By Nicholas LaPoint (necroid26)
Today I’d like to introduce my favorite Gladiator deck, Boros Prowess. This list started from Ben Wheeler’s but has slowly evolved over the ~100 matches I’ve played with the deck. The goal of the deck is simple; cast aggressive creatures and pump/support them with spells. The deck hopes to go under nearly all other decks in the format, threatening lethal on T4/T5 in best case scenarios. The reasons to play Prowess over other agro options the deck’s explosiveness; 12+ damage with just two creatures on board is easily doable. If attacking with a 5/5 trample Fencing Ace on T3 is your type of Magic, you’re considering the right list.
Feather, the Redeemed: Feather is the best card in the deck and it isn’t particularly close. She’s important for two reasons, evasion and card advantage. She gives you back your pump/protection spell and is the evasive body you need for the pump spells.
Kiln Fiend: The Fiend embodies an important archetype – 2 CMC creatures who threaten lethal after a few combat tricks. Other cards fulfilling the same role are 2 CMC double strike creatures, but Kiln with pump spells is the most powerful setup.
Robber of the Rich: Like Feather, Robin is an aggressive creature that grants card advantage. A general note – haste is powerful here, allowing you to push damage out of nowhere and get in early shots.
Alseid of Life’s Bounty: There currently aren’t many powerful 1CMC threats in Gladiator so the ones we include are important. Ours can deal a little damage if drawn early but also have utility late game. Alseid protects our other creatures after the body is no longer helpful.
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice: This angel is the perfect curve topper – she has impact on the turn she comes down and is big evasive threat herself. The mentor mechanic has also been surprisingly good as you often have some 1 power creatures to buff.
Kinjalli’s Sunwing: There are a few ‘hate bears’ included to try and slow opponents down enough for you to finish the game. Kinjali is perfect; an evasive body that slows your opponents blockers. These spots are malleable depending on the current meta, but I can’t imagine excluding this Dino.
Infuriate: The best pump spell in the deck is also the simplest. The main use it to punch people in the face harder (especially juicy with spell/target payoffs) but is also helpful for taking out bigger threats and avoiding damage based removal.
Defiant Strike: This tiny pump spell is surprisingly powerful, enabling prowess and heroic-like effects while replacing itself. A huge boon for the deck would be more cards like this.
Gods Willing: This trick does three important things at once; protects creatures from targeted removal, pushes creatures past blockers and even scrys for an added benefit. Indestructible is often better, but the versatility of this card is invaluable.
Lightning Strike: Initially hesitant to include ‘burn’ spells, my tune changed after failing to finish opponents at 2 life a dozen times. The burn spells worked and Lighting Strike is the best we’ve got. Going face on curve, killing annoying blockers, or just finishing games, burn spells have been a welcome inclusion.
Here are some cards who just made the list, the reasoning behind their inclusion (and possible future exclusion) should provide some insight into the deck and help with future choices.
Haktos the Unscarred: Haktos is a heavy-hitting, evasive threat who dodges most removal. But he cost RRWW (harder to hit than I like) and attacks T5 at the earliest. Other top end threats either provide an immediate impact (Aurellia/Snapdax) or get back some cards if removed (Tectonic Giant). I’d like to cast him a few more times before making a decision but Haktos might not make the next iteration of the deck.
Shadowspear: Another powerful card, this equipment does a lot of important things. It pumps, gives trample, and sticks around when the creature dies. However, the two mana equip cost often makes sequencing a little awkward. The lifelink, while nice, is almost always irrelevant and I wish the buff was a little more than +1+1.
Ardenvale Tactician: While unassuming, Tactician is a modal spell that fills multiple roles. It pushes damage though by tapping opponents’ creatures, and in a pinch can be used to target one of your creatures for a heroic-esque trigger. The 2/3 flying body is nice but a little over-costed at 3CMC. I like both parts of the card but neither scream efficiency nor power, so the spot may come into question. Adventures on the whole are nice because of the card advantage they grant.
Fateful End: A 3 mana lightning bolt isn’t great, but it sometimes gets the job done. Scry 1 is a nice benefit, but this is probably the worst burn spell we can afford to play.
Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt: You’ll almost never cast Snapdax normally; they’re functionally an aura granting double strike and hopefully killing a creature. While this is certainly powerful, I like the top of my curve to be a little better on an empty board and Snapdax certainly fails there.
Important tips for piloting
When on the draw, a two drop is incredibly important. You need to produce a threat and start lowering their life total. When on the play you have more flexibility in waiting until T3 to drop a threat, though still not ideal.
Don’t be afraid to mulligan aggressively. This deck does not play well from behind (especially against removal) so a fast start is worth card disadvantage. I’ve won multiple games after a mull to 4.
While the curve stops at four (technically 6) you often spend more mana that that on a given turn, especially if you have haste or spell payoffs. Don’t be too aggressive mulling away lands.
The deck is incredibly vulnerable to wraths – be extremely cognizant of a possible settle the wreckage when attacking and be sure not to run out to many unneeded creatures against decks packing sweepers.
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