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Budget Magic: Incinerator Burn (Modern)


Míyaxwe, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Next week we should be able to start exploring our new Zendikar Rising Standard format, but this week, we're heading to Modern to play a card that was my pick for one of the best Modern cards from Core Set 2021: Chandra's Incinerator! The goal of our deck today is pretty simple: use a ton of Lightning Bolts to get Chandra's Incinerator on the battlefield as early as Turn 2 and trust that a 6/6 trample that also turns all of our Lava Spikes and Lightning Bolts into Searing Blazes will be enough to win us the game. Oh yeah, and thanks to Double Masters, we now get to play the best red one-drop of all time—Goblin Guide—and still come in under the $100 budget! How good is Chandra's Incinerator in Modern? How big of a deal is the new-found budget-friendliness of Goblin Guide for budget Burn decks in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Incinerator Burn

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The Deck

Incinerator Burn, as its name suggests, is a burn deck. The goal of our deck is to kill our opponent quickly by throwing Lightning Bolts at our opponent's face, backed by some of the best aggressive red one-drops in Magic and our new one-mana 6/6 trampler in Chandra's Incinerator!

Incinerator

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Chandra's Incinerator is the centerpiece of our deck. With the help of some cheap burn spells, the main goal of our deck is to be able to cast Chandra's Incinerator as early as Turn 2 by dealing at least five noncombat damage to our opponent, to reduce its cost to just one mana. Once Chandra's Incinerator is on the battlefield, it's pretty absurd. Even in a format as powerful as Modern, a 6/6 trample is a decent threat, and Chandra's Incinerator is oddly resilient in some matchups since it technically costs six mana, which allows it to dodge Fatal Push, even though we usually cast it for just one mana. While being massive and trampling is great, Chandra's Incinerator has even more upside thanks to its static ability, which allows us to deal damage to our opponent's creatures whenever we deal noncombat damage to our opponent. This means that cards like Lava Spike suddenly become one-mana versions of Searing Blaze, while we never have to make tough decisions on whether we should throw our Lightning Bolts and Skewer the Critics at our opponent's face or at their creatures since we can do both with a Chandra's Incinerator out!

The Burn

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The trick to getting Chandra's Incinerator on the battlefield on Turn 2 is that we need to be able to suspend some damage on Turn 2 so that on Turn 2, we can get damage from our suspended card, cast another Lightning Bolt effect to deal a total of five or six damage to our opponent, and still have one mana left over to cast Chandra's Incinerator. For this, we turn to Rift Bolt and Seal of Fire. Rift Bolt is literally just a Lightning Bolt that suspends for a turn, while Seal of Fire gives us a Shock that sits on the battlefield as an enchantment until we need the damage. If we can play / suspend either of these cards on Turn 1, casting any of the million Lightning Bolts in our deck on Turn 2 will allow us to cast our Chandra's Incinerator.

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Speaking of Lightning Bolts, our deck is overloaded with cards that deal three damage for one mana, both to help get our Chandra's Incinerator on the battlefield on Turn 2 and to kill our opponent, burn style. Lightning Bolt is the best of the bunch since it doesn't require any extra work, but Skewer the Critics, Shard Volley, and Lava Spike can all do a reasonable Lightning Bolt impression with various downsides. Shard Volley is the worst of the bunch since sacrificing a land is a pretty major cost, which makes it just a one-of in our deck, although all of the rest are four-ofs. 

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Our last burn spell is Skullcrack, which isn't great at helping us cast a Chandra's Incinerator on Turn 2 since it costs two mana, but it has the upside of fizzling lifegain for a turn, which is very relevant in a format where Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and other incidental lifegain spells see a lot of play. We have two copies of Skullcrack in our main deck and two more in the sideboard to bring in against lifegain-focused decks.

Other Creatures

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All the non–Chandra's Incinerator creatures in our deck are one-drops, highlighted by the best red one-drop of all time: Goblin Guide! It wasn't that long ago that Goblin Guide cost $25 a copy—so a playset would eat up our entire $100 budget all by itself, making it impossible to play in Budget Magic decks. Now, thanks to Double Masters, Goblin Guide is all the way down to $8 and will probably drop even more as the set is printed! As such, for the first time ever, we get to play Goblin Guide in a budget burn deck. What makes Goblin Guide so good? In a burn deck, the main consideration is how much damage each card in our deck can deal. When Goblin Guide comes down on Turn 1, it's likely to deal at least four damage (making it better than a Lightning Bolt or Lava Spike) with the additional upside of potentially dealing six or even eight damage if our opponent is on a slow draw and / or doesn't have removal or blockers.

Otherwise, we have Monastery Swiftspear as our backup one-drop, which starts off slower than Goblin Guide on Turn 1 but often hits for two or three damage thanks to prowess as we cast our burn spells, and Soul-Scar Mage, which is basically a Monastery Swiftspear without the upside of haste but the added value of allowing us to shrink bigger creatures with our burn spells by turning noncombat damage into −1/−1 counters. Together, this gives us 10 aggressive one-drops to facilitate our aggressive burn-based starts and (hopefully) to help us kill our opponent quickly before they have a chance to gain a bunch of life or otherwise disrupt our plan.

Other Stuff

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Last but not least, we have Light Up the Stage, which doesn't serve any super-specific purpose in our deck, but drawing two cards for one mana is so efficient that we can't really pass it up. In some ways, Light Up the Stage is especially important in budget Burn decks because we don't have access to Horizon Canopy–style lands to help us fight through pockets of lands. The card advantage that Light Up the Stage generates is occasionally the difference between winning a game and ending up a couple of points of damage short of finishing off our opponent. 

The Mana

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The mana in Incinerator Burn is as simple and cheap as can be, with 19 Mountains. However, I did want to talk a bit about the mana because it is the easiest way to upgrade the deck. The most common way that Incinerator Burn loses is by drawing two-land hands. In a perfect world, we'll draw three lands and never draw another for the rest of the game, but thanks to the variance of Magic, we don't live in a perfect world. Games where we draw five or more lands can be tough since we often end up just a bit short on damage, and we basically auto-lose games where we draw seven or eight lands. Thankfully, there is an easy way to fix this issue, but it does cost a bit of extra mana: the Horizon lands from Modern Horizons. Playing somewhere around six copies of Fiery Islet or Sunbaked Canyon (which would cost around $60 extra at roughly $10 / copy) would go a long way toward helping us fight through less-than-optimal land-heavy draws but giving us lands that we can sacrifice to (hopefully) draw more burn spells and finish out the game. If you have the Horizon lands, stick them in the deck—at least six copies and possibly as many as eight. And if you're looking for a way to upgrade Incinerator Burn that doesn't require spending a bunch of money on fetch lands (which is the next step toward upgrading to fully tier Burn), this is the perfect place to start.

The Sideboard

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  • Smash to Smithereens comes in against artifact decks and is sort of a free-roll because it deals three damage. So even if we take out some of our lesser burn spells to bring in Smash to Smithereens, we aren't actually losing any damage over the long run.
  • Searing Blood comes in against decks with small creatures. Much like Smash to Smithereens, the fact that Searing Blood deals three damage to our opponent when the creature dies makes it easy to sideboard in without losing total damage output.
  • Skullcrack comes in against lifegain decks. In general, we draw an average of two damage per turn (discounting the games where we get free Chandra's Incinerator wins). That means that every two life that our opponent gains is another turn we need to wait to kill our opponent. As such, Skullcrack actually deals way more damage than written if we can cast it in response to something that will gain our opponent life. In many ways, fizzling the three life our opponent would gain from something like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is just as good as dealing three additional damage to our opponent.
  • Dragon's Claw is for aggro mirrors, allowing us to swing the race in our favor whenever we cast a spell and, if our opponent is also on a red-based aggro deck, potentially gaining us some life from our opponent's spells as well.
  • Tormod's Crypt comes in against graveyard decks like Dredge.

Playing the Deck

There really isn't a ton to say about playing Incinerator Burn. Normally, the big challenge with Burn decks is figuring out when to throw Lightning Bolts at opposing creatures and when to throw them at the opponent's face, which is where we really want to be aiming them. But thanks to Chandra's Incinerator, we can often have our cake and eat it too with Incinerator Burn. Otherwise, be aggressive!

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished 4-1 with Incinerator Burn, with our one loss coming to a Rakdos Unearth deck that was very prepared for the matchup, with Cling to Dust gaining an absurd amount of life in games one and three. More importantly, almost all of our losses came in games where we flooded out and drew five or even eight lands, which is by far the biggest weakness of the deck. Thankfully, as we talked about in the lands section, this problem is easy enough to fix by adding some Horizons lands to help fight through flood. Otherwise, the deck felt very competitive. If you're looking for a budget Modern deck that has the potential to 5-0 a league or crush an FNM, Incinerator Burn is likely one of the better options in the format at the moment!

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Getting Incinerator Burn down to $60 is pretty easy—we simply trade in Goblin Guide for Ghitu Lavarunner, which is a meaningful downgrade, but there isn't really another good way to cut costs since most of the other cards in our deck are pretty cheap. 

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For our non-budget list this week, we have a Boros Incinerator Burn deck that recently 5-0'ed a Magic Online league in the hands of Werebere. The core of the deck is the same as our budget build, with the biggest additions being Eidolon of the Great Revel (which is good in general but especially effective against Storm-style combo decks) and Boros Charm (which not only offers four damage but also a sweet combo kill with Chandra's Incinerator by giving us double strike for a 12-damage attack). As we talked about before, if you want a more mid-priced upgrade, play the budget build but with some Fiery Islets and Sunbaked Canyons to help fight through flood.

Conclusion

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 SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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