Budget Burn in (Almost) Every Format

Goblin Guide is back and it’s easily my favorite reprint in Double Masters.

Mono-Red burn and aggressive decks were my gateway to Magic’s non-rotating formats. I’m sure many players start the same way. There was a time when owning a playset of Goblin Guides was the most exciting thing in Magic for me. It may still be.

Investing in a new format is tough. There are lots of exciting decks to choose from and finding something that can be good right now with low-cost cards and upgraded over time is hard. Budget Jund is just kind of bad Jund. Burn though, that starts out strong and can be upgraded to something with enough power to beat the top decks in almost every non-rotating format.

Goblin Guide is the key in Modern and Legacy. The rest of the deck is pretty budget-friendly, but the hasty 2/2 that makes the deck really shine has always been in high demand. With another reprint after recently appearing in Modern Masters 2017, there’s never been a better time to sleeve up mono-red and bolt face.

Owning Burn in any format means you’re very close to owning it in EVERY format. Let’s start with the format where the deck has seen the most success, Modern.


Modern Boros Burn


This is what a tuned Modern burn list looks like. The lands make it a pretty poor budget option, but take those away and you only lose six maindeck cards. You’re still operating the same gameplan with blistering speed and the power to close out games when your creatures become outclassed.

A budget list can simply replace two Lightning Helix and go up to the full four Skullcrack. A one-of Shard Volley takes the spot of one of the four Boros Charms being dropped. From there you have three flex slots. Flames of the Blood Hand, Exquisite Firecraft, Magma Jet and Light up the Stage all fit in nicely, I’ve even seen lists running Risk Factor, though I’m personally not a fan of letting my opponent choose how they die.

All Mountains is a simple enough manabase, but you can spice it up with a Castle Embereth or Ramunap Ruins, though the fact you can keep one-landers on the draw sometimes makes all Mountains the most budget-friendly and direct way to go.

The sideboard is where the big losses are, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add solid replacements. Rest in Peace is a beating for graveyard decks, but Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus aren’t miles off. Smash to Smithereens is maybe just better than Stony Silence, since it deals damage.

Dragon’s Claw is perfect for the mirror, gaining life when both you and your opponent cast anything, and you’re already not fetching or shocking, which is a huge advantage. Searing Blood complements Searing Blaze to attack creature decks and Molten Rain hits Tron and other land-focused decks hard.

This is what I would aim for to get into Modern with burn, it’s strong from the get-go, not too expensive and easy to upgrade.


Budget Modern Mono-Red Burn


So you’ve got the base, now you want to try another format. You might think Burn can’t compete with the insane card pool and power level of Legacy, but you’d be surprised.

At a Legacy side event at a GP I got to the final match. I was on a break from working at the event so I asked my opponent to split. They agreed but still wanted to play out the game. Legacy players just want to play. Feeling pretty bad, I said I’d stick around for a short while.

I demolished the poor Reanimator player in game one. Steamrolled. Legacy burn is just so, so fast. Game two was harder, it took them a while to get going, but Griselbrand hit the table. My only out was to sacrifice two Mountains and Fireblast the big demon. Twice.

I won, eventually, with the impressive 8 turn clock of a single Goblin Guide on an empty board and an opponent at 16 life, even got back to work early.

Legacy Burn is not, I’ll admit, the best deck in the format. It’s never going to be tier one. The counterpoint though, is that nobody expects it. No-one is sideboarding for it. You can absolutely steal wins from vastly stronger decks with pure speed.

To convert Modern Burn into the Legacy equivalent, we keep the same creature base, but drop some of the less powerful spells to add the four cards that really make Legacy Burn shine: Price of Progress, Fireblast, Chain Lightning and Sulfuric Vortex.

Price just eats greedy decks alive. Against a Lands player you get to laugh as you, with your white-bordered mountains you found in a basket at the land table between side events, deal ten damage for two mana, punishing them for their extravagant dual lands.

Fireblast is an incredible game ender. It’s four damage out of nowhere, with you tapped out. Vortex is high-risk, high-reward, but almost always goes in your favor. Chain Lightning is just another Lightning Bolt.

Over in the sideboard you can be greedy and add cards like Ensnaring Bridge and Blood Moon, but it’s not too hard to build a strong board on a budget, with access to cards like Pyroblast, more Sulfuric Vortex, Volcanic Fallout and personal favorite, Raze, a very effective way to destroy lands.

My preferred Legacy Burn list looks like this, sideboard adjusted to suit your local meta of course.


Legacy Mono-Red Burn


Legacy Burn is surprisingly similar to Pauper Burn. The decks share Bolt, Chain Lightning, Rift Bolt, Fireblast, Lava Spike – most of the basic burn package, essentially. The creatures are where things are very different.

Ghitu Lavarunner does its best impression of Goblin Guide, and Thermo-Alchemist can deal a lot of damage if left unchecked.

Curse of the Pierced Heart gives some late game punch against the counterspell decks that dominate the format, and Needle Drop allows a low land count and higher density of setting things on fire.

You can run a pair of Forgotten Cave in the board to mitigate flood, but I’m not a fan of tapped lands in Burn decks.

The sideboard shares Smash to Smithereens and Molten Rain with Modern and Legacy, with Martyr of Ashes, Firebrand Archer, Flaring Pain, Raze, Electrickery, Keldon Marauders and Searing Blaze giving some common-rarity options against most decks in the format.

Here’s the current prevailing wisdom on Pauper Burn:


Pauper Mono-Red Burn


We’re still not done. You can get some VALUE out of these cards. Pioneer Burn isn’t quite on the level of the previous three decks, but you can still win some games, play many of the same cards and get into the format without spending a large amount.

The big issue with Pioneer Burn is losing Goblin Guide and Lightning Bolt. Those two cards are key to the power of Burn decks, particularly the classic Bolt.

Regardless, you have the rest of the decks, you may as well give it a go. Burn can always steal games from unsuspecting opponents and Pioneer is in major flux right now.

Replacing Guide is Ghitu Lavarunner, and you can add Soul-Scar Mage as another aggressive threat with prowess aloingside Swiftspear.

For spells, you do have to play the one mana for two damage cards. Bolt has been deemed too strong for Standard for a while sadly. Shock and Wild Slash make the cut, alongside your closest Bolt equivalents in Wizard’s Lightning, which costs one with the Mage or the Lavarunner in play, and Skewer the Critics, which costs one when you deal damage – a slightly frustrating non-bo with prowess, but we’re taking what WotC will give us with Burn these days.

Skullcrack is still here, as well as Searing Blood and Light up the Stage so it’s not a low-powered deck by any means. Ramunap Ruins also gives you a late game surprise win sometimes if you flood out.

The sideboard is simple and straightforward, packing creature removal in Roast, more Skullcrack, Smash to Smithereens, Exquisite Firecraft and you can add Chandra, Acolyte of Flame, Tormod’s Crypt, Rampaging Ferocidon, Chandra’s Defeat and Incendiary Flow depending on what you expect to face.


Pioneer Mono-Red Burn


I’m not sure if it’ll end up making a splash in paper, but Burn is even somewhat viable in Historic. It’s just a powerful, simple strategy that seems to work in any format with more than a handful of direct damage spells.


Historic Mono-Red Burn



The great thing about all of these decks (except Pauper, which comes fully powered) is that they share many parts and are upgradable and customizable.

You can add white to both Modern and Pioneer for access to powerful sideboard cards and Boros Charm. Splash green in Modern for Destructive Revelry, since red can’t fight enchantments, or white for Wear//Tear. You can even throw in Klothys in Pioneer, or go for a more creature focused Gruul aggro, but retain some of the Burn elements.

Adding fetchlands in both Modern and Legacy thins your deck for marginal gain, but also brings Grim Lavamancer into play. If Infect is being played, Lavamancer is basically unbeatable for them. Fetches also allow you to splash as you like – though Legacy burn is predominantly mono-red, you can add any color and have access to powerful cards from Magic’s past. Bump in the Night made black a popular splash for a while, and Wild Nacatl has seen play in Modern Burn decks.

There really is no better way to get into basically every format on a budget. Burn is your gateway to non-rotating formats. It may not be the best deck in any format, but its always relevant and can compete with the vast majority of decks.

Hang onto Light up the Stage and Skewer and get yourself a playset of Goblin Guides and you’re well on the way to competing in any format that takes your fancy.

Oh and by the way, if you want to just grab every card for every format, it costs less than most Standard decks right now. To play almost every format. Seriously, here’s the full list.

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