May 16, 2014

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Learn to Burn: Updating R/W Burn for Standard

"Some have said there is no subtlety to destruction. You know what? They're dead."
—Jaya Ballard, task mage

Today I’m going to talk about a strategy that is near and dear to my heart, namely, tapping mountains and melting faces. Those who follow CFB might recognize my name. My friend and mentor James Fazzolari was kind enough to include me on his testing team leading up to GP: Melbourne and I had the privilege of helping him break standard. James attracted a lot of attention with his perfect 9-0 day one and top 32 finish playing an obscure deck that most people thought wasn’t viable. The deck exploded on MODO from there, as it lined up well against the dominant strategies. Three Burn decks in the top 8 of GP: Beijing solidified Burn as a legitimate standard strategy and possibly tier one deck. Since then, R/W Burn has been my go to deck for standard events. It would come as no surprise to those that know me that I chose burn as my deck for CMT Toronto. For those of you who missed the coverage (view it here: I played the following list:

This is the deck that I, along with my testing group and I have been working on since Born of the Gods was released. The only new toys from Journey Into Nyx I used were Banishing Light and Harness by Force. Harness by Force won me a match I had no business winning in Round 2 when it borrowed a pair of Loxodon Smiters vs Naya Control and you can see me use Banishing Light into Banishing Light to deal with a Whip of Erebos and a Desecration Demon in the Round 3 feature match. I was very happy with both cards.
I went into the CMT blind with no idea about what kind of meta to expect, and in hindsight I wish I had made a few adjustments to the deck. I was basically unprepared for Esper Control to shift to straight U/W control, and those were my two loses on the day. After Omar Beldon spanked me in the finals, I had a long think about what went wrong and did a lot of testing. I’m proposing the following changes in an effort to chase the metagame:

While I was initially skeptical of this card in a burn list, its success at last weekend’s SCG Open meant that I had to test it. In hindsight, I wish I was running it over Young Pyromancer, because while I love a stream of 1/1 Elementals, Eidolon of the Great Revel is just stronger in the U/W matchup. It may just be because people haven’t learned to play around it correctly yet, but the Pyrostatic Pillar Bear has been very strong in testing. In the match ups where it is bad (like GR monsters), it is a straight swap for Satyr Firedancer.

I played Toil // Trouble over Firedrinker Satyr, reasoning that Nyx-Fleece Ram would block him all day. After more testing, I have come to the conclusion that I’d really rather have a Fire breathing Jackal Pup that can chew through a ram with the help of a shock. As you can see in the finals video, ignoring the Ram didn’t go so well for me. Firedrinker Satyr is also useful against Mono Black Devotion and B/g, although he will get swept up by Golgari Charm.


I was tempted to play Banishing Light as a catch all, but I’m going to go back to Wear // Tear as additional one mana answers to Nyx-Fleece Ram and any other problematic enchantments. The one mana converted casting cost makes it a pretty good tempo play in most situations. It can also hit an Elixir of Immortality or a Whip of Erebos on occasion as well, which is just icing on the cake.

A trusted old friend. As long as U/W is staying straight U/W or splashing any colour other than black, he’s basically untouchable. Sure, they have Supreme Verdict, but you have Boros Charm. Other people are playing Dictate of the Twin Gods, I think Stormbreath Dragon is our best chance at having am “I win” card against UW. I played a game where I cast Dictate of the Twin Gods on the end step, my opponent let it resolve, then countered my burn spell and proceeded to kill me with double damage Mutavaults. I didn’t enjoy that.


Mainboard Flames of the Firebrand tech was from my friend and collaborator, Anthony Vo (see his Youtube videos at We were running Flames of the Firebrand due mainly to Nightveil Specter in B/x and Mono Blue. Flames of the Firebrand is basically a really bad Lightning Strike in those situations, but it’s one I’m happy to have. While more expensive, it also functions as a sort of Searing Blood against Lifebane Zombie. It can also kill a pair of Pack Rats in a pinch. However, with Burn becoming more popular online, mirrors are becoming more frequent, and Searing Blood in the main board is more important. This week I will be playing Searing Blood, but if B/x goes back to Nightveil Specter in response to burn, I’ll be switching back.

Sideboarding Guide

VS B/x Devotion:

+4 Firedrinker Satyr, +2 Chained to the Rocks, +1 Harness by Force
-4 Shock, -3 Boros Charm
In this match up, B/x tends to sideboard out a lot of their removal, so your creatures can get in a considerable amount of damage. They can potentially level you and side in Pharika’s Cure etc. but that would be pretty gutsy. If you suspect or have seen Whip of Erebos, I’m not opposed to cutting 1x Boros Charm for 1x Wear // Tear. You can sometimes 2 for 1 them if they leave in Underworld Connections, but I’ve only ever seen inexperienced players do that.

VS UW Control:

+4 Firedrinker Satyr, +2 Stormbreath Dragon, +2 Wear // Tear
-2 Searing Blood, -2 Chained to the Rocks, -2 Shock, -2 Warleader’s Helix
Here we are bringing in Firedrinker Satyr for early pressure. Wear // Tear is for Nyx-Fleece Ram, Detention Sphere, Banishing Light etc. Stormbreath Dragon is your “I win” card if you can play it through their counterspells then hold Boros Charm up. Here we are cutting Searing Blood for lack of targets and Chained to the Rocks for the ease with which UW can remove it. Shock is cut to two because in general, Wear // Tear is a strict upgrade but it can still be used to kill a Mutavault or finish a Nyx-Fleece Ram that your Firedrinker Satyr runs into. Warleader’s Helix is cut to a two of because A) It’s very difficult to cast while holding up Skullcrack, and B) Your life is typically irrelevant unless you are already losing. In any case you will gain life from Last Breath.

VS RW Burn:

+2 Chained to the Rocks, +2 Stormbreath Dragon
-4 Shock
I take a fairly conventional approach to sideboarding in the mirror with Chained to the Rocks for their Chandra’s Phoenixes and Stormbreath Dragon as a threat that’s difficult for them to deal with. Shock gets cut because it doesn’t provide much when going to the dome. I am still testing this approach, and Stormbreath Dragon might just prove to be too slow, but in my experience these games being long and grindy.

VS G/R Monsters:

+2 Chained to the Rocks, +2 Stormbreath Dragon, +1 Harness by Force, +4 Satyr Firedancer, +1 Wear // Tear
-4 Eidolon of the Great Revel, -2 Searing Blood, -4 Skullcrack
I find Eidolon to be a bit of a liability here, since you’ll be activating it often and quickening their clock, while they will almost never trigger it. Satyr Firedancer is a straight swap, since they have very little removal and it allows you to control the board while shortening your clock. I sideboard out Searing Blood since all their creatures are hexproof or 4+ toughness. Skullcrack also gets the axe, because they don’t usually play lifegain (although I have seen Bow of Nylea and Nylea’s Disciple out of the side). Chained to the Rocks will generally stick and it a huge tempo play vs Polukranos, World Eater. Harness by Force is big here because you can sometimes steal a hydra AND a dragon. Wear // Tear is basically for Courser of Kruphix and occasional Bow of Nylea 2 for 1s. Lastly, in regard to the dragon, please allow me to quote Jaya Ballard one last time.
"Of course you should fight fire with fire. You should fight everything with fire."
—Jaya Ballard, task mage

Until next time,