The Core Principles of Burn in EDH: What Are They?

Commander Deck Help forum

Posted on Feb. 6, 2019, 4:11 p.m. by Strike_Rouge

I recently completed another draft of my Grixis Multiplayer Burn deck and began thinking about the concept even more than I may have during its construction. How fast should a burn deck in EDH really go? Is my deck actually too slow for what it wants to do (outlined in the description)? How do I get the deck to go faster without throwing a truck full of money at it and filing it under cEDH- something I'm not ready to do yet? For all my familiarity with Burn, applying it to EDH has felt like dealing with a beast of a different nature.

Gidgetimer says... #2

The core principle of burn in EDH is don't. I'm not trying to be a naysayer even though that is exactly what I am doing. To win a game of EDH you should expect to have done somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 damage. This means that instead of needing 7 Lightning Bolt s in a 4-of 60 card format, you need 20 in a singleton 100 card format.

February 6, 2019 4:39 p.m.

DrukenReaps says... #3

You have at least chosen a commander that might be able to pull it off. So we have a solid starting point. I had thought about building a burn deck too but I had decided that since burn is nigh impossible in EDH that I would focus on it being more of an attrition deck. A lot of the effects I was considering hit every creature or every player. Something like Lava Spike just doesn't cut it IMO. Maybe with Kess I'm wrong?

Mine is The Fire Of Life. Different colors and a different payoff in the command zone but you should be able to get some ideas from this.

I think my best suggestion to you is remove all the tiny single target one off effects and replace them with copy effects or value effects. Get more stuff like Pyromancer's Goggles and Thousand-Year Storm . Also some more payoffs like Hostility or Metallurgic Summonings turn your burn spells from being ok/good to awesome.

February 6, 2019 5:17 p.m.

luther says... #4

If you want to play burn in edh, you need to deal damage to all opponents if there are multiple and have a lot of recurring damage effects as well as enchantments that make it so opponents can't gain life. It is doable, but don't think of it like burn in a 20 life format. Actual bolts really aren't very good in edh.

February 6, 2019 5:26 p.m.

Strike_Rouge says... #5

@Gidgetimer, Drunken Reaps:

In previous drafts of this deck, I never used to run stuff like Bolt and Spike for the same reasons you outlined: doing 3 damage of the minimum 40 is, frankly, underwhelming. It wasn't until I got closer to this iteration of the deck that I considered them more. I looked over my options for Instant and Sorcery Burn sources and concluded that if I was going to get anywhere, I had to at least try them. So far things are alright. As one off damage and no momentum a la crap draws, they're awful. In the GY, however, with an active Kess and more expensive Spells in my hand - say, Neheb, the Eternal , which turns Bolt and the like into a better Pyretic Ritual - and they're great for playing when you'd otherwise have less mana to spend. A common chain of sequences can run something like this:

· Tap RR5 for Electrodominance . Player A takes 5 to face.

-> Guttersnipe: everyone takes 2 to face.

· Electrodominance eff., play something like Pyromancer's Goggles or Neheb from hand.

· Use part of what little mana I have left to play Bolt from the grave, Player A takes 3 to face. With Pyro Goggles this becomes 6.

-> Guttersnipe: everyone takes 2 to face.

· If I played Neheb instead, I gain RRR and play another Burn spell from hand, triggering another 2 damage to everyone.


In cases where I have some of these Burn enhancers out already, this is more of a typical turn with X-CMC spells that I know will want a lot of mana. In the above scenario, the reason for hitting hard on one player is for cards like Combustible Gearhulk and Risk Factor ; "Either you can give me CA so I can burn other people and improve your chances a little, or you can continue taking damage. Your pick."

@Drunken Reaps:

Funnily enough, previous drafts ran all of those aside from Hostility . The draft right before this version ran Goggles, and tbh, I don't know how I spaced on that. Almost. I recall in the older versions that I had issues getting things like Thousand-Year Storm and Metallurgic Summonings on the field because of higher CMCs. I definitely want to try those again, but I don't know what all I'd remove and still keep my curve balanced. Heck, like your Boros deck, at some point I ran a lot of copy spells, but in the middle of revamping that version (only nine regular Burn spells, jfc why did I ever think that was good), I eventually wound up dropping most of those, too.

@Luther: That's pretty much what the other two were saying. And trust me, I've had more than enough chances to learn that 40 life is a lot to chunk down lol. Thanks, though.

February 6, 2019 8:55 p.m.

RyuSama1990 says... #6

note that the "@" does not tag people, and those people will not receive a notification that you responded to them.

February 6, 2019 10:12 p.m.

Strike_Rouge says... #7

I didn't think it would. I did think, however, that they would get a notification to general replies in this thread. I was banking on that. The "@" is more or less for clarity's sake.

February 6, 2019 11:54 p.m.

Dorotheus says... #8

1) All your damaging abilities need to damage each opponent and not you.
2) All your damaging permanents need to be able to activate whenever you want, and be able to be used more than just once (once per turn in is fine, once at all is terrible).
3)All your damaging spells should be able to hit BOTH players and creatures.
4) You're still going to primarily win with a combo, cards that get you to these combos still should work with your deck but do not have to respect rule 1, 2, or 3.
5) Have fun casting Havoc Festival on turn 3.

February 7, 2019 5:01 a.m.

Vman says... #9

Burn doesnt seem to be very effective in edh.

Torment of Hailfire tho. Now thats a different story XD

February 7, 2019 5:49 a.m.

Soren841 says... #10

Core Principles of Burn in EDH: Don't

February 7, 2019 3:20 p.m.

Strike_Rouge says... #11


1.) Damaging oneself in Red Burn or Aggro isn't uncommon; I think the flavor text on Manabarb does a fine job of summarizing the archtype. As for Burn sources, there's a limited pool of solid Burn spells, and the better ones are going to do that. It's a matter of going so fast that the damage to youself won't matter. Admittedly, I'm somewhat confused: you recommend not damaging myself, yet you also recommend Havoc Festival which does exactly that lol.

2.) That's generally the idea. It's also a matter of finding the ones that are worth their CMC. Hell, I'd play more 'Walkers if it weren't for the current mechanic of being able to target them down with creatures. I'm not done trying to find more permanent Burn sources, that's for sure.

3.) I was noticing this trend in the Boris deck Drunken Reaps posted. In one hand, I'd like to capitalize more off of Repercussion , but in another, I don't want to rely on one Enchantment too much. Then there's the dilemma that if a spell is being used for a creature, it's not being used for valuable damage to the face (which might not matter of a key Creature is removed). More input is welcome here.

4.) I'm not certain of how many combos I'll need. Among the current and previous drafts, these are the most common (some got dropped for various reasons):


I hadn't thought about Torment of Hailfire for a long time until Vman brought it up. How effective could it be? I usually run Exsanguinate for a XBB Burn card, but I'm open to ideas.

February 7, 2019 8:27 p.m.

RoarMaster says... #12

How fast should an EDH burn deck be? As fast as it can.

You are inherently playing on "Hard Mode" if you are trying to play burn in EDH. Not only do you have multiple opponents, but they also have twice as much life each. So while burn works in other formats because 1-mana-and-a-card-for-3-damage is efficient, it becomes far less efficient when its 3-mana-and-3-cards-for-1.5-damage per opponent.

But, if you are dead set on it... Kess is a pretty good choice. Although I would probably play Neheb instead myself because he epitomizes red burn, and if Im forcing burn in EDH, I figure I might as well do it balls deep. And boy does he ever! But yeah, Kess is just more versatile and has access to other colors for support, so she is obviously the 'stronger' choice.

Since card advantage is integral, and (Player)burn is theoretically always card disadvantage, you need to keep those cards relevant or else donate a lot of card slots to draw/manipulation in order to keep a stocked hand/grave. Kess helps out a ton with the gravecasts, but unless you are running a lot of big costed spells, the graveyard stays pretty trim. Basically what Im saying is that bigger burn will be more effective than little burn. A 'Double' cast X burn spell might kill, but you would need to 'Double' cast 5 little burns to do the same. Fewer card slots needed, and fewer turns needed to use cast them repeatedly from the grave.

Some cards I would recomend for kess:

Torment of Hailfire Its already been mentioned a few times. Hailfire once sucks, but when you do it again the very next turn... ouch.

Secrets of the Dead No brainer.

Mana Geyser Because if you want mana, you want a LOT of mana, right? Double cast this to power an X spell like Hailfire FTW.

Exsanguinate Its a classic. Being able to double cast it makes it a double classic, right?

Arterial Flow Probably wont ever get the drain-gain, but double casting this at almost any point in the game empties peoples hands generally. Syphon Mind is another alternative that is slightly less harsh on your opponents, but more benificial for you.

Forbid or any other card with buyback. You can buyback cards you cast from your grave. In the case of forbid here, discarding isnt much of an issue.

Other Buybacks to note: Mystic Speculation , Capsize , and that red X burn spell I cant remember right now, and the black tutor one.

Some oddball suggestions:

Sphinx-Bone Wand Might take a turn or two to 'charge up', but once it is, it can dish out insane amounts of damage.

Adeliz, the Cinder Wind OK, not burn, but I have found her to be exceptional. You are pretty much garunteed to be casting two twiggers, meaning between her and Kess they are swinging in for 9 damage in the air. The pairing of these two has won me a number of games.

February 8, 2019 4:28 a.m.

Vman says... #13

Strike_Rouge a random torment for a bunch of mana is much worse than exanguinate. But being someone who plays it regularly at pretty tight pods heres when its good.

  1. When you play it over and over again via cards like Eternal Witness being recycled in a deck like meren.

2.when paired with board and hand controll. Discard plus a clean field makes torment do 3 damage per 1 mana verus exanguinate's 1 is to 1. That hurts a ton.

And finally, When you do both of the above :)

February 8, 2019 10:33 a.m.

Dorotheus says... #14

I've never casted more than one Torment of Hailfire in a game. torment for 20 or more usually ends games.

February 8, 2019 9:53 p.m.

RoarMaster says... #15

Dorotheus Torment for 10, and then Torment for 10 the next turn, is faster to get to than Torment for 20. But thats just the bnus of running Kess :)

Aside: Love me some Disrupt Decorum in kess :D

February 9, 2019 4:51 a.m.

Dorotheus says... #16

idk I'm too used to having infinite mana for it in any deck, or just loads of mana in monoblack.

February 9, 2019 4:54 a.m.

Strike_Rouge says... #17

Hey guys,

The advice that's been posted here in this thread has been super useful. So thanks a ton on that note. Right now I'm working on the 4.4 update to the deck, and I'm looking to post that here asap, possibly today. I think the last couple of things that need fixing in this update is the mana ratio and finding a few more X-CMCs that hit all opponents on their own.

That's about it. Peace.

February 9, 2019 3:13 p.m.

Strike_Rouge says... #18

And here's the update.

Any thoughts?

February 9, 2019 5:26 p.m.

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