Slickshot-Show Off
18, May, 24

MTG Thunder Junction Powerhouse Revives Dying Archetype!

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For years and years, Boros Burn in Modern was as reliable of a deck as they come. The strategy of dealing 20 damage as quickly as possible was simple yet effective. With a mixture of efficient Hasty threats and burn spells to point at the opponent’s face, Modern Burn as a whole changed very little over the years.

Unfortunately, though, the industry standard has completely fallen out of favor recently. Goblin Guide and Eidolon of the Great Revel just don’t line up well against early copies of Primeval Titan or Scion of Draco. As such, in order for Burn to succeed in the current metagame, there would need to be some innovations.

Well, as it turns out, Burn is far from dead in Modern. In fact, three players in the top eight of a recent Magic Online Modern Challenge were playing Burn! However, neither Goblin Guide nor Eidolon appeared in any of their decklists. Thanks to a massive Thunder Junction upgrade, Modern Burn decks are as explosive as ever. The usual burn spell suite is still present, but as we will see, the changes within the Creature package make a lot of sense in helping the deck fight some historically tough matchups.

A Brief History Lesson

Goblin Guide

Back in 2014, Modern Burn decks received two enormous power boosts in the Creature section. In May 2014, the release of Journey into Nyx gave us Eidolon of the Great Revel. Eidolon was a perfect fit for Burn strategies at the time. Most Modern decks were filled with cheap spells. Even though Burn always has been itself, the flurry of damage the deck is capable of dealing in a short period of time was enough to break the symmetry outside of the mirror match. If the opponent couldn’t kill it right away, they risked falling too far behind.

Then in September of the same year, Monastery Swiftspear was printed. Swiftspear doesn’t hit quite as hard as Goblin Guide on its own but Burn decks have historically been filled with non-Creature spells to pump it. For the majority of the decade following these additions into the format, Modern Burn has run exactly 12 Creatures. Playsets of Swiftspear, Guide, and Eidolon were joined by 28-29 ways to deal non-combat damage and Lands.

While other Creature options existed, what made these Creatures so strong was that they were nearly guaranteed to each deal multiple damage in the early game. Goblin Guide and Swiftspear could attack right away and likely get damage in before the opponent could kill them. In Eidolon’s case, even if the opponent removed it right away, they’d take two damage in the process.

The reality is, this deck has never relied on its Creatures to deal big chunks of damage. Instead, you got a couple attacks in here or there to chip away at the opponent’s life total and your burn spells would finish the job. Unfortunately, over the past couple years, this strategy has faltered for a number of reasons.

First, the format has sped up considerably. Burn decks are relatively one-dimensional but have relied on being able to outpace most archetypes to compensate. Racing a turn three (or turn two in the ideal case) Primeval Titan, for instance, is just not realistic for Burn. Second, tons of spells nowadays, despite their efficiency, get around Eidolon. Solitude can remove Eidolon while the opponent takes no damage. Similarly, a huge Murktide Regent, halts your attacks and threatens to close the game quickly. With this in mind, something had to change for Burn decks to compete again.

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Borrowing From Prowess Shells

Slickshot Show-Off | Outlaws of Thunder Junction

Knowing that Eidolon wasn’t going to cut it, some players over the last year have tried running only eight Creatures and playing Roiling Vortex in the maindeck. While this helped cover some of the issues Burn was facing, it didn’t help speed the deck up at all. Fortunately for Burn players, Thunder Junction brought the perfect solution.

Slickshot Show-Off is undoubtedly one of the best cards in the set. Its printing helped take Prowess decks in Modern to a new level. At first, Slickshot didn’t seem like an immediate inclusion in Burn decks, however. After all, you really need to connect with Slickshot after casting multiple spells to have it deal its fair share of damage. As a two-drop, this was far from guaranteed.

What Slickshot does accomplish, however, is it gives Burn decks the chance to get significantly more damage in through Creature combat. If the opponent can’t kill Slickshot right away, you can cast a bunch of burn spells and attack for seven or more damage at once. This greatly increases the deck’s clock in matchups where speed is necessary.

While most of the rest of the deck is still made up of ways to deal non-combat damage, Mishra’s Bauble has been added as a way to give free buffs to Swiftspear and Slickshot. On top of that, Bauble enables Dragon’s Rage Channeler, which has pushed Goblin Guide out of its usual slot. Once again, Dragon’s Rage Channeler has higher upside, as getting Delerium is not difficult.

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Non-Creature Spells

Boros Charm

In the non-Creature spell slots, not too much has changed. Bauble has taken the place of some flex options, such as Lightning Helix. The one-mana Burn spells in Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, and Skewer the Critics remain intact.

At two mana, Searing Blaze remains a quality inclusion against Creature decks. Boros Charm provides the biggest damage output of any of your Burn spells and offers the biggest reason for Modern burn to splash white.

Notably, one of the three players in top eight of the Modern Challenge decided to eschew Searing Blaze and Rift Bolt to make room for Lava Dart and Light up the Stage. Both cards work quite well with the Prowess Creatures but are worse from a traditional Burn standpoint, so there are certainly tradeoffs in either direction.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

Overall, the addition of Slickshot helped improve a number of different matchups for Burn. Against decks that are low on removal, Slickshot shines. For instance, racing Amulet Titan or Affinity becomes a lot easier with Slickshot in the mix. Even Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo can struggle to answer your potent Flier on curve. You can always Plot Slickshot to get a big burst of damage in before Grist, the Hunger Tide can kill it, too.

Where these changes backfire a bit is against decks with lots of interaction. Rakdos Scam, for example, has a good shot of killing your Slickshot right away. Dragon’s Rage Channeler is quite vulnerable to Orcish Bowmasters until you have Delerium, so you need to be careful there as well. The good news here, still, is that your remaining Burn spells are quite strong. You have a lot of topdecks that can answer turn one Grief, and your main gameplan of pointing Burn spells at the opponent’s face can get the job done like usual.

Given how fast Modern decks play to the board, it makes sense for Burn shells to incorporate some hard-hitting, evasive threats. There’s no denying Slickshot’s impressive performance this week. It may seem unconventional but plays out quite well. If you’re a Burn aficionado who nearly laid the deck to rest, definitely consider implementing these unique changes.

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