For a long time boros has sucked. There, I said it. We all know it was true.
That’s not to say that boros couldn’t be threatening. I’ve seen Gisela, Blade of Goldnight and Jor Kadeen, The Prevailer win games they had no business winning. We’ve all seen Earthquake kill armies of elves and goblins and merfolk alike. It just seemed to take a small miracle (plus sol ring) in the past for everything to line up for Boros to take any sort of advantage in a standard 4 player FFA match of EDH.
Picture any modern first person shooter, like Counter Strike: Global Offensive. In games like these the angle that you attack from is critical because it dictates how much time and options your opponent have in how they respond. Way back in about 2008 or so when I first started playing EDH there were even scarcer options for approaching Boros. You were all in on face smashing within the first few turns and all it took was a single removal spell or wrath to send you back into the stone age. It’s hard to attack your enemies when your avenue of attack is very predictable.
Adding to this problem the commanders in the Boros color scheme didn’t generally offer a good secondary angle of attack, nor were they mana-efficient. In a lot of other colors/color combinations there are a healthy amount of commanders who can function as support cards that can easily be accessed to gain value, be responsive, or attack from an alternate angle. Boros did not have this for a long time and it is arguable that even when cards like Gisela, Blade of Goldnight came out that their angle and CMC was so clunky that it didn’t expand the playability of Boros very far at all.
This is changing though. From Shadows over Innistrad cards like Archangel Avacyn are starting to prove this trend wrong. Avacyn literally drops firebombs on creatures in standard and her effect is very real in EDH. Lots of commanders have toughness 3 or less and her flip effect is very good at massacring tribal decks or swarm decks. To me some of her hidden strengths are that she can be played in multiple shells. I’ve played her in pure burn style decks where I use her as a versatile and dependent blocker that can stave off voltron decks and pressure control decks. I’ve seen other people make more midrangy decks where she serves to swoop in and protect your creatures or add lethal damage to the board. It’s cute to see how many different options people have to activate Archangel on a whim; from creatures like Children of Korlis to lands like high market.
A Boros commander that really surprised me was Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas. When I first saw her spoiled in the Commander 2015 product series I thought she was trash. I put a lot of weight in her “Whenever you cast a creature with CMC of 5 or greater” clause and thought it was a huge trap. But ignore that part of the card. Build and play your deck as if that clause never existed. What Kalemne offers Boros is a consistent massive damage burst in the mid to late game. The successful boros players that I have seen build modestly competitive Kalemne decks usually play games patiently. They wait for the fast decks to run out and threaten their win cons and flick off their spot removal. Then it’s time for Kalemne to come down and grab an idle pair of (Insert badass mana-efficient equipment here). The double strike kills players very fast. Combine that with the various equipment that gives benefits based off of combat damage being dealt to opponents and you can actually out value your opponents (lifegain or card draw) where need be.
I’m excited to see what angles Adriana, Captain of the Guard provides Boros via her melee mechanic. I think she could be the curve topper of a hyper aggressive deck that wants to over commit. But I think she could also possibly be the best late-game commander boros has access to. I’m imagining a deck where you try to block your opponents from winning then create a fistful of tokens and use Adriana in succession with possibly multiple combat tricks to deal massive damage.
Either way Adriana comes out I think Boros is on the up-and-up. Having more avenues to attack from is always a valuable thing. It also helps that as more cards are printed in Magic Boros pays the lowest opportunity cost for playing the newest cards. While other decks that are consistently good have to cut cards that are reasonable to play, Boros gets to upgrade cards that weren’t really efficient. Sigarda’s Aid is an example of one of these pure upgrades to the Boros Deathblade Archetype. I’ll share some spicy Boros lists with the site in the near future probably. I have a proven Avacyn list and I want to try my own hand at Kalemne. I also think there’s a fun and moderately threatening Anax and Cymede deck that exists.