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Much Abrew: Dagger Burn - Version 2 (Standard)


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. This week, we are doing something a little bit different but also something I'm super excited about. Last week during our Instant Deck Techs, the crazy Dagger Burn deck from Fishbowl Thursday crushed the competition, and while we are playing Dagger Burn for today's Much Abrew, we're doing it with a twist. Thanks to a quirk of fate (probably better known as a horrible Tishana Bant deck) and popular demand, we ended up playing Dagger Burn on stream last week, so if you want to check out the original build, you can find the full stream here and the highlights here. So today, instead of just running back the same build of Dagger Burn, we'll be playing Dagger Burn V2, which has a bunch of updates based on what we learned while playing the deck on stream.

While I'm super excited to show off the new and improved build of the deck, the other thing I'm excited about is being able to talk a bit about my thought process for upgrading the deck. Instead of having the typical bullet-point Much Abrew article, today we'll discuss a handful of specific problems with the original build and what we did to the deck in an effort to fix the problems. Let's get to the videos so you can see how Dagger Burn V2 actually plays, and then we'll break down the upgrade process!

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Dagger Burn V2 (Deck Tech)

Dagger Burn V2 vs. Esper Gifts (Match 1)

Dagger Burn V2 vs. Temur Energy (Match 2)

Dagger Burn V2 vs. Ramunap Red (Match 3)

Dagger Burn V2 vs. Revolt Treasure Ramp (Match 4)

Dagger Burn V2 vs. Esper Tokens (Match 5)

Dagger Burn V2 (Wrap-Up)

View original Dagger Burn list

Discussion

First off, we ended up 3-2 in our video matches, but our actual record was 3-4, since we ran into Ramunap Red / RB two more times and lost both (apparently, this isn't a great matchup). The good news is that the second version of Dagger Burn felt strong and was a blast to play with. The combo of forcing opponents to have creatures enter the battlefield with Dowsing Dagger to burn them out with Trespasser's Curse and Panharmonicon as a weird Furnace of Rath is surprisingly strong and good at catching opponents by surprise. While the second version of Dagger Burn is far from perfect, it does a good job of fixing many of the issues with the original build. So, what were these issues, and how did we go about fixing them? Let's break it down.

Problem #1: Not Enough Interaction

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One of the biggest issues with the initial build of Dagger Burn is that it simply didn't have many ways to interact with the opponent. While the combo was really good at ending games, if we didn't draw into it quickly, we'd just get run over by opposing creatures. Thankfully, this was an easy fix: Reckless Fireweaver was massively underperforming in the original build, along with a couple of the stranger artifacts like Hierophant's Chalice, so we simply cut the bad cards and put more removal in their place. We added another copy of Fatal Push, two Unlicensed Disintegrations, and a full playset of Hostage Taker. Hostage Taker specifically was a huge turning point for the deck because it actually helped us solve not one but two big problems.

Problem #2: Not a Good Panharmonicon Deck

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The second big issue with the original build of Dagger Burn is that it simply didn't take advantage of the fact that it was running the full four copies of Panharmonicon (other than using it for the Dowsing Dagger combo). While Kitesail Freebooter, Prophetic Prism, and a couple of copies of Champion of Wits helped, they simply weren't enough to make Panharmonicon good. If we are going to spend our fourth turn tapping out for a do-nothing artifact, we want to make sure that the do-nothing artifact is as good as possible if we are lucky enough to untap with it. 

The solution here was simply to cut support cards that didn't interact with Panharmonicon and replace them with support cards that do work with Panharmonicon. A great example is Opt. In 99% of decks, Opt is the perfect cantrip to help find combo pieces, but in a deck with Panharmonicon, cards like Glint-Nest Crane and Champion of Wits have more value thanks to their double triggers. Hostage Taker, on the other hand, gave us a card that not only provided more interaction but a backup win condition with Panharmonicon, since we occasionally just double-steal our opponent's best creatures, play them, and kill our opponent with their own threats! Much like Hostage Taker, Glint-Nest Crane also fixed multiple problems for the deck.

Problem #3: Not Good Enough at Finding Panharmonicon / Dowsing Dagger

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The original build of Dagger Burn was really, really good at finding a Trespasser's Curse effect (since it had eight of them, counting Rampaging Ferocidon) but not very good at finding Panharmonicon or Dowsing Dagger, which was problematic because we need at least one of each combo piece for the combo to work. The solution here was to cut down a bit on Rampaging Ferocidons (six is enough that we'll usually have one copy) and use these extra slots to run not just a full playset of Glint-Nest Crane but also two more Champion of Wits as well. 

Glint-Nest Crane is the perfect card for this deck, since we often find ourselves in a position where we have everything we need to kill our opponent except for Dowsing Dagger or Panharmonicon, and Glint-Nest Crane digs down four cards (or even eight, with the help of Panharmonicon) to find one of our artifact combo pieces. We had at least a few games where Glint-Nest Crane provided the win all by itself by digging just deep enough to find our game-winning combo piece the turn before we would have died. Plus, Glint-Nest Crane comes with a body, which gives us a free chump block to help us survive while looking for combo pieces.

Problem #4: The Mana

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The last big issue with the original build of Dagger Burn was the mana. We often found ourselves in a position where Aether Hub couldn't make colored mana, since we don't have any additional sources of energy, while Inventors' Fair was usually a colorless source without an upside, since we would rarely get three artifacts on the battlefield (while the original build had 13 artifacts, it's really closer to nine, since we almost never want to cast a Dowsing Dagger before we are ready to combo off). The big lesson I learned was that, unless we have a really, really good reason, you probably shouldn't play Aether Hub in decks that don't make energy. The good news is there are plenty of dual lands in the Grixis colors in our current Standard, so we just swapped out the underperforming lands for Spirebluff Canal along with more copies of Dragonskull Summit and Drowned Catacomb, which made our mana much more functional.

Wrap-Up

From a more meta perspective, the original build of Dagger Burn was essentially an all-in combo build of the deck. Rather than playing a "real" game of Magic, our goal was to cantrip into our combo and hope that we could kill our opponent before they killed us. Version two is a more middle-of-the-road version. While we still win nearly all of our games with the combo, we have more of an ability to play a fair game of Magic by killing our opponent's creatures, chump blocking, and even attacking in some cases. Moving forward, if there's ever a version three of Dagger Burn, I'd like to try a full-on Panharmonicon deck that just happens to sometimes win with the Trespasser's Curse combo, while cutting back on Rampaging Ferocidon (which might be better as a sideboard card) and trying to fit in some more good cards like Gonti, Lord of Luxury, The Scarab God, and Noxious Gearhulk

One thing that stood out from our matches was that the combo of Panharmonicon and Trespasser's Curse was strangely effective against a lot of decks even when we didn't draw Dowsing Dagger, and we had a couple of games where our opponent essentially killed themselves just by playing creatures into our lock. Saheeli Rai was also surprisingly effective. Copying Hostage Taker and having the mana to immediately cast whatever card we took hostage was a powerful line that makes me want to build some sort of Grixis Midrange deck. 

All in all, I really like the second build of Dagger Burn. While the aggro matchup still isn't where it needs to be, the combo is surprisingly effective, we do a good job of finding all of our pieces, and we can actually function like a fairly reasonable Panharmonicon deck as a backup plan. If you have any ideas about how we can improve the deck even further, make sure to let me know, because the combo is janky and strong enough that the deck is worth developing. While it will probably never be a tier option, we could likely get it to the point where it could consistently compete at the FNM level, at the very least.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck by liking, commenting on, and subscribing to Instant Deck Tech videos. 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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