Monday, January 26, 2015

Primer Series: Modern Burn

W  B  R

I have been wanting to start a deck primer series here since late last year (meaning a couple months ago) and after how well last week's Prerelease Primers went for Fate Reforged, I figured now would be a great time to start this.

For January, I'd like to present one of the easiest to play, relatively cheapest, and one of my favorite decks to play in Modern.



To start out, there are three categories of cards in a burn deck: Spells, Creatures, and Lands. Let's check out our options in order.

Burn Spells


One Mana


The goal of this deck is to deal 20 points of damage as fast as possible. This means using burn spells that deal as much damage as possible for the least amount of mana. The best example of this is Lightning Bolt which deals three damage for one red mana. There are other similar spells, but nothing in the same color, mana cost, and versatility since Lightning Bolt is the only instant speed burn spell with no draw backs.

Lightning Bolt  Lava Spike  Rift Bolt

A typical burn deck should include a playset of each of these. Lightning Bolt is by far the best out of all the burn spells since it can be cast at instant speed.

Lava Spike is the second best red Lightning Bolt style spell because it is still three damage. Of course it is at sorcery speed and only deals damage to a player. and is not as versatile as Lightning Bolt.

Rift Bolt is likely to be considered the third best Lightning Bolt spell because it gets delayed one turn at the cost of a single red mana. It's not as great as Lava Spike because it is delayed a turn at the Suspend cost, it normally costs three mana, and it is at sorcery speed.

Shard Volley  Collateral Damage  Bump in the Night

Shard Volley and Collateral Damage deal the same amount of damage as a lightning bolt, but at a high cost: sacrificing lands or creatures. They are instant speed, but the goal is to be able to run off two or three lands. Having to sacrifice a land when it's a limited resource in this deck is not optimal and sacrificing creatures in a deck that might not have any is also just as difficult. Many decks are creatureless burn decks which would override the purpose of Collateral Damage.

Bump in the Night is a good Lightning Bolt equivalent in black. It gets around various strategies, especially one I encountered when dueling against Gifts Ungiven: Iona, Shield of Emeria. Also for people who started playing Magic competitively/heavily around when I started, a playset of Bumps isn't hard to come by. They're also cheaper than the other "no drawback" burn spells (Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, Rift Bolt).

Pillar of Flame  Forked Bolt  Shock

Honestly, I don't see the point of using any of these. If I had to use one, I'd choose Pillar of Flame because it has a built in exile effect. Forked Bolt is only useful if you want to split damage between multiple 1/1 tokens, which by the time tokens really make it into play, you're opponent should be a turn or two away from losing anyway. In that sense it's better than Shock, but at the same time, it's at sorcery speed unlike Shock. Overall, I tend to keep away from these.

Two Mana


While there is a bountiful amount of one mana spells, there are some really good two mana spells that should be considered/included.

Lightning Helix  Skullcrack  Magma Jet

Lightning Helix is one of my favorite cards to use in a burn deck. You gain three life while dealing three damage. If playing white, this is a card that must be included in a burn deck.

Skullcrack is not too great considering we already have a ton of one mana spells that deal three damage, but this stops life gain which may not show up in Modern as much, but it's still something to consider.

The worst of these three, Magma Jet does serve a purpose. While it dos deal two damage for two mana, but you get to adjust your next two draws. You can remove lands from what you'll draw or you can ensure you top-deck the final burn spell you need to win.

Boros Charm  Searing Blood  Searing Blaze

Boros Charm is great because it deal 4 damage at the cost of three mana, something all the other burn spells don't do. The other two options are not very important, although perhaps giving a creature double strike could be useful if you included creatures in your deck, but we'll get to that eventually.]

Searing Blood is a relatively new spell to consider. It relies on there being creatures, so it's dead in a mirror match or against a storm deck. Still, a shock to a creature and a Lightning Bolt to a player isn't bad. This also bypasses targeting an opponent with the spell (things like Leyline of Sanctity and others).

Searing Blaze is supposedly better, but you have to declare two targets. Yes, it deals three damage to both a creature and the player who controls that creature, but it's just as dead as Searing Blood without creatures and pretty much worthless without playing a land. I wouldn't personally run Searing Blaze.

Three Mana


Browbeat  Flame Javelin

Browbeat is your card draw. Not many people will choose to take five damage except for some seasoned veterans. People don't perceive card advantage and drawing cards as something useful to you and hurtful to them. In your deck, Browbeat draws you three spells that will deal three damage a piece.

Flame Javelin isn't too great. Paired with all the other spells shown here, unless you're going mono red (can be done, but not entirely advised), this can be skipped. There is enough else here to be used instead.

More Mana


Thunderous Wrath

Five damage for one mana is great, but if it's in your opening hand, it's essentially dead. You do not want more than one or two (preferably one) because the game should be over without you getting past your third land drop. If you draw lands and wind up being able to hard cast this, something is wrong and/or you're going to lose.

Other Cards to Consider


This may seem a bit odd, but there are a couple of things still left to consider...

Bonfire of the Damned  Isochron Scepter

Bonfire of the Damned is included here because it kills creatures and deals damage to your opponent. It works against hexproof and tokens. It may not be everyone's choice for the main deck, but if you included a single one, the deck wouldn't be bad in any way.

Isochron Scepter is... interesting. In my burn decks, I run two. I've even been able to get both out on the field, one with a Lightning Bolt and the other with a Lightning Helix. Lots of fun was had. It's powerful and lets you continue burning without anything in your hand.

Creatures


One Mana


Creatures can be useful in burn decks. Admittedly, some aren't as great, but a couple are pretty good to use. 

Grim Lavamancer  Vexing Devil  Spark Elemental

Grim Lavamancer is a card I recently considered given how it is cheap and utilizes resources not otherwise used in this deck. If you run out of steam on turn three or four, you have Grim Lavamancer to help out.

Vexing Devil is a card I've used for some time in burn decks. It's pretty much four damage on turn one. Seems pretty worthwhile to me because if nothing else, you have a 4/3 creature on the field.

Spark Elemental is a creature I'm stepped away from. Against most decks, Spark Elemental does pretty much nothing. The only time it's useful is turn one when your opponent has no creatures. Otherwise, it's pretty useless. I did use it as another Lightning Bolt for a time, but that was a while ago.

Goblin Guide  Monastery Swiftspear

When I think of burn, I don't think of these creatures for one reason: burn includes "deals damage." These are just good creatures to include in burn decks. So there's that...

Goblin Guide is pretty useful. It's a 2/2 on turn 1 with haste, and you can maybe use it a couple times. It also forces cards into your opponent's hand provided they are lands, but you also get to see some of their future draws if not. It's downside is the insane price. They're around $20 a piece so with any luck, we'll get to see them again in Modern Masters 2015. Burn decks run fine without them, but if you have them or don't mind spending $80 for a playset, go ahead and grab some.

Monastery Swiftspear is a newer addition to the burn scene due to the use of Prowess to increase damage. If playing this turn one results in one damage, and playing two Lightning Bolts the next turn results in a total of 9 damage from spells and the Swiftspear, then by turn two, you've greatly reduced your opponent's life total. Pair it with a fetchland and a shockland which is common in Modern, and your opponent is down to seven life, an easy amount to polish off with turn three.

Two Mana

Hellspark Elemental  Eidolon of the Great Revel  Young Pyromancer

I'm not a fan of Hellspark Elemental. Yes, there is recursion, but you're essentially paying four mana for six damage. Most of your spells can do double the amount of damage for that mana cost. If I'm not liking Spark Elemental, a more expensive one that you can return from your graveyard won't help much either...

Eidolon of the Great Revel I suppose is good, but at the same time, I don't really care for it because it sends damage back at you for very spell in your deck. Granted, your opponent loses more because of their spells and the damage coming from you, but still not my favorite card to use.

Young Pyromancer may be a great card and was fantastic in burn decks when it was legal in Standard, but it doesn't quite make the cut in a Modern deck. When it's possible to end the game on turn one or two sometimes in Modern, you want it to be faster than this. If the tokens had haste or something it'd be better, but a board wipe or any amount of attackers could remove them from your side easily.

Lands


Without lands, you can't cast the spells in your deck, which in turn causes problems...

Fetchlands


Fetches are pretty useful in this deck unless you plan to go with mono-red. If you're running white and/or black, then you need to have some fetchlands for mana fixing.

Bloodstained Mire  Arid Mesa  Marsh Flats

Shocklands


Just like with Fetches, we need Shocks. How appropriate for burn decks, you're shocking yourself...

Blood Crypt  Sacred Foundry  Godless Shrine

Fastlands or "Scar Lands"


Fetchlands and Shocklands will cause some sort of damage typically. Of course, these aren't the best because there is a drawback to them, but within the first couple of turns, this can be pretty useful.

Blackcleave Cliffs

Pain Lands


I wouldn't use too many of these, especially when we already have shocklands and fastlands in the deck. They're still a good option, but not the best.

Sulfurous Springs  Battlefield Forge  Caves of Koilos

Other dual lands...


First and foremost, there are very few other dual lands I would even consider. There are other options, but compared to the other lands, they aren't very good.

Dragonskull Summit  Clifftop Retreat  Isolated Chapel

Graven Cairns  Rugged Prairie  Fetid Heath

Any Color


Some of these are pretty popular with burn deck players. I don't really have them, nor would I consider running some of them, but maybe you have them and would rather play them than go buy playsets of fetches and shocks.

City of Brass  Mana Confluence

City of Brass and Mana Confluence are both decent lands, but not necessarily what you want to run. If I had to choose, I'd rather have Mana Confluence. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but there are cards out there capable of tampering with City of Brass to make you lose life when you aren't making mana.

Forbidden Orchard  Gemstone Mine

There is a downside to both of these... One gives your opponent a creature, and the other can only be used three times in all. Forbidden Orchard can be quite dangerous, especially against Bogles. Gemstone Mine is just a waste of a land if you can only use it three times.

Sideboard


So, now that we've looked over the cards that will form the core of your deck, it's time to consider what will make up your sideboard. I recommend a sideboard that matches the metagame where you play, unless you're going to a tournament where you'll want a more general sideboard. So... what should we consider?

Erase  Aura Barbs

If you see a lot of Bogles, Erase needs to be in your sideboard, possibly two of them. This will ditch Leyline of Sanctity and let you continue burning on your merry way. It can also be used against Ethereal Armor to prevent constant amounts of damage. Aura Barbs easily takes care of any Bogles deck.

Shattering Spree  Smash to Smithereens

Both Shattering Spree and Smash to Smithereens are for artifact decks You can destroy multiple artifacts with Shattering Spree or deal damage and destroy an artifact with Smash to Smithereens.

Anger of the Gods  Volcanic Fallout

Both Anger of the Gods and Volcanic Fallout both deal with aggro based decks... The first exiles creatures, and the other also deals damage to all players and can't be countered. Both are decent and it's perhaps just a matter of personal preference for which should be included.

Rain of Gore  Leyline of Punishment

Both Rain of Gore and Leyline of Punishment stop lifegain. Personally, I'd go with Rain of Gore over Leyline of Punishment mainly due to it being cheaper. The cheaper cost outweighs the chance of Leyline of Punishment starting on the field.

Molten Rain

Molten Rain is the card of choice for stopping TRON decks and also deals burn damage at the same time.

Rakdos Charm

Rakdos Charm fills in as our graveyard exile, extra artifact destruction, and also stops aggro by having each creature deals damage to its controller.


Sample Decks


Red/White Burn

Creatures

x2 Spark Elemental
x2 Vexing Devil
x2 Spark Trooper

Land

x4 Clifftop Retreat
x4 Sacred Foundry
x2 Plains
x10 Mountain

Artifacts

x2 Isochron Scepter

Other Spells

x2 Lava Spike
x4 Lightning Bolt
x2 Path to Exile
x4 Boros Charm
x4 Lightning Helix
x2 Searing Blood
x2 Mizzium Mortars
x2 Browbeat
x4 Rift Bolt
x2 Thunderous Wrath

Planeswalkers

x2 Ajani Vengeant
x2 Koth of the Hammer

Sideboard

x2 Path to Exile
x2 Chained to the Rocks
x2 Pithing Needle
x2 Lava Spike
x2 Molten Rain
x1 Echoing Ruin
x2 Metal Fatigue
x2 Wear // Tear

If you want the full explanation of this deck, you can find it here.

Black/Red Burn

Creatures

x2 Spark Elemental
x4 Grim Lavamancer
x3 Vexing Devil

Land

x4 Blackcleave Cliffs
x4 Blood Crypt
x2 Dragonskull Sumit
x1 Swamp
x9 Mountain

Other Spells

x4 Bump in the Night
x4 Lava Spike
x4 Lightning Bolt
x2 Pillar of Flame
x4 Skullcrack
x4 Browbeat
x4 Rift Bolt
x2 Flame Javelin
x1 Thunderous Wrath

Artifacts

x2 Isochron Scepter

Sideboard

x2 Shattering Spree
x1 Smash to Smithereens
x2 Rakdos Charm
x2 Rain of Gore
x2 Anger of the Gods
x2 Volcanic Fallout
x2 Aura Barbs
x2 Leyline of Punishment

This is something I've been working on. Some of the cards are proxied in my deck, but I've been testing it. I'm not quite happy with it, but I have some things to fix. So let's look at the Mardu burn deck I've devised:

Mardu Burn

Creatures

x3 Goblin Guide
x4 Vexing Devil

Land

x4 Blackcleave Cliffs
x2 Arid Mesa
x4 Bloodstained Mire
x1 Sacred Foundry
x1 Blood Crypt
x2 Battlefield Forge
x4 Mountain

Other Spells

x4 Bump in the Night
x4 Lava Spike
x4 Lightning Bolt
x2 Pillar of Flame
x4 Boros Charm
x4 Lightning Helix
x4 Skullcrack
x4 Browbeat
x4 Rift Bolt
x1 Thunderous Wrath

Sideboard

x2 Shattering Spree
x1 Smash to Smithereens
x2 Rakdos Charm
x2 Rain of Gore
x2 Anger of the Gods
x2 Volcanic Fallout
x2 Aura Barbs
x2 Molten Rain

It's not entirely perfect, but it's how I plan to revise my modern burn deck.

Anyway, thank you for reading, and join us next week.

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