Card Spotlight: The Flame of Keld

Posted in Event Coverage on June 1, 2018

By Tobi Henke

History of Benalia was the Saga with the most copies in the running at Pro Tour Dominaria. The Eldest Reborn was the Saga that showed up in the largest number of different main decks and/or sideboards. Neither of the two came as much of a surprise. While sifting through the decks for our metagame breakdown, however, we came across a small group of players who went with a full play set of The Flame of Keld.

The archetype was something of a spiritual successor to Blue-Red Wizards: more streamlined to create possibly the most aggressive deck in the format. I needed to learn more about this, so I sought out the people that were flaming so furiously.

The first name on my list was Reed Alexander. I looked for him during the Booster Draft rounds, and when I arrived at the table where he was playing, I didn't even need to check who was who. To my delight, Alexander was attacking with Ghitu Lavarunner and then cast The Flame of Keld.

Reed Alexander's Blue-Red Draft Deck

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"That's right, I basically drafted my Standard deck," he chuckled, when I talked to him after the match. I was interested to hear whether the draft strategy had influenced his choice for Standard or the other way around?

"The Standard deck came first. We got it from an online league, and then built upon that."

Akerlund's Mono-Red Flame, 5-0 in a Competitive Standard League

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"For example, we decided to run fewer Abrade and we found the perfect replacement in Hungry Flames. Now only one of my spells doesn't deal damage to the opponent," Alexander said. "Hungry Flames is of course amazing with the Flame of Keld, as is Goblin Chainwhirler, obviously."

In the end, no one else on his testing team decided to run the deck, though many were tempted. "You're basically doing an imitation of Modern Burn, and the deck does have some insane matchups. Game 1 against White-Blue Control, I was winning like 80 percent of the time, and it wasn't even close."

Reed Alexander was one of the few players who sleeved up The Flame of Keld for his Standard deck, as its explosive draws showed remarkable promise.

Regarding The Flame of Keld in draft, Alexander explained that he and his team had a lot of success drafting aggressive red decks, either with black or more often with blue. "Dan Ward was probably the biggest proponent of the archetype, and after testing it in Standard, we realized that maybe we should try the card in Limited too! It didn't disappoint. It's good! It should go into a lot of red decks. Not all of them, but it should see more play than it does at the moment."

Another player who was stoking The Flame of Keld in Standard was Marc Tobiasch. The Pro Tour Amonkhet quarterfinalist had long cultivated a reputation for coming up with curious decks. This time he had come to many of the same conclusions as Alexander, even though he was working independently from the latter.

For one thing, Tobiasch also was no fan of Abrade. "This deck is all about being as aggressive as possible; Abrade has no place here. In one of my games, I went Soul-Scar Mage on turn one, while my opponent played a tapped land. Then I cast another Mage on turn two, while my opponent cast Heart of Kiran or Scrapheap Scrounger or some other useless thing. Then I played a third Mountain, cast triple Wizard's Lightning, and attacked for what was effectively a turn-three kill. It doesn't get much faster than that."

"One reason why I figured this was the right call is that Red-Black is actually more of a midrange deck," Tobiasch continued. "The usual approach to combat midrange decks is to go bigger, so that's what I expected many players to do. When everyone is trying to go over the top of each other, however, going under their defenses with something lower to the ground is the best.

"The Flame of Keld is similar to Hazoret the Fervent in that it offers another way to get your second wind. An aggressive deck will often lose if it draws too many lands, and this one is no exception. In testing, we had this joke that Mountains were poison counters. If you acquire ten of them in a game, you lose."

For specifics, Tobiasch rattled off an impressive list of what The Flame of Keld was doing, beginning with Goblin Chainwhirler, naturally, and going down all the way to Kari Zev, Skyship Raider. "When The Flame is triggered, a simple attack with Kari Zev will deal 7 damage on its own. Most importantly though, with Wizard's Lightning, red decks no longer have the problem of a lack of burn spells."

The Flame clearly deserved further attention, for both Standard and Draft. The Saga continues!

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