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Budget Magic: $67 (13 tix) Modern Mono-Red Burn

ᐊᐃᓐᖓᐃ Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. This week we are heading to Modern for a deck I never thought I'd play anywhere. That's right, I've turned to the Dark side of the force. We are playing a budget build of Mono-Red Burn! If you've been following me for any amount of time, you'll know Burn is — by far — my most hated deck ever. It feels so boring, so simple and uninspired. Plus, it beats me all the time when I'm playing some janky brew. However, this past week I realized two things. First, Burn is a "classic" budget archetype, and I've never featured it on Budget Magic because of my own personal biases, which doesn't seem right. Second, I haven't really given Burn a fair shot. In all honesty, I've never played a Burn deck, so maybe my hate for the deck is misguided. 

Let's get to the videos, then I'll talk more about the deck. A quick reminder. If you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Mono-Red Burn Intro

Mono-Red Burn vs Jeskai Control

Mono-Red Burn vs Wb Hatebears

Mono-Red Burn vs Free Win Red (x2)

Mono-Red Burn vs Naya Burn

Mono-Red Burn vs Grishoalbrand

The Deck

First off, this deck is insanely powerful for its cost. In fact, as much as it pains me to say so, if you are looking for a budget deck in Modern and your only criteria is "how likely am I to win a competitive event," I'm pretty sure Mono-Red Burn is the right choice. Not only did we go 6-0 in matches, we went a stunning 12-1 in games, both of which are Budget Magic records. The only time we lost was to a turn two hand from Grishoalbrand. 

While we are missing a few key pieces from the top tier Burn decks, namely Goblin Guide and the ability to splash for things like Atarka's Command and Boros Charm, our clock is similar and our deck is as consistent as the $800 versions. Actually, we even have one big advantage, which was apparent in our match against Naya Burn: we don't take any damage from our mana base

On a more personal level, I admit the deck was oddly fun to play. While I don't think I could ever make it my primary Modern deck, or play it on a regular basis (locking people out of the game is just too much fun), there is some perverse joy in winning matches in five minutes. Burn is also nice because you don't have to think all that much to play the deck reasonably. You just draw burn spells and target your opponent's face. If you are a new player Burn is a great option. On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to play the deck optimally, which is why I am amazed when I watch a truly great Burn player in action. So I guess the verdict is I still hate Burn, but I don't hate it quite as much as I did a week ago. 


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In our deck, even our creatures a essentially burn spells. Both Spark Elemental and Hellspark Elemental are basically just Lava Spikes with bodies. On an empty board they represent three damage, which is the magic number in a burn deck. In Modern, if you resolve six three damage burn spells you should win the game, accounting for life lost from fetchlands and shocklands. Plus, even when an opponent has a blocker, they often choose not to trade with an Elemental, which is understandable because it feels horrible to trade a "real" creature for a creature that is going to sacrifice itself at the end of the turn anyway. 

Keldon Marauders is a super sweet budget Burn card. Since they deal one damage when they enter the battlefield and one when they leave the battlefield, they are guaranteed to do at least two damage assuming they resolve. While they only stick around for one turn because of vanishing, if you manage to get an attack in during that turn, Keldon Marauders ends up dealing five damage for only two mana. And just like the Elementals, trading a "real" creature with a Keldon Marauders feels bad enough that opponents often unwisely take the damage. 

Lightning Bolts

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These three cards are basically replaceable in our deck, with each offering three damage for one mana. Lighting Bolt is clearly the best since it has no downside, but both Rift Bolt and Shard Volley do a fairly good approximation of the original and are great in our deck. While 95% of the time these spells are going to our opponent's face to further our "resolve six three damage spells" plan, in a pinch we can use them to take down a creature. Typically the only time we deviate from the "burn the face" plan is if that creature is going to win our opponent the game.

Second-Tier Burn

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Ninety-five percent of the time Lava Spike is a sorcery speed Lightning Bolt in our deck, but it is slightly worse than Lightning Bolt because it can never hit a creature. Generally this tradeoff is fine because when we start throwing burn spells at creatures it usually means something went very wrong.

Searing Blaze is amazing in any creature matchup, offering three damage to both a creature and a player for two mana. However, since our budget build doesn't have access to fetchlands, it is basically a sorcery in our deck since we really want to trigger landfall. It's also worth mentioning Searing Blaze is a reason to hold an extra land in our hand. Mono-Red Burn functions pretty well on two lands and almost never wants more than three lands. You should consider holding your third land, and definitely hold your fourth land just in case you peal a Searing Blaze

Magma Jet, on the other hand, is below the curve in damage, offering only two damage for the cost of two mana. In practice Magma Jet offers way more damage than its text suggests. I just mentioned that we almost never want to draw our fourth land. Considering pretty much every card in our deck represents three damage, each land we draw costs us three damage and gives our opponent an extra turn to draw a Kitchen Finks or Kor Firewalker. When Magma Jet scrys a useless land to the bottom, it is dealing five damage for two mana, which makes it worthy of a slot in our deck.

Life-Gain Hate

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While both Skullcrack and Flames of the Blood Hand are slightly below the curve in terms of damage for mana, they are also very important to our deck. Lifegain is a nightmare, and these cards offer a main deck way to fight against things like Kitchen Finks, Lightning Helix, Thragtusk, Timely Reinforcements, and so forth. They also give us an out to creatures with protection from Red with the most problematic being Kor Firewalker, which is a nightmare. The "damage can't be prevented" clause renders protection ineffective. So if our opponent gets a Kor Firewalker on the battlefield, we can hope they block with it and then use Skullcrack to allow our creature to deal damage and kill it since the Skullcrack prevents damage prevention. 

The Sideboard

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I made these videos right before it was announced that Splinter Twin was going to be banned in Modern. Rending Volley is basically in the deck as an answer to the Twin combo, which can be a turn faster than we are, especially if we get a slow draw. With no more Twin to worry about, this slot can be used on something else. 

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One of the themes of the sideboard is "cards that have a small effect, but also deal damage." Searing Blood allows us to go up to six copies of Searing Blaze, and for a burn deck being able to kill a creature and deal three damage with the same spell is essentially a two-for-one. Smash to Smithereens does the same thing, but hits artifacts instead of creatures. 

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If we run into a deck that is good at gaining life, we can sideboard in even more copies of Flames of the Blood Hand.

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In theory Aggressive Mining is a way to fight against grindy decks, but in practice I'm not sure it's necessary and is probably too cute for its own good. I didn't sideboard it in a single time, and I never really considered siding it in. I think we could probably find a better use for our sideboard slots.

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Leyline of Punishment is easily the best card in our sideboard. While it is mostly for fringe matchups, there are some decks in Modern that gain so much life that we simply can't beat them (e.g. Soul Sisters), even with the help of Skullcrack and Flames of the Blood Hand. The latter are also pretty poor against Dragon's Claw, Kor Firewalker, or Soul's Attendant. Plus, it comes down on turn zero, so we don't have to worry about Thoughtseize or counterspells. 

In our video matches, Leyline of Punishment beat Grishoalbrand all by itself. Based on my very limited experience playing Burn, I wouldn't want to play the budget version of the deck without the full four copies of Leyline of Punishment in the sideboard. 

The Problem

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While I think Mono-Red Burn is comparable to the more expensive two and three color builds of Burn, being Mono-Red does have one very major drawback, Leyline of Sanctity. If our opponent puts a Leyline of Sanctity on the battlefield on turn zero, we literally just scoop up our cards. We cannot win. Meanwhile the other more expensive builds of Burn solve this problem with cards like Wear // Tear and Destructive Revelry. I briefly considered trying to splash for a second color just to have access to a card that answers Leyline of Sanctity, but I was worried that a clunky manabase would cost us in other matchups. In the end I decided to go for the "let's hope our opponent doesn't have Leylen of Sanctity" plan instead.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure there is a way to fix this problem for the Mono-Red version of Burn. The best I could come up with is Ratchet Bomb, which seems way too slow to be effective. To be prepared for all situations, splashing another color is probably necessary, but you can still win a ton of games playing Mono-Red Burn. 

Ultra-Budget Burn

The downside of this Mono-Red Burn deck is that we really can't make it much less expensive while still remaining competitive. On Magic Online the deck is 13 tix, which is insanely cheap for a deck this powerful, but in the paper world where the most expensive cards are Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, and Lightning Bolt there isn't much we can do. The deck is built around cards that offer three damage for one mana, and we can't really cut these cards and still have a playable deck. So no ultra budget option this week. 

Non-Budget Naya Burn

There are clearly some advantage to playing a non-budget Burn deck. Goblin Guide often represents four to six damage for only one mana. Eidolon of the Great Revel is the same for two mana. Boros Charm is way above the curve offering four damage for only two mana, while Atarka's Command is a Skullcrack that can also pump creatures. In the sideboard you get Destructive Revelry to take care Leyline of Sanctity and Kor Firewalker for the mirror. 

As such, you'll gain percentage points playing Naya Burn over Mono-Red Burn, but you don't gain that many percentage points. I mean, you can't really do better than 6-0 in matches and 12-1 in games. If you have the cards, feel free to make the improvements, but considering Naya Burn costs fifteen times what our Mono-Red Burn decks costs, I don't recommend rushing out to buy the cards for the upgraded version unless you plan on being a Burn player for life. That said, I would definitely include Goblin Guide and Eidolon of the Great Revel in the Mono-Red build, so if you have any copies stick them in the deck over the Elementals and/or Flames of the Bloodhand.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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