Monday, January 09, 2017

Aether Revolt State of the Burn - Red

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Dear diary: Spoilers were good to me today.
Hey there, my fellow burn players. It's Dan, and I'd like to try and bring you all some comforting words. Red ain't dead. Despite Standard becoming a Black Hawk Down situation with the loss of our beloved Copter, we will persevere. As some of you may have known, I've been dabbling in burn for a while now. Being a filthy MTG hipster, rather than do the regular old B/R Madness decks that have been running around in Standard, I went for a spell based deck. Is it correct? Probably not. Does it work? At FNM it sure does!

But Aether Revolt is out now. Copter is banned. Emma is banned. No more Reflecting. The game has changed. This set is lookin' tasty, and aggro/burn players everywhere have a lot to be happy about, despite losing one of the strongest aggro cards. Bans and new cards splashing into the pool are guaranteed to shake up the meta, so there's a good chance a new set of decks will emerge as top doggos of Standard. Is burn one of them?

In this article we're going to go over the available aggressive cards in the new set. Some are poised to be all stars, some may be one-ofs in the sideboard, but all give us more tools to try and boink our opponents in the head with. If you're looking to count to 20 as fast as possible, and think Grim Flayer and Spell Queller are stupid cards, join us, brother/sister.

The Red Menace

So I figured I'd start this up with the most obvious aggressive color - Red. Throughout Magic's history, Red has been the color of choice for speeding through games, and it has remained up near the top all the way to Aether Revolt. If you want to go fast, everyone says that Red is "Pretty schmexy."*

*Only I say this.

"Someone sabotaged our ship?! I better light it on fire, too." - Chandra, the Worst Engineer.
While not the best rate at three mana, Hungry Flames does a decent Searing Blood impression. It can take out a lot of the common threats in Standard, and nugs your opponent for a lil' bit as well.

I'd be surprised if this sees a ton of play, as three mana is quite a bit in a burn deck. However, a burn deck that can play a long game like the Fevered Visions deck could use this to keep the board clear while still pushing damage through.

This card makes me want to play through Skies of Arcadia again. That game was the best.
We'll get to Kari Zev herself in a second, but since we're better than the animals we'll start with the Expertise to keep things alphabetic. Team Heavy Salami isn't full of savages. Anyways, Kari's Expertise is a card with a lot going for it. "Threaten" style effects are always decent sideboard cards for aggressive decks. They get rid of a blocker while getting you another attacker, and this one does even more. Tacking on a free two-cost spell is spectacular in an aggro deck, where you want to deploy all of your cards as fast and efficiently as possible.

What good cards do we have to cast for two or less? Tons! For starters, oh I don't know, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider seems appropriate. Not to mention the tantalizing possibility of Incendiary Flow, Harnessed Lightning, Collective Brutality,  Veteran Motorist, or - well, there's a lot.

This seems like a spicy sideboard card, and depending on how creature-heavy the meta is, we could definitely see this played in the main.

Kaladesh has been a great block for Monkeys.
Besides being one of the sickest looking characters in the block, Kari Zev is a heck of a card. First Strike and Menace is a strange set of keywords, but they are surprisingly effective together, preventing an opponent from using a Servo or one-toughness critter to double block and kill Kari. Bringing in a legendary 2/1 attacking is massive - more damage is obviously good, but this gives decks a sure-shot way to activate the new Revolt mechanic as well. Ragavan has bananas to eat, so he dips at the end of combat.

Standard is full of powerful token makers like Gideon, Hanweir Garrison, and Sram's Expertise. We've also got a dope synergy card with Reckless Bushwhacker. Kari Zev fits perfectly into this suite, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see a R/W or Mardu Tokens deck pop up with Kari as a key player.

Body massage, who want's a body massage?
One of my favorite cards! Hooray! Shock, while a far cry from Lightning Bolt, has always been a passable spell. In limited we can all expect this to be an all-star, since cheap removal is always good, and the backup of a bit of reach to the face is a nice option to have. But does this little guy have what it takes to come into Constructed play this time around?

For a long time now, three toughness has been the name of the game. Spell Queller, Reflector Mage, Lambholt Pacifist, Smuggler's Copter (RIP), Sylvan Advocate, and an asston of other highly-played early game cards have that magical three for their butts. Not great news for good ol' Shock. More versatile removal like Harnessed Lightning or Unlicensed Disintegration are the Red weapons of choice.

However, the new Saheeli Rai + Felidank Cub combo is threatening Standard with a Splinter Twin-esque turn four deck. Shock is one of the best ways in the format to break up the combo in the early game. If they -2 on Saheeli to copy their cub, this leaves Saheeli at only one loyalty left. Since Shock can target a playa, it can be redirected to finish off Saheeli before they blink her and combo out. If you do have to play against this deck, be sure to keep Saheeli under five Loyalty so a Shock can take her out after a minus and they can't get wild.

The verdict? Shock looks great! At the very least, it will be an impactful sideboard card. It's able to take out several early cards that have seen play - Servant of the Conduit, an Un-pumped Grim Flayer, and several different one drops. The added bonuses of breaking up the Saheeli combo and being able to damage a player are just gravy. And if a mono-Red aggro deck surfaces, and if I have any say in this, it will, then I would expect Shock to make the main deck.

Wranglin' varmint! Just like back on the homestead!
Though I think Kari Zev's Expertise is generally stronger, Wrangle is another card worth looking at. It can only grab dudes with four or less power, but at only two mana, this is excellent to get rid of an early blocker and put through more pain. Not to mention there's even a new sacrifice outlet, Yahenni, just in case you're more into gobbling creatures than giving them back.

Again, this seems mostly to be a sideboard card, and Expertise looks better overall. But if you're looking to play very low to the ground, saving a mana may be worth it for you.


We've got some zesty ones this time around. Red is lookin' hot, and I would expect the color to remain competitive. Prepare your Thermo-Alchemists and Fiery Tempers, because Standard might be heating up, even without our helicopter gunship support.

"DAN WAIT. What if I want to be aggressive with other colors?" Then you're a stupid idiot. Jk, don't worry, there's plenty for you too! Black and White got some spooky new aggressive tools, and even Blue and Green have some strong early-game cards. Keep an eye out here for a follow up article in which I'll cover the other four clearly inferior colors, in case you want to be a dirty mudblood and muddle the purity of your burn deck. Until then, happy trails, friends!

Did I miss one? Think one of these guys is actually cardboard garbage and doesn't even deserve to be considered? Share the knowledge, mang. Drop a comment below, or send a message using the form off to the right. You can also tweet opinions/vitrol at us on Twitter @Heavy_Salami!


  1. My god, I just got my cutting edge magic news from Terrible Magic. My copters! My blink deck! All lie in ashes around me.

  2. Incendiary Flow and Collective Defiance became playable again. yay!
    i'd like to think RDW's gonna make a comeback, but i am still cautiously optimistic about it. still might need Black splash for Transgress the Mind and Lost Legacy against Marvel, Zombie and R/G Pummeler decks.