Wilds of Eldraine brought some specific cards to non-rotating formats. In Pioneer, additions like Blossoming Tortoise and Lord Skitter, Sewer King make occasional appearances in the format's top decks, while other additions are tested in less popular lists.
Among them, the big winner with the new expansion seems to be Boros Heroic, due to Monstrous Rage - a simple combat trick, but which permanently guarantees Trample to a creature, while carrying all the advantages that instants and sorceries have alongside Dreadhorde Arcanist.
The new spell increases the consistency with which Boros Heroic can make explosive plays and activate the dreaded "free-win button" alongside Illuminator Virtuoso, putting it back in the Metagame, with a victory in the last weekend's Challenges.
In this article, we will explore the potential of this deck!
The list above is a card-by-card version of the version ran Hamuda to win the Pioneer Challenge on September 16th. Since Hamuda is one of the best Heroic players in Pioneer, and one of the best players in Magic Online, I see no need to change any cards in the list in an unknown Metagame.
The Sideboard is subject to change when we know the opponents' decks, but the numbers above are in accordance with what I found in most lists.
Starting the game with a one-drop is an excellent way to put pressure on your opponent, especially against archetypes that don't have efficient removals in the first turn.
Favored Hoplite and Monastery Swiftspear are the best in their respective categories. Both ensure that the opponent needs to find a quick answer, while paving the way for larger and more efficient threats, like Illuminator Virtuoso, to attack unimpeded after we force our opponents to spend resources to deal with them.
Illuminator Virtuoso is our main wincondition. Putting it into play means forcing the opponent to keep a high number of untapped creatures and/or prepare two or more removals to avoid an immediate defeat. The fact that it grows on its own and already has Double Strike built in turns Monstrous Rage into an Embercleave for one mana.
Dreadhorde Arcanist is our only source of Card Advantage in the maindeck. The possibility of reusing any spell from our graveyard creates countless situations where attacking with it for a turn generates enough value to greatly advance our game, or push the opponent back for a few turns. It is common for it to become another removal magnet.
The main spells of the deck, essential to ensure that our strategy works.
As already mentioned, Monstrous Rage turns any creature into a threat. Just add one or two more spells, and we can threaten lethal damage over several turns.
Gods Willing has the dual function of protecting our creatures from removals, while also working to deflect potential blockers, especially in monocolored decks, or lists that run many creatures that share a color with each other.
The cards above are maindeck pillars, which ensure the list's consistency in executing its game plan, but they are also the cards that almost always come out in post-sideboard games so that specific answers can be included.
Defiant Strike is, in essence, a cantrip that interacts with the list's proposal, and its only function is to guarantee an extra draw while triggering our creatures' abilities.
Reckless Rage is the best removal we can have in the maindeck. Its scope is large enough to deal with countless threats, while almost all of our creatures bypass its drawback, and still trigger its abilities.
To complete the maindeck, we have some specific slots.
Homestead Courage interacts well with Illuminator Virtuoso and triggers two Prowess/Heroic triggers. Before, it was common to see lists with four copies of it, but like Defiant Strike, its scope is too limited and not very explosive for the deck's purpose.
The mana base of this list is self-explanatory: four copies of each dual land that enters untapped is essential to ensure the consistency of our access to colors, while Den of the Bugbear is an excellent way to use our mana if the match goes on for too long.
Our list doesn't use any cards with the same mana symbols, and does not make concessions to work without them. While some additions could yield interesting results, having Jegantha, the Wellspring as another threat in long games is an advantage we can capitalize on.
The board interaction slots.
Rending Volley is essential for dealing with the main aggressive decks in the format today, while it is also the best option we have to complement Reckless Rage in dealing with Greasefang, Okiba Boss for cheap.
Flowstone Infusion is a decent removal against small creatures, and also works as a combat trick and pump when we need to deal more damage. In essence, it's a Shock against the opponent's creatures, and a Lava Spike if we use it on one of our threats.
Loran's Escape is a useful addition for games where we expect more removals and sweepers, such as against Rakdos Midrange or Azorius Control. It is also a useful card for dealing with Lotus Combo's bounces.
Showdown of the Skalds is our attrition engine for matchups where we need to be less linear. The card advantage it offers is very relevant, and the fact that it grows your creatures helps guarantee a more impactful board.
Reidane, God of the Worthy is a modal card that works both to hold back sweepers from Control decks, and to prevent Mayhem Devil's looping with Witch's Oven and Cauldron Familiar from becoming a machine gun against your creatures. It is also useful against the format's Goodstuff stacks.
Playing with Boros Heroic
Boros Heroic is an archetype that seems simple and objective to pilot, but that requires a good understanding of what your opponent can do against you, and what stance to take based on these possibilities.
There are games, such as against Lotus Combo or Mono Green Devotion, where our best proposal is to try to establish the Tempo and force our victory in as few turns as possible. Other games, like Rakdos Midrange and other more interactive decks, will punish us severely if we try to go "all-in".
In these cases, we must look for the best route to take a few points of damage each turn, and force the opponent to react accordingly. If we can force a hasty play, we will have the perfect opportunity for a more explosive turn to secure victory.
Games always get a little harder after Sideboarding. Mainly because there are several games where the opponent's responses are better against us than ours are against them. Adding too many cards means breaking our consistency, and should only be done in games where our plan A - playing a creature, increasing its power and protecting it - is an inefficient posture.
Boros Heroic is one of the most fun and proactive strategies in Pioneer today. Its results over the last week demonstrate how even the simplest of additions can propel it back to the format's top tiers.
However, due to its linear game plan, the Metagame has an easier time combating it as lists adapt and include more specific cards for that matchup. Its reign at the top is never long enough to make it a constant threat, but underestimating its potential also means opening more opportunities for it to return and win bigger tournaments against unsuspecting opponents.
Thanks for reading!