This week in Magic: Playing with Fire


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“Time is the fire in which we burn.”


First there was Tom Ross taking down the SCG Invitational with his Boss Sligh deck. Then this past weekend, both the Standard and Legacy Opens by StarCityGames were taken down by Red decks. One was a Mono Red Aggro deck and the other was a Mono Red Burn deck. I guess it’s safe to say that Red is a thing now.


With that in mind, I’m going to talk about Mono Red Burn in Modern. Keep in mind, I want to stay one color because for consistency. If we start introducing another color, then we have to start thinking about Shock Lands and Fetches. I’m trying to Bolt you, not the other way around.


Before we delve into things, let’s take a look at what I’ve been running for a while now:


Main board:

20 Mountain

2 Goblin Guide

2 Eidolon of the Great Revel

4 Hellspark Elemental

4 Spark Elemental

4 Flames of the Blood Hand

4 Lava Spike

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Rift Bolt

4 Searing Blaze

4 Shard Volley

4 Skullcrack


Side board:

3 Combust

3 Molten Rain

3 Relic of Progenitus

3 Shattering Spree

3 Searing Blood


Goal of the deck


What exactly are we trying to do with this deck? Well, it’s simple. Have you ever seen “Rocky Balboa,” you know, the last movie he did that came out in 2006? Well in that movie there is a great training montage (just like all the other movies before it). During that montage they address the fact that Rocky has gotten older and suffers from things like arthritis; the fact is that he’s just not his younger self anymore. So, his trainer comes up with a strategy to compensate for what he has lost.


“So what we’ll be calling on is good ol’ blunt, force trauma. Horse power. Heavy-duty, cast iron, pile driving punches that will have to hurt so much they’ll rattle his ancestors. Every time you hit him with a shot, it’s got to feel like he’s kissing the express train. Yeah. Let’s start building some hurting bombs.”


Cue the music.


This is one of the best lines in the movie. When I saw it, and heard that line, I wanted to work out right then and there. Unfortunately, the tub of popcorn and the soda I was drinking were in my way.


I’m not trying to say that Mono Red Burn is like an old man, but it does have its weaknesses. The key here is to explode. This theme is going to help what determines what spells we should and should not play.


Another way to look at things is to check out some solid reading called “The Philosophy of Fire,” by Mike Flores. Just do a quick search for it online. You can’t miss it.


The Burn


We want to apply maximum damage for as little as possible. Lightning Bolt is the best burn spell and is a great example to base everything off of. It deals three damage for one mana. It hardly gets better than that. The next best thing may be Shard Volley. This is another spell that can deal three damage for one mana, but it comes with a catch; you need to sacrifice a land as an additional cost. That means, whether it resolves or not, you’re still losing a land.


Lava Spike is a great contender as to “next best burn spell.” It’s another 3-for-1 spell, but we lose out in speed here. Still, as a sorcery, this is typically one of the best openers for this deck. Similarly, Rift Bolt does the same thing. There is a slight delay if, but rarely do you ever cast it for three mana.


Now we move onto the spells that cost more than one mana. Searing Blaze is an interesting card, but it definitely has value in it. It’s very conditional, and it doesn’t always hit for three damage. In fact, by itself, it does one damage for two mana. Plus, you need to have a creature in play on your opponent’s side. So why is this in the deck? When you do hit the landfall trigger, which is not that hard, the card becomes completely worth it. At instant speed, you can, potentially, hit your opponent for three damage and kill one of their creatures for two mana.


How do we perceive Searing Blaze, though? It’s a 2-for-1 for starters. What else though? We need to analyze the other spells fit into the two slot:


Arc Trail – Needs another player to target.

Boros Charm – It forces us to play another color. However, because it deals 4 damage, many people have felt that’s enough of a case to play the spell. Keep it in mind, it only deals damage to a player.

Incinerate – Three damage for two mana makes it a contender, but there are better spells for the slot.

Lash Out – Another possibility, but conditional upon the clash.

Lightning Helix – The ability to gain life and, essentially, cause a six point life swing is very nice. However, again, you need to introduce another color into the mix.

Lightning Strike – See Incinerate.

Magma Jet – In the other versions of the deck that was touched upon at the beginning of the article, Magma Jet has made the cut. The ability to scry two cards and manipulate the deck so you draw into burn is very convincing. We’re looking for more here. If I’m scrying in search of burn, I’ve already lost.


As you can see, there are options, but we’re Mono Red. Searing Blaze just beats out the competition by a hair. There is another spell in the two slot. That card is Skullcrack. This is very similar to Lightning Strike and Incinerate. However, there is an important part of the card that causes it to make the cut, and that’s the fact that it stops players from gaining life and damage cannot be prevented that turn.


Granted, some decks only play one, but Spinx’s Revelation is in Modern. There is also Kitchen Finks. Modern can be a fast format, and there is little room for mistakes. Any kind of life gain is such a set-back that its best to not take any chances. Did you know that Pod decks can gain infinite life? Yes, and I learned that the hard way over the weekend. Thank goodness I had a Skullcrack in hand to stop the shenanigans.


Finally, our last spot is for Flames of the Bloodhand. This is the most expensive burn spell in the deck, but it’s also our only spell that does four damage. It hits like an express train and stops life-gain and, once again, stops damage prevention.


That’s it for this week as I go well over my word count. Next week, we’ll pick things up and go over the creature package, the side board, and any changes I may want to make heading into Grand Prix Worcester.


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About the author


Simeon is now the Community Manager for Battleground Games & Hobbies. He is also an avid gamer who loves to play board games and video games. He graduated college with a degree in Political Science, and now serves the public by writing about games. You can check that out here. Don’t forget to “like” him on Facebook as well. It’ll update you on all of his newest content. Best of all, you can follow Simeon on Twitter (@SimeonCortezano) for some real time hilarity. Thanks for reading!


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