For the first time in my approximately 10 years of competitive play, I was about to sleeve Burn in a tournament. I wouldn’t want to insult anyone who plays the red decks of course, what I mean is that once my testing concluded, I wasn’t comfortable with anything. Such a conclusion to me is a disappointment, but I’d rather throw Lava Spikes at my opponents than play a deck that I don’t understand.
The Testing Process
My go-to in Modern is usually Twin, a deck that has plenty of interesting lines and that is hard to play against. You can see the huge difference between my favorite deck and Burn here, the latter is very linear and not particularly hard to beat if you want to–there is one single game plan. When practicing with Twin, I assembled the combo once–otherwise I was only winning with the plan B, beat down. On top of that, most versions were cold to all the Grixis variants at the moment, but I didn’t particularly like the mana base nor was I able to figure out how to gain an edge in the mirror.
Needless to say, I considered Elves and many other decks, however, the popularity of Tron and Amulet pushed them away.
So, why Burn? Why not Infect or Affinity? Well, I’m not familiar with Infect, I was shy of playing a deck that I’m unsure of what kinds of hand to keep and how to sideboard. If I’d had more time, Infect would have been my choice. Robots are reasonable as well, especially now—there are close to zero Stony Silences. Still, I’m not too fond of the Twin, Amulet, and, to some extent, the Tron matchup. Unlike everything else, I had a main deck and sideboard that I was pleased with if I played Burn.
AH! You thought I played Burn eh? Well, I have a terrible weakness that is known as the Last-Minute Audible and, as I was working on a Grixis Twin sideboard, my friend Wenzel sends me a message asking if he could borrow Burn cards and tells me he has Twin cards. We ended up basically deck swapping and I registered the following list at the GP:
As it turns out, nothing was wrong with the cards, but the mana base of any Grixis Twin is just atrocious. You need RB by turn two or three in a deck where fetching basic Island is usually great.
I lost to Jund and Junk which I expect when registering any Splinter Twin variants, but the most surprising was losing to Burn, something that I would’ve been thrilled to play against with any UR version. The mana base lost me the match singlehandedly—I even added 2 Drowned Catacomb instead of the 2 colorless lands people regularly have, and trust me, it’s still bad.
Burn with Wild Nacatl
An idea that I’ve been theoretically toying around recently is just to add Wild Nacatl to a stock Burn list. Here’s what I should have played:
You can play this powerful 1-drop at almost no cost, with 12 fetches that you already used to get a Stomping Ground and a Sacred Foundry as soon as possible anyway. Copperline Gorge was added over 2 Mountains as a way to make sure to not get too many awkward basic-Mountain-heavy hands unable to cast the Cat.
Having twelve 1-drops also increases the chance of turn-one creature, turn-two double creatures, turn-three Atarka’s Command for effectively lethal when unchecked.
There is unfortunately a downside in having that many creatures: the late-game topdeck factor, which is better when your deck is filled with direct damage spells rather than creatures that can be blocked or killed. This downside is not to be ignored, but I believe overall you are making your main deck better.
The split between Lightning Helix and Searing Blaze depends on what you are expecting, having 4 Searing Blaze would make the list cleaner, however there are a few decks in the metagame that have close to no targets for the removal. Helix at least goes to the face and has the ability to gain you some extra turns as much as Searing Blaze would sometimes.
The sideboard is very straightforward, nothing new here—Deflecting Palm is spicy, great against Infect and the mirror.
Until next time, have fun playing this Zoo-esque Burn list!