After playing the deck in various tournaments and getting a hang on how it runs, I feel confident enough to try writing a little pseudo-primer where I’m going to explain a bit about the various card choices in the deck and how to play it.
If you are a beginner trying to start playing this deck in Pauper.
Heroic is an aggressive deck that tries to create a really big creature in the early turns and try to close the game with it before the opponent is able to set up his board or find appropriate answers to our board state.
It takes its name from the Heroic ability: it is a triggered ability that will do something when the creature that has it is targeted by one of our spells; in our deck they are going to get bigger.
To trigger Heroic we are going to use Aura spells that are going to increase even more the power of our creatures while also giving it some nice abilities.
The most common version of the deck, and the one we are going to talk about here, is the Mono White one. There are also Mono Red or Boros versions of the deck but they see a lot less play because they lack some of the fundamentals elements or consistency compared to Mono White.
Before discussing the various cards of the deck and the possible choices you have in deck building I will share with you two decklist you can use as example:
The first one is Goldfish stock list and you can click here to see it;
while the second one is my personal decklist and you can click here to see its latest version.
Usually a Heroic deck runs around 16 creatures, as it is the right number to avoid drawing too many of them while ensuring to have a few in your starting hand.
Akroan Skyguard and Lagonna-Band Trailblazer are omnipresent in the deck as they are two creature with Heroic that will get a +1/+1 counter each time they get targeted by one of our spells; the Skyguard have a nice evasive ability like Flying that will avoid a lot of chump-blockers while the Trailblazer is one of the most hated piece from red decks, as they will usually need two of their burn spells to remove it before it starts growing.
Deftblade Elite for the deck is a removal on a stick that we can also use to beat down our opponents when they are left without creatures. Put some auras on the Elite and start using to remove important pieces of our opponents’ decks or use it to free the way for our other main creature; in this second case if we are already some turns in the game we might even don’t put any aura on it and simply use its ability to prevent the damage.
Vault Skirge is another evasive creature that also packs Lifelink to help us win the race against other aggressive decks. It’s basically the same card as Healer’s Hawk but the 2 more life we are going to pay to cast are worth as the Skirge is black and so it’s immune to Snuff Out and can mess with Prismatic Strands.
Benevolent Bodyguard is a protection a stick; Protection is really important for the deck as it can both be used to avoid having our main creature removed and also it can make it unblockable from the creatures of the color we choose. Bodyguard also has the plus that we only need to sacrifice it to activate it’s fact and so we can also use it to dish in some cheap damage in the early turns without worrying about having to keep it back to protect one of our other creatures.
Sacred Cat is another creature that sees a lot of play in the deck as with Lifelink can help us race other aggressive decks and with Embalm it gives us basically two creatures that we can sacrifice to one of the bane of the deck: Edict effects.
Seeker of the Way is another creature that can get Lifelink that used to see a lot of play in Heroic, even if nowadays is a lot less common. Prowess can be triggered by all our auras and so it gets bigger even when we are pumping up our other creatures. It’s really strong in the early game when we still have our hand full of spells that we can play, but it gets less and less powerful as more time passes as we don’t have meaningful ways to refill our hand.
Another creature that lately sees some play is also Battlefield Raptor; it’s nice to have a flyer from 1 mana but I honestly don’t know why I would prefer this over Healer’s Hawk as First Strike is an ability that tons of our auras already gives and there isn’t much difference between 1 or 2 Toughness in this meta.
The Aura package is almost always the same; the only thing that changes is the quantity of each card.
Hyena Umbra is an amazing way to power up our creatures while also giving them some more protection thanks to Totem Armor: if our creatures are going to die we can sacrifice the aura and keep it alive! However, pay attention to the fact that Totem Armor will only work if a creature is destroyed and sacrificing it doesn’t count as destroying it; so if you get to sacrifice the creature to an edict effect Totem Armor won’t work and you will have to put everything in the graveyard.
Cartouche of Solidarity is another great aura that will have the double job of powering up our creatures while also protecting it as the token is optimal to sacrifice to edict effects.
Ethereal Armor, especially if we are able to stick multiple of them, are what will give an incredible boost to our strategy giving us the possibility to close even on turn 3 with the dream hands! Another thing you can do with the Armor is to stick it on another creature while we are putting all our other auras on the main one; this will give us two powerful creatures to put pressure on our opponent.
Sentinel’s Eyes will give Vigilance to our creature, giving the upper hand in aggro matchups as we will put pressure by attacking and also have always a big blocker to back us up; it also has redundancy as we can recast it from the graveyard and so it can be helpful to recover if our creature got removed.
Lifelink is also an aura that sees some play in the mainboard but I usually prefer to play the full playset in the sideboard as I usually want to be more explosive in game 1 and so with Lifelink not giving a buff I usually feel that it’s slowing me down a bit.
Last but not least we have Benevolent Blessing, a permanent protection from a color of our choice that will not remove the aura already enchanting our creature, fantastic to protect our creatures from White spells. The Blessing can also be used to block certain type of combos: if your opponent is trying to combo off by targeting one of their creature (like Presence of Gond on Midnight Guard or Freed from the Real on Axebane Guardian) we can use Benevolent Blessing to give Protection from that color to the creature and counter their plays. In the same way we can also use it on a card commonly sided in against our deck, Standard Bearer: by giving the Bearer Protection from White we won’t be able to target it with our other auras and so it’s effect will be nullified and we would be again able to put our auras on our creatures; this is double-edged however because this will give to our opponent a blocker able to tank our creatures indefinitely.
This is the section that has the most variance between the various decks as every player has its favorite set up of these spells.
Emerge Unscathed will give Protection from a Color of our choice until the end of the turn to one of our creatures and also it has Rebound, that means we can cast for free during our next upkeep; this means we can use it to protect our creature and then make it virtually unblockable during our turn, all while triggering Heroic two times.
Karametra’s Blessing is another spell we can use to protect our enchanted creatures and a lot of time it can be used a a pump spell to close the game; there were a lot of occasion where my opponents felt safe to not block and I closed games by pumping my creature with the Blessing.
Mutagenic Growth is another pump spell that has the upside that we can cast for free; we can freely tap out in the early turn, maybe luring our opponent to use one of their burn spells to kill our creature, as we can cast it to make our creature big enough to survive.
Defiant Strike is once again a pump spell that is also a cantrip so it can be used to get more cards to end the game quicker or, in a pinch, we can also use it on our opponents’ creatures to draw, usually looking for one of our creatures.
Homestead Courage is a new card that will give a permanent boost without having to recur to auras (in a meta with various enchantment haters, this could save you). The Flashback ability also is great to trigger Heroic or Prowess one more time.
Mana Tithe is a really cool card that can turn the game in our favor with a surprise counter from our side. It has the problem that it is really easy to play around when you know about it so I strongly advise against playing it in your local meta or in an open list tournament… basically everywhere your deck and what you are playing is known; when I used to play it, I also usually ended up sideboarding it out almost every time.
Various players also like to run a single copy of Double Cleave in their deck to have a way to finish a game really early if your main creature is left unblocked.
Heroic decks usually run around 16-18 lands with them being mostly plains.
The only other land played is Secluded Steppe and I advise not running more then 2 of them. They are really cool as you can cycle them later in the game to change them into a new card, but in the early turns they can slow you down of some crucial turns if they are the only lands you can play.
As always Sideboard highly depends on the meta and varies a lot from player to player, so I’m going to talk about the most popular ones.
We already talked about it a bit in the aura section, Lifelink is a great aura to have in the side for really aggressive decks, that won’t see a way out of it once we stick it on one of our big creatures.
Fragmentize and Seal of Cleansing are two great answers to artifacts and enchantments, especially the Seal as it also counts for Ethereal Armor. Cathar Crusader is a card that I’m trying as hate of this type and I’m really liking it: at best is a removal while at worst is a 3 power creature that can dish in some nice damage. A really popular removal for Artifact in White is Dust to Dust but it isn’t played in Heroic due to the fact that it costs three mana and can be too much in many games.
Death Speakers is a nice answer to decks with many targeted black removals thanks to the Protection to Black. They are optimal to pump up in early game and set up a race with them or later to block a Gurmag and buy us time.
Journey to Nowhere is a nice removal to side in when we have to face creatures that can be problematic for the deck, like Ulamog’s Crusher.
Having some creature with Protection from Red, like Freewind Falcon, can also be a nice piece to have against deck that runs red removals; having our first creature removed can really slow us down and sometime the fear of having it blasted can make us mulligan a powerful hand because we don’t have any other creature.
Having a way to hit the graveyard of our opponent can be really useful against certain deck; cards like Beckon Apparition and Faerie Macabre are optimal cards to stop decks like Moggwarts (Goblin Combo) but you can also run cards like Relic of Progenitus if you want to deal better with deck like Tron; the Relic however isn’t really efficient against Goblin Combo because they can simply wait to Abrade it before trying to combo off.
Another card that I like to run in my sideboard is Standard Bearer: it is amazing in mirrors and also can act as an anti-hate piece. The Bearer in fact says that the player must choose at least one Flagbearer on the battlefield… and so if both of our opponent and us have a Standard Bearer on the field we can still target ours with the auras and make it our main creature for that game. It’s something that will happen rarely but it’s still something nice to be able to do. Most of the time when not used as a hate piece the Bearer will be used to make our opponent waste a targeted removal.
How to Play
Usually you would like to see a hand with 1-2 creatures and various auras. You are going to play one of your creatures and make it your main one, putting various auras on it and using it to deal the most damage on our opponents. The speed you are going to put your aura on it and what you are going to do with you other creatures highly depends on what you are facing: if your opponent is playing edict effects like Chainer’s Edict you will want to play that creature to protect the main one from them; if your opponent is packing various targeted removals you would probably want to go slower and keep a few auras in hand together with the other creature to restart in case you first one hits the graveyard; usually you will also like to keep your mana open for a protection (or to bluff one eheh!)
If your opponent doesn’t have either of those… feel free to go all out!
The deck has fair match ups on most of the decks in the meta but there are obviously going to be some easier ones and so harder ones.
The easier ones are against decks that takes a few turn to set up as we were be able to swing in for the win in those initial turns they are going to take; an example of this can be Wall Combo were they usually spend their first turns playing their creature with Defender and rarely they are going to block with them because they need to have lot of them to produce the mana for their big spells.
One of the hard matchups are those packing tons of removals like Dimir Delver as they can put a full stop on our run if they are able to clean our board as after that they will only need to counter each other creature we are going to play. These match ups are hard but they are doable… however there is something even worse.
Boros Bully is like the bane of this deck as it tends to pack everything the deck has a hard time dealing with: lots of chump blocker, fog effects and white removals. The combination of these three makes the match up really really hard to win as various of our cards become less effective if our opponents is also playing White: giving Protection from White to one of our creatures, if we don’t do it with Benevolent Blessing, will make us lose all the aura we already put on that creature and this makes our protection a bit unreliable.
So… why Heroic and not Bogles?
For those who don’t know, Bogles plays really similarly to Heroic: take a creature, put tons of auras on it and use it to wreck the opponent. The difference is that the creatures from Bogles all have Hexproof and so resolve the problem of having to protect their creatures from target removals right from the start. Bogles also fixes its mana with various auras, letting him sideboard in the most effective cards for every match up… and by playing Green as access to two of the most powerful Pauper auras: Armadillo Cloak and Ancestral Mask.
So why play Heroic instead of Bogles? Heroic also has its upside in this comparison! By being Mono-White Heroic is more consistent than Bogles and faster in putting enough power on the board to close the game, as it doesn’t have to spend the first turns in setting up the mana.
Heroic runs many Protection in the main and with its creature growing bigger faster it can also survive better cards like Pestilence or Fiery Cannonade that can instead cripple and put Bogles far back of various turns.
If you like the general game plan they are both valid decks to bring to a Pauper event and I will choose which one of the two based on the ration of interaction I’m expected to find: if there are a lot of interactions I will run Bogles but if there are few of them, Heroic with its consistency will totally run better.
If you don’t know the meta or you are just starting Pauper I will strongly point you toward Heroic as it’s cheaper to build and you won’t lose too much if you don’t like and want to change (and also Heroic shares many of its auras with Bogles and so they will still come in hand if you want to change later).
So, this is the end of my little Heroic primer, if you have any question feel free to leave it in the comment and I will try to answer them as soon as possible!