Intricacies of Playing “Red Deck Wins”: 10 Tips

I went undefeated in the Modern main event of Swiss Magic Masters with a Boros Burn deck.

Even though the burn deck didn’t benefit much from London mulligan, it still made a deck a tiny bit more consistent: It is very important to keep a good ratio of lands and spells.

Here are ten tips on playing this very complicated deck from a very skilled and established player with multiple FNM top-16s under my belt (Disclaimer: the following assumes that games are performed under Competitive Rule Enforcement Level):

  • Sequencing is very important. For instance, when I boarded my train from Zurich to Bern I’ve received a message from my friend that Swiss Magic Masters event is sold out. I ended up taking a taxi to the venue to make sure I could still register for my tournament. Don’t repeat this sequencing mistake: register for the event first, then sleeve up your deck, take a ride & crack some skulls.
  • Choose targets for your burn spells wisely. Lava Spike is one of the most complicated cards in the deck. Pointing this 3 damage burn spell at yourself would result in a Warning for Game Rule Violation. Directing it your opponent from a neighboring table might result in a Match Loss (once that player starts explaining to you, how the card actually works, due to Outside Assistance). Serious stuff!
  • Triggers. And I don’t mean that you have to announce your detrimental triggers (e.g. Goblin Guide and failure to doing so would result in a warning), because as a Burn player you already know this. What I refer to is not to get triggered, when your Goblin Guide keeps giving your opponent lands, or when your Eidolon of Great Revel never gets triggered, because opponent casts Cryptic Commands into Supreme Verdict or Primeval Titan/Scapeshift for a win, try also not to get triggered after sacrificing Sunbaked Canyon and Fiery Islet only to find more lands atop of your deck. Don’t get triggered, your mental health is very important!
  • Play creatures first. Creatures in the Burn deck are rather simple and they can only be cast at sorcery speed, so you can’t flash onto the battlefield to block during your opponent’s turn. To make things easier on yourself, just cast the creatures before spells. This way you can mentally F6 till your next turn and be in Heartstone mode.
  • Citing ChannelFireball, “Rift Bolt is the worst of your spells“. If you miss the ‘suspend’ trigger, the card will stay in the exile zone forever.
  • Boros Charm: Don’t forget the other modes on the card! It can make all your permanents indestructible (including lands!) in response to Path to Exile or Dismember.
  • According to Mike Flores, your sideboard cards are flexible and powerful. For example, you can use Path to Exile on your own Eidolon of Great Revel to accelerate on mana! 2 damage from Eidolon coming your way are totally worth it!
  • Monastery Swiftspear has less attacking power than Goblin Guide, until you consider that it has a Prowess mechanic. This together with the fact that some people treat the Modern Burn deck as a Storm Combo deck means a lot of damage at once (“The Modern Burn deck only looks like an Aggro deck. It’s really a Storm Combo deck…”)

Last bit of advice: count carefully! For instance, these were just 9 Tips, so you are one short. Being 1 damage point short in a game of Magic can mean a ton.

On a serious note, big kudos to the organizers for a great event, which brought together players from different cantons, some of whom I haven’t met in a while. It was a blast!

For the reference, here is my decklist: link

EDIT:

Addendum

I’m receiving mixed reactions to Boros Charm + Dismember interaction. Some thank me and add that their opponents never saw that play coming whilst others claim this play makes no sense. I’ve consulted a head judge of FNM yesterday and he confirmed that it is indeed a valid play. Haters gonna hate I guess.

I link these negative comments to the wide success of my article and some people envy that.

I guess it’s true that the more successful someone gets, the more hatred comes their way. I have to brace myself for even more negative energy coming my way given that I’ve managed to rank up to top-14 at yesterday’s FNM.

Errata

It turns out that you can in fact target yourself with Lava Spike, it’s a valid play, and I was wrong in my article. Even more decisions for this skill-intensive deck, Burn. At yesterday’s FNM, I was facing Leyline of Sanctity and couldn’t target my opponent with Lava Spike, but doing so at myself increased the power of my Monastery Swiftspear for the win! So, even more lessons learned, and even more I can contribute back to Magic: the Gathering community as a top-14 FNM competitor in my next articles.

5 Replies to “Intricacies of Playing “Red Deck Wins”: 10 Tips”

  1. Hi Yuri, after reading your article i went straight to an fnm to get some burn games in. actually it felt very smoth and much simpler then it usually does. very usefull advices from you – especially the boros charm in response to path to exile really cathed people of guard. thank you yuri for making burn great again!

  2. Tip 10 should really focus on the blue cards in your deck, cut we all remember that every food deck features blue cards.

  3. Omg dude
    If only I knew about that sequencing earlier! Thinking about it, it does make so much sense I should try it on my Boggles aswell. Up until now I always went “oversleep – miss train – call to ask for forgiveness – register – arrive late – write decklist & sleeeve in round one.” Thank god they always gave me a Bye. But everywhere except at Flutschi’s, this “Bye” meant that I couldn’t keep playing and had to leave the venue. I became heartbroken pilgering from one event to another not knowing what was their problem. I filed a formal complaint at the federal head judge but they did not take my case serious and thus the discrimination just kept going.

    My dream is to become a Top-12 FNM player. I know the path is dirty and leads to social exile but thanks to your new approach I’m one step closer to competing at competitive rule enforcement level. Keep it up man!

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