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Back to Banefire

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

With Grand Prix Toronto this weekend, the only thought I’ve had in my head for the past month has been, “What the hell am I going to play for this thing?”

My Merfolk deck was too rough to be ready in time, I didn’t have the Remands and Spell Snares to try RUG Scapeshift, and I despise playing Splinter Twin. I would build Jund if I was willing to shell out $600 for Tarmogoyfs and Dark Confidants, but I’m not willing so that’s out of the question. I brought GR Tron to a pair of GPTs and placed ninth and “not even close” respectively, so that was an option.

As I browsed through the archive of decklists I’ve stored on my computer, it hit me like a brick. I already had the skeleton for the perfect deck to play. It’s a deck my longtime readers are well aware of: Banefire Storm.

What makes this such a good call for the current meta? Storm is relatively under the radar right now as Spirit Jund, Tron, Infect and even Eggs have taken the spotlight. And because this list wins in a unique way, it allows me to play around many of the remaining hate cards for Storm such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Relic of Progenitus.

The biggest reason why this list is so good right now is because of the natural progression of Jund. As the “stock” Jund list shifts toward the ChannelFireball Spirit Jund list, a peculiar thing happens to the speed of the deck. Spirit Jund is designed to win long and grinding mirror matches, which slows down the deck by about a turn. This bodes considerably well for us because we can combo off a full turn before Jund can even think about putting pressure on us. With Jund being poised as the big deck of the Grand Prix, I like my odds.

One thing I’ve considered is whether Goblin Electromancer is worth including. While its ability to decrease the cost of our spells helps when our goal is to generate as much mana as possible, the games became very awkward when I tested it. The little guy never survives the turn! Goblin Electromancer is such a powerful card that it demands an answer immediately, which any good player will recognize and kill on sight. I end up spending my turn for absolutely nothing in the end, when instead I could be playing more cantrips to help enable and dig for my [card]Pyromancer Ascension[card]s.

The Missing Ingredient

Speaking of cantrips, I now present to you, kind readers, the single greatest piece of tech I’ve ever come up with, and that includes when I was among the first to have figured out about using Wrack with Madness on Phyrexian Obliterator.

I’m not hyperbolizing when I say that. So rarely has a card come through for me so well that wasn’t a 15/15 Eldrazi. It all started when I realized that Sleight of Hand and Faithless Looting sucked as far as draw spells went. I’ve lost track of the times where I’ve needed both cards off Sleight of Hand or was in topdeck mode and drew Faithless Looting when it is virtually useless.

Allow me to introduce Quicken. Don’t let its innocent cantrip appearance fool you. This card is a beast. Quicken allows us to combo off and cast Banefire whenever we damn well please. All of our rituals are instants, so it is no big deal to fire off a couple rituals on the opponent’s end step, cast Quicken, and kill them before your turn even starts. You can now cast Banefire during combat, during combos, and even in response to a hand-disruption spell!

One other nifty interaction I’ve found is using the miracle cost of Reforge the Soul with an active Pyromancer Ascension. When you cast it for its miracle cost, you can cast in response any and all rituals in your hand to float the mana in response to the copy of Reforge the Soul, then reload your hand full of cantrips and rituals. Repeat the process in response to the original Reforge. Did you hit a Quicken, Past in Flames, or Banefire in those 14 cards you just dug through? Odds are you did, so congratulations! You just won during your draw step. How many other decks can boast that?

Sideboard Secrets

I built this sideboard almost entirely with Storm mirrors in mind. Storm is a surprisingly large portion of the Toronto metagame, possibly due to the relative low cost of the deck, and I’m predicting this will be reflected at the Grand Prix. As such, I’ve developed a sideboard plan specifically designed to eviscerate other Storm decks.

First and foremost is Leyline of Sanctity. No Storm player in their right mind will board in Echoing Truth against a Storm deck, which means that landing a Turn 0 Leyline in Game 2 is game over. When I took this deck to the GPT, I did just that against a Storm opponent. And there is only one way to describe his reaction:

I also have three Silences to disrupt their combo, since casting it in response to Past in Flames or Epic Experiment is just backbreaking. I bring in my Echoing Truths under the assumption that they bring in Empty the Warrens, and I just like to hedge my bets against the random Turn 2 swarm of goblins.

My most devious sideboard plan is not unlike the samurai art of iaijutsu, or quick-draw technique. Have you ever watched an old samurai movie where they just hold back and wait for the opponent to make their move, and then in one fluid motion draw their sword and slice their enemy in half? That’s what I based this strategy on. I bring in the Grapeshots in the Storm mirror, not to storm off myself, but for when they start their combo.

This is the funniest and most rage-inducing use of Quicken I’ve ever seen. I allow them to build up a massive storm count, and just as they pull the trigger and cast Grapeshot, I cast Quicken and my own Grapeshot in response for two more storm count. I just sit back and let them do all the work before killing them with two spells. It’s this final nail in the coffin that has gotten me to 52-8 in Cockatrice Storm mirrors.

Against Jund, I have simple advice: Stick. The freaking. Leyline. Shutting off their early discard spells is key, since you can act with relative impunity. With the Leyline, they can’t even Rakdos Charm away your graveyard. You can just go about your business footloose and fancy-free. Case in point: my only loss in the Swiss of that GPT was to Ben Clinton, a buddy and local grinder. I stuck Leyline on Turn 0, rendering the Inquisition of Kozilek and Lightning Bolt in his hand useless, so instead he had to find a Liliana to wreck my hand. He even went so far as to activate her ultimate targeting me, which he technically couldn’t do since I was an illegal target, so it was rewound and he continued to use her to mess with my hand. Had the Leyline not been there, I’d have lost nearly all my lands in the process. I didn’t even mind losing that one because I knew he’d be ripped apart by our friends on Twitter.

Burn is also a fairly common occurrence in Toronto, simply by virtue of the cost of the deck and its favorable matchup with Jund. For this, once again, stick the bloody Leyline. Mull into it if you have to, just get it in play. Having the Leyline forces them to either attack with dinky 2/2s and use Deathrite Shaman to get around it because so many of their cards become blanks. This slows them down just enough for us to combo off. One thing to note is that often it’s better to search for the shockland and leave it tapped. Anything to conserve your life total can mean entire turns against Burn, so it’s important to not get reckless with our life total.

Take for example my Round 3 opponent, Tony Cameron. He’s been playing Burn pretty much as long as I’ve known him, and he’s pretty much the only Burn player I’m actually worried about playing against. Even with the Leylines I barely scraped together a win, and that was only because rather than paying two life for a Gitaxian Probe mid-combo with Pyromancer Ascension active, I tapped an Island, saw a Mindbreak Trap and passed the turn. The next turn I untapped and cast Seething Song -> Banefire to play around the trap. That two life prevented me from dying on his turn.

The Stony Silences are there to supplement my game plan against Eggs. In addition to our plan against regular Storm, these help shut off nearly every card in the Eggs deck. It’s also great against Tron and Affinity, since the early games for both those decks require activating a lot of artifacts. We use Stony Silence to slow them down long enough to get our combo going. This is especially helpful against Tron, which has Relic of Progenitus to mess with our graveyard. Spellskite is particularly troublesome in multiples because Banefire can only target one thing at a time. Shutting off that little guy makes the match far more winnable.

Final Advice

This is a highly metagamed deck, tuned for what I will most likely see at Grand Prix Toronto. If you consider playing this list, remember that. Jund and Storm will always be a big players in Modern, but it’s important to analyze your own metas and adjust accordingly. If there’s a lot of Tron, throw in some Early Frost or even Vandalblast. Infect keeping you down? Drop some Spellskites and Electrickery in there! The sideboard is not set in stone, and because of the diversity of the format, it’s important to pay attention to what the people around you are playing.

I hope to see you all at Grand Prix Toronto. I’ll be there all weekend slinging cardboard, trying to make Day 2 with my measly single bye, so stop by and say hello. I love meeting like-minded brewers at big events and conversing about different tech, so I invite everyone to come on down and chat.

— Tyler Priemer
@tylerthefro on Twitter and Cockatrice

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