Since the printing of Eidolon of the Great Revel, Burn decks have had a place amongst the most popular Modern decks. We've seen it win World Magic Cup Qualifiers, Grand Prix and place in the Top 8 at Pro Tours. Burn has been a consistent force, but you don't overpower or outplay anybody with the deck. Rather, you win battles through deckbuilding, mulliganing, and metagame positioning.
Like we saw with Jeff Hoogland's Abzan Chord, Gerry Thompson also showed up to the Players Championship with a tuned alternate version of a Modern Archetype. His weapon of choice was Burn, but not just any old stock list that we have seen time and time again. Instead, he utilized an elegant and streamlining adaption of removing Green from the main deck.
Instead of the Wild Nacatl and Atarka's Command that we see in the typical Naya versions of Burn, we have several tweaks: the inclusion of Lightning Helix, the full playset of Rift Bolt, playing a few Grim Lavamancer, some Skullcrack as pseudo-replacements for the Commands, and even a copy of Shard Volley. Wild Nacatl is an excellent card – once banned in Modern – but within Burn it's a rather poor draw on anything other than the first or second turn. Atarka's Command is certainly better than Skullcrack, but only superior when you are on board and generally already doing well; it's also an awesome card, but unnecessary to be successful with Burn.
Gerry's Boros Burn's additional damage spells make your topdecks better, providing you with more reach. You sacrifice a bit of power without the green, but the removal of these cards significantly improves the mana base. Not having to fetch out a Stomping Ground in case you draw green spells makes your draws a bit smoother and often saves you two life each game. You are better against Blood Moon, Spreading Seas, Ghost Quarters and the like. Coupled with the fact that you get to play Lightning Helix, the extra 2-5 life this provides can be a game-winner because it often provides an additional draw step. This all culminates in the fact that you don't have Wild Nacatl, so any extra turns gained through a higher life total results in a higher frequency of burn spells drawn off the top; when a Wild Nacatl is useless and you are looking for that last spell to finish them. There are a lot of margins to be gained through what seems like a minor change, and all in all I think it's an interesting spin on a tried-and-true archetype.
One of the more subtle-yet-important factors to understand about the increased potency of Boros Burn in the current metagame is the popularity of Dredge, though this will probably change with the re-banning of Golgari Grave-Troll. But if Dredge persists in some form, the powerful-yet-hateable deck demands sideboard attention from every deck, slots well-spent as they are super effective. This eats into the sideboard slots that used to be dedicated to combat Burn.
After playing two Leagues, the only dedicated hate I ran into was a few Kor Firewalker and an Obstinate Baloth, a pretty swell "hate rate" for 10 matches of Magic and a good case for removing the Wild Nacatl. This is ultimate beauty by design. The best way for Burn to beat hate cards such as Kor Firewalker, Timely Reinforcements, Sun Droplet/Dragon's Claw and so on, is through combat. Combat gives you renewable damage, so creatures (i.e. Wild Nacatl) can get in for six or nine damage to compensate for extra life gain from the opponent. Of course, when your opponents aren't packing extra lifegain you are more often going to get there with just burn spells. When this is the case, having more burn makes your deck more efficient and harder to interact with since you are playing fewer creatures and more spells. Creatures demand removal or opposing creatures, but straight burn demands permission, discard or lifegain. When counting to 20 – or ideally 17 or perhaps even less – the most consistent and effective route is through spells.
Now, exactly how much of this Gerry Thompson intended is unknown, but I'm in favor of giving him the benefit of the doubt as a true master and innovator. He likely figured players at the Players Championship would not bother with burn hate. Leave it to Gerry T to bust open an archetype that has remained unchanged for years.
With the upcoming printing of Fatal Push, Nacatl-free lists such as this might be the Burn deck of the future. I envision decks like Jund, Grixis and even some combo-oriented decks will utilize Fatal Push as a cheap and efficient answer. All in all, this is bad for Burn, as people don't need to rely on Terminate and such against you. They won't need to disrupt their curve to deal with threats, and can also likely take less damage from their mana base since Fatal Push is so easy to cast. The best way to combat this impending reality is to play a more spell-based version.
For my video, the only changes I made were to the sideboard, where I cut two Relic of Progenitus and one Molten Rain. I replaced them with two Rest in Peace and an additional Deflecting Palm. As much as I hate playing cards in the Burn deck that don't go upstairs, I think Rest in Peace is stronger at the moment than Relic. Yes, Relic can cycle so it worth a few points of damage, but the biggest draw to Rest in Peace is the increased potency against Dredge, even though it can be a bit harder to cast. It also is strong against Grixis Control, a deck that has been on the rise recently. Deflecting Palm is one of the most potent sideboard cards in Modern, although it's very narrow and awkwardly at its best against decks containing Gitaxian Probe. Extra mirror-match cards are always nice, and having a super-powerful effect is huge for a linear deck like Burn.
After playing a few Leagues, I felt that often I had marginal hands because I didn't have a one-drop. But I always seemed to get there on the burn spells I needed to draw. I need more data to make a reasonable conclusion, but for the most part I didn't feel as if I was missing anything. If anything, my windows actively felt larger than normal due to the extra life and increased consistency of the mana base. The bigger the window and the more burn you have, the more often you will finish them off.