So here we are.
GP Boston/Worcester is in the books and only the PT is up next. Before I move on and get this tournament totally out of my mind, I'll talk a bit about the deck I played which is one that I haven't seen anybody talk about online: Burn in Modern.
I arrived in Providence on Friday the 18th and stayed at Melissa's place for 10 days along with most of team Revolution to prepare for PT Portland on the first of August. The lineup for that tournament is: Jeremy Dezani, Pierre Dagen, Timothée SImonot, Brad Nelson, Samuele Estratti, Joel Larsson Daniel Antoniou, Melissa De Tora, Vidianto Wijaya and myself. Standard and M15 draft were pretty much everything we did for our stay here and modern was only our concern on the day before the GP.
Jeremy, Pierre and Timothée were set on their Junk deck. I'm not particularly a big fan of the deck, but since they did very well with it, I guess I should have played that instead... I wanted to play something else, and asked around what people were saying. Half the team was staying at Melissa's friends' place, where Jimmy Ray, a local player who won a Modern PTQ not too long ago, showed me his burn deck. With very little concern about the tournament, I decided to look into it.
I needed a Top 32 or a Top 16 to get closer to Platinum, and in a tournament with 2500 players, I (we) preferred to focus on Standard and M15 draft.
Here's the list I played:
Jimmy Ray, Joe Robillard (Jimmy's friend who Top 4'd the PTQ with the same deck) and I talked about the deck and came up with the above list.
The Mana Base:
4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Stomping Ground
This mana base is very standard. Basic Mountains as your only lands could be an option, as managing your life total is crucial with this deck, but you also want to thin the deck as drawing too many lands is extremely bad in the mid/long game. You also want to fill your graveyard to feed your Grim Lavamancers and be able to fetch for the Stomping Ground, our only source of Green mana. Other Burn decks are running black and/or white for cards like Bump in the Night or Boros Charm / Lightning Helix, but the addition of the extra color has a certain cost, like playing more shocklands that would need to come into play untapped and cards like Blackcleave Cliffs.
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Shard Volley
2 Flames of the Blood Hand
4 Rift Bolt
1 Magma Jet
4 Molten Rain
4 Searing Blaze
4 Lava Spike
All of the spells in the deck have something in common, they Deal Damage directly to your opponent. Some deal two, some three, and some four. I'm sure we'd rather play 30 Lightning Bolt but it's not possible, so we have to find "suboptimal" bolts to do the job.
Shard Volley is a strict downgrade to Lightning Bolt; the only upside is that it fills your graveyard with an extra card for Grim Lavamancer.
Skullcrack is a less versatile bolt that only targets players and along with Flames of the Blood Hand, they can occasionally prevent your opponent from gaining life off Kitchen Finks, Lightning Helix, and Obstinate Baloth.
Rift Bolt and Lava Spike are quite straight forward: they deal three damage to the dome for one mana.
Searing Blaze allows you to slow down your opponent's offensive and maybe take down a mana creature while dealing damage to its controller.
Molten Rain is one of the only ways you can interact and disrupt decks relying on getting enough mana to kill you while keeping your own agenda. That includes Twin, Scapeshift, and it's also great against WUR and control decks.
Magma Jet might be played in more copies in this deck as it allows you to find your third land, filter bad draws in the mid game, and find the last few points of damage you might need. So it only deals two at first, but consider it an investment, every land you throw to the bottom gets you a turn closer to another burn spell.
4 Goblin Guide
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
2 Grim Lavamancer
Burn really started to shine on Magic Online and at local tournaments when Eidolon of the Great Revel appeared. It was fine before, but it got a huge boost then. Played on turn two on an empty board, you know it will deal at least two damage to your opponent and more if it survives and starts attacking. There are some situations where you actually lock yourself out of the game, for example, when you play against Pod and they have a Wall of Roots and you're on two life, you can't chump attack with your Eidolon, while they can attack you in the air with a Restoration Angel (that costs four). This situation happened twice at the GP (with my opponent at two life, Sam Pardee, drawing a Chord of Calling to find a Wall of Roots, with me hoping desperately my Eidolon would die somehow...).Except for these bad spots, the Eidolons do a lot of work on their own.
In Burn, you need creatures that Deal Damage directly to your opponent. Opening with a Mountain into Goblin Guide is the best thing that can happen for you as you're sure to deal at least two damage if you're on the play, and your opponent might need to fetch on turn one to find the right land to kill it, which might be an untapped Shockland, which will help you get there eventually.
The Lavamancers are great against all creature decks. They give you a way to sustain direct damage and a way to deal with critters such as Birds and Hierarchs. It's also your best way to deal with Merfolk Lords, Merfolk being, as I'm told, one of your worst matchups. You don't really want more of those in the late game when you mostly need to draw more damage spells that deals three directly, and not a card that will just make your opponent use a removal spell.
The goal of this deck is pretty simple: deal 20 damage to your opponent's face before he can kill you. I heard a lot of people say: "Burn is for players who can't play, there's no decision involved, no interaction, you just have to know how to count to 20..."
Boy are they wrong.
While you won't play as many turns or spells as other decks, every single point of damage is crucial. A wrong target for a burn spell and you lose. Killing a Birds or Paradise with a Bolt might be a good play as it will slow down your opponent and allow you more draws in the long run. Also, they might want to get their threat on the board earlier and have their shock lands come into play untapped, or even make them fetch at all. It's a lot of tiny decisions which end up deciding whether or not you'll win the game. You can only deal a certain amount of damage, you're not building any board presence at all, which means you won't deal an exponential amount of damage while goldfishing, so every single draw, every single spell is relevant.
It's also extremely hard and frustrating to play against burn. They have to consider every card you have in hand as a potential Lightning Bolt and that leads to intense games where every draw step is a holding-breath moment for your opponent. I enjoy playing burn and I enjoyed playing it at the tournament. I had extremely interesting games (the most memorable ones were against Anthony Lowry and Sam Pardee), and for anyone thinking Burn is "dumb and easy," I'll just tell them to think again.
Well, it's not like I did super well at the tournament. Top 150 is not quite a top finish, but this deck is worth talking about.
I got paired against UWR, Scapeshift, Kiki Pod, Melira Pod, BWR Burn, Tempo Twin. Most of my losses, except for the first round when I lost to Scapeshift (I beat Scapeshift on day two), were to Pod.
Jimmy sold me the deck as something that couldn't lose to Pod. Turns out, Pod is a very tough matchup. Kitchen Finks is the most annoying thing, of course. You'll never really get to kill it, but they'll find ways to re-use them with either Birthing Pod or Restoration Angel, making your task to kill them harder.
Except for that, Hexproof and Soul Sisters are also about 0% matchups, you can't beat a deck that ever gets above 40 life.
You'll be fine/good against the rest.
We made the sideboard above, but I only really used a few of the cards.
3 Searing Blood
That was a mistake. It should have been four of them. If you want to have a shot against Pod, you have to kill all their dudes while damaging them at the same time. I was very sad not to see more of them in my opening hands.
3 Smash to Smithereens / 3 Destructive Revelry
These cards are pretty much only against Affinity. Every time I played against Pod, I considered boarding Smash to Smithereens. I boarded in one, and always regretted it. When your opponent is at 3 life and you draw a Smash without facing any target, it really hurts (it did happen in the tournament). When you draw it, you have to hope you can hit a Birthing Pod or a Spellskite. But do you really want the Pod player to draw his Birthing Pod?
You can't afford to have dead draws, and that's why all your sideboard cards should either draw you cards or Deal Damage. And by "deal damage" I mean "deal damage any time you draw them," not in a very specific situation. It is a problem with Searing Blaze in game one when you face a deck without creatures. However, there are only very few of these decks. You'll always catch a Snapcaster Mage, and even a Sakura-Tribe Elder against Scapeshift as they usually keep them on your turn to block a Goblin Guide (or they just forget/don't know you're running Searing Blaze maindeck). Remember that the target doesn't need to be in play upon resolution for the Searing Blaze to Deal Damage to your opponent (it targets both the player and the creature).
Destructive Revelry was intended to destroy pesky enchantments such as Splinter Twin and Leyline of Sanctity. The thing is, you don't actually board in Revelry against Twins and they will probably tap your green source on your turn anyway unless you keep a fetch land untapped, and since Tempo Twin is the most played version at the moment, they will rely on their Tarmogoyf to actually beat you and sometimes sideboard out their Splinter Twins.
Since you're about a 0/100 underdog against Hexproof which is the only deck (along with Phyrexian Unlife) that will be running Leyline of Sanctity, you don't really need it in this matchup.
So in the end, you'll end up boarding it in against Affinity only, and then, you'll rather have an extra Smash to Smithereens. In that case, you'll also cut the Stomping Ground from the deck. If you can find a card in another color to use in your sideboard, it's easy to change the Stomping Ground to a Steam Vent / Blood Crypt / Sacred Foundry.
2 Blood Moon
Every time I think of this card, I feel it's the nuts. Every time I have it in my sideboard, I never see any reason to board it in. In this deck, it's gonna be hard to leave your opponent with an empty board, and you don't want to spend three mana and a draw for a card that's not going to do as much as you think. It's only fine against Scapeshift as a way to buy a lot of time or to catch a Counterspell. It's not even that good against Tron as they have ways to bounce/counter it or just play around it. Most decks fetch their basic lands first anyway to avoid the damage from the shocklands.
2 Relic of Progenitus
Relic is a card I've been very happy with. It helps you to Shrink the Tarmogoyf to reasonable size and buys you a lot of time. It's a fine way to deal with Kitchen Finks and very importantly, replaces itself in case it has no purpose in the game. It will hit Living End pretty hard, even though you don't really need help in that matchup.
2 Peak Eruption
After Searing Blood, that's my favorite sideboard card. The extra land destruction gives you a real way to disrupt your opponent's plan. The decks that run Mountains are: UWr (extremely good against them), Scapeshift (guess what, it's very good against them too), and Burn (although they might sacrifice their Mountain with Shard Volley to prevent the life loss).
When building the sideboard, I don't remember if it was Joe or Jimmy who mentioned "**roclasm". At that point, I think I heard "Pyroclasm", and was like: "why would we ever want Pyroclasm in the deck??" I thought of Peak Eruption later and we were all happy about that. In the tournament, after I destroyed a couple of lands with Peak Eruption (that card was soooo good for me), I thought: If only I could destroy other lands than Mountains, that would be great. I told someone about that, and he said "well, Cryoclasm could be good"... Then I realized it wasn't Pyroclasm they talked about in the first place, but Cryoclasm! Man, it would have been awesome...
So here's the Sideboard I'd probably run if I had to play again:
4 Smash to Smithereens
4 Searing Blood
2 Peak Eruption
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Guerrilla Tactics
If you expect Junk to be big, add more Guerrilla Tactics (I wanted to add some to my sideboard but couldn't find a single copy on the site). Great against Liliana's +1 effect.
The Sideboard is quite important here. You never want to have useless cards in your hand and for that matter, be very careful when you sideboard cards "just in case." That applies especially for Smash to Smithereens. If you're sure you're going to hit an artifact, go for it, otherwise, don't bring it in.
Bring in the land destruction against slow decks/decks that rely a lot on their lands.
Take out the Goblin Guide while facing walls (of Omens or roots), take out Eidolon of the Great Revel on the draw against Burn. Take out Searing Blaze when you feel you won't have enough reliable targets. Take out either Rift Bolt or Lava Spike (depending on how valuable you think targeting a creature will be) to bring in the cards you want. Take out Molten Rain on the draw if you need room against a deck that won't rely too much on their lands.
The sideboarding depends on a lot of factors and on the versions of the decks your opponent is playing. Try to identify the most valuable cards and what will be the most efficient and the least 'dead'. That sounds easy to say, but it's not actually that obvious.
Even though I didn't too well with it (X-4-1), I'm happy I played the deck, and couldn't have hoped for much better with five minutes of preparation. The good part is that I now know enough to tell you about it. Would I play it again if I had to play the tournament again? I usually answer yes to that question, but not this time. The matchup against Pod is way too hard and it's a very popular deck these days. So if Pod isn't too much of a thing in your area, go for it.
Before I finish this article, a little quiz for you:
Can you win in this situation? It's your main phase:
In play: 4 Mountains
Shard Volley and Molten Rain in hand, 3 life.
In play: 3 Blood Crypt, 1 Tectonic Edge
Rift Bolt suspended with one counter, 5 life.
Until next time!