In early 2017, a new mechanic entered the Pauper format that has since altered the landscape of the format at large. This mechanic, known as the Monarch, only appeared on a handful of cards online, including Palace Sentinels, Thorn of the Black Rose, and some other cards at higher rarities. These cards had an immediate impact on the commons-only format, being tested and tried across a variety of decks. Eventually, we also got Entourage of Trest to a much smaller amount of fanfare.
Thanks to the nature of the mechanic, it has allowed non-Blue decks to gain a greater amount of card advantage, allowing them to keep up with the pace of Blue archetypes. As such the mechanic has brought about a number of attempts to find cool and unique shells from Orzhov Pestilence to Rakdos Monarch. None are more powerful in the Pauper format than the two prominent Boros archetypes: Boros Monarch and Boros Bully.
In the Boros archetype’s original early state, it was a Jeskai build, involving generating value off of Mulldrifters and bouncing cantrip artifacts. Those alongside various artifact lands could then be sacrificed to Kuldotha Rebirth to go all in on an aggressive strategy with tokens galore. When Peregrine Drake hit the scene and left the format shaken in its wake, Jeskai Kuldotha dropped the Blue to become the more streamlined Kuldotha Boros. After a few months of solid performances, the Monarch cards were finally released, giving rise to a whole new deck.
Boros Monarch | Pauper | Benitos, 1/27/19 Pauper Challenge
- Enchantments (3)
- 3 Journey to Nowhere
- Lands (21)
- 2 Snow-Covered Mountain
- 2 Snow-Covered Plains
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 2 Secluded Steppe
- 3 Ancient Den
- 3 Great Furnace
- 4 Boros Garrison
- 4 Wind-Scarred Crag
Boros Monarch relied on a lot of the same engine Kuldotha Boros once used. You still played value spells to generate as much card advantage as possible with the likes of Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk bouncing Prophetic Prisms, Alchemist's Vial, and Thraben Inspector. You try to go in as aggressively as you’re allowed, removing obstacles in your path or else bolting to the face.
With the advent of Monarch came some new tech not seen as much previously short of sideboards. A favorite of Mathonical builds, Prismatic Strands entered the fray. The reason is quite simple, as stopping your opponents dead in their tracks allows you to retain ownership of the Monarch once you finally drop your Sentinels.
The deck has affectionately been referred to in the past as the deck that does nothing for a number of turns and then suddenly wins out of nowhere. Even describing how the deck plays doesn’t do it justice until you actually see it in action for yourself. The deck is a number of small working cogs that all come together for a climactic finish where you take your opponent from a high life total down to nothing in rapid succession.
For the longest time, this deck has been Pauper’s go-to Midrange deck. Some players will argue that Izzet Delver eventually became a more midrange style list, and there’s certainly merit to the argument. Some, however, weren’t content to let Boros just be that midrange list.
Enter Deluxeicoff, a popular streamer through Twitch and his YouTube channel Pauperganda. Known for eccentric rogue builds, his decks have had varied results over the years. If you can think of some weird build around, chances are he’s touched on it one time in the past. Over the past number of months he referred to a deck he called “Bully,” which he has dubbed because it acts like a bully in the sense that it pushes and pushes but backs off a bit when somewhat under pressure. After continued attempts, he finally came up with the shell that would become the Boros Bully list we know in today’s meta.
Boros Bully | Pauper | janicestone, 1/27/19 Pauper Challenge
- Creatures (16)
- 1 Sacred Cat
- 3 Palace Sentinels
- 4 Seeker of the Way
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 4 Thraben Inspector
When you look at this list, it’s both apparent the similarities and differences to previous Boros lists. A closer examination shows it takes parts from multiple Boros builds, using the more token-focused approach of Kuldotha (minus the namesake card), Palace Sentinels, and even Seeker of the Way which showed up in some lists for awhile. What you have as a result is a unique take that allows you to go in aggressively while being able to play defensively at the same time.
The goal here is simple: generate cheap and efficient creatures to attack in hard and fast, thanks in no small part to Rally the Peasants. Squadron Hawk helps both thin your deck and ensure you always have plays at your disposal while Seeker of the Way and Sacred Cat give you both aggressive strategies and ways to stabilize with life gain.
All of this is protected through various means of removal and, as with Monarch, Prismatic Strands saves the day in numerous battle situations. There’s a lot of sweet tech to be found as well between Seal of Fire for pesky Delvers, Arc Lightning to hit creatures of various sizes in quick succession, and even unusual sideboard cards like Aura Fracture.
Both of these lists have been and will continue to be dominant in the Pauper meta in the foreseeable future. They’re among the cream of the crop, taking a massive chunk of the competitive meta at the very top. With all the ban talk I want to reassure players that even if Monarch goes, Boros will still stay around. It will have to adapt, but it will live on, even if it has to revert to its older Kuldotha version for the time being. Given that such changes would be minimal at best for at least the Monarch version, it’s not a stretch to say that if you’re looking to jump into Pauper, this is a great archetype to start with.
Even if we lose the crown in the long run, just remember to enjoy it for as long as it’s here. After all, it’s good to be king or queen and rule over your local metagame.