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Meddling Boros Battalion

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Welcome back to the next round of Intro Pack meddlings! For those reading this series for the first time, over the course of the guild theme weeks here on GatheringMagic, we'll be taking apart and rebuilding each of the five Intro Pack decks. As we did with the first set of five in Return to Ravnica, we'll be observing a few ground rules to keep the deck both affordable as well as easily accessible.

Ground Rule Number One: No adding mythics or rares. Like Mark Rosewater so often says, "Restrictions breed creativity," and we'll be looking at ways to tune the decks without relying on some of the harder-to-obtain cards at the higher rarities. Something else he often says is, "If your theme isn't at common, it isn't your theme." With that in mind, there should be plenty of building blocks available for us as we seek to strip the deck down to its core essence and rebuild it even stronger than before.

Ground Rule Number Two: We can only draw from sets already present in the decks. That means Gatecrash, Return to Ravnica, and Magic 2013 are fair game, while anything else is not. If you've been dying to put that stack of Innistrad-block cards to good use, there's certainly opportunity to tweak the deck even further for yourself. But we want to rebuild Boros Battalion with cards that most anyone might have nearby, and a number of players have only just started discovering the joys of planeswalking and dueling.

With those guiding principles in mind, let's see what the Boros Legion has to offer.

Much like its guild, battalion is both rigid and straightforward. By working together as a team, your creatures gain added strength to smite your opponents. Outside of the unit, however, they fail to reach their full potentials. The key to maximizing the mechanic is to ensure that you have a minimum of three attackers as often as possible. Though this leaves you at risk of overcommitting and being blown out by a sweeper like Supreme Verdict, the hedge against this is speed. Strike hard enough and fast enough and you should have dealt your opponent the decisive blow. There are a few things we can do to improve your chances along the way.

First Cut Is the Deepest

Skyknight Legionnaire
The first thing we want to do is make our army leaner and more focused on attacking. To do that, we need to pare away any cards not pulling their weight. A good example of this is Armored Transport. On first blush, it seems to be a perfect card for battalion since it can't die on the attack. With one of those in play, we only need to have two added creatures for battalion each turn. The problem with the Transport, though, is that it costs 3 mana, and there's more that we can do with 3 mana than this (hello, Skyknight Legionnaire!). The same goes for the Canyon Minotaur and the Court Street Denizen. The Warclamp Mastiff is on the other end of the curve, and it simply doesn't deliver enough for the card, let alone the mana. Ember Beast is out because we have better options, and while it’s a strong card, the Fortress Cyclops is simply too expensive. We'll have a few bombs still drawing a paycheck when we're through, but to speed up the deck, we need to minimize the amount of fat we’ll see in our opening hands.

Next up are the battalion creatures. Are there any opportunities to tighten things up there? A review of the ranks shows that perhaps some of these fellows might need reassignment to a desk job. The Bomber Corps's pinging ability is nice, and it can be merciless against a player running smaller creatures, but with only 1 point of power, it's not carrying its weight in the red zone. The Firefist Striker's numbers are more aggressively positioned, but the Falter effect it provides just isn't aggressive enough. Once we rebuild the noncreature support suite, we'll have more ways to eliminate blockers permanently rather than a turn at a time. The Ordruun Veteran is another casualty of downsizing—4 mana is just too much to pay for almost anything that doesn't have wings (and having a 4-drop snuffed by a mere Electrickery feels dreadful). Finally, the Warmind Infantry has lovely numbers, but like the Firefist Striker, it just doesn't bring enough to the table. There's more that goes into making the Legion an effective fighting machine than just strong sword arms, and our 3-drop options for the deck are much more useful overall.

So, what's left over? The Boros Elite is a perfect fit for the new and improved Legion. Although it’s nothing sexy as a 1-mana 1/1, paying the same sticker price for a 3/3 is too good to pass up. The Daring Skyjek's high power and evasion makes it a shoe-in, while both rares (Firemane Avenger, Foundry Champion) keep their spots on the roster. We don't often cut rares in meddlings—since the fun factor they offer can sometimes make us overlook smaller deficiencies in raw power—but both of these have plenty to offer here.

Wojek Halberdiers
Don't let the smaller numbers on the Skyknight Legionnaire fool you—this card is one of the deck's MVPs. For aggressive decks like Boros Battalion, every early turn is crucial. Cards that can attack right out of the chute are great enablers and significantly up your chances of firing off with battalion as early as turn three. While the Wojek Halberdiers don't have that all-important evasion, their first strike gives them a great deal of survivability. They'll need to be blocked by a 2/4 to fall in battle, and you usually won't be seeing that kind of resistance until the midgame (Kraken Hatchlings notwithstanding). Finally, the Sunhome Guildmage slots right in as a utility option.

We'll tackle the noncreature support suite shortly, but first, let's backfill those vacancies in our army. Once upon a time, you found a 1-mana 2/1 in white as a rare (Savannah Lions), though eventually, it migrated to uncommon with the Elite Vanguard in Magic 2010. It's been a staple of base-white preconstructed aggro decks ever since, with appearances in two different Event Decks appearing on its résumé (Hold the Line and War of Attrition). Magic 2013 gives us a new spin on the card with the War Falcon. Boasting the same stats-for-cost and with flying thrown into the mix, it's a shoe-in in a deck in which the overwhelming majority of our creatures will be Soldiers and Knights. There's a reason modern warfare leads with aircraft—the less involved you are on the ground, the less chance you have of becoming bogged down. The same goes here.

The other new face in the line is a very unfamiliar one to the orderly rank and file, the Hellraiser Goblin. Although his methods are unconventional (he is, after all, a Goblin Berserker), there's no denying the motivation he can bring to the team. As we noted with the Skyknight Legionnaire, haste is a very welcome ability when trying to cram as much damage in as possible in the early-to-midgame stage. He's no bargain at 3 mana for a 2/2, but being able to keep the deck's battalion engine thrumming along without interruption is worth the higher paycheck. Every turn the opponent is still upright, his or her power to stop you increases. The Hellraiser Goblin hedges against that, though some caution is called for thanks to the undisciplined compulsion to attack each turn.

The Supporting Cast

Searing Spear
Next up is the noncreature support suite. When looking at meddling Intro Pack decks, it's not unusual to toss the entire playbook out of the window and restart from scratch. This is often the area where Wizards packs the most diversity into, with a lot of singletons of varying effects. Inconsistency is the enemy of victory, so we'll want to hone this selection to a razor's edge. We begin by asking a very simple question: What do the Boros want?

Well, the troops would like some artillery support, for one thing. Although we've maximized their chances for striking hard as quickly as possible, an opponent is still going to have time to start erecting some hasty defenses in an effort to stall out the red zone. Although we'll be making the opponent’s job harder by adding in so much evasion, some raw firepower goes a long way toward mopping up any defenders that touch down. Second, in any aggressive, swarm-style deck, there's always the risk of running out of gas. Perhaps after surging forward your opponent has found a streak of removal, and victory is just slipping away. A little burn here goes a long way toward helping to finish off your foe—you can't always count on your Foundry Champion showing up when you need him.

While red gives us a number of creative ways to blast opponents and creatures for damage, we're only interested in cheap and efficient. We don't want to let the opponent live long enough to start casting fatties, so by that logic, we're not worried about removal that can kill fatties. Instead, Searing Spear—the new, fixed Lightning Bolt—is well-suited for clearing out any early creatures that stand in our way, and 3 damage is still perfectly helpful in whittling away our opponent's last few points of life.

Boros Charm
Next up is the Boros Charm. The Charm cycle for the guilds has been very good overall, but the Boros surely contends for best in show. This one does everything you'd want it to for the deck. The first mode blasts our opponent for a sizable chunk of damage while the second lets us attack with impunity. The third mode is more situational, but it can double both as creature removal against a blocker or as a force multiplier against an opponent. In the hands of one of your 3-power creatures such as the Daring Skyjek, that's going to leave a bruise.

Our last selections give us some added options for dealing with our opponent's defenses. Although Mugging isn't the best damage spell we've seen—even the humble Shock is instant-speed—the ability to sweep a defender aside can't be overlooked. On the other hand, sometimes, where force fails, reason prevails, and that's where Act of Treason comes in. Without any sacrifice outlets to easily dispose of stolen bodies, borrowing effects like this ordinarily wouldn't get a mention. But thanks to battalion, this gives us one more way to make sure that we keep meeting the minimum threshold of three attacking creatures, and if we can deprive an opponent of his or her best blocker along the way, so much the better.

In the Field

To put the deck to the test, Sam and I recreated the battle we had on Ertai's Lament between the Boros and Orzhov Oppression. The Boros had turned in a respectable performance using the stock list, so we were curious to see how much better the deck could do. It was no contest, an utter and convincing rout—and some of the fastest games of Magic we've played in some time.

With eight 1-drops to choose from, the deck came screaming out of the gate. A turn-one War Falcon was not at all uncommon, and I almost never struggled to set it in motion next turn and every turn thereafter. The deck curved out beautifully, fielding more threats than Sam could possibly contain. Even though Orzhov Oppression is designed to have a stalling component, it couldn't begin to stem the tide. A large part of this was because so many of my threats were in the air, whereas she only had a small number of Basilica Screechers and Kingpin's Pets to deal with them. What Mugging didn't kill, it brushed aside, and as often as not, a couple turns of the rush set up a win through Searing Spear or Boros Charm.

Here's the final decklist:

As always, your mileage may vary, and I'd love to hear what you'd do differently. Is there anything you can think of that might tighten up the deck? Got a version that includes Innistrad block? Let me know in the comments below!

Jay Kirkman

@ErtaisLament

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