Full disclosure: This article was originally slated for Monday and was a 20 Bolt brew based on the speculation in Friday’s article. It was clear to many Burn players that the way forward for the deck was Skewer the Critics and that splashing black for Bump in the Night was the way to do it. However, since then a 24 Bolt build has already proven itself by taking the top spot at a Modern Challenge. While I do have reservations, I think it is a great list and it deserves to be featured.
Setting the Stage
Burn has been in a strange place in Modern for a while now. It was fast but not particularly fast, needing Helix to win races, and leaned heavily upon sideboard hate. They had struggled for some time due to poor KCI and UW matchups but Creeping Chill Dredge was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It seemed that the power creep of the Modern format had left them behind. Now though, they are taking it back. KCI is gone and Ravnica Allegiance has brought them new toys.
Lighting it Up
Gone are the slow two drops, gone is the lifegain. The new Burn deck is Rakdos and it runs four functional Lightning Bolts for every three lands in the deck. With more one drops they do not need as many lands so the debate is not twenty vs nineteen; they are dead set on eighteen. Furthermore, four of those Bolts are Shard Volley, which will require a land to be sacrificed. To even out this card disadvantage they are running the newly minted Light Up the Stage. With twenty-four one mana burn spells it is functionally one mana Divination in red. Many players have been overlooking that the cards are useable until the end of your next turn. I really wanted to highlight this card in the set review but it did not receive enough votes for Top 5. It is difficult for traditional Boros Burn decks to consistently enable Spectacle with mana to spare. This is why we see the switch to Rakdos; for Bump in the Night in particular. This affords them a proper number of damaging spells at one mana to damage the opponent without tapping out. To make room for these cards the cuts were the aforementioned lands and slow burn spells as well as Eidolon of the Great Revel. However, this is still a very powerful spell in many matchups so it does make an appearance in the sideboard. The only two mana spell that remains is Searing Blaze as it is two Bolts, one for the player and one for their creature, in one card. There was a lot of play to Boros Burn despite the negative perceptions the pilots faced. This new build is less nuanced, aiming to run the opponent down outright, and I personally believe that it is better for it.
While I do support this new build we still need to tinker with it to optimize it. The sideboard is the biggest loser from the color swap as the powerful white cards are gone. While this does make me somewhat uncomfortable, the deck consistently ends the game about a turn earlier so these do seem less necessary. A white splash would not be difficult though; Boros lists often splashed green for Destructive Revelry. I am also not certain that Eidolon should be relegated to the board. I will concede that when it eats a removal spell it is pretty much a two mana shock. However, it is so powerful against decks like Izzet Phoenix right now that I would prefer it in the maindeck. Another concern is the density of Spectacle cards. It is going to be difficult to assemble three lands to cast multiple Spectacle cards in one turn so eight may be a hair too many. I am fairly certain that Skewer is set in stone as a four of. However, Light Up may be better at three copies as drawing multiple is too much tire spinning for such a linear deck. Regardless of color additions and mainboard adjustments I am certain that the sideboard could be improved. Black provides interesting options of its own such as Fatal Push and Rain of Gore. This is very different from traditional Burn and we must innovate further to find the optimal build.
While Burn is not my first choice, I am very interested to see where it goes from here. Regardless of the color combination it is safe to say that Skewer the Critics has improved the deck. The KCI banning takes away a bad matchup and it is one of, if not the, best decks against current top dog Izzet Phoenix. I will say that Shard Volley is a prime buyout target right now at a dollar as it has only a single printing from a set that sold poorly. Tomorrow I will be back with a matchup guide for Modern Humans. It will be printer-friendly PDF with almost thirty archetypes telling you how to sideboard and what to name with Meddling Mage. I hope that it will be of some use to you. Until then my friends.