Simon Nielsen's Pioneer Boros Heroic Deck: The Hero of Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor | Magic: The Gathering


“Why are we playing a constructed deck vs a limited deck?”

“What is this Heroic deck supposed to be good against?”

“Simon wondering if it’s too late to switch to 75 basic lands”

These were some of the comments from Twitch chat during round 4 of Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor in Chicago. Poor Heroic, the misunderstood child. Nobody wants to play with it, just because it looks weak. Most of my teammates were even hesitant to touch it, perhaps fearing that the deck might carry some contagious virus. Don’t they know the power of Homestead Courage? Don’t they see the beauty of cornering an oh-so-smart opponent with just commons and uncommons?

I see you, Boros Heroic, I see you.

Behind these piles of draft chaff, behind the fragile scent of a glass cannon, lies the best deck in Pioneer. Maybe. I say maybe, because I do not actually know. I don’t know, because I have not yet witnessed anyone pilot the deck at top capacity. But maybe, if someone could get close to perfection, they’d get to see the beauty of a truly great deck.

It was with this promise of power that David Inglis and I decided to register Heroic at the Pro Tour. And this is the promise of power I now pass on to you.

Simon Nielsen's Boros Heroic Deck List from Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor

Creatures

Favored Hoplite
Illuminator Virtuoso
Monastery Swiftspear
Tenth District Legionnaire

Instant

2 Reckless Rage
Loran's Escape
Spikefield Hazard
Defiant Strike
Monstrous Rage
Sejiri Shelter
Gods Willing

Sorcery

Ancestral Anger
4 Homestead Courage

Lands

Inspiring Vantage
Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
Battlefield Forge
Plains
Sacred Foundry
Needleverge Pathway
Mana Confluence


Sideboard

1 Jegantha, the Wellspring
4 Showdown of the Skalds
2 Rending Volley
2 Light of Hope
1 Get Lost
2 Reckless Rage
1 Damping Sphere
1 Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
1 Torch the Tower

In true Team Handshake style, we tuned our way to a list that differs a bit from the stock version. I wholeheartedly believe in all of these changes, and I would still not change a thing post tournament, save for few flex spots in the sideboard maybe.

This deck aims to play a cheap creature that benefits from being targeted, and then using various pump spells to quickly get it into lethal range.

The deck is scary because it’s not uncommon to kill on turn 3, but in a lot of other games the strength lies not in speed, but in invalidation of the opposing gameplan. You can invalidate their creatures, because yours end up so much bigger, and their removal either by having protection or simply outscaling their damage-based removal. In a sense, you might be looking to checkmate the opponent, where you get to a point where none of their cards can get them out of a sticky situation.

Boros Heroic Deck-Tech: The Creatures | MTG Pioneer

The 16 core creatures work so well in this deck that they are not to be tinkered with: 12 heroic creatures supported by 4 Monastery Swiftspear. Sometimes Swiftspear can be the star of the show itself, usually in multiples, but most of the time it shines as a "double up" effect alongside your heroic creature, where a single pump spell will enlarge multiple creatures. Illuminator Virtuoso is one of the best cards in the deck, and the one that is most responsible for a turn 3 kill.

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Do note that none of these creatures are sacred cows in sideboarding. The deck is very much an A+B style deck, and if you’re looking to board in a bunch of interaction, you can’t just cut pump spells. You also have to shave some of your worst creatures, otherwise you will too frequently end up in spots where you draw 4 creatures that are all vanilla 1/2s and 2/2s which are frankly not very impressive. Whichever creature is your worst will vary depending on the matchup though.

Fugitive Codebreaker? Not powerful enough

Traditionally, Boros Heroic has played a couple extra support creatures, such as previously-played Dreadhorde Arcanist and recently the new adoption of Fugitive Codebreaker. We decided to opt out of any of these extra creatures, as they didn’t seem powerful enough to warrant the spots over just playing more pump spells. Codebreaker is somewhat like an extra Swiftspear, but a slow and fragile one at that. Remember that in a deck where most of your cards cost just one mana, a two-mana payment is actually quite premium. We also just hadn’t had good experiences with the disguise part being slow and clunky and working poorly with protection spells.

It's very possible that the new card from Outlaws at Thunder Junction, Slickshot Show-Off, can slot into this spot. It hits harder than Codebreaker and plot means that it’s much easier to protect.

Slickshot Show-Off

Boros Heroic Deck-Tech: The Instants and Sorceries | MTG Pioneer

We opted to run the stock amount of pump spells here, except we added two additional copies of Homestead Courage. As David said, it’s the white Lava Dart! And it makes a ton of sense. There are a lot of spots where you just need density in targeting spells but don’t care that much what they do. Homestead Courage  is often one of your best topdecks, as it immediately triggers Heroic and Prowess twice, adding 4 to 6 power to your offense.

There are also a few additional upsides. Vigilance  comes up often in creature matchups. It’s great at increasing toughness to outgrow damage based removal and blockers. And unlike most of the other pump spells, you can cast it into a removal spell without losing a full card. This can be useful when you have two creatures and need your opponent to kill one of them so you have free space to unload on the other one.

Protection: Loran's Escape replaces God Willing

Heroic decks have always played 4 Gods Willing since its inception, but now we have replaced most of them with 4 copies of Loran’s Escape. Gods Willing does have the upside of occasionally making your creature unblockable, which can come up sometimes, like against Phoenix. But Loran’s Escape also protects you from sweeper effects, disrupts the Amalia combo and most importantly, is better in this scenario:

You play a Defiant Strike, leaving up your protection spell to not get blown out by your UW Control opponent. They cast Get Lost, and you protect with Gods Willing. Now your creature has protection from white, and while it does survive, it is also now an illegal target for Defiant Strike which then fizzles. Same thing can happen with Ancestral Anger or Monstrous Rage against Lightning Axe. Loran’s Escape also protects from Otawara, and with all of these reasons added up, I think it is far and away the best protection spell.

Loran's Escape

Be very careful with not presenting too much protection in your deck. Somewhat unintuitively, you can board out some protection spells even against interactive decks. When you bring in the Showdown of the Skalds package, something has to give. The first instinct is to just cut a bunch of pump spells, but then you end up a situation where none of your creatures are worth protecting and the cards turn dead instead, especially in multiples, as they really don’t do a good job of mounting pressure.

The metagame pushes out two copies of Reckless Rage

This is another staple that has been a maindeck 4-of since Heroic’s inception into Pioneer. It’s an efficient piece of interaction that also works synergistically with the deck. So why do we only run two maindeck?

Given the expected metagame of Phoenix, UW Control, Rakdos Midrange, Lotus Field and Amalia, Reckless Rage only really shines against Amalia and can be important in some games against Phoenix when they have Ledger Shredder. Against the rest of the decks, it’s quite bad. Even against Rakdos, which has creatures, you often can’t afford to spend a card clearing a Bloodtithe Harvester – that’s how they outgrind you. So we decided to split the difference with just two maindeck and the remaining two in the sideboard, because it is still undoubtedly great when it’s good.

Boros Heroic Deck-Tech: The Manabase | MTG Pioneer

If you have played this deck before, you might have noticed that the Pathways suck. You often have to lock yourself into a color on turn 2 without knowing if you will need triple white or triple red in the future. Take a look at my finals vs. Seth Manfield, game 4. On turn 2, I decide to put my Pathway on white, which I believe was slightly correct at the time, and then on turn 6, I lose the game because I didn’t have triple red and had to play a Spikefield Hazard as a land. Often it will be correct to play a turn 1 Favored Hoplite off of a Battlefield Forge instead of a Pathway, taking a point of damage to gain more information on which side to play the Pathway.

The issue is, though, that there are not good alternatives. Mana Confluence does the job, but we found that it was losing too many games when you drew multiples, so I think you can only register one copy. I tried fixing the issue with Elegant Parlor, but that proved to be too many tapped lands.

Even though this deck is a low-curve aggro deck, playing a tapped land early doesn’t necessarily hurt much because you might want to play a slow game anyway. But there certainly is a limit to the number, and we are approaching that limit with the second copy of Spikefield Hazard, which we added as a 21st land. These do feel worthwhile as later in the game it can be huge to have a land that you can use to trigger Heroic, or a land that counts a spell for the purpose of conniving Illuminator Virtuoso.

Boros Heroic Deck-Tech: The Sideboard | MTG Pioneer

I believe that most of the sideboard has a purpose, which I will cover more in detail later. The three flex slots are Torch the Tower, Get Lost, and Damping Sphere, and you can freely swap these around or exchange them for other cards depending on your metagame. They are not part of any sideboard plan.

  • Jegantha, the Wellspring is more than a mascot or a wasted sideboard slot here. Sometimes she swoops in to win a game after you both have exhausted your resources. Sometimes she gets put in the hand just to be looted away by Virtuoso.
  • Showdown of the Skalds is a super important tool for grinding through interactive matchups. Even after weathering a few removal spells, a timely Showdown can pull you far ahead again. It is a bit expensive for this land count though, so you need to rely on your cantrips to get you there, as well as boarding up to 22 lands.
  • The one Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance is exactly there for this purpose. The ability can actually be quite useful against removal-heavy decks, especially in conjunction with Showdown. Also, you can sometimes use it to slightly upgrade your manabase, such as replacing Mana Confluence in the mirror where ping damage matters a ton or to board out a Spikefield Hazard on the draw against a Phoenix opponent without Young Pyromancer to increase your number of untapped lands.
  • Light of Hope
  • has a clear purpose in killing off enchantments like Leyline Binding or Temporary Lockdown where it’s nice that it can also just be used as a pump spell if needed. It also enjoys extra utility against Ensoul Artifact where it can counter most of a Shrapnel Blast to the face.
  • And lastly, the removal spells come in where they are needed. Rending Volley is especially important for dealing with Ledger Shredder on the draw.

Boros Heroic: Playing the deck | MTG Pioneer

I’ll try to give a few tips for how to pilot this deck, but you should be aware that only so much can be learned by reading. One of the trickiest things about Heroic is how often it’s unclear whether to take the slow or fast route, whether to gamble or play it safe. And everything is situational. Sometimes you will lose because you played too safe, sometimes you will lose because you played too loose. And often it will be correct to be conservative and you will lose because you took the right line, and vice versa. It’s all about playing the percentages, so it happens frequently that you fall on the wrong side of a 60/40.

Mulligan heuristic

The baseline heuristic for mulligans are:

  • Minimum 2 lands
  • Minimum 1 Heroic creature or 2 Monastery Swiftspears
  • Minimum 1 pump spell

However, you will of course often stray from these heuristics. You might mulligan a hand that checks all boxes because it has 4 lands and weak spells. Or mulligan towards turn 2 Illuminator Virtuoso on the draw in a fast matchup. Or keep a hand without creatures because it has a removal spell and Showdown of the Skalds. Or you could keep a one-lander with Favored Hoplite and a couple Defiant Strikes.

Illuminator VirtuosoShowdown of the Skalds

For these one-landers, I’d recommend that you don’t keep them too often. In the beginning I often just kept these, but I’ve started to mulligan them more and more. The question is whether your hand still seems good even if you don’t find a second land even after playing a cantrip. Or how likely it is that your turn 1 creature even survives if you don’t have a follow-up.

If you never keep a 1-lander, you are probably doing it wrong, but you need to find the right balance, so I’d suggest that you try to experiment with these to find the right balance and do the opposite of what your intuition tells you for a while.

To lead with the sword or to lead with the shield

A question that will often arise in sequencing is whether to play out your creature as soon as you can, or whether to wait until you can hold up protection. This is the type of decision that you need to balance right as there is never a catch-all correct answer.

Reasons to lead with the sword and play out your creature on curve would be:

  • You get to have better tempo.
  • You present a faster kill.
  • If your creature does not die immediately, you will be way better set up for protecting it later.
  • You might have more than one creature, so that you have the luxury of playing out the first one as bait.
  • You play out your creature at a point where it would cost the opponent important tempo to kill it, e.g. against Phoenix they don’t get to play turn 2 Ledger Shredder or Free the Fae if you slam a turn 2 Illuminator Virtuoso first.
  • Your Favored Hoplite will be protected from Thoughtseize if you play it turn 1.

You will also often be in spots where if you lead with an unprotected creature, the opponent might just be able to kill it and you will not have a follow-up. However, there are scenarios where it could still be correct to run it out and hope. e.g. Favored Hoplite turn 1 on the play against Thoughtseize decks, or against proactive decks that also have a bit of removal like Greasefang.

Sometimes, if they have it, they have it and you lose more by trying to be conservative because you give an otherwise weak hand from the opponent space to develop. Also, it’s important to remember that over a quarter of your deck is creatures and you will have draw steps. Even if you brick for a few turns, that just means you drew more lands and pump spells instead so you will be better set up to protect your creature and quickly to turn it into a threat once you do draw it.

Other times your hand does allow you to be conservative and lead with the shield, where you just stay patient and don’t play anything. Sometimes you will even have extra creatures and still play them out slowly because you want to try and blank situational removal spells like Stomp and Fiery Impulse by leaving up mana to grow their toughness in response. Or even without a protection spell in hand it might be worthwhile to slowplay your 2-drop because if you have mana up, the opponent will be forced to respect it and you might just get to untap with it anyway.

Bonecrusher GiantFiery Impulse

Even though this is an aggro deck at its core, don’t be afraid to just pass the first two turns if you need to. This is especially relevant if you have enough land drops to make so that you can afford to be slow. Nothing worse than holding your 2-drop to play with a protection spell, then just missing your 3rd land anyway.

If the opponent is not showing sign of development but just keeps passing, you might even want to play it super slow and just put Jegantha into hand on your third turn, so that on turn 4 you can play Virtuoso with Loran’s Escape and Defiant Strike up and filter that companion into something else. This will probably not let you keep your Virtuoso because your opponent likely has multiple removal spells, but at least it lets you dig towards more threats. Remember that when you get to loot it away, putting Jegantha in hand is basically like casting a Divination, which is one of the best things to do when the opponent is being passive and reactive.

With these tools to play the deck carefully and in control you get to leverage it to be more than just a fragile glass cannon. However, if you play like this too often you start to miss out on the explosive power and speed that Heroic offers. Striking the right balance is the hardest part about playing this deck.

Favored Hoplite

It’s important to keep in mind that Hoplite will also prevent all damage dealt to it for the rest of the turn whenever you target it. This is not just cute flavor text; it actually is super relevant in a number of spots. The most obvious one is that you can save it from burn spells, even a Lightning Axe, with a simple Defiant Strike. It also means that you don’t have to be afraid of the size of the opposing board when you attack with it, because no amount of double blocks will let them kill your Hoplite.

You can prevent lifelink which might be useful for attacking through an Atraxa, and on defense you will be able to chump block even the biggest thing. In the mirror, your opponent might have a huge Virtuoso with trample, but it still would have a hard time killing you through a Favored Hoplite, as it would have to deal lethal damage to the Hoplite twice.

Favored Hoplite

The cantrips

Defiant Strike and Ancestral Anger are another part of the deck that provides skill expression. Ideally you want to not run these into a removal spell so that you get robbed of your card draw. This means that you can find yourself playing super patient with them, waiting for an opening or a protection spell. Other times you might want to play them into removal on purpose to bait your opponent into killing your weaker creature as that could open up your hand to play out the rest of your pump spells.

Also keep in mind that it’s perfectly fine to play them on your opponent’s creatures just to draw a new card, trigger prowess etc.

And with Ancestral Anger specifically, you might want to hold it against decks that can present chump blockers. What these decks will often try to do is to take the first smaller hit and then aim to chump block your second bigger hit. If you just fire off all your cantrips in the beginning, you might find yourself without trample on the second go around. So it can be beneficial to restrain yourself, maybe send a slightly smaller attack but then ensure that you have trample next turn to lock them out of just chump blocking.

Monstrous Rage

This card is the sole reason why Heroic had a resurgence. A powerful finisher that lets you completely invalidate opposing creatures and even leaves a lasting effect. Even though this will often be the last spell you cast to win a game, don’t be afraid to fire it off preemptively. It will do the initial 4 extra damage no matter what, but by playing it early on you also get to take advantage of the Monstrous Role for more turns which is a very powerful tool. This also means that Monstrous Rage works differently from Ancestral Anger and you don’t need to worry about running out of trample.

Monstrous Rage

Another thing to keep in mind with this card is that it does also increase toughness, so it has the hidden extra mode of stopping a Fiery Impulse or Stomp. Don’t be afraid to use it this way, as again the Monster Role is the most important aspect of the card.

Spread the love!

Sometimes it’s best to move all in on the same creature as intended, as keywords like trample or double strike simply benefit form the bigger number. Other times you might have two heroic creatures and try to pump up both a little bit, hedging your bets against removal, and once they commit to killing one, you can unload your hand on the second creature to kill them.

Other times, your reason for spreading out the pumps is to make it more difficult for the opponent to navigate combat. If you just have one big thing, maybe the opponent can take damage, chump block or afford to block in a way where they eat your small creatures. If you spread out the power and toughness you might put them in an awkward spot where they e.g. have to risk their Vein Ripper in combat. Once again I can refer to game 4 of the finals where I make a mistake and don’t put a counter on my Swiftspear which means I leave Seth an opening to block with his Vein Ripper without losing it.

And in the same vein, when you have to navigate these combat decisions, don’t lock yourself into thinking that pump spells are only meant for Heroic creatures. It can frequently be right to target your Swiftspear instead to line up the power equally, grow their toughness out of an Anger of the Gods preemptively or target it with an Ancestral Anger to make sure all your creatures have trample.

Pick your fights

Even though you can use a protection spell, it’s not always correct to do so. When playing against interactive decks, you might have a creature heavy hand where it’s important to be aware that you can’t get stuck with underpowered threats.

This also means that it’s important to save your protection for something that is actually threatening. If you protect your Favored Hoplite, your opponent might just be able to ignore the 3/4 creature as they keep up another Fatal Push to prevent a Monstrous Rage from sticking. If you let that Hoplite die, you can use the protection spell for something better later, like when you play Ancestral Anger on an Illuminator Virtuoso.

Boros Heroic: Matchups and Sideboard Guide | MTG Pioneer

Here I will give a quick sideboard guide and strategic overview for the top five matchups in Pioneer as of the Pro Tour. Since I don’t have much experience with the Vampires matchup outside of the finals, I’ll just briefly mention it under the Rakdos section.

Against Phoenix

On the play
-2 Ancestral Anger
+2 Reckless Rage
On the draw
-2 Ancestral Anger
-1 Illuminator Virtuoso
+2 Rending Volley
+1 Reckless Rage
Arclight PhoenixLedger ShredderLightning Axe

The most important card in this matchup is Ledger Shredder. It’s quite hard for us to consistently play in a way where we don’t trigger it on our turn, so it grows quickly and puts pressure on us to go more all-in on a creature. One big secret of this matchup is that Heroic often has the advantage if Phoenix plays too passively because all their removal is essentially conditional (damage based) so you can run rings around them. But Phoenix can race you, because you do have to slow down in order to navigate around their cheap removal and so you usually can’t present super-fast kills.

One of the more surprising things about our sideboard is that we run no Rest in Peace at all. The reason for this is to be found in the paragraph above. Most of the games that Phoenix wins, it is with Ledger Shredder racing you, and in those games Rest in Peace is one of the worst cards you could have. Also, Homestead Courage is actually quite an important tool for growing the toughness of your creatures so it’s costly to make that card half as good.

This is also the same reason for why we don’t bring in Showdown of the Skalds even though it might be tempting to have access to in the games where Phoenix grinds you out. You will have more games where it simply clunks up your hand and replaces crucial pump spells.

The strategic goal is to get rid of Ledger Shredder when you can and try to get two of your creatures to 4 toughness. This allows them to attack through a Phoenix and demands two Lightning Axes. If you just go all-in on one creature, it needs to go above 8 toughness to not die to Lightning Axe + Fiery Impulse and leaves you vulnerable to Brazen Borrower. This also means that your protection spells are more useful for getting to this point where you can grow toughness and resolve cantrips rather than using them in a protect the queen style way, where they might just be able to play a Temporal Trespass and race you anyway because you took so long to set up.

Favored Hoplite is your best creature by far, as you can use even a Defiant Strike or Spikefield Hazard to save it from removal. This also means that you should very rarely play it out on turn 1 because your opponent will kill it on sight, but turn 2 with a mana up is ideal. 

We cut Ancestral Anger because Phoenix will often leave up mana making it difficult to land the sorcery speed cantrip. Defiant Strike is much better for this reason, as you can cast it when they tap out for Free the Fae in your end step or use it to protect a Favored Hoplite. Virtuoso is your weakest creature as it’s harder to grow it out of range and doesn’t work as well in a gameplan where you are trying to grow multiple creatures. You can also shave a protection spell or two if they play in an aggressive way where they only cast removal spells when you are tapped out anyway.

Against Rakdos Midrange

On the play
-2 Monastery Swiftspear
-2 Reckless Rage
-1 Homestead Courage
+4 Showdown of the Skalds
+1 Sokenzan
On the draw
-2 Monastery Swiftspear
-2 Reckless Rage
-1 Homestead Courage
-1 Loran’s Escape
-1 Spikefield Hazard
+4 Showdown of the Skalds
+1 Sokenzan
+1 Torch the Tower
+1 Get Lost
Fable of the Mirror-BreakerBloodtithe HarvesterSheoldred, the Apocalypse


This is a matchup that can seem terrible on the surface, and it is certainly very tricky to navigate. The most important aspect is that you can’t beat them by trading cards so you need to invalidate as many of their cards as possible. This is why we are boarding out Reckless Rage, because in order to win you need to invalidate their creatures because yours are bigger. And Reckless Rage doesn’t kill their scariest creature, Sheoldred.

This does mean that sometimes you lose to Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, but c’est la vie. You do not have winning lines in every game against Rakdos, and that’s okay. You win by taking calculated risks and figure out a hand configuration you can beat, then try to beat that one.

There also used to be a big question of leading with spear or leading with the shield, as you enabled their Bonecrusher Giants if you just run out a creature, but if you hold back they can develop Bloodtithe Harvester and make it easier to kill your creature through protection on turn 3. Now that Vampires is by far the most popular Rakdos deck, you no longer have to fear Bonecrusher and it’s generally a good idea to take the risk and run out something unprotected on turn 1 or 2 (depending on whether you are on the play or draw).

Homestead Courage ends up playing out surprisingly well in this matchup. Imagine that you do run out Tenth District Legionnaire on turn 2 and they play Bloodtithe Harvester. Now you can use a single Homestead Courage to invalidate their creature as an attacker, blocker or removal spell. And you will still have the backside ready for later use, in case they do kill your Legionnaire. It’s also crucial for growing your things to 4 toughness once we get to the midgame where Sorin can start to mow down your forces.

Postboard you get Showdown which helps a ton with bailing you out of bad spots. Whenever you have that card in hand, it’s important to not get run over, so I recommend playing less conservative than you would preboard. If they have to spend their turn 3 killing an unprotected Virtuoso at least that means Fable is delayed by a turn and you can find more threats with Showdown anyway.

This is also why I bring in extra removal spells on the draw, as they help buy you time. And Torch the Tower just lines up so well against Bloodtithe Harvester on the draw. We shave some Swiftspears as they tend to be a little undersized and more easily blockable once you’ve spent a few resources. If they run Liliana of the Veil, you should consider keeping them in your deck instead of a few protection spells though.

Against UW Control

On the play
-2 Homestead Courage
-2 Reckless Rage
-2 Favored Hoplite
-1 God’s Willing
On the draw
+4 Showdown of the Skalds
+2 Light of Hope
+1 Sokenzan

The Wandering EmperorGet LostDovin's Veto

In this matchup you get a lot of advantage from your cards simply being much cheaper than theirs, so try to use that to your advantage. They don’t play that much spot removal, so its generally correct to lead with the spear to get in under their two mana counterspells. You can also more often just pump your creature into their open mana if you need to, though of course it’s better to be safe unless you actively want to bait them. If you play too passively with your protection, you can easily end up in spot where they can have Get Lost plus Dovin’s Veto on turn 4 to counter your protection spell.

Their scariest card is Temporary Lockdown as you can’t really prevent it, so be conscious about extending into it (but sometimes it can also be fine to take that risk to beat all of their other possible hands). Postboard we get 2 Light of Hope to deal with it, and you can also consider boarding in the Get Lost to have an extra answer. You might also want to play into it to tap them out of a counterspell for your Showdown if things line up that way.

Remember that Homestead Courage can play around The Wandering Emperor because of Vigilance. This is especially good in combination with Reckless Rage or trample as then they can’t also just make a blocker instead. And if they do hit you with Get Lost, it’s often a good idea to use those map tokens before they get swept up by Temporary Lockdown instead of extending cards from your hand.

Against Amalia Combo

On the play
-2 Favored Hoplite
-1 Homestead Courage
-1 God’s Willing
+2 Reckless Rage
+1 Rending Volley
+1 Torch the Tower
On the draw
-2 Tenth District Legionnaire
-2 Homestead Courage
-1 God’s Willing
+2 Reckless Rage
+2 Rending Volley
+1 Torch the Tower
Amalia Benavides AguirreWildgrowth WalkerSentinel of the Nameless City

This matchup is funky because of your ability to draw the game, as you might have witnessed in the semifinals of the Pro Tour. When they go off, none of their triggers are optional so it’s paramount that Amalia gets to exactly 20 power to kill all creatures and clear off the Wildgrowth Walker to stop the loop. If you can point a Defiant Strike or Monstrous Rage at Amalia while she is at 19 power, she will never hit 20 after the explore trigger happens and the loop will just continue to go forever making the game a draw. The same thing happens with Loran’s Escape to make Wildgrowth Walker indestructible, giving you 12 outs to force a draw in any game you would have lost otherwise.

This is actually the reason I decided to look into Heroic in the first place, as it’s the only aggro deck that doesn’t fold to Amalia. In fact, I believe Heroic to be fairly favored in the matchup. The draws don’t actually come up all that much, because all this really means is that Amalia player will either try to win without the combo or to set up to combo through your pump spell. They can do this with either Voice of Resurgence (which will trigger in response to your pump spell, make a creature token, this will trigger their Lunarch Veteran and restart the combo) or with a Chord of Calling in hand, to get any creature out in response.

Also, if the Amalia player is savvy, they will not leave any spell on top (like an Aetherflux Reservoir), instead just aggressively dumping every spell in the graveyard with their explore triggers. This can get around Defiant Strike which will pump their Amalia to 20 power, and now there is a chance for a land on top which will not grow Amalia’s power further and make sure that she gets to clear the board.

All these things combined means that you should not slow yourself down too much to leave open a trick at any opportunity. If you give them time, they will find a way around it. But you should still be aware that there is a lot of value in leaving open mana at any point where they can threaten the combo, so it is fine to slowplay a little bit, at the right times. The real balance in playing this matchup is knowing when you just need to commit that Monstrous Rage to set up lethal next turn and just hope they don’t have the missing pieces.

Postboard they will try to rely less on the combo and more on Wildgrowth Walker midrange backed up by cards like Sentinel of the Nameless City. Their fair plan is a not that good usually, but when they get an engine going with multiple Wildgrowths and explore triggers, things can get dangerous. This is also why you really should not overvalue Rending Volley in the matchup as it doesn’t deal with their scariest draws.

They will also bring in Thoughtseizes and Fatal Push so you should prepare to play something that resembles a regular midrange game against them postboard. We still have space to shave a couple creatures because they don’t run that much removal, and the thought process is that Favored Hoplite is  a bit anemic but on the draw you prefer the cheaper option over Tenth District Legionnaire as haste really doesn’t matter than much either.

Against Lotus Field

On the play
-1 Defiant Strike,
-1 Favored Hoplite,
-1 God’s Willing,
-1 Homestead Courage
On the draw
+1 Damping Sphere
+1 Get Lost,
+2 Light of Hope

Lotus FieldArboreal GrazerOtawara, Soaring City

This is your best matchup by far because you are usually a turn faster than them and they don’t get to have much meaningful interaction. Your best card is Illuminator Virtuoso as it makes for the easiest turn 3 kills, so be aware to mulligan towards that one or another hand that has a shot at killing them on turn 3, especially on the draw.

They are also forced to try and find a hand with Arboreal Grazer, which means they’ll often mulligan a lot as well and not necessarily have a functional combo even if you don’t kill them quickly so don’t mulligan regularly good fast hands even if it doesn’t quite add up to 20 damage in three turns.

If they have Arboreal Grazer, they can use Archdruid’s Charm to fight off your Illuminator Virtuoso, and they will also often try to search up Otawara, so it’s good to be aware of these lines of interaction.

We don’t really sideboard much which is why we decided to include a single Damping Sphere as the 15th sideboard card when we didn’t really know what else we’d want in other matchups. It’s especially nice as you can use Loran’s Escape to protect it. If you end up with extra space, Damping Sphere is a fine use for those slots but it’s certainly not needed so it’s an easy cut if you want to make room for something else. Pressure is still the most important thing, so don’t keep a slow hand just because it has Damping Sphere plus Loran’s Escape.

They board into a lot more sweepers and bounce spells, so in the postboard games they will often be able to slow you down, but they also get a lot worse at comboing. You are usually resilient enough to grind through this interaction, with Tenth District Legionnaire being MVP to win after a sweeper. Temporary Lockdown becomes their best card, so we board in Light of Hope as a hedge. Not every list runs it, but Light of Hope is still a pump spell so that’s fine.

Conclusion

This concludes my guide to Boros Heroic, and you can see now there are a ton of angles to consider when playing this deck. If you happen to strike the right balance, the deck could be something marvellously powerful, especially in an open decklist environment where you get to calibrate your mulligans. Go forth and conquer the Pioneer scene with this underappreciated gem!

Author: Simon Nielsen

Simon Nielsen is a Danish professional Magic: The Gathering player, coach, and member of Handshake Ultimate Guard. Despite having a highly decorated career including with a World Magic Cup win, many Grand Prix top finishes, and being the first player with four consecutive Pro Tour level top finishes, it is remarkable that it is perhaps not his extremely impressive list of accomplishments that have won over many fans, but his charm, humility, and honesty. Simon would probably want you to know he didn't write this.