Historic Burn Deck Guide: Broken Cards Don’t Matter When They’re Dead Turn 4

Static Discharge Art by Liiga Smilshkalne
Static Discharge Art by Liiga Smilshkalne

Hello everyone! Jumpstart: Historic Horizons has brought in a slew of new cards and between that and the Mystical Archive, Historic is looking obscenely powerful in general. There’s a myriad of infinite combos, the disgusting Delirium package from Modern, Creativity combo decks, Jeskai with a million answers, you name it.

Since the format is so powerful, it actually seems somewhat difficult to get a meaningful edge as everything seems to have a reasonable foil to the other strategies. Decks are trying to adapt, but there’s so much to account for it’s definitely not easy. I like trying to evolve with the metagame and keep elevating any tier deck to new heights, but sometimes, I just want to go face.

I always find myself coming back to Burn despite it feeling like I’m the only one who likes it, and it very rarely disappoints. However, Burn got a new card in Static Discharge so of course I had to try the deck again. I always expect the deck to perform reasonably, but then I generally move on to more tier options. However, with a 9-1 record (where my one loss I believe I threw the match), the deck has felt extremely powerful and quite well positioned. Let’s take a look at where my list is at now.

(H) Burn 

Companion
1
Jegantha, the Wellspring
Creatures (12)
4
Ghitu Lavarunner
4
Soul-Scar Mage
4
Thermo-Alchemist
Spells (23)
3
Pillar of Flame
4
Shock
4
Static Discharge
4
Light Up the Stage
4
Skewer the Critics
4
Wizard's Lightning
Artifacts (4)
4
Bomat Courier
Enchantments (1)
1
The Flame of Keld
Lands (20)
16
Mountain
4
Ramunap Ruins
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Grim Lavamancer
2
Roiling Vortex
4
Bonecrusher Giant
4
Rampaging Ferocidon
2
Experimental Frenzy
1
Jegantha, the Wellspring

At it’s core, Burn is a very simple strategy. You play some creatures, you toss a few Burn spells upstairs, your opponent gets mad. It has beauty in it’s elegance. However, the simplicity of the deck betrays how difficult it can be to pilot perfectly. Every single point of damage matters, every sequencing decision matters, you don’t have a huge late game payoff to get you back in the game if you’re massively behind or you make a mistake.

I lost my one match because of the card I put back after a mulligan that mattered literally 20 turns down the line (bottomed a Ramunap Ruins over a Mountain against UW Control in Game 3, they lived at 2). Examined under a microscope, the deck can actually be obscenely difficult to master, but if you have patience and love getting some free wins along the ride, it’s an absolute blast to play.

CARD CHOICES

Ghitu Lavarunner Art by Jesper Ejsing
Ghitu Lavarunner Art by Jesper Ejsing

To start off the deck, we have Jegantha, the Wellspring as the Companion. Realistically, the only reason I play it is because it’s functionally free. Beyond maybe Goblin Chainwhirler, the deck isn’t interested in playing double red spells anyway so all we lose is a sideboard slot. It may seem like Jegantha doesn’t come up often, but you’d be surprised in grindier games how important it can be to have. I’ve won countless games with it when both my opponent and I are top decking later in the game.

Next, we have our one drop creatures. I don’t know which one is the best, so we’ll start with the definite worst one: Ghitu Lavarunner. Despite Lavarunner being the weakest of the trio, it’s still quite a powerful threat. Once you have a couple spells in your graveyard (which is absurdly easy to do), you get a Goblin Guide with no downside and the upside of the Wizard typing. Then, we have Bomat Courier which is a fantastic form of card advantage that is our best threat against more controlling decks. Lastly, we have Soul-Scar Mage which can kill obscenely quickly when backed up by a few Burn spells while also threatening to shrink the opponent’s creatures.

If we go up on the curve, we have our lone two drop creature with Thermo-Alchemist. When I played Burn in the past, I always got questions on why I play Thermo over Viashino Pyromancer and it used to be that there were fewer means to kill Thermo and it worked too well with the sideboard Chandra’s Incinerators to cut. However, now that Unholy Heat is in the format which led me to take out Incinerators and Lightning Helix is a popular card, it may very well be time to make that swap. I’m still not convinced as although Viashino Pyromancer is better in the face of removal or on a clear board, Thermo excels in any board state it isn’t removed and you don’t have free attacks. Furthermore, when your opponent doesn’t have removal or blockers, you are already very likely to win regardless which makes the argument for Viashino much weaker. I certainly wouldn’t blame you for opting for Pyromancer, I’ll admit I’m just biased towards my Shaman buddy.

After the creatures, we obviously have the Burn. They don’t really need much explanation, they’re either going face or killing a threat. Beyond Static Discharge, all the Burn spells in the deck can be one mana which is quite the boon when you’re operating on 2-3 mana most games.

With that, I’m playing Static Discharge as the floor is decent, but the ceiling is very high. The first copy, admittedly, is a tad mopey as a Sorcery speed Lightning Strike is not exciting, and even in older versions of Burn I singled out Lightning Strike as the worst card in the deck. However, this is no Lightning Strike. Not only is a deal 3 fine on it’s face both as Burn and a means to kill Dragon’s Rage Channeler, every subsequent copy becomes exponentially better. We would happily play a 2 mana deal 4 to anything sorcery speed, and don’t even get me started on a deal 5. I’ve never gotten it to 6, but I sincerely hope to one day.

Then, we have the card advantage. Light Up the Stage is excellent in this deck as we can obviously enable Spectacle rather easily most games. It will generally be a one mana Divination so it’s no surprise that it’s a solid card. Then we have the lone copy of The Flame of Keld. Despite being a one of, I can’t even count how many times I’ve won games off of this. It can get you out of situations that no other card could with it’s second and third chapter and I think it’s the secret ingredient to making Burn work. For example, I’ve won games where the opponent gained over 20 life just off of the third chapter of Flame, that’s how strong it is. I would love to play multiple copies, but if you ever draw a second copy before deploying the first it’ll feel so bad.

Lastly, we have the mana base. I’m opting for the super simple 16 Mountain 4 Ramunap Ruins version. I have played Spikefield Hazard in the past and it was ok, but I think the list is too tight to include now. The big decision was whether or not to play Den of the Bugbear. It seems like a no brainer and nearly free, but it’s actually not even remotely as free as it looks. Although you want Burn’s mana base to fight for you ideally, the fear is that the Den will come into play tapped during a critical turn. Burn is a deck that generally wins by inches, not miles, so having a suboptimal turn because your land came into play tapped could be the difference between winning and losing. The same could be said about whether you draw a Mountain or a Den in the late game, but I believe the amount of games I would lose to the awkwardness of having tap lands supercedes the games I would win by having Den in my deck. I could certainly be wrong so don’t beafraid to try it, but that’s my logic.

On to the sideboard, I’ll go a little bit quicker as most of the card functions are pretty obvious. Grim Lavamancer is there for when you want to transform into a more controlling role against creature decks as is Bonecrusher Giant (both can also be solid in grindy matchup over some of the weaker Burn spells depending on how you board). Rampaging Ferocidon and Roiling Vortex are both predominately there to turn off life gain and pressure opponents. Lastly, Experimental Frenzy is excellent against any grindy deck in the format, or if you’re fully committing to playing the Control game against a deck.

MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING

Roiling Vortex Art by Campbell White
Roiling Vortex Art by Campbell White

The metagame is still relatively young so most of the board plans are still quite mutable. We’re at the point I can go over some of the more popular matchups, but having a good idea of what each card contributes to the game plan from the previous section will help you make decisions on the fly. I will say that when sideboarding, there are very few cards you can never justify cutting. I tend to never cut, Soul-Scar Mage, Light Up the Stage, and The Flame of Keld, but there are still situations you could trim the Flame and Light up the Stage. Always board with curve in mind and although I tend to board out cheaper plays for more expensive ones, you don’t want to fill your deck with 3 drops and have awkward hands post board.

DELIRIUM

INOUT
+4 Bonecrusher Giant-4 Ghitu Lavarunner
+2 Experimental Frenzy-2 Wizard’s Lightning

Delirium is generally a slower deck so we want to slow our deck’s game plan as well. Bonecrusher Giant is a great threat against any creature decks or slow decks, so that’s an easy inclusion. Most versions of Delirium can’t interact with Experimental Frenzy so if you resolve it at any point where you’re not about to lose, it can easily take over the game. When in doubt, I tend to cut my Ghitu Lavarunner as it’s the weakest card in the deck and the Shock effects tend to be pretty solid against most Delirium builds. Since I’m taking out half the Wizards, the Wizard’s Lightnings get trimmed as they’re more difficult to enable.

JESKAI CREATIVITY

INOUT
+4 Rampaging Ferocidon-4 Thermo-Alchemist
+2 Roiling Vortex-1 Shock
+2 Experimental Frenzy-3 Pillar of Flame

This matchup can definitely be challenging if Jeskai has one of their better hands (interaction into a fast Creativity). However, they can be a bit clunky so if you can get them below 10 before they get out the Serra’s Emissary, you still have a reasonable chance to win as your threatening permanents vary pretty significantly. If they choose creatures you have all your Burn, they choose Instants or Sorceries, you still have all your creatures. If you want to make this matchup better, you probably need to put some amount of Abrade in the board.

CREATURE DECKS

INOUT
+2 Grim Lavamancer-4 Bomat Courier
+4 Bonecrusher Giant-4 Ghitu Lavarunner
+2 Experimental Frenzy

This is obviously very general boarding, but against creature decks you want to play the “Control” game. Kill all their threats and then grind them down with one of your remaining threats. Bomat Courier is generally bad as it’ll be hard to force it through in creature matchups and Ghitu Lavarunner is just generally low impact. You want all your Burn as you’re looking to mostly one for one them to death.

CONTROL DECKS

INOUT
+4 Bonecrusher Giant-4 Thermo-Alchemist
+2 Roiling Vortex-1 Shock
+2 Experimental Frenzy-3 Pillar of Flame

This is again very general boarding and can easily change depending on what you’re specifically facing. You still want to be fast, but have a few more high impact cards like Bonecrusher Giant or Experimental Frenzy to punish opponents when they tap out or don’t have adequate answers. Keep the pressure on, but not so much that you get blown out by a Wrath, and Burn them to death when they tap out.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Bomat Courier Art by Craig J Spearing
Bomat Courier Art by Craig J Spearing

Always be in the mindset of getting the opponent to zero as efficiently as possible. Burn is a weird deck as most players are used to balancing deploying threats and dealing with threats, but here it’s more polarized. You have to kill opposing threats often, but you should only do so if that threat is likely to prevent more damage than the Burn spell would deal. If you always approach Burn with this concept, it’ll be a lot easier to play.

If you have multiple Bomat Courier out and want to crack them, hold Full Control and after your sacrifice one, sacrifice the other before the first Courier’s trigger resolves. You’ll get all the cards without having to discard your hand twice!

Don’t be afraid to block with your Thermo-Alchemist, for some reason, a lot of people don’t like doing so.

Try to use your Light Up the Stage as late as possible since you want the highest possible chance to use both cards. In that vein, you can keep 1 land hands with Light Up the Stage if, and only if, your hand is great if you draw a second land.

You have 3 different one drops and you want to lead on a different one depending on the situation. Lead on Bomat Courier when you want to accrue more cards and/or you believe they can’t block or answer it effectively. Lead on Soul-Scar Mage when you’re trying to maximize damage. Ghitu Lavarunner is the only one that I wouldn’t play out over any of the others as this can get Haste a turn or two down the line.

If you’re boarding out your Ghitu Lavarunner and not replacing them with Grim Lavamancer, you should always consider trimming Wizard’s Lightning.

It’s niche, but there is a few small nonbos with The Flame of Keld on it’s third chapter. If you target a creature with a Burn spell with a Soul-Scar Mage out, the Burn spell won’t get buffed. If you play creatures out with Rampaging Ferocidon, it’ll deal 3 to you instead of 1. This may seem really bad, but I think it’s been relevant literally once in the 100s of matches I played with the deck in totality. On the flip side, Thermo-Alchemist is your best friend on Chapter 3 of Flame which is the main way I was able to beat decks that gained 20+ life.

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

6 Responses

  1. This is an awesome list that I definitely want to try (especially since I don’t usually play straight-up burn.)

    One question, what’s your opinion on using things like Runaway Steamkin and Birgi to ramp? That way you can use slightly more expensive cards like Sarkhan’s Scorn and such to remove problematic creatures.

    Great write-up, definitely gonna test this some (and possibly answer my own question in the process, admittedly.)

    • DoggertQBones says:

      When unanswered the ramp creatures can be great, but most threats in your deck are going to be great unanswered. You can’t really afford to play expensive spells as the deck relies on overwhelming the opponent with the sheer number of spells and the tempo you gain from it.

  2. Albel says:

    Heya

    I know this guide is somewhat older already (if you consider 2 weeks to be ‘old’) but the last couple of weeks were really great due to this deck list and guide.

    I tried several of your decks for standard 2022 and historic, my two prefered formats currently as standard is a bit stale now before rotation. I was switching a lot, as my favorite playstyle (fast & highly interactive) seemed poor positioned and I also played less frequently due to being bored to death by the meta. Instead of grinding to mythic I just played plat/diamond for the monthly rewards.

    However, this has changed with this deck. I tried burn in the past with mixed results. There was an interesting Boros splash take after kaldheim release, but it turned out to be just ok. However this list is just perfect. I do have a 72% WR with this in Bo1, where I consider it to be one of the best decks, if not the best. It is straight forward and even tough matchups (usually lifegain) can be won (just kill everything on sight. Simple.).

    I did not have such a blast playing since the standard environment with Ikoria pre-Companion nerf where Rakdos Lurrus Sacrifice was just crazy fun to play.

    Just wanted to say thanks for the guide. Great piece of content.