Arctic_Ghost's picture
By: Arctic_Ghost, Arctic_Ghost
Feb 09 2023 12:01pm

Burn is a deck that has been around for almost as long as Magic: The Gathering has and is one of the oldest decks in Modern. It is loved by many and hated by many more. However, it will always remain, what I like to call, the “coin flip” archetype. What I mean by that is, it will always be a solid choice. It could do well or it could do bad. It all depends on the current meta you are up against and playing the deck correctly.

Before we go further, I just want to say I am no expert and my wordsor outlook on an archetype are in no way gospel. My articles are geared towards new players, players wanting to teach their friends how to get into Magic or a specific format and need to explain a deck or for veterans of a format who are looking for something new to play and want some quick info. My articles are short because that is the point. My articles are quick and straight to the point.

The list we will be looking at today got 4th place in the Modern challenge that took place on 1/27/2023 and was piloted by the player _LSN_. Alright it is time to achieve the combo of 7 cards that say deal 3 damage and throw them all at the opponents head. Let’s rock!

Goblin Guide – The old faithful of the Burn archetype. You can argue this is better than the next creature we will talk about because it always swings for 2 damage without having to cast spells. The possibility of giving your opponent cards won’t matter if they are dead and can’t use them. Creatures are very important in Burn because they are repeatable damage. Getting in 2-6 points with a creature is very powerful because it means you have to draw 1-2 less Burn spells and might not have to get as lucky.

Monastery Swiftspear – I remember when this creature got printed and it has been a staple ever since. You can do some serious damage with this creature at almost any point in the game. While yes, you can get in more damage with Swiftspear as opposed to Guide, being forced to play spells on your own turn isn’t always the best option. A general rule in Burn is to use your sorcery’s first and save your instants for later. Possibly having to force yourself to play your spells on your own turn instead of using them on your opponents to use their resources can sometimes be detrimental to your game plan.

Eidolon of the Great Revel – The equalizer of the Burn archetype. Playing this on turn 2 on the play can sometimes win the game on its own. Playing it on turn 2 on the draw is still very powerful. This card has the potential to do 2 maybe 3 burn spells worth of damage. I sometimes side it out on the draw against some matchups, but it is still a damn good creature to have in the deck.

Lightning Bolt – The best and oldest burn spell in the deck. Don’t leave home without 4.

Lava Spike – It might not hit creatures, but dealing 3 damage for only 1 mana to the opponent is what you really want.

Rift Bolt – this may be a turn slow because you will most likely suspend it, but that can also work to your advantage as it means when you suspend it, you cast it next turn and have all your mana untapped going into your turn. This allows you to cast as many spells as possible which is what burn wants.

Skewer the Critics – I remember years ago saying, “if we just had 1 more Lightning Bolt type of spell for Burn. While it may not be the best, it is technically what most burn players asked for.

Boros Charm – One of the best Burn spells you can play as all the options it has are quite useful and powerful. However, most of the time it will be 4 damage for 2 mana at instant speed and that is extremely deadly for any opponent to deal with.

Searing Blaze – This spell is extremely crucial against creature decks as it is both a removal spell and a burn spell at the same time. Having to use a Bolt on a creature can sometimes help you live, but also lose you the game at the same time. Searing Blaze is literally the best spell against most creature decks. Make sure you save your lands to activate landfall.

Lightning Helix – This isn’t the best spell, but it has a very big use against aggro decks or the mirror in that it gains 3 life. This means it hits your opponent for 3 while countering one of their burn spells or it may give you an extra turn or 2 against aggro decks, giving you the extra draw steps you need to win. I wish we had something to replace Helix with, but it isn’t the worst.

Skullcrack – Life gain is the bane of existence for the Burn deck. Skullcrack being 2 mana is a pain but is necessary to help against life gain spells. You could go old school and use Flames of the Blood Hand, but even though it does 4 damage, the difference between 3 mana and 2 mana is quite huge in Burn because you want to unload all your spells quickly.

The Manabase

Arid Mesa, Wooded Foothills and 3 Mountain– Here are your fetchlands for the deck. It honestly doesn’t matter which you play so long as they search for Mountains. We also see 3 basic Mountains because you need some basic lands to help with casting spells easier as they come in untapped and do not cost life to do so.

Inspiring Vantage and Sacred Foundry – Here are your dual lands for the deck. Early in the game, Vantage is a like a copy of Plateau that sadly you cannot fetch for and Sacred Foundry is the dual you can fetch for but unfortunately costs you 2 life to have it come in untapped.

Sunbaked Canyon – This land is crucial to the deck and I would almost suggest maybe playing 1 less mountain for 1 copy of Fiery isle as well. Being able to use Canyon to dig a card deeper when you need that one more burn spell is extremely crucial because flood is the greatest enemy to the Burn archetype. Other than that, I think this is the perfect manabase for Boros Burn and would not change it.

The Sideboard

Deflecting Palm – This is great against combo decks such as Mono White Hammer and Amulet Titan. It can also be good against a wide variety of archetypes you can come across. Word to the wise however, against a card like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, you cannot stop the card Valakut, each source of 3 damage is a separate source, you can only stop 1. This means if they have 10 triggers of Valakut, you can only stop 1 on the stack.

Path to Exile – Against decks with big problematic creatures such as Wurmcoil Engine, this is the best answer you have.

Roiling VortexSulfuric Vortex isn’t legal in Modern (this is because Wizards of the Coast are cowards!) but Vortex gets the job done nicely. With decks like Living End and 4 Color Rhino’s running around it can also be devastating.

Sanctifier en-Vec – This is a good source of graveyard hate that is attached to a hard to deal with creature. Against most graveyard decks, their removal with be either black or red, making Sanctifier en-Vec extremely hard to kill. The best part is that en-Vec is a repeatable source of damage which will quicken the clock on your opponent.

This card is a little flexible depending on your meta. If you need a more hardcore approach to graveyard hate, something like Rest in Peace is an option and if you don’t think you will face any graveyard decks at all but will face the mirror, you can play Kor Firewalker.

Skullcrack – An extra copy just in case you need the better possibility of seeing 2 copies a little early instead of 1.

Smash to Smithereens – Artifact hate is a good thing to have access to in this format and being able to deal damage to the opponent at the same time is great. If you believe you will see just as many enchantments as artifacts, you can play Wear/Tear to try and help.

Verdict and Conclusion

Oh Burn, let me count the ways I love you. This is my go to deck in Modern because as I said, I look at it as “the coin flip” deck. If you didn’t have time to test and/or prepare for a tournament, Burn is always a solid option that if played correctly, your day can go either way.

Burn is great for new players entering Modern as it can teach you discipline, proper sequencing and good damage math over the course of multiple turns. A lot of players believe that Burn is an easy deck, but I would argue its a tough deck to play.

With Burn, you need to have disciple to hold certain spells for as long as possible, You need to be able to sequence your spells correctly and use them correctly and you will need to do proper Burn math and plan for what you draw according to how much damage you can deal. Burn can be quite fun if you want it to be.

As for this list, I would definitely start here. The main deck for Burn has been well optimized for quite some time and the sideboard can be adjusted according to the meta you believe you may face.

Do I think you should play Burn? Yes I do, but as I said before, it is “the coin flip” deck. You may do well or you may face opponents who against all odds are determined to not lose to Burn. At the end of the day, you need to practice and build your sideboard correctly.

However, with all this being said, as always, do remember my words are not gospel. I will always encourage you to try a deck that I bring you despite my personal feelings. Remember that results will vary and always remember to practice!

Would you like to compete in a free Pauper tournament with some great prizes? Head on over to on Tuesday nights at 8pm EDT and play in our weekly Pauper Classic Tuesday's event! Join the chat #PCT to chat with us and feel free to find most of the competitors on Discord!

Thank you so much for reading. Best of luck to you in your next tournament and I’ll catch you all next time!