The Modern Burn Bible


The Modern Burn Bible

2016-01-17 18_11_27-January 18, 2016 Banned and Restricted Announcement _ MAGIC_ THE GATHERING

Someone just opened Pandora’s Box.  Fellow and future Red Mages, we have work to do.

This format is about to see a major shake up, and rumblings from my MTGO brethren have indicated that the tide is already starting to rise.  I usually have a long-winded soliloquy in my articles, waxing on and off about theory and strategy.  I’m going to keep this one to the point; I’m going to tell you how to play your Matchups, give you a list, and give you the cards to consider as the format evolves.  Note; this article is meant to be bookmarked, saved, printed, or referred to when you need information on a Matchup.  It’s a bit lengthy for a full one-time sitting so don’t feel obligated to do so.  It also would have taken me way too long to go back and link every card, so I leave that up to you (as I assume most of these are fairly common knowledge to Modern players).  Let us begin:

What We Expect In The Next Few Months

Tron, Burn, Affinity, Zoo, Merfolk, Lantern, Jund, Abzan, Scapeshift, Infect, CoCo and Eldrazi all just breathed a huge sigh of relief, re-upped, and reloaded.  Two of the best combo decks in the format are dead, one being the fastest, the other being the most consistent.  This means your sideboards can become tightly focused on Aggro as well as specific Combo decks, rather than being a paintbrush that doesn’t always hit its mark.  Tron is for sure the #1 deck out of the gate because it gets a possible upgrade in Kozilek’s Return and it was always pretty consistent.  Grishoalbrand has room to breathe too, but its more susceptible to hate and not as consistent.

This is great news for Burn players.  I felt Burn was the best deck for a long time, but eliminating a difficult matchup (Bloom) and a close matchup (Twin) from the equation as well as leaving one of the best matchups (Tron) to rule the roost means it’s party time.  You can now focus on the mirror, other Aggro decks, and Tron / Grishoalbrand.

The Auto Includes

These are the cards that should almost never leave your list:

4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
2 Searing Blaze
2 Skullcrack

19-21 Lands, Fetches not exceeding 12

The rest is all up for debate, metagame calls, and the splash flavor of your deck, but the cards above are your bread and butter.  Don’t be foolish and see something cool, thinking it’s good to waver on numbers.  You WILL lose percentage points, and you will likely be making a poor decision or fundamentally changing the archetype you are playing.  Following the guide I will provide my current list, but it is imperative you understand the decisions that go into it.

vs Tron

Keys to the Matchup:
You are usually a turn faster than Tron on average, unless they are on the play and assemble tron on turn 3.  This is a big advantage and why you are the favored deck.  Yes, they have sideboard cards and plans, ranging from more Spellskites, to Nature’s Claims, Feed the Clan, Thragtusk, Platinum Angel, Sweepers, etc, but you also have additional firepower.

Like most matchups, you want to lead with your creatures here, usually Guide into Eidolon, as that maximizes the most damage you’ll be able to do with them and to your opponent in general.  It is likely that they will have a Pyroclasm effect or that your creatures will be invalidated quickly, so the more usage you can get out of them before these events happen the better shape you will be in.

Skullcrack and Atarka’s Command are very important because they prevent lifegain from their payoff cards, while at the same time dodging Spellskite’s ability.  Additionally, Atarka’s Command can at times save your creatures from a Pyroclasm effect, as can Boros Charm.  I like having access to as many of these kind of effects as possible against the Tron matchup if it’s being heavily played.  On the flip side, Searing Blaze and Searing Blood are infinitely less impressive as they often have no useful targets.

Destructive Revelry is your best sideboard card against them, as it destroys over 50% of the cards in their deck for value, including Spellskite which is one of their major means of combating you.  Smash to Smithereens is even more efficient if you both have the room for it and Leyline of Sanctity isn’t very popular.

Path to Exile and Deflecting Palm are both good choices as well.  Path to Exile ensures that you can both survive a Wurmcoil Engine as well as not allowing the opponent to get tokens from it.  Deflecting Palm has bigger upside in that it does more damage than any burn spell of yours could hope to do, but it’s more of a liability once your opponent knows you have it and it’s not as proactive.  Both however, are quite useful in this Matchup outside of not being able to deal with Karn Liberated.  Just remember that your spells need to do a certain threshold of damage all together, so these kind of cards should be kept to minimal numbers if you actually want to close out the game.

Stony Silence, Molten Rain, and Rain of Gore are a bit fringe, but they can each be a part of the equation at times.  Stony Silence shuts off a portion of their digging pieces, and the activated portion of Spellskite.  It suffers by being a Nature’s Claim target and not stopping Sylvan Scrying or Ancient Stirrings.  Molten Rain often prevents Tron from happening or delays it enough that you can burn them out, but it’s slow at 3 CMC and they often will just be able to dig out another tron land again quickly.  Still, if Tron becomes as big as it looks, Molten Rain is reasonable and also doubles at being good against Celestial Colonnade Blue decks.  Lastly, Rain of Gore is a punishing card for their lifegain strategies, but like Stony Silence it also suffers from Nature’s Claim.

Another point to consider in this match is your CMC density and splash colors.  The more 2 CMC spells you have in your list, the slower your Burn deck becomes and thus negates the advantage you have over Tron.  Versions of Burn with Bump in the Night can be attractive when keeping this fact in mind and may be worth switching to if things with Naya just aren’t working out.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Deflecting Palm, Path to Exile, Skullcrack, Atarka’s Command, Destructive Revelry, Molten Rain, Stony Silence, Smash to Smithereens, Rain of Gore, Bump in the Night, Efficiency, Slaughter Pact, Doom Blade, Terminate, Blood Moon

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
– Searing Blaze, – Lavamancer, – Helix, (-1 or 2 Rift Bolt / Boros Charm if absolutely necessary)
+ Reverly, Skullcrack, Path, Palm

On the Draw:
Same, although you may want to bring out Eidolon as he’s now a slower liability.  You can also board out 1 Mountain (assuming you’re playing 20 lands)

vs Affinity

Keys to the Matchup:
Game 1 is not great as they are the faster deck, however you aren’t that much slower so you can definitely keep pace with many of their hands.  Vault Skirge, Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer, Master of Etherium, and Cranial Plating are the ones to be concerned about and what usually demand answers as soon as you have them.

The issue on the Affinity side is that they don’t always have a great start.  Even if it looks explosive, cards like Signal Pest, Ornithopter, and Memnite don’t do much against you.  Thus, keep your Burn focused on them and do not be tempted to point it downwards just because they fling their whole hand on the board.  And even if they do have one of their payoff cards, you can many times race it if you do the math and sequence your spells correctly.  Even Vault Skirge gaining life is not always a big deal if it’s just a point a turn.  When it becomes equipped with a Cranial Plating or is accompanied by 2 Signal Pests, now that’s a different story.  Don’t forget about Inkmoth Nexus either, a Plating is equally deadly on him.

This is a Matchup where maindeck Searing Blaze / Blood and Lightning Helix truly shine.  Every two-for-one that you can get against them helps your damage race, and any surprise lifegain spell can throw off the critical combat turn.  These games are often over by turn 4 – 6, so one unexpected change can spell the difference.  Similarly, Grim Lavamancer can take over if he’s on the board early, helping you dilute their sources of metalcraft and be a repeatable source of damage.

There’s great debate among Burn players about Eidolon of the Great Revel.  Like the Burn mirror match, he’s often a card that is sided out on the draw.  However, because he’s so powerful and because your opponent won’t always have a fast start even when they’re on the play, he’s still quite good.  Keep a mental note of your opponent’s build in game 1 because if it’s heavy on Thoughtcast and payoff cards it might be worth it to keep him in.  Usually though he’s a quick out.

A few quirks of this Matchup to be aware of.  Atarka’s Command can pump your guys but ALSO gives them Reach.  This is important when your opponent has a Signal Pest onboard or an Ornithopter that they are trying to Plating you to death with.  Galvanic Blast is something most Affinity builds have access to, so like Lightning Helix remember that it can affect the race and play with it in mind.  Your fetch lands and shock lands are a big part of this same race, so be sure to play them appropriately and not take an unnecessary life point that ends up being the difference.

In Game 1 lead with your creatures and slow spells (Rift Bolt, 2 CMC spells) as often as you can as this will allow you to play more single bolt spells later which is important to reaching critical mass on time and maximizing your mana use.

Post-Board you bring in a ton against Affinity with almost any build.  More Searing Blaze / Blood, Revelrys, Smashes, sometimes Path, sometimes Palm, sometimes Skullcrack, Electrickery, etc.  Again, 2-for-1s are great and anything that directly destroys an artifact.  Path and Palm are just OK because if they have the appropriate mana they can move their plating over to a different guy in response.  Both also aren’t proactive so they can just nickel and dime you with creatures sometimes if they expect you have it and are close enough to race.  Electrickery is a very useful tool to keep up with their more explosive draws and can sometimes simply blow them out of the water.

Their plan against you is to bring in more Etched Champions, Spellskites, cheap counters, and possibly cards such as Welding Jar.  Revelry can deal with these in addition to you just ignoring them at times with cards like Atarka’s Command and Skullcrack.  Oath of the Gatewatch brought us Reality Hemorrhage which is about as good a card we could ask for against things with protection from Red.  It invalidates Etched Champion, Kor Firewalker, and Circle of Protection Red, all things which you’re not happy to see.

Boros Charm is one of the worst cards in the match, as other than being efficient it can’t kill any of their guys, costs 2 CMC, and requires you to fetch Sacred Foundry.  It’s usually one of the cards I tend to board some number of out.

Rakdos Charm and Stony Silence are powerful answers if you’re in those colors, so keep them in mind as you’re making your last few board slots.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Electrickery, Destructive Revelry, Smash to Smithereens, Gut Shot, Forked Bolt, Stony Silence, Rakdos Charm, Hurkyl’s Recall, Sudden Shock, Reality Hemorrhage, Path to Exile, Deflecting Palm, Shattering Spree, Anger of the Gods, Flamebreak, Skullcrack, Searing Blaze, Searing Blood, Lightning Helix

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
-4 Boros Charm, – some number of Swiftspear or Eidolon
+3-4 Revelry, +Helix, + Blaze / Blood, + (Path / Palm and/or Skullcrack if room.  Do not overboard)

On the Draw:
-4 Boros Charm, -4 Eidolon
+3-4 Revelry, +Helix, + Blaze / Blood, + (Path / Palm and/or Skullcrack if room.  Do not overboard)

vs Zoo and GR Aggro

Keys to the Matchup:
Zoo and GR Aggro are tough matchups.  Burn never likes to see quick, highly efficient creatures on the board because creatures like that often win races.  Additionally, it means you have to point your Burn to the ground at times which is the last thing you want to do.

Like Affinity, the more Blaze / Blood effects you have the better off you are.  Their creatures aren’t as explosive, but they are often bigger than yours making yours relatively invalidated unless you can surprise them with an Atarka’s Command.  You do however have the advantage of being more efficient than they are mana-wise and having more reach (burn), which are the pieces to you winning the Matchup.

Because of how creature-centric this Matchup is, be sure to only kill a creature if it’s about to kill you or if you think it’s going to get them some kind of very significant advantage.  All of your creatures are 1 or 2 drops, while theirs can scale a bit and they might get stuck with an awkward turn.

Post-Board can vary depending on your opponent’s list.  Smaller Zoo decks will usually just be bringing in things like Grim Lavamancer, Kor Firewalker, Thalia, Dromoka’s Command, etc.  You’ll be bringing in similar cards to the Affinity Matchup (sans Revelry), so you don’t mind this too much.  If Zoo rises in popularity, it is worthwhile to consider a sweeper effect like Flamebreak or Anger of the Gods, as this is a lynchpin to winning the damage race since some number of your creatures are usually coming out after board.

Bigger Zoo decks will have things like Geist of Saint Traft and Baneslayer Angel, both of which can be difficult to deal with but they are also both generally slow versus you and require a heavy dose of pain from their manabase.  Against decks like this, it may be worth it to bring in additional Skullcracks as they also tend to be lifegain heavy.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Ghor-Clan Rampager, Searing Blaze, Searing Blood, Lightning Helix, Kor Firewalker (vs GR), Reality Hemorrhage, Anger of the Gods, Flamebreak, Skullcrack (Bigger Zoo), Terminate, Doom Blade

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
-4 Eidolon, – some number of Boros Charm and/or Skullcrack (build dependent)
+ Blaze / Blood, + Flamebreak / Anger of the Gods, + Lightning Helix

On the Draw:
Same as on the play.

vs Jund

Keys to the Matchup:
Jund used to be one of the more favorable Matchups, in fact it was often one I preferred to play against.  They have Dark Confidant and Thoughtseize which are both big liabilities, and most of their spells are either non damage removal or reactive.

This changed slightly though.  Jund decks started becoming spell heavy, running more Inquisitions than Thoughtseizes, gaining access to heavier lifegain out of the board, and pilots are playing more aggressively.  I played Jund for a full season in Modern so I’ve had a solid experience both with and against the deck, so these changes became apparent quickly.

In Game 1, the worst starts are when they have lots of early discard backed up by Tarmogoyf and Liliana.  Honestly the latter two are the lynchpin pieces to them winning, as well as the possibility of a big Ooze lategame.  One noteable point with Ooze though is that you usually don’t have many creatures in the graveyard and they often can’t leave up too much Green mana (or simply won’t have it).

Kolaghan’s Command is a card that is mostly boarded out for them, but its discard effect can be troublesome when combined with the rest of their suite.  You need to fight these spells by being as efficient as possible (as usual).  You’re still the faster deck, so as long as they don’t get down two giant Goyfs it’s not the end of the world.  Get as many of your spells off as you can before a Liliana comes down and then the discard mode won’t matter as you’ll just play whatever you draw off the top.

Post-Board Jund may have access to Feed the Clan, so pay close attention when they have two mana sitting up on your turn so that you can plan your Atarka’s Commands and Skullcracks wisely.  Kitchen Finks and Thragtusk fall along the same lines, so it’s imperative that you keep a life denial option open on those particular turns.

Besides lifegain, Jund can many times have access to sweepers Post-Board.  Cards like Anger of the Gods and Damnation are reasonable, and they potentially can bring in additional spot Removal so they have extra answers to Eidolon and Goblin Guide.  As a result, your plan in turn is to cut creatures post-board and maximize the amount of Skullcrack effects you have.  You want to keep some number in, such as Goblin Guide, but everyone else is fair game to become more direct damage heavy in an attempt to fight on an axis that is unfair to them.

Path to Exile is a good answer to their biggest threats (Goyf, Tasigur, Raging Ravine), so I recommend having some number of them post-board to bring in for this matchup.

Searing Blaze is a mixed bag.  Yes it has targets, but post-board they are generally taking out Dark Confidant so there are even less potentials to go around, and because it’s so conditional it can often rot in your hand where another Burn spell could have represented damage.  I used to board more in, now I sometimes board them out depending on how I feel about their Jund list.  Burn players typically didn’t play cards like Path and Deflecting Palm in the past, so these new role players can fill those previously awkward spots.

This is one of the matchups where Boros Charm can shine a bit.  All three modes are relevant at times, whether it’s pure damage efficiency, stopping a sweeper effect, or double-striking a giant Monastery Swiftspear.  Remember that it has these different modes and is not just a Lava Axe.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Searing Blaze, Path to Exile, Lightning Helix, Skullcrack, Deflecting Palm (borderline because of Liliana), Destructive Revelry (if they have Courser, no if not), Bump in the Night (speed), Terminate

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
– some number of Blaze, – some number of Monastery Swiftspear
+ Path to Exiles, Skullcracks, and (Helix + Palm, optional)

On the Draw:
– some number of Blaze, – 1 Mountain (if taking out Blazes), – your pick of creature if you wish (can keep them in too).  Usually 1-2 Eidolon or Swiftspear
+Path to Exiles, Skullcracks, and (Helix optional)
Note – Blazes can go either way (addition or subtraction) depending on your preference.  Palms shouldn’t usually come in on the draw because of the amount of discard they have reducing your number of direct damage spells

vs Eldrazi

Keys to the Matchup:
A relative newcomer to the scene, this deck has several variants with the most successful versions appearing to be BW and UB.  It’s basically mini Tron, minus the giant lifegain wurm and plus some discard and tokens.  I think the deck is very capable and have played against it with Burn, the matches felt largely similar to Tron in that you’re a slight step ahead most of the time but their disruption and acceleration keep it close.

One advantage over Tron is that while your Blaze effects aren’t ideal because of Spellskite and some unkillable targets, they do have some options, and Eldrazi’s heavy hitters don’t typically one-shot you like those in Tron.

Post-Board depending again on their build they can have things such as Timely Reinforcements, Celestial Purge, Duress, Drown in Sorrow, Disfigure, and Vampiric Link.  So your best plans are to be heavy on Atarka’s Command / Skullcrack, Electrickery, and to play around Timely when possible.  Whether that means taking extra damage from fetch and shock lands or suiciding creatures, it can be a big deal if that’s their route to victory.

Unlike Tron, the Eldrazi deck usually doesn’t have many artifacts besides ones they’re either boarding out or are able to use before you can remove them.  They tend to have some number of Spellskite, but this isn’t problematic enough that I’d want to bring in situational Revelrys unless it’s the UB version and they have the full 4 Skite.

Your creatures are more valuable in this matchup as they don’t have too many roadblocks in the early game and limited removal.  Also, the BW version doesn’t always have sweepers and even against the ones that do it’s typically of the slower variety where your creatures have already done their part.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Skullcrack, Path to Exile, Searing Blaze, Searing Blood, Revelry (only if artifact heavy), Electrickery, Rakdos Charm (if they are token heavy), Deflecting Palm, Terminate, Doom Blade

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
-Some number of Blaze, – Some number of Lavamancer or Swiftspear
+ Electrickery, Skullcrack, Path, Palm

On the Draw:
Same as on the play, except I’d leave Swiftspear in.  Can cut 1 Mountain too.

vs Collected Company Combo and Kiki-Chord Combo

Keys to the Matchup:
Collected Company decks come in a variety of flavors, with Abzan being the more combo oriented one and Naya / Elves being value oriented.  The gameplan is similar against both as they are mostly Zoo-ish in nature, requiring Blaze and Blood effects as often as possible.

The difference with the Abzan Combo version is that you want anti-lifegain as well for if they go infinite against you (and because of the presence of 4 Kitchen Finks), so additional Skullcracks are demanded.  You also want to have Path to Exile or a similar effect so that you can remove one of their combo pieces if they try to go off before you can kill them.  So basically play like you were playing against Zoo, with the caveat being to hold up certain spells turns 3-6 when you can.  It’s equally important to stay aggressive, as durdling around too much favors their inevitability.

Post-Board they bring in cards like Burrenton Forge-Tender, Scavenging Ooze, Voice of Resurgence, Eidolon of Rhetoric, Lightning Helix, Engineered Explosives, and more Spellskites if they don’t have many in the maindeck.

Due to their threat density and propensity for more hate after board, this matchup can be very close.  You can only sideboard so many cards without making your deck significantly worse, so the order is generally to favor Blaze / Blood / Skullcrack cards, followed by Path and a specific hate choice if you have it.  Rakdos Charm (1 damage to controller for each creature they control) and Grafdigger’s Cage (stopping CoCo and Chord) are some of the best.  Destructive Revelry can be a possible option, but it’s a fine line to tow.  It depends on how much you value killing potential Spellskites, Coursers, or Eidolon of Rhetorics.

Voice of Resurgence is a thorn in your side, but also a blessing if you’re playing Rakdos Charm.  Remember that you can throw burn spells at them during their turn to trigger his ability (it is NOT a may trigger), and then choose the damage mode on Charm to hit them for the kill shot.  This happened to me during a PTQ one time where I hit my opponent for exactly 9 damage when he was at 9 life and I was dead on board.

As for what to cut, your creatures are some of the first to go since they get stonewalled early and are targeted heavily in games 2 and 3.  Because you’re usually bringing in more 2-for-1s you can afford to lose some repeatable damage sources in favor of fighting them solely on the Burn axis.  Eidolon is still valuable when on the Play, but is often too slow on the draw.  Lavamancer is good here at keeping them off of Birds mana and helping you deal with Persist in the early game.  But like other creature decks you face, most Burn spells should go to the face.  Boros Charm isn’t great either, and since you have to make room for a lot of spells it’s best to trim some of them.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Grafdigger’s Cage, Anger of the Gods, Rakdos Charm, Searing Blaze, Searing Blood, Path to Exile, Destructive Revelry (borderline), Skullcrack, Electrickery (Elves only), Flamebreak

General Sideboard Guidelines (vs Combo):
 On the Play:
– 2-4 Boros Charm, 2-4 Monastery Swiftspear, Guides or Rift Bolts as needed (preferably don’t sideboard that deep)
+ Searing Blazes / Blood, Skullcrack, Anger or Flamebreak, Grafdigger’s Cage, Rakdos Charm (if in those colors), Paths, 1 Revelry (if heavy on Skite / Courser)

On the Draw:
Same as on the play except cutting Eidolons over Swiftspears.  And again please feel free to mise, there’s no need in any of these matchups to cut a full playset of a card.  It’s always good to have some element of a card in  your deck unless it’s truly awful

General Sideboard Guidelines (vs Value):
 On the Play:
Same as Combo except not a big need for extra Skullcracks since you already have a good amount of that effect mainboard and they don’t typically have much lifegain.  It’s possible though that with the future meta Skullcrack might be needed.

On the Draw:
Same as Combo, with again the Skullcrack consideration.

vs Infect

Keys to the Matchup:
Generally Infect is a favorable Matchup but since it is a quick deck you are punished greatly for mistakes.  The most important line to understand is that you want to try to kill creatures at the end of their turn or during your turn.  By doing this, you force them to use their pump spells at times that are not advantageous, and thus dilute their available ways to kill you.

Your life total does not matter in this Matchup, so feel free to go fetch and shock land crazy as needed to play your spells in the most efficient manner possible.  Hopefully you are able to land an early Grim Lavamancer and/or Eidolon as these cards make it very difficult for them to go off on a given turn.

Usually during the match, the Infect player will get in a hit or two for 3-5 poision counters.  This is a point where I see a lot of Burn players worry and try to shoot down a guy in response to a pump spell.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to avoid doing this unless you get a read on your opponent somehow.  Save the burn for the appropriate time, and if they kill you because you didn’t do it in response it was probably meant to be regardless.

This is one of the matchups where it’s OK to point some of your burn spells to the ground.  They are really limited on creatures and that’s their whole game plan.  If you can clear the road of threats, your creatures will finish them off in short order and if not you’re more likely to draw lethal burn spells than they are creatures.

The worst things that can happen to you from an intelligent Infect player is that they will sandbag their cards until they believe they can go off no matter what you respond with, or post-board they will Nature’s Claim their own stuff to save themselves on the critical turn while killing you on their following turn.  Eidolon makes the sandbag plan a little sketch, since if they’re not able to answer him you can just keep attacking until they’re dead, and time is on your side if they wait.  As for Nature’s Claims (and Spellskite), you might keep some number of Atarka’s Command in to combat it (and also pump your team), but it won’t matter too much since you’re focused on killing their threats anyway.  It’s simply important to remember they have that option (which can also kill your Eidolon).

Post-Board you get some glorious weapons in the fight against them.  Path to Exile and Deflecting Palm are both fantastic answers to their Voltron plan, and Destructive Revelry deals with Spellskite, Inkmoth Nexus, and Wild Defiance.  More Searing Blaze / Blood effects can come in, and Electrickery / Gut Shot / Sudden Shock can be blowout surprises.  Just be aware that they are usually bringing in heavy permission (Dispel and Spell Pierce), so if they have blue mana up that’s likely the reason.  These spells dilute their overall plan though, while you’re just enhancing yours.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Sudden Shock, Spellskite, Electrickery, Path to Exile, Deflecting Palm, Rakdos Charm, Smash to Smithereens, Destructive Revelry, Gut Shot, Searing Blaze, Searing Blood, Blood Moon (borderline / bad), Molten Rain (borderline / bad), Terminate, Doom Blade, Forked Bolt

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
– Helix, some number of Boros Charms, Rift Bolts and / or Skullcracks
+ Spellskite, Path, Palm, Revelry, Electrickery, Blaze, Blood, Sudden Shock, etc

On the Draw:
Same as on the Play, emphasizing your overall CMC (thus 2 CMC cards less desirable if making a tough decision)

vs Scapeshift

Keys to the Matchup:
Scapeshift was formerly one of the easiest Matchups for Burn, and many times it still can be.  The Bring to Light version that Jeff Hoogland championed is a bit more difficult to play against, and many pilots have added additional hate for Burn.  Still, their plan is linear and their board is often predictable, so both of these factors make it a matchup you can have a solid idea of how to play against.

Pre-Board you are racing, simple as that.  They usually have Remand and Cryptic Command, but don’t get too cute with their counterspells outside of those two so you typically know when they’re going to happen.  Their kill turn is generally 6-8, which is slower than yours.  The hope is that you can land an early Eidolon to punish them for their incessant digging, while at the same time burning them out.

Post-Board the usual plan for them is Obstinate Baloth, Dispel / Negate, Spellskite, and Sweepers.  Some lists have Courser or will bring in Nature’s Claim.  Pilots of this deck tend to have 1 or 2 interesting cards out of the board (Primal Command), but unfortunately we can’t predict what those will be.

Your usual Post-Board plan is to cut Searing Blaze effects in favor of more Skullcracks.  If you have access to Sudden Shock, it’s a nice way to surprise them in game 2 by hitting their Sakura Tribe-Elder when they leave it up to block as many Scape players do.

Basically if you don’t let them gain life and they don’t have the nut accelerated hand, you’re in good shape.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order) :
Skullcrack, Sudden Shock, Choke, Blood Moon, Molten Rain, Slaughter Games (borderline), Destructive Revelry (only if very heavy on Courser or Skite)

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
– Searing Blaze / Blood
+ Skullcracks, Sudden Shock

On the Draw:
– Searing Blaze / Blood and/or 1 Mountain
+ Skullcracks, Sudden Shock

vs Abzan

Keys to the Matchup:
Abzan is similar to Jund, with three important caveats.  They have a turn 3 lifegain spell in Kitchen Finks (usually), a turn 4 lifegain spell in Siege Rhino, and they have tokens in Lingering Souls.  Versus Jund where you just have to worry about Scavenging Ooze (also in Abzan) and maybe Huntmaster of the Fells, this distinction forces you to try and keep Skullcrack / Atarka’s Command up on those critical turns when possible.

Their Post-Board plan for you is almost identical to Jund, with the ability to sometimes have cards like Leyline of Sanctity which they can hardcast if needed.  Don’t worry too much about Leyline, because if anything it tends to be a 1-2 of in their board and is a waste of attention for you when the cards to fight it don’t help you with anything else.  If they land one it can often be GG, but if you’re stuck holding a dead Revelry the same can be said.

I’m still not wild about Blaze and Blood here because it isn’t great against Kitchen Finks and the rest of their targets are very Jundish in nature (aka won’t die) as well as being less efficient than a Lightning Bolt.  I like focusing on the Skullcrack / Atarka’s Command plan and potentially bringing in Electrickery for their Lingering Souls.  Souls can be a means for them to kill you a turn faster, and post-board they could have cards like Timely Reinforcements.  Path to Exile and Deflecting Palm make a bit more sense, as Abzan has more big creatures than Jund does so there’s love to be spread around.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Searing Blaze, Path to Exile, Lightning Helix, Skullcrack, Deflecting Palm (borderline because of Liliana), Bump in the Night (speed), Terminate, Rakdos Charm (if creature heavy)

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
– some number of Blaze, – some number of Monastery Swiftspear (if necessary)
+ Path to Exiles, Skullcracks, and (Helix, Palm, Electrickery optional)

On the Draw:
– some number of Blaze, – 1 Mountain (if taking out Blazes), – your pick of creature if you wish (can keep them in too).  Usually 1-2 Eidolon or Swiftspear
+Path to Exiles, Skullcracks, and (Helix, Palm, Electrickery optional)
Note – Blazes can go either way (addition or subtraction) depending on your preference.  If you bring in Palms, be wary that Abzan still has Liliana if you play too defensively

vs Grishoalbrand

Keys to the Matchup:
I haven’t played this matchup enough to finalize my thoughts on it, but I think the best you can hope for is banking on the fact that your deck is more consistent than theirs.  That said, the new versions of Grishoalbrand are pretty consistent as well as being faster than Burn.  They can gain an obscene amount of life with Nourishing Shoal + Worldspine Wurm and sometimes go off incredibly early due to Simian Spirit Guide and Groyo’s Vengeance.

For some reassurance, I have a friend who plays Grishoalbrand often and he says he thinks Burn is one of the best decks against it.  Part of that might be due to the fact that they need precisely Nourishing Shoal or an effective opener to beat your clock, but I’m still going to hold my breath if this deck becomes popular.

Post-Board cards like Grafdigger’s Cage can force them to just be on the Through the Breach plan, and that will buy you critical time.  If you have access to Rakdos Charm you can respond to their reanimation or Wordspine shuffle trigger by wiping their yard.  Additional Skullcracks will help you fight Nourishing Shoal if you are able to have mana up in time.  Path to Exile can force their hand during the Combo process, but generally doesn’t do much since they don’t have to use the attack step.

Blazes, Lightning Helix, and expensive 2 CMC do-nothings are the ones worth cutting here.  In addition to a lack of time, they have increased discard post-board (Inquisition) so you need to kill them as fast as possible.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Grafdigger’s Cage, Pithing Needle (name the right card!), Rakdos Charm, Skullcrack

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
– Blazes / Bloods, Helixes
+ Grafdigger’s Cage, Skullcrack, Pithing Needle, Rakdos Charm, Path

On the Draw:
Same as the Play except that you can cut 1 Mountain instead of a spell.

vs Lantern Control

Keys to the Matchup:
Hard to actually call this a control deck as it’s really just a degenerate Combo deck, but fortunately it’s one of your best matchups.

Game 1 is much like it is for Scapeshift.  You’re simply racing their combo and hoping you can eek out a win.  They can take time to setup, and you can take advantage of that.

Post-Board you can cut the unnecessary Blazes, Helixes, etc, for Destructive Revelry, Smash to Smithereens, Skullcracks, etc.  They’ll be bringing in Sun Droplet or other lifegain, will have Spellskite, and will have Welding Jar and/or Sweeper effects (Pyroclasm).  The plan remains the same with upgrades essentially.  Eidolon is an absolute beating against them, so the more you can get in play here the better.

Be aware that they have Ensnaring Bridge, and outside of Pyroclasm or Pyrite Spellbomb it’s one of the few ways they have to stop your ground attack.  They often lose games in which you get a board presence before they can shut you off.  So use your Revelries to hit the pieces that prevent that, such as Bridge, Spellskite, Lantern, and Sun Droplet.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Destructive Revelry, Smash to Smithereens, Shattering Spree, Rakdos Charm, Skullcrack, Bump in the Night (speed)

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
– Blazes / Bloods, Helixes, some number of Rift Bolts
+ Revelries, Skullcracks

On the Draw:
Same as the Play, except you can cut 1 Mountain instead of a spell

vs Merfolk

Keys to the Matchup:
Burn mages tend to have varying opinions on how good this Matchup is.  I personally thought it was terrible initially, but I’ve come around to thinking it’s actually net positive most of the time.  The scary part is that they can overload the board almost immediately and a Master of Waves can be the end of days.  But you’re still either faster or right on pace with them if you concentrate your Burn to the dome.

One nuance worth being aware of; while your Skullcrack effects aren’t ideal in this Matchup, Skullcrack specifically can kill Master of Waves if they block.  You Skullcrack them, and since damage can’t be prevented, his protection from Red clause does not prevent him from taking damage from your creature.  It’s a loose application, but it occasionally does come up.

Really the only creatures you need to consider killing are Kira (Post-Board so your Blazes are more effective), and a Lord that is going to cause you to die a turn sooner than you should.  Thus, try to not make this move until the last second if possible so you can both throw off their combat math as well as make sure you have enough Burn to kill them.

Grim Lavamancer and Eidolon can both be strong here if they’re able to come down early and work the board.  This is a matchup where having as many Grim Lavamancers in your 75 as possible is rewarding.

Cards like Rending Volley and Combust are effective, but not necessarily helpful all the time.  I still think it’s worth having them, but with the banning of Twin the amount of hate for Blue decks should be kept to a minimum.

Volcanic Fallout or Anger of the Gods can be devastating versus Fish, so if small Blue decks pick up steam these are the first choices I’d consider moving towards.

Full Consideration Pool (Not In Order):
Electrickery, Searing Blaze, Searing Blood, Skullcrack (just keeping maindeck or swapping for Commands), Path to Exile (for Master of Waves), Rakdos Charm, Lightning Helix, Reality Hemorrhage, Doom Blade, Slaughter Pact, Bump in the Night (speed)

General Sideboard Guidelines:
 On the Play:
-3 Atarka’s Command, -3 Boros Charm (can cut Rift Bolts instead and bring in Revelrys if heavy on Spellskite)
+ Electrickery, Blaze / Blood, Path, Skullcrack, Reality Hemorrhage, Doom Blade, Slaughter Pact, Rakdos Charm, etc

On the Draw:
– Eidolon (some number), – Commands
+ (same as on play)

My Decklist

Burn by John Galli

4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
2 Grim Lavamancer

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
4 Boros Charm
4 Atarka’s Command
2 Skullcrack
2 Searing Blaze
1 Shard Volley
1 Lightning Helix

3 Arid Mesa
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Mountain
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Copperline Gorge

3 Destructive Revelry
2 Skullcrack
2 Kor Firewalker
1 Searing Blaze
1 Smash to Smithereens
1 Deflecting Palm
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Reality Hemorrhage
1 Lightning Helix
1 Path to Exile


While my list is just what I’m comfortable with at this point, we’re going to see some Metagame shake ups and it may be worth considering a move to a Black version of Burn again.  Gaining extra speed from Bump in the Night can be huge, and sideboard cards like Rakdos Charm are useful if the format goes wide.  Mono Red Burn might even be a possibility, harkening back to the list that Raphael Levy played at a Grand Prix years ago.  His list had Molten Rain, Cryoclasm, and Peak Eruption, making it scary for decks trying to go big.  Blood Moon is a real possibility for Burn at the moment too, although I wouldn’t advise it against decks that are relatively on par with your speed or heavy on creatures.

The important piece of the large puzzle is that you keep yourself at least open enough that you have a fair chance against the field.  Burn players often tend to over focus on Metagame shifts, but this will always be an open format.  Play a list of cards that allow for flexibility while still properly addressing crossover needs.

As Always,

Keep Tapping Those Mountains

– Red Deck Winning 

P.S. – If you have any more questions regarding the deck or strategy, feel free to submit them to us on Twitter for a chance at having them answered on the Podcast in our Mailbag segment.  We are also still running our Giveaway contest of sweet Red cards and accessories, so follow us if you aren’t already!

Twitter: @reddeckwinning and @xxdavisx
Reddit: reddeckwinning

15 thoughts on “The Modern Burn Bible

  1. Bookmarked. Read the beginning and end right now. Great article so far and thanks for doing what your doing!!

    I’m tempted to take another look at running black again 🙂

  2. After reading this article I was left wondering how effective Destructive Revelry is now that Splinter Twin is banned. The only card which I feel enchantment removal is needed would be Leyline and I’m almost content to just to concede to that card to bolster other matchups. I’m moving to a 4 of Smash to Smithereens with one Revelry since the format has a much larger focus on artifacts and the extra damage plus mono color seem to make it a much better option. I may eventually remove Revelry altogether if I find Smash to be successful enough. This could also potentially lead to dropping green for black and adding in Rakdos charm and Bump in the Night. Great article btw, love your matchup insight. If you think I’m wrong about how important Revelry is with Twin banned please let me know your reasoning.

    • Hey Nevel, thanks for the comments and support. I hear you on Smash, and I’m not completely mad at that choice, however Leyline is definitely something I’d rather not concede to when Revelry is available. That said, playing a Mardu version without it is not totally unreasonable. I think the trade offs are pretty close.

      One matchup I didn’t mention in “the bible” that I’ll probably edit in is Boggles. It has room to be popular with twin leaving the format and Revelry is a godsend against them. It + Atarka’s Command turned that matchup on its head. Revelry is also randomly beneficial against the unknown, but yes it’s not the end of the world to just play smash for the damage bonus (or shave)

      • If you switch to black another sideboard option is Self-Inflicted Wound although it is sorcery speed. I feel that card could be great against Boggles, Jund and Abzan. I would need to test it more to see if the sorcery speed really hurts it.

      • I played the Jund version for a full season and was extremely underwhelmed by Wound. The sorcery speed limits you greatly and depending on the matchup may not do what you want

  3. Thank you so much for this!
    I’m a relatively new Modern burn player and I’ve fallen into a very bad habit of siding out all 4 Rift Bolts for every match haha. But again I love this and will read it before every Modern FNM. Will you be writing any more legacy articles?

    • No problem, glad to assist. I may write more Legacy down the road, no set plans yet. The format is having so much trouble we’ll see how long there is something left to write about

  4. Hi,
    this article is very awesome and helped me a lot building my first RDW deck for Modern/Casual, but I still have a question.
    I wanted to make a budget version of RDW. My first cuts were Goblin Guide (this card is highly expensive and I don’t like it) and Eidolon (to expensive too).
    I replaced them with a full playset of Abbot of Keral Keep, a playset of Vexing Devils and to copys of Chandra Fire Of Kaladesh. And now I’m asking what I can add.
    Sure I will find something, but is that deck strong enough to play at some events at my local game store? Usually I play casual, but sometimes I take part in drafts and standard events (With my budget Abzan Reanimator).
    So hopefully you can give me a feedback.
    Thanks for all! Bye

    By the way:
    Sorry for my bad English

  5. Looking to maybe brew a black red discard burnbnow that they printed fiery impulse and alms of the vein but wondering on a discard outlet to feul them and would run rakdos charms and bump in the nights (ozzlock budget have you looked into magma jet and needle drop. Secondly vexing devil’s aren’t quite budget anymore

  6. So I have a question
    Why do u not have hate bears on here
    I have an ex friend who uses hate bears whom I would like to see fall down and lose
    Could u email me any suggestions?

  7. Been playing a lot with mono red goblins and having some success. Includes 4 goblin guide 3 Warren instigator 4 goblin chieftain 2 goblin rabblemaster 4 legion loyalist 2electrickery 4 skull crack 4 goblin grenade 4 lightning bolts 3 lava spike4 goblin piledriver and 4 rift bolt 18 mountains. Side board are 4 fiery impulse 4 smash to smithereens. 3 crumble to dust. 4 ley line of punishment went 3-1 last night and been about the same for other events. Still having trouble with ad nasuem but for the most part been firing really well. Thoughts and or advice would be fantastic

  8. Hi, thanks for this blog, good work!

    I need to ask, second game against merfolk, why you didnt put revelry/smash for aether vial? its not worth it?

    Im having a lot of problems with this pairing, my win rate against merfolks is like 20%, im doing something wrong..

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