Modern has never been a format I’ve been a fan of. However, with how big of a nose-dive that Standard is currently experiencing, I was forced to gain interest in it. I have tried multiple decks, trying to find the one that fit my play style best. Typically, I’ve been known as a control player. I prefer bringing answers rather than threats. The first deck I attempted to pilot through a Modern Open was Grixis Delver. I didn’t make day 2, and I attribute most of that to the fact that I simply did not know the format well enough to be playing a control deck.
I’d like to take this moment to differentiate control decks in an established format, such as Modern or Legacy, from a rotating format. While both involve understanding the meta of the respective format, Standard control players typically do not have as much experience with their deck as a long-time Modern player would. This presents an effect where, while both players can pilot the same deck, whoever knows the format better will most likely place higher in the standings. This is unavoidable in Modern, because it does not rotate. It expands, and the meta changes, but 8th edition has always been the starting point. So players who have played Modern longer have a natural advantage over those who have played shorter, at least while playing reactive decks.
With that being said, I decided quickly that I needed to move away from reactive decks and to proactive decks. Enter Bushwhacker Zoo. The first Modern IQ I attended, I played Bushwhacker Zoo because that was the only deck available for me to use. I didn’t feel good with it; I was not accustomed to playing such an aggressive style of deck. I felt way out of my element. I didn’t place well in any Modern tournaments until recently. I tried many decks along the way: Merfolk, Goblins(Yes.), RG Valakut, and Goryo’s Vengeance. Out of all the decks listed, the one that truly felt the best piloting was Goblins, which was sad.
My friend Bronson only ever plays Burn in Modern. When we were at the Indianapolis this past month, he was able to successfully navigate the 900 player field to an 11th place finish. He loved the deck and said it felt very good in the format. Watching him play the matchups he had throughout the tournament, I quickly fell in love with where it fell. In my opinion, it seemed like one of the best noninteractive decks I had seen, and I was quickly sold.
Another friend from the local area had Burn already built. Though I planned on building it myself, I asked him if I could use it until mine was finished. He agreed since he was planning to play his BG Tron deck instead. Thanks to him, the next 2 weeks I was able to place in back-to-back finals of some local Win-A-Goyfs. The first one I took home the Goyf, the second I lost to fellow writer Garrett Strause this past weekend.
Burn by Trevor Finton
If I were to go to any Modern tournament tomorrow, this is 74 of the 75 I would register. There is only one card I would change from the list I took this past weekend. I’d take out the Skullcrack I had in the sideboard for a 4th copy of Deflecting Palm in the 75.
As you may of noticed, I do not include Grim Lavamancer anywhere in the 75. This is because I really want to be on 3 Inspiring Vantage, and the weakest land is the 11th fetch. By cutting the 11th fetch, I think it makes Grim Lavamancer worse. This is just personal opinion.
Goblin Guide, on the play, is always the first thing you should cast. He is a great threat to start the tempo of the game out strong, and will force your opponents to think about whether or not to get a basic or shock off of their fetchlands. Goblin Guide is also the creature you want most to eat a removal spell. More than likely, your opponent will kill the first creature you play, and you’d much rather them have that removed than an Eidolon or Swiftspear.
Monastery Swiftspear does a lot of things, mostly it presents a persistent 1 point of damage a turn, but it also uses Prowess to give all your spells a faux extra point of damage. While not the greatest on paper, in-game it proves its place in the deck.
Eidolon of the Great Revel is your saving grace against a lot of decks. On the play, if you have an Eidolon of the Great Revel and at most 3 lands in your opener, unless you’re looking at triple Searing Blaze against UW Control, I’d keep. Does not matter what the other 3 or 4 spells are because an Eidolon on turn 2 is just so much value. Modern is a format shaped by low CMC cards, save Tron and big mana decks, so more often than not Eidolon is a number one threat for most decks.
Spells are a little bit more complicated to discuss. They all essentially do the same thing, burn your opponent. However, there is a way that I like to separate some of them: Utility vs Direct.
These cards are what I dub the Utility burn spells. They provide a substantial swing in tempo of the game if used properly, and often are the reason you find yourself in a driving position in the game.
Lightning Helix provides the situational life gain, while still being a reasonable burn spell. It comes into play against decks like Revolt Zoo, Death’s Shadow, and the mirror match. It’s hard to explain when to use this card in an aggressive or reactive manner.
Skullcrack is actually a lifeline. This is a burn spell you hold on to until the very end, just in case they have something sneaky. They always do. I have never slammed one as hard as I did against the Dredge player attempting to Gnaw to the Bone on turn 3 with half his deck in the graveyard.
Deflecting Palm is the gotcha card. Many burn players play this card sideboard, I play it mainboard. It’s very good in the current meta we have, and almost always is unexpected game one. This might not be a tactic I should give away, but here it is.
These are the Direct burn spells. They are the backbone of your damage dealing, and fire-flinging, and hash-slinging, and smash-ringing and spell-slinging arsenal. They are the forefront of your offense, and are most often what you use to fuel Monastery Swiftspear triggers. Since they are very linear, I will not go into any effective detail on any card other than Boros Charm.
Boros Charm is a strange little card. It most often is just a good 2 mana 4 damage card, but sometimes you will find yourself wishing you hadn’t wasted it. I suggest you take into account the matchup you’re playing against before using it simply for burn. Also, take into account if you can cast enough spells to make giving Swiftspear double-strike worth it. Sometimes you can make it a 2 mana 5 damage spell, or more.
The sideboard for burn is like all Modern sideboards. It has some certain playables that are absolutely required, while also containing many flexible spots for adjusting to the meta. For example, Hallowed Moonlight. I’ll go over the sideboarding plans for each matchup as I go over the matchups.
Recent Tournament Matchups and Results
Below, I’m going to outline each of the decks I played during the last tournament I did well in.
Round One – Loss
I played against Grixis Shadow for Round One. I actually prefer this decklist over Grixis Delver, now that I have played against it. Like all Death’s Shadow matchups, it is all about who can sequence their life totals better. I approach this matchup as a hammer-and-anvil type of tactic. You hit them hard for turn 1 and 2, dealing as much damage as you can. Then, depending on if you have Deflecting Palm, you should use your burn spells to deal damage at times that it would not risk them dealing more to you. Hit them only in openings, very guerrilla style. Deflecting Palm mainboard is because this deck is so big right now, trust me, it works.
A lot of people will bring Path to Exile in against Deaths Shadow decks. I do not think that is correct against Grixis. More often than not, if you’re not killing them with the Deflecting Palm, you’re unintentionally drawing with them. Either way, you’re not losing. Do not waste the room.
Round Two – Win
This round found me facing off against the Burn mirror. I was able to take this down swiftly in two games thanks to winning the dice roll. Honestly, you’re gonna have days with this deck where you never win a dice roll, and those are gonna be hard days. Dig in, and keep on, because this deck is super powerful if you go into a tournament and win every die roll. Properly using Lightning Helix, and proper use of the mainboard Deflecting Palms, will win you the tempo game. Don’t be afraid to use your burn spells to kill their creatures, as long as you make sure you can’t kill them instead.
There are two different sideboarding strategies in this matchup, On-the-Draw, and On-the-Play. The only difference is the card you sideboard out.
Kor Firewalker does its job amazingly well. Also, if your opponent blocks with theirs, don’t be afraid to Skullcrack them. Protection acts as prevented damage, and Skullcrack reads that “Damage cannot be prevented this turn.” This will come in handy very often. Deflecting Palm essentially acts as a counterspell for the game finish, so make sure to keep it open.
Round Three – Win
I nearly fainted when my opponent went turn one Insolent Neonate, and passed. Dredge is not a good matchup for Burn. Honestly, I was very tired due to time change, and I have no clue how I emerged from this match a winner. The only thing I remember is my opponent attempting to Gnaw to the Bone on his turn four. I had never slammed a Skullcrack harder onto the table.
Round Four – Win
I was paired against one of my friends that I had rode to the tournament with, for round four. I knew he was on Abzan, which made my decisions on which hands to keep easier. I was able to take a close game one. Game two, he was able to deploy threats, but I drew pretty well and was able to Skullcrack, and Deflecting Palm, two Shambling Vents attacks.
Sideboarding against Abzan is hard because there is so many different types. You really need to pay attention in game one to figure out exactly what type you are against, and what type you are not against. Like I had mentioned, this was my friend and I sort-of knew the list he was on. I knew he wasn’t playing Collected Company, or the sacrifice combo, so I did not sideboard in Hallowed Moonlights or Rest in Peace.
Round Five – Win
While not someone I rode with, for my Win-and-In (or so I thought) round, I was paired against a friend from another area. I was not aware of what he was on, but quickly found out over the course of our 3 games. Not to spoil the story, but he and I will later meet again to do battle once again, and those games will be just as close. He was on Revolt Zoo. This matchup is a grind, and it is so important to be on the play and have an Eidolon of the Great Revel available to cast. If not, you will suffer the fate that I did in game two of the Top 8.
Lightning Helix is the only other card even worth mentioning specifically for this matchup. That card will win you, or lose you, the game. Make sure to use your creatures more defensively in this matchup than any other. Zoo can’t afford to fetch basics, so they will deal a lot of damage to themselves early. Just make sure you don’t die.
Games two and three try to obtain a Firewalker as early as possible. If it means double fetching for Sacred Foundry to get there, do it. This card single-handedly won me game three of my matchup.
Round Six – Win
I was not expecting to have to play this round. Having gone 4-1, I was assured that I had cemented my place in Top 8. I, however, got the dreaded pair down. Since there were only 3 4-1’s in round six, and since one of them was my opponent from round one, we both got paired down instead of playing against each other. The other 4-1, with the highest breakers, drew in with one of the undefeateds. This would secretly turn out to be a beneficial thing.
I was able to defeat my round six opponent who was on normal Jund Death Shadow.
Again, the matchup is very similar to pilot as Grixis is. The only difference, you don’t have to worry about Stubborn Denial.
Tarmogoyf, or unfair creature decks, are about the only matchups that I’ll bring Path to Exile in. Unfortunately, while it does not hit as many matchups as I’d like, it is necessary to have 3 available to you in the sideboard. I did not bring it in against my round four opponent because I knew he was on a creature light version of Abzan, had I not known that information, I would of incorrectly sideboarded them in because of Tarmogoyf.
I went into the top 8 in first place seed. This is super important because of the ability to be on the play in game one. My top 8 game was against my round five opponent again, and just as before the games were filled with punches and blows. Not to mention game two I lost to a triple Burning-Tree Emissary into Reckless Bushwhacker hand. However, I was able to bring game three back to home base and move on to top 4.
My opponent here actually was the one who devised the local Grixis Shadow list. He was piloting it himself, but was unable to gain any traction against some very powerful hands that I had. I was able to take the series in two.
My finals opponent was fellow article writer Garrett Strause, who solidly beat me in two games to claim the first place prize. He was piloting Grixis Delver. My game one loss was due to a bad keep, and my game two loss came due to drawing multiple land. However, I could not be upset as that was my second tournament in a row, on Burn, that I had placed in the finals.
I have grown very fond of this deck, and can see myself playing it for quite a long time in the future. It is definitely a deck that will either perform, or won’t, as one of my buddies was playing the exact same 75 but was only able to win half of his matches in the swiss. The deck just doesn’t draw correctly sometimes, and that’s something we have to accept. I see myself playing burn for the forseeable future, however there is a list I’m looking at messing around with. It involves a very popular deck from 2012, along with some modern-day updates. Please let me know what you think about Burn, also let me know what decks you’d be interested in hearing about.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out our Streamers here at MtGDeckTechs! They put on a great show. Tiffany Wong will be streaming Thursdays at 6:30 PST so don’t miss her. Last week she was messing around with Bant Eldrazi, a great Modern deck capable of putting up nice results.