Ever since the Lord of the Rings set came out, Modern has been dominated by both Modern Horizons Two and Lord of the Rings cards. The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters have transformed the landscape of Modern, forcing players to adapt. Some players have simply added some powerful LOTR cards to their respective archetypes. Rakdos Scam, for example, still utilizes Grief and Fury alongside Feign Death to execute its gameplan but has since added Orcish Bowmasters into the mix. Four-Color control with Wrenn and Six is still alive and well but has added the One Ring and Delighted Halfling to become even stronger.
In order to keep up with these powerful decks continuing to get better, many players are taking a “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach. However, throughout MTG’s history, there are always players that are ready to adapt. One deck in particular has not only risen in popularity since the LOTR set came out, but it often doesn’t play any LOTR cards whatsoever! This deck is none other than Modern Burn. What would cause Burn to get better if it’s not adding new cards? If other decks around Burn are getting better, how has Burn adjusted and how does it continue to put up results? To answer these questions, it’s important to first take a look at how Burn decks are currently comprised.
Removing Eidolon of the Great Revel
For years, Burn has had a pretty solid core that hasn’t been touched much. It’s Creature base typically included Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear, and Eidolon of the Great Revel. Goblin Guide and Swiftspear provided the deck with efficient, Hasty Creatures that could immediately deal damage when they came down. From there, if they weren’t removed in short order, they threatened to deal big chunks of damage to the opponent. Importantly though, even if they got removed after dealing damage, they still helped lower the opponent’s life total. Burn decks are all about utilizing all available resources to cross the finish line, so it’s important that the deck’s Creatures could immediately deal damage.
This is where the Eidolon of the Great Revel dilemna comes into place. The card used to be a mainstay in Burn. After all, all it asks of your opponent is that they play cheap spells and they will end up taking damage no matter what. Even though Eidolon is symmetrical, your Burn spells could give you a big edge in the race.
Eidolon has a couple issues in the current metagame, however. First, the card can get removed without its ability triggering a single time thanks to Fury and Solitude. Swiftspear and Goblin Guide have Haste, so they can at least deal damage before a Fury wipes them out. At two mana, you’d like your threat to be a bit more reliable.
The next issue is that there are a decent amount of decks that simply can avoid taking much damage off Eidolon. Beyond Fury in Rakdos, lots of decks are utilizing powerful cards with mana value four or greater that weaken the power of Eidolon. Four-Color Control has the One Ring, Solitude, and Omnath, Locus of Creation, Dimir Control has Subtlety and Sheoldred, Izzet decks have Murktide Regent, and the list goes on. All of these cards not only weaken Eidolon, but they can even force Eidolon to become a liability.
After all, every card in Burn causes Eidolon to trigger and deal you damage. The assumption is that if you can win the race, this isn’t a big deal. However, threats like Murktide Regent close the door in short order, and can actually turn Eidolon against you. For these reasons, it makes sense why Eidolon has largely gone by the wayside, but what has replaced it? While some players have tried Orcish Bowmasters in Burn as a Creature replacement, most players have found success simply upping the Burn spell count.
Extra Burn Spells
While the deck still plays Swiftspear and Goblin Guide, the entire rest of the deck is made up of cards that deal noncombat damage to the opponent. Most of these cards have been maindeck staples for years. From Lightning Bolt to Boros Charm, burn spells are the core of the deck. Interestingly though, rather than replace Eidolon with another Creature, most Burn decks have simply added Roiling Vortex to the maindeck. This makes a lot of sense in the current metagame. Vortex punishes slower decks by threatening to deal damage every turn if they can’t close the game, but it also forces your opponents to take five damage to cast any free spell, including to Evoke cards like Fury.
Vortex also can shut off life gain from cards like Omnath, which is so important, many burn lists are playing Skullcrack in the maindeck as well. Modern Burn going heavier on Burn spells also makes a lot of sense in a format dominated by the One Ring. The One Ring’s “Protection from everything” ability typically helps allow your opponents to utilize the card advantage it provides without falling behind. However, with access to tons of Instant speed Burn spells, you can simply pass the turn, let the Protection wear off, and threaten a bunch of damage. From there, the life loss from the One Ring can really add up if the opponent chooses to draw cards. In this sense, Burn does a great job keeping the One Ring in check.
Moving Roiling Vortex to the maindeck also helps open up extra sideboard slots for the deck. Burn typically runs Sanctifier en-Vec and Artifact removal like Smash to Smithereens. From there, there are some options depending on what you expect to play against. Cards like Path to Exile can help against big Creatures like Murktide Regent, and Exquisite Firecraft can close the door on decks with lots of Counterspells. Deflecting Palm is a unique option but given the fall of Hammer Time in the metagame, the card has become less necessary.
Overall, Burn is a solid choice in the current metagame. Even though it hasn’t gained anything new, many decks around it are so focused on beating each other with the One Ring that attacking from an entirely different angle is a useful way to adapt. Burn can still be weak to fast combo decks, life gain, and specific hate cards like Leyline of Sanctity, especially with Eidolon largely out of the picture. As a response, some Burn players are playing a couple copies of Wear/Tear in the sideboard to help fight against Leyline of Sanctity as well as Urza’s Saga. There are also some more specific cards like Tunneling Ignus that can help in some bad matchups like Amulet Titan, but they are pretty narrow. Burn is still a great meta-call that continues to fly under the radar, and it may be time to give it more respect.