fbpx

3 Ways to Play Fires of Invention that Aren’t Jeskai

A set of Standard Grand Prix events is coming up, which is a good opportunity to qualify for the Mythic Championship. I’ve been working a fair bit on Standard, especially on Fires of Invention decks. Obviously with the MC coming up, things will shift, but barring a massive breakthrough, we already have a good idea about the pillars of the format.

The Top Decks in Standard, Right Now

Jeskai Fires (Cavaliers, not planeswalkers)
Jund Food
Golgari Food

These are the primary three decks in the metagame, though they are nowhere near as dominant or omnipresent as Field or Oko decks were. Following those, I’ve also seen a fair bit of Rakdos Knights, Temur Reclamation, Fires variants, Gruul Aggro, Gruul, Temur and Golgari Adventures, and even a bit of Simic and Izzet Flash. Basically, there are a lot of options—Trail of Crumbs and Fires of Invention are the two best things you can be doing in the format, but there’s a fair bit of variation among those.

Personally, I’ve been having a lot of fun jamming Fires of Invention strategies. Not only does it scratch that combo itch that’s often missing from Standard, but the post-board games have a lot of back and forth assuming reasonable hands on both sides. Right now there are three Fires of Invention iterations I think are only a stones throw from Jeskai Fires, and possibly better in the current metagame:

Temur Fires
Jund Fires
Rakdos Fires

I’ll start with Rakdos because Ben Weitz first showcased the deck, and he tends to have some really sweet ones. Plus I’m a sucker when I see full playsets the whole way down the list.

Rakdos Fires

7 Mountain
7 Swamp
4 Blood Crypt
2 Bloodfell Caves
4 Fabled Passage
2 Castle Locthwain
4 God-Eternal Bontu
4 Cavalier of Flame
4 Cauldron Familiar
4 Midnight Reaper
4 Mayhem Devil
4 Stormfist Crusader
4 Fires of Invention
4 Witch's Oven
2 Mask of Immolation

Sideboard
4 Duress
2 Redcap Melee
3 Blacklance Paragon
3 Noxious Grasp
3 Bedevil

 

MTG Arena Export

Lands
4 Blood Crypt (RNA) 245
2 Bloodfell Caves (M20) 242
4 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
2 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241
7 Mountain (ELD) 262
7 Swamp (ELD) 258
Spells
4 Fires of Invention (ELD) 125
4 Witch’s Oven (ELD) 237
2 Mask of Immolation (M20) 151
Creatures
4 God-Eternal Bontu (WAR) 92
4 Cavalier of Flame (M20) 125
4 Cauldron Familiar (ELD) 81
4 Midnight Reaper (GRN) 77
4 Mayhem Devil (WAR) 204
4 Stormfist Crusader (ELD) 203
Sideboard
4 Duress (XLN) 105
2 Redcap Melee (ELD) 135
3 Blacklance Paragon (ELD) 79
3 Noxious Grasp (M20) 110
3 Bedevil (RNA) 157

[collapse]

Not only is this deck functional without Fires of Invention, it features multiple ways to simply end the game once you get going. Bontu + Mayhem Devil is a hell of a lot scarier when you can play them both on the same turn and simply dome opponents for 10ish damage (typically 5-6 lands, Fires of Invention, 1-3 other permanents, and Mayhem Devil itself). If you have two Mayhem Devils, the game is often over on the spot, but even with Cavalier of Flame you can sacrifice it as well for an extra 2-4 damage. Besides that, you have the obvious random assortment of creatures plus Cavalier turning sideways and pumping the team.

Meanwhile, you have the usual CatOven + Mayhem Devil/Midnight Reaper synergies. Stormfist Crusader often felt like the weakest card in the deck, but was OK at netting you some early damage and cards. In general you could present a respectable aggro game plan against other decks, and especially against decks trying to stop your Fires game plan after sideboarding. This is a more functional plan than hanging around, playing some removal, and trying to leverage one Cavalier a turn into a win.

The primary change I made was to maindeck a pair of Embercleave over Mask of Immolation. While I liked what Mask was trying to do, and would run it in a more aggro or Innkeeper-oriented metagame, often I just wanted my opponents dead before they got too much value off their engine. With all your menace creatures, Embercleave has a lot of blowout potential, and you have enough creatures to get the discount early sometimes. Even if you prefer Mask, I’d recommend 2-3 Cleave in the sideboard.

My current sideboard:
2 Embercleave
4 Rotting Regisaur
4 Flame Sweep
3 Noxious Grasp
2 Cavalier of Night

The biggest issue is that it isn’t all-in on Fires, and as a result it doesn’t find it nearly as often, and isn’t as good at clearing the way for your 5-drops to end the game. There are games where you can have a Fires of Invention and simply nothing to do, and the opposite where you have a grip of fives and no Fires. Lacking a filtering card like Shimmer of Possibility or an engine like Trail of Crumbs or Narset, Parter of Veils  limits how deep you can go.

You also aren’t that well off against aggro without the Cat-Oven combo since your creatures can’t block for beans and often cost you life. The lack of good spot removal or sweepers in the main deck means you almost always lose the Rakdos “mirror” since it turns out a Rotting Regisaur with an Embercleave doesn’t actually care what you play and kills you before your combo turns. Even their non-Cleave turns are often too much for you since you actively have to trade life for more cards. Still, there’s not a ton of aggro at the moment, and this may be a worthwhile sacrifice to beat up on Food decks and have a way to beat Jeskai Fires through turn-3 Deafening Clarion.

Jund Fires

2 Forest
2 Mountain
2 Swamp
4 Blood Crypt
4 Fabled Passage
4 Stomping Ground
4 Overgrown Tomb
3 Temple of Malady
4 Gilded Goose
4 Cauldron Familiar
3 God-Eternal Bontu
4 Mayhem Devil
3 Midnight Reaper
4 Cavalier of Flame
1 Cavalier of Night
4 Witch's Oven
4 Fires of Invention
4 Trail of Crumbs

Sideboard
3 Massacre Girl
4 Duress
2 Noxious Grasp
1 Cavalier of Night
1 Assassin's Trophy
4 Cindervines

 

MTG Arena Export

4 Gilded Goose (ELD) 160
2 Swamp (ELD) 261
4 Cauldron Familiar (ELD) 81
3 Temple of Malady (M20) 254
4 Witch’s Oven (ELD) 237
3 God-Eternal Bontu (WAR) 92
4 Mayhem Devil (WAR) 204
3 Midnight Reaper (GRN) 77
4 Blood Crypt (RNA) 245
4 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
2 Mountain (XLN) 274
4 Fires of Invention (ELD) 125
4 Cavalier of Flame (M20) 125
1 Cavalier of Night (M20) 94
4 Trail of Crumbs (ELD) 179
4 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259
4 Overgrown Tomb (GRN) 253
2 Forest (GRN) 264
Sideboard
3 Massacre Girl (WAR) 99
4 Duress (XLN) 105
2 Noxious Grasp (M20) 110
1 Cavalier of Night (M20) 94
1 Assassin’s Trophy (GRN) 152
4 Cindervines (RNA) 161

[collapse]

Jund Fires is effectively Jund Food with a bigger endgame, the mana sink of Fires of Invention, and ability to combo off and win. Anyone who has played the normal version of Jund Cats can tell you just how mana hungry the deck can be when you get your engine going and you often have the ability to cast a single larger spell or do multiple small actions instead. Well, with Fires of Invention, you get to do all of that together. Activate a Gilded Goose for another Food, get a couple of Crumbs triggers while still jamming a Mayhem Devil or Bontu when you like.

This deck can grind out anything in the format with the Oven-Cat-Trails engine and win board stalls by setting up a kill with 10+ Mayhem Devil triggers out of nowhere. Trail of Crumbs, Cavalier of Flame, Bontu, and Cavalier of Night make it so setting up double-Mayhem-Devil into Bontu or multiple Witch’s Oven happens quite often in drawn out games. That’s if you even need to go that far, as often just having a handful of creatures on board and Cavalier of Flame is enough.

Even against Golgari Food with the full playset of Casualties of War, you can shrug off the first one and draw Bontu again soon after. Some games you’ll simply lose too many resources to back-to-ack Casualties to recover, but the 5-drops are scary on their own, and Cavalier of Night in particular can undo some of the worst damage. Game one, you can just focus on setting up a kill turn with Cavalier of Flame or drawing 5-7 cards with Bontu and eventually end them. Mayhem Devil is also inherently great in the Food matchups, so you already have all the normal tools at your disposal.

The drawbacks of this approach should be self-evident. Much like the Rakdos Fires deck, you’re trading explosiveness and Fires of Invention consistency for a functional deck when you don’t draw Fires or it gets destroyed. On top of this, you have the mana issues of Jund Food where sometimes you simply don’t see the right colors early and trip over yourself trying to cast spells on time. Adding 5-drops with triple colors only exacerbates the issues when you don’t draw Fires of Invention. There’s a possibility the deck is simply trying to do too much here, and either focusing on Fires or the normal Jund Food engines are better plans, but on a macro level you gain a go-big plan with a bunch of added small decisions because of Fires and Bontu.

For reference, the list I’ve posted is the one I’ve gotten the most reps with so far. At this point, I’m trying Beanstalk Giant in the main over Midnight Reaper to help with the mana consistency and ensure I hit my drops on time. While Beanstalk Giant itself isn’t particularly well positioned, providing the third of a specific color and getting another land onto the battlefield for Fires isn’t negligible. Part of the issue with Reaper is that it simply doesn’t do much unless you already have one of your engines going and it’s weak against aggro. Beanstalk helps bridge the gap better and ensure you get your impact 5s online while providing a threat against decks like Flash later in the game.

For the final deck I want to talk about today, we’re going to look at the exact opposite approach of the above decks. What if we just all-in on Fires of Invention being awesome? Well then we should just play Temur Fires.

Temur Fires

2 Forest
2 Island
1 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Castle Vantress
2 Temple of Mystery
2 Temple of Epiphany
4 Breeding Pool
4 Stomping Ground
4 Steam Vents
3 Fabled Passage
3 Arboreal Grazer
4 Sphinx of Foresight
4 Cavalier of Flame
4 Cavalier of Gales
2 Kenrith, the Returned King - Collector Pack Exclusive
4 Growth Spiral
4 Shimmer of Possibility
2 Bond of Flourishing
4 Fires of Invention

Sideboard
3 Shifting Ceratops
4 Legion Warboss
4 Flame Sweep
4 Cindervines

 

MTG Arena Export

3 Arboreal Grazer (WAR) 149
4 Sphinx of Foresight (RNA) 55
4 Cavalier of Flame (M20) 125
4 Cavalier of Gales (M20) 52
2 Kenrith, the Returned King (ELD) 303
4 Growth Spiral (RNA) 178
4 Shimmer of Possibility (RNA) 51
2 Bond of Flourishing (WAR) 155
4 Fires of Invention (ELD) 125
4 Castle Vantress (ELD) 242
2 Forest (XLN) 276
2 Island (RNA) 261
1 Mountain (WAR) 259
1 Plains (XLN) 261
2 Temple of Mystery (M20) 255
2 Temple of Epiphany (M20) 253
4 Breeding Pool (RNA) 246
4 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259
4 Steam Vents (GRN) 257
3 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244

3 Shifting Ceratops (M20) 194
4 Legion Warboss (GRN) 109
4 Flame Sweep (M20) 139
4 Cindervines (RNA) 161

[collapse]

This deck’s goal game one is simple: accelerate out Fires of Invention on turn 3 and go off on turn 4. The use of Growth Spiral and Grazer break the traditional play/draw issues in Fires mirrors, and in exchange for giving up your early interaction you have a lot more filtering to find your Fires and Cavaliers. Grazer and Bond of Flourishing provide incidental defense for you against aggro and can often be enough to survive their early Embercleave turn, giving you an opportunity to kill them.

After sideboard, your options open up a bit, and you can still play many of the same sideboard cards you’d see in other Fires builds. You also gain a good secondary threat to Legion Warboss in either Questing Beast or Shifting Ceratops (or all 3 if you want to transform against counter-heavy decks).

This is the deck I was jamming on the last two days of the season, and I was having a ton of success against Food since the games were often over before Casualties of War became a factor. I split with Jeskai Fires in the few mirrors I had, losing to Aether Gust + Disenchant, which is why I shifted my sideboard toward a creature plan. Meanwhile, I kept getting wrecked by oddities like Temur Reclamation (although my total win rate with any deck against it is single digits) and Simic Flash. I also hit a streak of aggro decks, though surprisingly the ramp spells often were just as good against aggro as actual removal, getting an earlier Fires or Cavalier out let me race all but the very best of hands from my opponents.

Cindervines was quite useful as a fire-and-forget Disenchant effect that often did 3-5 damage on its own. While that may not sound like much, consider how much harder it is to get a full combo opportunity, and sneaking in damage in 5-10 point intervals becomes a lot more relevant. While vulnerable to opposing Disenchant effects, it snuck around Teferi, and holding up a single mana was quite easy.

The other key to this build is that you don’t need to follow my route of maxing out on search and ramp effects. Just Growth Spiral makes a huge difference and you can shave other slots for things like Bonecrusher Giant or Brazen Borrower if you’d rather follow the footsteps of Jeskai Fires. I’d recommend at least giving Bond of Flourishing a try though before dismissing it. The 3 life early is often as valuable as digging for an extra card and it rarely ever whiffs.

Why not Temur Elementals? Isn’t Risen Reef really strong in this type of build? It certainly is! My main issue is that it basically requires playing Cavalier of Thorns and Leafkin Druid, and my interest in either of those cards is pretty low unless you also go the Quasiduplicate route. You have the same weak early game, and give up the ability to simply go off and end the game the turn after you play Fires of Invention.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Mythic Championship brings to the table, as a number of competitors have expressed frustration with trying to come up with the optimal choice for the current format. I’m still of the belief that Zvi was correct that Fires of Invention and Trail of Crumbs will end up being the best choices. Perhaps, though, we’ll see a counter strategy that punishes the engines Standard is focused around.

Discussion

Scroll to Top