Hey all! Today I’m talking about a modern deck I’ve been running with good, early success on MTGO. Modern is a format where I like to “tweak” decks. It is very difficult to take a randomly pushed card that hasn’t been broken yet and turn into something that is even at the tier two level. Due to the huge card pool and deck diversity of modern, however, taking an established deck and seasoning to taste is a totally legitimate path to victory, even at higher levels. Once upon a time, a genius decided to take pizza, which was already awesome, and put pineapple on it, making culinary history. That individual was probably a heck of a Magic player! Innovating on already strong ideas can provide a huge advantage on the battlefield.
Recently while lounging around on a lazy Sunday, I stumbled across a video of a Mardu burn deck by Pascal Maynard that utilized the limited stinker Gonti’s Machinations. When I first saw this card I thought is was garbage for limited and didn’t even think about as an aggressive burn-like spell for constructed. It did not even dawn on me that this was kinda close to a one mana Lightning Helix. It needed some careful sequencing to make work, but the potential was clearly there. I watched all the games and in addition to the potential of the black enchantment, two other things stood out to me: Pascal got some really bad match-ups and the lack of green for Destructive Revelry was a glaring exclusion. Four color burn seems like an ambitious idea (granted probably fun), so I do not blame Pascal for cutting green. Since cutting red from a burn deck is about as silly as cutting green from a Tarmogoyf deck, that leaves the only other potential cut to be white.
“Um… why would anyone cut Boros Charm from a burn deck?! This guy is insane!” I am insane, but hear me out: In terms of damage per card, Boros Charm is amazing. However, while toying around with this idea, I noticed that more one drop burn spells allows to have more damage per tapped land, and also you get to lower your land count, which equals less late game dead draws. If you are dealing three damage each time you tap a land, you are dealing 15 damage by turn three and that’s with missing your third land drop (which you probably want to miss it so you draw enough gas so you can win on turn 4).
Here’s the list I wrote up:
For starters you have the typical red burn stuff: Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, and Searing Blaze. You also have three of Skullcrack and a single Grim Lavamancer. The black spells is where things get a bit off the beaten path.
Bump in the Night is a better Lava Spike that got placed in the wrong color. The flashback ability comes up very rarely, but when it does it turns your sixth land drop into a bolt at no deck building cost as long as you’re already in black. The other black main deck spell, Gonti’s Machinations, as I described before is a helix to your opponent’s face if you’re willing to put some work into it. Machinations needs energy, and the only way you get energy is from Machinations itself. Machinations gives you energy the first time you lose life each turn. If you coordinate it correctly, you will have your two energy needed to sacrifice it after one turn cycle. Then you let the enchantment sit there. Yepp, just sit there, chillin’. By not instantly sacrificing it, you will build up your reserves of energy to turn your top decked Machinations into gas. The energy comes naturally over the coarse of the game: fetching, shocking yourself with shock lands, eidolon triggers and your opponent hitting you (they need to try to win the game too). Admittedly, drawing your first Gonti’s Machinations on turn four is not a great spot to be in, but even then, when its at it’s worst, it is still not dead. In terms of the coordination I mentioned previously, the best advice I can give is just think through every play you make, even playing lands. Play your machinations before you crack your fetch, but if casting machinations triggered your Eidolon, then it doesn’t matter. Machinations only triggers on the first case of lost life each turn, not whatever the first loss of life the enchantment sees. Also it’s normally right to crack your fetches on your turn to trigger machinations, unless you need the landfall trigger for Searing Blaze on your opponent’s turn.
Being in black also gives you access to some sweet sideboard tech. Self-Inflicted Wound seemed like a stretch to me at first, but after playing with it I feel like it’s the best card in the deck against green or white creature based decks. Cleanly answering a Kor Firewalker can be a game winning play if your opponent kept a sub-par hand just because their sideboard card was in it. Collective Brutality is absolutely bonkers against opposing aggressive decks, and allowing you to turn extra land draws into escalate modes can be huge. I also like it against combo decks since it can buy you one more turn with its disruption. Rakdos Charm is one of my favorite sideboard cards in Modern due to its flexibility. The fact that only one mode deals damage makes it only a one-of in this deck, but being good against multiple different decks makes it worth the inclusion, especially since sometime the damage from the “splinter twin mode” is relevant since some graveyard decks and artifacts decks go wide sometimes, such as dredge and affinity.
After getting some practice games in I decided to give the deck a trial run in a MTGO Competitive League.
Match 1: BR Gifts Storm W 2-0
This match felt favored but I don’t think by much if you don’t draw eidolon. My opponent accelerated out six goblins with Empty the Warrens in game 1 which did slow down my creatures some, but once I had the second Eidolon online they conceded. Game 2 I cast a Collective Brutality and saw two Pyretic Rituals and a Past in Flames. I took the Past in Flames, but I wasn’t sure on it. If this was a mistake, please let me know in the comments! After taking a card and draining them, the opponent died to a steady stream of burn.
Match 2: Living End W 2-0
As someone who loves Living End, I enjoyed this match. I know Living End quite well, and I also know burn is not a good match for Living End. Game 1 my opponent lacked some early cyclers from the looks of it and stabilized too late. Game 2 was interesting: So from the start of the game I had Rakdos Charm and Skullcrack in hand. My opponent resolved a Brindle Boar on turn 3 and smartly sacked on my end step. This is smart because it could bait out a Skullcrack so they can safely resolve a Living End next turn. Due to the lack of pressure, I had the luxury of waiting, so I let them gain ten life (later they cast Pulse of Murasa) while waiting for them to resolve a Living End while my swiftspear applied pressure. Eventually they went for it with Simian Spirit Guide after I didn’t take the bait when they tapped below three mana, and Rakdos Charm got em. At this point I had plenty of burn saved up to finish them off.
Match 3: GR Ponza L 0-2
Turn two Kitchen Finks both games, a Primal Command both games, and some land destruction along the way means this was not a pretty match. I don’t think I got my opponent below 11 at any point. Not a good match-up. Moving on!
Match 4: Sultai Death’s Shadow W 2-1
Game 1 my opponent was stuck on two lands and I had a strong hand so even two Tarmogoyfs weren’t enough. Game 2 I sideboarded overly aggressive and brought in all three Self-Inflicted Wound and then saw zero green creatures. In my defense, I didn’t realize they were on Death’s Shadow until game 2 due to their game 1 struggles. Game 3 was they had a slow start compared to my fast one. Shadow turning on Stubborn Denial was nice, but having so many 1cmc spells meant that one Stubborn Denial wasn’t going to be enough.
Match 5: Madcap Experiment W 2-1
Games 2 and 3 went a lot better since I’m pretty sure my opponent took out the Platinum Emperion in their deck, since we both knew that I had Destructive Revelry post board to deal with the giant golem. However, the rest of the deck from what I saw seemed unsuited to deal with burn.
A 4-1 record for the first competitive league is nothing to scoff at. I really like how the deck can operate for a few turns with only one mana until you draw your second land. Also, having ways of burning out your opponent that are not red or cause your opponent to “lose” life instead of damage gives you some wiggle room around cards like Dragon’s Claw and Worship. I will continue to play this deck and I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on the brew. There’s a large local tournament this Sunday that I’ll be running it at, I’ll be sure to post how I do. If you have any questions, comments, or insults please sound off in the comments below! Also follow me on Twitter @CloudRunner172.