You Can Turn-1 Kill with Runaway Steam-Kin in Modern

Runaway Steam-Kin is a cool, powerful, and flavorful design. Who knew that letting off steam could produce red mana?

Runaway Steam-Kin is an excellent 2-drop for a mono-red aggro deck. You could play Runaway Steam-Kin on turn 2, follow up with a 1-drop and 2-drop creature on turn 3, and attack with a 3/3 with upside. That’s reminiscent of Fleecemane Lion, except single-color.

On turn 4, you could grow Runaway Steam-Kin to a 4/4 and attack for 4. After combat, you could then use the activated ability to develop your board, cast a 6-drop ahead of time, fuel a large Banefire, or empty your hand for The Flame of Keld. Although that is an ideal scenario, Runaway Steam-Kin has the potential to be an absolutely amazing red 2-drop.

Runaway Steam-Kin also synergizes nicely with some of the new keywords from Guilds of Ravnica:

  • Mentor. Runaway Steam-Kin’s activated ability doesn’t care where the +1/+1 counters come from. If they originated from a mentor creature like Goblin Banneret, then that works just as well.
  • Jump-start. Runaway Steam-Kin’s triggered ability doesn’t care whether the card is cast from your hand or graveyard. This means that it can be fueled by jump-start spells like Maximize Velocity.

But the best synergy lies with card draw spells that can provide a steady stream of triggers. With one Runaway Steam-Kin on the battlefield, 1-mana cantrips like Warlord’s Fury are essentially free. With two Runaway Steam-Kin, these cantrips essentially start to generate mana.

In Modern in particular, there are plenty of powerful red card draw effects (for example, Manamorphose and Faithless Looting) that lead to exciting possibilities. The approach I like best is to combine these card draw spells in a mono-red deck with Bushwhackers. Since Runaway Steam-Kin is an awful topdeck in the late-game, you need to put it in a deck that aims to close out the game quickly.

Modern Turn One Boom

Credit for the original idea goes to Marijn Lybaert. I made a few tweaks to his original numbers (specifically, I added two Mountain to avoid mana troubles, added two Flamekin Harbinger for consistency, added two Burning-Tree Emissary for explosiveness, cut four Gut Shot because it’s a low-impact card, and cut two Devastating Summons because they’re poor in multiples) but I haven’t changed the overall structure of his deck. Even though Brighthearth Banneret + Grinning Ignus allows for an infinite mana-combo with Runaway Steam-Kin, I preferred Marijn’s aggro shell.

Inspired by Marijn’s tweet, Sam Black pointed out that this deck has the potential for a turn-1 kill.

He is right: This opening hand yields three 5/4 tokens, a 3/2 Runaway Steam-Kin, and a 2/1 Bushwhacker, all with haste. This adds up to exactly 20.

Naturally, I wondered what the probability is of having such a kill on turn 1. I ran the multivariate hypergeometric numbers (assuming that the deck contains eight Bushwhackers and that the Mountain could also be a second Simian Spirit Guide) to obtain the following probabilities:

Turn-1 win probability on the draw: 0.0136% (once per 7,340 games on average, assuming no mulligans)

Turn-1 win probability on the play: 0.0023% (once per 43,104 games on average)

Well, okay. Not exactly something you can realistically hope for, and probably not the best direction for a competitive deck. But there is a chance. And turn-1 kill or not, I’m seeing a lot of potential for Runaway Steam-Kin in various formats.


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