Battalion 101

How would we properly use an ability like Battalion? Is battalion a mechanic that will make an appearance in the competitive FNM scene? Will it find a way to race RB zombies or the Human decks and fight its place as the faster aggro deck in Standard? As for these questions we will have to wait and see for ourselves how the meta-game shifts with the release of Gatecrash. Am I saying that this style deck will be highly competitive? Probably not. You have to remember that midrange is strong right now, and two of the most powerful cards that most everyone is playing right now are Thragtusk and Sphinx’s Revelation, both of which put this deck way behind without a Thundermaw Hellkite or Skullcrack. However, now having seen all the cards, we can get a feel for the mechanics strengths and weaknesses and find a way to work around them for a fun deck. Battalion will remain weak if we cannot keep a minimum of three creatures on the field throughout the duration of the game or if our opponent can get a wall of creatures and stabilize, but this kind of theme has a few tricks up its sleeve to overcome such obstacles.

A majority of the community has established an opinion on the Boros Charm, pointing out its lack of versatility. While this may be correct in the fact that it has a strong case of tunnel vision do not ignore how powerful some of its three options can be. The ability that screams at me the most is the second option that makes everything on your side of the field indestructible for the turn. This turns into a counterspell for some of this deck’s greatest weakness: the uncounterable Supreme Verdict or the game changing Bonfire of the Damned. However that makes this card purely situational, right? And isn’t it true that situational cards tend to fall through in a tournament setting where constancy is key? Wrong. While it is true that situational cards can be bad, this is not really a situational card. This is a single card with two different situational effects and one generic effect that keeps the card from being a dead card.

This card also has the potential to fix another problem this kind of deck would face: the race. If the opponent is not running a board sweeper, this card turns into aggro acceleration with its third ability that gives a creature Double strike at instant speed. Whether it is taking down that big beasty blocker, or it is a Thundermaw Hellkite to the face for ten damage, Double strike has always been one of my favorite abilities. But, once again this card is never a dead card in hand. In the late game this deck begins to have problems racing as the opponent starts to stabilize, making it hard for us to finish them. The first ability keeps this card from ever becoming a dead card in hand, while helping us finish off a stabilized opponent, dealing four damage to the face Rocky style with the last one-two combo for the win. AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!!! (insert guy with fists in the air, exhaling in a manner that is stereotypical for someone trying to imitate the noise of a large nonexistent fan base.)

This color combination has been given two more graces from the great players in the sky: Bonfire of the Damned, giving it that ironic twist of using one of our greatest weaknesses to our advantage, and as Trey likes to call it “Aurelia’s Bonfire.” Both of these cards make it easier for our creatures to attack. One by total and utter destruction of the opponents side of the field, the other by tapping everything for a blockless swing, killing a big beasty, killing a bunch of little pests and/or stopping them from casting any instances the rest of the turn to disrupt your final assault.

As I’m sure Boros would agree, there is more to winning a war than placing armor on our soft squishy underbelly. It takes a powerful offense to overcome our foes….. or at least that one guy with the funny smell I always seem to get matched up with first in the top 8 every week. And the best army knows how to synergize. So while deciding what cards we want to be in our deadly alliance, we can look to these already established abilities: Undying, haste, and token generation.

Undying creatures work well in this deck, because they are hard to get rid of. However when I take a look at all the cards with Undying, I realized that there are no good undying creatures in red or white with a low mana cost, so if we were to utilize Undying in our deck we would need to splash green or black. By splashing in black or green we use either a zombie package or Strangleroot Geist, {wolf}, and Rancor.

Haste is wonderful in this theme for obvious reasons. We can drop a haste creature on turn 3 and get to trigger battalion a turn sooner. Even without Battalion triggering, haste strengthens our strategy, since this is a race to pummel our opponent quickly anyways. Another reason to look at haste is that it can turn into a surprise attack and puts our opponent under pressure a turn sooner. Our opponent can no longer ignore the fact that we have just two creatures on the field, where as the lack of good haste creatures would give him a turn to come up to a solution while our third creature has summoning sickness. Some potential cards I would consider include: Thundermaw Hellkite, Hellrider, Skynight Legionnaire, Hellraiser Goblin (gives all creatures haste and impatience), Legion Loyalist (has Battalion anyways), and Ash Zealot

Any creature with the ability to create tokens could potentially be useful in this type of deck. Mostly because it can help keep our creature count above three. It doesn’t matter if we are playing a creature that is replaced by a token when it dies or a creature that generates a token when it comes into play. Cards to look at with token generation would include things like Huntmaster of the Fells if splashed green, Doomed Traveler, or possibly Thragtusk even if you do feel dirty doing it.

If we want to build this deck we need as many low cost battalion creatures as possible (Legion Loyalist, Boros Elite, Wojek Helberdiers) followed by haste creatures after turn 2 (skyknight legionnaire, Hellrider, Ash Zealot, Thundermaw Hellkite). Battalion is something worth trying at an FNM to have a bit of fun with something original. With the right build a Boros Battalion deck has the potential to be a pretty decent deck. (insert Ronnie’s argument here)

-Jamey

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