Fiery Fate

Posted in Reconstructed on March 11, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.


It has been described as many things. Fixed. Fickle. Fatal. As both a blessing and a curse of the human nature. And, most commonly, unchangeable.

Well, I like to think about it a little differently.

There are things in life that happen to you that you can't completely control—that is certainly true. You can't really control how traffic is going to be, or what the weather is going to end up as. But what you cancontrol is how you react and plan. If traffic is awful, you can audible and take another route. If it's raining, you could dress appropriately—or you could have checked the weather report the night before and prepared for it.

It works the other way, too.

Maybe you met your significant other by total coincidence at a party—but it was you who chose to go that party in the first place instead of staying at home that day. And maybe, just maybe, you topdecked the right card to win a PTQ... but remember: you made all of the plays to get into the finals so you could put yourself into a situation where you would be able to topdeck that card. In another universe, maybe you never got that far.

It's all action and reaction. You don't just have to let life happen to you—you can let yourself happen to life.

Traveling Philosopher | Art by James Ryman

But enough existentialism. Where is all of this philosophy going? Well, it ties in with this week's ReConstructed article, of course! For Fated Week, I'm going to choose the deck I work on completely randomly out of all the decks submitted to me this week. This is the fate part. This is life throwing me something.

Then, I'm going to react to what I'm thrown. I'm going to get tossed a deck and make it the best I can while keeping it the same colors it started as.

Action. Reaction. Deck building. Ready?

Jordan Fleet's Red Burn

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The Battle Plan

The deck I let fate deal me actually has a Fated card in it. Wow. Now isn't that something.

In any case, what we have here is an age-old Magic strategy that many of you are probably quite familiar with: burn! Lobbing fire straight at the opponent's noggin to kill him or her as fast as possible is this deck's tactic. It's not subtle—but it works.

A lot of people believe Burn decks are self-playing and decisionless, the option of the uninformed player—but you may want to think again. Even Jon Finkel has armed himself with burn before; at the World Championships, of all places!

The thing about Burn is that it falls into the category of deck that is really easy to play at 85% efficiency... but squeaking out those last 15% is something only seasoned Burn veterans can do. Watching Mountain-man Patrick Sullivan play Burn really opened my eyes to just how many tiny edges you can get. And not just through playing Magic, but through deck building as well.

There are plenty of modifications we can make to pull maximum efficiency out of a deck like this. The key is going to be in figuring out what each card is doing for the deck, and if another card would improve our damage output. I'm sure you have all seen plenty of Mono-Red Devotion decks by now, so I'm going to keep this deck more burn focused. Let's get started!

Deck Breakdown

What can stay, and what can be incinerated? Let's go through the deck card by card and find out.


In a Burn deck, I'm always looking for cards that maximize the amount of damage you can deal—and Guttersnipe stacks up well. Adding its damage to the oncoming storm of burn spells in your deck can create some of your most explosive draws.

Now, creatures in Burn decks are always a tricky thing: if you have very few creatures, they are just going to be eaten up by your opponent's removal spells, but if you have too many then you may want to consider switching your focus to a more Red Deck Wins style of red. This deck has just about the right mix in that it will take more than one removal spell to shut down your army, but you still have plenty of room. Considering that, I'm happy keeping all four Guttersnipes.

Young Pyromancer

Like Guttersnipe, any card that makes your burn spells better for a low mana cost automatically grabs my attention. Young Pyromancer does an incredible job at pumping out creatures. The tokens can both attack—excellent, of course—but, quite relevantly, block as well. In a format full of huge cards like Polukranos that can hit the table early, buying time for you to fire off a bevy of burn spells goes a long way. I want to stick with the full set of these.

Satyr Firedancer

This Born of the Gods newcomer promises pretty big things. Searing Blaze was an incredibly powerful Magic card, and this (essentially) turns all of your burn spells that can go to the face into Searing Blazes.

However, he looks a lot better than he tends to play out. A crucial deck-building rule I'll reiterate over and over is that every card you play comes at the cost of another card. If Satyr Firedancer just magically danced his way across fire and into your hand, that'd be great. However, until that starts being a common occurrence, you're going to have to play Satyr Firedancer in your deck over other cards—and a lot of the time, I'd rather have a burn spell or an efficient creature than something that costs two mana and may not even be effective in some matchups.

I'd much rather have both Guttersnipe and Young Pyromancer, since they are guaranteed to generate an advantage when you cast a spell, and those really start to fill up the quota of creatures that rely on your spells to have an effect. There just isn't a lot I want to keep the Firedancer for.

There is another card I want, though—and its name is only three letters off (and switching the order of the words) from Firedancer: it's Firedrinker Satyr!

Firedrinker Satyr

While this is a Burn deck at heart, I'll let you in on a secret: creatures are secretly really all just hyper-efficient burn spells. Granted, they don't trigger your Guttersnipe or Pyromancer, but a good one-drop can get in for a ton of damage.

In Standard, right now, 2-power one-drops aren't as good as usual because of Sylvan Caryatid. For example, Rakdos Cackler isn't a card I'm as excited about here. But Firedrinker Satyr is a bit different: it has the ability to bust right through a Caryatid. Block—I dare you!

I'm going to play all four Firedrinkers. I want to have one on turn one if I can each game, and drawing multiples is great.

Chandra's Phoenix

A staple card for burn-focused and creature-focused Red decks alike, the Phoenix is excellent. It has haste, attacks in the air (meaning it's more likely to keep pushing through damage), and is highly resistant to removal spells. That 2 damage every turn really adds up so your burn spells can seal the deal. I definitely don't want to cut any of these.


Lightning Strike

I'm going to treat these all as one group, since they need to be looked at and compared together. That means all of Shock, Lightning Strike, Skullcrack, Flames of the Firebrand, Bolt of Keranos, and Fated Conflagration are going to be up for discussion here.

The three axes to consider here for burn spells are mana cost, damage output, and additional abilities. Mana cost is an especially crucial metric in this deck—more so than some other burn decks. Why? Well, in a deck full of Young Pyromancers and Guttersnipes, being able to cast as many burn spells for as cheaply as possible is going to go a long way.

At the top of the list is definitely Lightning Strike. At two mana for 3 damage, the cost and damage input-to-output is as good as it gets in Standard. I definitely want all four of those.

After that, I'll list Skullcrack. While Skullcrack can't target creatures, in a burn deck you're going to (ideally) be sending most of your burn spells upstairs anyway. Additionally, preventing life gain in a format full of Sphinx's Revelation and Gray Merchant of Asphodel is game changing. I'm going to keep all of those.

Lightning Strike

Finally, the last of the burn spells above the line for me is Shock. While we've seen better than one mana for 2 damage in the past, don't let that fool you. It's what we have to work with in Standard right now, and here it triggers both Young Pyromancer and Guttersnipe.

The other three aren't quite there for me.

Three mana for 3 damage isn't a great rate, and at three mana there's a lot I'd rather be doing. For example, I could be casting something like Boros Reckoner. Both Bolt of Keranos and Flames of the Firebrand fail here for me. I'd rather have cheaper, more efficient burn spells.

Fated Conflagration was cut for two reasons. First, it costs four mana, and I definitely don't want many cards that cost four in this deck. Chandra is enough. Second, it can't hit players. While killing off Polukranos if you manage to hit your fourth land drop early is nice, the weakness in your primary game plan coupled with the fact that there's no guarantee you'll actually be able to cast it on time gets it out of my deck. There's some joke around here about choosing your fate somewhere...

Fated Conflagration

So, what goes in their place? Well Gavin, I'm glad you asked yourself!

Magma Jet is an excellent burn spell. It both costs two mana—much more manageable than three—and also scrys: a very valuable ability in burn. In a deck that never wants excess lands, being able to scry them away (or scry a much-needed land to the top) goes a long way. I'll happily take four of these.

The other card I want is Searing Blood. Now, it's true that this card isn't great against control decks. However, it's so strong against beatdown and midrange that it's worth it. Killing a creature and sending 3 points straight at your opponent is really powerful; it both pushes your creatures through and deals damage to your opponent. And while it is bad against control, a lot of the time the control player will tap out for an Elspeth to defend against you—giving you a perfect opening to kill off your opponent's tokens for value. I'm willing to commit and play four copies.

Magma Jet
Searing Blood
Chandra, Pyromaster

Chandra costs four mana, and is now the only four-mana spell left in the deck—and she's worth it.

If your opponent isn't putting up pressure, Chandra's +0 can give you a stream of card advantage to burn him or her out with. Her +1 is actually pretty reasonable as well, sending any creatures or tokens you may have past blockers. And if you ever manage to hit the ultimate in this deck, that should be game over.

I'm going to add in the third Chandra, as well as a twenty-first land to help get there.

That brings the final decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Unfated Burn

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And there you have it! A Burn deck. And there are plenty of intricacies to keep in mind: when is it right to leave mana up for Skullcrack? How should you scry? Do you want to play Guttersnipe or Chandra's Phoenix on the third turn? Choose wisely.

If you wanted to evolve this deck further, the first thing I would look into is exploring other colors. Red-white gives you the super-powerful Boros Charm and Warleader's Helix, as well as access to Chained to the Rocks. Black gives you Pain Seer, Toil // Trouble (Trouble is very swingy, but if you have black you can mitigate playing four main-deck copies with Toil), and any removal you might need.

Have fun!

Honorable Mentions

What were some of the many other great decks submitted this week? Take a look!

Blake Manor's Dega Midrange

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Tyler White's Lands are Creatures Too!

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Thomas Scott Smith's Oh, the Torment!

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Jacob Janssens's Duskmantle Grixis

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Sho Hayakawa's Three-Turn Kill Naya

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Erick Lavandier's Tormenting Auras

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Nekomata-sensei's Infinite Kiora's Visions

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Danny's Nemean Bant

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Eloi Rimmelspacher's RW DOUBLE STRIKE BLITZ

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Akinori Yukawa's Busy Merchant

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Louis Nastasi's Gigantic Tokens

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Qoarl's Lobber Crew

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Ryo Itabashi's Deathtouch Pingers

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Kojima Kouji's BR Oracle of Plague deck

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Rahil Khan & John Witt's BUG Planeswalkers

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Modern Methods

Richmond, Virginia, just played host to the second-largest Grand Prix of all time that featured the Modern format, and there's plenty to talk and think about. I always love seeing what you come up with in Modern—and, with the Pro Tour and a Grand Prix in the books, it's time for another look! Here are the details:

Format: Modern
Restrictions: None!
Deadline: March 17, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time

Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)

Yourname's Deckname

20 Land
20 Land
4 Creature
4 Creature
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
4 Planeswalker

I can't wait to see what you come up with!

In the meantime, if you have any feedback on this article, feel free to send it my way. You can either post it in the forums or send me a tweet and I'll be sure to take a look.

Have fun with Burn! I'll be back next week with a look at multicolored Standard decks. Until then, may the odds be ever in your favor.




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