If you live under a rock, you may not know about the new Boros Convoke deck that’s taking Pioneer by storm. This past week, the deck hit the ground running, and we saw an MTGO Pioneer challenge that featured two copies of the deck in the finals.
Here’s Sodeq’s challenge-winning list.
Sodeq’s Boros Convoke
1 Jegantha, the Wellspring
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Mana Confluence
4 Battlefield Forge
4 Reckless Bushwhacker
4 Thraben Inspector
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Venerated Loxodon
2 Giant Killer
2 Castle Embereth
4 Forbidden Friendship
1 Needleverge Pathway
3 Clarion Spirit
4 Voldaren Epicure
3 Resolute Reinforcements
4 Gleeful Demolition
4 Knight-Errant of Eos
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Pithing Needle
4 Rending Volley
1 Giant Killer
1 Light of Hope
1 Regal Leosaur
1 Jegantha, the Wellspring
2 Wedding Announcement
3 Invasion of Gobakhan
I was immediately intrigued watching Kanister stream the deck. The deck is powerful, fast, and exploits a weakness in the Pioneer format where people were shaving on cost-efficient sweepers and playing more linear decks and spot removal. Enjoy your Doom Blades and Stomps, if you want, but this deck is going to go right under that and punish you quickly.
Is this deck the real deal? My initial intuition is that I’m skeptical, but it does something the format needs by adding a new element of attack that needs to be addressed. You'll be mistaken in the current moment if you don’t prepare for or think you can dodge the deck.
Mono White Humans occupied this slot in the metagame for a while as a small creature deck that could clock fast and had some disruption in the form of Thalia. It’s about a full turn slower than Boros Convoke, but it's more resilient to sweepers. In general, I liked picking white apart with spot removal chaining up the curve and then going over the top of them rather than relying on sweepers. Because of cards like Dauntless Bodyguard, Brave the Elements, and the Thalia tax, it can be hard to line up a sweeper effectively.
Sweepers are a must with Boros Convoke. I was reluctant to include Brotherhood’s End in the Hulk Creativity deck I’ve been testing, but I now think two copies are a slam dunk. I’d even consider as many as three or another similar card like Cinderclasm. In fact, it may be correct to main deck some sweepers in decks that weren’t playing them before. They provide so much equity when drawn against this deck that it’s not unreasonable given the deck's popularity. I couldn’t find the commons and uncommons for the deck on MTGO recently because so many people were trying Boros. Instead, I had to settle for watching friends play the deck.
Without a true Pyroclasm in the format, this Boros Convoke deck is capable of killing on turn three. It’s not easy, but it's easier than it should be.
The deck does have serious flaws. It’s not going to win from behind, so you need to aggressively mulligan for good starts. Decks that are often mulling and resource intensive can be easy to disrupt with a turn-one Thoughtseize. A mistake I see many players making against aggressive decks like Boros Convoke is cutting Thoughtseize, which is one of the best cards in the format against this deck. If you take them off curve or take their payoff, especially after a mulligan or two, you will force them on the back foot. Boros Convoke has no breaks and has to close before things get out of control.
The deck’s best cards are the five-mana convoke payoffs and Gleeful Demolition. Gleeful Demolition is the card you want to see most in your opener along with a Bushwhacker or any Convoke creature. Without any of those key cards, you should probably be taking a mulligan even if your hand curves out well. A bunch of 1/1s and 1/2s aren’t enough. You need to have a huge turn two or three for this deck to win.
The emergence of this deck has me a little flustered. I was leaning toward playing Lotus Field. While I’ve only played against the deck a few times with Lotus, and it felt close, I would be surprised if Boros isn’t favored. I think I’ve won my matches, but I likely drew well. Boros Convoke is the kind of deck that people will need reps with to understand how fast their clock is and how to mulligan. Anemic draws won’t get there. This deck may be popular, and the pilots will have experience by then.
So am I considering playing the deck? It's not out of the question, but I will be surprised if I end up playing Boros. It has some inherent flaws, including lacking resiliency. It can’t take turns off to protect itself from sweepers and such. Cards like Invasion of Gobakhan are fine, but a deck with a mixture of spot removal, hand disruption, and sweepers should be able to easily dismantle the deck.
I’m only describing the format's most popular deck Rakdos Midrange. Rakdos Midrange was everywhere before this deck took off, and with a small tweak to the sideboard you can hammer this match-up down. So many cards exist in the Rakdos colors that give this deck nightmares. Cards like Illness in the Ranks, The Meathook Massacre, Languish, and Hidetsugu Consumes are easy adjustments to make that will improve the match-up dramatically. Boros Convoke isn't going to be great at coming back without a good coherent plan, which is the next evolution of the deck.
I’m strongly considering Gearhulk Creativity, my runner-up deck. The deck has access to excellent tools to combat Convoke with cheap removal like Fiery Impulse and Spikefield Hazard to slow them down, and setting up Opus with no disruption is easy. You can use spot removal early to slow down their big payoff. If you’re able to Gearhulk an Opus before you’re actually at 0 life, it's easy to stabilize and take over and turn the corner quickly.
The big question I have isn't if people will react to Boros Convoke, but what are they willing to give up to do so? Will they cut all their graveyard hate and leave a window open for a deck like Greasefang, a deck that also has a great Convoke match-up? Will they shave on their Counterspells and Duress-type cards to make room? Midrange good-stuff decks like Rakdos are best suited to combat Boros Convoke, but they will be stretching themselves thin and lose points in other match-ups. Maybe Extinction events become Languishes and that leaves the door open for Mono Green Devotion to pick up some win percentage in the meta.
There are a lot of ways Boros Convoke throws the metagame into whack. The best we can do is analyze the trends to try to stay a step ahead of the metagame and submit the correct deck and be comfortable with our choices.
As of a few days ago, I had one simple tool for RC Dallas. Don't submit a deck that's unfavored against Rakdos Midrange. Any deck I feel comfortable with in that match-up was acceptable. Now, I’m adding Boros Convoke to that list. I still have plenty of time to let things shake out, but I plan on spending a good chunk of my time solving that problem while also being comfortable with my deck.
Boros Convoke is strong enough to hang around in the metagame for a while. If you’re not playing it, make sure that you’re prepared to play against the deck. It’s a powerful, fun, new deck that’s also cheap and easy to build. All of this adds up to a deck that could take a huge chunk of the metagame moving forward.
As for the deck’s future? It’s likely it can't stand up to the metagame shake-up it’s about to create, but the Pioneer metagame is about to change because of its existence. It’s the fastest goldfish deck with no interaction in the format pushing back other goldfish decks like Mono Green and Lotus Field, which will lead to more interactive decks like Rakdos. This can come full circle, and once decks like Green and Lotus are ignored, they’ll be well-positioned if Boros is pushed back enough. Ultimately, I think Boros is going to get that pushback quickly, so enjoy it while you can.