An interesting side effect of the last few trap-heavy formats has been the growing popularity of Burn variants. Chain Burn, Nurse Burn, and Reversal Quiz have had a surprising amount of success at major events this year. Burn has shown up repeatedly in European National Championship, including Slovakia, Turkey, and Argentina.

Unlike more conventional strategies, Burn decks are designed to interact with your opponent as little as possible. Card exchanges are mostly irrelevant, and comparative card advantage is similarly meaningless. Burn players aren't concerned with their opponent's cards unless they carry negation effects or can somehow circumvent their defenses. The burn duelist is almost completely indifferent towards their opponent's set-up, and have a complete disregard for well-developed fields. These are decks that have no aggression, and won't play into your defensive traps.

Game 1 match-ups against Burn will vary depending on the number of Main Deck outs you're playing. Decks with access to negation are, obviously, more capable of countering key cards in any match-up. Burn variants are no exception: if you're playing Wiretap in your Main or Side Deck your odds of winning will increase noticeably. However, it's more common for players to have only a couple of answers to the cards played by these decks. If left unanswered Burn players will strip away your Life Points uncontested.

The differences between Burn variants make them susceptible to different Side Deck cards, although there are some obvious picks. Prime Material Dragon and Black-Winged Dragon prevent you from taking damage in most cases. Your opponent will need to clear them before they can make any progress. Of course, most people aren't playing straight anti-burn cards. If you're going to side for these match-ups, you'll want to use cards with as much utility as possible.

Chain Burn
Chain Burn is the most straight-forward Burn variant we'll look at today, and it's also the most popular of the bunch. Just Desserts, Secret Barrel, and Magic Cylinder dish out decent chunks of damage when they resolve, but it's the deck's namesake card – Chain Strike – that usually finishes the duel. Chain Strike can deal 2000 damage if it's the 5th card in the chain, leaving just 6000 Life Points to burn away. And those traps I mentioned earlier? They'll deal with the remainder in no time at all. It's not uncommon for Chain Burn players to inflict 8000 damage in a single turn. In fact, that's usually the goal. One big Chain Strike and three other burn cards is usually enough to win the duel.

This deck plays a ton of traps, and that makes it extremely weak to Royal Decree. Simply put: if you can keep Decree on the field, you win. But that's a lot easier said than done. Chain Burn players will routinely counter side Mystical Space Typhoon, Twister, and Fairy Wind to deal with it. Alternatively, Wiretap might not win you the game, but it can keep you from losing too early. A well-timed Wiretap can prematurely end your opponent's chain, preventing them from activating Chain Strike and saving you upwards of 4000 LP in a single shot. Also, unlike Decree, it's not so easily stopped by sided spell and trap removal.

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Lastly, there's Trap Stun to consider. It's chainable to removal, negates all traps activated earlier in a chain, and keeps your opponent from playing any more traps until the end of the turn. The ideal time to use it is in response to Chain Strike itself, negating all previously-activated traps and leaving only Chain Strike to resolve. Losing three or more burn cards at once can be devastating for your opponent. It's extremely difficult to recover from Trap Stun, and like Wiretap it's very difficult to counter.

Conversion siding from Chain Burn into Inzektor is still a viable strategy. Sebastian Rubiano's Top 4 finish at Argentina's National Championship is a testament to that. The possibility of a conversion makes siding for this match-up a bit more difficult: keeping monster effect negation in during Game 2 could pay off, or it might not. Sometimes conversions are easy to spot, especially if your opponent shuffles their entire Side Deck into their Main Deck. Smokescreen siding is still fairly rare, so when it happens it's usually obvious what a player's intentions are. Then again, they could change nothing and leave their Main Deck untouched. Since you can't know either way, it's best to play it safe and only side out cards that are weak against both Chain Burn and Inzektor.

Nurse Burn
Whereas Chain Burn uses damage-dealing effects, Nurse Burn plays cards that force your opponent to gain Life Points. Nurse Reficule the Fallen One and Bad Reaction to Simochi carry similar text: if a card effect would cause your opponent to gain Life Points, it instead inflicts the same amount as damage. That means Upstart Goblin lets you draw a card and deals 1000 damage while either Nurse or Simochi are on the field. Both Gift Card and Tri-and-Guess give your opponent 3000 Life Points...or they can take that much away. Resolving just three of those cards is game over, and you can easily open with a full suite of them on Turn 1.

For the most part you'll want to side against Nurse Burn the same way you side against Chain Burn. With enough counters to trap cards you can keep yourself from losing to Gift Cards, push past your opponent's defenses, and attack them directly. Given this deck's OTK potential, I'd also recommend Hanewata. I'm not a big fan of suggesting cards with such low match-up utility, but Burn's recent increase in popularity has me tempted to side this for upcoming Regionals next month. Nobody wants to lose to a pair of Gift Cards and a Tri-and-Guess on Turn 2.

If you destroy the deck's damage-dealing cards you'll effectively remove your opponent's win condition. Nurse can be negated with Fiendish Chain, Breakthrough Skill, or Solemn Warning, and Simochi is easily destroyed by Mystical Space Typhoon. Without these cards it'll be almost impossible for your opponent to win. Most builds aren't playing enough effect damage to be a viable strategy without Nurse or Simochi, so unless they can stall you while Lava Golem chips away at your Life Points it's your game to lose.

Reversal Quiz
While Chain Burn and Nurse Burn attempt to chip away at their opponent's full 8000 Life Points, Reversal Quiz is only concerned with the last 1000. The deck's namesake play involves activating Reversal Quiz while your Life Points are 1000 or less, swapping Life with your opponent, and burning them for game with Fuhma Shuriken or Lava Golem. The typical build will only play a handful of burn effects alongside a suite of defensive cards like Scarecrow and Threatening Roar. In fact, this strategy is relatively light on traps. Most of the Main Deck is comprised of spells used to set up the OTK.

With a low trap count the cards we've talked about previously – Royal Decree, Wiretap, and Trap Stun–are a bit less helpful. None of them will stop your opponent from achieving their win condition. Michael Washington played just nine traps in his Top 8 regional build last month, but still managed to fit in six Battle Phase-stoppers alongside a set of Scapegoat. Even under Royal Decree he could have as many as nine turns to set up his combos before his opponent made their way through his defenses. His Side Deck was also packing additional attack-stoppers like Construction Train Signal Red, Rainbow Life, and Messenger of Peace. If his opponents sided Wiretap or Trap Stun, he would have had no problems winning anyways.

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Reversal Quiz has one shot to beat you, and generally won't recover if that play falls through. If you can avoid taking damage the turn Reversal Quiz is activated, and the turn after, it'll be almost impossible to lose. Your two biggest threats are Fuhma Shuriken and Lava Golem, two cards that require very different approaches to deal with. There are plenty of effect damage nullifiers that can deal with Shuriken; we already discussed Hanewata, and Rainbow Life is another possibility. Fiendish Chain or Book of Moon will prevent Lava Golem from melting your Life Points away, but you can just as easily avoid it by only committing a single monster to your field.

This deck is much more graveyard-dependent than Chain or Nurse Burn, and it plays several cards that can't be used while Macro Cosmos, Dimensional Fissure, or Banisher of the Radiance are on the field. Kuriphoton needs to be sent to the graveyard to activate, so any of the above banishers will make it unplayable. Shuriken's burn effect only triggers when it hits the yard, and it's similarly useless if Macro Cosmos or Banisher are active. As you might expect, your opponent will probably be counter siding for these cards. Michael Washington played three Mystical Space Typhoon and two Volcanic Queen in his Side Deck to answer cards that would otherwise shut him out of the duel.

Siding for Burn can seriously pay off if you're matched-up against a variant at a Regional or Championship-level event. These decks can even catch experienced players off-guard and easily steal wins; at major tournaments where every loss brings you one step closer to missing the top cut, the threat of facing a rogue Burn deck is tough to ignore. I highly recommend siding cards that have at least some coverage against these strategies, and after watching two of my friends lose to Burn variants at the North American WCQ I've taken a second look at my own Side Deck. Save yourself some frustration and make sure you're prepared for these match-ups.

Until next time then

-Kelly