Mechanically Minded - Heroic
Gideon Blackblade | Art by Kieran Yanner
A History of Heroic
Today, we need a hero. So let’s talk about Heroic.
Welcome back to Mechanically Minded! This is the article series where we build a Commander deck around a mechanic using the power of EDHREC. If you've been following the new cards from War of the Spark, I'm sure you can guess why we're doing Heroic. Read on!
Heroic first came to Magic with 2013’s Theros. You’ll remember it as that Greek mythology set with the disappointing Minotaurs. In classic Greek tradition, Theros also included mythical heroes. To represent those heroes, the design team created a mechanic called Heroic. Heroic is pretty simple. Let’s look at it with this card:
Other Heroic creatures work the same way, only with varying payoffs. Just cast a spell that targets the Heroic creature, then get the benefit.
Heroic was a staple of the Theros Limited environment. It even made a decent splash in the Standard format of its day. So it's got a strong history. But does that mean it can work in EDH?
Now for Our Commander
As always, let’s start at the top. Who’s going to be our deck’s president?
Normally, I embark upon a painstaking process of creative searches and EDHREC deep dives. Today, however, I already knew who I’d write about before I even sat in front of the computer. Honestly, you probably did, too.
This card is the most anticipated thing since the Game of Thrones season premiere. To give you context, I began writing this article a week and a half before the set’s full spoiler dropped.Feather, the Redeemed already had 98 EDHREC decks.
To be clear, I’m just as hyped as everyone else. EDH players have been asking for a Boros commander that does something besides turn sideways for years. We came close with Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Munda, Ambush Leader. Feather seems to hit the mark.
Feather also feels like the perfect commander for our Heroic deck. Though there were heroes in every color, most fell into white and red. Check. Anax and Cymede are a red-white legend that actually have a Heroic ability, but we didn't go with them as the leaders. Why? Well, many Heroic enablers are combat tricks (for those who don’t play much Draft, combat tricks are instants that alter a creature’s base stats to help them win combats). Feather allows us to recoup our combat tricks and therefore re-trigger Heroic ad nauseum. Perfect!
First, let’s focus on our Heroic enablers.
These cards might not look like much at first glance, but they’re hugely impactful. Yes, they trigger Heroic, but they also draw us a card when they resolve (most people call that a cantrip). Normally cantrips are useful but not especially powerful. After all, we’re even on cards, not ahead. However, so long as Feather is on the battlefield when we cast cantrips targeting our creatures, they’ll return to our hand on end step. That puts us ahead on cards!
Feather’s ability returns the spell to our hand “at the beginning of the next end step.” The critical word here is next. That means we can cast instants like the ones above on our turn, then again on each opponent’s turn (assuming we have the requisite mana). That’s extraordinary card advantage, especially from a Boros commander. Thus, we’re going to favor enablers that are cheap instants that draw cards, filter cards, or grant a significant bonus to our creatures (or all three). Some other cards that fit the bill include Crimson Wisps, Gods Willing, and Psychotic Fury.
Here are some of my favorites:
Tenth District Legionnaire doesn’t have the keyword on it, yet it definitely still has Heroic. What’s more, the scry 1 allows us to filter through our decks for more combat tricks. The two-mana 1/1 Phalanx Leader might not look like much at first, but it can absolutely dominate a game if you have a wide enough board.
Keeping in theme of Heroic payoffs that don’t have the word Heroic on them…
These both have a lot of text but they basically say this: When you cast a combat trick on them, copy and cast the trick once for each other creature you control. I like to think of them as super Heroic payoffs.
For example, let’s say you have Zada, Hedron Grinder, Feather, the Redeemed, and Akroan Crusader on the battlefield. You cast Titan's Strength targeting your Zada. Zada triggers. Now Zada, Feather, and the Crusader all get +3/+1 and you scry 1 three times. (Of note: Since you didn’t cast the copy, you won’t trigger the Crusader’s Heroic ability. But who cares? You can do it again later!)
In addition to those, make sure to include Heroic payoffs such as Vanguard of Brimaz, Akroan Conscriptor, Fabled Hero, and Labyrinth Champion. I think you’ll enjoy the results.
Other Heroic Notions
EDHREC’s own Jason Alt said it best. Or rather, tweeted it best:
Before you try reinventing the wheel to anticipate what Boros EDH players are going to buy for their new Feather decks, cruise over to the Anax and Cymede page on https://t.co/Od7hISQewG to see what basically the exact deck has looked like for years now
— Jason Alt (@JasonEAlt) April 8, 2019
Okay then. Let’s see what Akros’s favorite power couple is up to.
We’re happy to play pretty much anything with Heroic on it, so these look great.
You might notice that Anax and Cymede's EDHREC page contains a lot more Auras. Those do trigger Heroic and normally we’d want them in our deck, but Feather calls for instants and sorceries. Speaking of which…
Instant and Sorcery Payoffs
Since we’ll ostensibly cast instants and/or sorceries every turn (and perhaps even on our opponents’ turns), we should pad our deck with cards that reward us for casting them. Some of my favorites include the following:
These are pulled from both Feather and Anax and Cymede’s commander pages. There are actually a surprising number of cards in this vein that should play really well in our deck. For instance, Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor both offer army-in-a-can potential for our deck. Plus, that two damage a turn to each opponent via Guttersnipe could end games very quickly.
Other similar payoffs include Electrostatic Field, Balefire Liege, Charmbreaker Devils, Thermo-Alchemist, and Goblinslide.
People caught onto this one fast. As soon as Feather was spoiled, Sunforger spiked. I think the synergy’s pretty obvious here.
The best thing about Boros Charm is its versatility, which is only improved thanks to Feather. On our turn, we can use the double strike mode targeting a Heroic creature. That should open up an attack. Feather gives our Charm back on end step. Then, with the right mana, we still have it as a response if an opponent board wipes. Perfect!
Shoutout to the Top Level Podcast for suggesting this interaction. Yes, Feather returns Reckless Rage to your hand every time you cast it since you must target one of your creatures with the two damage (just be careful not to kill it). That two damage also triggers Heroic.
But the nastiest part of this whole process is the four damage to any other target. That should kill a lot of creatures. And, so long as you have four red mana, you could cast that same spell up to four times per turn cycle.
The Mentor mechanic plays nicely with all the combat tricks in our deck so I like running it here. We can cast something like Brute Force on a Mentor creature before combat to increase its power over another creature’s. Then we attack with both and trigger Mentor. And you know what happens when Feather’s around…
This is another one Feather caused to spike. The trick here is to target one of your creatures with one damage so Feather puts it back in your hand (I recommend targeting one or more Heroic creatures). For a relatively low cost, you can also target one or several opponents, therefore preventing them from casting most board wipes. Or you could target opposing blockers to open a path for your attackers. Or you could send it all at an opponent in the late game. The versatility here makes Aurelia's Fury irresistible.
Path to Exile is already arguably the greatest removal spell ever printed. It gets absurd with Feather. That’s because you can target the tokens made by Akroan Crusader, Vanguard of Brimaz, and Legion Warboss to ramp yourself.
You can do a similar trick with Swords to Plowshares, though I’ll admit gaining life is less appealing than ramping. Still, it’s added utility on a card that’s already outstanding.
The Mana Base
Ideally, we’ll cast Feather on turn three every game. Though that won’t always happen, we should build our deck to make it as likely as possible. Play all the red/white dual lands you can find.
Rugged Prairie is especially nice since it should fill whatever hole we’re missing in our mana. Check out Feather’s land section for the rest.
Red and double white is far harder to cast than it looks at first glance. If you’re including any colorless sources, be sure that they’re really, truly worth the inconsistency. The first time you draw an opening hand with Plains, Mountain, and Reliquary Tower, you’ll know what I mean.
Playing the Deck
Like every other Boros deck, this deck wants to attack. However, Feather’s unique ability should give this one much more staying power than other decks in the same colors.
As previously mentioned, priority number one is casting Feather. This is one of those decks that doesn’t function without its commander, so we want her out, and out early. Therefore, look for opening hands with two white sources and a red source, or something close to it. Beyond that, you’ll want at least one combat trick and at least one other creature—hopefully something with Heroic. Also, if the combat trick happens to be one of our cantrips, so much the better.
Be political about who you attack. I tend to go after the player who’s off to the best start since the rest of the table usually won’t mind that type of aggression. However, the nice part about Feather is that you don’t even necessarily need to attack. You could sit back and damage everyone with Guttersnipe. You could sculpt the perfect hand by spamming Defiant Strike. Or you could build an army with Akroan Crusader. Wait for your moment, then strike.
The Final List
Without further ado…
The Hero’s Journey
Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Thank you for joining me on this super heroic deckbuilding quest! I know I’m not the only person who can’t wait to play with Feather. Try it out and see what you think!