Today I’ll be taking up the flag for Boros and adding an entry to Travis Norman’s Commander Primer series. The third entry in the series, this dive into Boros will cover strengths, weaknesses, and common Commanders/archetypes, with the aim to orient players less familiar, or new, to the color pair. 

You can find other entries in the series here: Golgari, Izzet.

The Boros legion embody strength, order, and martial prowess. They are passionate, just, and stand up for what’s right, protecting those weaker than themselves and working toward a greater purpose. They combine the order and morality of White with the passion and zeal of Red to form a color pair that recognizes the dangers of inaction, and the need to strike first and strike hard. 

Boros Strengths

Combat: The main strength of Boros is combat. Most Boros keywords are focused around combat, like Double Strike, First Strike, Battle Cry, and Mentor. It can often ensure its bodies on the ground also benefit from Vigilance, allowing them to both attack and block, and can also afford them protection in different ways. Angelic Skirmisher is a great example, as are Iroas, God of Victory and Odric, Lunarch Marshal. Spreading power amongst the team is a great strategy in Boros. 

Equipment: As well as spreading power through the team, Boros can also consolidate power in one creature, otherwise known as a “Voltron” strategy. Just like the heroes of old that the Boros Legion idolize, a plucky contender can strap themselves up with ancient relics and equipment. With access to Godo, Bandit Warlord, Stonehewer Giant, Open the Armory, Steelshaper’s Gift, and Stoneforge Mystic; it’s possible to get around the lack of card draw a little by searching out a strong equipment to turn the tides, like Embercleave or Blackblade Reforged

Extra Attacks: Boros can take this martial prowess further still, and has access to extra combat phases as a mechanic. Aurelia the Warleader will allow your creatures to untap and take an extra combat step. The color pair also gives access to cards like Aggravated Assault, Savage Beating, World at War, and Waves of Aggression

Protection: Having a powerful board of creatures is no good if you can’t keep them around. One thing you might want to consider in Boros is the ability to protect your board. The marquee card in this sphere is Boros Charm, which can give all of your permanents indestructible at instant speed. Add to this cards like Legion’s Initiative, Eerie Interlude, Unbreakable Formation, and Teferi’s Protection, and you have ways to get around the common board wipes. 

Recursion: Sometimes, you will have your permanents removed. Getting them back can be difficult outside of colors like Black and Green. With access to White, Boros can still do a reasonable job at recursion. Cards like Sun Titan are absolute all stars, but there’s also Sevinne’s Reclamation, Marshal’s Anthem, Karmic Guide, Emeria Shepherd, and Emeria, the Sky Ruin. For a more in depth look at how Recursion can bolster Boros, check out my previous article.

Removal: You may consider it counterproductive; but despite wanting to commit a lot of creatures to the board, Boros is also a great color pair when it comes to removal. You have access to some of the best board wipes in the game, like Austere Command, Hour of Revelation, Blasphemous Act, and Wrath of God. On top of that, you get excellent single-target removal like Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, and Volcanic Offering. Timing when to play these can be tricky, but ultimately very rewarding. 

Boros Weaknesses

It’s no secret: Boros is considered one of the worst color pairs for Commander. Boros struggles largely because it falls behind in two key areas, the first of which is ramp. Without access to Green, Boros can struggle to keep up with the amount of lands other decks are committing to the board. You can use cards like Land Tax and Tithe to ensure you hit your land drops, and Knight of the White Orchid will put a Plains card from your library into play. These are all contingent on opponents being ahead, though, which can prove to be an issue in some games. 

Like all colors, you have access to mana rocks; but as I’ve covered before, getting lands into play is almost always preferable due to how much harder they are to remove. In order to get around this, it’s almost a necessity to play Sword of the Animist, Burnished Hart, and Solemn Simulacrum to ensure you get those lands into play. 

The other big weakness of Boros is lack of card draw. Shy of Sram, Senior Edificer and Puresteel Paladin, you won’t be rewarded too much for sticking to your gameplan. Running out of cards can be a real problem in Boros, especially after a board wipe. Red gives access to impulsive draw like Light up the Stage, Ignite the Future, and Outpost Siege; but the real meat of your draw will come either from Wheel effects like Reforge the Soul and Magus of the Wheel, or from artifacts and equipment. Mask of Memory and Tome of Legends in particular reward you for attacking, and will both trigger multiple times from double strike or extra combats respectively. Pricier options include Sword of Fire and Ice, Memory Jar, and Wheel of Fortune

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for Boros in Commander, though, is the lack of alternative win conditions. Almost all Boros decks will be winning through combat damage, with only a few recent cards looking to help the color pair branch out. This can be frustrating if your metagame has a lot of pillowfort and removal, and might mean you have to rethink your approach. Thankfully, Boros does have ways to get over this hurdle. Cards like Insult // Injury get damage through Glacial Chasm and Constant Mists, and you have access to a wealth of artifact and enchantment removal too. 

Common Boros Commanders & Archetypes

Aurelia the Warleader: A tried and tested Boros Commander that can house a number of archetypes. Tribal Angels is a popular build, but don’t be afraid of jamming value creatures like Glorybringer and Etali, Primal Storm that benefit immensely from multiple combat triggers. Aurelia is also great with equipment—Mask of Memory will draw four cards instead of two.

Aurelia is probably the best Commander to take advantage of extra combats. Try Neheb, the Eternal or Sword of Feast and Famine with Aggravated Assault or Waves of Aggression to keep things rolling. 

Akiri, Line Slinger & Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder: They make a fearsome duo and are great at leading an equipment-based Voltron deck. Akiri grows larger with each equipment and artifact in play; and with Bloodforged Battleaxe and Prying Blade, you’ll gradually take over the board. Bruse is a great supporting card that can make Akiri lethal in short order—just be sure to make her unblockable with Rogue’s Passage or Trailblazer’s Boots first. Sigarda’s Aid and Godo, Bandit Warlord really shine here. 

Sylvia Brightspear and Khorvath Brightflame: These two offer a great tribal option, providing some potent abilities to knights and dragons you control. Galvanize their power by playing changeling creatures like Mirror Entity, Taurean Mauler, and Irregular Cohort. Take advantage of strong dragons like Balefire Dragon, Steel Hellkite, and Knollspine Dragon, the latter of which can draw a bunch of cards if you time things right. Bloodsworn Steward is gravy.

Iroas, God of Victory: A great option for going wide and controlling the board with damage-based wrath effects. Your creatures can’t be damaged during your attacks, so activating an onboard Pyrohemia or casting Starstorm can make short work of blocking creatures while preserving your board. Tajic, Legion’s Edge is a redundant effect, and doesn’t care about the combat step—so get him strapped with Darksteel Plate and feel free to fire off Blasphemous Act

Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero: A more advanced option that revolves around an “eggs” strategy. This involves playing a lot of artifacts that draw cards or make mana by sacrificing themselves, and then sacrificing Gerrard to bring them all back. The kicker is to use a card like Loyal Retainers to fish Gerrard out of the yard before his ability resolves; this will bring back the Loyal Retainers too, and you can then go around the block again. Repeat as many times as necessary to win—either by milling with Altar of Dementia, or by using Impact Tremors or Goblin Bombardment

Feather the Redeemed: The most popular Boros Commander of the year does something different. By using cantrips—cards with a small effect that targets a creature you control whilst also drawing a card—you can effectively never run out of cards, as Feather means they return to your hand. Think of casting Crimson Wisps or Fists of Flame every turn. Other useful effects include removal like Fall of the Hammer and Reckless Rage, or protection like Shelter or God’s Willing

Firesong & Sunspeaker: Another take at freshening Boros up. This deck aims to win by using burn effects to generate a high life total, and using that as a resource for Aetherflux Reservoir. Cards like Star of Extinction gain you an overwhelming amount of life. Supplement your draw with Dawn of Hope and Well of Lost Dreams

A Note on Land Destruction

One of the bigger strengths that Red and White share that doesn’t tend to crop up often is the ability to destroy lands. From the classic Armageddon to the newer (and some might say fairer) Fall of the Thran, this color combination can really reset the board.

Due to the social contract when playing Commander – the idea that things should be fun, and games should be closed out as soon as possible – mass land destruction is generally frowned upon. This is mostly due to the fact that many more inexperienced players fire it off at the wrong moment, or out of spite when losing.

I’d caution against running mass land destruction unless your meta is of a higher power level, and your aim with it should be to try and close out a game. Firing it off while phasing out with Teferi’s Protection, or when giving your own permanents indestructible with Avacyn, Angel of Hope, for example, is the way to go. Just ensure you have a board presence that can win from that moment or you might face a disgruntled table.

Final Take

There have been a few attempts at pulling Boros out of the linear aggressive strategy in the past year or so. Feather and Gerrard reach into the more competitive sphere, but most Boros decks will end up using combat damage to win games. 

The true aggro equivalent in EDH, however, is closer to a more classic midrange build. By using the plentiful removal and board wipes offered, you can play a tempo game. Switching to the offensive with haste effects like Urabrask, the Hidden and Hammer of Purphoros can close games very quickly, especially after using recursion like Marshal’s Anthem and Sun Titan to restock your board. Let’s also not understate the power of playing Boros Charm into a board wipe—asymmetrical removal is very strong. Try Winds of Abandon and Subjugator Angel when you want to close out a game. 

A great way to jump ahead of the competition is to try the Smothering Tithe and “Wheel” combo—firing off Reforge the Soul can net you up to 21 treasure, which should be enough to win a game. Chaining these together and hitting some reanimation is a favorite strategy of mine for Boros decks.

In many ways, Boros is actually a three color deck—the third color being brown, or colorless. Don’t be afraid to use this to your advantage. Thran Dynamo is great for getting over the hump, and Ugin, the Ineffable does everything a Boros deck wants to do. The real star here though is Sunforger, which has honorable mention as a second commander in most Boros decks that run it. This equipment lets you tutor and cast, for free, red and/or white instants with a converted mana cost of four or less.

Sunforger gives you access to a great suite of removal, interaction, and protection. Firing off Comeuppance or Settle the Wreckage at an incoming horde is particularly satisfying, though the most common play tends to be Teferi’s Protection or Boros Charm to preserve your board.

All in all, Boros is fighting an uphill battle. But for those that take up the banner of the legion, it offers a rewarding and satisfying play experience not unlike playing limited formats—using minimal resources to get the job done. Just remember, you can answer most problems provided you’ve built your deck properly, so identify the tempo of the game and use it to your advantage. Don’t forget to ramp while you’re doing it. Games of Magic are won by those who spend the most mana.

Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up. Based in the UK, she works as a software developer, and her love for the Legion is second only to her appreciation for Lord of the Rings and Mass Effect.

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