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Spoiler Spotlight – Searing Blood

Once upon a time, way back in Zendikar block, there was a wonderful burn spell called [card]Searing Blaze[/card]. It typically acted as a better [card]Incinerate[/card], allowing you to simultaneously burn a pesky blocker and reduce your opponent’s life (or a planeswalker’s loyalty). Red mages were happy to play four copies, and many games were decided by that impressive burn spell.

Fast-forward to 2014. [card]Searing Blaze[/card] is no longer Standard-legal, but it still sees a lot of play in Modern burn decks. This is not surprising—when you basically staple two [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s together as a single card, then the result is inherently powerful.

Born of the Gods contains a new burn spell that brings back memories of [card]Searing Blaze[/card]. Even the name sounds similar. The art is painful to look at, though.

[draft]searing blood[/draft]

To evaluate [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd], it will be helpful to make a comparison to [card]Searing Blaze[/card]. Compared to Searing Blaze, [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] has one big advantage: you don’t need landfall for maximum output. However, achieving landfall was never a big problem. You sometimes had to wait a turn, but most of the time, Searing Blaze was cast for full damage. Achieving landfall at instant speed was even possible with fetchlands.

[ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] does have three important downsides, though.

The first downside is that the creature needs to die for the opponent to be damaged. If you target [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] with [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] and nothing else happens, then the opponent won’t take 3 damage. Of course, if you follow it up with a [card]Shock[/card] or if [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] was blocking, then [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] would die after all, and you would get to deal 3 damage to your opponent. But you do need some extra help to achieve that. In contrast, Searing Blaze didn’t care whether the creature died or not—it dealt 3 damage to the opponent regardless.

The second downside is that it only has one target. What that means is that if you target [card]Judge’s Familiar[/card] and your opponent sacrifices it in response, then your [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] is countered, and you don’t get to damage your opponent. Similarly, your opponent could counter your Searing Blaze by playing [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] on the creature that you targeted. In contrast, Searing Blaze targets the opponent in addition to the creature, so it would still deal 3 damage to your opponent in such situations.

The third downside is arguably the most important one: [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] only deals 2 damage to the creature. Whether or not that is an important difference depends on context. Specifically, it depends on how many 3-toughness creatures there are in the format. So, let’s take a look at a list of the most-played creatures in Standard to figure out whether or not [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] kills relevant stuff.

Does Kill

[draft]Mutavault
Elvish Mystic
Rakdos Cackler
Boros Elite
Cloudfin Raptor
Soldier of the Pantheon
Experiment One
Firedrinker Satyr
Voice of Resurgence
Young Pyromancer
Burning-Tree Emissary
Pack Rat
Tidebinder Mage
Ash Zealot
Precinct Captain
Firefist Striker
Imposing Sovereign
Xathrid Necromancer
Chandra’s Phoenix
Lyev Skyknight
Banisher Priest
Boon Satyr
Fanatic of Mogis[/draft]

As well as:

1/0 blue Elemental creature token (from [card]Master of Waves[/card])
1/1 white Soldier creature token (from [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card])

Doesn’t Kill

[draft]Frostburn Weird
Fleecemane Lion
Boros Reckoner
Nightveil Specter
Thassa, God of the Sea
Desecration Demon
Master of Waves
Polukranos, World Eater
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Stormbreath Dragon
Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Obzedat, Ghost Council[/draft]

So, [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] kills most Standard-legal one-drops and two-drops, but it doesn’t touch the most popular three-drops, four-drops, and five-drops. In particular, it does not slay [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], one of the most-played creatures in Standard. [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] will be at its worst against UW Control and Mono-Black, but should be fine against almost all other Standard decks.

Overall, weighing all the advantages and disadvantages, I feel that [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] is worse than Searing Blaze. Nevertheless, it is still a fine card for Standard. Pharika’s Cure is also played in the maindeck of Mono-Black, after all. (That comparison might not be entirely fair, as [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] kills [card]Master of Waves[/card], but it is still a useful guideline.)

Now, where might [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] find a home? I think that a devotion-centric red aggro decks based around [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] and [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] is not the answer. These decks don’t have a lot of room for non-permanent spells, and I am not convinced that [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] is better than [card]Magma Jet[/card] and [card]Lightning Strike[/card] in the few slots available for burn spells. Magma Jet and Lightning Strike are more reliable, especially against decks like UW Control and Mono-Black that won’t present a lot of 2-toughness targets. Even more importantly, Magma Jet and Lightning are castable off of Burning-Tree Emissary. The double-red cost on [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] is a significant downside in that regard.

[ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] may still prove to be an excellent sideboard card for a devotion-centric red aggro deck, but I doubt that it fits the main deck.

[ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] would fit much better in a red deck without [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card]. Specifically, a burn deck whose main game plan is to roast the opponent with direct damage spells. That way, the 3 damage you get to deal to the opponent is in line with your overarching game plan. Moreover, the more burn spells in your deck, the higher the likelihood of a creature dying to [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd]. For instance, [card]Lightning Strike[/card] and [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] can team up to take out [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card]. It would be even better if said deck contains synergistic cards that trigger when damage is dealt to the opponent. [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] is a good example. Additionally, Born of the Gods introduces [card]Satyr Firedrinker[/card], which can lead to devastating sequences with [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd].

For instance, suppose that your opponent has 2 [card]Nightveil Specter[card]s, [card]Tidebinder Mage[card], and [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card] in play and that you have two [card]Satyr Firedancer[/card]s on the battlefield and Chandra’s Phoenix in your graveyard. If you play [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] and kill [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card], then both of your [card]Satyr Firedancer[/card] trigger, allowing you to take out both [card]Nightveil Specter[/card]s. In the process, you turn off Thassa, too. Oh, and you get to return your [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card]. Not bad.

Here’s a good example of a Standard deck that I feel would be a good home for [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd]. It’s inspired by Steve Hatto’s burn deck from Grand Prix Vienna 2013.

[deck]Main Deck
8 Mountain
4 Temple of Triumph
3 Temple of Silence
1 Temple of Malice
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Mutavault
1 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Young Pyromancer
4 Satyr Firedancer
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Shock
4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Strike
4 Searing Blood
3 Magma Jet
3 Skullcrack
2 Toil Trouble
1 Warleader’s Helix
Sideboard
3 Chained to the Rocks
2 Boros Reckoner
2 Toil Trouble
2 Firedrinker Satyr
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Magma Jet
1 Skullcrack
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Peak Eruption[/deck]

The mana curve peaks at two, which means that you should have an opportunity on turn one or three to play one of the mana scry-lands. These lands provide much-needed card selection, and the black ones allow you to cast the black half of [card]Toil // Trouble[/card].

A quick sideboarding guide:

vs. Mono Black: +1 [card]Skullcrack[/card] +2 [card]Toil // Trouble[/card] +2 [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card]; -4 [card]Searing Blood[/card] -1 [card]Satyr Firedancer[/card]

vs. Mono Blue: +3 [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] +1 [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] +1 [card]Magma Jet[/card]; -3 [card]Skullcrack[/card] -2 [card]Boros Charm[card]

vs. UW Control: +2 [card]Toil // Trouble[/card] +[card]2 Chandra Pyromaster[/card] +2 [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card] +1 [card]Skullcrack[/card] +1 [card]Magma Jet[/card]; -4 [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] -4 [card]Satyr Firedancer[/card]

vs. Red Devotion: +3 [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] +2 [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] +1 [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] +1 [card]Peak Eruption[/card] +1 [card]Magma Jet[/card]; -2 [card]Toil // Trouble[/card] -3 [card]Skullcrack[/card] -2 [card]Boros Charm[/card] -1 [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card]

vs. White Weenie: +2 [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] +2 [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] +2 [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] +1 [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] +1 [card]Magma Jet[/card]; -3 [card]Skullcrack[/card] -2 [card]Toil // Trouble[/card] -2 [card]Boros Charm[/card] -1 [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card]

I’m not sure how viable it is to burn people out in a format with [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card], and [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], but if you’re the type of person who likes to watch the world burn, then [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] should be a good addition to your 75.

Discussion

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