Friday, December 02, 2016

Lightning Helix Only Costs B (Sorta)

Hey chums, it's Dan. How are you today? Good? That's swell. I'm happy that you're happy.

Oh, me? I'm feelin' spiffy. Kaladesh Standard is in full swing, and it's been a doozy for me. I'm on a tear right now - I've prized out in my past ten or so Standard events, and I think it's time that I share this success with the Salami Nation (I realize that this is not actually a thing, but let me have this).

I kicked off this Standard rotation by smashing face in with my favorite spaghetti monsters in the best color available. Sadly, our store's meta wasn't super kind to the Eldurzzles, so I had to switch it up. And you know what I replaced all of those basic mountains with?

The best card ever printed.
That's right - I replaced them with more basic mountains. Why fix what isn't broken? I mean honestly, fuck forests. Plains are for chumps and communists. I want to make fun of Islands, but Zendikar's Cup Island will always have my heart. But for posterity sake I'll just say everyone who plays blue is an asshole.

My stack of Unglued mountains is destined for bigger things than filling a trade binder, so I knew I wanted to play with mountains. I also knew I wanted to go fast, because let's be real, that's all I actually know how to do. So where to start?

You have my attention.
So to the shock and surprise of absolutely nobody who knows me, I went with burn. Classic Dan. If Lightning Bolt was a career choice I probably would have majored in it at university. 

I've already dabbled in the burn earlier this year when Eldritch Moon was released, but we've lost a good amount of those cards, and we've gained some fun new ones, so it was time to innovate. I was also presented with a new unique challenge - there are vehicles. They are fucking annoying as hell, especially when that stupid motorist makes the chopper a 4/4, putting it outside of the range of an honest hard working Fiery Temper. So I couldn't kill their choppa, so I did what any reasonable burn player would do - let's just ignore it. I added some black into my list so that we could more effectively race opposing aggro decks, and voila. We have... a thing.

This list is a hoot. Collective Brutality is the nuts. The card does everything we could ever want - strip scary cards from hand, kill little dudes, and do damage while buffering our own life total. That and Alms of the Vein gave us a healthy matchup against aggro while keeping the pressure rolling.

This isn't your average burn deck, though. You aren't just tapping a land to blast their ugly face for 3 damage. We need to jump through some hoops to make our tempers into bolts, but we have all of the tools to do it. Let's take a looksie at everything in the deck, and figure out how to play this pile.


We have a very low creature count in our deck, keeping us from being totally blown out by boardwipes and creature removal. Often the creatures only matter for the first few turns, at which point we get to pivot and shoot face. That said, they are very important for enabling our game plan, and the deck will perform far better if we have one or two to start with.

This is the exact face of every Sophomore who's been in a frat for a month.
Insolent Neonate is low-key one of the best red dudes printed since Monastery Swiftspear. He doesn't pile on damage quite as fast, but he is a slightly evasive source of damage, annoying to deal with, and has the utility of improving your hand. In our deck, he comes down and pokes them for a few point of damage (you'd be surprised how far Menace will take you), then lets us Madness something out for tasty value at no cost. Also, he can fly helicopters.

Asylum Visitor and Bloodhall Priest are our later-game cards. Visitor gives us extra cards once we're in topdeck mode, and Bloodhall is just fukkin' huge. Instant-speed upgrading your tapped 1/1 to a 4/4 blocker during combat is a good time. Bonus points if your hand is empty and you get to nug 'em for two.

I don't think I need to explain Thermo-Alchemist a whole lot. You tap him before casting a burn spell, and it gets better. Hooray! Note that it gets a little wacky with Collective Brutality. Tap Thermo -> Cast Brutality and Escalate a Madness spell -> Thermo untaps -> Tap Thermo -> Cast Madness spell -> Thermo untaps -> resolve Brutality. Also Thermo can shoot Planeswalkers if you ever need to finish one off. He both slices and dices.

Special delivery! (psst, it's a lightning bolt)
Lil' Box-bot was one of the cards from Kaladesh that I was most excited for during spoiler season. Brobot hasn't quite lived up to my initial hype, but he's still a great little dude. All in all, he helps to fill the exact role as Neonate - early damage, flies our Copties, and is annoying to deal with. The biggest issue is that it costs R to sacrifice him, so early in the game your opponent can deal with him while you're unable to take advantage of his ability. But if you manage to hide four or more cards in him and sac it while Madness-ing something from your hand, you're in great shape.

Don't be afraid to just pop one if your hand is weak. I've discarded a few shitty four card hands in order to get a crack at just two cards. It doesn't feel great, but that's life. Not great.

Spells and shit:

Creatures are cool or whatever, but more often than not you're going to be winning by whipping a card at their face. I mean, don't literally do that, because Magic players are fragile. This deck has an incredible amount of reach, and I often find myself just shrugging and going upstairs with everything when they still have a double digit life total and some threats on board. It works every time*.

*It does not.

In my head-canon, that man actually has a snake bite and the vampire is trying to save his life by sucking out the venom.
Alms of the Vein and Fiery Temper are without a doubt the cornerstones of this deck. They are our most efficient burn spells when cast with Madness, and make cards like Neonate, Copter, Key to the City, Collective Brutality, and any of our other discard outlets into efficient machines.

I admit that Alms with Madness isn't quite Lightning Helix, since it exclusively hits players, but it's trying its best, and my mom said that's important. Temper on the other hand can hit creatures and planeswalkers, so keep that in mind. Be sure to do some math to see if it's worth it to kill a threat, or if it's going to win you the game to just start throwing everything upstairs.

Incendiary Flow can be chucked at their life total more often than not, but the exile ability is a game changer in some matchups. Permanently getting rid of a Scrapheap Scrounger or Gisela is massive, and it helps you to avoid fueling the G/B Delirium machine.

I get the names of this one and the red one mixed up 100% of the time.
This card makes me rock hard. How could you not love this brutal shit?  Every mode of this card is money, and it gives us a spectacular discard outlet. It pairs particularly well when casting a Madness spell when you have a Thermo-Alchemist on the field, letting you untap from both the casting of Brutality and the Madness spell, as I outlined with a gratuitous use of arrows earlier.

Copter is here because Copter is dumb in any deck, but ultra-dumb when half of your deck has Madness. We only run three because we really don't have a ton of pilots for it. This also gives us room to put in a Key to the City, which is amazing in this deck for reasons I bet you can figure out (discard = good? I think), and a Lightning Axe just in case.

Fancy Land!

Any time I read this card I get that stupid Metallica song stuck in my head.
This land is neato. So as you can guess, improving their hand isn't the best idea, but don't dismiss this outright. Often times this ends up being pure card advantage for you. You both draw, they discard a card, but since your deck is straight up mad, you often get to Madness out a spell, putting you up a card on them. Not a bad deal. By the time you hit the amount of mana to be able to activate this and cast a spell off of it, you'll typically be pretty close to top decking.  I would definitely activate this if your hand is empty and you have nothing to do with your mana - there's a real chance that you can flip up a Fiery Temper or Alms of the Vein and pop 'em.

The only time I'd avoid using this is if you have a solid lead, and have the tools in hand/on the table to close out the game. There's no need to improve the opponents hand for the fuck of it.

Budget Concerns:

As you can see by looking at the decklist, well over 50% of the cost of the deck is from three stupid Smuggler's Copters and dual lands. Ouch. Mercifully, Smuggler's Copter is replaceable in this particular list. Remove the three copters, and then add in a second Key to the City in the mainboard. Depending on your store's meta, you can then add in Lightning Axe if it's creature-heavy, or Cryptolith Fragment if there are more slower decks.

I LOVE playing draft chaff in my constructed decks.
Ramping up our mana a bit lets us cast more impressive Collective Brutalities, activate our Geier-Reach Sanitariums, and generally just be much more doper. Making them lose one is a big deal too, and if this ever flips and survives, hooray, they will probably die soon. My original build of this deck actually ran three of these instead of Copter (since I didn't own any) and it still did great.

Then, naturally, replace the dual lands with an even split of basics, maybe heavier on Mountains if you're adding in Lightning Axes. Swapping out those few cards takes almost $60 off the price tag of this deck, leaving us at a cushy $40 or so. Collective Brutality is the only other pricy card, but it is integral to the deck. Luckily it's seeing play in eternal formats, so you won't totally lose your cash when it rotates.

Playin' the dick deck and sideboard:

Often times this deck can totally ignore the opponent as you just grind at their life as fast as possible. There are a few key interactions with each of the major decks that are worth noting, and some simple play adjustment can massively improve your chances.

This is your best matchup without a doubt. Turns out that they have a rough time racing an asston of cheap life-gain spells. Be sure to leverage your Collective Brutalities by using the -2/-2 mode to kill of threats. The drain two mode is also exceptional, as it furthers your game plan while hampering theirs without going out of your way at all. Occasionally you'll want to use the pseudo-Duress mode if you have an active Thermo-Alchemist on the table and are worried about Harnessed Lightning, but typically the other two are what you'll want.

Out of the board you'll be looking for things like Weaver of Lightning and Sinister Concoction. Concoction is a dope way of taking out a Copter even through Depala/Veteran Motorist pumps, and it gives us yet another cheap discard option. Weaver kills stuff and blocks, which is cool. I sometimes side out a few Thermos for Weaver, since we can typically just grind them out by using our Weaver triggers as removal as we focus on their life. You can also drop Incendiary Flow, since it's bad against Copter, but be sure to keep it in if they're black-based and running Scroungers, Amalgams, Haunted Dead, or some combination of the bunch.

More than likely, this will be the matchup where you just ignore everything and try to shoot them. Remove problematic permanents like Grim Flayer or anything with Lifelink, but otherwise I'd aim everything up top. When Grim Flayers are 2/2's, they're probably better off being exiled by Incendiary Flow. Git 'em when the gittin's good.

For your sideboarded games, I'd almost always bring in the big bad Flame Lash.

The only thing I like more than draft chaff is intro-deck chaff.
This is a lot of damage, and even better with a Thermo (4+1 > 4). Transgress and Lost Legacy are also good, particularly if they have something like Linvala in a big white build, or a deck with Noxious Gearhulk that will enter the field and gain them enough life to get out of reach. Lightning Axe could also be put in your board if there are a bunch of Kalitas floating around your store.

This has varied wildly for me so far. If they stumble at all, you typically win, but if they get the right answers at the right time, it feels like you have absolutely no chance. Be careful to not run a Copter into Blessed Alliance, avoid over-extending into Fumigate, and you should pull through.

Big expensive dudes like Bloodhall Priest aren't amazing here, since by the time you can cast her they'll have the mana for counter magic, and she doesn't offer any immediate advantage. Key to the City and Bedlam Reveler can help you keep a stream of cards going once the early game is over, and surprisingly, Call the Bloodline is absurd. Getting a 1/1 lifelink and being able to play most of your deck at instant speed is a massive payoff, and eventually they have to deal with the annoying token.

RACE 'EM. Honestly, not a lot to see here. You have no way of interacting with Aetherworks Marvel, and them gaining life with an Aetherflux Reservoir just sort of sucks. Often you'll be able to melt them before these take over the game, but it really just depends on you getting a decent combination of burn and creatures. Thermo-Alchemist is an all-star here, amping up our burn.

Transgress is your best bet, and Lost Legacy is pretty sweet to get rid of Emrakul or Ulamog. Flame Lash gives you a huge burn spell to help you close, but sometimes they Emrakul you and sort of... shoot you with it. Not the best. Swim at your own risk.

That's it, yo.  This deck is a blasty blast, and I recommend giving it a whirl. You'll definitely get some free wins with it - a lot of people are only packing answers for creature-based aggro, so sometimes they just gently weep as they watch their life spin down to oblivion. You reach out your hand after the match to say "Good game," and they reply with the same, but their heart just isn't in it. They walk out into the parking lot, light up a cigarette and wonder what went wrong. "G/B Delirium is the best deck, how did I lose to Flame Lash?" They muse aloud as they gaze through the store's windows to watch their friends finish the next 40 minutes of the round. Congratulations. You have broken a man. Enjoy your 3 packs of prize support, hope it was worth it, you monster.

Like to feel the bern? Have your own variation that you wanna share with us? Don't believe in the Standard powerhouse that Cryptolith Fragment truly is? Let us know! Drop a comment or send a message to us using the form off to the right. Alternatively, hop on twitter to spew vitrol at us @Heavy_Salami!


  1. I would definitely try make some cuts to fit 2-3 unlicensed disintegration. Card is nuts. Being able to unconditionally deal with threats that are out of bolt reach, like blue gearhulk, avacyn, kalitas, ishkanah is a lot needed right now, and you have artifacts in the deck to hit their face as well.

    1. It hasn't been great every time I've tested it in this deck. The burn clause is rarely on, since we're only running 8 artifacts; couriers die easily, and copters are a lightning rod, so we don't often have any on the field. The card loses a lot of its burn potential without Scrapheap Scrounger that can come back over and over.

      The unconditional removal isn't bad, but that's why I have the [[Sinister Concoctions]] in the side, which enables more of our madness cards.

      That being said, it's still a good card, but from my testing with this, most of the time I'd rather have a Lightning Axe or Sinister Concoction for mana efficiency.