Burn is a deck that’s very close to my heart. All of my Modern success has come from my handful of tournament wins off the back of Goblin Guide and Lightning Bolt. For those who have been reading my articles from the beginning, you’ll know I’m not a big fan of Modern as a format, but when prompted Burn is my go-to deck. But when looking at the current Modern metagame, is Burn even good?
This leads me to my four stages of my Burn Grief.
After clinching my win in Regionals I’ll admit I haven’t had any decent success with Burn since. I had only played one or two Modern events between Regionals and the Invitational, but I didn’t do well in either. With the upcoming Invitational, I had no fear choosing my Modern deck. Burn was my go to for better or for worse, and no other deck would convince me otherwise.
One important aspect about Modern in my opinion is that knowing the ins and outs of your deck is vital. Every deck is doing something powerful, but you can have an edge by playing a particular strategy and knowing how to maneuver yourself in specific matchups. On win percentage alone, Death’s Shadow has way more successful finishes than say decks like Merfolk or Ad Nauseam. But if you go to a Grand Prix, will you be the best Death’s Shadow player in the room? What happens when you get paired up vs. Brad Nelson – do you think you even have a shot at beating him at his own game? Nada.
This is why Burn will always be my go-to deck in Modern, even when it may not be as powerful as it has been in other seasons. The deck does something powerful, and I can get an edge against people with the knowledge and skills I have as a Burn player. There are so few Modern tournaments anyway that it would be futile for me to pick up a whole new deck entirely for a GP or SCG Open.
Here was my 75 for the SCG Invitational in Roanoke this past June:
Burn by Roman Fusco at SCG Invitational
Although I felt ready to battle in Modern while not being as prepared as I’d liked to have been for Standard, I put up a measly record of 4-4 beating the mirror, Death’s Shadow, Affinity, and Abzan and losing to Jeskai Control, Merfolk, R/G Breach, and Eldrazi Tron. I even felt favored vs Tron and Breach, but with some unfortunate mulligans and misplays, I couldn’t clinch the win in either matchup. A record of 4-4 was pretty crushing but I knew something had to be wrong.
I had been dying with way too many cards in my hand. I just wasn’t casting my spells enough. I could have 3 lands in play but be stranded with a hand of mono Lightning Helix and Skullcrack, while my opponent beat me to death with Thought-Knot Seer and Primeval Titan. The conclusion I came to was that my spells needed to be cheaper.
With the Modern PPTQ season about to start, I worked with Mike Flores on a new list for the upcoming events. Mardu, not Boros, was going to be our color combination of choice, giving us access to Bump in the Night and various sideboard options. This way we could cut down on Lightning Helix, mainboard Deflecting Palm, and Searing Blaze to give us more 1-mana 3 damage spells. The list I registered for the PPTQ goes as follows:
Burn by Roman Fusco at PPTQ
I wanted to win the Modern PPTQs so badly after qualifying last season in the first weekend of the Amonkhet PPTQs with Mardu Vehicles. But I got beat handily in the three Modern PPTQs I’ve played so far this season. Jeskai Control and B/W Eldrazi knocked me out week one. Week two I fell to Humans Company and Abzan Company. In week three I lost a disheartening match to Storm where in game 1 I kept a one land hand with Eidolon while knowing what deck my opponent was on and proceeded to draw spells for the rest of the game. Merfolk knocked me out a few rounds later. It was frustrating as hell. I felt so confident too, and watching my PPTQ winning dreams slip away from me tilted me to no extent. What was I doing wrong? Was it my build, my play patterns, pure unluckiness? There had to be some variable I was losing control over.
Syracuse, Friday night. Miles Rodriguez, avid red mage and Bruno Mars look-alike sat in the hotel room discussing Burn. “Eidolon just isn’t good right now. What matchups do you want it in anyway?” A quick search on MtG Goldfish led to “I don’t know, like five or six?” out of 17 different decks. I had been questioning Eidolon. It seemed to always hurt me more than my opponent and a lot of deck just didn’t care about it once it resolved. I had messaged Flores earlier that day about the possibility about cutting Eidolon, but he would not take part in the conversation.
Feeling rebellious and experimental I committed my biggest Burn sin – I cut Eidolon of the Great Revel from my 75. In its place I slid in Insolent Neonate. But Roman, isn’t that just a draft common? “How good does that card have to be at the very least?” Miles asked. Insolent Neonate pretty much has unblockable, and on turn one you can realistically get in three points of damage with it, while having the tacked on ability of throwing away heavy land draws for the chance at more spells. I registered my 75 and headed to bed. What was the worst that could happen?
Here’s the list I registered:
Burn by Roman Fusco at SCG Syracuse
“Playing a Burn Deck @fivewithflores would not approve of!” I tweeted Saturday morning. I got this text as a reply: “You just sound like a drug addict to me. Like this is insane talk.”
Needless to say I did not make Day 2 of the event, and I again was frustrated. I beat Ad Nauseam, Affinity, the mirror, and Elves and lost to two Death’s Shadow decks, Jund, and the mirror. The worst luck was in the Death’s Shadow matchup. In two games against Eli Kassis I needed an Insolent Neonate to filter away a land for a burn spell for the final three points of damage, but found nothing.
In another match after winning game one I lost a game two drawing 8 lands and losing game three drawing 7 lands. 15 lands over two games! It was unreal and after round 9 I was heartbroken. Flores and I argued over the phone. Eidolon just seemed bad in the current meta, but Flores disagreed with my reasoning. Burn may be bad, but by cutting Eidolon it’s as if you’re handicapping yourself. “You just chopped off your leg and tied one hand behind your back,” he exclaimed. Maybe I was wrong but I went back to the hotel utterly defeated. Where had I gone wrong?
Although the Modern tournament went poorly, I redeemed myself the next day, making top 8 of the Standard Classic with Dan Ward’s Approach of the Second Sun U/W Control deck. I went 6-1 in the swiss, crushing Ramunap Red, Jeskai Control, and four Zombies opponents, losing only to Ramunap Red in round 1. In the Quarterfinals, I lost a close match to Zombies after seeing zero wrath effects in both games. But I had locked up enough points for another Invitational qualification, so I met my weekend quota. Flores and I talked later that day and this time we had a much more rational conversation.
Eidolon is too powerful of a card not to be playing. Sure, Death’s Shadow for example has a bunch of high costing delve spells, but they need to cast a lot of cheap spells to get there. It’s not always dead against Eldrazi Tron, and you have to sequence your turns correctly so that you don’t take too much damage from it and you can maximize the damage your opponent takes. The other answer is perhaps that Burn just isn’t good right now, and I’m willing to accept that. After the PPTQ season, the only Modern event I’ll be looking forward to is the Invitational in December, so by then the metagame could be completely reborn. Although I had cut Eidolon, I do want to point out something important that I learned.
Let me be frank. Stomping Ground is bad and so is Destructive Revelry. So is straight Boros Burn. You’ll lose too many games to having too many two-mana cards stranded in your hand and there are virtually no enchantments you have to worry about in the format. Smash to Smithereens is way more efficient at destroying artifacts and maximizes your win percentage against the decks you’re brining in your artifact hate against.
Although cutting Eidolon may not have been correct, at the very least I was analyzing the problems Burn was currently facing and planned to build around them, cutting more two-mana cards and favoring cheaper burn spells like Bump in the Night and Shard Volley. Even though I didn’t do well in the Open, the games felt much more interactive, as I was able to dump my hand much quicker than before when I was getting too many cards stranded in my hand. I don’t particularly like Modern, but if you get too ingrained in a 75 like Naya Burn, it can be detrimental to your tournament success. So I applaud my want for change and innovation, but I just wasn’t thinking enough.
Burn will always be my go-to Modern deck, don’t get me wrong. The next time you see me sleeve up my playsets of Goblin Guide and Lighting Bolt, you’ll be sure to find Eidolon of the Great Revel in my hands as well. I’m not sure what my next 75 of the deck will be, but I promise you that I’ll be working on it tirelessly for the Invitational. This time I don’t plan on scrubbing out.
Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/spellsnare_
Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/spellsnare