Fact not Fiction – Burning Vengeance in Standard by Michael Maxwell

Fact not Fiction – The Winners and Losers from Pro Tour Paris by Michael Maxwell


Hi guys, it’s been a while since my last article, but that’s mostly because I’ve been having so much fun playing with Burning Vengeance recently (well, that and a pesky little thing called a thesis).

If you haven’t had a chance to play with this build-around-me enchantment yet then you are missing out. I’m sure a lot of you out there will agree with me when I say that playing a bunch of spells that draw you cards AND kill your opponent’s creatures and then your opponent is pretty awesome.

Before I get too far into the nuances of this deck, let me show you the list I’ve been playing at local tournaments and FNMs:

4 Burning Vengeance

3 Snapcaster Mage

4 Desperate Ravings

4 Think Twice

4 Forbidden Alchemy

4 Mana Leak

2 Dissipate

2 Devil’s Play

3 Geistflame

2 Slagstorm

1 Tribute to Hunger

1 Sever the Bloodline

1 Noxious Revival

4 Sulfur Falls

3 Drowned Catacombs

3 Dragonskull Summit

2 Copperline Gorge

1 Hinterland Harbor

1 Shimmering Grotto

8 Island

3 Mountain


4 x Delver of Secrets

2 x Ancient Grudge

1 x Inferno Titan

1 x Grave Titan

1 x Army of the Damned

1 x Jace, Memory Adept

1 x Dissipate

1 x Slagstorm

1 x Geistflame

2 x Memoricide

The basic plan is to use Think Twice, Desperate Ravings, and Forbidden Alchemy to find Burning Vengeance whilst using Geistflame and Slagstorm to survive the early game. Once you stick a Vengeance you can start flashing back all your draw spells to both keep your hand stocked and kill all your opponent’s guys. Desperate Ravings is especially good since so many of your cards have flashback that it’s more like discarding half a card. Once their team has been disposed of you can start whittling away at their life total. If you ever have multiple Vengeance in play at once then it gets very messy very quickly.

Oh, and if you thought Snapcaster Mage was good already, then just imagine what he’s like when he comes with a free Shock/Lightning Blast attached!

Mana Leak and Dissipate are to keep you alive in the early game and protect Burning Vengeance in the late game, as well as stop any big threats that Vengeance cant handle. Tribute to Hunger gives you an out to the various hexproof creatures whilst Sever the Bloodline takes out any fatty than gets through your countermagic, particularly Wurmcoil Engine.

Devil’s Play serves dual purposes as both kill condition and creature removal. Vengeance and Slagstorm can take care of little guys easily enough so you need something to take out anything with a high toughness. More importantly a lot of games will end with a Devil’s Play for 10 or more. Attacks from Snapcaster and a few shocks from Vengeance will often get them low enough that a big fireball with flashback will get the job done in one or two hits. Noxious Revival will usually be used to rebuy a Burning Vengeance but can get back removal in a pinch.

As far as the sideboard goes, Delver of Secrets comes in against the control decks, which will often board out all their removal and leave themselves cold to the one-drop. Inferno Titan and Grave Titan are good against aggro and give you alternative win conditions for when Memoricide type effects or enchantment hate are brought in. Ancient Grudge makes the Tempered Steel matchup a bit of a joke and can be brought in to deal with any problematic artifacts like Swords or niche answers like Witchbane Orb. Jace comes in for the control matchups where he provides a recurring source of card advantage, often by milling yourself for 10. Army of the Damned is an effective(ish) and hilarious trump for the control matchups. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the look on your Solar Flare opponent’s face after they go ‘Sun Titan, bring back Phantasmal Image copying Sun Titan, bring back Oblivion Ring‘ and pass with a smug look only for you to untap and drop 13 zombies onto the table.

Some notes on the manabase: you never, EVER, want to miss a land drop in this deck. Once you start chaining Alchemies and Ravings together the only bottleneck is mana, so even missing a land on turn 8 or 9 can be a real pain. This is also why you don’t really want to play many Scars lands – lands that come into play tapped late on aren’t what you want. The 2 Copperline Gorges are a concession to wanting to cast Gesitflame and Slagstorm on time whilst having enough green sources to flashback Ancient Grudge. The one Shimmering Grotto may look a bit awkward, and it can be, but the colour requirements can be quite a challenge at times so it does just about justify its place.

A few general tips:

You generally don’t want to cast Desperate Ravings if you have Burning Vengeance in hand. The random discard isn’t normally much of a problem but losing a Vengeance isn’t worth the risk.

If you have a choice between casting something from your hand or your graveyard its usually correct to cast something from your hand, that way you can flash things back when you have the maximum possible number of vengeances in play.

Don’t be afraid to go for the Devil’s Play kill. If you have 9 lands in play and they’re at 14, and they aren’t representing lethal, then just fireball them for 8 then flash it back next turn. Once you get a bunch of mana in play and draw spells in the yard this deck can kill very quickly.

Snapcaster Mage can flashback every card in your deck except for Burning Vengeance. In any deck you generally want to save him for as long as possible but that is especially true here. In multiples they can provide quite a quick clock too. The only reason you aren’t playing 4 is that you’re very pushed for space and drawing multiples early on can be pretty awkward.

Mana management is very important. You really want to use all your mana every turn, particularly in the midgame. You’ll also need to cast your draw spells main phase sometimes in order to hit your land drops.

Keeping a hand without a draw spell can be quite risky. You don’t need to mulligan for Vengeance as you will find it eventually and can win without it, but having no way to draw cards will see you fall behind quite quickly unless you have 2 Slagstorms against aggro or something along those lines.

You’ll probably want to keep your graveyard spread out where you would normally have your non-land permanents, since you hardly have any, and this way it’s easy to see which flashback spells you have available. If you’ve ever played dredge in any format then you’ll know what I mean.

Would I take this deck to a PTQ tomorrow?

Honestly, no, though it isn’t that far off. There are some creatures that give you real problems, namely Dungrove Elder and Thrun, the Last Troll. Sideboard games can be difficult if they bring in multiple ways to take out Burning Vengeance or graveyard hate. With a bit of tweaking it could be a contender though – all the removal makes aggro matchups quite favourable and the passive control decks are even easier (think Pyromancer Ascension vs control from Standard a year or two back). Wolf-run ramp and other midrange green decks are quite a challenge though.

Would I take this deck to an FNM tomorrow?

Absolutely! It’s a blast to play, you get to durdle around drawing card after drawing card, then your opponent somehow ends up dead, great! If you’re on a budget this is a good deck too, since it’s very cheap to build if you take out the Snapcasters, which whilst important you could do without for an FNM or two.

So if you’re looking for something fun to play at your next FNM, or have a yearning to play some combo, then this just might be the deck for you. If you have any recommendations for the deck, or have played it yourself and have some insights, then please let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing,




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