Am I “Burn Guy” Now?

Boy is this title ever self-explanatory. Honestly, at some point you have to ask yourself important questions like this. I’m laughing while typing this as Jeff Hoogland is sending me a list for another TCG that is essentially a Mono-Red Aggressive Deck.

The weekend before last was another chance for me to move up the SCG Tour leaderboard while perfecting my craft with the aforementioned Burn deck in Modern. I had an above average 9th place finish that we talked about last week and was hoping for similar or better results in Milwaukee.

Well, as they say, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I quickly found myself down in a 0-2 hole with a close loss to Jund, and a not-so-close loss to Abzan Company. I’ve found over the past few months that I’m actually pretty composed, even with the odds against me, and I felt ok knowing how capable my deck was of running off 7 matches in a row.

Since I wrote a great deal about Burn last week I’ll keep this portion short. I played a bunch of very close games the rest of the day, and ended up being dead to a combination of land screw and play errors.

In the comical last match of the day against Mono Blue Time Warp, I kept a 6-card hand that featured: 1 land, Goblin Guide, Wild Nacatl, Lightning Bolt, Rift Bolt, Atarka’s Command. My Wild Nacatl stayed a 2/2 for the ENTIRE game as I failed to draw a second land, and drew another pile of Boros Charms and Atarka’s Commands even with my last turn drawing an extra card off of Dictate of Kruphix. Talk about embarrassing.

I blew off some steam and had dinner and some drinks with my fiancée and the crew while shifting my thoughts to Standard the next day. I always pack an emergency deck for myself or someone in our group just in case a Saturday doesn’t go as planned. After briefly scouring the Pro Tour decklists the week leading up to Milwaukee, I settled on Makihito Mihara’s 8-2 finishing list.

On paper this list did everything I wanted. It lit creatures and opponents on fire, it drew cards, and it played 4x Chandra, Flamecaller. Consider me sold.

Now that the Classic has come and gone, I can tell you I placed 12th, which was good enough for some points and cash, and I was happy that I found a Standard deck that I really liked playing. Here is Mihara’s list that I copied the exact 75 from the Pro Tour:

I’ve had quite a bit of questions regarding the list and its gameplay, so I’m going to do my best to describe some of the lines of play, some of its finer details, and changes I would make to the deck going forward.

As someone who plays a considerable amount of Magic, I’m typically not afraid to play decks cold. This deck was no different, and that was a huge mistake. I highly recommend at a minimum gold fishing this deck a few times before donating your money somewhere. I learned a lot about the deck throughout the day that I’d like to share with you all.

The baseline of this deck involves the core of 7 card selection spells: 4 Tormenting Voice and 3 Magmatic Insight. The easy lines include playing Magmatic Insight on turn 1 and discarding Drownyard Temple, but most games don’t go that way. I messed up pretty bad early in the day by playing out my 7th land, and was rightfully punished by drawing a Magmatic Insight the following turn. Boy, did I feel dumb afterwards. But, learning along the way is helpful and is a very big part of growing as a player, as is learning how to fix holes in your deck.

Another big thing people have a hard time realizing about this deck is that it’s ok to discard a Chandra or Fall of the Titan early. I know it sounds crazy to be discarding your win cons, but this deck has 4 Chandras, Fall of the Titans, and Needle Spires which do a TON of damage. There are also Fiery Tempers, and you’re able to fork most of these spells with Pyromancer’s Goggles bursting people out of the game. Discarding with selection spells and Nahiri is by far the hardest thing to master in the deck. The best piece of advice I can give you is to be aggressive in discarding win conditions as you will most certainly find more.

By far the question I’ve fielded the most is “When do you use the transformative sideboard?” This is honestly a hard question to answer without sounding like a jerk, but my best response is that is is all about feeling.

Transformative sideboards are very hard to pull off. I watch my opponents intently and keep a count of how many cards they are boarding out. I also shuffle in ALL 15 cards at all times to keep my opponents guessing. When it looks like they are removing a lot of cards, you can safely assume they have removed the majority of their removal. In those scenarios I was boarding in up to 11 creatures: 4x Thought-Knot Seer, 4x Reality Smasher, 3x Eldrazi Obligator. I can’t even begin to tell you the look of astonishment when I would play a Reality Smasher in game 2 and my opponents were just dead to rights.

One of the funniest matches I played over the weekend was against the Jon Finkel BG Seasons Past deck, where my opponent cast Infinite Obliteration against me in Game 1, seeing that my deck was on a whopping ZERO creatures, he was floored. In game 2 I had brought in the 11-card package mentioned above, and promptly cast Though-Knot Seer which caught my opponent off guard again. Assuming he would be bringing back in Infinite Obliterations and Grasp of Darkness, I went with the bait and switch and removed my Thought-Knot Seers. Like clockwork, he Obliterated me on 3 attempting to remove them and we both had a small chuckle as he noted I boarded my Seers out!

This is a more advanced strategy, but it worked nicely for me in this match, as well as many others throughout the weekend. Boarding things out is hard, but when you’re boarding in creatures, it is ok to board out some of your win conditions, and against the GB deck, I even boarded out some of the Goggles.

I also had the question of “Why Mage-Ring Network?” While I didn’t design this deck, I’m pretty sure I can answer that rather easily: Fall of the Titans. I charged a Network and was able to 36 one of my opponents rather easily as the game progressed for a long time.

“What would you change?” This question is almost harder to answer than the sideboarding tips section. After only playing 7 rounds, it’s hard to diagnose what is hard with the deck, but I was lucky to play against a variety of decks, and have a lot of good playtesting partners to play with and bounce ideas off of.

My hardest matchup of the day was against the GW Tokens deck piloted by Louis Kaplan who was a very capable pilot. The deck just overwhelms the 1-for-1 style of removal the RW Goggles deck plays and has very efficient threats. Even when going to the sideboard we don’t have very efficient answers to what they’re doing. I believe that is the first step to making this deck better, especially with how popular the Tokens deck was last weekend at Toronto. We have talked about playing Kozilek’s Return, Planar Outburst, Radiant Flames, and Secure the Wastes.

Seismic Rupture sounds awesome in theory. It forks with Goggles and can kill everything, even larger creatures like Sylvan Advocate. My biggest problem with this card is that it doesn’t kill Thopters from Hangarback Walker, and that sounds like a death sentence.

Radiant Flames also sounds like a decent solution, but being sorcery speed is a very large cost. It could be a choice, but I think the other 2 options are better.

Kozilek’s Return is my first choice. Instant-speed saves you against the old Secure the Wastes + Westvale Abbey combo. I understand that not being able to double up on it with Goggles due to being Devoid stinks, but we have to take the good with the bad here.

Planar Outburst might be ok as well. Luis Salvatto played them in his Pro Tour Top 8 deck, so it seems to have worked out. I like it as it is flexible for Bant Collected Company as well.

My changes would look something like this:

Main Deck: -1 Avacyn’s Judgement, +1 Kozilek’s Return

Judgement was pretty lackluster for me throughout the day as a removal spell, and I never used it as the 5th Fireball. We are able to discard the Kozilek’s Return if we draw it in a matchup where it is bad also, so there is always that.

Sideboard: -2 Dual Shot, +1 Kozilek’s Return, +1 Planar Outburst

The Dual Shot’s were only average against the GW Humans deck I played against, and we have plenty of 1 for 1 removal where I don’t think it hurts too much adding a slower sweeper over them. I feel like these changes are needed in order to attempt combating the Tokens deck.

Wrap Up

Other than the one small change the main deck felt very trim and I would 100% play this deck again. The sideboard like you see could use some work, and I suggest playing a handful of games before taking this to a large tournament. It has a ton of play to it and was one of the most fun decks I’ve played in a long time. I feel like the ceiling on this deck is high, and can lead to a satisfactory tournament if you’re able to mitigate your mistakes throughout the day. While I didn’t attend GP: New York, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this deck, or a variant, do well. I will be on vacation for a week before heading to GP: Charlotte to play some Modern, so if you will be there please stop and say hi! Good luck!

Thanks for stopping in,

– Burn Guy…errrrr

– Mat Bimonte

Mat Bimonte

Mat Bimonte

Mat Bimonte began his Magic playing career midway through the release of Theros. Despite his short time playing the game, he has a Modern 5K championship title along with a handful of smaller Standard tournament wins. Mat spends most of his time on the Star City Circuit with aspirations of qualifying for the Pro Tour in the coming years.
Mat Bimonte

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Published:May 9, 2016

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