Hey all. It’s been a long relaxing weekend, and I’m now back on the overly busy saddle. Let’s keep things easy this week and have a look at one of my limited deck designs: red white aggro. Aggro is almost an unneeded qualifier for this color combination, this is what Boros is all about! This deck features a new mechanic I created, play-tested…And will likely need to fix up a bit: Combo. Let’s see what the cards look like!
Dolmira, Spear of Volaria.
Quick overview of the combo mechanic. Whenever it’s the x’th – second, third, etc. – time a source you control deals damage during a turn, the combo ability on creatures you control trigger. If two of your creatures hit a player, you get combo 2. If you add a direct damage spell, you have combo 3.
Well this legendary angel will give lifelink to a creature you control when you deal damage twice during a turn, and it will untap all your creatures when you deal damage for the third time.
The very tricky aspect of combo, as it showed up during play-testing, is that it is easy to get up to combo 3, 4, or 5 by just attacking with that many creatures. It is also easy to bump the combo meter up by casting a couple direct damage spells, or having direct damage abilities, which don’t even cost you anything. It becomes very fun though, when you can separate combo abilities between the ones mattering all the time, and the ones mattering before combat damage. Lifelink, for example, will matter before combat damage. If you get Lifelink after all your creatures have already done damage, it’s useless. Untapping all of them though, will be used only if you have attacked with some already.
This little dude – I’m guessing a barbarian might not like me calling him that – combines the combo mechanic with the heroic one, from Theros.
Heroic dealing 2 damages to a player could actually trigger combo 2. But that’s not relevant, because combo 2 will be easy to activate by simply attacking with two creatures, and it will deal an extra damage. I like that the effect is limited, but it’s still too easy to have for almost free every turn.
I also realized I kept tacking good abilities on solid creatures, which gets too strong in the long run.
Now for some combo enablers, – even though like we have seen I might have made combo a little too easy to use already – here is a combat trick.
2 direct damage can enable some welcome pre-combat combo triggers, and it also enables heroic, giving one creature first strike. First strike as we’ll discuss later is also good for combo.
All this for same price as a shock! Kerathan Barbarian would love it. It had to be sorcery. Not too sure about the flavor by the way, but it was focused on the pre-combat combo idea.
This monk is actually also a combo enabler. It starts as a Gray Ogre,- the legendary name for 2/2 for 3 – but can become a 2/4 vigilance for a turn when you pay a red and a white.
That’s already quite good like this but wait, there’s more: when you activate him, – and you can only once during your turn – Patient-Flame Disciple will deal one damage to a player.
Damages are good, and so are pre-combat combo modifiers.
Bazoo, Lightning Blade.
This one is the first time I make a card representing a friend using a professional illustration.
Bazoo illustrates perfectly the idea that pre-combat combo triggers can be important, and also the fact that first strike will help you get there. With combo 2, he gets double strike.
What this means, is that if you already have combo 1 by the time this soldier strikes, you will get combo 2 and he will strike again!
Combo was too powerful during play-test, which probably came from the fact combo was too easy to trigger. One thing we can do is ask ourselves: how many creatures will likely attack? The Battalion mechanic taught us that we can ask a Boros player to attack with 3 creatures.
Another question is do we really want to let direct damage add to the combo meter? I would have loved to answer this question with the affirmative, but I’m afraid it helps combo get out of control. This is sad, because incrementing the combo meter is a very fun design space for spells and abilities.
Another idea! Be careful about combo abilities that don’t care about when they happen, like dealing damage. If you can just wait until then end of the turn, even let you creatures die, and still have combo 3 or 4 and deal “free” damage that way, it might be too easy.
One last idea could be to get the combo requirement to be higher, but somewhat I feel that inevitability is more the issue here, rather than how easy it is to get combo counters.
This has been a very busy article, but I can’t bring myself to leave you on two paragraphs of deep analysis, so here is Quicksilver Blade.
First strike and a preemptive damage when attacking, that’s combo 2 here for you! This turned out to be very nice in this deck, as you can imagine by now. Great to see an equipment too, those are always very flavorful.
All in all, Boros was my favorite design, albeit quite a bit over-powered. It has some very exciting, aggressive and beautiful cards, I might show you some more in the future!
I hope you enjoyed the lengthy article, I’ll be talking to you again soon. Have a great week!