A sequence of unfortunate events and matchups quickly killed my ability to put together a good showing at SCG Orlando. I wouldn't say it was all for naught, however. I got some valuable testing with unorthodox cards and had some of my inclinations validated by other top deck lists. Orlando was also another reminder that large tournaments are marathons and not sprints. You need to have good preparation and a little luck to go far.
I'll start this out with the short version. How did I get to a pretty pathetic 4-4 record? I'll give you some spoilers. If you read my last article about Burn you will know I was expecting to play Affinity and Jund the most. I had some flexible sideboard cards for other matchups and the mirror to round out my 75. Much to my disappointment, I played zero Jund decks and zero Affinity decks. I was quickly reminded how wide open a format Modern is. This is what I played:
Round 1 - Charles Gindy, Jeskai Control
Nobody likes to get paired in the first round against a friend. Even less so against a multi-Grand Prix and Pro Tour Champion. Game 1 I end up conceding to an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn with him at 16 and me with multiple Searing Blazes in hand.
-4 Searing Blaze
On the draw:
-1 Wooded Foothills
Game 2 I won after we both kept a land-light hand and I started with a Monastery Swiftspear instead of a Goblin Guide. I ended up drawing my second land off a Gitaxian Probe, giving me the information that he kept Celestial Colonnade, Lightning Bolt, Lighting Helix, Path to Exile, Mana Leak, Engineered Explosives. He failed to draw lands for two more turns and we went to Game 3.
In Game 3 a combination of Gitaxian Probe and a lucky Goblin Guide allowed me to have perfect information of Gindy's hand and force him to hold onto his Timely Reinforcements. He was unable to deploy it in a timely manner and was forced to run it straight into my Skullcrack. With my resources depleted, I was able to gas back up with a Bedlam Reveler and take the game the next turn despite him using Snapcaster Mage to flashback Timely Reinforcements.
Round 2 - Minh Nguyen, Ad Nauseum
Minh is another good friend of mine from Jacksonville. He's a great player and definitely not someone I wanted to play after beating another friend in the first round. He was also playing Ad Nauseam and I knew this. My sideboard was definitely not set up for this match.
I lost the die roll and was able to kill him on turn three---or I would have if he didn't have Angel's Grace. He played Pact of Negation on my lethal burn spell and used Angel's Grace to avoid paying the upkeep. A Spoils of the Vault found him an Ad Nauseam and we were on to game two.
The sideboard I have right now is pretty bad against Ad Nauseam because I have 7 cards I really want to take out (Revelers and Blazes) but only 4 cards to bring in (the Skullcracks and Destructive Revelrys). I made the Searing Blaze swap but improvised a bit. I ended up bringing in Kataki, War's Wage to hopefully tax his Pentad Prisms and because it costs less mana than Bedlam Reveler.
Game 2 I was able to secure a win by blowing up his Phyrexian Unlife after he revealed double Leyline of Sanctity on turn zero. Game 3 was Kataki's time to shine! I had set myself up to win in two turns. I had a Boros Charm and some guys that could go over the top for lethal on my next turn. Minh had three lands and a Pentad Prism in play, four cards in hand, and a Lotus Bloom with two suspend counters on it. The only way I could lose on my next turn is if three of the four cards were Simian Spirit Guide, Angel's Grace, and Ad Nauseam. He hit and I lost the match.
Round 3 - Jordan Ruiz, Bant Spirits
I always bring some number of Path to Exile in as insurance against white decks. They're particularly effective against Kor Firewalker and you never know how much burn is in a player's local metagame.
Games 2 and 3 I had some issues fighting through Rhox War Monk (it's like all of the good parts of Kalitas for one less mana!) but some fortuitous draws on my part were able to seal the deal. I think there's definitely some strength to the Spirits deck but Burn has too many three-damage spells for Spell Queller to stay alive. This is also a matchup where Wild Nacatl and Atarka's Command are better than Skullcrack and Gitaxian Probe. 3/3s attack better into 1/1, 2/1, and 2/3 creatures.
Round 4 - Christopher Mortenson, Infect
At this point I was wondering if I was ever going to play Affinity or Jund. I also got word that there was a lot of Bant Eldrazi which is not a particularly good matchup for Burn. Game 1 was a textbook Burn win. I won the die roll, played a Goblin Guide on turn one, Searing Blazed his Noble Hierarch on turn two, and put him in the Eidolon of the Great Revel chokehold on turn three.
Game two a combination of Gitaxian Probe and a sneaky Goblin Guide let me keep perfect information of his hand for most of the game. After killing two infect creatures he decided to go all-in on Inkmoth Nexus. I had my one copy of Deflecting Palm at the ready to redirect a 12-power Inkmoth Nexus and take the round.
My last match was pretty quick and at that time it was about 1:00 pm so I decided to try to find some food. I had a very unsatisfying protein bar the round before and my stomach was rumbling. I wasn't able to find any reasonably-priced or -tasting food in the convention center so I had to settle for some bad pizza. I'd recommend not doing what I did and bring some better food with you. A sandwich or even a piece of fruit can help you stay focused in longer tournaments.
Round 5 - Timothy Broome, Temur Delirium Twin?
Honestly, I don't know what he was doing. Game 1 I got severely flooded, drawing nine lands before ending the game with him at 4. He had Deceiver Exarch and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to combo kill. I also saw Traverse the Ulvenwald (it allowed him to set up the kill with Spellskite protection) but didn't quite put together that he was also a Tarmogoyf deck. I sideboarded poorly and was overrun by Tarmogoyfs in Game 2. Not exactly where I wanted to be after Round 5 but I could rally back and win the next four to be in a good position tomorrow.
Round 6 - Ashley Rozi, Jeskai Control
Once again not exactly Jund but I can work with this. They're trading discard spells for Lightning Helix so Bedlam Reveler still stands to be good here. Game 1 she gave me the business with a naked Snapcaster Mage as my deck continued to deliver lands and Lava Spikes. I ended up taking 12 damage from the Snapcaster Mage before being put out of my misery with Lightning Bolt.
I sideboarded the same here as I did against Gindy. Game 2 she kept a pretty risky hand that didn't pay off and got exceptionally flooded in the third game. I will say it's a great feeling when you cast Gitaxian Probe against your opponent and they show you an Emrakul.
Round 7 - Brian Braun-Duin, Bant Eldrazi
Well this matchup isn't very good for me and my opponent has demonstrated he's very good. I drew all of my Searing Blazes and only two lands in the first game. His Thought-Knot Seers showed him my embarrassment of riches.
I keep a Blaze in because it's obviously very good against Noble Hierarch, but they also assist in killing Spellskite, Eldrazi Displacer, and Matter Reshaper. The Destructive Revelry isn't dead against Spellskite and was an out if BBD was playing Worship.
Game 2 had him break up my hand with some quick Thought-Knot Seers. I was able to get him to 3 before missing two draw steps in a row. The Eldrazi are ruthless and quick and don't give you a long time to close the door. But I'm not terribly distraught picking up a loss to arguably the best player in the game right now.
Round 8 - Laurence Moo Young, Grixis Delver
I'm pretty confident that this matchup can be tilted heavily in the favor of the player with a better understanding of the matchup. I was not able to show my prowess as I drew nine lands Game 1 with him on 1.
Paths help to clear out Tasigur, the Golden Fang and any Gurmag Anglers that might be lurking. It's also good insurance if they are playing sideboard Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. The Revelers get a little worse after sideboarding because Burn needs to close the door quicker as their cards just get a lot better later.
Game 2 seemed like a repeat of the first when my two-land hand turned into an eight-land monstrosity that couldn't cobble together a win against a Duel Deck. Unfortunately those are the beats sometimes. I dropped after this match to cheer on some friends.
Reflecting on the Finish
The process was good. I had a clear plan to beat the decks that are some of the larger portion of the global and local metagame. Unfortunately Modern is such a big format due to the card pool that you can't be prepared for everything. Magic is also a game of variance and I just didn't get the matches I wanted.
I did get some valuable testing and I think Gitaxian Probe is a pretty underrated addition to Burn. I think with the Probes I can probably cut a fetchland from the deck and still have very good mana. I felt like I drew a few more lands than I should have and rarely felt pressured to get a second land to cast all of my spells. Bedlam Reveler was good when I cast it. It got exiled by Thought-Knot Seer once and sent to the bottom of my library by Vendilion Clique once so it was obviously threatening in some situations. Some games I lost holding two of them so maybe the numbers are wrong. I'm going to do some more testing and see if they should be in the sideboard instead.
I think removing the green cards from Burn is the way to go for now. 14th place finisher, Christopher Juliano, played a green-less Burn deck to a lot of success in Orlando. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to play Flames of the Blood Hand, but Juliano told a friend of mine who played him that he "wanted it more." I think I might play some Shard Volleys before I have any copies of Flames of the Blood Hand in my deck.
I don't have any Modern tournaments on the horizon so I'll be devoting 100% of my Magic time to testing Standard and Kaladesh Limited for the Pro Tour. And now, I'm going to end with an amusing price graph: