Chasing Victory – Crushing with Koros


I’d much rather be playing Extended at this point, but I had a Midwest Masters Series event in Minneapolis coming up, so I had to switch focus to Standard. A couple articles ago, I mentioned a Standard tournament that I played in with a Boros brew from me and Michael Jacob.

I liked a lot of aspects of the deck and decided to keep working on it. I kept having good results, and I seemed favored vs. everything that wasn’t Jund or Naya, although even those matchups were pretty close.

Here’s what I played at the Masters, which was dubbed “Koros” by the ggslive.com viewers:

This is not your father’s Boros deck, and by that I mean, it isn’t a suicidal aggressive deck looking to end the game as quickly as possible. Sure, there is certainly that element present with Lynxes and Geopedes, but I’m not packing a lot of burn to finish them off. In the current Standard format, it is far more effective to create a positive board state for yourself rather than deal them damage as quickly as possible with Goblin Guide and Hellspark Elemental.

I use Steppe Lynx, Plated Geopede, and Adventuring Gear to put pressure on my opponent in the first few turns. Should you draw enough fetchlands, they will be forced to chump block relatively early. If they play something that’s too big, you can use Journey to Nowhere or Oblivion Ring to get it out of the way. Ranger of Eos for Goblin Bushwacker and another one drop, usually Kitesail Apprentice, can sneak in the last few points of damage.

However, there aren’t a whole lot of Lynxes or Geopedes in the deck, so sometimes your game plan is a little slower. You cast a Stoneforge Mystic or Gear on turn two and suit it up on turn three, or you can search for Basilisk Collar if you have a Cunning Sparkmage in hand.

The One-Drops

Steppe Lynx is an automatic four-of, and you need the singleton Bushwacker for Ranger of Eos. The rest of my little guys typically get made fun of a lot, but I’ve been reasonably satisfied with them. The Kitesail Apprentice has been pretty awesome, as sometimes you just want to Ranger for a flier.

Kor Duelist isn’t quite an all-star, but in a straight up comparison to Goblin Guide or Elite Vanguard, the Duelist wins. In the first couple turns, doing one damage compared to two damage is comparable, and once the Duelist gets equipped, it’s obviously a much better card. Half their life is gone on the first swing, and then they have to start chumping with every other attack phase past that.

I had one Goblin Guide to Ranger for against Ajani Vengeant or Jace, but with Bushwacker and the fact that those planeswalkers don’t do much against me anyway, I decided I didn’t need it.

Four Ranger of Eos is a must. The post-Ranger Bushwacker turn is responsible for a large percentage of your wins. It’s possible that you might want a second Bushwacker, but they usually just die after the first one and you don’t really like to draw it. There have been times where I’ve wanted a second, but that’s just because I drew the Bushwacker early and didn’t have enough discipline to hold it, or I moved in on Bushwacker-ing them a turn too early.

The Mystic Package

Initially, I had more Gears, less Mystics, then less Gears, more Mystics, and now I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t want to naturally draw more than one of each Gear or Mystic in game one which should explain the numbers that I chose.

Sigil of Distinction is my choice for the card I’ll get in the late game. A lot of people like Trusty Machete, but all of those people are wrong. I would much rather have Adventuring Gear or even Hammer of Ruin than the Machete.

Basilisk Collar is overrated and not that great by itself. If it weren’t for how insane Cunning Sparkmage is right now, I wouldn’t even bother playing with it. The fact of the matter is Sparkmage is absurd against all the Green decks right now, and with access to a lot of Collars, your matchups against those decks are great. I sideboard the second Collar in case the first one is destroyed.

One of the reasons I think this deck is so good right now is that the green decks are really skimping on answers to Sparkmage, which leads to a lot of free wins for Koros.

The Removal Suite

I chose a removal package similar to the Boss Naya deck, except eventually I cut Lightning Bolt. There just isn’t anything in this format that I want to Bolt except maybe Cunning Sparkmage. I would rather have Journey to Nowhere or Oblivion Ring than Path to Exile because I still don’t like giving my opponent lands. If my deck were a mindless aggro deck, that would be fine, but I don’t really want to kill their Knight and accelerate them into a Baneslayer.

Earthquake was a late addition, and one that I really liked. It really helps against Naya and the mirror, while being solid against Jund. If they have Siege-Gang, you have a card that can actually trade one for one with it! Sometimes they will play around Lightning Bolt, but not worry about getting Fireballed out, and that definitely works to your advantage.

The Lands

I started with 25, despite most Boros lists having 23 or 24. Especially with Adventuring Gear in your deck, you want to make every single land drop you can. It got to the point where I even added a 26th and I couldn’t be happier about that decision. I even have a pair of Tectonic Edges so that I have a little something to do with my extra lands.

I see a lot of Boros lists with Teetering Peaks, but that’s basically the same thing as Terramorphic Expanse except you can’t get white mana from it.

The Sideboard

I’ve tried a few different Jund plans, mostly land destruction to keep them off of five or six mana, or protection bears to dodge their removal. The problem with siding stuff like White Knight or Kor Firewalker is that they should have Deathmark, Pyroclasm, or Infest, in addition to Lightning Bolt and Maelstrom Pulse. While you might have protection from a third of their deck, Jund has enough varied removal spells that they really shouldn’t threaten Jund all that much. If they were bigger than two power, maybe they have more of an impact, but I’m looking at getting more from my sideboard cards.

So far the land destruction plan has worked the best. Broodmate Dragon is the card I most fear vs. Jund, as I can trade with basically any other threat that they play. I could beat a single 4/4 flier, but two of them is often too much.

Kor Sanctifiers are for opposing Oblivion Rings and equipment. They are just the type of utility you need in order to answer the variety of threats that Standard presents.

The Stingers, Mystic, and Collar are to further solidify the “Build a Visara“ against decks like Bant and Naya. I considered Stun Sniper over Vithian Stinger, and probably would have been happier with Sniper overall.

The second Elspeth is for control decks, the Quake is for Naya, the mirror, and other creature decks, and the Baneslayers are brought in against a wide variety of decks. Most opponents underestimate your late game potential, so they will burn early removal spells to save 3-5 damage. They think that if they just reach the late game with a high life total, they should be fine, but then you can start dropping bombs like Ranger of Eos, Baneslayer, or even Cunning Sparkmage, and they are in deep trouble. I had Firewalkers in this spot, but I figured Baneslayer would help against Jund and I’d be able to bring it in in more matchups.

So how did I do? The tournament was over 230 players, which meant 9 rounds. That completely exceeded my expectations for the size of the event.

I was 5-0 until I ran afoul of Julian Booher in a feature match. He was playing Naya, not a great matchup, but his lack of Sejiri Steppe cost him game one. I was pretty deep in the tank. I had a Duelist with Gear, a Mystic, and a Geopede with a fetchland I could play vs. his big, untapped Knight and three other dorks. I also had a Quake in my hand and was trying to figure out the best way to maximize the situation. Maybe I had to attack first and get him to use the Steppe to kill my Duelist, and then I could Quake all his guys away, or maybe I should Quake first, get him to maybe use his Steppe and then attack him.

I eventually decided to Quake first, and then his Knight chumped my double striker. Turns out he didn’t have a Steppe in his deck at all.

Still, game two he got a really fast start with turn two Knight, turn three Bloodbraid and I couldn’t come back. In the final game, I finally drew a fifth land to play Baneslayer and could tell he didn’t have an answer. He cast Bloodbraid with a Mountain open, and hit the sole Lightning Bolt in his deck to go with the one in his hand. I even had Kor Sanctifiers in hand if he hit an Oblivion Ring! Instead, my Angel died and when he peeled a Journey to Nowhere to remove my Collared Sanctifiers, I was dead.

I managed to win out and draw into the Top Eight, where everyone was excitedly talking about the possibility of a split, but I was having none of it. What is the point of playing for 9 rounds only to walk away with $400?

I did my best to make a match out of what I was given against Jund in the Top Eight, but couldn’t cut it. I kept two landers in games one and three and literally never drew a third in each. In game two, I got to four mana and he couldn’t possibly win.

I walked away with only $150, but I don’t regret my decision in the least. I’d rather have the chance to win a lot of money than be forever content with mediocrity.

My Koros list performed pretty well overall, with another two copies in the Top 16, and the person I beat playing for Top 8 finishing in 17th. That’s quite the performance, but I don’t feel like the deck will be good for long. Once you stop getting free wins from Cunning Sparkmage, your matchups become a lot worse.


The boogeyman, and probably your worst matchup. If they have a whole lot of Deathmarks you are probably in trouble, assuming they are smart enough to keep their Broodmate Dragons in so that, you know, they can actually kill you. Malakir Bloodwitch is another problem card.

From the above list, take out 2 Kor Duelist, 4 Cunning Sparkmage, 1 Basilisk Collar, and 2 Oblivion Rings for 4 Goblin Ruinblaster, 1 Elspeth, 1 Stoneforge Mystic, and 3 Baneslayer Angels. Quakes are fine against Siege-Gang and Thrinax tokens, since they usually chump the first chance they get anyway. It’s also a way to end the game once they have stabilized the board. Maybe you should keep in a split of Ring and Journey since you don’t get them both Pulsed, as that happened to me in the Top 8, although I was pretty dead already.

Boss Naya

Another close one, but I think you’re the slight favorite here. Earthquake is such a gigantic beating against them, and they don’t have nearly as much removal as Jund does. You will likely be a favorite in the early game, but as the game progresses, you run the risk of losing to their card advantage from Bloodbraid and Ranger (if they keep those in).

It’s been mentioned other places, but the turn you cast Cunning Sparkmage, you should probably not use it to kill a Noble Hierarch, as tempting as that may be. If they Sparkmage your Sparkmage, you could be in a world of trouble.

+ 1 Earthquake, 3 Baneslayer Angel, 2 Vithian Stinger, 1 Basilisk Collar, 2 Kor Sanctifiers, 1 Stoneforge Mystic

– 2 Kor Duelist, 2 Adventuring Gear, 1 Goblin Bushwacker, 3 Ranger of Eos, 1 Kitesail Apprentice, 1 Elspeth

I don’t like cutting the Ranger package, but everything else is better. You aren’t really looking to beat down so much as assemble the tinger + Collar combo. Post board, you are almost certainly the control deck, despite having the ability to race.

UW Control

A pretty easy matchup. They can’t deal with your fast starts and have virtually no outs to a post DoJ Ranger for Bushwacker.

+ 2 Kor Sanctifiers, 1 Stoneforge Mystic, 4 Goblin Ruinblaster, 1 Elspeth

– 4 Cunning Sparkmage, 1 Basilisk Collar, 2 Earthquake, 1 Kitesail Apprentice

They have Kor Firewalkers, but they don’t really do a whole lot. Still, potential Baneslayers could get you, so the Journeys probably have to stay. The matchup is good enough where you can keep in a few situational cards to ensure that you don’t get blown out by their random sideboard cards.

Yes, I side in Stoneforge Mystic in nearly every matchup. No, I don’t want four maindeck.



44 thoughts on “Chasing Victory – Crushing with Koros”

  1. How is cunning sparkmage so good against green decks? What does it kill outside of mana creatures and opposing sparkmages?

  2. but I don't feel like the deck will be good for long.** Thats scare me a bit..I really love this deck,and am planning to go with it for my regionals next week.
    I know i would face lot of Jund and Mythic Bant..bad matchups you think?
    But fun >> all 🙂
    Nice article btw.Cheers.

  3. @Shane: With collar equipped, Sparkmage kills anything that it deals damage to due to deathtouch.

  4. “How is cunning sparkmage so good against green decks? What does it kill outside of mana creatures and opposing sparkmages?”

    you put a basilisk collar on it so it has deathtouch and kills anything it hits

    Thanks to you saying no to the split I got to win an extra $250 which is nice(and get revenge on the dreamcrusher), and I just watched the video of my feature match vs Kowal where you bashed a play of mine, which is great I like that a lot about your articles/commentary. I totally missed the play during the game, and if you didn’t say anything I might have missed it again on the replay, and it was pretty awful too lol

    I like the deck a lot, the 26 lands helps make sure you get to 4 consistently while 15 of them fetching makes flood less of an issue, wish there was a way to make the jund matchup better, maybe wizards should ban bloodbraid just for the hell of it

  5. Anthony Laflamme

    YES! GerryT you are the best! I played your deck at game day and got 9th 🙁 it was the first time I ever played the deck though, and so I’m not too disappointed. and unfortunately i was only running the list that you 4-0ed with on MODO. So it didnt have the MD elspeth, or the SB Angels. I also wasn’t sure how to sideboard correctly against Jund. (all i knew i wanted to do was put in earthquake and ruinblasters and take out sparkmages…) Seriously though, without being a bitch, thank you GerryT for coming back to magic. Oh, and I started eating frozen pizzas, becase you said that you would trade in the six booster boxes of standard for frozen pizzas on GGs Live. Wow. frozen Pizzas are good. Every lunch time I am cooking up a frozen pizza. Do you have a favorite brand? I’m liking the safeway select 4 cheese thin crust right now because it has some spice in the sauce… have you tried it?

  6. This article wasn’t nearly snarky enough to have actually been written by GerryT. I demand a refund.

  7. @ Shane. Having played a green deck against the sparkmage / collar package I can safely tell you it wrecks your board.
    With the deathtouch they just shoot all your guys faster then you can play them. It’s pretty insane….

  8. Well, secret’s out. I’ll just eat humble pie and say I came up with exactly the same conclusions you did in the end, 1/1 Kors and all. The statement that “1 = 2” early in the game seems to fly in the face of logic, but it really does seem that having an attacker that isn’t obsoleted by the mid-game is very important.

  9. Bring on the rotation standard has gone stale.Congrats on the tourney but if this deck has a bad matchup vs jund and naya I don’t see it surviving for long heck people are starting to maindeck sparkmage in naya now isn’t that just better than this…Well I guess you have more speed to beat uw.

  10. ^ If you think Standard right now is stale you need to open your mind. I just 3-1’d at Daily Event with a completely made-from-scratch deck.

  11. “only 400 dollars right?

    makes u sound out of touch like mccain”

    400 dollars isn’t that much money anymore my friend.

  12. I’ve been testing this deck out, and a nice interaction worth noting is basilisk collar and Plated Geopede/Kor Duelist. First Strike and deathtouch is really nice in this creature meta.

  13. I think it’s more a question of how much he can gain and lose relative to that 400 rather than just the number itself. At most, he can gain 1100, and at worst, he could lose 250 (relative to the 400 from just splitting). Whether it has to do with his confidence in his deck/skill or his personality (why back down from a challenge?), if Gerry believed that this was the right choice, then he’s totally right to stand by his decision. Makes sense to me.

  14. i guess everyone has a different concept about what a lot of money is, but i completely 100% agree with gerrys decision. 400 in the larger picture, especially if you have a job and actually do something with your life, is not a lot of money, and when you are in his position and are almost certainly the best player in the top 8, and we are talking about a 4 figure difference between playing out and splitting with players that are probably worse than you are, you go for it. and again, 400 dollars for playing a full day of 9 rounds is, while fine, pretty unexciting. you dont always get yourselves in top 8 positions where you’re confident in your deck and that you are the best player. when you do, you go for it.

  15. The UW matchup is 60-40 in favor of UW.
    Sorry Gerry

    (Not actually Patrick Chapin, to be clear – LSV)

  16. I’m not bragging. I’m just saying that even not-great players like me can still get “finishes” with totally rogue decks. This refutes the previous poster’s proposition that Standard is stale. That’s it.

  17. I am all for him not splitting/drawing into a mediocre prize…..I am routinely asked to split into the top prize at FNM and refuse..sometimes I win sometimes I lose. But how does it make you a better player NOT to play the toughest games with the most on the line?? You will learn alot about yourself and your deck in those matches. I dont play decks for the “DRAW!”

  18. emeng, look at how many jund decks there are that 4-0 and 3-1 the daily events. its like 80% of the field. it’s stale when you consider that all you play against is jund.

  19. Good read as always, and hooray for refusing to split.

    Why do you say you think you would have been happier with Stun Sniper?

  20. I would guess the icy effect is quite useful vs green decks while you find the collar

    as for playing it out, if you think you have a playskill edge taking an even split isn’t appealing, also if the players you are facing aren’t used to playing a match for $150 minimum that is also to your advantage, I was going to split if I was matched up vs Jund and say no if it was vs Naya/Boros both in the quarters and semis, I’ll play out a $150-500 match with 55/45 edge but will pass on the variance if its 50/50

  21. Pretty sure that U/W match is only 60/40 because GT isn’t even playing Goblin Guide…which I’m pretty sure you have to get behind if U/W keeps preforming and isn’t THAT bad a card against an open field.

    No paths is right anyway, you can’t ramp Jund to Double Dragon and post board Bloodwhich, seeing as Jund dominates the format O-Ring and Journey are awesome.

    Either way congrats on the T8 too bad you had to say goodbye to the Boogieman on your way out.

  22. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  23. Pingback: MTG Koros Deck for Worldwake Standard

  24. Good read as always. How many guys are as good at deckbuilding and playing as Gerry and can also write intelligently? The number is very tiny! GG, wizard, you are awesome!

  25. Cool decklist and cool story like usual. Gratz on the top 8 too bad you couldn’t go all the way. Better luck next time! Also do you know if Julian Booher ran Ajani Goldmane or Ajani Vengeant in his deck? I’m seeing conflicting deck lists I thought maybe you’d know.

  26. Also sorry about the double post but you made the right decision on not splitting! Splitting is for average players lol.

  27. btw from testing I have been needing the 2nd bushwacker much more than the 2nd kor duelist so I changed that.

  28. Question from a recent comeback player: What do you think of quietus spike? (for use with the mage)

  29. pulse screwed me; i double journey my opponent’s thrinaxes, only to have them rip pulse off the top ftw after they (rogue) lavalanched my boros board.

    then, playing against monowhite, i can’t draw o-ring or journey to save my life; i get them down to 6, only to have bsa cast the turn before i would win. mark of asylum doesn’t help either (honestly, who plays that?!?!).

    i’d guess this is more balanced than both traditional boros and boros bushwacker; more of a midrange/late (turns 6-10) game winner. hows it fair against the previous boros builds?

    i’ve always ran earthquake in tandem with landfall critters, ftw; played right, they will always be 5 toughness.

  30. Hi, how would you sideboard against fast monocolored decks? Like monowhite, monored and red goblins and so on.
    Earthquake is a must but, do you take out the sparkmages? Do you try to race them or do you want to stall them?

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top