Why I’ve Been Crushing It With Boros Knights

Top 8 of Fandom Legends with . . . Boros Knights?

How Did I Get Here?

It’s no secret that aggro is at its nadir compared to previous Standard formats, but it’s also no secret that I love playing proactive strategies. Look, I make no excuses. This deck is as me as it gets. Off-color white aggro with explosive starts (Venerated Loxodon says hello) and the ability to go late? Worthy Knight is like Hero of Precinct One, but I don’t have to have awful mana, and Acclaimed Contender is excellent on rate and as gas. Yeah, I’m sold.

I first saw Boros Knights in the 5-0 deck dump, played by Mattufino. I played it a bunch by myself and shared it with Josh Silvestri. He played it some more, we basically didn’t lose, and I was hooked. We considered a couple maindeck alterations, but everything had gone so well that I was afraid to change anything. I reworked the sideboard a bit and registered with Mattufino’s exact maindeck. Everything was going great.

Then I hit the ladder.

I lost every single game. I fell from Top 100 to the absolute bottom of Mythic. I learned about all of the mistaken assumptions I’d made, and about all the possible ways there were to throw away games and lose with this deck. I went to bed resigned to playing the fun-but-bad deck in Fandom Legends, and promised myself to do my best and enjoy the experience.

As y’all know by now, I made Top 8. It’s not a win, but against that competition, with this deck? I’m very happy with that result. Every loss was 1-2, and the one that knocked me out of Top 8 came at the hands of eventual champion, my Caster Cup casting partner, Martin Juza, so there’s very little to feel bad about here.

Let’s go over the list, what it’s doing, why it’s doing it, and what I recommend going forward!

Boros Knights

4 Acclaimed Contender

4 Fervent Champion

4 Venerable Knight

4 Weaselback Redcap

4 Inspiring Veteran 

3 Skyknight Vanguard 

4 Worthy Knight 

4 Venerated Loxodon 

1 Icon of Ancestry

3 Embercleave

3 Conclave Tribunal

5 Mountain

7 Plains

4 Sacred Foundry

2 Temple of Triumph 

4 Tournament Grounds 

Sideboard

2 Devout Decree

2 Experimental Frenzy 

1 Glass Casket

2 Tajic, Legion’s Edge 

2 Tectonic Rift 

2 Unbreakable Formation 

2 Giant Killer 

2 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice

[Scryfall link with MTG Arena export]

This is functionally a Worthy Knight and Venerated Loxodon deck with Embercleave as a concession to the Golos matchups, where a speedy clock is important to your ability to win before sweepers ruin your chances. It’s a very all-in strategy, but it looks to do what the deck does best. An accelerated Time Wipe or the Cast Off half of Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off is very strong against the deck because there’s no reach.

Abstracted a little further, the deck is actually built around Tournament Grounds more than anything else. The major factor convincing me to play the deck is the ability to play eight untapped dual lands in my aggressive deck. It’s become clear to me that the mana in Standard is generally pretty awful for aggro decks, and I really want to play something that doesn’t lose to its own manabase.

Individual Card Selection

Weaselback Redcap: this little Goblin is genuinely good. Yeah, it’s mostly just the last one-drop Knight in our colors, but it has synergy with Embercleave, and having a mana sink to convert mana to damage without investing further onto the board is important against a lot of the decks with sweepers.

Worthy Knight: this card is bonkers. A pretty common play pattern against slower decks is something like: one-drop into Worthy Knight into any Knight and convoke Venerated Loxodon with four creatures on Turn 3. It’s the best card in the deck, in my opinion. Without Worthy Knight, it’d just be a White Weenie deck. This card also makes Unbreakable Formation incredible. I’ve gone toe to toe with active Edgewall Innkeepers using the combo of (a) playing a bunch of Knights with a Worthy Knight out, and then (b) playing Unbreakable Formation.

Acclaimed Contender: above average in some matchups, but weirdly off plan a lot of the time. It has a lot of poor interactions with Venerated Loxodon, often conflicting with it on the curve. I often trim these while sideboarding. Finding Embercleave when you need it is very important, however. It’s a tough card to evaluate, and I’m very open to others’ opinions here.

Skyknight Vanguard is not very good. Its inclusion is a concession to needing a density of Knights. I’d be happy to replace it with a utility spell like Bonecrusher Giant or Glass Casket to remove small, problematic creatures like Innkeeper and Runaway Steam-Kin, but my worry is that this would reduce the amount of opening hands that are full of Knights.

Icon of Ancestry: it’s just not the time for this card right now. Even the slow decks kill faster than the amount of time it takes this card to get back into the game, and having bodies is so important to the game plan that wasting a slot on this is not ideal. In the grindy, midrange matchups, it doesn’t keep up with Edgewall Innkeeper or the Bant Planeswalkers, and against the fast decks you just want to develop the board. If you do play it, keep in mind that sometimes it’s correct to choose Human as the creature type instead of Knight; all but two of the creature cards are Human, and so are the tokens from Worthy Knight. (Skyknight Vanguard makes Soldier tokens.)

The Sideboard (Cards)

I know you all want a sideboard guide, but what I’m trying to do here is convey to you what I know — not tell you what to do. My goal is that you come away from this with an understanding of my process. My decisions aren’t sacrosanct. I encourage you to tinker with this and find the optimal configuration!

Devout Decree: I think playing this card is a mistake and they should become two more copies of Glass Casket. Casket hits many of the same things, but also hits Edgewall Innkeeper; Gilded Goose; lands animated by Nissa, Who Shakes the World; and Food turned into an Elk by Oko, Thief of Crowns. I overestimated the amount of Rankle, Master of Pranks and Spawn of Mayhem that would be in this tournament.

Experimental Frenzy: I’m not sure if playing this card was correct either. It’s much worse in this deck than it is in Mono-Red. It can help refill the board, but there’s a high chance of bricking with Embercleave and the convoke spells, which makes it unreliable against all but the slowest of decks.

Glass Casket: great card; hits everything; run three, at least. This is the easiest card to sideboard with. If the opponent runs strong, early creatures, bring it in.

Tajic, Legion’s Edge: this guy really impressed me during the tournament. Being a hasty beater with effectively four power is pretty compelling, and the damage prevention text makes him an obvious counter to Deafening Clarion. He should come in against Bant Golos, Golos Fires, all flavors of Jeskai, as well as any decks that bring in Flame Sweep.

Tectonic Rift: ah, yes, the spice. The version of this deck in the 5-0 dump was running four, but I couldn’t even begin to justify that on the grounds that this card is already a desperate measure, and I really only want one of them against Golos. It won me multiple matches in Fandom, but I’m not even sure it’s the best version of Falter available. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Cosmotronic Wave might be better. I got walled by Hydroid Krasis and Fae of Wishes against BBD. Before you ask, yes, I have brought this in against the Nissa decks before, and, yes, it has been as bad as you’d think.

Unbreakable Formation: huge fan of this card right now; it comes in against so much. It’s very good against the green midrange decks, as they tend to stall the board out and then the Knights need a way to punch through. It’s even marginally acceptable as a bad counterspell against decks running sweepers.

Giant Killer // Chop Down: this is for the green decks. Lovestruck Beast, Questing Beast, and Skarrgan Hellkite all need to be killed. The tap ability is incredible in those matchups too. I’m so happy with this card in the sideboard that, honestly, I’d consider it for the maindeck if the mana were a little bit better.

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice: this is a Hail Mary. When constructing the sideboard, VTCLA and I spent a lot of time looking for some kind of way to win against Golos after a sweeper. The mana base doesn’t support Gideon Blackblade, so we got creative. Aurelia is not great. She’s basically just there to be a big idiot flyer who can sometimes finish the game by flying over the ground-bound blockers from Field of the Dead after a sweeper. If you have a better idea for this slot, I encourage you to try it.

The Sideboard (Strategy)

My sideboard strategy is pretty straightforward. Each card is for a specific situation, so the question is what to take out. The questions I ask myself are:

  1. Is this a Conclave Tribunal matchup? 
  2. Is this an Embercleave matchup?
  3. Is this an Acclaimed Contender matchup?
  4. Is this a matchup where Skyknight Vanguard doesn’t suck?
  5. Is this matchup about creature density?
  6. Is Venerated Loxodon too slow?
  7. Is Icon of Ancestry better than a creature?

Venerated Loxodon is a special case. I’ve started trimming them against the traditional Golos decks running five-mana sweepers. The worry is that I’ll cast a Loxodon on Turn 3 right into their Time Wipe, stare at the screen for a couple seconds, mourn my eighteen power, and cry into my keyboard before conceding. I can’t guarantee that this is correct, but it’s something to consider.

This is my latest list:

Boros Knights

4 Fervent Champion

4 Venerable Knight

4 Weaselback Redcap

4 Inspiring Veteran

4 Worthy Knight

4 Acclaimed Contender

3 Bonecrusher Giant

4 Venerated Loxodon

1 Unbreakable Formation

2 Embercleave

4 Conclave Tribunal

6 Mountain

6 Plains

4 Sacred Foundry

2 Temple of Triumph 

4 Tournament Grounds

Sideboard

2 Tajic, Legion’s Edge

2 Experimental Frenzy

3 Glass Casket

2 Tectonic Rift

2 Unbreakable Formation

2 Giant Killer

2 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice

[Scryfall link with MTG Arena export]

I removed Skyknight Vanguard for Bonecrusher Giant as discussed. I dropped one Embercleave for a similar payoff in Unbreakable Formation. I view Formation as a little more widely applicable, and I can still find Embercleave with Acclaimed Contender. I removed Icon of Ancestry for the fourth Conclave Tribunal —  Icon wasn’t doing enough, and I found myself wanting an extra removal spell in the main. I also added one Mountain over a Plains to make our Bonecrusher Giants more castable while not compromising our white, non-Knight sideboard cards. If casting Bonecrusher is too much trouble, It’s entirely possible that it’s supposed to be seven Mountains and five Plains.

One of my fellow Arena Decklists writers, Xfile, noted that there’s one significant upside to running Opportunistic Dragon over Aurelia — the Dragon can steal Golos, so the opponent can’t activate or block with it. There are a lot of options, and it’s a testament to the power of Golos decks that it’s so hard to craft a real, functional game plan against them. I encourage you to experiment! I want people to innovate. I want this archetype to get developed. I love playing tribal aggro decks, and I’ll continue to put work into this archetype myself. 

I wish you the best of luck smacking people in the face with your remarkably well-armored and disciplined hordes. As always, I am on Twitter at @KanyeBestMTG, and streaming my gameplay on Twitch at KanyeBestMTG!

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