Hello everyone, and welcome back to Legit MTG. I hope you all are doing well, and staying safe. It is an exciting time of the year as we soon have Core Set 2021 coming out both digitally, and then in paper. We also have Jumpstart coming out shortly after that, and within a few months Double Masters. Summer always brings a lot of cards with it to our collections, but it also brings one other thing some people enjoy. The heat. Being the hottest time of year also feels like the most active. We want to go to places (oftentimes with our friends, and family), experience new things, and overall enjoy life. It seems to go fast though, and is gone before we know it. In some respects there is an archetype in Magic that is quite similar leaving you with ample time between matches to cooldown, and recharge before your next opponent. That archetype is none other than Burn.
Of the archetypes in the history of Magic: the Gathering, a deck that focuses on dealing as much damage directly to the opponent has been a concept since the beginning. Supported by Lighting Bolt, Fireball, and Disintegrate, dealing lethal damage to the opponent would be a quick way to achieve victory even after your bad creatures (Ironclaw Orcs anyone?) connected for a few hits. Fortunately as times have changed the options we have for this archetype have become a lot better.
Burn appears in multiple formats. In Standard it’s been a top archetype for at least the last 5 years, in Legacy it’s remained as one of the cheapest options to enter the format, and it’s even a solid option to play in Pauper. However in Modern it’s been a mainstay of the format since its inception, and that is where our focus will be today. The “red deck with direct damage” deck has many variations to it. From the “Red Deck Wins” style that uses aggressive creatures to deal the bulk of the damage, to decks revolving around the Prowess mechanic, and your more traditional deck full of “3 damage for 1 red” spells this archetype can appear in many different styles as well as colors. Let’s take a look at an option that’s been a solid contender in Modern for a few years.
How the deck works
Boros Burn, or simply named Burn, is a deck focused on defeating your opponent as quickly as possible oftentimes with direct damage. Sporting 16 (SIXTEEN) spells that can deal 3 damage for 1 red mana, this deck is fast, efficient, and against a slower opponent can be deadly. Leading with a Goblin Guide, especially on the play, puts your opponent on the backfoot immediately. Sure they may draw a land, but they can only play one per turn during the early part of the game. By the time your opponent can start doing things they may have already been hit by the goblin 2 or 3 times. Not bad for an investment of 1 mana.
Don’t be afraid of taking some damage yourself. Your life is a resource, and you should be focused on making sure your opponent is at 0. If that requires you to lose several points of life when you set up a turn where Monastery Swiftspear is dealing 3 (or more) damage as you are casting multiple spells then so be it. That’s how the deck should run, but make sure to manage your life wisely. Getting reckless could be what causes you to lose.
Why this may be for you
- You can’t deal 20 damage to your opponent in one turn, but you could win by turn 3 or 4 with a good draw. Doing this in quick fashion can leave you a lot of time between rounds.
- Aggressive decks are your favorite type of decks. Blocking requires math, while attacking requires turning a card sideways.
- Red may be your favorite color. Sometimes it is that simple.
Why this may not be for you
- You don’t enjoy aggressive decks, or attacking with creatures. It’s okay.
- You find the sequencing of spells difficult at times. While the deck may feel simplistic knowing when to cast a spell, and what spell to cast at the time, is still key to playing a deck well. Even this one.
- The gameplay is too repetitive. That’s completely understandable.
While there are pros and cons with every deck Burn does have some customization available to it that other archetypes may not have. Boros isn’t the only option here. Let’s take a look at a few other directions.
Adding a splash of green to the Boros version gives you access to Wild Nacatl in the main deck, along with Atarka’s Command, and having green based enchantment removal in the board gives you multiple ways to attack your opponent. However a three color mana base can lead to problems, and Wild Nacatl requires you to have back to back fetchlands into shocklands putting your life total at risk pretty early. While some may embrace it this play pattern may not be for everyone.
Adding green, removing white
While this will still provide you access to Atarka’s Command, this version replaces Wild Nacatl with Kird Ape. A classic creature from the beginning of this game it makes a good home for this deck. Keep in mind you lose not only Lightning Helix, but Boros Charm. You could replace those with more burn spells, Light Up The Stage, or another creature such as Hooting Mandrills.
Adding black, removing white
While not ideal you do get access to cards such as Bump In The Night which does provide additional direct damage. If you keep your curve low you can also include cards such as Dark Confidant, and even bring in Bitterblossom from the board. Again you are an aggressive deck where your life total is a resource. No color uses life as a resource more than black. Fatal Push and Terminate (or Dreadbore) could also be good here to clear the way of opposing threats. Especially those too big for Lightning Bolt to deal with.
Remove white, add…blue?
While traditionally an ally color when building Storm based combo decks blue can provide some interesting options. First it has cheap card draw to trigger prowess. Second are cheap creatures that interact with your spells (such as Snapcaster Mage, and Thing In The Ice). Third it has some tempo cards that benefit a spellslinger strategy. Delver of Secrets, Izzet Charm, and Vapor Snag to name a few. In a deck like this you would also want to run Kiln Fiend as a big finisher.
While running mono colors may not seem ideal it can be the most efficient. Take a look at the Prowess deck for an example of this. In a deck constructed this way you can even run a few utility lands to help against opposing strategies. Field of Ruin or Ghost Quarter against creature lands such as Raging Ravine, Forgotten Caves to draw cards, or even Mutavault if you choose to have a tribal synergy with your creatures (such as goblins). You could still run fetchlands to fill the graveyard for Grim Lavamancer to use, and damage your opponent in an alternate way, and you are mostly immune to Blood Moon (which can be helpful against Tron and Jund).
Burn strategies have been the hallmark of red based aggressive decks since the game was created. Lightning Bolt, and Fireball, are so ubiquitous in the game’s lexicon that they have become verbs for game actions taken. A favorite archetype of many players you rarely hear the outcries against this strategy like you would about blue based counterspell decks, and that’s part of what makes the game as great as it is. With many Bolt enthusiasts as there are within the community you will find that everyone has a different take on how they wish to roast their opponents, but they all agree that tapping one red mana to deal 3 is quite the appeal.
One of my first Legacy decks was Burn, and one of my first Modern decks also was Burn. It’s such a fun strategy when entering the format, and playing it can help you learn what opposing decks are trying to do. What Modern build is your favorite, and why? Share your thoughts below, and follow me on Twitter as well as Facebook.
Fasten your seatbelts as I’ll Jumpstart right into next week’s article.
TAP MORE MANA!!!
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