Flashback with a Vengeance

Posted in Building on a Budget on September 21, 2011

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

The Innistrad Card Image Gallery is complete! Now is the perfect time to get out your thinking cap and make a work of deckbuilding art. Standard will be unrecognizable with the upcoming rotation. Squadron Hawk, gone. Splinter Twin, rotated. Valakut, nope. It's a whole new world. A metagame does not exist. There aren't any tournament results yet, and nobody has any idea what decks are actually good.

Go forth, fledging deckbuilders! Build your masterpiece! Go to the next Standard tournament in your area. This is the best time to be original. The best time to be a deckbuilder.

Burning Vengeance | Art by Raymond Swanland

Flashback has been one of my favorite mechanics since it was first introduced in Odyssey block. There was also a period where I was using Astral Slide and Lightning Rift to dominate creature-based strategies that were the bulk of the format at the time. Burning Vengeance, an interesting new enchantment from Innistrad, is the Lightning Rift of flashback. Burning Vengeance ensures that a player with a healthy dose of flashback in his or her deck will never lose to aggressive creature-based strategies, then does double duty by acting as a win condition.

Burning Vengeance is the type of card that will only get stronger as more cards with flashback are released in forthcoming sets. Right now, we're relying heavily on a small pool of cards that actually use the flashback mechanic. It may seem a bit loose, but a careful inspection of the cards available makes it quite clear that there's at least enough flashback to get started.

Let's take a quick look at some of the most exciting flashback cards from Innistrad!

Forbidden Alchemy | Art by David Rapoza

Forbidden Alchemy is sure to be one of the best Constructed cards coming from Innistrad. This card does everything that a control deck wants to do. First, it allows a player to play a more diversified swath of answers because they will have more reliable access to fewer cards. This is one of the major reasons Caw-Blade did so well for so long. Preordain allowed the deck to play a menagerie of two-ofs and reliably find a specific answer for the current board state.

Forbidden Alchemy cost a lot more mana than Preordain, but its effect is significantly more powerful. Looking at the top five cards of your library is pretty close to casting a tutor. What really makes Forbidden Alchemy an all-star is its card type. This card would be perfectly reasonable as a sorcery, but players arming themselves with Forbidden Alchemy are encouraged to leave up mana for countermagic and punish opponents who don't play into it by improving their card quality. As if all of this isn't already enough, Forbidden Alchemy has flashback. When the game winds down to a point where you and your opponent are finally emptying out your hands, you can simply pay a boatload of mana on your opponent's end step and find whatever it is that you need to take things home.

Devil's Play | Art by Austin Hsu

Devil's Play will obviously be one of the best Limited cards in the set, but Burning Vengeance will be sure to give it a home in Constructed too. I've never been disappointed with aiming a big spell somewhere. In fact, I am quite happy with my singleton copy of Red Sun's Zenith in my Pyromancer Ascension deck. With the help of Burning Vengeance, Devil's Play does just as much damage for mana the second time around as it did the first time. This can be our primary win condition. We only need to play one copy, and it really isn't necessary that we save it to kill our opponent. We can always use Burning Vengeance to win the game; Devil's Play is just a nice way to close it quickly when you need to.

Think Twice | Art by Anthony Francisco

Think Twice is one of my favorite spells from Time Spiral block. Think Twice is the type of card that encourages us to build a deck with lots of countermagic and instant-speed removal. It will become difficult, if not wrong entirely, to play around cards like Mana Leak or Psychic Barrier on early turns when Think Twice becomes Standard legal. Players are happy to counter your spell, but they're happier to use their Think Twice on your end step and save that countermagic for your next turn. If you make the mistake of playing around a counter again, the control player will flashback the Think Twice and simply draw another card.

Think Twice is especially strong in a deck with Burning Vengeance, for obvious reasons. The card advantage granted by Think Twice will help offset cards like Burning Vengeance that don't do very much when they first enter the battlefield. I'll be sure that we play a good amount of countermagic and instant speed removal to go with our Think Twice. I cannot imagine a world where a deck packing Burning Vengeance would play less than four of this card.

Desperate Ravings | Art by John Stanko

Desperate Ravings is an interesting card, that's for sure. It's a lot like Think Twice, but in most cases it's a lot worse. Desperate Ravings requires you to discard at random, meaning that it's almost always incorrect to cast it when you have a reasonable line of play for the next two turns because you may destroy your own game plan by casting it. A deck with Burning Vengeance is an entirely different story, though. A healthy number of the cards in our deck will have flashback, so Desperate Ravings can often create a lot more card advantage than Think Twice.

There are a lot of small things to keep in mind when you're playing with a card like Desperate Ravings. Remember to play your lands in the correct order. It's never wise to cast Desperate Ravings when you need one of the lands in your hand in order to have a functional hand. Remember to slow-roll a single land in your hand when you can, too. This makes it more likely that you'll actually end up with two spells instead of one after Desperate Ravings.

Burning Vengeance is the cornerstone of this deck. Once you reach the midgame with one of these on the battlefield, it should become very difficult for your opponent to win. Things get really out of hand when you have multiple copies of Burning Vengeance on the battlefield. The deck has enough card manipulation that it isn't unreasonable to imagine having two of these in play at a relatively early stage of the game. Suddenly, flashing back a Think Twice is pretty brutal for your opponent.

Remember that you don't need to cast your Burning Vengeance right away. In fact, you can slow-roll your Burning Vengeance for as long as your hand has action and you haven't needed to tap into your flashback yet. Then again, if you don't have any countermagic in hand and your opponent isn't putting any pressure on you, then it might be worth it to just slam the enchantment and hope for the best.

Mana Leak is going to remain the premier countermagic in Standard after rotation. Mana Leak is especially strong in a deck like this. Almost every card is an instant, so you'll hardly ever need to decide whether or not to tap out. It's going to be important to hold Mana Leak instead of using it on less important spells like small creatures. You can let early creatures resolve and rely on your removal and Burning Vengeance to deal with them. Planeswalkers should be your first priority when deciding what you want to use you countermagic on.

Mana Leak

Dissipate was always a good card, and I'm happy to see it reprinted. It's better than Stoic Rebuttal or Cancel. It permanently deals with flashback spells and prevents an opponent from having too much fun with powerful cards like Snapcaster Mage. Again, this deck operates almost exclusively at instant speed, so we want to be playing with a healthy dose of counters.

Galvanic Blast and Shock are the best one mana removal spells available right now. Most of the powerful creatures in the new Standard format either have 2 or less toughness or 6 or more toughness. Paying one mana to often deal with a two-mana spell is a nice tempo boost that will let you survive to the point where you make creature decks irrelevant via Burning Vengeance and flashback cards.

Galvanic Blast

Incinerate is another nice and inexpensive instant-speed removal spell. Our deck lets the opponent decided the pace of play and reacts accordingly. At times, it may be correct to start doming an opponent in the control mirror if you just found yourself with multiple copies of Burning Vengeance on the battlefield at an early stage of the game.


Pyroclasm is the final nail in the aggro deck's coffin. With this setup we should have no problem dealing with any deck that intends to kill us with cheap and aggressive creatures.


Here's the final list once we hammer out all the numbers:

Burning Vengeance

Download Arena Decklist

A lot of people tend to approach new formats by playing the most aggressive strategy possible. It makes sense; a control deck is packed full of answers, and it's often difficult to predict what questions you will be asked at the first tournament of a new format. Our Burning Vengeance deck, though, does a very good job of punishing people for playing with cheap creatures. The deck isn't perfect, but it doesn't play many rares, and the Sulfur Falls can be replaced with a couple Islands and Mountains if you have trouble finding them at your Prerelease.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to play practice games with cards that don't exist in the physical realm yet. I'll do my best to trade for a deck at the Prerelease this weekend, and hopefully I'll be able to do some game write-ups for next week.

The Innistrad Prerelease is this coming weekend. You can use the event locator on this website to find your local Prerelease. You get a foil copy of Mayor of Avabruck just for entering (while supplies last). You didn't hear it from me, but you may need a few copies of those if you want to build the deck I'm working on next...

Innistrad is looking to be one of the best Limited formats that I've seen in a very long time. The cards are very interactive and encourage players to build interesting decks. I don't remember being this excited about a Prerelease in a very long time.

Double-Faced Card Rules

Exclusive Innistrad Prerelease card available while supplies last.

Make sure to call your local shops and find out when all the Prerelease festivities are going down. This is a perfect opportunity to check out the set and trade for cards that may still be under the radar.

Happy brewing (now more than ever)!

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