Historically, Howling Mine has been a tool utilized by combo decks or decks that tried to force their opponent to play an entirely different game, like Turbo-Fog. These days, it seems like almost every Standard deck has roughly 20 cards that cost three or more to cast. Many competitive decks have an average converted mana cost over 3.5. This opens up a whole new slew of decks that can actively abuse Howling Mine.
Gerard decided to go the red route and made a dedicated burn deck that used Howling Mine to ensure that he never ran out of gas. Yes, the Howling Mine gives his opponent more cards also, but maindeck Manabarbs make sure that an opponent who taps three or more mana per spell will have a lot of trouble keeping up with the constant stream of damage provided by Howling Mine and a lot of cheap burn spells.
Kor Firewalker is an obvious problem, but the Worldwake uncommon has slowly found its way out of sideboards. Baneslayer is surprisingly easy to deal with when you have a Howling Mine and it's especially difficult for your opponent to ramp into it when you're killing all of their mana creatures.
The deck also utilizes the Devastating Summons + Goblin Bushwhacker combo. Here's how it works for those of you that haven't seen it. You float all of your mana, cast a Devastating Summons sacrificing a bunch of lands, then cast a Goblin Bushwhacker with kicker and attack for huge amounts of damage. It's relatively easy to set up a lethal Devastating Summons with Goblin Bushwhacker when you're packing so much burn. Simply kill all of your opponent's untapped creatures on their end step and proceed to bash for absurd amounts of damage.
The cards that made it into the main are all pretty straightforward and obvious, but there are some missing pieces that may surprise you. Searing Blaze seemed like it would be an auto-include when I initially spoke with Gerard about the deck concept. Gerard, however, had played a good amount of matches with the deck already and explained that Searing Blaze had to be cut because it didn't do what he needed it to in specific match-ups. I didn't play any matches with the Searing Blaze, but I trust Gerard's judgment. I'd love to hear your results in an email or on the forums if you want to try a version of the deck with Searing Blaze.
Another card that may surprise you in the main is Spawning Breath. It may seem out of place, but it trades with Noble Hierarchs, Lotus Cobras, Birds of Paradise, Llanowar Elves, and any other one-toughness critter. Spawning Breath also helps us ramp into an early Manabarbs or an unexpectedly large Earthquake. It's also surprising how often a timely chump block gets you there.
Here's the list. It's simple and powerful. Best of all, it can be built for fewer than 30 tickets on Magic Online, and a savvy shopper can probably build the whole deck for fewer than 20 tickets.
People think that playing a burn deck is about as easy as Magic gets. It's this type of mentality that prevents a lot of red players from performing well with the fiery menace. It's important to remember that you're in no rush to use your burn spells. Yes, your end game plan is to throw burn spells at your opponent until their life total is 0, but the time bought by playing burn spells on their early mana accelerators or threats is often crucial enough to warrant aiming burn spells at their guys. Also, hold at least 5 points of burn in your hand at all times if your opponent is playing white. There is no reason to find yourself on the wrong end of a Baneslayer Angel with a deck like this. It's important to remember that finding the perfect moment to switch gears is probably the most important lesson one can take from the burn deck.
I played a few games with the deck to showcase its power.
I lost the roll and kept Mountain, Mountain, Burst Lightning, Howling Mine, Lightning Bolt, Devastating Summons, Manabarbs. My opponent played a Khalni Garden and passed the turn. I drew a Lightning Bolt, played a Mountain, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Lotus Cobra and passed the turn back. I used Burst Lightning to kill the Lotus Cobra on his end step. I drew a Mountain, cast Howling Mine, and passed the turn. My opponent drew two cards, cast another Lotus Cobra, played a land, added a green, cast another Lotus Cobra, and passed the turn. I drew a Goblin Bushwhacker and Forked Bolt, then played my land, cast Earthquake for 2, and passed the turn. My opponent drew another two cards, cast an Oracle of Mul Daya played an extra land, showed me the Jace on the top of his library, and passed the turn.
I drew two Mountains, played one, cast Forked Bolt on the Oracle of Mul Daya and passed the turn. My opponent played an Explore, then a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, he looked at my top card and passed the turn. I cast Lightning Bolt targeting my opponent on his end step putting him at 14 thanks to his fetch land. I drew Lightning Bolt, and Forked Bolt, played a Mountain. Lightning Bolted my opponent in the face, Forked Bolted my opponent in the face, tapped the remaining three lands for mana, cast Devastating Summons for five, cast Goblin Bushwhacker with kicker, and attacked for 14.
I won the roll, mulliganed, and kept Mountain, Mountain, Burst Lightning, Spawning Breath, Manabarbs, Lightning Bolt. I played a Mountain and passed the turn. My opponent opened with a Noble Hierarch and I used a Burst Lightning to kill it on his end step. I drew a Mountain, played it, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Lotus Cobra and passed the turn. I cast a Spawning Breath on his end step to kill the Lotus Cobra. I drew a Lightning Bolt, played my Mountain, sacrificed the Eldrazi Spawn token and tapped my three lands and cast a Manabarbs before passing the turn. My opponent played a Worldwake creature-land and passed the turn. I drew Howling Mine, played it, took 2 damage, and passed the turn. My opponent tapped three lands and cast a 3/3 Knight of the Reliquary. I Lightning Bolted it on his end step. I drew a Mountain and Forked Bolt, played the Mountain, and passed the turn. My opponent drew two cards, played a fifth land, cast Baneslayer Angel, and passed the turn. I cast Lightning Bolt targeting my opponent on his end step.
I still had enough burn to kill the Angel on my turn, but I knew I might just draw another burn spell off my Mine and have lethal. I drew a Mountain and a Goblin Bushwhacker, used up Lightning Bolt and Forked Bolt to kill the Baneslayer Angel, and passed the turn. My opponent tanked for a bit and cast a Sovereigns of Lost Alara, bringing him down to 2 life. I drew a Burst Lightning off the Mine and it was enough to put my opponent away.
I lost the roll and kept Mountain, Mountain, Mountain, Mountain, Howling Mine, Forked Bolt, Earthquake. My opponent played a Mountain and a Goblin Guide and attacked me for 2. I revealed another Earthquake and things looked pretty grim. My deck is a red deck that is designed to have better game against the other decks in the field. A traditional red strategy will inevitably be more powerful and have a strong advantage in the mirror match. I drew the Earthquake, cast the Forked Bolt on the Goblin Guide. After playing my land I passed the turn. My opponent then cast a Hellspark Elemental and attacked me for 3.
Hellspark Elemental is a rarity in red decks these days, but it's making a comeback online as of late. A lot of online players have started casting Hellspark Elementals and Hell's Thunders again because of their strength against other red decks, Turboland, and Jund. This version of red seems fine-tuned to beat my deck. I draw a Goblin Bushwhacker, play my land, and pass the turn. My opponent plays a land and cast Hell's Thunder, I go down to 11. I draw a Manabarbs and am forced to pass the turn again. My opponent unearths his Hellspark Elemental and attacks me for another 3 before passing the turn. I draw a Spawning Breath and pass the turn. My opponent cast a Lightning Bolt targeting me during my end step. On his turn he cast another Hell's Thunder and I go to 1. I have no outs and I lose on the next turn to the burn spell he had waiting in his hand the entire time.
This match-up really worries me. Red decks are increasingly popular online. I don't think this deck can do well if the mirror is this terrible.
I found a friend to play some sideboarded games with me to see if the deck could compete.
I won the roll and kept Mountain, Mountain, Burst Lightning, Searing Blaze, Lightning Bolt, Cunning Sparkmage, Devastating Summons. I played a Mountain and passed the turn. My opponent played a Goblin Guide, attacked, giving me a free Mountain, I cast Burst Lightning on the Guide before it dealt me damage. I drew another Mountain, played it, and passed the turn. My opponent cast another Goblin Guide, played Teetering Peaks giving the Guide +2/+0, and attacked for 4. I revealed another Mountain, cast Lightning Bolt on the Guide, and got the turn back. I drew a Goblin Bushwhacker, played my land, cast Cunning Sparkmage, and passed the turn. My opponent played his third land and passed the turn. I pinged him for 1. I drew a Staggershock, played my land, and passed the turn. My opponent aimed a Burst Lightning at the Sparkmage. I shot him for another 1. He cast a Hellspark Elemental, attacked, I aimed a Searing Blaze at it. He took another 1 and was at 15 thanks to a few fetch lands. I drew a Lightning Bolt, played another land, Lightning Bolted my opponent's face, floated all my mana, cast Devastating Summons for five, cast Goblin Bushwhacker with kicker, and attacked for 14. My tapped out opponent took lethal damage.
It's comforting to know that the match-up is winnable post-board, but I certainly don't think it's a good match-up. Their cards are much better at doing what you want a deck to do in a match-up like this.
Burn decks are always a nice change of pace for me. Sometimes I feel like I look too deep to find a nice rogue deck. Burn always has a habit of surprising me with how well it can do.
Remember! If you have any questions, comments, or sweet deck ideas; I'd be happy to hear them!