Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it’s that time once again! You might remember that a while ago, we played a budget mono-black burn deck in Modern, and it was pretty sweet and surprisingly competitive. Well now, thanks to Lost Caverns of Ixalan, we have the pieces to bring budget Black Burn to Standard! The deck’s idea is simple: chip in for some early damage, stick a Bloodletter of Aclazotz to double up our janky black burn spells, and then burn our opponent out of the game with cards like Hopeless Nightmare, Vampire’s Kiss, and Rankle’s Prank! The best part? The deck’s super cheap to put together, costing just $70 in paper and 14 total rares and mythics on Magic Arena! Can Black Burn work in Standard? How busted is Bloodletter of Aclazotz? Let’s find out! But first, a quick reminder that if you enjoy Budget Magic and the other content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.
Budget Magic: Black Burn but in Standard
Black Burn, as its name suggests, is a burn deck, except, rather than being the traditional red, it’s mono-black, looking to take advantage of a bunch of drain effects and Bloodletter of Aclazotz‘s ability to double them up!
Speaking of Bloodletter of Aclazotz, it’s the primary reason we’re playing Black Burn in Standard and—by far—the biggest payoff for loading up deck up with janky black burn spells. In general, black burn spells are less effiecient than red burn but typically come with an additional upside, like gaining some life, making Blood tokens, or forcing our opponent to discard a card. Bloodletter of Aclazotz makes up for our burn’s inefficiency by super-charging all of our burn spells, by doubling up the amount of life they make our opponent lose. Oh yeah, it’s also worth noting that none of our burn spells actually deals damage; instead, they cause our opponent to lose life. Traditional damage doublers like Furnace of Rath wouldn’t do anything with our black burn, but with the way Bloodletter is worded—caring about loss of life rather than damage specifically—makes it the perfect way to power up a deck full of drain-y black burn spells!
As far as our black burn, we’ve got a ton of different options. Actually, almost every card in our main drains our opponent’s life total in one way or another, without any attacking being necessary. Okiba Reckoner Raid drains for two over the course of two turns while eventually flipping into a 2/2 menace creature. Meanwhile, Hopeless Nightmare makes our opponent lose two life and discard a card for a single mana. By themselves, the rate on these cards is middling—two life for one mana isn’t great compared to the gold standard of burn in Lightning Bolt. But with Bloodletter of Aclazotz on the battlefield, these cards hit our opponent for four for just one mana, which is an absurd rate, especially considering the extra upside of lifegain or flipping into a creature. Vampire’s Kiss is similar: making our opponent lose two for two is bad, but losing four for two thanks to Bloodletter is fine. Plus, the two Blood tokens it offers have a lot of upside in our deck, either by sacrificing them naturally to filter away extra lands and dig for burn or by sacrificing them to Fanatical Offering to draw some cards. Finally, our biggest, baddest, best burn spell is Rankle’s Prank. One of our easiest ways to close out the game is to stick a Bloodletter of Aclazotz and then follow up with a Rankle’s Prank to make our opponent lose a massive eight life. Sure, we lose four as well, but generally, our opponent just straight up dies, so this doesn’t really matter. Plus, Rankle’s Prank has some sneaky upsides in different situations. Against control, having our opponent discard two is often relevant, especially since we can typically dump our hand pretty quickly to avoid the drawback, while against creature decks, the double-edict mode can be devastating. Outside of Bloodletter of Aclazotz, Rankle’s Prank is probably the strongest card in our entire deck.
As for our creatures, they are mostly black burn spells too. Greedy Freebooter is the one exception. It’s mostly in the deck to be sacrificed for value to things like Fanatical Offering and Fell Stinger, but all of our other creatures can directly make our opponent lose life! Vraan drains our opponent for two whenever a creature dies, doubling up to four with Bloodletter of Aclazotz. Arrogant Outlaw drains for two when it enters the battlefield, assuming we made our opponent lose some life this turn, which is pretty easy in our deck. Finally, Fell Stinger most commonly draws us two cards with its exploit ability, but it can target our opponent as well, making it a sneaky way to get in the last two (or, with Bloodletter on the battlefield, four) points of damage to close out the game. But in the early game, you usually don’t want to let the opponent draw two cards, so keep that in mind.
Rounding out the deck are a bit of removal and card draw. Tithing Blade can technically turn into another burn spell if we craft it, draining our opponent for one on our upkeep, but this happens so infrequently in practice that I’ll probably end up cutting it the next time I play the deck for more creatures or instant-speed removal.
The mana of Black Burn is clean and simple: a bunch of Swamps and a playset of Mishra’s Foundry. In theory, you could cut the Foundries to save a few rare wildcards, although they are super helpful against control to help push through the last few points of damage after a sweeper.
Record-wise, we finished 6-5 with the deck, giving us a 55% match-win percentage, which is pretty solid for a 14-rare budget brew. Matchup-wise, we crushed aggro and Esper but struggled a bit with Dimir and Domain. It turns out Atraxa and random lifegain is pretty strong against a burn deck—who would have guessed?
As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I’m pretty happy with where it landed overall, although Tithing Blade felt pretty bad. While two-mana removal is fine, being sorcery speed is rough, and I think I crafted it a single time in 11 matches. It’s probably worth dropping it for more Arrogant Bloodlords or Sheoldred’s Edicts. Otherwise, I’d run the deck back as is.
So, should you play budget Black Burn in Standard? I think the answer is yes, if you are looking for a budget deck that can actually post a winning record. While the deck looks a bit weird on paper, it actually plays really well, and the combo of Bloodletter of Aclazotz and Rankle’s Prank is hilariously effective at closing out the game! If you’re a black burn fan thanks to the Modern deck or just looking for a new budget build for Standard, give it a shot. It wins more than you would think and is surprisingly fun to play!
Ultra-Budget Black Burn
In paper, there isn’t really a way to make the deck meaningfully cheaper —the only expensive card in the entire deck is Bloodletter of Aclazotz, and that’s the entire reasosn for playing the deck. Sure, you could trim a couple of bucks here or there by swapping Sheoldred’s Edict out of the sideboard for a cheaper removal spell, but is it really worth it to save like $5? Probably not.
As far as Arena, the only way to really drop the rare and mythic count is to turn Mishra’s Foundry into more Swamps. If you watch the games, you’ll see that having a creatureland was actually super important to several of our wins, so I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you are trying to build the deck for as cheap as possible, you could go without it over the short term. I guess you could also drop the single Vraan for another Arrogant Outlaw and the one The End from the sideboard for a different removal spell. But this doesn’t really drop the total deck cost by very much, so it might not be worth it. The core rares of the deck—Bloodletter of Aclazotz and Rankle’s Prank—can’t be cut. Don’t even consider it.
Non-Budget Black Burn
Anyway, that’s all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.