Runaway! Steam-kun in Modern

Hello hello,

Welcome back to Brew City. Last week, we talked about how Runaway Steam-kin is a build-around-me card that can fit into different archetypes in Standard. Today, we will talk about using him in Modern.

A lot of people have already started brewing and discussing the potential of Steam-kun in Modern. It has put up results in various MTGO leagues and Star City Games tournaments. I have scoured the internet and made this detailed breakdown.


Mono Red Runaway Aggro

Mainboard Sideboard
Creature 15
4x Bedlam Reveler
3x Monastery Swiftspear
4x Arclight Phoenix
4x Runaway Steam-Kin

Land 18
17x Mountain
1x Ramunap Ruins

Sorcery 6
4x Faithless Looting
2x Lava Spike
3x Tormenting Voice

Instant 21
4x Desperate Ritual
4x Fiery Temper
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Manamorphose
1x Risk Factor
1x Burst Lightning
Artifact 5
2x Shrine of Burning Rage
2x Dragon's Claw

Instant 4
3x Abrade
1x Lightning Axe
1x Kozilek's Return

Sorcery 5
2x Molten Rain
3x Anger of the Gods

Planeswalker 1
1x Chandra, Torch of Defiance

The decklist is simple and straightforward. In its core, it is an aggro deck, but it has synergy across burn, storm and zoo archetypes. Let’s quickly go over how the deck works.

Runaway Steam-kin and Monastery Swiftspear are the backbone of the low drop aggro creatures. They can grow big quickly and attack for a ton of damage in the early turns.

Arclight Phoenix is another core aggressive creature that swoops in with a lot of damage. It is unlikely that you would be hard-casting it. Instead, it can rise from the grave if you pitch it into the yard with Faithless Looting or jump-starting a Risk Factor. With storm-esque spells like Manamorphose and Desperate Ritual, and other one-cmc spells, you can easily chain 3 spells in one go to bring back the lightning bird.

With so many spells being cast or discarded, Bedlam Reveler can always be a RR: draw 3 cards to give us more gas and a finisher in late game.

The deck is designed to have mini storm-offs. With Runaway Steam-kin in play, almost each of your spell is mana-neutral. Even though you won’t be playing spells infinitely, it is definitely possible to chain 6-8 spells in a single turn. The mini storm-offs can result in an enlarged Runaway Steam-kin, Monastery Swiftspear and/or Bedlam Reveler; a returning Arclight Phoenix; and tons of direct damage done by burn spells.

On lands, 18-19 Mountains are fine. I threw in 2 Ramunap Ruins to close out games. Its activation cost is not that hard to reach if you factor in the RRR from Runaway-Steam-kin.



As always, sideboard depends on your local meta. Being mono-red, your sideboard choices are quite limited. But here are a few I have chosen:

2-3x Shrine of Burning Rage: they are great post board when your opponents bring in graveyard hate. The Shrine can easily reach 8-9 counters and just dome them for the win.

2-3x Molten Rain/Blood Moon: Obviously against Tron or any color-dependent decks. I prefer Molten Rain because of the 2 damage fits our aggro plan.

2-3x Abrade/Smash to Smithereen: ARTIFACT SMASH. I prefer Abrade cause it can remove blockers.

3x Anger of the Gods: Now it might seem like a non-bo with Arclight Phoenix, but no one told you to cast it while he is in play. Your other creatures can reach toughness of 4 so they can survive. You may cast Anger of the Gods as your third spell to bring back the burd or even Bolt your burd in response so it will die and comeback another day.

2-3x Dragon’s Claw: Brought in for the mirror or burn match ups.

Below are stuff I am experimenting:

1x Lighting Axe: Can be a discard outlet and kill those pesky things Lightning Bolt/Burst Lightning can’t kill. I.e. Baneslayer Angel, Tarmogoyf.

1x Chandra, Torch of Defiance: Bringing in Planeswalker from SB is always a good idea to diversify your threat. She can be cast on turn 3 with a Desperate Ritual, which is usually very devastating and can snowball out of hand for our opponent.

1x Dynavolt Tower: Tor grindy match ups, turning all your spells into Bolts is not a bad idea. With the amount of instant/sorceries in the deck, the tower can easily generate enough Energy.


Core and Flex Slots

One of the reasons I like this deck is that besides the core cards, it offers a lot of slots for flex cards.

The core cards are:

4x Runaway Steam-kin

4x Arclight Phoenix

3-4x Monastery Swiftspear

3-4x Bedlam Reveler

4x Faithless Looting

4x Desperate Ritual

4x Manamorphose

4x Lightning Bolt

3-4x Fiery Temper

There are many lists floating around the internet with different builds. I will just briefly go about which category they fit in and explain the choices.

More Looting: Tormenting Voice, Risk Factor

I have seen a lot of people run Tormenting Voice as a way to discard the Phoenix. This is not a bad idea but it is often a dead card if you don’t have anything good to discard to. Even though it pitches your Phoenix, since it cost 2cmc, without a Desperate Ritual or Manamorphose, you are unlikely to be recurring a Phoenix on the same turn.

Risk Factor is a doozy. I have originally disliked its 3cmc and thought it to be clunky. But the more I played with it, the better it felt. As an aggro deck, representing 8 damage with one single card is crazy. Unlike other aggro deck that may not prioritize card-drawing, this deck actually wants to be drawing cards, as we are able to chain spells for recurring Arclight Phoenix and pumping our guys with Prowess. The gravy on top is that you can pitch a Phoenix to the Jump-Start in late game, when you have plenty of mana but looking for that elusive third spell.

More Burning!: Lava Spike, Burst Lightning, Needle Drop

No explanation needed for Lava Spike. Obscure synergy with Desperate Ritual to make Lava Spike virtually free. If you want to burn faster and harder, feel free to run 4.

Burst Lightning is probably the weakest card in the list, but it does offer you creature interaction outside of Lightning Bolt. In my list, it is quite important to clear the way for Steam-kun and Swifty to smash in for more damage than a single Lava Spike can provide. Therefore, I am splitting the difference and running 2 each.

Needle Drop. Let me explain this card for you meme-ers out there. It’s a no for me dawg.


On cutting Runaway Steam-kin:

Just bloody don’t. Let me explain:

  1. It is a threat. It grows big and hits hard if you get my drift.
  2. It is a lightning rod for removal. That sounds bad but that means one less Fatal Push or Path to Exile for your Bedlam Reveler and Arclight Phoenix.
  3. It adds mana. This is the engine that let’s you storm-off.



Tip #1: If you think you’re about to mini storm-off with Runaway Steam-kin, remember to remove his counters to generate RRR mana, so none of subsequent spells would be wasted (since Steam-kun caps its +1/+1 counters at 3).

Tip #2: That RRR is the perfect mana for you to Flashback or Jump-Start, which counts as another spell played for Steam-kun.

Tip #3: Unless you’re trying to dig for a land with a one-land hand, it’s always better to cast Faithless Looting with at least 2 mana up so you can potentially madness out a Fiery Temper.

Tip #4: In a similar top-decking scenario, cast Manamorphose or Desperate Ritual before you cast Faithless Looting/Tormenting Voice, so you will have enough mana and spell-count to bring back Arclight Phoenix.

Tip #5: Most importantly, be patient with the deck, if you don’t think you’re going to bum-rush for a victory, it is better to hold your cards and wait for a big storm-off turn. It is usually bad to gamble with card-drawing spells to look for that third spell to recur your Phoenix. Just wait and wait for the right moment to create a board presence that is insurmountable for your opponent.


I think I have covered quite a bit today. Next week, I will perhaps talk about the Izzet build of Arclight Phoenix which is also making quite a splash in modern.

Until then, adios


Brew City

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