Thursday, March 29, 2012

Total F**king War!

--EDITED 05/12

Of my 7 existing decks, this one is the deck that has undergone the most significant changes post-Avacyn Restored. Perhaps the biggest change is the most front-and-center change: replacing Agrus Kos with Gisela as the general of the deck.

Or, perhaps that change is just the most jarringly noticeable. I think it's more subtle, yet more important, that the deck has actually also undergone a major philosophical shift. No single card choice my be quite as impactful as the new general, but overall I made the very tough decision to reassign where I place this deck along the "Theme vs. Power Spectrum"...

The deck list you'll see at the very bottom of this article - the original list with Agrus - was designed with a very strict adherence to my thematic vision for the deck. There were a handful of "good stuff" inclusions, but even most of those were at least flimsily justifiable on a thematic basis.

Also critical to the deck were a number of War and Battle themed cards that were still at least mechanically viable and relevant, yet were still more obviously included for thematic resonance over power. In case I've lost you with the high-level stuff, lemme give some examples...

Glory of Warfare is, perhaps, one of the cards that most compelled me to want to make this Total War deck in the first place, and it at least has proven to be worth it's salt. Crescendo of War and Archangle of Strife, however, were more questionable inclusions that I forced into the deck because they fit the IDEAL model of the deck in both flavor and function. Archangel of Strife is undeniably great when you have a handful of Double Strike creatures on the board... but she's also overwhelmingly terrible against a token swarm deck like Ghave. Unfortunately I see a lot of various token decks in my group so I kept drawing the Archangel and Crescendo of War in games were casting them would have been suicidal!

Thus, those awesomely-thematic cards got cut. So, too, did the equally awesome World at War, which also proved far to situational to use reliably and kept sitting in my hand unused for turn after turn after turn. HULK HATE HAVING DEAD CARDS IN HAND! So it had to go.Furthermore, Hero of Oxid Ridge and Hero of Bladehold both seemd to have a lot of potential, but sadly they both failed to meet those expectations by a wide margin.

Meanwhile, through playing the deck, I noticed some holes and weaknesses that had nothing to do with any particular card's performance... they were issues that had more to do with what was missing, rather than what was present. Such as the lack of a four-mana Wrath effect. I had three sweepers and two of them cost six mana (Desolation Giant, Austere Command) while the other cost a minimum of 7 if I wanted it to work as a sweeper (Martial Coup). All three of those cards were perfectly good, and none disappointed me. I just found the number of times I really needed a sweeper that cost less than 6 to be higher than I'd expected, so I needed to supplement the package with something. Wrath or Day would have been great for Agrus Kos, but with Gisela in mind I picked a more techy choice: Wave of Reckoning. Wave is usually going to kill almost everything in play already, as most creatures in EDH have equal P/T or higher Power. But with Gisela in play, Wave of Reckoning is all but guaranteed to kill every creature that isn't mine, while leaving most of my own guys relatively unscathed, thanks to Gisela's damage reduction ability.

I also needed more gas - a common problem for Boros decks - so luckily AVR added Reforge the Soul as another fantastic "Draw 7".

Finally, I just rounded out the deck with a handful of cards from AVR that looked fun and cool, but were more powerful than cards currently in the deck. Slayer's Stronghold and Lightning Mauler add some more much-needed Haste to the deck, while Silverblade Paladin and Hound of Griselbrand simply fit that oh-so-sweet Double Strike need! I also added the Knight of the White Orchid because I really needed a bit more mana-searching (I traded for a Tithe as well, but haven't been able to squeeze it in yet!). Flametongue Kavu came back to the deck to supplement my removal suite, which I had found to be lacking.

Overall many of these changes have forced me to dip well outside the strict Military and War theme. FTK and Hound of Griselbrand are good cards for the deck, but they definitely don't fit the theme the way Hero of Bladehold and Archangel of Strife did.

But in the end, I realized the deck simply functioned better when I was willing to bend the theme to make it run more smoothly and efficiently. As cool as the deck was, it wasn't as much fun to play when I kept drawing cards that were either ineffective or even disasterous for me to cast them. I still think the deck is generically flavorful enough and cool enough on it's own that I don't need to force it to have more "theme" at the expense of "power". It will still play very much the same as it did before - hopefully it will be just a little more reliable and a little more powerful, while still being aggressive and fun.

Here's the full, current list.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

Weathered Wayfarer
Serra Ascendant
Stoneforge Mystic
Puresteel Paladin
Knight of the White Orchid
Mentor of the Meek
Mirran Crusader
Silverblade Paladin
Loxodon Punisher
Stonehewer Giant
Sun Titan

Spikeshot Elder
Lightning Mauler
Markov Blademaster
Flametongue Kavu
Hound of Griselbrand
Desolation Giant
Vulshok Battlemaster
Urabrask the Hidden
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Inferno Titan

Figure of Destiny
Boros Swiftblade
Duergar Hedge-Mage
Soltari Guerrillas
Nobilis of War

Solemn Simulacrum

Basilisk Collar
Swiftfoot Boots
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of War and Peace
Sword of Vengeance

Enlightened Tutor
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares
Second Sunrise
Orim's Thunder
Return to Dust
Increasing Vengeance
Wild Ricochet
Fight to the Death

Steelshaper's Gift
Remember the Fallen
Wave of Reckoning
Austere Command
Martial Coup
Wheel of Fortune
Reforge the Soul

Land Tax
In the Web of War
Glory of Warfare

Sol Ring
Boros Signet
Coalition Relic
Scroll Rack


Same as the original list, but with Slayer's Stronghold added.

Orginial article and list below

This is a War-themed deck, with Agrus Kos in command, leading the battle. The deck is meant to be an aggressive deck, with many cards that reward you for attacking as often as possible. Where possible, I tried to include cards that, through flavor and mechanic, convey the theme of all-out warfare. A few obvious choices didn't make it in, but I'll address those after the list.

Many of you may recognize the core of the list as being quite familiar – indeed this list is very much inspired by, and quite similar to, my Jor Kadeen deck (which was, ultimately, inspired by obsidiandice’s Oros build). It's the same fundamental design – cheap aggro creatures, beefed up with a robust Equipment selection, and a versatile Sunforger package. However, the issue with Jor Kadeen was the Metalcraft requirement, which was surprisingly ineffective. Either I didn't have enough Artifacts to enable his Metalcraft bonus, or I had such a strong board position that his Metalcraft bonus was largely irrelevant. I found I was rarely casting Jor Kadeen, unless I ran out of creatures and he was my only option.

I can't say with any real certainty if Agrus Kos will be more useful overall, but I have a feeling he might be.

Since Metalcraft is now not really a theme of the deck, the number of Artifacts could easily be lowered, allowing for a more streamlined and focused creature selection and support package. One of the issues I had with Jor's build was a slightly-too-low creature count. Not having to run a minimum number or artifacts allowed for some extra dudes to be slotted in, which should help quite a bit.

Here's the list as it stands now. With the military and war theme, I thought it would be cool to list creatures by rank…

The Boros Legion

Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran

This one is pretty obvious; he's the top brass. When he takes the field personally, the troops find their performance greatly improved.

Archangel of Strife
Urabrask the Hidden
Nobilis of War

My original intent was to have a White, Red, and Multicolored Legendary creature fill these slots. They represent the commanding officers of each of their branches (colors) of the military, and I wanted them each to have an effect that benefited all of my other creatures with a blanket effect. However, the best possible choices weren't always Legendary. While the White officer could have been Elesh Norn, Archangel of Strife just has too much flavor to pass up (obviously, in this deck, we're ALWAYS choosing “War”). For the Multicolored officer, Nobilis was the only real candidate - Basandra has awesome flavor, but is an unfortunately shitty card.

Hero of Bladehold
Hero of Oxid Ridge

These are the guys that lead the infantry in the initial charge, what with their Battle Cries and all. I wanted to run Accorder Paladin and Goblin Wardriver too, but due to space issues, and the fact that this isn't a token deck, they got cut. Really, even the two Heroes are not the strongest choices here, but they're flavorful as hell, and just good enough to make the cut, I think. Flame-Kin Zealot and Balefire Liege are suitable alternatives, if you prefer.

Stoneforge Mystic
Stonehewer Giant
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Brass Squire

These are the guys who hand out the weapons and armor before battle, and some are also quite good at wielding those weapons, too. Kor Outfitter got cut, mostly because he stubbornly only shows up in hands lacking in Equipment. Auriok Steelshaper was a much stronger contender, but he pushes too hard into maintaining a stricter Tribal element.

Serra Ascendant
Student of Warfare
Mentor of the Meek
Mirran Crusader
Loxodon Punisher
Markov Blademaster
Vulshok Battlemaster
Figure of Destiny
Boros Swiftblade

The grunts on the frontlines. I specifically wanted these guys to be small – 1/1's and 2/2's mostly – and relatively cheap. Their value comes from the fact that they can potentially hit the ground and start attacking as early as Turn 2. I also tried to make most of them be some relevant creature type – Soldiers, Knights, Warriors. There are a couple of exceptions, but I'm sure you can see why Serra Ascendant is worth fudging a bit. Also, the Doublestrikers in particular are downright scary when equipped with a Sword or two.

Special Units
Spikeshot Elder (Sniper)
Soltari Guerrillas (Sniper)
Weathered Wayfarer (Advance Scout)
Solemn Simulacrum (Advance Scout)
Duergar Hedge-Mage (Demolitions)
Inferno Titan (Artillery)
Reveillark (Medic)
Sun Titan (Medic)

These guys are the specialists, that fulfill unique or important roles.
My snipers specialize in repeatable, targeted creature kill to clear the battlefield of High Value Targets. Neither looks like it’s going to kill all that much, but attach a Basilisk Collar or any Power-boosting equipment and they can easily kill Primeval Titans on up.
The advanced scouts explore ahead of the legion seeking new sources of mana to fuel the Legion's magical assaults.
Medics revive fallen soldiers, that seems pretty obvious. Of course, Sun Titan can also recur almost every piece of equipment in the deck.
Duergar Hedge-Mage is a demo expert, blowing up enemy artifacts and enchantments.
Finally, Inferno Titan bombards enemy territory with artillery before rolling in like a fiery tank from hell!

The Armory

Basilisk Collar – “One shot, one kill” when equipped to Spikeshot Elder, Soltari Guerillas or Inferno Titan.
Sunforger – Easily the most powerful weapon in the Boros arsenal.
Swiftfoot Boots – In place of Greaves, because sometimes we need to put multiple Equipment on one guy.
Sword of War and Peace
Sword of Light and Shadow
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Vengeance

Sword of Vengeance gets the nod here over Sword of Body and Mind because, well, it's better. Umezawa's Jitte is probably an even better choice, but it's kinda mean. For a more competitive metagame, though, I'd definitely run Jitte at all costs!

Sunforger Package

The enchanted weapon known as Sunforger can produce many powerful effects when wielded in battle. Here are 10 such effects:

Enlightened Tutor
Fight to the Death
Increasing Vengeance
Order // Chaos
Orim's Thunder
Path to Exile
Return to Dust
Second Sunrise
Swords to Plowshares
Wild Ricochet

Most of these choices are pretty obvious.
Wild Ricochet is just a nutty card and can really screw an opponent up, if they don't see it coming.
Increasing Vengeance might be better or worse than Reverberate, as it doesn't allow us to copy anyone's spells but our own. However the potential to do so up to three times is to good not to try out.
Second Sunrise is there because I know from experience that Fracturing Gust and Austere Command can pretty much annihilate us; Sunrise gives us a potential out. It's already save my butt at least twice, so it has proven to be effective in that regard.
Fight to the Death is janky, but cool. As much as the Boros Legion loves to do battle, if we can trick our enemies into wiping out each other's armies, we can win the war without risking our own troops. Strategy is ultimately more important than sating our bloodlust.
Finally, Order // Chaos can likely become something else as we already have two other Exile effects, and the Chaos half almost never matters. I'm considering Oblation – I don't like “tucking” someone else's General, but it can also be used on my own permanents that are being targeted by a removal spell to get me a couple of replacements for whatever I just lost. Also, Chaos Warp is pretty good. Not sure what I'll do here.

You'll probably have noticed a glaringly obvious omission: Master Warcraft. This is a card I fully intended to run, because it's just SO on-theme. But it's also a card that is terribly un-fun, mostly because it doesn't actually work the way you think it ought to work. Whenever you cast Master Warcraft in a multiplayer game, it's almost always one of two situations – either you declare that no creatures attack, making it a four-mana “Fog”, or you declare that all creatures one opponent control must attack, but the player who controls those creatures just sends 'em all at you out of spite. If you could force one opponent to attack another opponent, it'd be an amazing card, but as printed it just means “everything attacks the guy who cast Master Warcraft”. Lame.

Battlefield Magic
The Legion likes to have its warmages cast powerful enchantments over the site of the battle that help them overcome even the most overwhelming odds.

Glory of Warfare
Crescendo of War
In the Web of War
Land Tax

Okay, so Land Tax isn't really on-theme at all, but it's absolutely necessary as this deck needs hit land drops reliably. Other cards considered include Warstorm Surge (so perfect for the deck thematically, but most of my creatures are too small to make this really worth it), True Conviction (definitely worth playing, especially if you don't have all the doublestrikers), and Goblin War Drums (If I didn't absolutely need Land Tax, it'd become this).

Other Stuff
This section is just random stuff. Some of it has mildly thematic appropriateness, but mostly it's just “Good Stuff”.

Austere Command – One on hand this is one of the spells I fear the most, when cast by an opponent. I've seen this card literally destroy every single non-land permanent I controlled without touching a single permanent controlled by my opponents. Ouch! Then again, when I get to choose its modes, it can destroy multiple permanents without harming a single of my own.

Martial Coup – The most on-theme Wrath effect, of course.

Remember the Fallen – Great card advantage, gets back an Equipment and a creature to wield it!

Steelshaper's Gift – Pretty obvious.

Wheel of Fortune – The deck needs gas, and this refills our tank.

World at War – On theme, of course, and can easily win games. I wanted a couple more of these effects, but this and Godo were the best of the bunch.

Sol Ring, Boros Signet and Darksteel Ingot – The default package, natuRally. I'd love to add Expedition Map, too, but can't find room at the mOment.

Scroll Rack – Amazing by itself, but downright busted when paired with Land Tax.

The Killing Fields

Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
Kor Haven
Kher Keep
Forbidding Watchtower
Ghitu Encampment
Mistveil Plains
New Benalia
Teetering Peaks
High Market
Temple of the False God
Enough Duals & Basics to make a total of 38 lands

Most of those should seem pretty obvious what their roles is.

Mistveil Plains is pretty busted with an active Sunforger – being able to continually sunforge up a Path to Exile turn after turn, or recycle a blown-up Sword when we draw a late game Stoneforge Mystic… Mistveil Plains is easily the most important land in the deck.

Kher Keep… your opponents might scoff at your measly 0/1 Kobolds, but when they get hit by a Doublestriking Kobold carrying a Sword or three, their scoffing will cease immediately. Usually, this thing just provides fodder for Skullclamp, which honestly is enough reason to run it, but I have actually managed to go on the offensive with a single Kobold armed to the teeth!


I'm pretty happy with this list overall. As always, I couldn't fit everything in that I wanted, but here are a few of the more pressing concerns.

Draw – I have a few really good ways to draw cards, but they're susceptible to removal. My group knows to kill Scroll Racks ASAP, especially if there's a Land Tax as well. Skullclamp + Kher Keep has been a great engine in the past, but Skullclamp is another prime target for removal.

Removal – Yeah, I have some spot removal in the Sunforger package, and two Wrath effects. But that's still significantly less than what I'm used to running. Ideally, I'd have at least one more Wrath, and FTK and Duplicant rounding out the spot removal. If any of the thematic cards prove to be not good enough to warrant keeping, these will be the top contenders to get the slot.

Mana – I already mentioned wanting Expedition Map, as a way to snag important utility lands (Mistveil Plains and Kor Haven are of particular import). I don't think I'll have too much of an issue, as the curve is fairly low, but I can see this thing stalling at 5 lands if I don't draw Land Tax early.

Other than those three items, I'm pretty confident this thing will run the way I want it too. It helps that this is basically the third iteration of the deck – it started out as Oros, became Jor Kadeen, and now this. The core concepts of those precursors are still very much intact here, it's mostly just the thematic approach that has changed.

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