Fire with Fire: A Look at Post-Khans Burn

Cue Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Cue The Cure’s “Fire in Cairo.” Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” would fit, and listen to Jimi Hendrix sing “Let me stand next to your fire.” Take it down a notch with James Taylor crooning that he’s seen fire and rain. You can hardly front tickets in a Modern MTGO Event without experiencing the burn, so you might as well have an appropriate soundtrack for it.

Burn is a funny animal and a lesson in good deck choices. It will probably never, in its current state, win a big professional event (acceptable allowances of variance aside), but it remains to be a very solid choice in ticketed dailies and queues. Why? Four reasons: speed, consistency, and context.

Burn is fast. Who wants to grind out the full hour-long match for that deciding third game instead of play quickly and catch up on Twitch, YouTube, and Netflix? Games are often decided before turn 5, and Burn keeps the pace of the format at turn four. If you can’t aim to win or control the game by then, then your deck belongs in the bin.

Secondly, Burn is consistent. A mulligan basically allows your opponent to start at 23, but fortunately Burn doesn’t need to mulligan in instances other than no land or greater than 4 land. It curves out just right, both in terms of the opponent’s life total, and the mana development.

The third reason has to do with the state of the format. As long as players are aligning good deck choices for big events with good deck choices for daily events, they will not respect Burn. As long as players aren’t respecting Burn, Burn gets free wins. Beyond that, fetches are coming back, and in Modern you’re already looking to deal less damage than in any other format due to our mana-bases.

How can we take advantage of this situation? Do we queue up Soul Sisters? The life gain would certainly help. But what if we get paired against Storm, Scapeshift, Tron, and Twin with the poor girls? No, we’re going to brew up a Burn deck that beats Burn decks: Rakdos Burn.

Traditionally, Burn sides in [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] against Burn. For every three Burn spells your opponent plays, you have drawn a card, gained life, made a [c]Time Walk[/c] out of one of your opponent’s early turns, etc. The life resource management is especially important with [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] in the deck: often, one player will lock himself out with his own enchantment creature while the [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] player gets out of reach. If a player is so bold, I suppose they have the option of playing [c]Smash to Smithereens[/c] out of their side, placed there for the Affinity match-up, but I personally don’t like this strategy.

This gets me to answering your question: Why Rakdos? Well, what’s better than a [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c]? How about two [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c]s? How about a [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] that is relevant in other match-ups? How about [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] that is invulnerable to most permanent removal? That comes down on turn one? That causes damage as well as gains life, and acts as [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] 5-8? If you haven’t guessed by now, the card is [c]Bloodchief Ascension[/c]. Every burn spell your burn opponent plays will deal zero ([c]Magma Jet[/c]) to two ([c]Boros Charm[/c] and [c]Flames of the Firebrand[/c]) damage, and they will lose life as well. What’s more, we already know from [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] that Burn is soft to enchantments.

The best part about it all is: [c]Bloodchief Ascension[/c] is relevant in match-ups where [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] is not: [c]Scapeshift[/c] spells its own doom, the [c]Birthing Pod[/c] engine is shut down, and Storm kills itself while buying you time. Against Aggro decks, your burn spells are turned ‘on’ even when they target your opponent’s creatures to destroy them. The enchantment takes up some setting up, but an easy line of play is turn 1 Ascension, turn 2 combination of sorcery and instant burn spells, and turn three burn spell. I almost think that [c]Bloodchief Ascension[/c] is worth playing in the main, but until I’m convinced, I’m happy to have four in the side that see a lot of play during an event or marathon 2-mans and 8-mans.

Let’s take a look at the current deck and then what Khans gives us.

[d title=”Rakdos Burn (Modern)”]
Land
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Blood Crypt
2 Dragonskull Summit
8 Mountain
2 Sulfurous Springs

Creatures
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Guide
4 Hellspark Elemental

Other Spells
4 Bump in the Night
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rift Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
1 Searing Blood
3 Shard Volley
4 Skullcrack

Sideboard
4 Bloodchief Ascension
1 Dark Tutelage
3 Molten Rain
3 Rakdos Charm
2 Searing Blood
2 Shattering Spree[/d]

The deck’s curve tops out at 2, allowing for maximum consistency. We want a good mix of instants and sorceries for games two and three.

monestary-swiftspear-fullcardThe side is fairly what is expected from our experiences with mono-red burn with the exceptions of [c]Dark Tutelage[/c], for grindy games, and [c]Rakdos Charm[/c], for [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] aggro matches, [c]Splinter Twin[/c] matches, and graveyard-matters matches. Just remember not to side out more than five cards (which is more than enough) in a given match, even if you can imagine some situation where things are relevant.

What does Khans bring us? Well, the thing I’m most excited about is [c]Bloodstained Mire[/c]. It may not seem like much, but having an active [c]Searing Blaze[/c] on your opponent’s turn is huge for [c]Bloodchief Ascension[/c].

A second card of note is [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c]. She isn’t right for Rakdos burn, but I personally feel that she is worthy of consideration in the mono-red decks. In this archetype, however, she places a strain between sorcery and instant speed Burn spells in games two and three that may not be acceptable. She doesn’t give your opponents land, though, which is very relevant. What we have to ask ourselves is, is she a replacement for [c]Goblin Guide[/c] or the other 4 worst cards? Probably the latter, so here’s my shot at mono-red Burn post-Khans:

[d title=”Mono Red Burn Post Khans (Modern)”]
Land
20 Mountain

Creatures
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Guide
2 Hellspark Elemental
4 Monastery Swiftspear

Other Spells
3 Flames of the Blood Hand
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rift Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
3 Shard Volley
4 Skullcrack[/d]

Here I just shaved some from the top of the curve, [c]Hellspark Elemental[/c] and [c]Flames of the Blood Hand[/c] and eased up on the narrower “Searing” cards to make way for the new creature. She’s no [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] in terms of impact, but she will be relevant.

After Khans, the only thing I see to do to my proposed Rakdos Burn deck is change the mana-base to 8 [c]Mountain[/c], 4 [c]Bloodstained Mire[/c], and 4 [c]Blood Crypt[/c]. Then you’re good to go!

I know that some of you are probably finding Burn and its discussions laborious. I hope that after reading this new approach, you can find it in yourself to forgive me and allow yourself to play this great strategy. Good luck either way.