Greetings, readers! I know how much you all miss the Top Soldiers Of series, so I make my return to it this week! The series focuses on my personal opinion on the top 10 non-legendary cards in the color combination, as well as the top 3 legendary creatures you can use as generals for the combination as well.
Before I continue, I just want to take note of something that’s come up over the last week. Last week’s article, my Let’s Build entry focusing on my Maelstrom Wanderer list was posted 48 hours before I made an absolutely massive update to it. While a lot of the core is still the same, there are a lot of things that are drastically different. Check it out!
Moving on, this week’s entry into the Top Soldiers Of series focuses on one of my personal favorite color combinations, making the list quite predictable (those who know me will not at all be surprised with what ends up where), but regardless, the color combination in question is the combination of red with white that makes Boros.
Boros has always lent itself to an aggressive play style that comes right out of the gate and uses its fast, aggressive creatures to dent life totals, all while keeping itself healthy through its myriad of lifegain-based removal. Naturally, though, its most popular iterations have been blazingly fast aggro-based strategies, such as the Boros Blitz decks of the past featuring Steppe Lynx, Goblin Guide and Plated Geopede.
In EDH, however, Boros tends to get the short end of the stick, often being referred to as the worst color combination due to its lack of ramp or card advantage. While red has certainly gotten a lot of insanely powerful cards printed for EDH purposes over the last couple of years in the wake of the outcry for a power boost for red in EDH, getting more flashy toys to play with still doesn’t keep Boros from having the same problems that have plagued it over the years. As someone who’s done most combinations of Boros, let me give you a good piece of advice: go for more colors. Boros by itself is stupidly easy to counter, and very difficult to get going.
That being said, I’d like to reiterate that Boros has certainly not gotten the short end of the stick for new toys to use in EDH. Some of the spells that Return to Ravnica block has given us are nothing short of incredible, and add some real interesting twists to the top 10, which we kick off with:
#10 – Boros Reckoner
Most who know me know that I’m very adamant about drawing the lines between EDH and Standard when new sets are printed. When Boros Reckoner was revealed when the full set of Gatecrash was spoiled and everyone went bananas over how he was going to see a ton of Standard play, I wrote Boros Reckoner‘s future in EDH off. It didn’t help when his price went through the roof, either.
Now that things have settled and Reckoner didn’t end up being that standard’s Stoneforge Mystic, I’m beginning to take a look at him more thoroughly. The effect of redirecting damage has always been powerful, but no matter how much I liked the effect, Reckoner’s price tag has always just made me think Spitemare was the better option. While Spitemare is cheaper and easier to cast, Reckoner is overall the better card. Chain Reaction and Blasphemous Act are hilarious to use alongside this, and God forbid you Clone it.
#9 – Rise of the Hobgoblins
Rise of the Hobgoblins is a very powerful dual-purpose card that can sometimes be overlooked. First strike is not the splashiest ability on paper, but it’s a ridiculously powerful ability in combat, especially on defense. Hidden behind this slightly-cheaper Goblin Offensive is a powerhouse rattlesnake.
Of course, its most attractive feature is the fact that you’re making a boatload of Goblin tokens when it enters. Sadly, though, the effect is somewhat awkward to reuse, as decks that want to use these effects as many times as possible typically do so through things like Archaeomancer or Past in Flames. That being said, you can always just use something like Kor Skyfisher or Vedalken Mastermind to reset the enchantment to make more Goblins with.
#8 – Figure of Destiny
Arguably one of the most powerful 1-drop creatures ever printed, Figure is a one-card wrecking crew in EDH. On turn 2, this thing swings for 2, already making it absurdly powerful, but by the time you get to the third turn, you’ll already have dealt 6 damage with it, and yes, it does get screwed pretty hard by a Swords to Plowshares, but that’s one less removal spell your general has to eat.
Honestly, I’ve had a lot of really good games with this creature when I used to run him. He’s done a lot of damage, and I have made him into an 8/8 before (bless you, Seedborn Muse), but Figure does suffer from almost asking you to put all of your eggs in one basket; it applies pressure, but if your opponent answers it, it’s a lot of tempo lost on your part. Still, there are some decks that prepare for a turn 1 Figure of Destiny like they do a turn 1 Serra Ascendant; unlike the Ascendant, however, the table will not actually scramble and go full-tilt into removing an early Figure of Destiny.
#7 – Orim’s Thunder
Probably one of my personal favorite removal spells of all time, Orim’s Thunder does everything I personally want in a removal spell; it has an amazing best-case/worst-case (because there’s almost always going to be at least one target for this), it kills enchantments, and it makes for some seriously interesting plays.
Opponents are always going to play their big dumb target for this, whether it be Mana Reflection, Mirari’s Wake or Omniscience, and if not, they’ll play their silly utility things like Sol Ring, Rhystic Study or Stranglehold. For both cases, there’s usually at that point in the game going to be someone with an annoying creature of any size that Orim’s Thunder will also concurrently fry, whether it be a utility general like Edric, Spymaster of Trest or Kaalia of the Vast, or a big dumb general like Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice or Rith, the Awakener that the top-end artifacts or enchantments will fry. On paper, Orim’s Thunder seems awkward to make work, but in reality, it’s not hard to make this the love child of Putrefy and Mortify.
#6 – Ajani Vengeant
I know it’s a little difficult to grasp that a Planeswalker has any business on any top X in EDH list ever, but bear with me – Ajani, despite its ultimate drawing a rather large amount of attention, is very powerful for what it does.
For one, it, like Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, can freeze a problem permanent, such as a Voltron general wreaking havoc on the table, in its tracks, stopping its rampage cold. Secondly, it deals with utility dorks extremely well, and is a very strong play right on turn 4 if you even have a single creature as backup; by that point, very little will be able to effectively punch through your blocker in addition to activating either basic ability. Of course, no table would willingly allow Vengeant to Armageddon someone out, unless that opponent has done some serious Archenemy shenanigans, but even still, Ajani is an excellent control spell for letting you survive those crucial turns to either dig for answers or remove problem permanents from the equation.
#5 – Waves of Aggression
Arguably one of the best Relentless Assault effects in the format, Waves of Aggression exemplifies what Boros does best–attack. The effect in and of itself is not the most impressive when you’re behind, but there are few decks invested in attacking that won’t at least want one variant of this effect, and why not go for one you can use more than once?
Retrace is a great ability to have on a card that just screams, “I don’t want to be drawing lands anymore, I just want to be doing damage and killing people.”. It helps to turn your unnecessary mana into another source of damage, which is the most unique way of using the effect, even though it’s by far not the most powerful. That’s to come later, of course.
#4 – Assemble the Legion
Assemble is an awkward card to evaluate. It does absolutely nothing when you cast it, and has a lot of buildup time before it becomes effective, but there’s a lot of potential for it to single-handedly win you the game. The effect is impossible to ignore, due to the fact that it can get out of control with only a few turns of buildup time.
That being said, it has a hilarious interaction with everyone’s favorite enabler, Doubling Season. Because of how the ability resolves, you’re getting 4 Soldier tokens in increase every turn as opposed to one, which makes the buildup time for it nonexistent; you’ve gotten 24 soldiers by the third upkeep!
#3 – Duergar Hedge-Mage
Duergar Hedge-Mage is a very biased pick, but I truly believe it is one of the most powerful utility creatures in EDH. The restriction is there, I’m not at all ignoring it, but if your deck is tuned properly, you can literally use this effect on turn 2. Obviously, a lucky draw is required, but really, that should be an indication of how little the boundary of its parameters truly exists.
To compare, a lot of EDH gurus tend to lean on Harmonic Sliver as a powerhouse in EDH for the fact that it’s the cheapest variant of the effect in the format. Honestly, I believe that the Hedge-Mage has more flexibility overall, due to the fact that it’s easy to make it be able to destroy both an artifact and an enchantment, as well as not dying to every token in the book in combat. Also, flickering or blinking this thing is just pure value.
#2 – Boros Charm
Congratulations, everyone; the unpredictable portion of this list is now well and truly behind us. Relish in how surprising it is that Liam just loves him some utility creatures, take a breather, and relax while Liam fawns over his two favorite cards in the entire format and how they’ve gotten him some hilariously insane plays.
First of all, the 4 damage. I’ve gotten six kills with it. I actually keep count, because it’s hilariously satisfying to be supremely ahead on board and just look at someone and say “I’m going to cast Boros Charm and deal 4 damage to you.” and have them reply “That’ll do it.” It also does a good job of sniping a wide array of planeswalkers, but who bothers with those chumps when Boros Charm makes them quake in fear?
Next, the double strike. It’s admittedly an awkward ability, because it’s so fantastic with Swords, but so awkward to use alongside them because of that pesky protection clause. Still, works wonders with Sword of Feast and Famine, just not so much with Sword of Fire and Ice…which is unfortunate, because that’s by far the best Sword to use it with. Of course, using it on your general for lethal general damage is also fun times; it’s great with generals like Tajic, Blade of the Legion, Ruhan of the Fomori and Uril, the Miststalker.
Finally, the ability we all know and love, making everything indestructible. It is truly a blessing from the powers that be to watch your opponent groan in frustration when they slam that Akroma’s Vengeance and proudly declare, “Akroma’s Vengeance, destroy everything.”, only for you to plop this and go “lol no get wrekt scrublord goml holla holla get dolla”. Using this just once is satisfying. Being able to lock yourself in a bubble from all those nasty boardwipes infinitely is just too fantastic.
How do you infinitely lock yourself in a bubble, you ask?
Flawless seguing, that’s how.
#1 – Sunforger
Wow, I’m just a big fat sack of subtlety this time around, aren’t I? That card I’ve literally based my last year of EDH experience around, #1? No way. What a surprise. Why would I ever do that, you ask?
Simple: Sunforger is literally stupid. It’s arguably a very restrictive toolbox, but that doesn’t stop it from being a really freaking good one. (It’s hard to argue that there’s a subjectively bad toolbox card out there; leave a comment if you disagree, but really, while inferior toolboxes exist, I don’t think there are really any of them that are well and truly terrible.) It has a wealth of targets that I covered in one of my first articles, and while people have grown to expect what my Sunforger list is capable of, it’s not really difficult to grasp the concept of it; if you can do anything, Sunforger can respond to it. (Well, except for Krosan Grip, of course.)
Sunforger obviously comes with a few inherent drawbacks; it requires a decent degree of build-around (though any decent Sunforger deck’s spells will not require Sunforger to be good), it’s rather expensive to maintain, and without proper setup, it can just fall flat and be useless. However, cater to it and it can be a ridiculous engine of attrition that can very easily subdue almost any opponent. Just be sure to run Mistveil Plains alongside it!
Now that we’ve gotten past the most obvious part of the article, which is basically just me talking about how much I love the Boros spells in my Marath, Will of the Wild deck, let’s move on to my favorite generals for Boros. While I’ll say again that Boros is having a lot of issues with ramp and card advantage, these three all provide quite a punch in combat, making them scary threats with or without a good spell base behind it.
#3 – Tajic, Blade of the Legion
Tajic definitely has a lot going for him. Firstly, being straight-up indestructible puts him in the league of the Hexproof Five in terms of annoyance; he outright blanks a lot of cards that a lot of people would run against Tajic’s general strategy. While many answers to Tajic exist, he definitely does a great job of sticking around, and can actually be at the helm of an aggressive strategy while your 99 contains 3 or more sweepers that don’t touch Tajic; he’s great at being the last man standing when he’s your general.
Being indestructible, he also holds Equipment and Auras extremely well, making him a powerful option as a Voltron general. He was at one point my go-to Sunforger body, just because of how hard he is to remove. He’s also great with a lot of the spells listed so far, specifically Waves of Aggression (because multiple combat phases equals multiple Batallion triggers) and Assemble the Legion. Overall, his utility on defense and his power on offense (7 power is just a magical number to be at) make him a superior pick to Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer, who I find to be a little overrated, anyway.
#2 – Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Gisela is a creature equal parts frightening and reputable. What I personally enjoy about her most is her flexibility; she works just fine as a general as well as a creature in the 99, a key player in several strategies, notably Mayael the Anima and Kaalia of the Vast.
What makes Gisela earn her spot here is just the fact that she’s, plain and simple, a goodstuff card. There’s no real flashy trick you need to run alongside her that you run specifically for Gisela. Gisela just…does her thing, and she does what she does exceptionally well. (Granted, for Boros, she’s also exceptionally costly, and you don’t want to ever cast her more than twice)
#1 – Aurelia, the Warleader
There can really be no other. Aurelia is by far one of the most powerful combat-oriented creatures in EDH, arguably one of the better creatures in the format period. Like I mentioned shortly with Waves of Aggression, Relentless Assault effects are rather unimpressive when you have nothing to attack with. The whole reason Aurelia is the best variant of the effect ever printed by an astonishing margin is the fact that she independently functions. It sounds simple when you think about it, but how much this really matters separates her from the rest of these effects so much that she literally eclipses the entire repertoire of these effects under her luminescence.
Relentless Assault synergizes extremely well with any combat-oriented abilities – double strike, lifelink (hey, True Conviction!), deathtouch, any form of evasion – and Aurelia is no different. Having this effect is like giving double strike to your team without the fear of the overlap suffered from giving your army an ability a creature you control already has. There are very few scenarios in which you actually lose any value whatsoever from your army gaining another combat phase to attack in. You gain more life, do more damage, and fight more creatures in almost every single situation you use the effect in. Not to mention, player-damaging effects such as Swords will trigger multiple times in a turn. Slap True Conviction and Sword of Fire and Ice onto Aurelia and watch the party start.
Then you punch the numbers, and realize this effect gets pretty deadly pretty freaking fast. By herself, the scenario just described is 20 damage minus the Sword triggers. For a three-card combination, that’s a 40-life swing in addition to drawing 2 cards and having two Shocks to throw around as you please. Then you start to hypothesize other situations where you’re casting Aurelia while you’re ahead on board, and it truly begins to get disgusting. I’ve described Aurelia as Boros’ Time Walk, and I really don’t think my description is too far off; Aurelia does absolutely ridiculous things to a board state, and functions perfectly well both as a general and as a card in the 99. She’s literally one of the best creatures printed for the format in years, and is single-handedly the reason I’ve begun taking a more aggression-oriented approach to the format over the past year. Whether she’s doing 6 damage or 600, Aurelia is by far one of the best cards you can put into a deck that wants to turn a creature sideways. And one thing I want people to take away from these lists above all else; if you don’t believe my rationale for ranking cards the way I do, cast them, and see for yourself how powerful they are. You might just change your mind.
That’s it for my picks on the top cards in Boros! Next week, I finish the dual-color combinations with the much-anticipated article on the Simic Combine! Get hyped!
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586
M14 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508
Born of the Gods - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2800
Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617
Part 12 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2691
Part 13 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2822
Let’s Talk M14:
Painting a Target:
Planeswalking and You:
Stacking Up Commander 2013:
The Slippery Slope:
The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Golgari - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2760
Gruul - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2669
Orzhov - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2681
Rakdos - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2663
Selesnya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2677
Trial & Error: