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Budget Magic: Boros Burn (Standard)

Annyeonghaseyo, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading to our new Standard format to throw some burn spells at our opponent's face! Innistrad: Crimson Vow offers a couple of huge additions to a Standard burn deck, with Chandra, Dressed to Kill being an insanely powerful planeswalker in a mono-red deck, doubly so in Burn, where it offers card advantage, direct damage, and a game-ending ultimate, and Kessig Flamebreather giving us (essentially) eight copies of Thermo-Alchemist to add some damage to our burn spells. Can Burn compete in Standard on a budget thanks to some new Crimson Vow additions? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Boros Burn

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The Deck

Boros Burn is...a burn deck. The plan is to use Kessig Flamebreather and Thermo-Alchemist to add an extra damage or two to our burn spells; throw a bunch of Play with Fires, Sacred Fires, and Roil Eruptions at our opponent's face; and hopefully get our opponent's life total down to zero before they can kill us!

The Enablers 

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There's one big challenge when it comes to building a true burn deck in Standard: Standard-legal burn spells just aren't that efficient, which makes it hard to deal 20 points of damage with spells alone. Modern has a bunch of burn spells that offer three damage for one mana and four damage for two mana. In Standard, we're lucky to get two damage for one mana, and three damage costs us three mana. As a result, we need a way to power up our burn spells if we're going to be able to deal 20 points of damage. For this, we turn to two two-drops, which are pretty much the same card, in Thermo-Alchemist and Kessig Flamebreather, both of which essentially add one extra damage to each of our burn spells once they are on the battlefield. With a Kessig Flamebreather or Thermo-Alchemist out, our Play with Fires suddenly turn into Lightning Bolts, and our overcosted three-mana burn spells, like Magic Missile and Igneous Inspiration, offer four damage rather than three, making them much more powerful. We want one of these cards in our opening hand pretty much every game (which is much more likely now that we have Kessig Flamebreather alongside Thermo-Alchemist), and drawing multiples is great. If we ever end up with two or three of these creatures on the battlefield at the same time, we can often win the game with one big combo-burn turn where we empty our hand of burn spells and potentially 20 our opponent!

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The other big new Crimson Vow addition to the deck is Chandra, Dressed to Kill, which does everything our deck wants. Its first +1 offers repeatable direct damage, and a bit of extra mana is never a bad thing. The second +1 takes advantage of the fact that every non-land card in our main deck is red. With just 20 non-MDFC lands in our deck, we're 66.7% to draw a card when we activate it. And considering that most of our cards are burn spells, it often offers even more damage than the first +1. Finally, the ultimate basically wins the game by super-charging all of our burn spells, and it's not that unlikely that we can pull it off, especially against control, considering it costs just three mana to get Chandra, Dressed to Kill on the battlefield. While Chandra can be a bit weak against decks with big creatures (like Mono-Green, where it's hard to stick a Chandra without it immediately dying to a big attacker), if we can keep Chandra, Dressed to Kill on the battlefield for a few turns, it's one of the most powerful cards in our deck and does exactly what a burn deck wants.

The Burn

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As far as our burn spells, we're playing all of the most efficient burn in Standard that can hit the opponent's face. Honestly, there isn't much to say about most of these cards. Sure, they are a bit underpowered or overcosted compared to Modern burn spells, but they are as good as burn gets in Standard. And thanks to the extra damage from Kessig Flamebreather and Thermo-Alchemist, they can pour on a ton of damage once we get things set up.

Learning Lessons

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So far, we've mostly discussed Kessig Flamebreather and Thermo-Alchemist as ways to add extra damage to our burn spells, and while this is part of their power, they technically add a damage to any spell we cast, not just burn spells. As such, one of the most powerful things a deck with Kessig Flamebreather and Thermo-Alchemist can do is chain together spells and cast a bunch of them in one turn, while dealing a ton of damage to the opponent in the process. The problem is that Boros isn't really a great color combination for chaining together cantrips, although we can have some pretty explosive turns thanks to learn and lessons. Igneous Inspiration is pretty simple: it's a three-mana, three-damage burn spell that lets us snag a lesson from our sideboard (or rummage away an extra land). Academic Dispute, on the other hand, might look a bit weird in our deck because it's text does quite literally nothing. We're playing it as a one=mana spell that just says "learn," which, strangely, is good enough in a deck with both Kessig Flamebreather and Thermo-Alchemist. We can cast it and tutor up something like Introduction to Prophecy from our sideboard, cast the lesson, and hopefully find another spell to cast, dealing oodles of damage with our two-drops along the way, making it a weird red Opt in our deck.

The Mana

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Two quick notes on the mana (which is very good for a budget deck). First, we manage to sneak some burn into our mana base with Spikefield Hazard, which is great in our deck, giving us an extra red spell for Chandra, Dressed to Kill and a land that can trigger Thermo-Alchemist and Kessig Flamebreather. Second, our deck costs a total of 13 rares and mythics on Magic Arena, but this is somewhat deceptive because eight of those rares are dual lands. If you already have a tier Standard mana base, you should be able to put together Boros Burn for pretty close to free (other than the playset of Chandra, Dressed to Kill) on Arena.

Playing the Deck

The main challenge of Boros Burn is knowing when to throw burn at opposing creatures and when to go face. In general, we want to be throwing as many burn spells at the opponent's face as possible, but we're not above burning creatures in a pinch. One of the upsides of playing Boros Burn is that we naturally have a ton of removal for smaller creatures, which is super helpful against decks like Mono-White, Sacrifice, Vampires, and Zombies. 

You maybe have noticed during the video that games where we drew a Kessig Flamebreather / Thermo-Alchemist or two went really well, but in games where we didn't, we often ended up just a bit short on damage to close out the game. While we don't need to mulligan until we find one of our two-drops, it is probably worth throwing back medium sevens without a two-drop in hopes of a better six. 

Chandra, Dressed to Kill is pretty high variance. Chandra is great against decks with small creatures (that die to our burn) or control. But Chandra is almost unplayable against decks with big creatures like Mono-Green, to the point where we often sideboard the planeswalker out for more removal spells. Oh yeah, and as far as sideboarding goes, Academic Dispute is an easy card to cut for Burning Hands, Thundering Rebuke, or Cinderclasm, depending on the matchup.


Record-wise, we finished 3-2 with Boros Burn, although we did get a bit unlucky in our last match against Jund Midrange where we finally ran our opponent out of cards only to have our opponent top-deck Goldspan Dragons two turns in a row to steal the win, about a turn before we would have burnt them out. In general, Boros Burn felt really strong against control and decks with small creatures but struggled against decks like Mono-Green that play a bunch of creatures that are too big for our main-deck burn spells to kill.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I think the main deck is pretty solid. There might be an argument for dropping Academic Dispute for something like Demon Bolt or Thundering Rebuke, but it otherwise felt good. On the other hand, the sideboard could use more ways to kill bigger threats. Something like Borrowed Time might be necessary, even though it is a bit of a non-bo with Chandra and Thermo-Alchemist (in a non-budget build, Fateful Absence would be even better). Showdown of the Skalds could also be worth considering for card advantage, although it would add more rares to the deck and increase the cost on Magic Arena.

So, should you play Boros Burn in Standard? I think the answer is yes. It felt like a solid budget deck, although just how good it ends up overall will depend on how the metagame shakes out. The Mono-Green matchup is horrible, and we might be in trouble if it ends up the best deck in Standard. But the matchups against control and Mono-White seem decent, which is good news. If you like throwing burn spells at the opponent's face, the deck felt competitive enough to win a lot of games with on the ladder or at an FNM. Plus, it's sweet to have a real burn deck back in Standard for the first time in quite a while!

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For our ultra-budget build this week, we go with Mono-Red Burn, which drops the cost of the deck down to $25 in paper and zero rares and mythics on Magic Arena. We drop Chandra, Dressed to Kill since it's way too expensive for an ultra-budget deck, replacing it with Demon Bolt as a removal spell for bigger creatures, and swap Sacred Fire for Dragon's Approach (which might look strange without any Dragons, but three damage for three mana is the going rate for a Standard burn spell, strangely making it fine, even if we can never use it to tutor up a Dragon). 

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Finally, for our non-budget build, we're back to Boros with a handful of big additions. Rem Karolus, Stalwart Slayer gives us even more copies of Thermo-Alchemist, this time with a flying, hasty body attached. Cemetery Gatekeeper offers a pseudo–Eidolon of the Great Revel for repeatable damage, while our sideboard gets a huge update, with Roiling Vortex to fight lifegain, Fateful Absence to kill big green creatures, and [[Radiant Scrollwielder] as a roadblock against aggro.


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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