It’s about time a burn deck made some headway in Pioneer. It’s basically the burn deck from the early days of Arena that had cards from Dominaria and Ravnica with some upgrades for Pioneer. Actually, you could say it’s a mix between the old Arena Standard deck and the current Modern burn deck. Like all red decks, the creatures are very cheap. The deck can use Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion so all of your permanents need to cost 2 or less if you want to do that. Let’s start with the one drops: Ghitu Lavarunner, Monastery Swiftspear, and Soul-Scar Mage. Ghitu Lavarunner starts out as a 1/2, but once you have 2 or more instant or sorcery cards in the graveyard, it turns into a Goblin Guide, a 2/2 with haste for 1 red. Monastery Swiftspear sees play in nearly every burn deck in every format it’s legal in. That combination of prowess and haste is explosive. Soul-Scar Mage also comes with prowess, but his true power lies in targeting bigger creatures with burn spells. Rather than deal damage to the creature, the spell gives the creature -1/-1 counters, kind of like infect. This is great because red generally has trouble dealing with big creatures. Lightning Strike won’t kill things like Lovestruck Beast, but Soul-Scar Mage it can shrink it down to something that can either trade or chump block in combat.
Moving up to the top of the creature curve, the deck runs Viashino Pyromancer and Eidolon of the Great Revel. Viashino Pyromancer deals 2 damage to a player or planeswalker when it comes into play and then it just sits around as a 2/1. The 2 power is nice for attacking, but 1 toughness means it’s pretty much doomed if it ever gets blocked. Eidolon of the Great Revel is a card that you need to be careful with because it deals 2 damage to a player, which means you too, when that player casts a spell with cmc 3 or less, which describes every spell in this deck. As mentioned earlier, Lurrus is a great companion for this deck because it allows for more enter-the-battlefield triggers from the Viashino Pyromancer and Ghitu Lavarunner should have Goblin Guide stats by this point.
Now for the burn spells. Wild Slash is a popular card for this deck and starts off the bottom of the curve. It’s basically a Shock, but if you control a creature with power 4 or greater, damage can’t be prevented. Honestly, I don’t think that clause will be relevant in in 99% of games. The only advantage Wild Slash has over Shock is that is allows you to overcome fog effects which nobody really plays anyways so really just choose Shock. Nexus of Fate used fog effects, but that card is banned in Pioneer. You can run Shock and be just fine. Since Lightning Bolt isn’t legal and probably never will be, Lightning Strike is the default 3 damage spell. Wizard’s Lightning is the next best thing to Lightning Bolt as long as you control a wizard, and wizard happen to be 3 of the 5 main deck creatures. Boros Charm is the next spell; it can either deal 4 damage to a player of planeswalker, give all of your permanents indestructible, or give a creature double strike. The last spell that I want to cover here is not a burn spell, but still a very good red card, Light Up the Stage. This is a great card that will be a red deck staple for years to come. If you activate spectacle, easy to do in red, you can cast it for 1 mana and basically dig 2 cards deep into your deck.
Some other cards that I think would be acceptable for this: deck Skewer the Critics, Risk Factor, Runaway Steam-Kin, Bomat Courier, and Experimental Frenzy. Skewer the Critics is basically another Lightning Bolt. The only downside is that it’s sorcery speed, but that doesn’t mean that the card is terrible. Don’t try to kid yourself; you play instant cards during your turn if it means getting your creatures through on the attack. If you replace the Wild Slash with Skewer the Critics, you still have Lightning Strike, Wizard’s Lightning, and Boros Charm at instant speed. Risk Factor, its hard to believe this card has fallen off the radar. I have never lost a game where I was able to resolve 3 of these and since it has jump-start, one copy counts as 2 spells. Four damage is nothing to laugh at either; that’s 1/5 of the starting life total. With enough burn in the deck, your opponent won’t be able to afford to take the 4 damage and will end up letting you draw three cards, which just means more gas for you if they don’t concede. Runaway Steam-Kin is below the curve for a deck like this, but after casting 3 spells it can be a sizable 4/4, plus if you find yourself low on mana, this is a great way to quickly fill up your board or cast more burn spells. With 2 or 3 of these guys in play, with different numbers of counters, you can chain spell after spell off of them for a huge advantage. Bomat Courier was a great card advantage engine for red if it survived. It does have some weak stats, but being able to draw a new hand when you’re stuck with too many lands or no hand at all is better than having no hand. Finally we have Experimental Frenzy, a card I personally don’t like, but being able to play off the top of your library can lead to some huge advantage like chaining some Runaway Steamkins together. Be warned though, you cannot use this card if Lurrus is your companion.
The basic shell of this burn deck should look like the following:
Ghitu Lavarunner x4
Monastery Swiftspear x4
Soul-Scar Mage x4
Viashino Pyromancer x4
Lightning Strike x4
Wizard’s Lightning x4
Boros Charm x4
Light Up the Stage x4
Lurrus, of the Dream-Den x1 (Companion)
It’s about time a burn deck rose to the top of the ranks in Pioneer. You could go full red in this deck if you wanted to and make the mana base cheaper by cutting out the dual lands you would need for Boros Charm and Lurrus. Red has gotten a lot of great cards over these last few years and I only covered about half of them in that last section. Feel free to play around with them and make a deck that works for you. What deck do you want to see next? Let me know in the comments down below.