively, but try not to walk into an opponent’s Earthquake. I don’t know how much of the field will be running Earthquakes main, but I assume most the field will have them.

Damage prevention is the key to this matchup. Don’t get cute with your removal. If you want to kill something, do it now. Don’t let them play a sacland when they have a Steppe Lynx in play when you have Burst Lightning in hand. You will lose games when you are greedy with removal. Ranger of Eos is a key component in this matchup, so don’t undervalue their ability to win a game because of the card.

I tend to use saclands more aggressively in this matchup to deal as much damage as possible. All the removal in this matchup kills three-toughness creatures anyways, so getting the extra damage in is very important. Since Boros games typically feature very little blocking in combat, putting your opponent on the defensive and into poor blocking situations is a sign your game is going well. Also, whenever your opponent has a tough time deciding whether they can afford to attack, your chances of winning just rose.

One other very important thing to keep in mind: how much damage can your opponent deal in one turn? Lightning Bolts, saclands, Elspeths, and Earthquakes all have to be in the back of your mind when deducing your next move. Take your time and do the math.

Sideboard in:
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Baneslayer Angel
3 Soul Warden

Sideboard out:
4 Hellspark Elemental
2 Elite Vanguard
1 Goblin Guide

This is a strategy I have been working on ever since Worlds and wish I had this tech there. Slowing the game down and having more powerful spells in the late game is key to winning this match up post-sideboard. The trick is trying to get to the late game!

Sometimes any sideboard strategy just doesn’t work in this match up because each deck has a power draw that beats any weird, clunky draw. The best way I found to deal with their power draws is to gain a ton of life, which is where Soul Warden comes in. Even if you have never tested with it, it’s worth playing. This guy is so good he gets three slots in my sideboard when I only board it in the mirror. I just win too many mirror matches with a first turn Soul Warden or Steppe Lynx.

The outs are pretty easy since none of those cards are good in a late-game plan.


This deck did win Worlds so like every Pro Tour winning deck, it will be overplayed a few weeks after the tour. Fortunately for us, this match up isn’t as bad as everyone says.

There are some very good cards in this deck, but the only scary one is Baneslayer Angel. Use your Path to Exiles on Baneslayers and nothing but Baneslayer. Most of your creatures overpower theirs anyways, so patience is important. This matchup is hard to win early, so don’t attrition yourself for damage. Get in as much as possible, but don’t waste spells for burn.

Again, like every other match, Earthquake is your best friend.

Sideboard in:
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Baneslayer Angel
1 Journey to Nowhere
1 Path to Exile
1 Harm’s Way

Sideboard out:
4 Hellspark Elemental
2 Burst Lightning
1 Elite Vanguard

Hellspark Elemental gets outclassed while Baneslayer Angel and Elspeth truly shine. You’ll win with your late-game spells. You’ll have to try not to get blown out by Ajani Vengant, but it’s a very tough planeswalker. Again, don’t Path to Exile anything that is not Baneslayer unless you’re going to swing for the win.


This match up plays out a lot like Lightsaber, except they have more life gain. This is going to be another long match so try to get your damage in very carefully. The easiest way to lose is to aggressively sacrifice lands and throw away spells when you don’t have to.

Sideboard in:
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Baneslayer Angel
1 Journey to Nowhere
1 Path to Exile

Sideboard out:
4 Hellspark Elemental
1 Burst Lightning
1 Elite Vanguard

Hellspark Elemental is really good against this deck in game one, but because Manuel used the Grizzled Leotau tech in the sideboard, it is worse in games two and three. Elspeth can easily win many games and Earthquake shuts down their impressive groundpounders.


Turbo Fog is a good deck to take this weekend. I don’t think it will be over-played. This is a matchup where you have to get in early damage. Try to deal as much damage as you can before the game goes long. Once he is online with card advantage spells, find good times to resolve your burn spells.

I don’t sideboard for this matchup. If you want to be prepared for this deck, however, put a few Manabarbs in and call it a day. Keeping in Path to Exile against them is very important for Rampant Growth type effects and to have an answer if they decide to play Baneslayer Angel from the board. Remember that Safe Passage does not protect their planeswalkers but that it does prevent direct damage like Lightning Bolts.


Last week I said I would answer every question anyone sent to help people prepare for States. If I didn’t already answer them in the Boros breakdown, they’re here.

Emeria Angel seemed to really be all over the place at Worlds! Is it too slow for the mirror?

That’s correct. It is a really good card in the other decks that are playing lands and spells larger then Emeria Angel. Boros, however, does not have the time to invest in this spell. It’s slower then any other card in the deck and doesn’t threaten a player as well.

I’ve been considering Kor Hookmaster in Boros. What do you think?

I already tried them. I put two in my main deck and went through a few Daily Events. I found it to be too slow and clunky for this deck. I would much rather just kill a creature outright. It is a better card in Dougherty’s super-aggro white weenie deck because his deck doesn’t have as much reach as Boros.

What I’d really like is some advice on starting hands. Which are keepable and which are not?

This is a tough one to discuss because figuring out starting hands goes along with playing dozens or hundreds of games and internalizing that knowledge.

There are some basics I can share, so here are some rules I’ve learned:

1. Don’t keep single-color land draws. They tend to look impressive enough to keep but you’ll almost always lose the game.

2. The draw with two removal spells, Ranger of Eos, and four lands looks powerful, but doesn’t do enough to win a game. It’s close, though, so I keep on the play mull on the draw.

3. Keep the two lands, Steppe Lynx, and Plated Geopede opener. It occasionally won’t get there, but is a very powerful hand when you draw a sacland.

4. Double Ranger of Eos openers are disgusting. Unless the other five cards are golden, I ship it back.

Have you tried Mark of Asylum in the sideboard?

I have tried this card out and never really liked it. In magical Christmas land, this card is the best thing you could hope for, but games never play out that way. In the end, it doesn’t deal damage to your opponent, kill other creatures, or even consistently save your team. It’s a bad card.

Have you considered replacing Burst Lightning with Harm’s Way?

I run both. In the main I want everything to be dedicated to dealing as much damage as possible. As well, not many decks have cards that allow you to play a Harm’s Way with any effectiveness (Turbo Fog, anyone?). When it comes to combat, blocking is fairly rare against some decks, so again it’s tough to find good situations to capitalize on the card. They work better in the sideboard.


I know this is a bit longer then usual, but with it being States – sorry, the 2009s – week, I just can’t help myself. Here are a few interviews with some of the game’s greatest players to see what they would play this weekend, as well as some tips for people not playing Boros.

Joel Calafell

Joel Calafell has been around for some time. He’s put up a string of Grand Prix Top 8s and a Pro Tour Top 8 in Kuala Lumpur. Recently, he and Kenny Oberg created a UW control deck for Worlds. I wanted to see if he still liked his deck.

Brad: If you were going to compete in the 2009s State and Provincial Championships, what would you play?

Joel: I love the Jacerator deck too much, so I would probably play it again. I think the maindeck was pretty much perfect, other than maybe playing three Sunspring Expeditions and no Path to Exile this time. For the sideboard, Baneslayer Angel is just too good even if they have removal for it, but that probably means you don’t need four anymore since it’s not that game breaking. Also, a good sideboard plan for the mirror might be needed.

This is what my sideboard would look like:


Brad: What impact does Worlds have on States, and what do you think the metagame will look like?

Joel: I think after Worlds, the top decks will be Jund, Boros, Junk/Dark Bant, and UW Turbo Fog. These are the decks I would prepare for. Also be prepared for everyone else to know how to play against these four decks and know they will have a plan versus them as well. I think Gerry Thompson’s Spread’Em deck will see a spike in popularity.

Olivier Ruel

This guy doesn’t need much of an introduction. He has spent many years on the Pro Tour. After getting to meet him at Worlds this year, I found that he is not only one of Magic’s greatest minds, but one of its greatest people.

Brad: What impact did Worlds have on States being before it, and what do you think the metagame will look like?

Olivier: I don’t think there is much of an impact. Before Worlds the most popular decks were Jund, Boros, and random Green/White decks, and that is what made Top 8 at the tournament. What did happen is control decks got better. It is now easier to beat the Green/White decks with a control deck.

Brad: If you were going to compete in the 2009s State and Provincial Championships, what would you play?




Brian Kibler

I know the last two people I talked with are not able to play this weekend or have ever played in a States, so I wanted to talk to someone that’s been around the game for many years and has competed in a States tournament before.

Kibler, who recently earned some major wins and Top 8s, doesn’t need much of an introduction because he is probably the coolest person on the tour. Just ask him – he practices!

Brad: Have you ever competed in the State and Provincial Championships, and what is your opinion on them?

Brian: I’ve played in States three times – twice back in New Hampshire in 1997 when they first launched the program. I won the Junior Limited Championships (and still have the plaque!) and dropped from the finals of the Constructed Championships to ensure that I’d qualify for the next Pro Tour on rating. Years later when I was in Atlanta for college, I played in and won the Georgia State Championships. I think State Championships are a lot of fun – it’s a great chance for players to compete for bragging rights in their area, and with the free entry into all Premier events put on by participating PTOs as a prize, it offers a great opportunity for players who are looking to break onto the Pro Tour next season.

Brad: If you were going to compete in the 2009s State and Provincial Championships what would you play?

Brian: I’m not going to play at States this year, but if I were I’d probably play a variation of the Naya deck that Andre Coimbra played to win Worlds. I was testing that deck a bit before Rome and liked the general feel of it, but didn’t have the time to really put it through the ringer. Apparently it’s alright!

Brad: What impact will Worlds have on States, and what do you think the metagame will look like?

Brian: I don’t think the metagame will change that much from pre-Worlds. There will be more Naya decks like the one Andre won with and probably a decent number of Fog decks like Joel Calafell used to 6-0, but the results of the tournament mostly reinforced just how good Jund is. I’d expect the field to be Jund, Boros, Naya, White Creature Decks, Vampires, and Fog decks, in about that order. I’d imagine States will have a lot more Vampires than Worlds did, since I think that’s a deck that’s a lot more popular with more casual players.

Brian: Do you have a decklist you would play?

Brian: I’m going to be talking about changes to the Naya deck in my article this week, so you’ll have to read that to know what I’d change.

Conley Woods
Conley has been a great friend of mine ever since Pro Tour: Honolulu. He is known worldwide as one of the game’s best deck designers. I had to see if he had any new technology for States.

Brad: Have you ever played States and what do you think about it?

Conley: Yeah, the first year I did anything competitive with Magic, I made the semi-finals of my States and it felt amazing. It’s a pretty unique tournament. Despite it not actually providing the high level prize support we think of for premier events like Grands Prix or Pro Tours, it brings the same competitiveness out of people and is always a blast to play. States is definitely the most encompassing of any tournament throughout the year.

Brad: What would you play at States this year?

Conley: With school taking over, I have not had dedicated time to work on something completely new for States, so I will most likely be playing some deck that abuses the mana ramp engine from my Worlds deck. Something like this, although the details haven’t been worked out completely yet:

Brad: How do you think Worlds affected States and what will the metagame will look like?

Conley: Worlds definitely provided players with some good alternatives to Jund. A deck like Naya is pretty similar in scope to Jund, with basically a bunch of good cards thrown together, but also happens to beat Jund. Between those more traditional lists and things like Fog, Dredge, or even Magical Christmas Land, I expect players to basically show up with whatever deck they enjoy the most. Jund will still provide a heavy backdrop for the event, but it is no longer “play Jund or lose.”

* * *

I hope I was able to help most of you with your preparation for the 2009s State and Provincial Championships. It’s going to be a good tournament this year and hopefully everyone has a great time. Winning is going to be important, but having a good time with all the friends I don’t get to see very often is the true prize. Good luck and I can’t wait to hear some great stories next week.

Brad Nelson
FFfreaK on MTGO
[email protected]


Scroll to Top