Welcome to the Playing with Fire Magic 2015 review. We are entering eight-set Standard just in time for the upcoming Magic World Cup Qualifiers, so today we will consider how some new (and some old) red cards may shake up Standard. Finally, you can see my current Boros Burn deck list that will be my own starting point for WMCQ testing.
Altac Bloodseeker: I am excited to see what this card will do in Standard. How good the ability will be depends on what decks are prevalent in the metagame. If there is a lot of control then Bloodseeker will not be good enough, but if there are a lot of creature decks, large or small, Bloodseeker might be a winner.
Borderland Marauder: Gore-House Chainwalker is already in Standard and does not see play, so I am not hopeful. Nevertheless, a 3-power two-drop is always worth considering. 3 power might be a litmus test if Sylvan Caryatid sees the expected amount of play. Early in a new format, when people are experimenting with unrefined and ambitious decks, this is exactly the sort of card you want to be playing to punish them.
Forge Devil: This little guy has previously seen play as a sideboard card against small aggro decks filled with x/1s, and I expect it will again fill a similar role. There are a lot of hyper-aggressive creatures in the format, with 2/1s for one and 3/1s for two, and if that trend continues, Forge Devil is back-breaking.
Foundry Street Denizen: This reprint gives hope for the continued existence of the “Boss Sligh” style of red deck. So long as there is an aggressive enough curve, Denizen averages out as better than a 2-power one drop, which is an excellent rate. When rotation hits and everyone is experimenting with new cards and cute synergies, cards like Denizen are typically the best way to punish them.
Frenzied Goblin: Another card for the all-in red decks. On one hand, Frenzied Goblin is great against midrange decks playing a small number of blockers, like Mono-Black Devotion. Against almost everything else though, the card is actually just a 1/1 for 1 which is horrendous—other aggro decks will just race you with higher quality creatures and Frenzied Goblin hardly pressures a control deck. I know the card is well loved, but it does not seem very playable in the near future.
Generator Servant: I really enjoyed ramping out huge creatures early with Generator Servant at the prereleases I attended. In Standard, however, it does not feel like this card has a home—yet. The best red 5-drop to ramp out is Stormbreath Dragon, which already has haste. Stormbreath Dragon currently sees play in Monsters decks and Red Devotion, neither of which are in the market for a 2/1 with limited upside. On the other hand, you can ramp out two creatures with haste by splitting up the mana, so it may be possible to exploit something there. I cannot think of anything right now, but maybe more creative minds will.
Goblin Rabblemaster: The word from my testing partner Lauphiette Kincey is that Rabblemaster is very good, and after a bit of reflection, I agree. Creating a 1/1 every turn is quite powerful and exploitable (look how far Young Pyromancer tokens have brought me). In an open board state, Rabblemaster will quickly generate a lot of pressure, and if a game devolves into a resource exchange, Rabblemaster is a perfect followup when your opponent runs low on resources. There might already be enough Goblins in the format for this card to be built around, including everyone’s favourite goblin, Mutavault.
Hoarding Dragon: This will tell you a lot about me: I love this card. A 4/4 flyer for five is not that far from Constructed playability, and if there were any artifacts worth searching up, then suddenly Hoarding Dragon becomes very exciting. There is already Hall of Triumph, or going larger Scuttling Doom Engine and Soul of New Phyrexia (for our Generator Servant deck, obviously), but none of these really are good enough. I will be watching the next set of spoilers eagerly however.
Soul of Shandalar: After chatting with a few other strong players, I have been persuaded that this Soul is probably good enough for Standard play. The Soul would dominate the field easily against creature decks, while destroying their board with Searing Blaze every turn. While it may line up poorly against the removal employed by control decks, the Soul does create enormous pressure just by itself. Whether there is a deck that wants this sort of effect at six mana is not clear however, but it is another card to watch in the new Standard.
There are a lot of cards that might see play after rotation when Standard decreases in power level, seeing as the next block will almost certainly be weaker than Return to Ravnica. However, there is very likely a Goblin Rabblemaster deck that is playable right now.
Cone of Flame: I love value burn spells and this reprint delivers. From the interactions I have had with readers here and with other Burn mages at live events, I am aware that my inclination with red decks is much more grindy than most, but I hope that you all share my enthusiasm for this card. Aggro semi-mirrors often devolve into attrition wars or races between weak creatures and in either scenario, this is a better Jace’s Ingenuity. I do not know how good this card will be in the new format, but I am certainly looking forward to playing it at some point in the future—there is simply too much value in this card for it not be good out of the sideboard.
Shrapnel Blast: Another exciting reprint, Shrapnel Blast is an incredibly potent finisher. Aside from the wombo-combo with Scuttling Doom Engine (can you imagine the rush?), there are not any artifacts to play that are justifiable on their own merits (no, Ornithopter is not where you want to be in your Sligh deck and we cannot run additional colorless lands after Mutavault). With rotation, Mutavault leaves us, so Darksteel Citadel may be playable if there is nothing better, you would not need too many more decent artifacts before we are doming our opponents for huge chunks of life.
Stoke the Flames: I have already had a huge number of questions about whether or not this is playable and I imagine that it will be. I do need to test more with it, but so far I like it. At three mana, we would always play it and at two mana (or less) it would be degenerate so the real inquiry is “how often do we get to convoke this?” Young Pyromancer is still in the format, so even the creature-light Boros Burn shell may be able to exploit it, while it is a great curve topper in any mono-red deck. There is probably a mono-red archetype after rotation, given what we know about Theros Block Constructed and Stoke the Flames fits right in to that.
Act on Impulse: This card does is not good in Standard. With free spells in other formats, there may be some way to break it, but you need to be at five or six mana before you can take advantage of this effect in Standard, and at that point, Act on Impulse is very likely not where we want to be (or the game is already over). However, there is a small amount of time where both Act on Impulse and Goblin Electromancer are in Standard together, so who knows what will happen there. This certainly is not a card that Boros Burn should be playing, so do not even ask.
Aggressive Mining: This is my favorite card in the new set. Just reading it fills me with excitement and sets my mind racing to explore the different ways it might be playable. It is just so different. Nevertheless, after a few days of thinking it through, I do not think Aggressive Mining is any good. Playing it early with only four mana in play is rarely going to work out, but even at six mana, it only generates a couple cards worth of value, at the expense of never being able to play another land (some of the additional cards we draw will have no value at all). I truly hope that I am wrong, though.
Inferno Fist: Another card for the Boss Sligh enthusiasts, Inferno Fist actually provides reasonable value, even in the face of removal. This is almost as aggressive as Madcap Skills and still gets through Sylvan Caryatid (but not Courser of Kruphix) while acting as removal later, or at least getting a little additional value against removal. This is not really the sort of card I will ever play, but I imagine that it will pop up in some lists here and there.
Updated Boros Burn
Boros Burn by James Fazzolari
This is my starting point for the upcoming WMCQs.
The basic core of the deck has remained much the same over the last few months, and I liked some of the small tweaks thought up by Shouta Yasooka and so have adopted those. The deck is designed to beat my expected metagame of Esper Conrol (always popular here in Australia), Mono-Black Control (always popular everywhere) and Mono-Blue Devotion (back on the rise). This sideboard is relatively soft to Monster decks of any type, but those are not so popular here and would be expected to do quite poorly in the aforementioned meta.
There are no Searing Bloods in the list because the card has just become worse and worse in the competitive metagame. Without Ash Zealot, it no longer trades up with midrange creatures, so using it becomes entirely dependent on facing down small creatures, which there are not that many of. I would strongly argue that against small creature decks, you would much rather have Shock or Magma Jet anyway, seeing as you need to control your opponent’s board as you cannot usually race their repetitive sources of damage. With that in mind, Searing Blood is an inefficient Shock that cannot go upstairs when you need it to.
There are no Eidolons of the Great Revel because they are horrendously bad in Boros Burn, for many reasons. First and foremost, Burn is not an aggro deck; it is a tempo-control deck and playing Eidolon robs the rest of your deck of any flexibility and strategic depth—all you can do is race. Secondly, Eidolon lines up poorly against the creatures that are seeing play right now, where it is an active liability against Monsters and Mono-Blue Devotion (while Young Pyromancer is fine against Monsters and incredibly strong against Mono-Blue). Shouta Yasooka, Michael Jacob, and myself all independently arrived at playing Young Pyromancer because it is the card that gives the most opportunities to leverage play skill over your opponent.
The only new additions are the Battlefield Forges, but they are an enormous improvement to the deck’s mana, greatly increasing the number of untapped white sources available. Boros Burn is mostly a deck that rewards calculation and sequencing, so improvements to the mana actually greatly power up the deck. It may be right to play even more copies (in place of one or both of the off-color Temples) but there is real downside to the life cost when you are trying to race Mono-Blue Devotion. As mentioned before, I am interested in testing Stoke the Flames in some number. On one hand, 4-damage spells are the best cards in the deck, but on the other, raising your curve leads to slower and more awkward draws. Almost always I have found that keeping a lower and thus more consistent curve to be more powerful.
Otherwise, the deck runs the usual suite of transformative cards to become a Boros control deck against creature decks. A previous weakness of this strategy that is now solved was that you were trying to grind your opponent’s creatures down with one-for-one removal, while getting ahead on cards with Young Pyromancer and more filtering (most aggro decks will have little, if any, deck manipulation. Boros Burn runs eight to ten scry effects). That worked very well for me, but it would always be tense and a few bad draws would end you. Prophetic Flamespeaker dominates these matches with an enormous amount of card advantage.
Well, that is all for this installment of Playing with Fire. I hope to be back soon with an article about my experiences in Modern, where I have been playing a heavily modified version of Blue Moon Control (I can already hear the groans).
Of course you should fight fire with fire. You should fight everything with fire.