Before I start this article, I have an important announcement: My email address is changing. The “magicturgeon” username will stay the same, but my Internet Service Provider is switching from Earthlink to Verizon. Therefore, my email address will now end in “@verizon.net”. I’ve changed the link at the top of this article, but all my old articles will still be linked to my old address. Please make a note of it; otherwise I won’t be able to hear from you. On with the article!
Might Makes Right
The Golgari have already taken the opportunity to shore up their numbers, so now it’s time to move on to the opposite end of the spectrum and see who’s fit to join up with the Boros Legion. The Boros is the guild of power through organization, justified aggression, and vengeance in the name of righteousness. Their tactics are all red, while their rationale is all white. Let’s take a closer look at some of the themes running through the guild and try to find what makes the Boros stand out.
Mechanically, the Boros Legion is about the intersection between red and white, specifically their penchant for small, efficient and aggressive creatures. Cards that help boost a whole army at once are an ideal fit for the guild. But, unlike the Selesnya, who also believe in the good of everyone, the Boros choose to reserve their magic specifically for combat purposes. In fact, the Boros are the best guild when it comes to breaking out the combat trickery.
A theme that runs deep through the Legion is that of cleansing through fire. As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, the Boros believe the best way to punish evil is by completely destroying it. Using the flames of targeted mass removal, the Boros ensure that the evil are wiped from the world and only the righteous live on.
Another strong theme is that of self-sacrifice. Of course, the Rakdos are into that, too, but the Boros do it in order to help their cause. For the Boros, giving one’s life in battle is the greatest honor that can be bestowed upon a soldier. They’re sort of like Klingons (according to Lt. Worf) in that respect, stressing the importance of sacrifice in the name of selflessness.
Finally, the Boros are very akin to zealotry. Boros soldiers love being a part of the Legion. They believe so strongly in the goals and ideals of the Boros cause that they support any method of advancing that cause. Also, the leaders of the guild are adept at inspiring the troops and infusing them with a sense of pride, honor and accomplishment.
The images of the Boros are fairly straightforward. The first image that came to my mind was that of the signet, specifically the fist. But after examining all the guild-specific Boros cards, the fist actually does not show up very often. Fire is a much more prevalent symbol of the Boros. Unlike the other red guilds, though, the Boros flame is usually very controlled, often appearing in a circular pattern. Since the white mana symbol is the sun and red is a flame, it makes sense to combine these two. Additionally, since the Boros rely so heavily on armed combat, flaming weapons, such as Razia’s sword and Sunforger, are very likely to be associated with the guild.
Now it’s time to look at the Boros lands. The Boros stay away from the undercity, fully embracing the light of day. In fact, as the city’s self-appointed law enforcers, the Boros work best when they can keep an eye on everything going on in the city. Two of the Boros lands have a lot in common. Both Boros Garrison and Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion are places associated with the military. They also show that the Boros prefer a very boxy and structured type of architecture. The divergent land, Sacred Foundry, shows a different side of the Boros. It emphasizes the unity of fire and military power as the place where weapons are forged for the Legion.
Boros soldiers are pretty easy to identify by taking a look at their uniforms. Boros soldiers are almost always armored. The easiest soldiers to identify are those that carry the guild insignia on their uniforms. Sometimes this insignia is abbreviated by removing the fist and using only the ring of fire, which can be seen centered on the uniforms or placed to one side. The Boros let their troops get creative.
Of course, not everyone is down with the flaming circle. But guild members often supplement their armor with flowing garments, such as loin cloths or capes. These are almost always white and often contain red flame patterns around the trim. Additionally, non-soldier guild members, such as the guildmages, who don’t wear any armor, use these same patterns on their clothing, putting it on their pants and sleeves.
The flame is the most distinct and consistent reminder of a Boros affiliation, but that doesn’t mean that a lack of the pattern excludes others from the Legion. Some other patterns in Boros armor include crested helmets and shoulder spikes. And still, there are some soldiers whose armor contains almost no distinction at all.
Moving on to creatures, the Boros don’t define their membership as much by the types of creatures as by the classes of creatures. Most of the soldiers in Ravnica fall into the Boros camp. Of the fifteen soldiers in the block, six are distinctly part of the Boros. That may not seem like much, but considering the Selesnya only have three soldiers and the remaining six are all guildless (for now), it’s clear that the Legion is the guild for most soldiers.
So what types of creatures don the title of a soldier in the legion of Boros? Well, mostly it’s humans. But minotaurs also play a big role in the guild. Despite only having one creature in the block, they are shown frequently in Boros art. The Boros also use special elementals called “Flame-Kin” and giants to assist with their fighting. They are also the guild of two out of the three angels in Ravnica. Additional air support is provided by griffins and rocs, which can be trained and mounted or can fight alone.
That about sums up the parameters defined by the Boros Legion. Now let’s see who will join in the fight!
Breath of Fury
I love these easy ones. Breath of Fury not only emphasizes the Boros Legion’s fanaticism and desire for self-sacrifice for a cause, but it also features art clearly depicting a Boros regiment. Seen clearly in the picture are the shoulder spikes, fire rings and crested helmets all used by the Boros. To top it all off, the head of a minotaur can be seen in the background, coming up slightly above the troops around it.
Wojek is a term applied only to members of the Boros. In the flavor text of Nightguard Patrol, it becomes apparent that the Wojek are a division of the greater Legion. It’s not obvious if there are other divisions within the Legion with other distinct names, but it’s fairly clear that Nightguard Patrol is in the Boros, but separate from the Wojek. The crested helmet and decorated shield are obvious signs of Boros allegiance coming from this soldier.
So of course, if we’re going to include Nightguard Patrol, we also have to include his dog. Gate Hound might not exactly fit the definition of “efficient weenie creature” but the art clearly shows a more-aggressive-than-usual white creature. And naturally, the flavor text undeniably links the hound to his aforementioned master.
Flame-Kin War Scout and Flaring Flame-Kin
The Flame-Kin are all part of the Boros Legion. Although Flame-Kin Zealot is the only true member of the guild, the flavor text on Flame-Kin War Scout shows that they, too, work for the Boros. With two out of three on board, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the last one’s a member, too. Aside from this “guilt by association” reasoning, I can point to the fact that all Flame-Kin are heavily-armored balls of fire – something I would only expect to see from a red and white card.
(You know, I never realized the absurdity of a “heavily-armored ball of fire” until I actually went and typed it out. Why are balls of fire wearing armor? First of all, shouldn’t the armor melt? Second, are balls of fire really in danger of being stabbed to death or shot with an arrow? They’re balls of fire! Fire doesn’t bleed. The only thing the Flame-Kin are in danger of is getting doused with a bucket of water or covered by a really thick blanket. Why are they wearing armor?)
So we’ve established that all the Flame-Kin belong to the Boros. But where do the Flame-Kin come from? It seems obvious that they must be products of the Boros foundries – molten fires come to life in order to serve the Boros. Well, it seems to me that not every flamer rising from the foundries is cut out to join the Flame-Kin. That’s where Molten Sentry comes in. Having the predictability of a typical coin-flipping red card, the Molten Sentry can either take off as an efficient, red-like attacker or stay put as a dedicated, white-like blocker.
One of the Boros guild’s strongest assets lies in its ability to enhance its little soldiers and make them more fit for combat. Concerted Effort may not be an instant-speed combat trick, but it does allow each soldier to take on the abilities of his brethren. Only a dedicated military effort could enforce such tactics. Additionally, the art features an angel and soldier fighting side-by-side, two of the more heavily Boros creature types. If you look closely, you can even see that the soldier appears to have the circle of fire painted on his armor.
Light of Sanction
And yet another white enchantment makes its way to the Boros. Light of Sanction is Boros all the way, serving as an ideal complement to red’s self-destructive behavior. Plus, any time the art and flavor text actually coincide instead of contradicting one another, the decision is that much easier. Here, we are told that the Boros look after their own and see an obvious Boros army (giant, minotaur, angel + something on the far left that I can’t make out) being protected while their enemies fall to some deadly spell.
The art for Pariah’s shield totally confuses me. I mean, obviously the shield is an artifact of the Boros. Its mechanic fits in perfectly with their theme of self-sacrifice for the greater good. It also has a flavor text quote attributing it as the highest honor a Boros can receive. So why does the art depict some hideous-looking shield, mounted on a pedestal with little creepy-crawly legs. I can’t imagine any Boros soldier would want to pick this thing up, much less be honored to do so. Oh well. I suppose that’s why so few are called to don this hideous shield.
Order of the Stars
This one’s a bit tricky. The red and white shields suggest an obvious Boros allegiance, but the robes have a more Azorius feel to them. Additionally, the symbol on the shield more closely resembles the star pattern of the Orzhov than the circle of fire used by the Boros. So as far as white guilds are concerned, Selesnya is the only one out of the running. Mechanically, I’d say these guys lean more toward the Azorius or Orzhov guilds, but even though they represent a defensive creature, the Boros still support small, efficient creatures. I ultimately decided to group these guys with the Boros based on their location. The background and flavor text suggest these men may very well be standing guard outside of Sunhome, so that’s where they’ll stay for now.
If any guild likes fighting the most, it’s the Boros. If any guild understands the consequences of fighting the most, it’s the Boros. If any guild has the most dedicated guild members, it’s the Boros. The art can be interpreted as depicting a Boros foundry and the flavor text links this card to Razia herself.
If Razia demands total commitment of all the Legion’s resources, then Stoneshaker Shaman is the one to enforce her will. The mechanic and flavor text imply that this shaman sets out to find and destroy any less-than-efficient places to make room for those who are willing to completely give themselves for the cause. The character in the art is dressed very similarly to a Boros Guildmage, as well.
So far, every red and white card that has implied an over-commitment to a cause has landed in the Legion and that trend is not about to end with the Coalhauler Swine. Seen working to keep the foundry hot, Coalhauler Swine is a great example of the type of dedication required by the Boros. Mechanically, it seems to fit more with the Rakdos or Gruul, but looking at the whole picture, the Swine’s mechanic fits since it combos so well with Pariah’s Shield. On second thought, that doesn’t make any sense at all since it’s very unlikely that the highest honor for a Boros soldier would get bestowed on a giant pig.
We all know that the Boros employ griffins in their ranks. The only other guild to use griffins is the Azorius Senate. At this point, figuring out the Divebomber’s affiliation is a piece of cake. Having an ability related to combat, a name related to combat and a self-sacrificial effect, this guy is clearly embedded within the Legion. On top of that, its flavor text leads to a very simple mathematical equation: Justice + Angry = Boros.
Harrier Griffin and Skyrider Trainee
These two don’t quite have all the same support that their divebombing cousin has, but some simple deduction will place them all in the same guild. Again, a griffin’s choices lie between the Azorius and the Boros. Every Azorius griffin, whether free or mounted, is very well-groomed and, for lack of a better term, pretty-looking. The Boros griffins are all ruffled and angry-looking, so chalk up another pair of fighting griffins to the Boros cause, because there’s no way these two would be allowed inside the walls of Prahv.
Did I mention something earlier about a Boros connection to flaming weapons? Now imagine which guild would have the ability to turn everything they own into a flaming weapon. That’s right, the Boros take this card in a landslide, topped off with a flavor text quote from a Boros Lieutenant.
My first thought when I saw the art on this card was that the enchantment was cast on some sort of warrior-goat type of creature. Now, the Ravnica block is complete and there has been no mention of a race of warrior goats. This can only mean one thing: that the creature pictured is not a goat, but a really bad representation of a minotaur. And of course, minotaurs are loyal only to the Boros.
While we’re on the subject of red auras, one magemark really stands out as a tool of the Boros. Fencer’s Magemark grants first strike, a mechanic seen almost exclusively in either red or white. Although the fighter pictured in the art does not bear a strong resemblance to the members of any guild, the quote by Agrus Kos reveals the importance of this magemark to the fighting style of the Boros.
There are a lot of guilds that enjoy condemning members of other guilds, but the flavor text on Condemn reveals that it is the Boros who enjoy the swiftest and cruelest justice. Of course, Condemn doesn’t really strike me as the cruelest form of punishment available. It doesn’t kill creatures or remove them from the game – it simply puts them back in their owner’s libraries. On top of that, it allows that creature’s controller to gain life for the trouble. Although this roundabout punishment seems fitting for the Azorius, the flavor text strongly implies that the Senate would have waited until damage had been done before taking action. Taking creatures out during combat is certainly within the mechanical flavor of the Boros Legion.
What do you get when you cross damage prevention with spell redirection? The answer is damage redirection. While the Azorius would probably try to complete diffuse an aggressive spell and the Selesnya would simply try to prevent it from doing harm, the Boros are more innovative than that, using that harmful power to their advantage. Of course, the Orzhov might try something like that as well, but after a quick examination of the art, it’s clear to see that the featured character most closely resembles a Boros Guildmage, using tactics far less subtle than the Orzhov would prefer.
Leyline of Lightning
There’s no guarantee that every leyline is going to be skewed toward one of the guilds, but in this case, the choice is clear. Although mechanically, this card works best with bloodthirst, thematically, it works best with cheap, efficient spells. At this point, it’s still a wash and the flavor text doesn’t help much, either. So finally, we’ll look at the name and art of the card. The picture depicts a wizard making use of the leyline, but no affiliation is apparent. It’s obviously not Gruul, but not necessarily Boros, either. The clincher is found in the name of the card. Five total cards in the Ravnica block reference lightning and two of them are already a part of the Boros. The quick, powerful damage of the lightning is an ideal analog for the guild’s philosophy, making me feel that this card belongs with the Boros.
This guy would fit right in with either the Boros or the Selesnya. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess as to which guild his allegiance lies. The art doesn’t contain any clues as to the affiliation of the soldiers in the background, nor does the armor in the art have any distinct markings of either guild. He’s a soldier, so that slightly favors the Boros. He’s also producing quite a bit or armor, suggesting that his guild fights more than most, and that also slightly favors the Boros. Finally, the place that he’s working looks a lot more like a garrison or fortress than it does a sanctuary or tree. The little things add up, so I have to give the Boros the nod on this guy.
This one was tough. The ability on the card is probably best placed in the Azorius Senate. The name of the card seems to suggest a likely fit with the Orzhov. The flavor text is a quote attributed to a Boros soldier. And the art features a bunch of soldiers wearing helmets from the Rocketeer that look nothing like anything worn by any of the other guilds. Since everything else is speculation, I have to favor the flavor text, which is the only solid evidence toward any guild.
And with that, we conclude the Boros Legion. I’d certainly say they did quite a job shoring up their numbers, pulling in 24 new cards compared to the mere 14 gained by the Golgari. As always, criticism is welcome. Tune in next time to see if the Dimir tell anyone enough about their guild in order to join.
References and Other Helpful Websites:
Disorderly Conduct by Mark Rosewater
The Legion of Beatdown by Aaron Forsythe
Holy War, the Boros Legion by Matt Cavotta
Ravnica Style Guide: Boros
Life in the Big City by Rei Nakazawa
Urban Flavor by Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar