Commander: Getting the Most out of Boros Manabases

It’s Monday, so that means it’s Commander time. The Command Zone posted another video this week in which Boros was on the receiving end of criticism – ‘Boros Sucks’ was the main takeaway. Honestly, I’m not here to argue that it’s as good as Sultai decks at the top levels of play – that much is obvious. However, at anything but the top level of play, I think Boros is very underrated. So, how can you make your Boros deck better? Let’s have a focused look at Boros Manabases in Commander. What works? What doesn’t? What cards are on the rise and what should you pick up soon? Find out below!

Boros Manabases

Let’s get the most heinous issue out of the way first: the most common mistake I see Boros players make is not playing enough lands. Even if your curve is low, you should almost never be playing under 36 lands, and I strongly advocate 38-39 as being the optimal number. I have settled on 38 when playing a big mana Commander, such as Aurelia, the Warleader, as although hitting land drops is important, I acknowledge that topdecking lands and not spells is a huge problem with the limited card draw available in Boros colours. If you’re sitting there, adamant that fewer lands is enough, then I question how casual your playgroup mulligans are!

Hitting land drops in an aggressive deck is important, especially in a format where you have to burn through at least 120 life to win. You either need to go fast out of the gates by playing spells on curve, or you need time to set up and play a controlling game before hastily sending your opponents to their demise. Both strategies fall flat without the requisite lands. Mana rocks are good, of course, but you should never over-rely on them. I go into more detail about this in my article on universal ramp options, but in short: they get blown up, and you fall behind.

Basic Lands & Coloured Mana


Basic Lands are great in a Boros deck. They come into play untapped and allow us to cast our spells on curve. We don’t want too many, of course – missing our dual-coloured lands would be foolish – but we do probably want more than you’d initially think. Running lands like Rugged Foothills or Boros Guildgate is not where we want to be – if we’re playing a land that comes into play tapped, it better do more than fix our mana!

Using Aurelia as a case study, let’s look at the breakdown. We have 11 Plains & 4 Mountains, which makes up just under half of our manabase. This is great for cards like Myriad Landscape, Sword of the Animist, and Land Tax. We need to be hitting enough times on these cards to make it worth running them. We also have Arid Mesa, Command Tower, Sacred Foundry, Rugged Prairie, Clifftop Retreat, and Cavern of Souls that come into play untapped, giving us 21 untapped coloured sources. In addition to those, we have 8 more coloured sources that come into play tapped, and Field of Ruin, which can fix us in a pinch. That’s a total of 30 ways to generate Red or White mana, which is plenty. We then have our 8 utility lands. I’d say that this is around where you want to be, particularly in a deck that has a lot of double-pip mana requirements. Our Commander, of course, requires two Red and two White, but a lot of our creatures are either double Red or double White too. It’s important to note that if our mana requirements are tilted more one way, we’d compensate by having more sources of that colour in the deck – in this deck, we’re more biased towards White, and so we’re running way more Basic Plains than Mountains. That’s not the only reason we’re running more Plains, though…


Emeria, the Sky Ruin is one of the few payoffs for playing a deck leaning heavily into White, and it’s cracking. If you have 7+ Plains in play, on your upkeep you get to re-animate a creature for free. That’s some value right there. Looking at the price history of Emeria, I would strongly advocate picking one up if you haven’t already. Even with a reprinting in a Commander set, it’s seeing a steady growth, and I imagine this will accelerate steadily.

The hard part of playing Emeria is getting it online though, so we need to be running plenty of Plains to do this. Aside from the 11 Basic Plains, we’re running Mistveil Plains, an excellent way to keep fuelling SunforgerSacred Foundry; and a number of ways to go grab Basic lands from our deck. The other bonus for playing Plains is Emeria Shepherd, who can reanimate nonland permanents when you play a Plains from your hand. For this reason, I’m running almost double what is needed to turn Emeria on, and I sometimes wonder if I should run a 14th Plains. A Plataeu would be nice, but hey, one step at a time. In short – play plenty of Plains, they have some good payoffs!

Boros Utility Lands

There are a number of great utility lands on offer in Boros aside from Emeria – let’s have a look at a few more. The big one to invest in right now is Geier Reach Sanitarium. Eldritch Moon wasn’t opened in huge quantities, and so supply of this set is starting to dwindle. Being a Legendary ‘named’ land, we won’t see this again until we go back to Innistrad. This looting land is perfect in conjunction with re-animation strategies, allowing you to pitch a strong creature only to bring it back with the Karmic Guide in your hand. It also allows you to put Sunforger targets back into your deck via Mistveil Plains.

Card draw is a good thing to staple to lands, and so aside from the spicy new Sunbaked Canyon, I’d always advocate running some Cycling lands. Forgotten Cave and Secluded Steppe have just been reprinted in Modern Horizons, and both are great includes. Before taking those, though, I’d look at Desert of the True and Desert of the Fervent. You should always be playing Scavenger Grounds, so including these is almost a given. Outside of cycling, you can look at Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, which, whilst it does give everyone else a card, can still be a good bet in the right deck. Giving everyone a little hug now and then can also help alleviate some pressure, especially in situations where the rest of the table needs to answer the player about to win. Mikokoro can help everyone dig a little deeper to find an answer before their demise. Boros is always fair, and this is a good way to show some altruism, if a little selfishly – hopefully they use their answer and allow you to slip by unnoticed.

Speaking of slipping by unnoticed, combat themed lands like Rogue’s Passage are a great include in a Boros deck if you plan to win with Commander damage at least some of the time. The other one I’m a strong advocate for is Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion. Double strike is a very relevant keyword in Boros. Slayer’s Stronghold is one I’m less high on – the 3 mana to activate it is a lot more than the 2 for Hanweir Battlements, and it’s a lot less mana intensive too.

Speculating to Accumulate

It’s common knowledge that to see dividends you often need to make an investment. The final two lands I’d like to focus on today are ones that have been sitting steady at around $25 for a little while, and are unlikely to go lower than that for the foreseeable future. If you’re looking to upgrade your Boros deck, maybe look at the following cards; once that investment is made, you’ll see an increase in the speed of your deck and an increase in its ability to bounce back after a board wipe.

Ancient Tomb is the first of these cards. Some games it might end up doing more damage to you than one of your opponents, but if everything is going well, those are the games in which the increase in mana has allowed you to zoom ahead of the competition. Ancient Tomb had been commanding quite a price tag before its reprint in Ultimate Masters, and has been sitting at a quite steady price for a while now. It’s been possible to pick up copies for as cheap as £10-11/$18-20, and so if you see one, it’s probably best to snap it up while you can. This card will not be reprinted any time soon, and I’m waiting for it to start creeping up again. Boros decks often have greedy mana requirements to allow them to do everything they want to in a turn – playing creatures, equipping swords, holding up interaction – Ancient Tomb can help with this. It can also give you a turbo start at the beginning of a game. Definitely worth the acquisition.

The second, and perhaps more interesting of these options, is Command Beacon. In a Boros deck, you’ll often be casting your Commander many times, as it’ll often be the linchpin of your deck. When these creatures get removed multiple times, it can be very difficult to keep recasting them. Command Beacon is a great way to recast your Commander without commander tax, and it can be re-used with cards like Sun Titan.

Command Beacon has been sitting at a steady price for a while now, and I expect that if it doesn’t see a reprint in Commander 2019, it’ll likely spike up to $35-$40 by the end of the year – it already jumped a lot when it didn’t see a reprint in Masters 25.

Honourable Mentions

The cards mentioned above are by no means the limit on what can be done with a Boros manabase, but they are the ones I think most merit inclusion, and are most likely to see price increases over the next 6 months. I also really rate Buried Ruin & Inventor’s Fair if you’re playing a Voltron build; Hall of the Bandit Lord if you have a lifegain subtheme; the Hideaway lands (Spinerock Knoll & Windbrisk Heights) if you have room in the deck; and Kor Haven if you’re playing a more controlling build that likes keeping a high life total or is using Luminarch Ascension. There is such a thing as having too many utility lands, though, so try and make sure you aren’t sacrificing consistency for utility. This goes double – no, triple – if you’re playing Emeria, the Sky Ruin.

In Closing

Boros decks can do a lot to negate the often valid criticism playing Red and White often recieves – indeed, if built correctly, they can become formidable decks. There’s a lot that can contribute to whether a Boros deck is good or bad, and the manabase is only one of these things. Hopefully looking at the lands you’re playing can give you some extra margins with your Boros deck. Remember, though, that not every deck is the same – my Sylvia & Khorvath deck, for example, has a lower curve than Aurelia, and so can run fewer lands. It also runs more cycling lands as it has less recursion, and it runs Boros Guildgate because the colour requirements are more intensive earlier in the game.

That’s all for today – hope you enjoyed this dive into Boros & finance. Hit me up on Twitter @TheKristenEmily to continue the discussion.

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