“Vengeance is not the point; change is. But the trouble is that in most minds the thought of victory and the thought of punishing the enemy coincide”.- Barbara Deming
When we last left off last week, I very briefly touched upon a new card from Innistrad that I am convinced is the nuts. Burning Vengeance has been compared to the likes of Lightning Rift and while the two share similiar abilities, Burning Vengeance doesn’t require you to spend any mana beyond the initial investment for the spell you were going to be playing anyway! Sure, it can be said that Lightning Rift only has a converted mana cost of two, whereas Burning Vengeance has a converted mana cost of three. However, as previously mentioned, Burning Vengeance gets to sit on board and allow you to play the spells you planned on playing anyway. Remember how Snapcaster Mage is going to define constructed for years to come? Yeah, he’s even better when the spell you’re flashing back gets to shock something.
Initially the biggest perceived drawback to a Burning Vengeance build was the number of relevant flashback spells in this one set in the block to make the deck tick the way Astral Slide/Lightning Rift decks of yesteryear did. While it seems that every deck builder has been focusing on a build with a pure combo approach, another new card from Innistrad made me start thinking about the Magic I enjoy playing. Past in Flames is your end game. It is your trump, it is what Mike Flores likes to refer to as a “flagship” card. Past in Flames has been compared to Yawgmoth’s Will and while Past in Flames may not be exactly “Yawg’s Win”, it sure has a funny way of making you feel dirty when playing it like, just like Yawgmoth’s Will did. With that in mind, I decided I wanted to build the deck around it, well before the Top 32 decks came in from the SCG Open in Indy this past weekend, where Kyle McDaniel came in 24th with this brew (I was actually at the Jupiter Games booth in Philly this past weekend picking up as many goodies as I could for my brainchild-I’m a bit of a foil whore and McKinney is my enabler). Anyway, here’s Kyle’s take on Burning Vengeance:
I agree with the core of his list, but I disagree with some of the chosen end-game. While I have been on the fence on Devil’s Play, Past in Flames provides the same amount of end-game, while providing added utility throughout the course of the game. When I was picking up cards with reckless abandon from the Jupiter Games booth this past weekend, I started picking the brains of like-minded brewers (i.e. Ken Adams) and debating the proper way to build a Burning Vengeance deck. For me, it seemed like the deck should be more of a control deck with a Past in Flames/Burning Vengeance end-game. This way you are able to play more utility spells like Arc Trail, Slagstorm, Incinerate and actually have them represent lethal damage with Past in Flames. With this mindset, I started thinking about how bonkers Jace, Memory Adept would be- enabling not only a draw engine (his +1 ability is effectively drawing you an average of 1.5 cards if you mill yourself), but also an absolute bonkers end game trump. If you mill yourself, you could mill Past in Flames into your yard or give your Snapcaster Mages extra value! The synergy just seemed insane, and after a long walk through Philly and a stop at one of the pubs, I initially brewed up this list:
8 X, Y, Z
First things first… I knew that I wanted to play Ancient Grudge postboard and therefore figured that the Shimmering Grotto’s would allow me to safely pay for the flashback cost of Ancient Grudge, while simultaneously allowing me the option to flashback Forbidden Alchemy naturally and fixing certain mana draws. While it is true that this is a two color deck, hitting Dissipate and Slagstorm mana consistantly proved to be an issue while testing late Sunday night against the mono red deck. Also, Snapcaster Mage plus Dissipate is heavy blue and therefore I began debating Grotto’s utility as a filter over an actual blue or red source like Hinterland Harbor and Rootbound Crag. The Delver of Secrets was a concession to the fact that after game one, most decks would probably board out their removal seeing only Snapcaster Mage as a legitimate target and therefore enables the tried-and-true strategy of a postboard-man-plan. With such a high density of Instants and Sorceries, he was sure to flip and with a serious lack of flying creatures in the format, seemed like a perfect fit for the deck.
With this knowledge, and deck in tow, I decided to try and game my local Monday Night Standard event at Jiffy Photo and Collectibles. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I ran into some card availability issues and could only get my hands on one Hinterland Harbor and two Rootbound Crags before the tourney and decided to just run the one Harbor and just one Crag alongside two Shimmering Grotto’s. In the end, I came to game with this list:
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Burning Vengeance
2 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Mana Leak
4 Think Twice
2 Visions of Beyond
2 Chandra, the Firebrand
2 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Arc Trail
2 Past in Flames
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Rootbound Crag
2 Shimmering Grotto
4 Sulfur Falls
2 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Mental Misstep
2 Surgical Extraction
I’m not a huge fan of tournament reports, so I’ll just give you a quick run down. I started off the tourney on the back of two unintentional draws that I can just chalk up to unfamiliarity with my deck leading to slower than normal play. I rattled off two more wins to squeek into Top 4 and lost to a Naya Birthing Pod deck in a game three where he naturally drew his one of Thrun on turn four after taking a mulligan on the play. This wouldn’t have been that bad if he didn’t follow it up with a Kessig Wolf Run. Let me just mention how insane this card is for those that haven’t figured it out yet. Making your Birds of Paradise into a firebreathing threat is nothing to scoff at. I feel that had I drawn a single Burning Vengeance at any point in game three I could have taken it. My opponent was at 15 life on the deciding turn as I sat with eight land in play, a Past in Flames in hand, a Chandra on board, two Incinerates in the yard, and a Snapcaster Mage free to attack. For those at home doing the math, that’s 11 casual damage in one turn! It is worth mentioning that a Devil’s Play in hand instead of a Past in Flames would have won me the game there; but that is just a corner case in my opinion and does not outweigh the added options that Past in Flames provides (e.g.- I played a Past in Flames against said Naya opponent in game two to flashback a Slagstorm and double it with Chandra to wipe his board of Sun Titan, Blade Splicer, and Golem).
Moving on, I did actually get to flashback Forbidden Alchemy naturally with the Shimmering Grotto (as opposed to using Snapcaster Mage to flash it back). But those games were also somewhat lopsided affairs, and flashing it back was a “win more” point. In one game I flashed it back just to dome my opponent for eight because I had the full set of Burning Vengeance on the field. I still feel that turning the Grottos and an Island into two more Hinterland Harbor’s and one more Rootbound Crag would serve more of what I need from of my manabase.
Delver of Secrets “bosses out” on any unsuspecting opponent. He proved to be quite the bane for a few of my opponents who found themselves quickly dying to a 3/2 Flying clock. Keep in mind that if you’re down a game and you end up getting them game two with him, it isn’t entirely horrible to board him out again leaving the opponent with (almost) useless removal against your original game plan.
Visions of Beyond is probably the closest card on my list to the proverbial cutting room floor. It does it’s job well enough- providing me with velocity and a cheap cantrip under Past in Flames to trigger my Burning Vengeance, and at times is an Ancestral Recall when I am milling myself with Jace (side note: every time I milled myself with Jace, I felt like I was drawing cards). The only problem with Visions is that this deck is not for the faint of heart who dislike multiple decision trees. As I experienced, not being familiar with the deck with its proper practices and match-ups will lead to unintentional draws from time in rounds.
While, this was just a small sample size, there is a lot of raw power to be harnessed in this deck. You can be sure you’ll see me slinging it at future events to come. If I were to make any changes outside of the manabase, I would probably cut the Mental Missteps for two Tree of Redemption as a further concession to the horrible mono red match-up (read: don’t let Shrine of Burning Rage or Koth hit the table if you want to win). As I mentioned, I’m debating cutting the Visions, but I’m not entirely sold on what to cut them for. My options seem to lie between either a 25th land and a third Incinerate or maybe even just swapping out the two Visions for two Shocks or two Incinerates. Only more game-time with the deck will tell. Either way, the raw power of Burning Vengeance and Past in Flames is sure to punish your opponents on the way to victory, if harnessed properly.
Next week, I’ll provide further updates on the deck as well as any other brews I have in mind, and take a stab at Legacy with another new card from Innistrad that is blue and isn’t Snapcaster Mage.
Tim “Flip” Sussino