Rotation Preparation: Cycling et Cetera in Boros
- Marin Magda
Boros was always in this weird spot during the current Standard cycle. Red-white decks usually started off with solid results, only to drop off the map later on. Having avoided the bans and mostly able to avoid the rotation, will these builds get the attention they deserve in the future?
This was a pretty sad time for Boros fans. As soon as a red-white deck would pop up in the higher ranks, it would go right back down. Such was the fate of both Pawblade and Cycling, arguably the most prolific examples. Knights kind of fit here as well, but for the most time, they were not even flying the Boros flag. In fact, Cycling used to rely on on a third color in some variants as well.
Luckily for Boros, such decks aren't losing much besides shock lands, which cannot be said for most others. Monocolored aggro strategies may not be losing lands at all, but they are still losing more staples than Boros. With monocolor aggro being weakened by the rotation and control losing Teferi, Time Raveler, hopefully Boros will now be in a better spot. After all, one of the defining features of the various Boros builds is that their main deck configurations already employed cards exclusively from Eldraine, Theros, Ikoria and Core Set 2021.
While not overly meta warping, Core Set 2021 did add some interesting cards to Standard, as well as a new archetype to the Boros pool. Pawblade was equally a Winota, an Alpine Houndmaster, and an Embercleave deck. It wasn't ever really bad, "just" worse than its tricolored or monocolored competitors. It also happened to rely on Winota quite a bit, which tends to increase the variance. Mardu Winota is doing pretty well at the time of writing, but was not prominent until recently — and won't be for long, as it is about to lose too many cards.
Among all the frequently played nonland cards, only Tajic, Legion's Edge and Legion Warboss are about to bite the dust. Since this deck already runs lots of faster non-Human creatures, losing one is no big deal, even though the Warboss is amazing here. Tajic would be a big loss if there were no alternatives, which there are. Basri's Lieutenant and Kenrith are some of the biggest Humans to fetch. Kenrith's first ability looks promising, both for trample and to speed up the Winota triggering with replacement drops. Every so often a Triome might even enable another ability.
|The New Pawblade|
Cards such as the ones that we're losing are what this deck needs most in Zendikar Rising. Winota is only as good as the best Humans in a deck's colors, but for a fast deck that just happens to play the card, you also need many non-Human creatures. This was a goal that the Warboss was great at securing. Ultimately, though, some better mana fixing sits highest atop the wish list.
Once a tier-one to -two deck, Boros Cycling was cheap, fast, and overall strong. With pre-nerf Lurrus of the Dream-Den around, this strategy was really capable of wreaking havoc upon unsuspecting opponents. Although never hit directly by a ban, it all went downhill when the companion mechanic got nerfed. Lurrus still hangs around, but it became slow. Meanwhile, aggro and sacrifice decks were on the rise. With Cauldron Familiar and Mayhem Devil gone, the meta might stop being overly hostile toward this one.Stomp seems to be the most popular removal spell, which is troubling for this deck's two-drops, but not the Fox. At least a turn one Flourishing Fox can dodge it with a bit of luck that being on the play brings.< /p>
Sacred Foundry is the only key piece that is leaving, so I am certain that this deck loses the least cards in the entire format. But it's pretty inconsistent in general, so that one loss hits hard. I've even thought of not adding Temple of Triumph at all. Other lands that are currently legal offer no real alternative, as this deck seeks to play very few of them for Standard's standards. It also has no interaction whatsoever, but if this stops mattering in a new, weaker environment, Cycling may shine after all.
|The New Cycling|
The main deck isn't really going anywhere, so the best and possibly only thing this strategy can hope for is a multicolor land that doesn't always have to enter tapped. Revealing another land, having a specific one already in play, having basics in play — whatever the condition may be, I think this would improve the deck. We shouldn't be seeing any cycling in the new Zendikar set anyway, so there's nothing to wish for other than lands.
Without shock lands in the format, multicolored decks that have the best alternatives may do great in the new metagame. Knights come to mind first in this regard because Tournament Grounds will remain legal. Soon to be (possibly) the only dual land that can enter untapped in Standard, this one offers lots of possibilities and can pay for Embercleave. That said, why not just stick to red and another color and go for Boros?
No matter the combination of colors, Knights is an archetype that does have some good potential. Similar to Cycling, it's another deck sourced from a single set, in this case Throne of Eldraine. Where monocolored aggro builds lose a lot of their early drops, this one doesn't.
|The New Knights|
This list is proof that there are lots of Knights that were unjustly left behind. Consequently, that is why I think that they will be good in new Standard. They're not losing anything in particular, mainly because they weren't heavily played in the first place, leaving only many forgotten cards in the wake of the rotation.
Worthy Knight is easily able to create many tokens, just like Basri Ket. Indeed, Basri has amazing synergy with Embercleave, a card that just can't seem to fail to impress, so this interaction may become a huge part of Future Standard. Their mana costs are quite awkward, especially double white off of fourteen sources, although Tournament Grounds steps in to help fix the double-red issue.
The deck has a good curve already, so I figure it's quite tough to expect anything from Zendikar Rising for it at the time being. A slight improvement in any field, be it lands, creatures, or noncreatures, would help make sure that Knights finally make it big.
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