Burn is one of the most basic, streamlined and executable strategies throughout Magic's history. Your gameplan is consistent, and operates on an axis (spells on the stack) that many decks cannot interact with favorably. There are so many burn spells printed throughout the years, surprisingly many of which have been printed as commons in different eras. It goes to figure that a Burn deck is one of Pauper's perennial decks and has only strengthened through the test of time with numerous bannings to other more powerful cards. Recently (in the scope of eternal formats), Burn has changed rather drastically. One of my favorite archetypes to draft in Amonkhet block was Blue-Red Spells. It was quite draftable, as there were several prowess creatures to pick up. This includes one of the newly minted Pauper all-stars: Firebrand Archer. This goes in conjunction with another fun draft card from recent times: Thermo-Alchemist.
For the longest time, Burn was not a highly competitive strategy in Pauper, and Goblins was the mono-red deck of choice. The problem with Burn was you didn't have any good hyper-efficient creatures such as Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear or Grim Lavamancer. These cards allow you to stretch and pile on loads of damage. They are very safe as the worst-case scenario is your opponent spending an equal (but usually greater) amount of mana to kill these creatures. This disrupts their curve, as the golden rule while playing against Burn decks is to prevent as much damage as possible. At first when I saw this adoption of Firebrand Archer and Thermo-Alchemist into Burn, my inclination was that is it didn't seem worthwhile as Pauper is full of removal. I couldn't be more wrong, as Archer/Alchemist gives the deck a new dynamic. Burn in Pauper finally has caught up to other eternal versions with sources of consistent damage over time. The ability to hold onto your burn spells and eventually get more bang for your buck out of them allows you to play control games from time to time. These two creatures, especially Firebrand Archer, essentially add more great burn spells to the deck. Firebrand Archer can easily do four or more damage for two mana at any stage of the game. If you ever get to hit your opponent with her, it's almost assuredly going to be a won game. Of course there is Curse of the Pierced Heart, but now with Archer and Alchemist you can win many games where you flood out or your opponent provides heavy disruption (I have even beat Circle of Protection:Red with these).
Martyr of Ashes and Staggershock allow you to side into a slower, more controlling deck where you can trade off burn for creatures where it is efficient. Using your burn to slow your opponent's clock significantly is correct sometimes as eventually you will draw the 20 points worth of burn that you need. Every draw step is approximately 2.5 damage, so if you can buy yourself multiple draw steps by Lightning Bolting a creature it can be correct do so.
The rest of the burn deck is pretty straightforward as you would imagine, full of some of Magic's greatest hits. Forgotten Cave prevents flooding, while Needle Drop provides "free" damage and also synergizes with your creatures. There are a very small number of flex spots in the main deck, which I used to play a Staggershock and Burst Lightning.
I'm hedging in two different directions here, as often you are constricted on mana so having another cheap spell can lead to wins. Not to mention that sometimes you need to use removal on a creature – and Burst Lightning allows you to not have to spend a better spell. At the same time, if you are horrifically flooding, you get a bonus two damage. You don't want too many expensive spells, but Staggershock is the most outright damage you can get. It is also exceptional with either of your spell boosting creatures, and allows you an additional Searing Blaze type card that can hit creatures and their face.
Fill the rest of the deck with all the best one mana-three damage spells and some Fireblast and Searing Blaze and you have quite the lean machine for a Common-only format.
- Steve Rubin