With Inspiring Vantage and Needle Spires recently seeing print, Boros Hatebears finally has the requisite mana base to make a run as a competitive strategy in Modern!
Hatebears strategies are climbing the competitive ranks in Modern. Green-white has established itself as a fixture of the format and White-Black Eldrazi Taxes may have even surpassed Green-White Hatebears in popularity. Both are solidly competitive. I tried a while ago to make White-Blue Hatebears good after Spell Queller and Reflector Mage were printed, but it hasn't really caught on yet and likely needs slightly more help to really push through. Today I'm introducing Red-White "Boros" Hatebears and showcasing some of the things this color pair can offer.
The biggest incentive to splashing red is for the #1 most played card in Modern – Lightning Bolt! It's one of the most efficient removal spells in the format and is versatile in that it can be aimed at the opponent, their creature or even their planeswalker. In combination with our aggressive creatures, all three of these targets get used with regularity.
Simian Spirit Guide is another card we get from red. Sure, we can technically run Simian Spirit Guide in any color combination, but red allows us to actually cast it as a 2/2 creature, with comes up quite often in the later turns of the game. Simian Spirit Guide allows us to play Leonin Arbiter or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on the first turn of the game and essentially steal free wins that way.
Ajani Vengeant is another card we get in this color combination. It works with our mana denial plan by tapping down a land long enough for us to go ultimate and Armageddon the opponent. Or it can gain us some life while killing off opposing creatures of planeswalkers.
Figure of Destiny and Grim Lavamancer are creatures than can be put onto the battlefield off Aether Vial on one counter. Grim Lavamancer can help take care of Noble Hierarchs, Delver of Secrets and Signal Pests while Figure of Destiny can take over a game as a 4/4 or as an 8/8 flyer.
Our mana denial plan begins with Leonin Arbiter and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, making it hard for opponents to fetch their lands and cast their spells. It also includes Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge to keep their lands in check. Finally, red offers us Fulminator Mage to give us a total of eight land destruction cards to complement our eight hate-filled bears.
The rest of the deck features Standard hatebears staples: Path to Exile, Blade Splicer, and Restoration Angel.
In the sideboard we have Burrenton Forge-Tender against Burn decks and also to protect our Leonin Arbiter and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben from Lightning Bolts. It can also protect our team from Anger of the Gods, Pyroclasm, Whipflare, or Conflagrate.
Rest in Peace and Grafdigger's Cage help out against Dredge and other graveyard-reliant strategies. Dredge got weakened by losing Golgari Grave-Troll, but Golgari Thug dredges four cards instead of six cards and that is the only change to the deck. It's still a powerful force that commands respect. I split Cage and Rest in Peace because Cage gives us something against Collected Company.
Wear // Tear is the card I'm most excited about as a sideboard card in Boros. It's the perfect answer to Affinity's sideboard plan of bringing in Ghirapur Aether Grid to combat Stony Silence. Wear and Tear is already a Shatter against Affinity but can also fuse to kill arguably the most problematic card in post-board games with the enchantment-killing half. It can also come in in a variety of other matchups such as Bogles, Merfolk (fusing to Spreading Seas + Aether Vial), and anywhere we might want a Disenchant effect.
I went with Stony Silence over Shatterstorm because it helps against Tron and Ad Nauseam as well, but I think this is close. We have Blade Splicer to block Etched Champion, so it's not required that we have Shatterstorm as an answer to that, though I could see splitting them one and one instead of two and zero.
Blood Moon can randomly beat certain strategies that are overly greedy with their mana base. Also just the threat of it can cause the opponent to preemptively fetch basic lands instead of dual lands. Since most three-color decks only run two or three basic lands, if they fetch out two of them, then our Ghost Quarters and Path to Exiles become Strip Mine and Swords to Plowshares even without Leonin Arbiter on the battlefield.
And sometimes all it takes is the fear of Strip Mine to win games.
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Valorous Stance is for any big creature, but most importantly against Bant Eldrazi. I also bring it in against Restoration Angel, Celestial Colonnade, Tarmogoyf, Siege Rhino, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Gurmag Angler, and Master of Etherium.
Linvala, Keeper of Silence comes in against Elves and any deck with creatures with activated abilities, including Affinity (Steel Overseer and Arcbound Ravager). I'll also sometimes bring it in against decks that rely on Lightning Bolt as their removal spell or that has trouble with flying creatures.
This is by no means the only way to build Boros Hatebears. You could play Flickerwisp to combo with Restoration Angel. You could also play Pia and Kiran Nalaar.
Blood Moon can be a main deck consideration, or even Magus of the Moon. Magus is a bit more fragile since it dies to Lightning Bolt, but it can be played off Aether Vial and isn't taxed by Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. We can also save it with Restoration Angel from Abrupt Decay, unlike Blood Moon.
If we want to get more aggressive, we can even run Keldon Marauders. They hit hard and can deal extra damage with the blink effects from Flickerwisp and Restoration Angel. Serra Avenger is also a direction we can go if we want a bigger aerial presence.
Abbot of Keral Keep is a way to generate card advantage and can be triggered off Flickerwisp or Restoration Angel. It's also a great card to put onto the battlefield off Aether Vial during our main phase while we have all our mana untapped ready to cast any spell in our deck. Thraben Inspector is also a way to gain card advantage that can incidentally be a good target for the blink effects.
Slayers' Stronghold would also be a card to consider in a more aggressive build, allowing us to play a creature off Aether Vial and immediately give it +2/+0, vigilance, and haste.
Kitchen Finks is harder to cast in this color combination than it is in Green/White, but it's still manageable and reasonable to go in that direction. I don't think Boros Reckoner is worth it, but there aren't many good red three-drops we're interested in; most of the white ones are better. Duergar Hedge-Mage would be a consideration except we don't run enough lands that actually count as Mountains and Plains.
From Aether Revolt, I would consider Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and possibly Heart of Kiran, though Smuggler's Copter might even be better than Heart of Kiran in this deck. Speaking of which, Smuggler's Copter is a card to consider.
Overall Red/White "Boros" Hatebears finally has the necessary tools in place to be a legitimate strategy in Modern. These videos are my first crack at showcasing the power of this new archetype!