Boros or Jeskai? The Ultimate Lurrus Cycling Deck Guide

Floruishing Fox Art by Ilse Gort
Floruishing Fox Art by Ilse Gort

Who am I?

My name is Mark Gabriele, and I am an SCG Tour Grinder and avid Arena player. My absolute favorite decks in Standard are all flavors of Mono-Colored aggro decks, and I recently took Emma Handy’s Boros Cycling deck through Platinum and into Diamond. If you have any questions about the deck, feel free to email me at markgabriele1@gmail.com or message me on Twitter at @gabriele_mark!

See also by Mark Gabriele: Mono Black Obosh Aggro Deck Guide

What is Standard Lurrus Cycling?

Standard Lurrus Cycling decks are decks that make use of the Cycling mechanic to take full advantage of powerful payoffs in the form of Drannith Healer, Drannith Stinger, Flourishing Fox, Valiant Rescuer, and Zenith Flare. The deck is extremely consistent, as it sees far more cards per game than any other deck in Standard, and so can always find its payoffs. The creature cycling payoffs can end the game as soon as turn four, while Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Zenith Flare give you a powerful long game plan. Having finished in the top 4 of the Magicfest Online last weekend and in the Finals this weekend, this deck is the real deal, and you’ll have to learn all about it in order to succeed in Standard. If you like drawing a lot cards and mulling over involved sequencing decisions, then this is the deck for you!

Should I play Boros or Jeskai?

Right now there are two main builds of the cycling deck. While we’ll get into the specifics of each card in the next section, these are the broad advantages of each archetype:

Why you should play Boros:

  1. Consistency, consistency, consistency. The Boros build is much less likely to get color screwed, and you take less damage from your lands by only playing 4-6 shocklands as opposed to Jeskai’s 12. 
  2. Boros plays more one-mana cyclers, which means you’re more likely to draw action and less likely to hit dead ends by drawing too many payoffs that don’t have cycling themselves, like Improbable Alliance
  3. Being less worried about colors and having more cyclers means Emma Handy’s version can afford to trim down to 18 lands, as opposed to the 20 in Takumi Utsunomiya’s list. A lighter land count is invaluable in decks that see this many cards, as lands are some of the only bricks in the deck once you reach the necessary 4 mana to cast Zenith Flare.
  4. Narset, Parter of Veils is a nasty card against us, but you can maneuver around it with most payoffs by cycling on your opponent’s turn and attacking it down. This is not the case for Improbable Alliance, which Narset shuts down entirely.
  5. Jeskai gets cool sideboard cards, but you really shouldn’t be sideboarding much in most matchups since those sideboard options (such as Aether Gust and Mystical Dispute) don’t cycle, and therefore you’re diluting your deck’s core gameplan.

Why you should play Jeskai:

  1. Unfortunately, our opponents are jerks who interact with our cards. What’s something Drannith Healer, Drannith Stinger, Flourishing Fox and Valiant Rescuer all have in common? They all die to a nasty breeze the turn they come down. Improbable Alliance gives you some protection against removal-heavy decks, being an Enchantment that’s harder to interact with.
  2. Mystical Dispute and Aether Gust are REALLY good cards. If you’re going to bring in cards that don’t cycle postboard, their quality is enough to justify it.
  3. Four of the lands that you add to make the mana work can cycle themselves (two more than in Emma’s list, which has two Savai Triomes to help cast Memory Leak).
  4. Casting cards doesn’t come up often, but when it does, it sure comes in handy. Playing Jeskai allows you to cast Boon of the Wish-Giver and Frostveil Ambush in a pinch.

Overall, I would suggest Boros, but both versions are performing perfectly well.

Card-By-Card Analysis

Main Deck

Drannith HealerThis is the worst of the four payoff creatures in most matchups (Gaining a life is worth less than a +1/+1 counter,  1 damage, or a 1/1). As a result, this creature is the most cycled of the four. I would not keep a hand with this as the only payoff in just about any matchup, since aggressive decks will be able to remove it and non-aggressive decks can just ignore it. With that being said, it’s a Bear with some upside that cycles for one mana, so it’s still a very solid card in the deck.

Drannith StingerA huge threat that can get the game over with without even involving the combat step. This card puts on real pressure and will often die very quickly, so don’t be afraid to sandbag it until you can play it with some cyclers up.

Drannith Stinger

Flourishing FoxThere will be no sandbagging with this one, however. The plan is to play the Fox on turn one and hope it lives long enough to see itself become the villain. It’s pretty rare that you win a game with a Flourishing Ghalta (Teferi bounce, anyone?), but it’s a good way to get in chip damage before finishing the game with Stingers and Flares.

Valiant RescuerThis card is awesome, as it buys you time against aggro decks and pressures the opponent against slower decks. You stop getting 1/1s after your first cycle of each turn, so try to spread them out once this hits the table to maximize your damage output; you can still get a second 1/1 on your opponent’s turn! As the most valuable payoff in most matchups, try to lead with other creatures to bait out removal, if you feel like you have the time.

Boon of the Wish-GiverThis card only cycles in Boros, and in Jeskai you should probably just be cycling it anyway.

Boon of the Wish-Giver Art by Chris Rahn

Footfall CraterMore likely to be cast than Boon, but still you should just be cycling this unless you’re setting up lethal.

Frostveil AmbushSame as Footfall Crater, you should be cycling this unless you are playing Jeskai and setting up lethal, or about to die.

Go for BloodIt’s actually reasonable to cast this card if it’s going to be a Terminate, usually when a Fox has gotten out of control. It’s very bad to get your creature killed in response though so be careful. Can’t get blown out if you just cycle it!

Memory LeakFeel free to cast this if there’s a specific, scary card you have in mind that your opponents are likely to have (usually sweepers), but you should probably just cycle it.

Startling DevelopmentI’m gonna shock you: you should probably be cycling this one, too.

Improbable AllianceThe biggest draw to playing the Jeskai version. Is a hard-to-remove army-in-a-can worth the reduced consistency and increased vulnerability to Narset? You be the judge (probably not though).

Improbable Alliance

Zenith FlareAn absolute hammer, this card represents much of the appeal of the deck. Many of the games come down to your opponent having stabilized, and you attempting to Zenith Flare them out of the game (sometimes even for twenty!). I don’t ever shave this card while sideboarding, and it’s usually what I build my gameplan around.

Sideboard

Lurrus of the Dream-DenA sweet part of the Cycling deck is that it can just play Lurrus without really losing any key cards. Lurrus doesn’t really have too much synergy with the deck, besides just bringing back your creature payoffs that have perished in battle, but as usual you just gain two cards for free if you do so even once. It’s usually worth waiting to play Lurrus until you can immediately return something with it, and this is really when the actual text of Footfall Craters can come up.

Aether GustAether Gust is a very, very good card that’s kind of out of place in the meta right now. It’s fine against Jeskai Fires and BR Obosh, but I’m not terribly excited about it in those matchups. It IS good against Temur Rec, but postboard you’re trying to max out on threats, as they board into a ton of creature interaction. This is all to say, Aether Gust is likely worth a spot in your sideboard if you want to play Jeskai, but it shouldn’t be a huge contributing factor in your decision to play Jeskai.

Alseid of Life’s BountyA nice way to keep a threat around against decks that have piles of removal. Being able to leave up a cycler or an Alseid activation is strong, but having to play an Alseid will slow your draw down a bit. This card has very little synergy with the deck, so ultimately I would limit myself to no more than two copies.

Apostle of Purifying LightThis is a really sweet little piece of tech, as Black-based Obosh and Lurrus decks will really struggle to answer it without Claim the Firstborn. Its activated ability can snag a wayward Cauldron Familiar, Gutterbones, or Woe Strider, and can lessen the impact of a Lurrus. I don’t really want this in any other matchup, though, so its playability is entirely dependent on how much of those two decks you expect to see.

Apostle of Purifying Light

Blitz of the Thunder-RaptorThis is a really powerful kill spell once you’ve cycled through enough cards. Threat size scales with time, so as your opponents’ creatures become larger, so does Blitz’s damage output. By around turn five, this should be able to kill most creatures your opponent could throw at you. I’m not a fan of the card against Yorion decks, so if you’re expecting a lot of those, I would probably leave the Thunder-Raptor at home.

Bonecrusher GiantThis is cute but I can’t say I’m a big fan of this tech, as boarding it in means you don’t get to have access to Lurrus.

Citywide BustI think this card hasn’t seen enough play, but I’m not sure this is the deck or meta for it. First, there’s a bit of awkwardness between wanting to get Fox out of burn range as quickly as possibIe, and wanting to have access to this card. Second, I don’t want this against Bant Ramp, Lukka Fires, Temur Rec, the Mirror, or Sac decks. I think it’s worth it against Jeskai and Gruul Fires, but in general I dislike sideboarding to extend the game against them as their cards are simply more powerful than yours. This leaves very few decks that I’m excited about bringing this in against, and as such I probably wouldn’t include it in future lists.

Deafening ClarionNothing makes me happier than the classic “Deck with a bunch of creatures boarding into a sweeper” juke, but I have reservations about this one. Your deck really wants to play creatures on turns one, two, or both. Deafening Clarion is good because it is cheap; the whole reason to play it is to play it on turn 3 against decks that get to the board early so using it as a sweeper on turn three crimps your sequencing in a way that I find unpalatable for a deck that operates on margins this thin (and by definition means you shouldn’t be playing Fox on turn one, which is the point of the card). Clarion can also be used to just give your creatures lifelink, but all of your creatures besides Fox are wimps who will probably lose in combat to the creatures in just about every other deck.

Devout DecreeAt this point, this card has earned its keep as a mainstay of the format, and this deck is no different. Decree is good against Obosh Sacrifice decks, Obosh Aggro decks, and Lurrus Sacrifice decks, and those certainly make up enough of the field to justify its inclusion.

Devout Decree

DisenchantI don’t think there are enough artifacts running around right now to justify playing any copies of this card over Light of Hope.

Fight as OneI actually like this card a lot. You play twelve humans and five non-humans, including Lurrus, so it’s not unreasonable to save two creatures from a sweeper with it. Unfortunately, the decks that play sweepers all play Teferi, so if you want to use this card effectively then you’re gonna have to kill that card on sight.

Flame SweepBeing instant speed is a big plus, but like Clarion, all our creatures except a big Fox die to it. A turn one Fox can outsize this, which is nice, but Flame Sweep also can’t kill problematic creatures like Mayhem Devil. I think boarding into a sweeper is probably just too cute, but I’m happy to be proven wrong.

FryKills Narset. Bring this in against decks that play Narset and use it to kill Narset!

Grafdigger’s CageThis card is worth including right now for Cat Oven and the random Gyruda decks floating around.

HushbringerNot particularly exciting in the meta right now. First, this card has very significant downside against Uro and Kroxa (they enter and don’t get sacrificed!). Second, while it shuts down things like the ping from Cauldron Familiar and the death trigger from Dreadhorde Butcher, it doesn’t shut down sacrifice triggers like Mayhem Devil, which are a much bigger problem. Third, it’s fine against things like Cavaliers and Keruga and the like, but against those decks I am not keen on boarding in two mana cards that barely pressure the opponent and don’t cycle.

Irencrag PyromancerNOW we’re talking. Four toughness is hard for aggro decks to remove right now, and if Pyromancer gets to do this thing it’s going to be very difficult for Obosh and Lurrus decks to recover. The issue is that it’s three mana, a TON for this deck, which means that the earliest we’re getting triggers out of this card is turn four. Being able to block well on turn three might be the saving grace for this card’s playability.

Leyline of the VoidNo.

Light of HopeThere’s a lot going on with this card, so to simplify it, you should only be boarding it in when the “Destroy target Enchantment” mode is live. Treat the other two modes as a nice bit of upside that you can use in a pinch, but they should not be the deciding factor in whether you bring it in. This card’s playability fluctuates in accordance with the presence of Anax, Fires of Invention, and Wilderness Reclamation.

Mystical DisputeA real draw to playing the Jeskai Version, Dispute is easily one of the best cards in the format. Its quality varies in accordance with how easily you can leave this up to answer Teferi, because once he has hit the board it’s blank cardboard. This deck likes to play threats early but also doesn’t mind leaving up mana to cycle cards. Dispute is certainly worth playing if you decide to go Jeskai.

Mythos of VadrokOnce you’ve decided to go Jeskai, I think this is a really awesome payoff. It wrecks aggro decks and should be able to buy you enough time to land knockout Zenith Flares. I wouldn’t play more than two copies for curve reasons, but this sidesteps a lot of the ideological problems I have with Deafening Clarion and Flame Sweep.

Mythos of Vadrok

Redcap MeleeGood if you’re expecting decks that will always present you a red threat every game, terrible otherwise. I don’t want this against, say, stock Rakdos Lurrus, because it’s very reasonable that their curve goes something like Cauldron Familiar into Priest of the Forgotten Gods into Serrated Scorpion and Knight of the Ebon Legion, and you’re left looking silly with a horrible removal spell in your hand. Sacrificing lands is a massive cost for a deck looking to curve up to Zenith Flare every game, so don’t play this if you think that’s gonna happen a lot.

Reptilian ReflectionThe idea behind this is to get around sorcery speed removal, mainly sweepers like Shatter the Sky and Deafening Clarion. Unfortunately, you’ll be hard pressed to find a deck playing those that doesn’t play Teferi, Time Raveler, which is pretty solid against this card. Reflection having haste is a big point in its favor as even after getting bounced by Teferi, it can theoretically come down and attack right away, but assuming you’re going to have four lands on time is a bit too ambitious for me.

Savai ThundermaneThe idea behind this card is the same as Irencrag Pyromancer; you get to kill your opponent’s creatures for free as a reward for doing what you were going to do anyway. You should play Thundermane if your plan is to tempo out your opponents postboard, and you should play Pyromancer if your play is to board into control postboard. As of now, most lists don’t have the tools in the sideboard to play a true control game, and because of that you’ll see more Thundermanes.

Savai Thundermane

Scorching DragonfireYet another removal spell that exiles. If you’re worried about killing small creatures on turns 1 through 3, this is probably your best bet.

Shredded SailsThe floor is a lot higher on this one because it cycles, but i just don’t see that many matchups where I’m excited about killing fliers or artifacts. I’d leave this one at home.

Sorcerous SpyglassSpending two mana to not affect the board is a heavy cost, and this card doesn’t pass the test for having enough impact on the game to be worth it right now. The card with an activated ability that you’re most worried about is Narset, and this doesn’t shut down Narset’s passive; the part you really care about.

Sorcerous Spyglass

Sideboard Guide

A quick note on sideboarding: be very wary with how you board with this archetype. This deck requires a lot of cyclers to function, and almost every sideboard card you can bring in is a brick dropped into the middle of your gameplan. By sideboarding lightly, you are limiting dead ends and increasing your odds of always having cyclers to turn your cards on. For this reason I won’t bring in a card like Grafdigger’s Cage unless it shuts off a significant portion of the opponent’s deck. I also don’t sideboard out payoffs (the creatures and Zenith Flare), because you need them to function and a couple usually get answered. It doesn’t matter what blue cyclers you sideboard out in Boros as you can’t cast any of them anyways, so they’re all functionally the same card. Let’s get to the guide!

Boros Version

OpponentInOut
Rakdos Sacrifice Decks+3 Grafdigger’s Cage
+2 Devout Decree
+2 Apostle of Purifying Light
+2 Savai Thundermane
-4 Boon of the Wish-Giver
-2 Frostveil Ambush
-3 Startling Development
Lukka Fires+3 Fry
+1 Light of Hope
-4 Startling Development
Keruga Fires+2 Light of Hope
+2 Fry
-4 Startling Development
Bant Yorion Ramp+3 Fry-3 Startling Development
Temur Reclamation+2 Light of Hope-2 Startling Development
Cycling Decks+3 Fry
+2 Savai Thundermane
-3 Boon of the Wish-Giver
-2 Startling Development
Red Obosh Decks+2 Devout Decree
+2 Savai Thundermane
-4 Boon of the Wish-Giver
Black-based Obosh Decks+2 Devout Decree
+2 Apostle of Purifying Light
+2 Savai Thundermane
-4 Boon of the Wish-Giver
-2 Frostveil Ambush

Jeskai Version

OpponentInOut
Rakdos Sacrifice Decks+2 Deafening Clarion
+4 Scorching Dragonfire
-2 Boon of the Wish-Giver
-4 Startling Development
Lukka Fires+3 Mystical Dispute
+1 Aether Gust
-4 Frostveil Ambush
Keruga Fires+2 Citywide Bust
+3 Mystical Dispute
-2 Boon of the Wish-Giver
-3 Startling Development
Bant Yorion Ramp+3 Mystical Dispute-3 Startling Development
Temur Reclamation+3 Aether Gust
+1 Mystical Dispute
-4 Frostveil Ambush
Cycling Decks+2 Deafening Clarion
+4 Scorching Dragonfire
-2 Boon of the Wish-Giver
-4 Frostveil Ambush
Red Obosh Decks+3 Aether Gust
+2 Deafening Clarion
+4 Scorching Dragonfire
-2 Boon of the Wish-Giver
-4 Startling Development
-3 Frostveil Ambush
Black-based Obosh Decks+2 Deafening Clarion
+4 Scorching Dragonfire
-2 Boon of the Wish-Giver
-4 Startling Development

Thanks for reading. Best of luck spinning those wheels to victory!

markgabriele

markgabriele

A lover of both paper and digital magic, Mark recently reached the rank of #1 Mythic on the standard ladder, and has several top 8 finishes on the SCG Tour. He is on twitter @gabriele_mark

6 Responses

  1. JD Williams (SquishyCthulu) says:

    Very much enjoyed your analysis! I’m currently in Platinum, on the verge of Diamond with the Boros variant.
    I just sat down to play for the evening and have decided to try out Bag of Holding against decks that are bringing in graveyard hate. Also, I’ve found thatSorcererous Spyglass naming Ashiok, the Dream Render to put me back into games that have board states that I had no business being competitive in.
    Have you tried out the Pauper Cycling deck yet? Brian Demars wrote a free article about it recently if you’re looking for a list and feel like challenging yourself.
    Thanks for the great read! Hopefully I’ll see you in the queue soon!

  2. James FL Thompson says:

    You have written an absolutely fantastic deck guide, and I greatly appreciate it! I have been LOVING this deck, and it is honestly the only reason I enjoy Standard at the moment because of all the powerful midrange decks running around that are just boring to play with/against. Thankful this popped up, as it makes me want to spin the tires on this bad boy again! Good luck!

  3. Damian Cohen says:

    Great analysis. What about Neutralize? That’s about the only relevant card you didn’t mention.

  4. Diogo Pinto says:

    I’m getting in a lot of issues due to the soul-guide lantern after sideboarding. Should I reconsider Disenchant instead of light of hope?

    • Diogo Pinto says:

      That won’t actually help that much, just forces them to activate the ability. Maybe a slightly different win condition, like Ominous Seas? That enters the realm of Jeskai, and enchantments hate are also prevalent in the sideboard…

  5. JohanShogun says:

    I’ve been playing something very close to the Boros one lately, with the exchange of adding fire prophecy instead of Boom. It’s nice to be able to burn away some early drops and late in the game it’s a nice way to burn some critter and get rid of a land card from hand.

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