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Budget Magic: Blistering Rage 2020 (Modern)


Kopisanangan, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! If you've been following Budget Magic for a long time (and I mean a long, long time, like back to the very first episodes of the series), you might remember than back in June 2015, for the fifth-ever episode of Budget Magic, we played a deck called Blistering Rage built around killing the opponent on Turn 2 or 3 with the help of Kiln Fiend, various one-mana prowess creatures, pump spells, and double-strike spells like Assault Strobe and Temur Battle Rage to build a 10+ power doubl0striking, trampling attacker. The deck was a blast to play and surprisingly competitive. 

Well, today, we're revisiting the Budget Magic classic and updating it for 2020! While the name doesn't work as well today as it did back when we first built and played the deck (originally, Blistercoil Weird was one of our one-mana prowess creatures, but it has since been replaced by Soul-Scar Mage), the deck's main plan is the same: jank people out on Turn 2 or 3 with a massive one-shot-kill creature. What does Blistering Rage look like in 2020? Is it still as spectacular as it was back in 2015? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Blistering Rage 2020

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The Deck

Blistering Rage 2020 is basically an aggro–combo hybrid. We're looking to kill our opponent quickly, potentially as early as Turn 2, by going all-in on a single creature. At a quick glance, the deck looks a bit like Mono-Red Prowess, but while the decks do share some similarities (they are both built around prowess creatures and cheap red spells), Blistering Rage is all about being as fast as possible, which means we're playing some strange cards that don't usually show up in the Modern format.

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Blistering Rage is about one thing: getting a creature up to 10 power and giving it double strike (and possibly trample) as quickly as possible, so we can kill our opponent with just a single attack. To get a creature up to 10 power by Turn 1 or 2, we need a combination of creatures that get bigger as we cast spells along with pump spells to use on our creature. Creature-wise, we basically have two groups. First, we have prowess one-drops Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage. The upside of these creatures is that they can kill our opponent on Turn 2 with our best draws, but the downside is that it actually takes quite a few spells to get them all the way up to 10 power, which makes them somewhat difficult to turn into one-shot-kill attackers. 

We also have Kiln Fiend, which is a bit slower since it costs two mana instead of one (if we are comboing with Kiln Fiend, we can't win until Turn 3) but also has a massive upside: every time we cast an instant or sorcery spell, it gets +3/+0, which means we can always get Kiln Fiend to 10 power with just three spells and can occasionally get it to 10 power with just two spells. Together, this gives us 12 threats that we can use to win the game. We need at least one of these cards in our starting hand just about every game because many of the other cards in our deck depend on us having a creature on the battlefield. 

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Spell-wise, our double-strike cards—Temur Battle Rage and Assault Strobe—are the most important in our deck. While we can usually get our creatures up to around 10 power with our other spells, doubling up their damage is necessary for us to actually be able to kill our opponent in a single attack. Assault Strobe is just a one-of because it's somewhat clunky. Being a sorcery means we need to cast it during our main phase, which means our opponent knows they have to block our creature or they will probably die. On the other hand, Temur Battle Rage is our best finisher, not only giving our creature double strike but also trample and coming down at instant speed so we can attack, wait until our opponent chooses not to block, and then cast a bunch of instants followed by Temur Battle Rage to win the game. 

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As we've talked about before, Blistering Rage is all about trying to count up to 10. While any instant or sorcery pumps our creatures thanks to prowess and Kiln Fiend's +3/+0 ability, getting all the way up to 10 power with just prowess can be hard. As such, our pump spells Brute Force (the red Giant Growth) and Mutagenic Growth are super helpful in getting our creatures up to 10 power. Remember, since all of our creatures pump themselves as we cast spells, Brute Force actually give +4/+4 (or with Kiln Fiend, +6/+3) for just a single mana, while Mutagenic Growth offers +3/+3 (or +5/+2 with Kiln Fiend) for free!

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Next up, we have our free spells: Mutagenic Growth, Pyretic Ritual, and Gut Shot. While all of these cards have additional upside (Gut Shot dealing a damage, Manamorphose drawing us a card, and Pyretic Ritual adding a mana), the main reason they are in our deck is that they are free ways to pump our creatures by triggering prowess and Kiln Fiend. Pyretic Ritual is also essential to being able to kill our opponent on Turn 2. To kill on Turn 2, we usually need to cast at least three mana worth of spells (something like Brute Force, Brute Force, and Temur Battle Rage), which occasionally makes the extra mana from Pyretic Ritual very important. 

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Rounding out the deck are Crash Through and Light Up the Stage. Crash Through is mostly just another cheap spell to pump our creatures that doesn't cost us a card, although giving our team trample is quite important if we end up trying to kill our opponent with Assault Strobe rather than with Temur Battle Rage. Meanwhile, Light Up the Stage gives the 2020 edition of Blistering Rage something that the 2015 build was missing: the ability to play a long game. While our primary focus is to kill our opponent as quickly as possible, thanks to the card advantage of Light Up the Stage, we can sometimes go long and win by piecing together a bunch of smaller attacks in games when we don't draw a double-strike finisher. 

Counting Up to 10

We've been talking about Turn 2 and 3 kills throughout the article. Here are some concrete examples of how they work in practice.

Playing the Deck

It's important to understand that Blistering Rage is somewhat of a glass cannon. We can win incredibly quickly (even compared to other top-tier decks in Modern), but things can also go horribly wrong if our opponent has a removal spell at the right time. The easiest way to lose with Blistering Rage is not having a creature on the battlefield because without a creature, we are often left drawing a bunch of pump spells with nothing to target.

As such, step one is mulliganing fairly aggressively for at least one creature. Hands without a creature are almost never worth keeping with Blistering Rage. The good news is that we can afford to mulligan aggressively because we don't need that many cards to kill our opponent with our Kiln Fiend / Temur Battle Rage combo. During our matches, we had a game where we mulliganed to five and still won on Turn 2!

Step two is to play around removal as much as possible. By far the hardest decisions to make with the deck are when we need to go all-in on making a creature into a lethal threat and when we can afford to hold back and wait for our opponent to tap out. It's awkward to have a lethal combination of spells in hand, attack, have the opponent choose not to block, and choose to not cast our spells and just hit for a single damage, but because killing our opponent usually requires casting most of our hand, it is sometimes worth it. Usually, we only get one or, at most, two shots at building a one-shot kill attacker, and we have to use them wisely.

It's also worth pointing out that our creatures are difficult to block because of prowess, so we often make bluff attacks (or semi-bluff attacks, where we can save our creature with a pump spell if we have to but would rather our opponent not block so that we can save the pump spell) and get in for extra damage. We can also win over the course of two or three turns by attacking for smaller bits of damage, which is a good way to play around removal. If our opponent doesn't leave up removal, they risk losing to our combo. If they do leave up removal, we can make our opponent's life difficult by attacking and using pump spells here and there as necessary to eat away at our opponent's life total (and hopefully get them to spend their removal spell so we can close out the game with the combo the following turn). 

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished 3-2 with Blistering Rage 2020, although we got pretty unlucky not to finish 4-1 (we had our Jund opponent dead to the combo and empty-handed, but they top-decked their third Lightning Bolt to stay alive, and then we flooded out brutally in game three). Matchup-wise, we are fast enough to race most combo decks and can beat just about any deck in the format with a good draw, although removal-heavy midrange and control decks are tougher since if our opponent can deal with our first two or three creatures, it can be difficult to find another threat, even with Light Up the Stage offering some card advantage. 

In general, I'm pretty happy with how the updated version of the deck turned out. Soul-Scar Mage is an upgrade over Blistercoil Weird thanks to having an additional toughness (so it doesn't die to Lava Dart), Light Up the Stage offers the ability to play a longer game that didn't really exist back in 2015, and Crash Through does everything the deck wants out of a cheap sorcery. 

If you are a fan of fast kills, are a lover of the perpetually underrated [[Kiln Fiend],] or possibly still have the older version of Blistering Rage in a closet somewhere, I'd definitely recommend Blistering Rage 2020. While some matches do go horribly wrong, more often than not, they go spectacularly right and end with our opponent getting smashed for 20-something damage very early in the game!

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Blistering Rage can be built for as little as $30, but it requires a couple of painful cuts, with the biggest being Manamorphose. While another Pyretic Ritual, Assault Strobe, and a couple of Lava Darts offer decent replacements, Manamorphose is really good in the deck, and losing it hurts. Otherwise, in the ultra-budget build, we bring Blistercoil Weird back into the mix over Soul-Scar Mage. While Soul-Scar Mage isn't super expensive (around $12 / playset), even $12 / playset is expensive on a $30 budget. While Blistercoil Weird is worse than Soul-Scar Mage (mostly because being a 1/1 rather than a 1/2 means it dies to more removal), it's just as good at combo killing with pump spells and Temur Battle Rage, making it a worthy ultra-budget replacement (and a flavor win, considering the deck's name).

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Finally, our non-budget build of Blistering Rage 2020 isn't really all that expensive, coming in at just over $150. The main deck doesn't get any major additions outside of Fiery Islet in the mana base over some Mountains, although we do get some good sideboard upgrades, including Blood Moon (as a backup way to jank people out of the game that can potentially come down on Turn 2 thanks to Pyretic Ritual), Kozilek's Return (for aggro), and Bedlam Reveler (to help us fight through the removal of control and midrange by giving us another threat and potentially refilling our hand).

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! Hopefully, you enjoyed revisiting and updating Blistering Rage as much as I did! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com. 

 


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