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Budget Magic: $61 Wizard Burn (Pioneer)

Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Burn is a classic budget archetype. Backing cheap creatures with burn spells has been a great way to get the opponent's life total from 20 to zero ever since the original Sligh deck emerged in the mid-'90s! As such, we're heading to Pioneer today to play a new twist on the classic archetype: Wizard Burn! While our primary game plan is the same as that of all burn decks—get early damage in with creatures and then close out the game with burn spells—by adding some Wizards to the deck, we get an honest-to-goodness Lightning Bolt in Pioneer in Wizard's Lightning, which is a pretty huge deal! Can $61 of Wizards and burn spells compete in Pioneer? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck! 

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Budget Magic: Wizard Burn

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The Deck

As its name suggests, Wizard Burn is a burn deck that is also built around the Wizards tribe so we can take advantage of Wizard's Lightning!

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While not every creature in our deck is a Wizard, we do have three efficient tribe members, which should be enough to turn Wizard's Lightning into a Lightning Bolt with some consistency. (Plus, the upside of Wizard's Lightning is that, worst case, we can always cast it for three mana, which isn't ideal but is still something.) Ghitu Lavarunner turns into a Goblin Guide pretty early in the game, making it a good aggro threat. Soul-Scar Mage gives us a prowess one-drop with some upside against bigger creatures since we can use its ability to turn our damage into –1/–1 counters to essentially store up damage on something like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and kill it over the course of two turns. Finally, Viashino Pyromancer offers us two damage when it comes into play and potentially a bit more if we can sneak in an attack or two with the 2/1.

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As far as our non-Wizard creatures, we have a handful that are so efficient and strong in a burn deck that we are willing to play them even though they don't support our Wizard's Lightning plan. Monastery Swiftspear is perhaps the most aggressive one-drop ever printed and works well with all of our burn spells, which grow it thanks to prowess. Kumano Faces Kakkazan does a bit of everything, offering immediate damage, some creature buffing, and eventually a hasty 2/2 attacker. Finally, Bonecrusher Giant gives us a decent burn spell mixed with a decent creature, which add together to form an incredibly powerful card.

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As for our burn, Wizard's Lightning is the most important card. Thanks to our Wizards, it should be a literal Lightning Bolt pretty consistently, which is a huge deal in a format like Pioneer that doesn't have actual Lightning Bolt. Getting three damage for just one mana is as efficient as burn gets, not just in Pioneer but in Magic in general, making Wizard's Lightning a great way to close out the game or deal with opposing creatures in a pinch. Skewer the Critics gives us another pseudo–Lightning Bolt, although it is a bit worse than Wizard's Lightning since it is sorcery speed and often requires us to cast it post-combat (once we deal some damage to turn on spectacle), which is awkward with our prowess threats. Still, three damage for one mana is always great in burn. Play with Fire offers a Shock with the upside of giving us a scry if we hit our opponent's face, which is surprisingly important. One of the easiest ways to lose with burn is to flood out and draw too many lands. Being able to scry a land to the bottom helps prevent this problem. Finally, Spikefield Hazard is just a one-of since it enters the battlefield tapped, but it joins Ramunap Ruins and Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance to give us a surprising amount of damage from our mana base.

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Last but not least, we have Light Up the Stage to keep us churning through our deck. Assuming we spectacle it, it's essentially a one-mana draw-two, which is super strong. In the early game, it helps us find our threats; later, we can use it to dig for a lethal burn spell to close out the game.


Record-wise, we finished 3-2 in a Pioneer league, which is a fine record for a budget deck, although how the matchups played out is pretty telling. Both of our losses came to Rakdos Midrange, which is a tough matchup. The combination of efficient removal and incidental lifegain from things like Graveyard Trespasser and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is really tough for our deck to beat. The good news is that we pretty much crushed three other top-tier Pioneer archetypes in Izzet Phoenix, Abzan Greasefang, and Control, meaning the deck could be incredibly strong for a $61 ultra-budget build if we can find a way to improve the Rakdos matchup!

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, there's one big one: more answers to Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and other big Rakdos threats. Right now, we only really have two plans for killing something like Sheoldred: use multiple burn spells on it (which probably means we're going to lose anyway because we won't have enough damage to finish off our opponent) or draw the single copy of Roast in our sideboard. While Roast is a great answer to Sheoldred, we simply don't have enough copies to make it consistent. Next time I play the deck, I'm planning to trim back on Rending Volley, Obliterating Bolt, and perhaps Redcap Melee to get a full playset of Roast in the sideboard and see if that is enough to improve our Rakdos matchup.

So, should you play Wizard Burn in Pioneer? Assuming you add more copies of Roast to the sideboard, I think the answer is yes! Our deck felt great when we played against non-Sheoldred decks—easily strong enough to 5-0 a Pioneer league, which is pretty impressive for a $61 deck that essentially falls into our ultra-budget price range. If you like being aggro and slinging burn spells, this is probably the perfect budget Pioneer deck for you!

Ultra- / Non-Budget Wizard Burn

No ultra-budget list this week. At $61, the deck is already pretty close to our $50 ultra-budget target price. As far as a non-budget build, I'm not sure there is really much to add to the deck, assuming we keep the Wizards theme, but there are a bunch of different versions of Mono-Red Aggro / Burn in Pioneer. If you're thinking about just playing generic Mono-Red, check out the Decks page and pick whichever build tickles your fancy.


Anyway, that's all for today! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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