Nate Mixes Red And Blue For Some Controlled Burn

Building On A Budget: Burning Blue

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At the dawn of the Magic game, there was a deck that always floated around where your opponent sits down across from you, plays a Mountain on the first turn, and Lightning Bolts you.

Of course all the good players would chuckle, as this is an obvious bad play. That is, until is became apparent that every card in the kid's deck was either a Mountain or a Lightning Bolt. Yup, 20 Mountains, 40 Lightning Bolts -- and the Burn decks were born. Of course this kind of deck would be illegal to play in any sort of tournament these days, but at the time anything went. Since then, several incarnations of Burn have come into being, the most recent being Burning Bridges -- a deck with a bunch of burn and Ensnaring Bridges to hold off your opponent.

While Burning Bridges is another excellent Budget deck, I wanted to take a look at something a little different (I always gravitate to the more roguish of two decks). Burning Blue is a deck that I had been working on for play back in Odyssey Block Constructed. The deck was decent, but a bit too slow to compete against the lightning-fast blue-green decks. I put the deck on the back burner for a long time, but with Merfolk Looter in the Standard environment, this deck can now stand up to blue-green.

Building on a Budget - Burning Blue

There are many different builds of this deck, but I feel this one gives the fastest and smoothest transition to the "I have threshold and Shower of Coals, your turn" phase of the game. If the environment slows down, a build with Compulsions and Browbeats may fare better.

Another card that just missed the cut was Quiet Speculation. It gets you to threshold fast and can load up the graveyard with Deep Analyses, Firebolts, and Lightning Surges to give you staying power. Speculation would also help you fill your graveyard with utility flashback cards -- few though there are in in blue-red. A build based on flashback instead of Careful Study could be interesting, but Careful Study does similar things and acts as a outlet for your multitude of madness spells.

One of the most important cards in this deck is Aether Burst. I don't think it's possible to lose to a creature-oriented deck when you draw two of these early in the game -- Aether Burst buys you so much time and lets you set up any number of degenerate things.

Tips On Playing The Deck

Generally, the best way to play the deck is to burn everything on the table or counter everything your opponent plays. When you run out of targets, start burning your opponent, keeping a small burn buffer for any sandbagged creatures (Shower of Coals works best for this).

Merfolk Looter is the bread-and-butter of this deck. It's so good that I'm tempted to also play with Cephalid Looters, but I don't think the deck has the space or mana to accommodate them.

Grim Lavamancer is an excellent card and there could easily be four in the deck. I decided to cut back to three because they're more useful midgame and cost more than any other card in the deck. Try to hold off on using your Lavamancer until after you cast Shower of Coals, unless you can destroy an important creature.


One thought I had while building this deck was to add Wishes to it -- either Burning or Cunning Wish would work well in the deck, depending on what you wanted to do. An interesting twist on the deck would be adding two Miraris and a few Wishes, allowing for an infinite Wish-loop. This might be overkill, but it's how the powerful Wake deck wins, so it shouldn't be taken lightly. Of course, the Wake deck generates two to three times more mana than this deck, so it works much more smoothly. At any rate, having a few Wishes for utility can add spice to any deck.

Wish targets include Volcanic Spray, Firebolt, and Earthquake. Hibernation is always (against a green deck, at least) a good card to get with Cunning Wish, as is Opportunity. Since the Wishes cost you time to cast, you want to Wish for things that will have a large impact on the game to make up for that lost time.

Some non-Wish sideboard options are:

Hibernation buys you a ton of time against green decks.

Since there aren't many creatures in this deck, Earthquake is an excellent mass-removal spell.

Lightning Surge/Browbeat
Lightning Surge and Browbeat are both powerful against slower decks.

Circular Logic/Complicate
It may be a good idea to pack a few more countermagic spells versus Control. Circular Logic and Complicate are both good options.

Dwarven Miner
Dwarven Miner is a good sideboard card against Wake, or any deck with an ungodly amount of non-basic land (like most non-Budget decks).

Adding Money To The Deck

Once again, Circular Logics could easily fit into this deck. However, I don't think I would play four. With only four Merfolk Looters as madness outlets, it will be difficult to cast and cantrip off of them. If you use a Compulsion build they become much better.

Besides Logic or Compulsion, a fourth Lavamancer would always be good. Really, burn decks are cheap. There's not much you can add to the deck.


While not the most powerful deck, Burning Blue is elegant in a "Lightning Bolt you on turn 1" sort of way, and brings back memories of past days when Burn was good enough. I'm not sure if it's better to define as a Burn or Control deck, which is interesting because they're considered opposite deck archetypes. I guess that's what happens when you use your control element as your kill mechanism.


Until next time, may your Thrall fly among friends.

Nate Heiss
Team CMU
Nateheiss on Magic Online

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