Here at Master of Magics, I have got a bit of a reputation. It’s fair to say I wear my colours with pride, and if I’m not playing Selesnya beat down, I’m not really playing. This probably stems from my early days of magic, way back in Mirrodin Standard. Back then, while everyone else was busy putting together their Tier One Affinity monstrosities, I was hard at work running a mono white Leonin Equipment deck, and I have never looked back. There is something about heavy creature aggro strategies that ticks all my boxes, whether it be in draft or constructed, and I don’t see myself quitting them any time soon. But what some people don’t know, is that I have a love for another slice of the colour pie. I have tried to hide it in the past, but much like the other side of Archangel Avacyn, my love for red always seems to burn its way to the surface.
For the last few months now, I have been building up a modern Burn deck, trying different combinations of Boros and Naya, (of course). For those of you not in the know, a Burn deck relies on low cost creatures and spells, all focused on reducing your opponent’s life total to zero, as soon as possible. I have had some good success with my own deck so far, and I have enjoyed the testing process. But I have been thinking. Has my love for all things Naya, clouded my judgement on what makes a good Burn deck? Certainly, most pro players believe in the effectiveness of Naya Burn. But, there have been a few people out in the magic community, who have been trying out other combinations of colours, to maximise the efficiencies of the Burn strategy. So, what do the other colours of magic add to my beloved Red?
The most obvious place to start. White has many potent spells to add to Burns arsenal. Boros Charm and Lightning Helix are two the most popular cards to pair with the deck. Both deal direct damage to your opponent’s life total, but that’s not the only thing they are useful for. The charm does have two other modes, although most people may forget that little fact. Yes, dealing 4 damage is great, but sometimes you will need to protect your Eidolon of the Great Revel or precious mana base, from those pesky control players. Or maybe even doubling the amount of damage of your ‘prowessed’ Monastery Swiftspear, to swing for lethal. Couple this with the life gain of the Helix, and you have a convincing argument for adding a splash of White to your Red. But we haven’t got to the best part yet, sideboard options. Going up against Dredge or Living End, play a Rest in Peace. Affinity got you down, Stony Silence is your new best friend. And don’t worry about the mirror match, Kor Firewalker doesn’t mind helping you out.
Moving on to Blue, we find ourselves with a few interesting cards to consider. Delver of Secrets tops the list for me. One of the best creatures in all of magics history, (and yes, it is), this little guy synergises very well with any deck running a ton of Instants or Sorceries. Plus, once this guy is flipped, he can continue to put on pressure as the game goes on, thanks to his in-built evasion. Another creature to consider, is another format staple, Snapcaster Mage. One of the key issues facing most Burn decks, is that at some point, you may just run out of steam. The amount of games when I have managed to get my opponent down to three or so life, only for me to brick my top decks and never find another bolt, is not even worth counting. So, if you can tell me I can cast a creature, and flash back a Lightning Bolt, at instant speed, you will have my undivided attention. But the one thing Blue offers us above all others, is card draw. Cards like Electrolyze may be expensive compared to other Burn spells, but when any spell has the ‘three greatest words in magic’, it is made infinitely better.
Tell me, do you want to add another playset of Lava Spike to your deck? Well then, can I interest you in running Bump in the Night? This common sorcery from the original Innistrad block, can not only help you apply early game pressure, but if you do end up in the late game, stays live in your graveyard. But don’t worry, black has so much more to offer than just another bolt effect. Rain of Gore is a great sideboard card against all life gain strategies, one of the banes of the Burn deck, and in my local meta of Kitchen Finks heavy builds, could even be main deckable. Speaking of sideboard, let’s talk about Rakdos Charm for a second. While not as good as it’s Boros cousin, it is certainly a great utility spell, providing great counter strategies to both Dredge and Affinity, as well as heavy creature decks, such as Elves. But the most underrated card in black for Burn? Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Now it may be a 4/5 for 6 mana with Delve, but that isn’t the main reason we want to run him. If we are in Grixis or Jund, Tasigur can provide some late game pseudo draw, forcing your opponent to give you more gas, with which to ruin their day. Just make sure to exile creatures when delving, to help maximise Tasigur’s ability.
And so, we finish off our colour pie back with Green, arguable one of the best pairings with Red. Let’s start off talking about Atarka’s Command, which is in my humble opinion, one of the best burn spells in recent memory. Not only can it dome your opponent for 3, but can stop life gain, pump the team, or if needs most, ramp you up for the next turn. Green also allows us to deal with one of the worst hate cards for burn, Leyline of Sanctity. Dealing with enchantments when playing Red has always been an issue, forcing players in the past, to take a turn of damaging your opponent to remove the Enchantment. But, with Destructive Revelry, we can keep up the pressure, which can’t be a bad thing. Lastly, I wouldn’t be remiss if I didn’t talk a little bit about Wild Nacatl. If you do decide to go with my beloved Naya, the Nacatl provides a solid early game threat. The only issue is being able to guarantee having a Forest, Mountain and Plains on turn two, can result in you going down to 14 life, using fetches and shock lands. But, if you can handle the draw backs, this cat warrior is a great addition to your deck.
So, which flavour of Burn is your favourite? Whichever you choose, be it Grixis, Jeskai, or the more popular Naya, one thing is for certain. You either win by turn five, or start losing on turn six, just the way magic should be played.