With Innistrad spoilers in full swing, I thought I’d turn away from the soon-to-be-rotating Standard format for a moment and take a look at the new kid on the block: Modern. While building for an Eternal format on a budget may seem like a daunting task, there are often underappreciated decks that can still be strong enough to compete. One such deck is Mono-Red Burn. Burn is often disregarded as a viable deck because it’s very easy to stop it if you’re prepared for it. Fortunately, most players aren’t prepared for it, and that lets the deck present a very fast clock that’s difficult to interact with. Here’s the list I’ve been working with.
3 Spark Elemental
4 Goblin Guide
4 Hellspark Elemental
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Magma Jet
4 Shard Volley
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
4 Teetering Peaks
4 Flames of the Blood Hand
4 Smash to Smithereens
3 Molten Rain
4 Blood Moon
Goblin Guide is one of the best aggressive creatures of all time. Since it has Haste, it will almost always get in for at least 2 damage, and getting 4 or even 6 damage for a single mana is huge.
Keldon Marauders can sometimes be a lackluster 2 damage for 2 mana, but when it gets through, you’re getting a 2-mana Lava Axe. As a bonus, players who don’t have much experience against burn will often let it through, since sacrificing a creature or removal spell to deal with something that will die next turn anyway seems bad.
Hellspark Elemental isn’t the paragon of efficiency, but the ability to use it twice puts it over the edge. It gives the deck a bit more reach, and enables you to make the kill even when you run out of burn.
In a deck like this, you need all the Lightning Bolts you can get. Spark Elemental serves as the last few copies. The downside here is that it gets worse as the game goes on, but even against a deck like Zoo, you’ll often be able to surprise your opponent after he’s tapped out for an attack.
Teetering Peaks isn’t a creature, but you’ll need one to use it. Although entering the battlefield tapped is a big drawback, dealing an extra 2 damage without spending a card to do it is more than worth it.
Lightning Bolt is the pinnacle of 1-mana burn spells. It doesn’t get better than this. The only downside here is that you can’t run more than four.
Rift Bolt is almost another Lava Spike, but you have to wait a turn for it to go off. You’ll want to play these early, so you’re not stuck giving your opponent another turn while you wait for your upkeep.
Shard Volley serves as yet another Lightning Bolt, with the caveat that you don’t want to play it until the last turn of the game. If you play it early, sacrificing a land could come back to bite you, but when you’re about to kill your opponent, it doesn’t matter at all.
Incinerate doesn’t quite compare to the previous burn spells, but it will get the job done, albeit at double the cost.
Magma Jet presents the unappealing 2-damage-for-2 again, but being able to scry two more than makes up for it. Being able to shunt excess lands and late-game creatures to the bottom in exchange for more burn spells is extremely valuable.
Twelve Post seems to be one of the most popular decks coming out of the gate, and the combination of Blood Moon and Molten Rain can make life a bit more difficult for anyone playing it. The combo can also come in to punish other decks that rely too heavily on nonbasics.
Affinity seems to be somewhat popular, and Smash to Smithereens is very good in that matchup. It won’t slow your opponent down very much, but it won’t slow you down at all. It’s just as efficient as Incinerate, with the added bonus of damaging your opponent’s game plan.
Flames of the Blood Hand gives you a chance against any life-gain you might come across, although you’ll still have a tough time with it. It also replaces some of the more lackluster creatures against Zoo decks.
Naya Zoo – Game 1
I lost the roll and kept a hand of three Mountain, Lightning Bolt, Rift Bolt, Lava Spike, and Shard Volley. My opponent opened with a fetch land, getting a Stomping Ground and dropping to 17 before casting Grim Lavamancer. He then passed the turn. I drew a Hellspark Elemental, played a land, and suspended a Rift Bolt before ending my turn. My opponent played another fetch land, getting a Plains, and attacked for 1 with the Lavamancer. He then cast a 1/2 Tarmogoyf and passed the turn. Rift Bolt dropped my opponent to 13 during my upkeep, and Tarmogoyf became a 2/3. I drew another Rift Bolt, which I suspended, then played a land and cast Lava Spike. I passed the turn. My opponent played another fetch land, then cast Qasali Pridemage and attacked with Tarmogoyf for 3. He passed the turn. Rift Bolt dropped him to 7 during my upkeep, and I drew a Magma Jet. I passed the turn, and Grim Lavamancer hit me for 2. On his turn, he cracked the fetch land, and I burned him out with Lightning Bolt and Shard Volley in response.
−3 Goblin Guide
+3 Molten Rain
Naya Zoo – Game 2
I kept a hand of Mountain, Lightning Bolt, Rift Bolt, Hellspark Elemental, two Magma Jets, and Flames of the Blood Hand. My opponent opened with a fetch land for a tapped Stomping Ground. I drew a Mountain, played it, and suspended a Rift Bolt before passing the turn. My opponent cracked another fetch land for a Plains, and cast Ethersworn Canonist. He passed the turn. I killed the Canonist with Rift Bolt during my upkeep, and drew a Shard Volley. I hit for 3 with Hellspark Elemental and passed the turn. My opponent cracked a fetch land for a Forest, and cast two Wild Nacatls before passing the turn. I drew a Mountain, played it, and passed the turn. My opponent dropped me to 14 with the Nacatls, then cast a 5/5 Knight of the Reliquary. I hit him with a Lightning Bolt and a Magma Jet at his end step, scrying two lands to the bottom. I cast another Magma Jet during my upkeep, dropping my opponent to 7 and putting a Goblin Guide and a Spark Elemental on the bottom. I drew a Rift Bolt and suspended it before passing the turn. My opponent played a tapped Temple Garden and attacked me for 11. He then cast a Lightning Bolt to end the game.
Naya Zoo – Game 3
I took a mulligan, and kept a hand of two Mountains, two Lightning Bolts, Rift Bolt, and Hellspark Elemental. I opened with a Mountain and a suspended Rift Bolt and passed the turn. My opponent played a tapped Temple Garden and passed back. Rift Bolt dealt 3 during my upkeep, and I drew another Mountain. I played it, and hit for 3 with Hellspark Elemental. I then ended my turn. My opponent cracked a fetch land for a tapped Stomping Ground, then cast Wild Nacatl and passed the turn. I drew a Shard Volley, played my land, and passed back. My opponent cast Ethersworn Canonist, and I cast both Lightning Bolts in response, dropping him to 7. He ended his turn. I drew an Incinerate and cast it, then passed the turn. My opponent cast Lightning Helix, going back up to 7, and passed the turn. I drew Flames of the Blood Hand and passed the turn. My opponent attacked with both creatures, dropping me to 12, then cast a 4/5 Tarmogoyf and passed the turn. I dropped him to 3 with Flames of the Blood Hand at the end of his turn, then killed him with Shard Volley on mine.
Affinity – Game 1
I lost the roll and kept a hand of two Mountains, Teetering Peaks, Rift Bolt, Incinerate, Spark Elemental, and Magma Jet. My opponent opened with Darksteel Citadel, Mox Opal, Signal Pest, and Vault Skirge, paying 2 life. I drew a Lightning Bolt, used it to kill the Vault Skirge, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Mountain, cast Cranial Plating, equipped it to the Signal Pest, and attacked for 4. He then passed the turn. I drew a Lava Spike, cast Spark Elemental, pumped it with Teetering Peaks, and dropped my opponent to 13. I then ended my turn. My opponent attacked for another 4, dropping me to 12, then cast Atog and passed the turn. I played a Mountain and cast Magma Jet on the Atog. My opponent sacrificed a Mox Opal to save it, and I suspended Rift Bolt and ended my turn. My opponent dropped me to 8 with a Galvanic Blast during my end step. On his turn, he cast another Cranial Plating and attacked, sacrificing everything to the Atog to kill me.
Affinity – Game 2
My opponent took one mulligan, and I kept a hand of two Mountains, two Spark Elemental, Keldon Marauders, Lightning Bolt, and Rift Bolt. I played my land, hit for 3 with a Spark Elemental, and passed the turn. My opponent played Blinkmoth Nexus, Ornithopter, and Memnite, and passed the turn. I played Keldon Marauders, killing the Memnite, and ended my turn. My opponent played a Mountain, cast Springleaf Drum, activated it, and cast Atog. He then passed the turn. I drew a Lava Spike, cast Spark Elemental, and attacked with both creatures. My opponent blocked the Marauders with Atog, sacrificing Springleaf Drum to pump it, and dropped to 14. I suspended a Rift Bolt and passed the turn. My opponent cast Cranial Plating and ended his turn. Keldon Marauders and Rift Bolt hit him for 4 during my upkeep, and I drew a Mountain. I played it, suspended Rift Bolt, cast Lava Spike, and passed the turn. My opponent activated Blinkmoth Nexus, equipped Cranial Plating to Ornithopter, and attacked me for 3. He then passed the turn. Rift Bolt dropped him to 4 during my upkeep, and I drew a Shard Volley, casting it along with my Lightning Bolt to end the game.
Affinity – Game 3
My opponent and I each took a mulligan, and I kept a hand of two Mountains, Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, Shard Volley, and Goblin Guide. My opponent played Darksteel Citadel, then cast Memnite, Mox Opal, and Springleaf Drum. He then ended his turn. I drew another Mountain, cast Goblin Guide, and attacked, revealing an Atog. My opponent took the 2 damage, and I passed the turn. On his turn, my opponent played a Mountain and cast the Atog. He then attacked for 1 with the Memnite and passed the turn. I drew Teetering Peaks, played it pumping my Goblin Guide, and attacked. My opponent revealed a Mountain, putting it into his hand, and elected to take the 4 damage. I dropped him to 11 with a Lava Spike and passed the turn. My opponent played a Mountain, attacked for 1 with the Memnite, and cast another Atog before passing the turn. I drew a Rift Bolt, suspended it, played a land, and cast Lightning Bolt on the Memnite. I then cast Shard Volley on an Atog, and my opponent sacrificed a Springleaf Drum to save it. I passed the turn. My opponent sacrificed his Mox Opal to an Atog, then cast another Mox Opal and attacked with the 3/4 Atog. I declared no blocks, and took the 3 damage. Rift Bolt targeted an Atog, and my opponent sacrificed a Mox Opal to pump it. I drew a Teetering Peaks, played a Mountain, and passed the turn. My opponent passed back with no play.
I drew a Lightning Bolt, played Teetering Peaks, pumping the Goblin Guide, and attacked. My opponent got an Inkmoth Nexus, and decided to chump-block with an Atog. I passed the turn. My opponent played the Inkmoth Nexus, cast Vault Skirge, paying 2 life, and passed the turn. I drew Lava Spike, cast it, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Mox Opal and attacked with Vault Skirge. I cast Lightning Bolt on it, and he sacrificed it to Fling to hit me for 1. He then ended his turn. I drew a Mountain and passed the turn. My opponent played a Darksteel Citadel and passed the turn. I drew a Spark Elemental, cast it, and attacked. My opponent blocked with Atog, sacrificing a Mox Opal, and I passed the turn. My opponent cast Cranial Plating, activated Inkmoth Nexus, equipped it, and hit me for 5 poison. He then passed the turn. I drew Shard Volley, played my land, and passed the turn. My opponent cast Galvanic Blast on my Goblin Guide, then sacrificed both Darksteel Citadels and Cranial Plating to Atog, attacked for 7, and cast Fling for just enough damage to kill me.
This deck may not have what it takes to be the best in Modern, but it can certainly get some surprise wins, even against some of the stronger decks in the format. Zoo in particular is often a very winnable matchup, since it usually runs a turn or two slower than you. Against decks like Affinity, the game becomes very draw-dependent, and you may have to change your game plan a bit to make sure you don’t just get killed. Twelve Post is a much more difficult matchup, since it often has several ways to gain life, but you can still win some games on the back of Blood Moon. The ability to win the game as early as turn three or four is powerful enough that you’ll get a few wins against any deck, no matter how bad the matchup may seem.
With the inflated prices of dual lands and format staples, Modern can be a tough format to get into right now, but this is one deck that can break your opponent without breaking the bank.
As always, If you have any questions or comments, you can find me on the forums under Twinblaze, on Twitter under @Twinblaze2, or simply leave a comment below.