A few really sweet cards have been revealed from Guilds of Ravnica that improve two of my favorite archetypes: Boros Aggro and Orzhoz Aggro. Today I am going to sketch out a list for each to give you an idea of where to build from as more of the set is revealed, in anticipation of Week 1 of post-rotation Standard.
The mentor mechanic is interesting. It doesn't do anything on defense, but it can snowball attacks on offense while also getting your smaller creatures out of range of Goblin Chainwhirler's ability, at least when on the play. I'm not even sure how prevalent the Goblin will be in post-rotation Standard. It is possible that tribal Goblins will be a deck – in which case of course it will be a four-of – but most of the tools for more traditional mono-red builds are rotating and not getting many replacements. So despite the Goblin still looming over Standard, it might not be as oppressive as its been without the support cards it's losing.
If this holds true, that is good news for one-toughness critters such as Goblin Banneret and Healer's Hawk. The Hawk has quite good stats, unlike what we are used to. Evasion and lifelink on a 1/1 body is actually pretty competitive on its own, and it fits perfectly with the mentor ability since you can pump up the Hawk with mentor counters. I'm all about a Judge's Familiar, and although different this Bird is likely to see play beyond just the Draft tables.
Goblin Banneret is also a sweet card. It's not as ideal as Healer's Hawk on the first turn, but it hits just as hard if left unchecked. Where it shines is a bit later in the game when you have the mana to pump it. The pump ability gives it larger power than most of the other creatures in the deck and thereby turns on the mentor ability. Even if you don't have another creature, you can activate the pimp ability multiple times per turn, so it functionally acts as a mana sink later in the game when you flood out and/or just want to tap out and Fireball the opponent. It doesn't have evasion, but for a single mana investment, this card packs a lot of power.
Sunhome Stalwart is a reasonable card that I could see potentially getting cut if a more powerful two-drop sees print, but on its own I think it is good enough. Two power and two toughness with first strike for two mana has been the golden standard for white two-drops ever since White Knight. Instead of protection from black, the Stalwart has the mentor ability (and is also easier to cast in this deck since it only require access to one white mana). Given the eight one-drops that can each get pumped by the Stalwart, it provides a strong offensive boost in this deck when it attacks. And if it gets a mentor counter from something else (for instance, a pumped Goblin Banneret), then suddenly it is a 3/3 and would thereafter be able to pump two-toughness creatures when it attacks. This is a pretty cool way that the mentor ability is cumulative and grows each of your creatures over time.
Boros Challenger is the more exciting two-drop. It has the extra toughness instead of first strike, which is overall better I think, and it also has its own built-in pump ability to turn on its mentor ability. It costs a bit more to activate than the Goblin does, but both abilities are quite useful and synergistic.
Legion Warboss is the real all-star so far for the mentor mechanic. If there is a Gobin tribal deck, this will be the reason why. In Boros I expect this and History of Benalia to be bonkers turn-three threats that put opponents back on their heels in a hurry.
History of Benalia and Rekindling Phoenix are just the most powerful cards in the Boros colors and we would be making a mistake by not including them in the deck purely on power level. In addition, both are great just as aggro cards in general, so even though we don't have any other knight synergies or really any way to incorporate the phoenix into the mentor plan of the deck, they are each still the best things you can do on turns three and four in a Boros Aggro deck.
Aside from the threat package of the deck, I decided that going with a burn package is likely the best plan since it gives the deck some added reach in addition to giving the deck tools to fight through opposing creatures. So I went with Shock and Lightning Strike as early removal and a pair of Ixalan's Bindings as late game answers to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or opposing Rekindling Phoenixes.
In the sideboard we get Lava Coil as an efficient way to deal with Steel Leaf Champion, Rekindling Phoenix or Shalai, Voice of Plenty. I suspect this card will see a decent amount of play in Standard, especially in sideboards. Since we are white, we also have access to Baffling End and Ixalan's Binding, so we already can exile creatures. The rate on the card for two mana though still makes it worth playing. Depending on the metagame I can see playing even more copies.
Shalai, Voice of Plenty and Lyra Dawnbringer work great together but also individually. Shalai helps against Settle the Wreckage and against decks with burn spells (since they must target Shalai instead of the creatures that actually die to burn spells, which is most other creatures in our deck). Lyra is great against any deck that either has difficulty dealing with a 5/5 flyer or has difficulty handling lifelink. Banefire and Treasure Map are anti-control cards. Banefire is especially good against Settle the Wreckage decks since the settle gives us lands to cast a large Banefire and it is also uncounterable to get around their countermagic.
As a general sideboard strategy, three Banefire, two Treasure Map and two Shalai, Voice of Plenty come in against control decks where we board out our burn spells. Against the various kinds of creature decks, we board into the removal configuration that lines up best against their threats.
Integrity // Intervention
I'm not sure if the Captain is even good enough in the deck because it competes for space with Rekindling Phoenix, but the split card would certainly be good. It pumps creatures, which can save them in combat or from burn spells, or it turns on mentor by growing a creature to a greater power than your other creature. The other side of the card functions as yet another burn spell that can be used against an opposing creature or to provide reach by going to the face. The life gain is also potentially relevant anytime the card is aimed at a creature. Four mana is a lot for a Lightning Helix, but when the opposite side is one mana +2/+2, that added utility makes it worthwhile.
The other deck I'd like to discuss is Orzhov Knights. Most of the shell remains intact through rotation and it also gains one powerful new tool so far in Midnight Reaper.
I decided on Dauntless Bodyguard for a lot of the same reasons I included the one-drops in the Boros deck. Having that first turn body adds to this tempo deck's clock and we have ways to pump our Knights eventually. But if Goblin Chainwhirler proves to be as ubiquitous as it was pre-rotation, then the bodyguard probably gets cut. We run Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants though too, so being able to get it back to guard the body of our three-drop (such as Benalish Marshal) is quite useful anyway even if it initially dies to a Chainwhirler.
Knight of Grace and Knight of Malice the premier two-drops in this deck. We have multiple knight synergies in the deck in addition to Ajani, which wants premier two-drops. They are slam dunk inclusions in the deck.
History of Benalia, I have argued, is the best card in Standard (or at least the card I am most likely to jam four of in my deck in each Standard tournament). So of course in a Knight-themed deck this is by far our best card. You basically always want to draw as many as possible in this deck, so don't sideboard any copies out.
Valiant Knight is the other card that gives us Knight synergies, pumping our team with its static ability and being able to double-strike them with its activated ability. It's possible that splitting this 3/3 between Ajani and Valiant Knight is correct, but for now I went with four Knights because I expect more creature mirrors and because drawing multiple Valiant Knights is generally better than drawing multiple Ajanis since Ajani is legendary.
Benalish Marshal gives us yet another way to pump up our Knights. Between Ajani, Marshal, Valiant Knight, and chapter three of History of Benalia, our Knights grow and grow and grow and will nearly always be relevant threats.
Midnight Reaper is the excellent new addition to the deck from Guilds of Ravnica. The rate is perfectly reasonable for the body, and the ability for itself or any of your other creatures to replace themselves when they dies makes this an absolute house in so many matchups. Play it precombat and attack with impunity. Block and draw a card. Draw a whole new hand following an opposing Cleansing Nova. All these things are awesome, and being a Knight means Midnight Reaper gains full advantage of all the anthem effects in the deck. The deck remains almost entirely intact post-rotation and gains a new all-star.
For the removal I went with Cast Down, Baffling End and Ixalan's Binding. This mix should give us just enough removal to fight through opposing threats without overloading our draws with inaction. Against other creature decks we can adjust our removal package to whatever lines up best, and against control decks we can replace our removal spells with discard spells.
Since the whole set has not yet been revealed, there is of course still room to revise and update these lists, but these are two of the lists I would start my testing with. I think each of these strategies has promise going into post-rotation Standard.