Sealing the Deal

Posted in Perilous Research on June 25, 2015

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

Welcome to the first week of Magic Origins previews here on! Some of the most powerful Magic cards ever printed give us a lot of options. Commands, Charms, and split cards from various sets have taught us that spells with options tend to be very powerful. Burn spells are the original cards with options; we can use our Lightning Bolt to kill our opponent's creature, but we can also use it to kill our opponent. This versatility has allowed Red players to effectively control the board in creature matchups while simultaneously avoiding dead cards in matchups without opposing blockers. Burn spells are efficient and put pressure on the opponent. Today, we'll be taking a look at a powerful new burn spell that's sure to set Standard ablaze.

Burn spells vary wildly in power level, but 4 damage for three mana has generally been quite strong whenever it's been available in Standard. Flame Javelin and Char were both excellent cards in their time. Let's take a look at Exquisite Firecraft:

It's a sorcery, which means it won't be strong in the clutch against an opposing Abzan Charm for +1/+1 counters or Become Immense, but 4 damage for three mana that can go to the dome is an excellent deal right now. In fact, Bathe in Dragonfire has seen significant play recently and this is a huge upgrade over that card. Spending three mana to deal with cards like Courser of Kruphix; Anafenza, the Foremost; Thunderbreak Regent; Stormbreath Dragon; and even Dragonlord Ojutai (if tapped) is a fine deal.

The thing that separates Exquisite Firecraft from its predecessors is its ability to seal the deal and win the game outright.

Sometimes, when playing burn against a control opponent, we'll find ourselves with an opponent that stabilized at a low life total with a fistful of countermagic. Exquisite Firecraft was designed with these specific situations in mind. By that stage of the game, we'll easily fulfill the spell mastery requirement and be able to fearlessly deal the final blow(s) with one or more copies of Exquisite Firecraft. The card punishes opponents that don't respect tester burn spells too. For example, we can have an opponent at 11 and cast Lightning Strike targeting their face on their end step. In this situation, a lot of opponents wouldn't want to spend a Dissolve and valuable mana to fight over those 3 points of damage, but a pair of Exquisite Firecraft can easily end the game without any recourse for the Dissolve/Negate carrying opponent.

The mere presence of Exquisite Firecraft should be enough to discourage players from allowing themselves to fall below 4 life against red opponents.

Let's take a look at what a Standard deck might look like with Exquisite Firecraft.

Post-Magic Origins Red

Martin Dang's Red deck has always played well for me in testing. Wild Slash became more and more awkward as even the Abzan decks cut cards like Rakshasa Deathdealer. Against the more controlling and midrange decks of the format, Wild Slash was often underperforming. I think it's safe to push the mana requirements of the deck a bit because it was rare we would cast Wild Slash on the first turn in matchups that weren't the mirror or didn't involve Elvish Mystic. Exquisite Firecraft does a lot of damage for its cost and it's better at sealing the game with a finishing blow than any other burn spell in the current Standard. One thing that's especially nice about Dang's deck is that the copies of Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst we play are going to contribute to our Spell Mastery.

Here's what a red deck with Exquisite Firecraft might look like:

JVL's post-Magic Origins Red

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This version of the deck offers the most powerful draws from the current Standard red strategy while incorporating an endgame that should sufficiently punish control strategies that intend on being favored in Games 2 and 3.

Post-Magic Origins Burn

When building with a powerful burn spell, it's important to recognize the power of burn spells in multiples, especially when the card is very good at closing the game. This made me think about Den Protector, which has already proven itself to be a great tool in the current Standard environment. By playing a lot more burn we can afford to include this form of card advantage, and we'll often be punishing opponents by following up Eidolon of the Great Revel with a morph, thus giving them a very difficult decision when it comes to aiming their removal spell. One thing that's particularly exciting about putting Den Protector into the burn deck is the ability to double-cast Become Immense to dish out absurd amounts of unblockable damage against opponents that tap out.

Here's the Den Protector version of the deck.

JVL's post-Magic Origins Burn

Download Arena Decklist

This version of the deck seems weak to Siege Rhino, especially in Game 1 where it doesn't have access to Roast, but the deck has a lot of punch in most matchups and seems like it should be able to close games fast enough to warrant some serious consideration.

Finishing off an opponent with the final burn spell is always a relief. With Exquisite Firecraft in the mix we'll likely be seeing a lot more wanton burn spells being aimed at the face. Control players will rue the hours they spent learning how to beat the red decks in post-boarded games as they find themselves helpless to the last 8 points of burn.

Magic Origins promises to be one of the most exciting Magic sets ever. Join me and millions of others at the Magic Origins Prerelease at your local game store to be among the very first to play with exciting new cards like Exquisite Firecraft!

Knowledge is power!

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