Table of Contents
Since the beginning of Explorer as a format, many of us translate archetypes from Pioneer directly to this new paper-only format. While many Pioneer powerhouse archetypes were easily adapted to Explorer like Rakdos Midrange or Azorius Control, some others are still waiting for their key cards to be able to perform as their counterparts (Like Lotus Field Combo and its need for Hidden Strings).
Boros Heroic was in a strange spot before Explorer Anthology 1. Two of their best creatures were not present in the format.
The deck was certainly playable. Nevertheless, with many good midrange and control options in the format, aggro has to be explosive. Decks capable of forcing turn three kills are strong enough to make any deck that wants to play a tapped land feel bad. Without this pair of creatures, the available variant of Boros Heroic for Explorer was more or less unplayed.
It was a bit disappointing that Monastery Swiftspear wasn’t in the new Explorer Anthology I. I was almost sure that we were going to be able to play with this one drop in the format. Until then, Soul-Scar Mage has always been a good replacement in any deck we want to play Swiftspear, and with the inclusion of Favored Hoplite, our one mana curve is finally strong enough to make this deck capable of competing with the big dogs.
Favored Hoplite may seem not enough to push the archetype, but this card is extremely good for the archetype, and being able to play eight one drops instead of four makes a notable difference.
Let me show you some examples:
goncalolopes789 took this archetype to the top 500 of June. Goncalo finds a good replacement for Favored Hoplite in Clever Lumimancer. Certainly, Clever Lumimancer can deal tons of damage, but it has many downsides that make this creature not an option for any Pioneer variant of the archetype.
Its 0/1 body is basically the worst a creature can have. Then, it can only deal damage when we cast spells, forcing us to be proactive every single turn. Favored Hoplite, instead, has a 1/2 body that can grow permanently thanks to its ability that let us put +1/+1 counters on it. This is extremely relevant in many situations. also, the fact it can protect itself from damage gives us a creature that became very much superior in a wide variety of situations than Clever Lumimancer.
During May, Karatus almost reached top 250 with their Feather, the Redeemed iteration of the archetype. Feather could certainly give the deck a lot of redundancy and resilience while at the same time a new angle of aggression by letting us attack with a flying creature.
The main point of showing this last example is making a point on how the deck, even while having good options for elevating the curve, keeps struggling to decide what to do with the one drops. Karatus plays four Clever Lumimancer, just as Goncalo. It’s clear that even with all the aforementioned downsides, Lumimancer was probably the best choice if you wanted to be aggressive.
Just as DoggertQBones stated in its last column about the archetype, Favored Hoplite could be less explosive than Clever Lumimancer, but even being a deck that wants to win as fast as it can, having more consistent creatures help us give the deck room to breathe, letting us play longer games if necessary. This gives this archetype fresh air, something that lets us fight against slower decks at the rhythm we decide is better for each situation.
Before moving to my own version of the archetype, featuring the new Favored Hoplite, let me show you the list that inspired me to play this archetype and that had great success in the last DreamHack RCQ in Kansas City.
1st place in a fifty-three people tournament is a great achievement, and if this were not enough, two other Boros Heroic players made the top 8. If this not a good sign for the archetype, I don’t know what could be.
Dane’s list is extremely good in my opinion. Yes, it’s a Pioneer deck, but let’s check what cards are not available in Explorer:
We already spoke about Monastery Swiftspear, and it would clearly make this deck better, however, we have a solid replacement in Soul-Scar Mage. We lose haste, but we keep prowess, which is the more important keyword of both creatures while gaining the ability to make any of our damage spells work as if they put -1/-1 counters instead of dealing damage. We want to be an aggressive deck, but just like Favored Hoplite is more consistent than Clever Lumimancer, Soul-Scar Mage gives the deck more options to work with in key moments (being able to kill indestructible creatures is just one example of that).
Battlefield Forge is amazing for this deck. Having the mana we need when we need it makes this archetype’s openings very strong. We don’t have pain lands in MTG Arena, but I hope this could change with Dominaria United. For a few weeks now I’ve said during my streams that my bet for the next dual lands for Standard would be the pain lands. My key clue for this is that the pain lands names make reference to the Dominaria plane, just as Llanowar Wastes or Shivan Reef for example. Coming back to the topic at hand, we have a very solid mana base in Explorer to help Boros do what it wants during the early game with Inspiring Vantage, Needleverge Pathway, and Sacred Foundry. Putting a full set of Sundown Pass instead of the forges won’t make our mana base much worse.
The other two cards are good sideboard options for Pioneer. Fiendslayer Paladin is amazing against Rakdos, Mono Red, and Mono Black Aggro while Silence does wonders against Azorius and any combo deck like Lotus Field. Finally, Rending Volley is very good against Spirits, but playing Fry in its place lets us use the card for other archetypes like Azorius, thanks to how it can kill planeswalkers without being countered. I would love to have Fiendslayer Paladin for Explorer, especially knowing how popular Rakdos is in “Pioneer-Lite”, but we could take advantage of this card slots in our sideboard with other solid options.
Having said the above, I present to you the list that I have adapted for Explorer and that undoubtedly works wonderfully and is extremely fun to play too!
Probably, the most noticeable fact about this list is that it only plays two Dreadhorde Arcanist. I understand why many players prefer to play 3-4 copies. However, after working with Dane’s list, I realized that Arcanist is probably our least aggressive creature. With this in mind, treating Arcanist as a transitional creature, helping us during turns 3 or 4 and onwards instead of a desired two drop, helped me take the decision of keeping four Tenth District Legionnaire instead.
The other important change between this list and many others is the decision of playing modal lands like Dane instead of creaturelands or any other options. First of all, keeping as many dual lands as we can is mandatory (the reason behind Sundown Pass) and secondly, having a fifth protective spell in the form of Sejiri Shelter for our creatures could mean the difference between winning or losing in many many games. Similarly, Spikefield Hazard can be good in almost any deck that wants to play a lot of spells. One extra spell could mean a lot of damage with our creatures in play so, having an extra one mana spell that could also be a land works perfectly for our purposes.
This is without a doubt a deck that doesn’t let our opponents breathe, forcing them to answer every single one of our creatures if they don’t want to be raced to 0 life in less than four turns.
Potential Inclusions / Notable Exclusions
- Play With Fire could be a good choice. Being able to deal 2 damage to any target and not only to opponent’s creatures like Reckless Rage could be a game changer in some situations. However, having a card that could deal with 4 toughness creatures for just 1 mana in our deck is preferred in almost any scenario.
- Temur Battle Rage is a good card per se, but just for the proper deck. Like I stated in our last Team Veredict Column, this card could be great in some new Historic Death Shadow builds… and probably just there (for now).
- Den of the Bugbear, Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance, and Furycalm Snarl come to mind when playing a Boros deck. All of these lands have their own reasons for not being on my list. We want all our lands to give W or R whenever possible, and when not we want them to help our game plan. Also, both Den and Sokenzan have four mana abilities, something that we are not going to be able to pay consistently with just 20 lands.
- Feather, the Redeemed is a card that could give the deck a very solid midrange creature that solidifies everything the deck tries to accomplish. Nevertheless, playing a three mana creature means that we have to adapt our mana base and curve. Playing this creature is more or less playing another variant of the archetype (click here for the deck guide).
- Having a card that could help us against graveyard centered strategies like Greasefang, Okiba Boss with Parhelion II or Arclight Phoenix.
Unlicensed Harseis a great option for this. However, in my opinion, when playing an aggressive deck with 20 or less lands, Tormod's Crypt works better.
- Infuriate and Samut's Sprint are here and there in other iterations of this deck. Both have their own strengths, but our choices seems to work better overall.
- Jegantha, the Wellspring could be our companion if we are not playing Feather, the Redeemed. Paying 5 is hard, but it could be an option for very long games or rare moments when the deck floods.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+2 Fight as One||-2 Invigorated Rampage|
|+2 Portable Hole||-2 Defiant Strike|
|+2 Adanto Vanguard||-2 Illuminator Virtuoso|
We definitely need more protection here. Rakdos packs a plethora of removal spells and abilities that can take our creatures off of the battlefield. Fight as One and Adanto Vanguard give us more resilience. The instant working as an effective fifth and sixth Gods Willing in almost every situation and Adanto Vanguard with an integrated ability that lets us pay life for making it indestructible.
Even if Rakdos is not an aggro deck, it could have very aggressive openers. Portable Hole help us hold back this situation from happening by exiling Tenacious Underdog and Bloodtithe Harvester. This last creature is also a removal, Gods Willing helps us here, but Fight as One doesn’t, so removing it with Portable Hole as soon as possible is always a good idea.
|+2 Fight as One||-2 Invigorated Rampage|
|+2 Flamescroll Celebrant||-4 Defiant Strike|
|+2 Adanto Vanguard||-4 Reckless Rage|
|+2 Fry||-2 Homestead Courage|
|+2 Showdown of the Skalds|
Flamescroll Celebrant is our best friend while playing against combo. However, against hard control decks such as Azorius, playing
Fight as One is in a weird spot here. It just helps us against Supreme Verdict. However, this is enough to justify putting this instant in games two and three against them. Any other removal played by UW Control exiles our creatures instead of destroying them so, Gods Willing is going to do wonders against Portable Hole and March of Otherworldly Light.
Speaking of Portable Hole, it could seem like over-sideboarding, but many of the more successful Azorius variants are now playing a full set of this artifact. Destroying one at the end of their turn with Abrade could change the game drastically in our favor.
|+1 Tormod's Crypt||-2 Invigorated Rampage|
|+2 Fight as One||-2 Illuminator Virtuoso|
|+2 Adanto Vanguard||-2 Defiant Strike|
|+2 Abrade||-1 Homestead Courage|
Parhelion II decks are becoming less popular. Not many people like to play decks susceptible to graveyard hate. Nevertheless, the deck is still present in the meta, and just like with dredge in Modern or Legacy, if you don’t have something in your sideboard for it, the game becomes more complicated than it should be.
We play only 1 Tormod's Crypt, but playing 1 or 2 extra copies could be perfectly fine if needed. Abrade shines here, not only letting us kill Greasefang, Okiba Boss but also destroying any problematic vehicles before they attack like Parhelion II (denying the angel tokens) or Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.
Mono Blue Spirits
|+2 Fight as One||-2 Invigorated Rampage|
|+2 Portable Hole||-4 Defiant Strike|
|+2 Fry||-2 Homestead Courage|
24+ flying creatures is a lot. We pack all our removal spells, even if we want to be the aggressor in this matchup as any spot removal we draw is going to have a target 99% of the time.
They don’t have any kind of removal, but Fight as One is very good helping us while offering apparent trades while not losing our creatures at the end of the play.
Tips and Tricks
- Gods Willing is amazing for attacking over potential blockers and not just a protective spell for our creatures.
- Favored Hoplite prevents all damage that would be deal to it when targeted by one of our spells. This also means combat damage so, any trick on Hoplite = Hoplite survives.
- -1/-1 counters on our opponent’s creatures can be game changers. Have this in mind every time you play Soul-Scar Mage.
- Ancestral Anger is an amazing way of forcing damage because it gives trample.
- Discarding cards with Illuminator Virtuoso is not that bad for us thanks to the flashback in Homestead Courage, Ancestral Anger which gives more power to our creatures depending on how many copies we have in our graveyard, or Dreadhorde Arcanist that lets us play spells in our graveyard when it attacks.
- Favored Hoplite on turn 1 + Homestead Courage twice during turn 2 means a 5/6 creature.
- You need a creature in play to cast Reckless Rage.
- Usual Pathway advice: Save these lands for later whenever possible. Choosing the less optimal color because you play pathways during turn one or two while having other lands in your hand could make your plans stumble in later stages of the game.
- Playing Flamescroll Celebrant as a creature could deal a lot of damage to certain decks thanks to how it pings our opponents whenever they activate any non-mana ability (like planeswalkers,
Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, etc).
- During game one always play with Invigorated Rampage in mind (your would also prefer to keep this card post sideboard). It can kill as early as turn 3 in combination with Illuminator Virtuoso and is very effective for exerting pressure thru large blockers (like spirits, for example).
In many formats, variants of Blitz/Prowess/Heroic decks are shining right now. Explorer is not going to be the exception. Trust me, this deck is the most explosive aggro deck the format can have right now. Not even Mono Red can kill on turn 3 as often as Boros Heroic.
It’s also extremely fun to play, and without a doubt, Favored Hoplite is going to make this deck relevant once again. Yes, we are still missing Monastery Swiftspear, but sooner or later this deck is going to be complete in Explorer as it is in Pioneer. Until then, lets crush the opposition with Favored Hoplite and company as early as turn three, all right? 😜
Let me know what you think about this archetype in my social media (links below) and until the next time dear readers, thanks for reading to the end, and stretch when your day starts; it surely makes a difference!
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