Heroic Blitz

Posted in Reconstructed on October 22, 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.

Few creature mechanics can be quite as explosive as heroic.

One moment, you're looking at a pretty mediocre board of a 1/1, a 2/1, and a 3/2. The next, four heroic triggers have gone off and suddenly the amount of power on your opponent's side of the board has more than doubled—and you can't even block this turn. Boom—you're dead.

Anax and Cymede | Art by Willian Murai

Seeing as its Heroic Week, I asked for submissions of heroic decklists—and you all did not disappoint. There were many cool takes on the heroic mechanic, and out of them one of the most popular submissions—and the one sporting the most heroic cards—was Red-White Heroic. And in times like these where there seem to be so many people interested in help on a certain deck, it makes sense to look at it further. I like to think of ReConstructed as a deckmocracy.

Let's take a look at today's submission, sent in by longtime ReConstructed reader Johnnie Alexandro.

Johnnie Alexandro's Heroes of Theros

Download Arena Decklist

The Battle Plan

Do what heroes are most known for: quickly smashing their enemies in the face without mercy. (That is what heroes are known for, right?)

This deck wants to be quick and brutal. Topping out at three-drops and trying to rip the opponent apart as fast as possible, this deck will expend all of its resources quickly. More so than other beatdown decks, this one wants to win fast.

The key part of heroic aggressive decks like this that sets them apart from other decks is that they have an unusual resource: combat tricks. While many aggressive decks across Magic's history have sported combat tricks, in a heroic deck they operate on an unusual axis. You not only want to have a surplus of them, but while playing you have to use them carefully and in the right order depending on what your opponent is doing.

Do you want to use your trick now to trigger Anax and Cymede, or wait another turn until you can target Phalanx Leader? Is it better to make your opponent not block so you can attack in with multiple creatures, or to deal a little less damage but grow your Fabled Hero? These are the kinds of questions you have to ask yourself with a deck like this.

Some of your creatures may not start out as robust as some other beatdown decks, and it might seem like your heroic creatures aren't worth it – but there's a difference between dormant and patient. Wait until the right moment to unload and your opponent will have his or her back against the wall.

From a deck-building perspective, finding the right balance between heroic creatures and spell enablers is important as well. You want to draw some of each, but not all of either. (And especially not a fistful of combat tricks without any creatures.)

What's the trick to balancing the two? Read on.

Deck Breakdown

It's time to find out which cards are worthy of a hero and which are folly. Let's break down the deck card by card!

Akroan Crusader
Phalanx Leader

This may seem like kind of an odd pairing to kick off the discussion with. After all, besides both being heroic, these two cards don't have a ton in common. In fact, not having something in common is precisely why I did group them together!

These cards are both strong in a heroic deck. Akroan Crusader is a one-drop that spits out more creatures, which is especially strong in conjunction with board-pumping effects like Anax and Cymede. Phalanx Leader pumps up your entire team permanently, really lending itself to your explosive starts. Phalanx Leader is even good with Akroan Crusader. So what gives?

There's a problem with these two cards together—and it's located in the upper right-hand corner.

Akroan Crusader wants on turn one. Phalanx Leader wants on turn two. Unless you draw a Sacred Foundry in your opening hand, casting Akroan Crusader on the first turn and Phalanx Leader on the next isn't possible. I like my beatdown decks to be consistent, and with such a range of cards this deck could play this is an inconsistency that can be eliminated without too high of a cost.

As a result, you kind of have to choose between the two. The choice you make here sets the tenor for the rest of the deck: choosing Phalanx Leader leads you down the path of a more white-heavy deck, perhaps with Precinct Captains and replacing the Akroan Crusaders with Favored Hoplites, whereas Akroan Crusader keeps the mana fairly split or ends up slanting the deck more toward red.

It's a close call between the two, and one you could certainly try out either way.

However, in the end, the tipping point for me is that, even without Akroan Crusader in the deck, the mana of the version of the deck that tries to have on turn two is still rough. A lot of the enablers you want to play are red, and you want to have enough red mana that you can cast multiples in the same turn to create a storm of heroic triggers. While there may be a good nearly-White Weenie deck there, I'd rather explore the red-white heroic archetype in this article.

The verdict: In the battle between the two, Akroan Crusader comes out triumphant.

On that note, I also want to add in another one-drop to this deck. One-drops are great since you can cast them off curve to good effect (especially relevant with Temple of Triumph around) and help establish your board presence further. There are plenty of reasonable options: Rakdos Cackler, Boros Elite, Firedrinker Satyr, Soldier of the Pantheon, and Dryad Militant are all cards you could talk about.

For me, it comes down to Rakdos Cackler versus Soldier of the Pantheon. Cackler is nice, sporting that 2nd toughness—and if you played Godless Shrine over some Plains it helps with some mana issues, letting you consistently cast your "red" one-drop on turn one. However, the Soldier's protection is so relevant in this format that I just have to side with it. An extra form of evasion is very relevant in an aggressive deck, and that gives Soldier of the Pantheon the nod for me.

Arena Athlete

I mentioned earlier than this deck was about winning quickly—and Arena Athlete helps you do that. Pushing your creatures past blockers on fundamental turns is very important and can deal the last bit of damage you need. With Phalanx Leader gone, the two-drop spot could use another addition, so I'm fine filling these out to four copies.

Fencing Ace

Fencing Ace's tactical, targeted sword can quickly become a bludgeoning baseball bat in this deck. With all of the pump effects around, the Ace can pretty easily crash through for 8 or more. While there are some draws where it will merely be an (essential) 2/1 for two, that's still not horrific—and it will cause your opponent to play differently. I'm happy sticking with all four here.

Fabled Hero

Like Phalanx Leader, Fabled Hero requires to cast. However, since it's a three-drop, you have a little more leeway on assembling the right mana you need, perhaps putting a Temple onto the battlefield on the third turn and playing a two-drop or similar. Fabled Hero is incredibly strong in this strategy and one of the cards that pulls you into playing the deck. It's pretty easy to make it hit for 12 or more in a single attack! I definitely want to keep all four.

Anax and Cymede

Similar to Fabled Hero, Anax and Cymede is one of the cards that pulls you into red-white heroic. Its base stats are pretty good on their own, as a 3/2 first strike vigilance, but the heroic trigger really increases your damage output. The trample is especially a big deal when you have cards like Fencing Ace and Fabled Hero threatening huge damage outputs as well.

While Johnnie only included three—perhaps due to Anax and Cymede's legendary status—I am actually okay with the full four. If you untap with it in play you're probably in good shape anyway, and your opponent will be trying to kill Anax and Cymede at every opportunity, so it's good to have another waiting in the wings.

Coordinated Assault

As one of the best heroic enablers, this is absolutely a card I want in this deck. For a single mana, it triggers two heroic creatures, pushes through some extra damage, and gives first strike. Blocking is made difficult when you constantly have to worry about the threat of this card for just one red mana. I definitely want all four.

Lightning Strike

As I mentioned earlier, one of the hallmarks of this deck compared to other aggressive decks is how quickly it plays. It tries to win the game in an explosion early on rather than going for a long-game approach. It also tends to be full of combat tricks, meaning that removing your opponent's creatures isn't quite as important—your creatures will hopefully do that for you.

As a result, the card I actually want to play in the deck here is Boros Charm. It deals 1 more damage when going to the noggin to help end the game faster, protects your heroic creatures by making them indestructible, and can even trigger heroic by targeting with the double strike ability. I'll take the full four.

Johnnie really favored one-mana ways to trigger heroic. This makes sense: you want to create an explosion of triggers to deal as much damage as possible, while still being able to cast other cards if possible.

However, there are some strong two-mana cards that have significant enough strength to be worth the extra mana. Additionally, often the turn you're going to want to "go nuts" and cast multiples of these is going to be turn four or five when you're going for the kill, and by then there's a reasonable chance you can cast a pair of two-mana spells, or a Coordinated Assault and a two-mana spell.

Which are the two cards I like for the job here?

First up is Martial Glory. This Boros card enabled heroic in a major way. Coordinated Assault is definitely a card I would play eight copies of if I could, and Martial Glory is pretty comparable. Like Coordinated Assault, it has two targets, meaning it triggers heroic twice. Like Coordinated Assault, it pushes through extra damage. It also has some flexibility that Coordinated Assault doesn't, serving as a Giant Growth when necessary and sending through more damage.

Martial Glory is like an upgraded Titan's Strength, and the extra mana is worth the extra target to me. An extra target in this deck is often equivalent to an extra card (or half a card) of an effect, which I'd pay an additional mana for.

Second is Madcap Skills. This deck doesn't like to be blocked, and in conjunction with Arena Athlete, Madcap Skills makes blocking hard for your opponent. Draws like turn-two Fencing Ace into turn-three Madcap Skills or turn-three Fabled Hero into turn-four Madcap Skills can be game enders on their own. Even Akroan Crusader into Madcap Skills is quite good!

I don't want to play four Madcap Skills, since it is susceptible to removal and can't be used at instant speed like the other tricks in this deck. However, it does create some of the most brutal draws this deck has to offer. I'll take three.

With all of those changes in mind, that brings this deck to:

Gavin Verhey's Akros Deck Wins

Download Arena Decklist

Full of explosive draws and beatdown promises, this deck will thoroughly punish anyone who stumbles. If your opponent has a grip of removal spells you might be in trouble—but even then, some individually powerful cards like Fabled Hero can be enough to take the game on their own.

If you're looking for something to try and steamroll players with—or die trying—at your next local event, give this a whirl. It's fun to just cut loose and try something that tries to blitz its opponent every once in a while. Go out there and be a hero!

Honorable Mentions

What were some of the other top heroic-based decks people sent in this week? Let's take a look at a sampling!

Paul Travers's Artisan's Heroic Biovision!

Download Arena Decklist

Hiroaki Ikeda's Triton the Draw Engine

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Chris Shipman's Master Artisan

Download Arena Decklist

Anthony Izzo's Selesnya Heroic

Download Arena Decklist

Kousuke's Naya Heroic

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Travis's Hero Elemental

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Shohei Hashimoto's Hero of The Cult

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Keisuke Onoyama's Wavecrash and Flamespeaker

Download Arena Decklist

Theros on a Budget

Now that Theros is out and the dust is starting to settle, it's time to do another one of the ever-popular budget ReConstructed articles! Interested in submitting for my take on budget in two weeks? Here's your mission:

Format: Standard
Restrictions: Your deck is on a budget. For a loose definition, consider budget to contain few rares and very few, if any, mythic rares.
Deadline: October 28, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)

Yourname's Deckname

20 Land
20 Land
1 Creature
1 Creature
1 Other Spell
1 Other Spell
1 Planeswalker

Budget weeks are always fun to do—restrictions do breed creativity, after all. I'm excited to see what you all come up with this time around!

If you have any thoughts or feedback on this article, feel free to contact me either by posting in the forums or sending me a tweet. I always appreciate hearing what you think.

I'll be back next week with some discussion about Commander for Commander Week! I'll talk with you again then.

Now, go out and be a hero!


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