A few weeks back I mentioned that I did not believe that these Golgari decks had any kind of legs in Standard long-term. I waited and I waited for Golgari to eventually drop off to fulfill the destiny I had prophesied for Standard, but it never happened. Eventually I had to admit something really weird, something that I swear has never happened before. I had to admit that I was wrong. Whew, that was tough to get out there.

When it came time to start testing Standard in earnest for Grand Prix New Jersey and the Pro Tour, Golgari was all the rage and very clearly the best deck in the format. It would have been a criminal offense to begin my testing with anything else.

So I hired a defense lawyer and started testing with Boros.

Every format, I get stuck on decks that I can't get away from, no matter how good or bad they eventually end up being. Last year I couldn't stop with token strategies, even though they didn't have what it took to be a contender. After that, I couldn't stop trying to play with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria while we were clearly living in a Chainwhirler whirld.

This format, I just can't stop thinking about Boros. I don't know why it's Boros. I can't explain it. I've never liked Boros before, I have no history with the Legion. Yet I can't stop trying to make various Boros decks work and after my concoctions fail, as they all do, I move on to the next Boros deck. Someone save me from myself, before it's too late. Aaaaand would you look at the time? It appears it's already too late. Better luck next time.

Fortunately, Brad Nelson was here to save the day by pushing me off my various underperforming Boros decks and onto something completely different entirely: Boros Angels. Okay, fine, it's still Boros, but it's just a different kind of Boros and one I hadn't tested yet because it looked way too bad to be a real deck.

Let's get one thing straight. The deck was bad. However, it also just kept winning a lot and was also great. The two can be true at the same time, I promise it's possible.

I don't really know how to describe the Boros deck other than it being "Boros Mythics out of the trade binder." The deck plays a two-drop that rewards aggression as it doesn't block effectively, only becomes a three-power creature while attacking, and you have to consistently pay four life to keep it around. The other two-drop is a 1/3 that mostly just sits around in play hoping to disrupt your opponent's strategy. Ah yes, the classic offense and defense strategy. 3/1s for two and 1/3s for two. A little Adanto Vanguard on offense and some Tocatli Honor Guard on defense. Yin, meet yang. Is that the format I see on the ground in a million pieces? Why yes it is. Must have broke it.

This is the same list that Brad played to second place at Grand Prix New Jersey with one exception. I figured that if I was going to play the most medium deck I've ever played in my entire life, that I was going to have to play with the most medium mana base I've ever played in my entire life. So I played two mismatched Boros Guildgates and one Stone Quarry. For value. And value was had, by everyone. In fact one game I opened up on Quarry, Guildgate, Guildgate, Plains as my four lands and I have never snap kept a hand faster in my entire life.

In addition to aggressive 3/1s for two and defensive 1/3s for two, this deck also boasts synergies like Deafening Clarion in the sideboard and many creatures that die to it, or Tocatli Honor Guard in the main deck and creatures that don't work with it in the sideboard. Pretty classic stuff here.

I won a game in testing where I only cast five cards the entire game: three Adanto Vanguards and two Tocatli Honor Guards. My board at the end of the game was a bunch of ugly basic Plains, some Boros theme lands and then a bunch of 3/1s and 1/3s for two. And it felt amazing. It felt like I had just played a bad game of Limited. Got there.

There's also another aspect of the deck that I'm kind of glossing over here, of course – the mythics. This deck plays a lot of them. History of Benalia, Rekindling Phoenix, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, Resplendent Angel, and Lyra Dawnbringer all have that burnt orange symbol.

The mythics are all really good, and even though the deck can't decide whether it wants to attack or block, play beatdown or play control or just be straight-up midrange, there is no denying the absurd power level of these. You slam these mythics into play and half the time your opponent is left scratching their head, wondering how the five cards in their hand couldn't do anything against Lyra Dawnbringer or Rekindling Phoenix.

That's why the deck is actually great. I spent several paragraphs talking about how mediocre the deck is and while none of that is wrong, the fact is that the deck also just wins all the time because half the time your opponent simply cannot beat some or all of your mythic rares. Mythic: The Gathering.

I decided to name the deck "Red and White Vampires and Angels" in honor of one of the best deck names in Magic's history. When Avacyn Restored came out, I helped the Roanoke squad of pros – Brad Nelson, Gerry Thompson and others – test for the Block Constructed Pro Tour where they eventually ended up playing a Naya Humans deck. The deck played four Cavern of Souls with the intention of naming Human with it to cast the plethora of Humans in the deck. However, the deck also played Restoration Angel and Wolfir Silverheart as the non-Human creatures because they were among the most powerful cards in the format. For some reason, coverage named the deck Green White and Red Wolves and Angels instead of just "Naya Humans" and I still haven't gotten over it seven years later. Now I just want to name all my decks [Color] and [Color] [Obscure creature type on just one creature in the deck] and [Angels]. The last one is always angels.

With that aside, I want to state that I utterly loved playing this Boros Angels deck. I used to be in a spot where I wanted to always just play decks that gave me decisions to make or that allowed me to outplay people. Not anymore! Now I just want to play mythic rare Magic cards and watch my opponents shuffle uncomfortably in their chair as they stare forlornly at their hand of commons, uncommons, and regular rares. Hah. That'll teach them for playing regular Magic cards. This tournament was a blast. It was Magic on easy mode.

I ended up going 11-4 in the event. We built this list specifically to beat Golgari decks and the Blue-Red Arclight Phoenix decks primarily and I went 1-2 vs. Golgari so I guess things didn't go exactly to plan. I did go 2-0 vs. Phoenix, though, which was nice. I ended up going 1-2 vs Golgari and 1-2 vs Jeskai Control (the worst matchup), and 6-0 against the rest of the field. There was a lot of Jeskai Control at the GP and I think if I could have dodged those I might have ended up in the Top 16 or maybe even the Top 8.

Was this Boros Angels deck a format breaking deck? Definitely not. For one, the deck already existed in the format, even though we ended up making some changes to the base list that I think improved it. Secondly, it was a good deck but had its fair share of holes. One of those holes is that it is very bad against Jeskai Control, which might actually be the best deck in the format. Another hole is that the deck is very clunky and there is not much that can be done about that. Sometimes you draw a bunch of Tocatli Honor Guards against control decks or you draw a bunch of Adanto Vanguards against Mono-Red or you get stuck on three lands with a bunch of four-mana cards in hand or you flood out and draw a bunch of mediocre two and three-drops later on.

Still, I believe this is one of the best decks in the format and that's partially because it's favored against Golgari and Arclight Phoenix.

Four main deck Tocatli Honor Guard is there to punish the Golgari decks, which rely heavily on the explore mechanic as well as cards like Plaguecrafter and Ravenous Chupacabra. Sometimes their deck just does nothing with an Honor Guard in play.

Against blue-red, the plan is to just remove every threat they play and then just play a bunch of creatures that are difficult for them to handle. After sideboard, we have three Seal Away, four Lava Coil, a Justice Strike, three Ixalan's Binding, two Fight with Fire and four Dire Fleet Daredevils plus their Lava Coils to take care of their creatures. They might have a lot of filtering, but they will eventually flood out if you exile every creature in their entire deck.

I don't think I would have played this deck if it wasn't for Lava Coil being arguably the best removal spell in the format and Rekindling Phoenix being arguably the best creature. I believe that Rekindling Phoenix is disgustingly good against every single deck in the format. Against Golgari it punishes Chupacabra, Vivien Reid, Vraska, Relic Seeker, and Find // Finality. Against Blue-Red Phoenix it trades with their Drakes and demands a Lava Coil. Against Jeskai Control it punishes Deafening Clarion, Justice Strike and Cleansing Nova. Against red decks, it is a good blocker and a two-for-one, and against other decks it is a big flying creature that plays offense and defense well.

The only other card that is on the same level as these two cards is Lyra Dawnbringer, which is at worst a Baneslayer Angel and at best a card that turns your other creatures in to Baneslayer Angels and also makes more Baneslayer Angels with Resplendent Angel. Turn three Resplendent, turn four Resplendent, turn five Lyra is game, as is turn five Lyra and turn six double Resplendent. She sees all the angles and makes all the Angels. The only thing I don't like about Lyra is the number of matchups where you just have to cross your fingers and hope they don't have removal.

In terms of the list itself, some aspects of it were mostly just thrown together. Shock, for example, was an addition just to make sure our deck wasn't too top-heavy and had early interaction for some decks, even though it feels oddly out of place as a very low-impact removal spell in a deck full of bombastic mythics. Especially since we cut Conclave Tribunal for Ixalan's Binding, it was important to have more early plays. I didn't like the Shocks, but they actually played well for me in the tournament.

The sideboard, I will admit right now, is definitely not perfect. A lot of decisions were just thrown together the night before, and a lot of that was us just putting more and more Dire Fleet Daredevils into the sideboard because myself and others were adamant about not playing Settle the Wreckage. Brad really wanted to play Settle the Wreckage, but I absolutely Despise playing cards like that in decks like this because every card in your deck is some huge tapout threat and if you pass the turn with four mana up, it's like putting out a bat signal that you have Settle the Wreckage in hand and your opponent should play around it. We ended up playing four copies of Dire Fleet Daredevil, which is definitely one of the most underrated cards in Standard right now.

Sideboarding

Golgari

+2 Fight with Fire
+2 The Immortal Sun
+3 Dire Fleet Daredevil

-2 Shock
-1 Justice Strike
-4 Adanto Vanguard

As a baseline, I would sideboard like this. Past that point, there are other options for how you can board. For example, I find Ixalan's Binding to be pretty weak against them and am happy to cut both of those, but sometimes they are still better than other options. For example, I'd be happy to cut Ixalan's Binding for two Deafening Clarions if the Golgari list is playing cards like Llanowar Elves and Druid of the Cowl, since a Clarion can set them back too far to come back from. Justice Strike and Binding are both cards you want in your deck if they are playing Doom Whisperer, however.

Dire Fleet Daredevil doesn't work with Tocatli Honor Guard, but the lack of synergy doesn't matter too much. If they kill your Honor Guard, then you flashback their removal spell with Daredevil. If they don't kill Honor Guard, they probably aren't winning and you can afford a dead card. If it's a Finality that does the trick, you can use Daredevil to flashback Find and get Honor Guard back. Nasty.

Adanto Vanguard just gets blocked by too many cheap value creatures and eventually you run out of life to pay or get raced, or they play a Wildgrowth Walker and get it to 4 toughness. It just isn't worth it.

Blue-Red Phoenix

+4 Dire Fleet Daredevil
+2 Fight with Fire
+1 Ixalan's Binding
+3 Seal Away

-4 Tocatli Honor Guard
-2 Shock
-4 History of Benalia (draw) or Resplendent Angel (play)

The key is to just kill everything they play. I like to try to line up my removal in the most efficient ways when I have access to multiple removal spells. That means cards like Fight with Fire and Justice Strike are hitting Enigma Drakes first. Ixalan's Binding's primary target is Crackling Drake, and Seal Away and Lava Coil for Arclight Phoenix. However, I will simply kill anything they play with any removal spell if need be.

Jeskai Control

+4 Dire Fleet Daredevil
+1 Ixalan's Binding
+2 Fight with Fire
+2 The Immortal Sun

-4 Tocatli Honor Guard
-4 Lava Coil
-1 Shock or Justice Strike (depending on if they have a creature sideboard plan or not)

This matchup is very bad. I'd mulligan aggressively game one to try to find Adanto Vanguard, History of Benalia and Rekindling Phoenixes as they are your most important cards.

Sometimes Jeskai just doesn't do anything or has answers that don't line up and you can win.

Boros Tokens

+3 Seal Away
+3 Deafening Clarion
+2 Fight with Fire

-4 Adanto Vanguard
-2 Ixalan's Binding
-2 Tocatli Honor Guard

I don't have high confidence in this plan, but Tocatli only really shuts out Venerated Loxodon and I'm not sure that every Boros tokens deck even plays that card in high numbers anymore.

Selesnya Tokens

+3 Seal Away
+3 Deafening Clarion
+2 Fight with Fire

-4 Adanto Vanguard
-4 History of Benalia

I have a weird view on this deck in that I don't think of History of Benalia as a sacred cow. In fact I think it is one of the weakest cards in the deck and generally only backbreaking in multiples. I have no issue siding it out. I don't think it is bad against this deck, but I'd rather have other cards. Tocatli Honor Guard shuts out Venerated Loxodon and Trostani Discordant and that's good enough for me. They threaten huge amounts of damage with March of the Multitudes plus Flourish so you have to try to win quickly with lifelink damage in the air while also making sure you don't die to Flourish.

Mono-Red

+3 Seal Away
+3 Deafening Clarion
+2 Fight with Fire
+3 Dire Fleet Dardevil

-4 Adanto Vanguard
-2 Ixalan's Binding
-1 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
-4 History of Benalia

I'm not totally convinced about Dire Fleet Daredevil since it bites the dust to Chainwhirler and doesn't work with Tocatli Honor Guard, but it's also a first strike creature that holds off a lot of creatures and can flashback a cheap removal spell as well. Ultimately, I end up thinking it's worth it because it costs two mana and having early plays is essential.

I don't like History here because it messes with your Clarions and it also doesn't interact that well against Chainwhirler or Steam Kin and it also gives their Shocks better value targets. It's certainly possible that History is better than Resplendent Angel, but I like the upside Resplendent can provide with Lyra or six mana or the live links mode on Deafening Clarion.

Mono-Blue

+3 Deafening Clarion
+2 Fight with Fire
+1 Ixalan's Binding
+3 Seal Away

-4 Adanto Vanguard
-4 History of Benalia
-1 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice

Another matchup where the plan is to just kill every single creature and then resolve giant flying creatures, preferably with lifelink. Tocatli Honor Guard is surprisingly effective, shutting out Exclusion Mage and Merfolk Trickster, two of their most powerful ways to beat you resolving a big flying creature.

I actually had a great time playing Standard at GP New Jersey. I thought I might never say that again. All it took was for Kaladesh to finally get the heck out of our Standard format and for us to be graced with a great multicolor set again. I even have a number of ideas for new decks I want to brew up, but unfortunately I cannot share those yet as, who knows, I might jam them at the Pro Tour in two weeks.

- Brian Braun-Duin