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Burn in Modern

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Hey everyone!

I've been playing Temur Rhinos and Grixis Dress Shadow lately, but wanted to broaden my horizons. I have been meaning to try out Burn because there have been so many great Red cards added to Modern recently. It's only natural that some of them find a home in Burn. There are plenty of opinions on how to build the deck. Did the Boomers or Zoomers win out? Find out!

Boomer Burn is the classic take on the archetype that doesn't play Lurrus. It's just forty Red cards and twenty lands. The argument to exclude Lurrus is the fifteenth sideboard card has more value than the rare occasions companion would be added to hand and cast.

Zoomer Burn looks more like a 2021 Modern deck. It features Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Dragon's Rage Channeler, Mishra's Bauble, and Lurrus. To make room for all of these new cards there are typically eighteen lands. This take was championed by Aspiringspike and is also referred to as Life Total Control (LTC).

My hypothesis was that Lurrus was worth the sideboard slot, but building around it would be necessary as the haste creatures don't scale well.

After playing Burn for myself I have come to like the following list:


Did the Boomers or Zoomers win out? I would say it leans toward the Zoomers, but I felt the stock list could be improved.

The Spells

Dragon's Rage Channeler- DRC is the heart and soul of Zoomer Burn. I find the best draws in Zoomer Burn involve an early DRC and sending some burn to the face to get delirium on the second turn. An evasive 3/3 for a single mana is worth changing the card type configuration of the deck.

Not only does DRC attack early for relevant chunks of damage she also mills lands and creatures from the top of the deck in the mid game. One of Burn's greatest drawbacks was mana flood and the Zoomer shell does a good job making those games less common.

Mishra's Bauble - The other primary Zoomer component. Bauble can surveil with DRC, generate a Prowess Trigger for Monastery Swiftspear, and check for lands before a Goblin Guide attack.

There are situations where leaving up a fetch land for Bauble is relevant. This works well with how the deck operates already because holding up a fetch land enables instant-speed Searing Blaze with landfall.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den - In fast matchups the game will already be decided by the time Lurrus would be added to the hand and deployed. Midrange, control, and aggro (fair) matchups are more interactive which makes it more likely Lurrus can swing a close game.

Since DRC mills lands in the mid game I find Lurrus recurs Mishra's Bauble frequently as it's the cheapest card to recur. The slowtrip ability plays out well because there are so many instant-speed burn spells.

I believe DRC is the strongest creature in Burn by a fair margin. The only time I would consider boarding some out is if the opponent has plenty of Sanctifier en-Vec, but would still leave them in the deck. Most of the strongest sideboard cards in Burn cost two mana making a swap for a 1-drop not appealing.

Lightning Bolt - Always play four and never board them out.

Lightning Helix - A primary draw to splashing white. The life gain is relevant in racing situations and is one of the strongest cards in the mirror. I board out Helix in matchups where the only thing that matters is reducing your opponent's life total to zero. If the matchup isn't about a six point life swing then you're overpaying for the effect.

Boros Charm - In the old times Boros Charm would only deal four damage to the opponent. Now that you can cement an early offense with DRC it's reasonable to make your creatures indestructible for the turn against sweepers. Don't be afraid to trim on Boros Charm if the matchup is about dealing with creatures as it only goes to the face.

Lava Spike - This is the best sorcery to add to your deck to achieve Delirium consistently. There are times I board out some Lava Spike. Like Boros Charm, it only goes to the face. Since it costs one mana instead of two I typically leave in Spike, but Chalice of the Void creature decks change this dynamic (Merfolk and Eldrazi).

Skewer the Critics - The other sorcery requires some work, but has its merit. A one mana play that has a mana value of three plays around Chalice of the Void. I strongly prefer Skewer to Rift Bolt because suspend can be interacted with by Teferi, Time Raveler. It winds up staying in the deck more than expected because it can hit creatures. Skewer promotes spell velocity unlike Rift Bolt so it plays better with DRC.

Searing Blaze - This is either the best or worst card in most matchups. The one card in the maindeck that is matchup dependent. When you build your Burn sideboard make sure to have at least four generic cards to swap in case Searing Blaze isn't good in the matchup. My generic cards are Skullcrack and Roiling Vortex. Remember this card won't kill Death's Shadow due to state-based actions.

Goblin Guide - I tried Ragavan in this slot and was not impressed. The single point of toughness and lack of haste made it less likely to damage the opponent. If it hits the treasure helps you dump your burn-heavy hand faster which is great. Despite this upside I want my creatures to be better on the draw. Burn doesn't need help capitalizing when going first.

Eidolon of the Great Revel - This card has become much worse since Modern Horizons 2. As your Burn deck becomes lower to the ground it makes it less appealing to slam Eidolon on the second turn. A topdecked Mishra's Bauble feels terrible with Eidolon on the battlefield.

Fury is a free way to kill the previous nut draw of Goblin Guide into Eidolon. DRC is a safer early play as a 3/3 is more likely to not be 2-for-1ed.

I could sideboard additional Eidolons, but Roiling Vortex has the same effect. The clause "when a player casts a spell without paying mana, they take five damage," is very scary against Cascade decks. Temur Rhinos also has plenty of ways to deal two damage to creatures- including Fury.

The best aspect of Eidolon is it's both a creature and an enchantment for delirium.

Boomer Burn plays four Eidolon and twenty lands. If I want to play eighteen lands it makes more sense to cut 2-drops and the spells work better with DRC.

Monastery Swiftspear and Goblin Guide pairing with DRC mean there are more draws involving three creatures on the second turn. This is important as Modern is faster than ever.

The Mana Base

Eighteen lands means there isn't room for flex slots.

Three Mountains and two Sacred Foundry - I wouldn't play less than five lands to fetch.

Six Red Fetch Lands - I haven't had an issue with DRC getting delirium with six fetch lands so far. The easiest cards to surveil away are lands and delirium is only relevant when DRC is on the battlefield.

Inspiring Vantage - Don't play less than four.

Sunbaked Canyon - Boomer Burn plays four Canyon. Since I'm cutting two lands from the original Burn list it needs to be the last copies of lands that were used to mitigate flood. DRC helps draw more spells and Lurrus is a late game mana sink.

The Sideboard

The high level philosophy of the Burn sideboard is to avoid deck dilution. I also want to avoid too much targeted interaction because your deck will deal less damage on average. If you aren't sure a card will be good post board don't bring it in. Ask first, sideboard later.

Smash to Smithereens - Not only does this card deal damage, but it interacts. The best of both worlds. This is the type of Burn sideboard card that interests me. It's not reactive against decks with plenty of targets, just point and click.

I began with an Alpine Moon to deal with Urza's Saga as fetching a Shadowspear can be detrimental. Moons run the risk of being drawn when you need a Burn spell. Rather than deal with non-damage interaction I will just Smash to Smithereens the construct or equipment as the game won't last much longer.

Smash is mainly for Hammertime, Tron, and Chalice of the Void. Don't worry about diversifying your mana values of Chalice interaction as x=1 is the clear choice in Zoomer Burn. There was a time where x=2 was more defensible and Shattering Spree was justified.

I don't play Wear // Tear because Leyline of Sanctity is the only truly scary enchantment, but Bogles and Enchantress are the only decks that reliably play it. Since Wear // Tear doesn't deal damage I need a good reason to play it in the board. It's true Leyline of Sanctity can be played in just about any deck, but don't overthink it.

Path to Exile - It pains me to play a reactive card that also advances my opponent's game plan. Path was never a good card in Modern, but White needed early removal ahead of Prismatic Ending.

The reason I want Path is because some matchups come down to the opponent slamming one specific creature. Murktide Regent is a pivotal threat in the Izzet matchup. They have a hard time winning unless they place you under significant pressure.

Tron is in a similar situation with Wurmcoil Engine. Many games will be decided by the third turn; if it's a Wurmcoil they win, but any other threat is not good enough.

Kor Firewalker and Death's Shadow are two other creatures that swing a matchup. I could interact with Prismatic Ending, but I don't want my sideboard to be filled with non-damage removal.

Kor Firewalker - This is primarily for the Burn mirror. Protection from Red also comes up against DRC/Ragavan decks as their removal is all Red. It seems weak against those types of decks, but it has exceeded expectations. My carmate, Hawaii, beat me with Kor Firewalker in last month's Modern 2K when I was on Shadow.

Skullcrack - I don't like to maindeck Skullcrack because you are overpaying for the effect in the first game. Opponents don't have damage prevention and life gain until after sideboard. This is the perfect card to swap for Searing Blaze if your targeted sideboard slots don't line up well.

Skullcrack stops damage from being prevented which means you can attack into Kor Firewalker and Sanctifier en-Vec without fear. This doesn't work when the Firewalker and Sanctifier attack because protection from Red means they can't be blocked in the first place. Bonecrusher Giant works the same way, but can't be played alongside Lurrus.

I like Skullcrack in Burn mirrors because it stops life gain from Lightning Helix, can kill Kor Firewalker, and counters Deflecting Palm.

Deflecting Palm is absent from this list because I don't think it's a good card. Palm will rarely resolve against Murktide Regent and Death's Shadow. If Tron doesn't play Wurmcoil, but your hand is reactive you have a chance to lose. The scariest threats to Palm are already covered by Path to Exile in a proactive way.

The one deck Palm is truly strong against is Hammertime, but Smash to Smithereens is a more versatile and less reactive sideboard card.

Roiling Vortex - The other way to shut off life gain in a proactive way. This is a threat against Azorius Control that dodges Supreme Verdict and stops Solitude from gaining life.

Vortex deals five damage when a spell is cast with Cascade or an elemental is evoked. It also can shut off the life gain from the scariest threat out of Elementals - Omnath. For this reason, I don't like Torpor Orb in the Burn sideboard.

Consider shaving a Mishra's Bauble or two when boarding in three Vortex as you will take 5 damage to cast it.

Pyrite Spellbomb - A third way to fight Kor Firewalker and Sanctifier en-Vec. Don't view this as a single removal spell, but in combination with the Lurrus that will become more relevant as your deck has more interaction.

That's all I have for today. Burn is a great option for Modern and can be a change of pace now the deck is less popular than previous formats.

Thanks for reading!

-Kyle

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