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Budget Magic: Boros Convoke (Pioneer)

Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! A few days ago, I logged into Twitter to see that pretty much everyone was ranting and raving about Convoke in Pioneer. Some people were calling it Hogaak. Others were saying it needed to be banned. But my first thought was, "Wow, a lot of the convoke cards are cheap. With some updates, this could be the perfect Budget Magic deck!" As such, we're heading to Pioneer today to see what all of the convoke hype is about. Is a $100 version of Boros Convoke the best deck in Pioneer? Is Hogaak back, but Boros this time? Let's jump into a Pioneer league and find out! 

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Budget Magic: Boros Convoke

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*A quick note on the deck's budget. When I built the deck, it was right around $100, and Invasion of Gobakhan was $3 or $4. Since then, Invasion of Gobakhan was bought out and spiked to almost $20, which increased the deck's cost to nearly $150. The good news is that I played two leagues with the deck and rarely sideboarded in Invasion of Gobakhan, and even when we did bring it in, it didn't feel that great. So I don't think it's really necessary, and cutting it would get the total cost of the deck back to around $100*

The Deck

Boros Convoke is an aggro deck that, in many ways, reminds me of a twist on a Modern 8 Whack deck but in Pioneer. The deck's goal is to flood the board with creatures, hopefully stick a big convoke creature early in the game, and overwhelm the opponent with threats before they manage to recover.

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Boros Convoke is built around two key cards: Venerated Loxodon and Knight-Errant of Eos. In many ways, these two cards are the same. They both are five mana, have convoke, are 4/4s, and have powerful enters-the-battlefield abilities that care about the number of creatures that convoked them, with Venerated Loxodon putting +1/+1 counters on those creatures and Knight-Errant of Eos drawing us some cards. Our deck's primary goal is to play these creatures as quickly as possible—with our best draws, we can be sticking one on Turn 2, which is pretty absurd—and trusting that they, combined with the creatures we use to convoke them out, will let us run our opponent over with a massive board of creatures before they can recover.

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So, how in the world do we get five creatures on the battlefield to convoke an Elephant or Knight onto the battlefield on Turn 2? Mostly with the help of Gleeful Demolition. The idea is that we can play a one-drop on Turn 1 that makes an artifact token, like Thraben Inspector or Voldaren Epicure. On Turn 2, we can blow up the Clue or Blood to make three Goblins with Gleeful Demolition, follow it up with another one-drop, and have five creatures on board. Then, we can tap them all to convoke out Knight-Errant of Eos and refill our hand for the following turn or Venerated Loxodon to grow our team. If we have Loxodon, we'll end up with a massive 14 power on the battlefield on Turn 2, which is insane and enough to beat most decks. Meanwhile, Ornithopter is essentially a Lotus Petal with our convoke cards, costing zero mana and adding a mana when we tap it to cast our payoffs; plus, in a pinch, we can blow it up with Gleeful Demolition to makes some Goblins.

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While not quite as explosive as our one-drops, our two-drop slot is full of cards that add multiple creatures to the battlefield. Clarion Spirit offers a 2/2 and often gives us a 1/1 flier each turn it sticks around, while Resolute Reinforcements and Forbidden Friendship each make two 1/1w for two mana, making them solid ways to flood the board with creatures in order to support our convoke plan. In a weird way, these cards are often sort of free in our deck—while we do need to have two mana to cast them, we can tap them immediately to convoke a Knight-Errant of Eos or Venerated Loxodon to get that mana back, which is quite powerful.

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Last but not least, we have Reckless Bushwhacker as a backup plan. If we don't draw our convoke creatures, we can flood the board with 1/1s and surge Reckless Bushwhacker to pump them and smash our opponent for a huge, hasty attack. In many ways, Boros Convoke plays like a Pioneer version of 8 Whack, one of the classic budget Modern archetypes, thanks to its ability to flood the board with small creatures and hit for massive chunks of damage, making Reckless Bushwhacker a great fit for the deck.

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Rounding out the main deck is just a touch of removal. Giant Killer lets us Chop Down a big threat and also supports our convoke plan as a creature. Meanwhile, Kabira Takedown is a one-of in the mana base, and while it is occasionally annoying that it comes into play tapped, our deck adds so many bodies to the battlefield so quickly that the MDFC is usually a Terminate, killing anything our opponent might add to the battlefield.

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You can really see the impact of our deck costing just $100 in the mana. While our mana base is actually very solid for a budget deck, with 12 dual lands and no tapped lands outside of the single Kabira Takedown, the most optimal version of the mana base would have Sacred Foundry and Mana Confluence over some basics and Pathways. The good news is that making the deck's mana budget-friendly doesn't hurt much at all. I played two leagues with the deck and only ran into color issues once in something like 25 games. (There was one game where our opening hand was two Plains, and not having red mana ended up hurting us.) This suggests that playing the $100 budget mana base might end up costing you something like 2% or 4% of the time. For a professional player looking to win a Pro Tour, 2% is huge, possibly the difference between making the Top 8 and going home early. But it really doesn't matter for the rest of us, especially considering that a playset of Sacred Foundry is around $80 and a single Mana Confluence will set you back almost $50. As such, the optimal mana base will cost somewhere between $200 and $300 more, which—considering how well the deck runs with the current budget-friendly mana base—just isn't worth it unless you are trying to win a Pro Tour. I would be super comfortable playing the $100 at an FNM, a Magic Online league, or even a qualifier.

Playing the Deck

My main piece of advice for playing the deck is to know what the deck is trying to do (stick convoke creatures early or win with Reckless Bushwhacker) and mulligan to make that happen. What you don't often want to do with the deck is keep hands with a bunch of Voldaren Epicures and Resolute Reinforcements but no payoffs. While these hands could work out, and sometimes they are worth keeping if you are down to five or six cards, mulliganing isn't really that painful in the current era of Magic. Feel free to ship back medium hands without a payoff in search of a great hand with one.

The other thing to keep in mind about the deck is that it doesn't have any reach outside of Voldaren Epicure's enters-the-battlefield trigger, which means we'll need to deal all 20 points of damage with our creatures. Usually, this is fine because our deck can deal a ton of damage, but there are times when we get our opponent low on life, they wrath the board, and we can't recover. If possible, don't empty your entire hand unless you really have to. Holding back a threat or two so you have a way to rebuild and close out the game if the opponent has a sweeper is important, especially against removal-heavy decks.

Oh yeah, you occasionally have to make a weird choice about which convoke card to play. If you have Venerated Loxodon and Knight-Errant of Eos in hand, which one should you play first? It really depends on the situation and matchup. Against decks without much removal, Venerated Loxodon is usually first since it adds a ton of power to the battlefield and lets you close out the game super quickly. Against control decks with lots of counters and sweepers, it can be better to run out Knight-Errant of Eos first to try to set up for a longer game, if you expect the opponent is going to untap and wrath your board.


Record-wise, I played two leagues with the deck, going 2-3 in the first one and 4-1 in the second. While the deck felt solid, and I think it is legitimately one of (if not the) best $100 budget decks in Pioneer at the moment, I also don't think the freak-out about "Hogaaks" and bannings is necessary. Over the years, we've played a ton of different 8 Whack–style decks, and to me, this felt like a good Pioneer version of 8 Whack. The deck's best starts feel unbeatable (although if you watch our match against Niv to Light, you'll see that isn't exactly true...), but there are also games where we don't hit our payoffs and mostly play a bunch of 1/1s, or our opponent sweeps our board and we can't recover, almost exactly like 8 Whack in Modern.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, the big one is cutting Invasion of Gobakhan from the sideboard. While the battle is fine, thanks to the buyout, it is simply too expensive for the $100 budget build of the deck at this point. Thankfully, I don't think this change hurts all that much; Invasion of Gobakhan didn't really do anything in our matches. Most often, it was left in the sideboard, and even when we brought it in, we never managed to flip it. The most direct replacement is some other form of wrath protection, like Selfless Spirit or Unbreakable Formation, although just adding more Regal Leosaurs or Showdown of the Skalds would be fine as well.

So, should you play Boros Convoke in Pioneer? If you are looking for a super-competitive budget deck and / or like the 8 Whack play style, I think the answer is clearly yes. As far as $100 budget decks go, I don't think you are going to find one that is much stronger than this in Pioneer currently. The deck gets off to some absurd starts that are difficult for most decks to beat. But with so much conversation about the archetype, people will probably start packing more sweepers and hate cards, which will make it tougher to get off to those starts. Still, if you want a deck that costs $100 and can win an FNM, MTGO league, or qualifier, this is probably the way to go in Pioneer!

Ultra- / Non-Budget Boros Convoke

Honestly, I'm not sure it's worth trying to get the deck down near $50. The problem is that pretty much all of the nonland cards in the deck (discounting Invasion of Gobakhan, which we already talked about, and now Knight-Errant of Eos, which also ticked up in price) are dirt cheap. As a result, the only realistic way to get the deck's cost down near $50 is to start playing dual lands that enter the battlefield tapped, and the deck can't really afford to play off-curve. The whole point of the deck is to get off to super-explosive starts by adding a ton of power to the battlefield on Turn 2 or 3, and having to take turns off to play tapped lands makes these starts impossible. 

For the non-budget build, the main changes are with the mana, by adding a playset of Sacred Foundry and two or three Mana Confluences over most of the basic lands and Needleverge Pathways. Otherwise, there are some options for customizing the sideboard (like Rending Volley instead of Lithomantic Barrage or Wedding Announcement instead of Showdown of the Skalds), although these are less important. Basically, the number of changes you need to make to play the most optimal build of Boros Convoke is small, but the upgrades are still fairly expensive because the best dual lands are so costly. 


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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