Hot Deck, Summer In The FNM

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another Modern article.

Last week I talked about Azorius Miracles in Modern, and since then we have entered a new season: Summer. This season brings a lot of things to us from violent thunderstorms, high humidity, and (perhaps what it’s best known for) intense heat. So to celebrate the beginning of the season we’re going to talk about Burn.

Burn decks have been a staple in Magic since the first Lightning Bolt was cast. Players have been looking for ways to deal damage directly to their opponent, and finish them off with some cheap creatures for a long time, and this deck is the most efficient way of doing that currently in the format. The beginnings of Burn, also known as Red Deck Wins, don’t come from Modern though. The first true taste of mono red mastery happened all the way back to 1996. In those early days Lightning Bolt shared the spotlight with other famous spells such as Fireball , Incinerate, and (in a few years) Fireblast. Unfortunately the creatures back then were not as great. Many decks would run cards such as Brass Man, Ironclaw Orcs, and Dwarven Trader because one had to have cards from each Standard legal set in order for it to be considered a legal deck.


Even though deck building restrictions were in place in the early days the framework for what was yet to come was in place. Cheap efficient creatures with equally cheap efficient spells are what makes a solid Burn deck regardless of which era of Magic we talk about. This archetype has gone through many iterations over the years, and sometimes has provided a somewhat tribal synergy with Goblins. However as the years have gone by Burn has separated itself from being a Goblin deck as the two archetypes provide a different approach for aggro players.

In Modern’s early days (note: Modern was not officially a format until 2011) several of the cards we have now were not present. We had to rely on Keldon Marauders, Figure of Destiny, and Vexing Devil. Some even went as far to run Countryside Crusher, which at 3 mana seemed like a big investment.

We were fortunate to get new cards as more sets came out, and thus your average Modern Burn deck looks something like this:

4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
2 Grim Lavamancer

4 Rift Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Helix
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Shard Volley

4 Arid Mesa
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Mountain
3 Wooded Foothills
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground

4 Destructive Revelry
3 Skullcrack
2 Exquisite Firecraft
2 Rest In Peace
2 Deflecting Palm
2 Path to Exile

How the deck works

Do you ever watch NASCAR? Good. Then you know all that needs to be done is “go fast, turn left”. While the deck may seem that simple there are things you do want to watch out for with your deck. First you want to land a creature. Either Goblin Guide, or Monastery Swiftspear, on turn 1. These two will provide some early damage, and the Swiftspear (whom I call Taylor Swift) will grow the more damage you do via her Prowess ability. Next you want to land an Eidolon of the Great Revel.

I understand you may be concerned about casting spells with the Eidolon in play, and having it damage you, but honestly if you have creatures on the board you want to push the advantage every turn when possible. Let your opponent cast a removal spell first, and then fling some spells at them. You want to be on the “I play at your end step” plan as soon as possible, and while landing some 2/2s may not seem like much it does put your opponent in a situation to do something early or lose.

Many of you may be curious about the inclusion of Shard Volley in the deck. Along with Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, and Rift Bolt (for it’s suspend cost) you have 15 cards that do 3 damage for 1 red mana. Now that’s efficiency! You could even have turns where you could play a 4th land next turn, but the land in hand is an Inspiring Vantage which would come into play tapped. By using Shard Volley on the opponent’s end step now you can play back up to 3 lands having your mana come into play untapped every turn. This also helps keep Grim Lavamancer online as well.

The sideboard is full of cards you will need to beat problem matchups:

Even the sideboard is efficient with it’s choices, and each card can be mixed in with the others without changing the overall plan of attack.

That’s not to say that Burn is an easy deck to play. One zag when you should have zigged could spell doom for you. Just keep in mind you really only need 3 mana to operate, and you want to play at instant speed as often as possible.

Why you should play the deck

  • You simply love aggro.
  • Casting Lightning Bolts makes you feel like a Wizard (and you’re not wrong).
  • You’re taking a break from other decks you have (nothing wrong there).
  • You don’t like Control or Midrange, and stumble when playing Combo.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck

  • You HATE aggro. You tilt when you lose to it.
  • You want to use as much of the 50 minutes allotted to you each match to enjoy playing Magic.
  • You prefer an even more linear strategy to aggro (Affinity perhaps?)
  • You can’t put down another deck.

Modern Burn is a deck that has a Love/Hate relationship to it. People either really love it, or really hate seeing it. There’s hardly any middle ground, and it’s been that way since the first Lightning Bolt was cast.

That’s all I have for this week. Thank you all for reading, and please feel free to comment below. You can also follow me on Twitter, as well as Facebook.

Next time (this Thursday actually) we’ll get to talk about an old Standard deck updated to Modern as I bring to you (for the first time here on Strictly Average) another edition of Speaking Casually.

Until then…



  1. One of the first recommendations I tell people when they ask for advice attending their first high-level event in Modern is to play Burn. A lot of people making the transition from FNM Hero, to playing 8+ plus round events do not take into account the fatigue associated with the mental stress of 8+ hours of Magic. Playing burn at your first big event, allows you to WIN/LOSE in a short amount of time, allowing you to catch your breath and have a break between rounds.

    This seems like the possibility of another article altogether. Why burn is good for new modern players, and why it’s also good for people transitioning from smaller events to larger ones.

    All in all, I love this article, and Thanks for the great work Scott.

  2. Thank you very much for the kind words. You do make a good point about a first big event deck being Burn. I might have to ponder that some more.

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