Gatecrash – Boros Battalion Deck (Magic: The Gathering)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Release Date: 02/01/2013
Get it Here: Amazon.com
Gatecrash is the latest expansion for the venerable collectable card game, Magic: The Gathering. This set continues the story and themes of the previous one, Return to Ravnica, which was released a back in October. The pre-release event for Gatecrash happened this weekend, and we’re a few days before the official launch of the expansion, so I thought I’d sit down and give you my thoughts on the deck Wizards of the Coast sent us to review.
First of all, I do have to say that Gatecrash is one of the best expansion sets I’ve ever seen. Every card looks to be pretty good, and with the multiple boosters I was sent as well, I couldn’t help thinking of how Gatecrash could be used to enhance so many old classic decks and give them a modern day facelift. Grisly Spectacle or Sage’s Row Denizen in a Millstone or other burn deck? Ouch. Creatures with the Extort ability in the old Necropotence deck? Yes please! Cartel Aristocrat in a White/Black Pestilence deck? Wow, that’s nice. So on and so forth. However, this review is about the Boros Battalion deck. It’s a white/red deck. We’ve all played with or against a white and/or red weenie deck, so you pretty much know what to expect here, right? Well, maybe not as Boros Battalion heavily focuses on the Battalion ability. Do you remember Banding? I know, we don’t see it very much anymore, but Banding lets multiple creatures act as one big one. Battalion builds off that concept of attack en masse, but combines it with new special abilities specific to each card taking part in the attack. So it’s a similar idea but very, VERY different. Boros Battalion is pretty much nothing but cards that have or enhance this ability, so you’ll quickly learn the ins and out of this new ability.
Boros Battalion consists of sixty cards. You get twenty-five Lands, twenty-five Creatures, two Artifacts, two Instants and six Sorceries. The lands are split pretty evenly, with twelve plains, twelve mountains and one Boros Guildgate, which is a R/W dual land that comes into play tapped. You might want to take out one mountain and one plain and add two more Boros Guildgates, but it’s not necessary.
Let’s look at the smaller cards first. Both artifacts in Boros Battalion are the Boros Keyrune. You can tap it to give yourself either white or red mana, which is nice. However, if you want to spend one red and one white, the Keyrune becomes a 1/1 Soldier with Double Strike, which lets it have First Strike and a second regular attack, effectively making it a 2/1 creature. Not bad. These artifacts are pretty versatile. Two of the Instants are white cards. Shielded Passage only costs a single white mana and it prevents all damage to a target creature this turn. This is pretty handy and so cheap too. It might be worth having some of these on your sidebar to shuffle in. Either that or add some Circles of Protection to the deck to keep your weenies alive. The other Instant is Aerial Maneuver, and it costs 1W. This gives a target creature +1/+1, Flying AND First Strike until the end of turn. Sure it’s no Giant Growth, but all three changes to a card at once can really throw an opponent off. Again, this seems pretty handy, and it might be worth having a few others on hand. The other two Instants are dual coloured cards and are the same thing: Arrows of Justice. For 2R/W, Arrows of Justice does 4 damage to any target attacking or blocking creature. It’s nice, but three mana for four damage just feels a lot to my ancient M:TG playing ass. I still remember the wonder and glory of Lightning Bolts after all. These are okay, as 4 extra damage is always nice, but it does have the stip of only being used on attacking or blocking creatures. Too much mana for the damage, along with the stipulations of who takes it, makes me want to cycle these out for something better. Again, maybe those white Instants we looked at earlier or some Circles of Protection based on what your opponent is playing. Outside of the deck, there are three Gatecrash Instants that I think would work much better than Arrows of Justice. Auerlia’s Fury costs XWR and is basically a Fireball you can split amongst as many enemies and players as you want. Best of all, anything that takes even a point of damage from this spell gets tapped. Players that take a point of damage from this spell can only cast non creatures spells until the end of the turn. Tell me that’s not more versatile and useful than Arrows of Justice! The other Gatecrash Instant I think would be great with this deck is Martial Glory. It costs RW and one creature gets +3/+0 and another gets +0/+3. This works really well with the Battalion ability, and lets you get that extra damage in while also buffing an important creature. The final awesome Instant for this deck is Massive Raid. For 1RR, Massive Raid does X damage to any one creature or player, where X equals the number of creatures controlled by the caster. That can be pretty powerful, especially with this deck. Far better than a limited 4 damage. Consider any of these three cards (or multiples of them) to replace Arrows of Justice.
Now for the Sorcery cards. Three of the four in Boros Battalion are red, while the other, Righteous Charge, is white. Righteous Charge costs 1WW and gives all creatures under your control +2/+2 for the rest of the turn. NICE, especially considering this deck fields a lot of creatures. Mugging costs R and does two damage to a single creature while also preventing them from blocking. Not bad, and much closer to the old standard. Too bad this is a Sorcery and not an Instant though. Act of Treason costs 2R and gives you control of any one creature until the end of your turn. It also untaps the creature and gives it haste. You would think that this too would be an Instant, but it’s not. Finally, there is Mark for Death, which costs 3R. With this card, a single creature has to block if able. It also becomes the ONLY creature controlled by the targeted player that CAN block that turn. Very nice, especially in conjuction with the en masse attacking theme of this deck. All of the Sorcery cards in Boros Battalion are pretty nice, but if you want to customize your copy, consider Knight Watch, which you can get in Gatecrash boosters. For 4W, you get two 2/2 Knight tokens with the Vigilance ability. That’s some more nice attackers to add to your deck, and for a tiny cost.
Now it’s time for the core of the deck – CREATURES. You have six white, seven red, 1 Artifact, and a whopping eleven dual colour creatures. This makes it all the more important that you draw lands well. It’s also a bit of a shock to my system, as I remember when Legends was the only place you could get dual colour cards from, and you could only have one per deck. The artifact creature is a pretty interesting one. For three mana, Armored Transport nets you a 2/1 creature. Kind of weak, right? But look at the special ability. “Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt to Armored Transport by creatures blocking it.” This makes AT a pretty tempting card to hit with boosts. Remember, though, this ability only works with things blocking Armored Transport, and does not go into effect when it acts as a blocker. There are definite ways to make AT useful, but I think it’s a card I’d sub out for something more useful and/or thematic at the end of the day.
Next up – white cards. The first two are Warclamp Mastiff. For one white mana you get a 1/1 creature with First Strike. Not bad, especially for the cost. Most white cards with First Strike generally costs more than this. This is a great way to strike hard and fast in the early game. Another two cards are Daring Skyjek, and this is the start of the Battalion ability. For 1W, you get a 3/1 creature. Its Battalion ability gives the Skyjek Flying until the end of turn, as long as it and at least two other cards attack. It’s too bad there aren’t three Skyjeks in the deck. 3/1 Flying for two mana is pretty nice! Boros Elite is another white weenie. For one white mana, you get a 1/1 creature whose Battalion ability inflates it to 3/3. I’ll pay a single mana for a 3/3 attacker, wouldn’t you? The final pure white creature is Court Street Denizen. CSD costs 2W, and it’s a 2/2 creature that lets you tap any one of your opponent’s creatures each time a white creature enters the battlefield under your control. Have Court Street out when you cast a bunch of white weenies and bam, a good portion of the enemy’s forces get tapped. It’s too bad there isn’t an equivalent of Goblin Warrens for white cards, eh? Now, if you’re looking for some alternative Gatecrash cards to sub in, consider either Nav Squad Commandos or Guardian of the Gateless. NSC gives you a 3/5 creature for 4W, and its Battalion ability gives it an extra +1/+1 and a free untap whenever it attacks. Guardian of the Gateless is a 3/3 Flyer than can block as many creatures as it wants. If that’s not enough, it also gains +1/+1 for each creature it blocks. All this for 4W. I think it’s a pretty decent deal, and it gives Boros Battalion the one thing it is desperately missing: a powerful blocker.
Now for the seven red Creatures. Two are Warmind Infantry. For 2R you get a 2/3 creature whose Battalion ability gives it an extra +2/+0. Can’t complain here. Another two are Canyon Minotaurs which, for 3R, gives you a generic 3/3 creature. You can probably find better replacements, I’m sure. Ember Beast is a 3/4 for only 2R, but it can’t attack or block on its own. Considering the nature of the deck, this limitation won’t really affect it. Bomber Corps is a 1/2 creature for 1R. Its Battalion ability is a strange one, as it gets to “ping” any creature or player for an extra damage. This is pretty versatile. I’d consider multiples of these just for that ability to finish off some opponent’s creature, or even the player themselves! Finally, we have Firefist Striker. He’s 1R for a 2/1 creature, and his Battalion ability lets it choose a target creature, which then cannot block this turn. Too bad there aren’t three in this deck. That’s a lot of useless creatures your opponent would be wielding then.
Finally, it’s the dual color creatures. You have eleven cards, but only seven different creatures. Three of these cards are Wojek Halbrediers. For RW, you get a 3/2 creature whose Battalion ability gives them First Strike. That’s pretty powerful when you think about it. Of course, like all cards in this deck, everything is about offense rather than defense. Two other cards are Fortress Cyclops. These Cyclopes are 3/3 creatures for 3RW. That’s pretty expensive for a 3/3 creature. However, these guys will be your primarily blockers. When they block, they gain +0/+3. Then again, when they attack, they gain +3/+0. No matter how you use them, they are your powerhouses for the deck. You also get two Skyknight Legionnaires. These guys are 2/2 Flyers with Haste for 1RW. Pretty straightforward. Now for the big four.
Sunhome Guildmage is crazy. You only pay RW for a 2/2 Wizard who has two wildly useful abilities – neither of which requires him to tap. For 1RW, all your creatures get +1/+0. This is PUMPABLE by the way. The other ability is 2RW, and lets you put a 1/1 soldier with Haste into play. Protect this guy at all costs. Firemane Avenger costs 2RW and is a 3/3 Flyer. The Avenger’s Battalion ability is pretty neat, and may be worth jettisoning those two R Minotaurs for two more of these. When the Battalion ability is activated, the Firemane Avenger deals 3 damage to any target creature or player, like a lightning bolt, but the Avenger’s controller also GAINS 3 life. Very nice. You’re going to definitely want to field a horde of these. Ordruun Veteran costs 2RW and is a 3/1 creature whose Battalion ability gives it Double Strike, effectively making this a 6/1 creature. Lots of damage, but that 1 Toughness means you might want to swap it for another Firemane Avenger. Last but not least is the face of the Boros Battalion deck – the Foundry Champion. This 4/4 creatures costs 4RW and it deals X number of damage to any player or creature in play equal to the number of creatures you control. This makes the Foundry Champion a late game juggernaut that can end play shockingly fast. If that’s not all, the Champion has two pumpable abilities, making it a ground Shivan Dragon and then some. R gives it +1/+0 and W gives it +0/+1. Holy crap is this awesome. It might even be worth having a second in your deck.
One final note: consider your sideboard and combos carefully. Something like a Court Street Denizen/Murder Investigaton combo can equal instant death for your opponent. Remember that with CSD, you can tap an opponent’s creature for each white creature that comes into play that turn. Well, Murder Investigation lets you enchant a creature. When that creature dies, you get a 1/1 WHITE CREATURE for each point of power it had. Now, imagine you have the Foundry Champion out and it dies. That’s four 1/1 creatures and four tapped opponents PER Court Street Denizen you have. Want to get even crazier? Have multiple Murder Investigations and CSDs. This makes your opponent impotent, as your creatures swarm him for an all but assured insta-kill.
As you can see, not only is Boros Battalion a pretty impressive deck, but there are so many ways to improve it and make it that much deadlier. As I said earlier, Gatecrash looks to be one of the most impressive expansions for Magic: The Gathering in some time, and I think you’re all going to have a lot of fun with it.