Insider: Burning Man – The Rise of Burn in Modern and Legacy

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Over the past few months, Burn has seen a dramatic increase in win rate in Legacy and Modern. The metagames have reacted accordingly; players are adopting the archetype and increasing Burn's share of the metagame each week. I attribute this success to the printing of Eidolon of the Great Revel.

A Burning Hot Summer

Two Burn decks made the Top 8 of Modern Grand Prix Kobe last weekend, while four more copies of the archetype finished within the Top 32. Burn was a big player in the tail end of the Modern PTQ season, and here in the Midwest it won no less than two PTQs in the final two consecutive PTQ weekends.

Here's the decklist that took first place in Kobe:

On mtgtop8, Burn has rose to 9% of the Modern metagame and has nearly reached the same level of success as Affinity. On Magic Online, Burn now captures more than 6% of the Modern metagame and has surpassed Splinter Twin decks in popularity.

In Legacy, Burn made the Top 8 of the last SCG Open, in Syracuse, it reached Top 8 of the SCG Open in Dallas two weeks before that, and it made Top 8 in Worcester three weeks before that. Looked at together, that's a very solid performance for a little-played archetype in a very diverse format. Players including Gerry Thompson have praised the deck in articles. It's clear that Burn is a legitimate archetype in Legacy.

Here's the Top 8 list from Syracuse:

Some food for thought:

Goblin Guide is a key card in the burn archetype. Since Journey Into Nyx was released in May, Goblin Guide has increased approximately 50% in price on Magic Online, from around 6 tickets to the current price over 9 tickets.

In paper, the price trajectory of Goblin Guide has reached a similar conclusion. From the end of winter towards the beginning of PTQ season, Goblin Guide saw a slight price decrease in line with other Modern staples, from around $13 down to $11.

PTQs began in June, and by the middle of July Goblin Guide had regained its March peak. By the middle of August, Goblin Guide saw a new high over $15. Now, with the results of GP Kobe and PTQs, Goblin Guide has seen a spike of over 50%, with prices currently sitting over $23.

The Philosophy of Fire

Burn operates differently than most decks. Its core principle is "The Philosophy of Fire." Here's Zvi's contemporary take on it. (Here's a concise 2014 update from Flores.) So it goes that Burn is not concerned about what the opponent is doing, nor is it concerned about card advantage in the traditional sense. It simply wants to deal 20 damage to the opponent, and each card it plays is worth some fraction of that number.

Cards like Goblin Guide are so potent because they are capable of dealing more than their fair share of damage. In that sense, every time Goblin Guide is connecting with the opponent, the Red deck is effectively drawing a card. Grim Lavamancer is strong for the same reason.

The true strength of Burn decks in every format they thrive in is that their cards are difficult to interact with. First and foremost, Burn spells can't be stopped by creature removal, the most commonly played form of interaction. From a practical standpoint, Burn spells are also relatively strong against commonly played counterspells. For example, the most popular counterspell in Modern, Remand, just buys time, and in Legacy, Force of Will offers a poor rate and will often still cost life. Similarly, burn spells are relatively strong against Thoughtseize.

The reason Burn decks are not often seen playing creatures is that they offer the opponent an escape route and a way to make their cards relevant. That's why Burn plays things like Goblin Guide, which hits immediately, or Keldon Marauders, which generates some value in the face of removal, or Hellspark Elemental with haste and unearth.

Eidolon of the Great Revel changes the rules on creatures. In the purest sense, Eidolon of the Great Revel generates card advantage for the Burn deck. Opponents will be forced to spend removal on any early game Eidolon of the Great Revel, which costs them two life points and effectively draws the burn deck a card. If an opponent does not have removal for Eidolon of the Great Revel, they will be unable to use their cards effectively, as taking any amount of extra damage against a Burn deck is a recipe for failure.

Eidolon of the Great Revel is also a legitimate attacking threat that must be answered with removal or a blocker, otherwise it will connect and deal damage, effectively drawing cards. Eidolon of the Great Revel provides the Burn deck a much-desirable source of proactive board presence that doesn't compromise the deck's integrity and natural strengths. It's the total package for the Burn deck.

Blazing the Trail Ahead

While Burn is susceptible to metagaming like any other archetype, it's not so vulnerable to hate as one might think. Burn is increasingly splashing colors, typically white, black, or both, to provide access to tools, especially from the sideboard.

For example, the commonly played Wear // Tear gives the red deck an out to hate cards like Leyline of Sanctity and the classic anti-red hate card Circle of Protection: Red, which is actually Modern legal. If lifegain becomes a huge issue, cards like Rain of Gore are easily splashable.

In Legacy, Hydroblast is strong but underplayed, and Chill merely slows the deck down. Red Elemental Blast is a great option from the Burn sideboard that hates on opponents and their own hate cards.

Eidolon of the Great Revel itself even helps against sideboard hate. It operates on a different axis than the rest of the Burn deck, and it demands attention from cards that don't necessarily deal with burn. Using Standard as an example, something like Dispel is strong against Burn but quite weak against the creature draws. Eidolon of the Great Revel simply demands creature removal, so it forces players to leave in creature removal that overall is quite weak against the Burn strategy. This dilutes their deck and sideboarding potential.

The printing of Eidolon of the Great Revel has dramatically increased the win rate and popularity of burn decks in Modern and Legacy. The deck is here to stay and should remain a fixture of both metagames. Share your experiences in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Insider: Burning Man – The Rise of Burn in Modern and Legacy

    1. I realize it isn’t a powerhouse in the older formats, but Stoke the Flames works really well with Eidolon… I’ve been using a package of 4x Goblin Guide, 4x Vexing Devil, 4x Eidolon, 1x Young Pyromancer in my modern burn deck. Combined with 4x Flames of the Blood Hand and 4x Stoke the Flames, that makes twelve cards (20% of the deck) that do can potentially do four damage very easily. With so many cards (Skullcrack, Blood Hand, Lava Spike) that can only target a player – I have the option of using my creature(s) to hold off attacks on the third or fourth turn and then finish with an end-of-turn to-the-face StF or FotBH. In alot of matchups, the fact that StF doesn’t hit me for two (if Eidolon is on board) is just as relevant as the four damage it does to the opponent. We’ve been playing alot of mirror matches with burn, and multiple Eidolons on board makes things very interesting. I cast a lighting bolt last night that cost me eight life, followed by a convoked two-mana StF to kill my opponent.

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