Commander Legends Upgrade Guide: Arm for Battle

Kristen GregoryCommander

Commander Legends brings with it two new preconstructed decks: Reap the Tides, a Simic sea-themed deck, and Arm for Battle, a Boros aura/equipment voltron deck. If you know me at all, you’ll know I jumped at the chance to review the latter, and so without further ado, let’s dive on into this Boros Bonanza. 

Arm for Battle: New Commander Cards

One of the most exciting parts of these preconstructed Commander decks is the three exclusive new cards in each one.

The commander of Arm for Battle is Wyleth, Soul of Steel. Wyleth is arguably one of the most exciting Boros cards we’ve had this year, and it’s because he can draw cards. Yes, cards — plural. When Wyleth attacks, you draw a card for each aura and equipment attached to him.

That’s a really good rate, and as you don’t even need to do combat damage to draw those cards, it’s easy enough to achieve. It’s the Boros voltron-matters card we’ve been crying out for for years, and having trample, too? Well, I know I’m hyped. Evasion on a voltron commander is essential in my eyes, and it’s one of the reasons I docked a few points from Akiri, Fearless Voyager in my deep dive

The other two cards are, rather predictably, an aura and an equipment. Blazing Sunsteel is a way to punish people who block to avoid commander damage, and — with the right damage doublers in play — can lead to some serious damage. If you have, say, Fiery Emancipation and Brash Taunter on the board, the damage dealt to Wyleth will magnify every time it’s reflected. 

Timely Ward is a great protection effect, and one that can often replace itself with the right engine in play. Flashing this onto your Sigarda, Host of Herons in response to a board wipe will draw you a card most of the time if you have, say, Eidolon of Blossoms in play. It’s a neat little card and one that I’m glad to see added to the roster for aura-based decks. 

Arm for Battle: Deck Review

Arm for Battle seeks to provide a stepping stone to a first voltron deck. For many Arena players who are fans of “bogles” style gameplay, or who like suiting up a Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt in Brawl, it seems like a solid way to get into the Commander format.

The game plan revolves around attaching auras and equipment to the creatures that benefit from them, swinging for damage, and using disruptive and controlling instants to prevent damage, protect your board, and otherwise stay in the game. The key cards for this strategy are:

The deck has a good number of staple voltron cards, and for those who haven’t built Boros Voltron before, it’s a great place to pick up cards that will see play in a number of different builds. Most of the cards in this deck see some amount of play at varying power levels in Commander, and most of the cards are good to own and form a solid deck-building base. 

The majority of the “bloat,” or filler, is in the equipment. Not all equipment is created equally, and unfortunately, the better equipment tends to be expensive enough that it would significantly bump both the price of the power level of this deck. I don’t envy the team trying to balance voltron at a pre-constructed level, as it’s very easy to just run away with a game with the right draws. 

Instead, let’s look through the reprints to see just how much value is contained in this preconstructed deck.

These cards alone represent more than two-thirds of the price of the deck. And mos importantly, they’re all solid reprints that can fit into any Boros deck. Heck, any white- or red-based deck would be happy to have them. 

Part of me does think they could have stretched to one or two more expensive equipment themed cards, though. While Stoneforge Mystic is a bit of a pipe dream, adding one or two cards like Shadowspear, Sword of the Animist, Puresteel Paladin, Steelshaper’s Gift, Darksteel Plate or Conqueror’s Flail shouldn’t have been too much of an issue. Even Inventors’ Fair in the mana base would have been a needed reprint. 

Though the overall value of the reprints is less than in Reap the Tides, or the Sneak Attack precon from Zendikar Rising, Arm for Battle is still a strong product that provides good value for money, and is a great product for the voltron enthusiast. 

Upgrading Arm for Battle

Now, Wyleth, Soul of Steel has a lot of potential, and I know many players’ first instinct will be to upgrade this precon into a deadly, efficient machine. Unfortunately, to do that in Boros often means spending a fair amount — the best equipment and the best white cards are generally quite expensive. So, I’m going to be budget-conscious when it comes to upgrading this build. The total cost of the precon, plus any upgrades, should come out at no more than $100. This is around $10 more than Scott spent on upgrading Reap the Tides, but a Simic creature-based deck will always be easier to upgrade than a more niche strategy, especially when that niche strategy involves auras and equipment.

The “good” Boros cards have always been notoriously expensive, and though we aren’t springing for some of those top end cards here — such as Land Tax, Stoneforge Mystic, and Sword of Feast and Famine — we do need to be able to grab a couple of the more crucial cards for this strategy: think Sword of the Animist, Puresteel Paladin, and Sevinne’s Reclamation. They do add up quickly!

Early on in the upgrade process, I ruled out leaning too heavily on auras as a theme. The best recursion cards for auras are very expensive, in the case of Replenish. Additionally, the deck is just going to function better as an equipment-focused deck. 

So, while I was excited at the idea of running Storm Herald with Eldrazi Conscription, it ultimately didn’t seem like it was worth it, especially when I could be fitting in stronger equipment-based cards. 

I did, however, keep some aura synergy. Hyena Umbra is a great, cheap way to ensure Wyleth survives a board wipe. Tutor-wise, the cheapest and most flexible option is Open the Armory. I always feel like playing Open the Armory should open you up to Darksteel Mutation, and when your Commander has trample, a 0/1 indestructible blocker isn’t much to worry about. 

Consistency is king when you’re not running the absolute best equipment cards, so I’ve added plenty more draw power, with Akiri, Fearless Voyager, Puresteel Paladin and Mask of Memory. Knight of the White Orchid upgrades Kor Cartographer, and I’ve shifted the creature base around to include stronger and more impactful creatures across the board, like Thalia, Heretic Cathar

Haste and evasion are key, so evasive creatures like Remorseful Cleric are joined by Fleetfeather Sandals and Bloodsworn Steward to ensure we’re playing to our potential. I did consider Bastion Protector here, too, but ultimately, the $8 was better spent elsewhere. 

Speaking of better spending elsewhere, our “treat” is Umezawa’s Jitte. While we can’t afford the splashiest of the Swords, I would much rather run Jitte for a dollar or so more than Embercleave. Jitte has many, many applications, and is incredibly flexible. It’s a steal for $14, all in all, and is a much better purchase than many other cards in this price range. 

Sword of the Animist is our other pricey piece at $10, but it’s unwise to leave home without it. It desperately could have done with an include in this precon, but as it stands, we’ll have to pick one up separately. 

Rounding out the upgrades are some solid removal spells and some key recursion. The precon did have a few interesting pieces like Ironclad Slayer, but they’re easily upgraded into Sevinne’s Reclamation and Sun Titan, two fantastic cards. All our auras and equipment cards clock in at three mana or less, so we don’t need the additional flexibility of a card like Restoration Specialist — though, if we could afford to be running Smothering Tithe, I’d be more interested.

Finally, we’re taking advantage of a couple of the new modal DFC lands. Sejiri Shelter is exactly what the deck wants, and Kazuul’s Fury is a way to convert one huge creature into an additional damage source. 

As far as cards from the Commander Legends main set, I’ve managed to find space for a few of the better ones. Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist is a great way for us to cheat on mana. Alongside an Ugin, the Ineffable, we can dump out our hand and then equip it all for free, which is pretty explosive.

Reyav, Master Smith joins his dwarf brethren Sram and offers double strike, one of the more powerful keywords. As for what didn’t make the cut? Rograkh, son Rogahh is a little too pricey to include, cute as he was, and Armored Skyhunter is not as good when we’re drawing so many cards off of Wyleth (and when we don’t have expensive equipment to cheat into play).

I’d have loved to include Akroma’s Will, but it doesn’t offer the deck enough for the price compared to some of the other upgrades we picked out. Same story for cards like Comeuppance and Settle the Wreckage, good though they are. 

Upgraded for Victory

Our final decklist can be found here

With the powerful cards included in our upgrades, we’ve raised both the floor and the ceiling for this deck. Our creatures are better across the board, and so are the spells we have access to.

By including more evasion in our equipment, we can more readily aim for commander damage wins; and by including more protection like Akiri, Fearless Voyager, and more recursion, like Sun Titan, we’re set up to grind out to the late game. 

I’ve also aimed to crank the deck’s speed up a notch so that we can potentially play a whole turn quicker. I’ve taken out a lot of the tapped lands, and added more mana rocks at two. I’ve also included more ways to cheat on mana, and some game-ending equipment like Umezawa’s Jitte. When combined with the roadblock that is Thalia, Heretic Cathar, you should find your velocity increased. 

Obviously, if you want to take the deck further, you can add some more powerful upgrades. If you do have a greater budget and would like some tips, look no further than the many Boros articles I’ve put together previously. Two that are undoubtedly useful here are the new Akiri which I covered last month, and my treatise on Winter Orb where I discuss Akiri/Bruse Voltron

The total cost of this upgrade is $70. If you want to upgrade your precon, you can order both the precon and the upgrades given today from Card Kingdom for just over $100, which is a great mid-point between affordability and power. Outside of Feather, Boros can struggle on a budget, but with this build, you’re sure to take some games.

Whether you’re after the precon, the upgrades, or you just spotted some singles worth ordering, Card Kingdom is a great place to pick up what you need for Commander Legends.

Let me know on Twitter what you think of the Boros precon. Personally, I think it’s a solid deck for the price and offers a really awesome new commander.