Block Boros Beatdown

Posted in Reconstructed on May 14, 2013

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Ah, the Block Constructed Pro Tour. Pro Tour Dragon's Maze pulls all of the recently printed cards onto the center stage, giving us a glimpse of what the Standard format to come will look like.

If Mark Rosewater's adage "restrictions breed creativity" wore the face of a format, this is the one it would choose. Cards not quite good enough for current Standard can shine, and with the limited card pool, players are really forced to figure out how to attack problems in innovative ways. Compared to other formats, Block is fairly unexplored.

But that isn't to say there's a complete lack of information on the format. If you've been keeping your ear to the ground, you'll have seen some decklists. Block Constructed is in full swing on Magic Online, and there's quite a few decklists you can check out by poring through the tournament results featured on

Viashino Firstblade | Art by Matt Stewart

There are actually quite a few different decks that have been doing well, and with Dragon's Maze entering the format it has appeared to expand the metagame even further. The control decks have been given more tools like Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Far & Away, and the midrange Selesnya decks have been strengthened by cards like Advent of the Wurm and Voice of Resurgence.

However, one deck that is fairly ubiquitous on Magic Online is the Mono-Red deck. Sporting between eighteen and twenty lands, twenty-four or more one- and two-drops, and a couple versatile filler spells like Dynacharge and Mizzium Mortars, this deck is as quick as Block Constructed decks come.

But why Mono-Red? In a block about guilds, is it possible that there's another aggressive Red route to go down? That's what we're going to investigate today. Let's take a look at Paul Wilhelm's version of Boros:

Paul Wilhelm's Legion

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The Battle Plan

The battle plan here is fairly clear: attack!

The big question when considering two colors versus one color is this: Does what you gain by adding the second color outweigh the hit to consistency and slightly slower draws?

To make the mana work in a two-color beatdown deck, some Gates are certainly going to be necessary. (And will be added into the final version of this deck.) Those will slow you down when you draw them. Since the advantage of Mono-Red is that you can overtake slower decks, what could be worth taking a slight hit to speed?

Well, how about some cards that speed you up?

Viashino FirstbladeLegion's Initiative

Boros was teetering on the cusp of playability, and a few big adds from Dragon's Maze might finally push Boros over the edge to supplant Mono-Red.

Viashino Firstblade hits for 4 on turn three, speeding up the clock of the deck and really punishing a slow draw by your opponent. Legion'sInitiative is a two-mana power boost to all of your creatures—and its activated ability is surprisingly relevant. Not only can you use it to get around a Supreme Verdict, but with Foundry Street Denizen and Viashino Firstblade in your deck you can even occasionally use it to get in those final crucial few extra points of damage.

Deck Breakdown

Let's go over Paul's initial list and see what tweaks can be made.

Rakdos Cackler

In an aggressive deck, you want to have as high an early damage output as you can, and 2 power for one mana is precisely what a deck like this is looking for. If the mana wasn't going to be so rough, I'd consider playing Dryad Militant and potentially Boros Elite for the same reasons, but the mana of the deck keeps me away from those two cards since this deck wants to be base-red. I'm definitely playing all four Cacklers.

Foundry Street Denizen

When you need makeshift 2-power creatures for one mana, this Denizen is a good Goblin for the job. When you're trying to create the highest damage output you can, a consistent 2-power creature or occasional 3-power creature is exactly what you're looking for. Also, keep in mind that if you draw multiple Denizens, you can use Legion's Initiative to slightly increase your damage output in a pinch.

Legion Loyalist

Most of the Mono-Red decks are running the full four copies of this creature. In the conversion to Boros some cuts have to be made, and I think Paul has correctly identified Legion Loyalist as the weaker of the three different one-drops and has dropped all the way down to one copy.

One-drops are a little less exciting in the two-color version of this deck, since I'll want to play a Guildgate on the first turn sometimes, and all of the various abilities that Loyalist provides, while nice, don't overcome the better damage output of the other one-drops. I'm fine going all the way and dropping down to zero copies here.

Wojek Halberdiers

Two mana for 3 power that can be tricky to block? Sign me up! This is definitely one Boros soldier I'm interested in keeping all the copies of. Gore-House Chainwalker was already a pretty good creature to play on turn two in the Mono-Red version, and this is similarly a 3/2 for two mana. (It's worth noting that I'd like to fit the Chainwalker into the final build of this deck as well.)

Sunhome Guildmage

I love creatures you can play in beatdown decks that have solid activated abilities you can use in the long game. Although it was a long time ago, this inclusion reminds me a lot of the four Rakdos Guildmages in Tomoharu Saito's winning decklist from the first Ravnica-centric Pro Tour. It's just a solid creature you can play on turn two that provides great reach as the game goes onward.

However, in this deck, I don't think Sunhome Guildmage quite makes the cut. It's not a game of inches if the game goes long: what every other deck is doing in the long game is going to significantly outpower you. Sphinx's Revelation and its control friends will pack the game away, and an extra token or two isn't going to help out often enough to be worth it. In this format, I'd rather play a creature that is more aggressive without requiring any other mana investment so I can continue to deploy threats and try to kill my opponent as fast as possible.

Truefire Paladin

Some of what I said for Sunhome Guildmage also applies here. I'd much rather have a card like Ash Zealot (which I would like to play in the final build), or the aforementioned Gore-House Chainwalker, that increases my damage output without additional mana investment. Make no mistake—Truefire Paladin is certainly a strong card. It just doesn't seem to be what this deck is looking for.

Boros Reckoner

This Standard staple is unsurprisingly phenomenal in Block Constructed as well, making combat difficult for your opponent and making your opponent's Mizzium Mortars very painful. This is one of the best beatdown cards you can play, and I definitely would not play fewer than four copies.

Viashino Firstblade

While the Mono-Red decks usually top out at three mana with Reckoner, and I don't want to add too much to the top end of my mana curve, Viashino Firstblade is certainly worth it.

Firstblade is one of the cards you pick up in Dragon's Maze that makes Boros appealing and hits for a ton of damage. Turn-one Cackler/Denizen into turn-two Halberdiers/Chainwalker into turn-three Firstblade means you're hitting for a whopping 9 damage on turn three! Even if your opponent has a Supreme Verdict, that quickly puts him or her on the back foot. I definitely want to play all four of these.

Firemane AvengerTajic, Blade of the Legion

Four-mana creatures are a little more expensive on my curve than I'd like to go. If Firemane Avenger is active—if you're attacking with three or more creatures on turn five—then you're probably in shape to win anyway. Tajic, while a nice anti-control option, isn't that much of a threat on his own, and there are even plenty of answers to him, like Far & Away, Detention Sphere, or even just a larger creature. I'd like to cut these to make room for more aggressive cards at the bottom end of this deck's curve.

Legion's Initiative

I've talked up the merits of this card a reasonable amount already. Not only does it pump all of your creatures' power for two mana (and some of their toughnesses), but it can do numerous tricks. You can block and save all of your creatures for another day, avoid Supreme Verdict, or even just use it to untap your creatures after an attack so they're ready to block again. Against control decks, Glorious Anthem–style effects are a good way to push through extra damage without having to commit extra creatures to the board, and it's even better when your anthems serve as double duty to protect your creatures as well!

I don't think you want to play the full four copies, because you need to have enough pressure in your hand in the first place to make these good, but I'm certainly happy to play three.

Adding to the Legion

In addition to some of the cards mentioned above, how else would I like to round out the deck? Well, let's go over three cards I didn't mention but definitely want to add.

Burning-Tree Emissary

Burning-Tree Emissary contributes to some of the most explosive draws beatdown decks have been able to produce in years. Any opening hand with two copies of this card puts a ton of power onto the board very quickly—especially if you open on a Foundry Street Denizen! While the green mana it gives you doesn't let you cast your Wojek Halberdiers, there are still plenty of one- and two-drops the Emissary can assist you in casting. This is a non-negotiable four-of.

Boros Charm

This flexible spell is one of the defining reasons to play Boros. In conjunction with Legion's Initiative, it really gives players who are leaning on Supreme Verdict a tough time. It also gives the deck some reach, which the mono-red version didn't have a great source of. (Most played a copy or two of Annihilating Fire and used Dynacharge as a way to sneak in extra damage.) I'd definitely like four Boros Charms.

Warleader's Helix

While I want to stay away from four-mana creatures, I'm okay with a couple copies of a four-mana spell, since you can cast it and have it make a difference as soon as you draw your fourth land. This is a fairly high-impact one, either turning the tides in the beatdown mirror or serving as another form of reach against the control decks. While is isn't as cheap to cast as Mizzium Mortars and can't kill off Blood Baron of Vizkopa, the life you gain back against beatdown decks (especially the mirror) is a big deal. I only want to play two, but I would sideboard more.

With all of that in mind, that brings the decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Block Boros

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What's the sideboard for? Well, to give you a quick rundown of the cards:


A lot of decks will, unsurprisingly, bring in lifegain to help fend off your assault. Not just Sphinx's Revelation, but cards like Centaur Healer, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and Warleader's Helix are just a few of the cards you'll need to be worried about. One player who 4–0ed a recent Magic Online Daily Event was even running Tablet of the Guilds! (Which, admittedly, Skullcrack isn't very good against.)

This triple-blast brain splitter of a card helps fight off this stream of lifegain—all you have to do is leave mana up to cast it on the crucial turns. Be careful when you tap out after turn four or so in case you need to Skullcrack. (Or just represent Skullcrack mana, which can often be scary enough!)

Mizzium MortarsWarleader's Helix

Against similarly placed red decks and some green decks, you can turn into a slightly more controlling deck that aims to take down their creatures. If you just trade off your creatures early and then have this suite of removal spells for the long game, you should be in pretty good shape.


Electrickery is similar to what was mentioned above, but it is specifically for the Mono-Red mirror. Whereas Mortars is good against cards like Loxodon Smiter and Call of the Conclave, Electrickery is really only good against the Red deck's best draws. There's just one to supplement your other removal in that other matchup, and to help you not die to potential crazy draws.

Assemble the Legion

Assemble the Legion is a long-game must-answer threat against control. Granted, control has Detention Sphere so it certainly can answer Assemble, but if control spends its Spheres fighting off your early plays that leaves Assemble to mop up.

Also, in a mostly unexplored format like Block I like being flexible with sideboard cards since you never know what you're going to face, and Assemble the Legion allows you to construct some on-the-fly sideboarding when necessary. Against some beatdown decks, for example, you can transform into a more controlling deck with Mizzium Mortars and Warleader's Helix, then plan on winning the long game with Assemble.

Renounce the Guilds

Renounce the Guilds is a pretty important Block Constructed card, removing everything from Obzedat, Ghost Council to Detention Sphere and everything in between. While you do have a lot of multicolored permanents that can get caught in this card's crosshairs, the ones you're removing are usually going to be far more problematic for you.

Honorable Mentions

Curious what other interesting Block Constructed decklists were sent my way? Take a look!

Asmund Jacobsen's Immortal Slumlord

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Andrew Prystai's Naya Beatdown

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Glyn's Mad Pants

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Kaesekosmonaut's Izzet Blast

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Angelica's Red-White-Blue Control

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Peer van Eersel's Gateway Maze

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Alex Cook's Junk Midrange

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Mark Ian Alloso's Selesnya Tokens

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Christopher Li's Sphere Control

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Sergi M. Pàmies's Jund Aggro

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Modern Mastery

I hope you all enjoyed this week's look at Boros in Block! Will red with another color end up doing well, or will Mono-Red be the aggressive deck of choice? Well, we won't have to wait long for an answer—Pro Tour Dragon's Maze is this weekend! I'll be very curious to see which decks end up on top.

In the meantime, if Block Constructed is a format full of restrictions, let's look at something far on the other side of that—Modern! In two weeks, it's Modern Masters preview week! One of the most highly anticipated sets of the year releases shortly, and in two weeks' time you'll be able to find several preview cards right here on To stay with the Modern theme, how about another Modern challenge?

Format: Modern
Restrictions: None!
Deadline: Sunday, May 19, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (You do not need to adhere to the specific numbers below, but it's just how a general decklist should look when laid out.)


20 Land
20 Land
4 Creature
4 Creature
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
4 Planeswalker

That's all for this week! If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to post in the forums or send me a tweet.

I'll be back next week with a look at a budget Standard decklist. If you're trying to play Standard on a budget, you won't want to miss it.

Have fun watching Pro Tour Dragon's Maze unfold this weekend!



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