I've built a more dynamic burn deck.
Posted on Oct. 3, 2018, 12:52 a.m. by StopShot
((READ ME: If this seems like a super massive word-wall you can read the deck description which summarizes everything, then read the "Help: section at the bottom. Thank you.))
Introduction: I've been away from Modern for quite some time and I had stopped when Splinter Twin and Birthingpod were still relevant archetypes. Now-a-days it seems the meta has sped up with faster decks such as Hollow One and Death's Shadow creating a need for speed. I wanted to see how burn was doing, after all burn is meant to be the rawest and fastest of decks just by flavor, but after watching a series of Modern players piloting the burn decks of today it has felt slow and underwhelming at least for me.
Now don't get me wrong, when comparing burn decks to other decks, burn is certainly a fast deck, but in a vacuum it's felt like this deck-type just wants to go faster but it gets clogged up with lots of 2 drop spells: Eidolon of the Great Revel, Boros Charm, Lightning Helix, Searing Blaze, Rift Bolt, Skullcrack, Atarka's Command, etc. These cards aren't bad, but they feel so clunky if they make up the majority of your hand. I asked myself, certainly there must be a way to cut down on the clunk without cutting the value. And so I tasked myself with cutting such mainstays like Eidolon and S-Blaze to build a deck that could do without the clunk.
Deck Concept: Originally I limited myself to build a burn list of only one-drops in the mainboard. I feel I had succeeded at this task, but I later chose to replace a place set of Bomat Courier for Earthshaker Khenra. More on that later. This deck particularly thrives on casting lots of cheap spells while just as easily getting damage out through combat.
Noteworthy Card Inclusions: This is a lengthy section, so I'll title each paragraph with each atypical card choice and the reasoning behind its inclusion. Do note it's preferable if read in order as the inclusions build off each other.
While Naya or Boros burn is the most prevalent of burn decks I found Mardu to be the best color combination for filling out a 1-drops only policy. While Wild Nacatl is good the lack of haste felt too much of a downside especially if top-decked in the late game. Meanwhile black supplied Bump in the Night which to me felt better than Rift Bolt as the life loss was faster and could trigger prowess on demand.
But hold on, what good is white without Boros Charm or Lightning Helix you might ask? When watching Burn playthroughs I found it a common factor for burn to lose when the match-up got grindy and drawn out as the other deck would play their bigger creatures and the Goblin Guides and Monastery Swiftspears would idly sit by unable to punch through for enough damage and thus had to be used as chump blockers as the burn player prayed to top-deck that extra bolt. I don't think this is how burn should ever be forced to play under and while Path to Exile would be a common sideboard card to remedy this issue you must keep in mind every slot you use for removal is typically a burn spell you take out. The critical thing to take from that example given is most of the time the burn player doesn't need the big threat gone permanently, however; they just need it gone for a turn and that would mean the difference of the game.
Cue Niveous Wisps and his younger brother Renegade Tactics. Now let's put these in perspective, if both of these cards read, "Destroy target creature. Draw a card." they would be playsets in every deck that could fit them. In a burn deck that's what they are, because if we knock out our opponent that turn those creatures are dead for good and we don't lose a burn slot for removal either, because the cantrip practically draws us that extra bolt anyway. In comparison, trying to landfall that Searing Blaze with 18 lands on the turn you desperately needed it never really made much sense to me. People should play their burn spells rather than have their burn spells play them.
Given these cantrips I wanted to run more creatures as they are renewable sources of damage that now had an edge against any would-be beefy blocker. The problem is that there almost isn't any other creature that plays just as good as Goblin Guide or Monastery Swiftspear - almost though.
From face value Sleeper Agent is a paradoxical card choice as it gives the opponent a free bigger creature to block with - well not quite. Let me break this down, the agent is never cast before combat, only after so our opponent's have to wait a full turn cycle if they want to hold up their brand new 3/3 - that is if they get another turn cycle. If I need to top deck a Goblin Guide to break through with enough damage and I draw this it's one in the same. Move to combat, swing, play agent, agent deals 2 damage to opponent at upkeep. Ladies and gents this is the Goblin Guide in black, a 2/3 haste unblockable. Heck if our opponents had more blockers than that extra Goblin Guide would have solved the Sleeper Agent would be better as it still gets through. Now before I hear "why not use Shock instead," Shock does not deal 2 damage to face every turn and if we need the Agent out for more than one turn this deck has the power to neutralize it as a blocker without actually removing them. (Cantrips) In essence we can bake our cake and eat it too, and if that one drop deals two bolts worth damage over three turns that's not bad. On the offense, if our opponent swings at us with it keep in mind it deals the damage to our opponent first. The first turn before our opponent's combat step its dealt 2 damage to them, 0 to us. Second turn before combat, 4 total to them, 3 total to us. Third turn (if there's got to be a third turn) is 6 to 6. Don't ever tell me burn would perform worse if the life totals for each player were set at 14. By the fourth turn even when our opponent has profited 1 extra damage, 9 to 8 are we really going to complain about a one drop dealing 2 Boros Charms worth of damage? Heck with it's consistent damage, the cantrips, and this deck's desire to break through combat I think it's acceptable just to mainboard 3 Path to Exile's to use on any other creature that isn't Sleeper Agent, because both cards have pretty good impact on the late game. Furthermore, no one from legacy burn ever complained about Sulfuric Vortex dealing damage to them, so what is a 3/3 when our life total is 3 bolts higher than theirs?
What's next - a full playset of Shard Volley. I can already sense the collective wincing and groans, but disregard your pre-established notions of this card for a second. When (almost) every card in this deck costs 1 mana you really tend not to need 3 or more lands, and when you're running 8 cantrips you tend to run into lands a lot more than you would with just any burn deck. The point is this deck can cast 3 Shard Volleys in one game and still feel good about it. (And let me tell you, having a cantrip get you that extra land when you need it in the early game feels really good as well.)
The last noteworthy card is Earthshaker Khenra which originally was Bomat Courier. Now I can make the case for either of these cards. Bomat doesn't punch like a Goblin Guide, but when you sac it to put three bolts in your hand you definitely won't be complaining. That said, I'm sticking with the Khenra just over personal preference. For me the Khenra has more immediate practicality as it is two spells molded together. One mana works as cantrips 9 through 12 making a potential blocker useless, which then follows with that extra draw giving us a 1 mana 2/1 haste. Under that logic you could argue it's like playing another set of Goblin Guides, (albeit never on turn one,) but most importantly it provides more "can't block" effects while providing another hasty body to capitalize off said "can't block" effects which I feel strengthens what this deck is good at doing - breaking through combat for more damage.
Sideboard: Sideboard list is generic. Board accordingly to your meta.
Deck Testing: I own the physical deck itself and I've gold-fished it plenty of times. I can attest that it counts to 20 real easily and it feels really smooth to play given the really low mana curve. As for events I sadly don't live anywhere remotely travelable to any place that plays competitive Modern. I do have my local circle that heavily plays casual/pauper and against those decks it does it's job well, but that in no way really indicates it's potential. The only bearing I have of it's worth is that a friend of mine borrowed the list and ended up playing it online against several Modern Merfolk decks which he said my list performed very well against. That friend of mine however won't be around to test it more as he will be gone for a very long time.
Help: As I've said I haven't been in the Modern format in a long time, and besides this deck performing consistently well in a vacuum I have no real bearing as to how well it would play in the Modern meta or how it's match-ups would differ from your typical burn list. I'm posting this here not because I'm looking to change the deck as I like putting my own unique spin on things rather than buying straight off a list. What I'm looking for is if anyone would be able to produce any form of data on how well any of this deck's game 1 match-ups would be against other prominent Modern decks. That's not to say I want people to buy the deck, (that would be silly) but if you or anyone you know happens to own a Modern deck I'd like to know how well that deck does against my deck using the play test feature on Tappedout. (My burn deck should be fairly straightforward to pilot.) I'd like to know the results just for any match-up so that I may gauge whether it's worth saving up to travel to an event or not depending on the results. No one in my local community plays Modern, so I'm without any kind of reference as to where my deck stands, otherwise I'd be able to obtain and access that information for myself.
I can't tell if Sleeper Agent hoses Leyline of Sanctity or not. Seems like it would, because they play that as an anti-burn card. I'm skeptical that you still don't include a Searing Blaze or two to since you have Sleepers to give them. Your turn 3 could be giving them a Sleeper, then waiting until it 2's them, cracking a fetch, and blasting it.
From the other thread, I realized the effectiveness of Gonti's Machinations in Modern, when the manabase can make you lose life like with Bloodstained Mire and Sulfurous Springs, and I think this really applies here, when you can give the opponent power to hit you with Sleeper Agent.
October 3, 2018 3:37 a.m.
The question is the following: "Are there any big creature decks in modern, that can't simply blow up (/bounce/exile...etc) Sleeper Agent, if it becomes a problem for them?"
October 3, 2018 6:04 a.m.
goldfishing a deck is not the same as playing against a real opponent. i think your list is actually slower than most other burn decks.
October 3, 2018 10:28 a.m.
Easy deck link:
October 3, 2018 11:22 a.m.
I don't see where your going with 'cast it after combat so your opponent has to wait a full turn cycle' somewhere around their upkeep, creatues lose summoning sickness, it doesn't matter how late they came in to play.
October 3, 2018 12:13 p.m.
sleeper agent does not hose leyline of sanctity. Sanctity prevents you from targeting them, for any purpose. the words on sleeper agent, "target opponent", is a dead give away. so you would be stuck with it and would eat the damage yourself.
The only way it works is if you cast sleeper before they get leyline out. Now its just dealing 2 damage to its controller.
but yes as another person said, this deck will likely be slower than most other burn decks and with its low mana curve will fizzle out after turn 5. You will have a really bad matchup against mid-range and tempo decks. it might work against a control deck though.
October 3, 2018 9:15 p.m.
for burn decks you want to deal 20 damage as quickly as possible. all by turn 4 or 5 at the latest or your deck just loses all momentum.
This is the reason most modern burn decks run eidolon and a few other spells like that, it allows them to continue to do damage and hold back on cards so that they don't lose all of their momentum on turn 4.
October 3, 2018 9:18 p.m.
October 3, 2018 9:26 p.m.
@Xica, Sure, but Sleeper Agent is just one creature. If they remove Sleeper Agent then that's a removal spell not used on a Goblin Guide or Monastery Swiftspear or Earthshaker Khenra. All the creatures effectively put out the same amount of damage and it's not like the deck revolves around the Agent. Quite simply it's just another Goblin Guide in essence and it's that redundancy that matters.
@DragonKing90, asustek, well that's why I'm reaching out to people for results. I can goldfish this deck and it does hit 20 by turn 4 more times than ever it does turn 5 and those turn 5 wins are on situations like keeping a 1 land hand. If you were to goldfish a typical burn deck I'm sure you'd get the same results, but then again I don't have access to any means of testing this deck beyond gold-fishing which is the reason why I posted this thread and yet people are giving me weird remarks for restating what I've previously said. I'd like to expand my efforts of testing this deck against others so that I can verify it's potential, but by myself I'm unable to - thus any person who has access to their own Modern deck I'd more than welcome running a game scenario with their deck and mine using the playtest feature as I'm highly interested in results and not speculation.
As for speed I simply disagree, this deck runs just as fast, but it's more flexible. Remember I'm trading out Lightning Helix, Skullcrack, Boros Charm with one-mana can-trips which means if that extra draw gives me any of my 16 one-mana bolt effects I've simply dealt just as much damage spending just as much mana and that's not even counting the extra damage dealt due to disabling a potential blocker as well as additional prowess triggers for casting two spells. So at worst I'm dealing 3 damage with two mana, at best I'm dealing 5 which is a considerable upgrade than the two mana spells I'm replacing, and while that extra damage is not enough to do anything crazy like consistently pulling off turn 3 wins I find that after the deck has counted to 20 it still has extra resources it can use to keep dealing damage with which is good to have if during the line of play one of my creatures gets removed early or if the opponent has gained life.
The point to make is this deck maintains speed for more flexibility - hence dynamism. A lower curve is more forgiving under tight mana conditions and cantrips make it surprisingly easy to top-deck that land you badly need/want on turn 2/3, thus I feel this deck has less bad games due to bad hands/draws than most other burn decks. That's not to say it doesn't ever have bad games, it just suffers from them less often.
In conclusion, gold-fishing does not equate to real matches hence the purpose of requesting help posting this thread, Eidolon of the Great Revel is conditional if you're on the draw or your opponent plays big spells as it clashes with whether to get more haste creatures out or not, and Sleeper Agent can be effectively another Goblin Guide or cheaper unconditional Eidolon of the Great Revel if you want to see it that way too, but while we can spend all day making this a speculation debate I was hoping that my long thought-out thread would at least prove thought-provoking enough for people to want to test against my deck as I am without the means to do that myself. Again arguing seems like such a charming way to make such a request, but getting told it's probably not worth consideration of testing due to speculation seems paradoxical to wanting to test something out so that you'd have a better understanding of it rather than relying on just speculation. It's like:
October 4, 2018 1:17 a.m.
I have doubts about sleeper agent because lines like the following ones:
In a game against jund, they start with land drop + discard, on your turn 1 you give them Sleeper Agent. They swing with it for 3, then play Assassin's Trophy - and run out a Bloodbraid Elf or 2x Tarmogoyf/Scavenging Ooze on turn 3.
UW control can do the exact same line with Path to Exile - to ramp into their walkers, and run away with card advantage countering all your spells. -Relying too much on any single cmc is a deckbuilding COST.
You make yourself vulnerable to Chalice of the Void - which is going to be a great card, when everyone jumps on the jund bandwagon and ditches abrupt decay. (jund is basically "best 2 drop" tribal.deck - and you can get accidentally hit by the hate brought against them, from decks that can reliably ramp into early chalice)
If you are racing any deck, giving them a 3/3 is a BAD idea. Even if you are sometimes able to negate the downside with spells. This is not a card you would want to see against fast decks (yeah you can use your spells to tap it, or a Hollow One/Gurmag Angler/Vengevine
Against decks with sac outlet, this card simply gives free value t the opponent. Free scry with Viscera Seer (+ 2/2 body, of the have Bridge from Below in the grave), or more counters for hardened scales "affinity", if they have an Arcbound Ravager on the field.
I completely agree that the flexibility offered by cantrips is underappreciated. However i would caution against valueing it over the utility of "deals damage to any target" - as the any target can be key cards, you would easily loose the game to otherwise. Being able to kill walkers like an early Liliana of the Veil or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria can easily mean the difference between winning and loosing games. Yes, Eidolon of the Great Revel is a meta choice, its great in metagames with a lot of cheap spells. Its bad in rare metagems that have a lot of decks life dragon skred, or other similar decks, that you use your own eidolon to lock you out from casting any spell due the life loss.
October 4, 2018 7:53 a.m.
no offense, but this deck really isn't just as fast as other burn decks. other burn decks are almost entirely made up of cards that deal their damage immediately, whereas your deck has a lot of cards that don't have an immediate impact. other burn decks can potentially goldfish turn 3 wins.
October 4, 2018 9:36 a.m.
@Xica, No, you're not wrong about those lines of plays, but Sleeper Agent isn't a turn one play. 100% of the time if I have a Monastery Swiftspear or Goblin Guide those will always go first. The thing about Agent is that he requires some thought. Aggressive decks like jund don't hold too much concern for their life totals given their mana bases along with Thoughtseize which would warrant using him just as a Shock in the late game as a finisher in this case. That's not true for all decks. Some decks might not even have any use for a free 3/3 like infect and so the Agent is played much earlier. Sometimes it's the equivalent of a 1 mana Char finishing them with a total of 4 damage while only dealing 3 to us. If I'm blind to a deck I'm playing against 80% of the time the agent is cast turns 3 or 4 and on odd hands the other 20% would be on turn 2. As you have said the Agent is only bad if I'm losing the race, and even then main-deck cards such as Niveous Wisps and Path to Exile while good for turning off blockers can also be used to turn off attackers if necessary as well, which is how those spells compliment each other.
Your point on Chalice of the Void however is irrefutable, but then again Chalice of the Void is a sideboard card. I do not see decks running it in the mainboard and just like Leyline of Sanctity would equally hose just about any burn deck, burn decks run cards in the sideboard so as to not fold under cards like Leyline of Sanctity or in this case Chalice of the Void. Just because they board it in doesn't mean it will be present in every game it's boarded in from (as having it in hand is a matter of chance), and just as equally every time it is played in game 2 or game 3 doesn't mean I will never have that answer in hand that was boarded in to respond back against it. (I can board in Shattering Spree or Smash to Smithereens if need be.)
Lastly sac outlets was a rather odd point to make as I don't believe there are any around. You brought up Viscera Seer which was a bridgevine semi-staple until Stitcher's Supplier was printed which practically removed all of them in favor of the supplier. Furthermore if they have a Bridge from Below wouldn't sac'ing the agent put the Sleeper Agent in my graveyard effectively exiling their Bridge from Below rather than give them a zombie token thus the point you brought up works to my advantage? Also Arcbound Ravager says sacrifice an artifact which the Sleeper Agent is not so I'm a bit baffled as to why you've brought that up as well unless I'm missing something here.
Again the Sleeper Agent is just one card and if there is a match-up that just so happens to have an advantage over one card that's not going to be the end of my deck as a whole. I'd argue there are more match-ups where the Agent is better in which justifies it's inclusion as burn decks tend to race better than most other decks.
I mean no ill-will for disagreeing with you like this, and yes damage that can target creatures as well can be important as that too provides flexibility, but unlike a lot of burn decks I'm running Shard Volley which can also target creatures if desperately needed for such situations and Path to Exile practically works for creatures as well, which makes up for the lack of Lightning Helix or Rift Bolt while doing so for less mana even. Plus cards like Lava Spike and the aforementioned Shard Volley can hit planeswalkers as well, so the options are still there in any case.
@DragonKing90, Goldfish turn-3 wins? Okay let me just stop you right there. You can not goldfish a turn 3 win by using Boros Charm, Searing Blaze, Lightning Helix, or Skullcrack. Run any scenario in your head using just one of those cards and the closest you get is 19 damage which arguably can be game even if it's not 20, but that's only if you try to squeeze in just one Boros Charm under the optimal circumstances. If you try to fit in 2 two-mana damage spells, even if we're generous and say they're both Boros Charm the amount of damage dealt by turn 3 decreases. Contradictory however the cards in my deck that aren't found in other burn lists such as Shard Volley, Bump in the Night, and Sleeper Agent can all be used to achieve 20 or more damage by turn 3. (These are facts as I'd invite you to do the calculations for yourself if you don't believe me.) In essence this deck can turn-3 win more consistently than your average burn deck, but this wasn't a point I wanted to make, because we're talking about gold-fishing and not real matches. I was only trying to draw comparisons to indicate potential to drum up interest in finding real results, not to win any kind of online forum debate. Regardless all there is to gather from is potential and speculation without data.
The point is professional Modern players often test their decks against many other archetypes so that they can obtain a better understanding of how well their deck performs in the meta. This can be done by religiously joining in most events or building the other archetypes themselves just to generate hypothetical matches. This is something I don't have as my local player-base does not run these decks, I don't have the cash to build different archetypes, and I'm simply not experienced enough to pilot those decks optimally to generate said results even if I could afford such decklists. All I can do is advertise on potential and speculation so that experienced Modern players who do regularly check their match-ups against burn may consider running a few hypothetical match-ups with my deck against theirs in order to generate real results on win/loss ratio as well as provide comparisons on their individual deck's win/loss ratio to traditional burn match-ups. I wouldn't be asking this if the speculation or potential I've ascertained through gold-fishing was bad as failing to generate positive outcomes through gold-fishing would never warrant further testing, but in this case from what speculation and potential I've been able to derive from gold-fishing I feel this deck deserves hypothetical matches to be conducted to determine it's odds. I'm not saying this is a better burn deck, just that it has enough potential to make it worth consideration to determine if that is the case, and if it's not the case that's fine but for now all we can do is float around "if it will" rather than "it does/does-not." As I've said before, I'm looking for results. You can use speculation to make any deck look as good or bad as you want it to be, but speculation is not synonymous with fact and it's the facts I'm most interested in.
October 4, 2018 12:37 p.m.
yes dude, other burn decks CAN goldfish turn 3 wins. i never once stated that they did it with any 2 cmc spells, and you know i didn't. you're only bringing up that hypothetical situation out of the blue to falsely prove your point. you keep using the term "speculation" and i don't think you really know what it means. a good player doesn't actually "need" to playtest most decks to know if they're viable or not. there are many times when a player can just look at a card or deck and intuitively knows if its good or bad.
October 4, 2018 3:35 p.m.
oh and btw, it can be done with a Boros Charm.
turn 1: Goblin Guide. 2 damage.