This isn’t your mommy’s burn deck.
If you’re expecting to turn on & tune out like you may have done with Unquenchable Fire in Duels 2012, it’s not going to happen. Born of Flame is a different beast, one more interested in control and the long game than the more fiery-minded red decks of yore.
Of course, you’ll still get the satisfying crispiness of your opponents’ creatures vaporizing. And you’ll still have the opportunity to swing in with a few scary, flame-engulfed monstrosities. You’ll just have to plan to make it happen.
A slow burn
At first glance at the decklist, Born of Flame doesn’t really blow you away. Sure, there are a few bombs like Inferno Titan, but the Lightning Bolts, Incinerates, and the like are nowhere to be found. Instead there’s a mix of slower removal spells, recyclable flyers, and mid-range shenanigans.
This may lead some readers to imagine that, as with my Crosswinds deck guide, I’m going to suggest there are multiple viable builds for Born of Flame. Not so. While there is certainly variability in a few cards (depending on the matchup, game mode, etc), Chandra’s 2013 deck simply requires too much paring down to leave lots of room for alternates.
Play with the deck a few times and you’ll agree: there are too many cards trying to do the same thing. A bunch of Sorcery-speed burn spells. A slew of firebreathing mana-pump critters. A crowd of self-resurrecting firebirds. Unfortunately, there’s not enough mana in the Multiverse to cast them all. Fortunately, that makes trimming the deck a little easier.
That said, there are plenty of tools that can and will win you games. Board-clearing sweepers, efficient burn, and tough-to-kill creatures that will slowly generate card advantage. Don’t believe me? Let’s review what Wizards’ favorite redhead (flamehead?) has in store:
Born of Flame card-by-card analysis (by cost)
Flame Slash: 4.5
It’s not an Instant. It can’t hurt players. But Flame Slash does what it does well: keep creatures off the battlefield thanks to a 4-point burn. And you’ll be damn grateful it’s so powerful when your foes drop lategame threats that require removal. At one mana, it’s worth the price of admission, and also gives you a cheap way to detonate your own Magma Phoenix.
While newer players will scoff at the idea of damaging themselves and/or their creatures, veteran MTG players know Earthquake isn’t nearly as fair as it first appears. Since your opponents don’t know it’s coming, you can hold back creatures while they fill the board with unwitting targets. Or simply nuke the field for one less damage than it would take to off your own beasts. Or hell, just stock flyers and laugh at the ground-based carnage. No build of Born of Flame should be without this card.
Red Sun’s Zenith: 4.0
Having a scalable burn spell goes a long way in Duels of the Planeswalkers, where matches can often extend into the late game. Chandra’s deck happens to excel here, due in part to Red Sun’s Zenith and Earthquake. Zenith is great for spot removal of extremely large targets (Goliath Sphinx, Rune-Scarred Demon, etc.), or for melting your opponent’s face. The fact that Zenith recycles itself and prevents your target from ever coming back? Even better.
Strictly worse than Red Sun’s Zenith, Blaze isn’t really worth including in your deck once you’ve unlocked the aforementioned X-damage spell. There’s almost no situation where you’d prefer your target hit the graveyward instead of exile. Sure, you could run two copies of Zenith and one of Blaze, but in most situations that’s going to be overkill.
Pyre Charger: 3.0
While he (she?) hits the ground running, Pyre Charger has a few limitations. First, the turn after you play him is usually reserved for important spells, meaning you won’t have mana to pump him. Second, the two turns after you play him, you won’t have mana to pump him. And by the time you do have the mana to pump him, your opponent will almost certainly have a blocker in play to intercept this burning little speed demon. Leave him in the sideboard.
Dragon Hatchling: 3.5
Dragon Hatchling may not get in one free damage the turn it’s played, but it will most certainly accomplish more during its life than Pyre Charger. This card’s flying means your pump-attacks will hit home more frequently, plus you’ll be able to block airborn threats as well. And while the colorless-vs-red mana cost may not seem to matter in a mono-red deck, it means Dragon Hatchling makes a better followup to Ruby Medallion than does the Charger.
Rain of Embers: 2.0
Look, I’m all for global sweepers. They’re powerful and often asymmetrical. But at just one damage, Rain of Embers isn’t going to be sweeping anything other than dust bunnies. Hell, your deck will often be the only side losing creatures in this mini Pyroclasm, and a late-game Embers draw is pretty much dead in hand.
Swiftfoot Boots: 3.5
In another deck, I’d rate this fiery footwear higher. Koth’s Strength of Stone from Duels 2012, for example, would benefit greatly. But in Chandra’s current setup, there simply aren’t too many creatures worth protecting, especially early game. Hell, half of them have haste already, and the other half can come back to life from your graveyard, essentially negating every benefit of this otherwise powerful equipment. Don’t bring it into the fight unless you opt for a slower, more fragile army.
Ruby Medallion: 3.5
Extremely powerful when dropped on turn 2, Ruby Medallion has the ability to get you one or more plays ahead early on. Suddenly, your early game spells cost up to 50% less to play, allowing tricky end-of-turn burns and free boosts to X-damage sorceries (yes, it works). That said, there are a few cards that don’t benefit (like Flamebreak), and a late-game Medallion will sometimes feel like a wasted card. The utility of this ramper really depends on your entire deck composition, though most will benefit.
Searing Blaze: 4.0
What this spell lacks in power, it gains in versatility. While it’s not exactly an instant three-pointer, Searing Blaze will more often than not give you a powerful blast of heat to your enemy and his or her newest toy. And although not ideal, the lower damage version of this spell is still useful during your opponents’ turns. Would I rather have a Shock? Sure. Do I have one? Nope.
Searing Spear: 5.0
Before you get your slightly singed feathers in a ruffle, I’m aware Searing Spear isn’t as good as Lightning Bolt or Incinerate. In that regard, this card is a letdown. But as far as Duels goes, you don’t have a goddamn choice. You’re going to take your instant, 3-for-2 mana burn, and you’re going to take four copies of it. You’ll thank me later.
Torch Fiend: 3.5
Unimpressive as a creature, this is still the only permanent you can drop on turn 2 that’s realistically capable of providing free damage later on. And whether you keep it in play to scare your foe from dropping Panoptic Mirror or hold it back as a surprise, Torch Fiend will make artificers’ lives miserable. This creature is by no means a powerhouse, but Born of Flame has no other way of dealing with pesky equipment and status effects. Might as well use what you have!
Chandra’s Phoenix: 4.5
While a 2/2 flyer with haste is certainly worth a look in its own right (especially as it auto-dodges your board-sweeping spells), Chandra’s Phoenix has a pesky little habit of never actually dying. And unlike the other Phoenix cards, which require heavy mana investments to activate their recursion, Chandra’s fiery little pet comes back for free, provided you can damage your opponent. This makes these birds excellent as evading harassers or stalling chump blockers in a pinch.
Chandra’s Spitfire: 2.5
While it may be tempting to think of the Spitfire as a flying version of the dreaded Kiln Fiend, the reality is this card often forces you to lose card advantage in order to activate it. Whereas Kiln Fiend can get a boost while you use burn to clear blockers out of the way, Chandra’s Spitfire requires you to fling spells directly at your opponent, essentially punishing you for removing enemy creatures that may stand in your way. It’s not a bad flyer for three mana, but you have better options at this mana point.
Fiery Hellhound: 2.5
While this card may have worked in Duels 2012, it simply doesn’t seem to fit in to Chandra’s modern arsenal. It dies quickly to Earthquake and Flamebreak, plus it often fights for pumping mana with other creatures in the deck. Having one on the board will encourage you to waste burn on creatures you could otherwise afford to ignore until later. For the sake of your mana curve, keep this one out.
If I could give this card an extra point for art and style, I would. Fuck it, I can… it’s my website after all. Flamebreak is a 6.0 card due to its hyper-efficiency, dominating almost every creature up to and past turn 3. And because it only melts ground-roaming critters, your predominantly flying fleet is safe from the flames. Sure, Flamebreak hurts you too, but unless it’s a mirror match, you’ll usually prevent way more damage with a well-timed use than you take from the card itself.
Flames of the Firebrand: 4.5
You may remember this card as Arc Lightning back in the day. And while this 3-for-1 spell may not have shined that brightly in faster formats, it’s a card advantage engine in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. Against Goblins, Peacekeepers, Ancient Wilds, and many other forces, you cant easily remove multiple threats at once. And because you can split the damage however you wish, none of it is ever wasted; just send whatever you don’t use straight to your foe’s face.
Flames of the Blood Hand: 2.0
Could this be a game-winning card against Ajani’s or Liliana’s decks? Maybe. But in most circumstances, Flames of the Blood Hand is going to serve as a single-shot burn spell with no impact on board position. And in a creature-heavy format like Duels, holding onto player-only burn (albeit fairly efficient burn) will cost you. You’ll often find there’s a huge threat on the board you can’t remove, a situation that’s more common than finding your foe at exactly 4 life.
Prodigal Pyromancer: 3.5
I know what you’re thinking: if WiNGSPAN loves Flamebreak so much, why keep the Pyromancer main deck? The answer is simple, really: if you can land Timmy on the battlefield, you may never need to cast Earthquake, Firebrand, or the like. Just by existing, he keeps many powerful creatures off the board. And when he doesn’t have juicy targets? Free, unblockable direct damage. I wouldn’t say you need him in Born of Flame, but he’s useful more often than not.
Chandra’s Outrage: 3.0
While Chandra’s Outrage does what it does well, it also does it expensively. Leaving four mana open to eliminate a single threat just feels wrong, especially if your target ends up being a 1-toughness utility creature. Yes, the bonus damage to that creature’s controller is a nice add-in, but two damage isn’t going to keep anyone up at night. Hell, it could backfire if an when you’re forced to burn your own Magma Phoenix. I’d keep two Outrages in the deck, but no more.
Firewing Phoenix: 3.0
Just like the last card, Firewing Phoenix is powerful, but expensive. Yes, four damage a turn is enticing, but eight mana for a full-scale resurrection is pricey, especially on a 1-toughness creature. Supposedly the Firewing is meant to be a 4/2, and will be updated in a patch. But until that happens (hell, possibly after it, too), I’d recommend only one of these in deck. You can’t afford to rez two at once, and one is just enough to give Jace a few headaches.
Furnace Whelp: 2.5
If you can get Furnace Whelp into play and keep it there more than one turn, congratulations, it might be useful. But in many cases, opponents will prioritize its removal, leaving you tapped out and regretting your decision. As with all firebreathing creatures, you can’t afford to run too many. That’s precisely why I still recommend using Dragon Hatchlings instead.
Obsidian Fireheart: 4.0
As a mythic rare, this 4/4 elemental doesn’t exactly inspire fear. Three mana for one damage a turn? Pshhh. But it turns out Obsidian Fireheart is an insidious
little mid-sized bastard. Once he has infected your enemies’ lands, they’ll continue to burnfor the rest of the game. The Fireheart doesn’t need to be in play, and it really only takes two or three blaze counters to put your foes on an increasingly worrying clock. If that forces them to overextend right into an Earthquake? All the better.
Chandra’s Fury: 1.0
This card sucks for so many reasons, I refuse to list them. If you’re at five or more mana and Chandra’s Fury is the card you’re praying for, I question your ability, your moral character, and your choice of religious beliefs.
Beacon of Destruction: 3.5
Expensive, but impressive, Beacon of Destruction is the only way to instantly deal five damage to your targets, whatever they may be. Enemies expecting a Chandra’s Outrage may feel safe equipping their 5-toughness creatures with the latest gear, only to be robbed by your bomb-sized blast. Since there’s only one to unlock, it’s a pretty safe single inclusion. And because it recycles itself, you can always use it early on, knowing you might get it back for a late-game finisher.
Cone of Flame: 2.0
In the perfect circumstances, Cone of Flame is a more evil version of Flames of the Firebrand. Why take out three 1/1 creatures when you can kill a 1/1, 2/2, and a 3/3? But more often than not, such delicious targets won’t exist, forcing you to use yourself or your creatures to fulfill the obligatory three-target requirement of the card. Needless to say, that might not be particularly convenient to your gameplan, which normally consists of not losing life or permanents.
Fire Elemental: 2.0
The older versions of this card saw a lot of play, but not because Fire Elemental was any good. Nope, it’s actually because boobs. And, believe it or not, a card whose only attraction is attraction isn’t particularly useful. Ditch this immediately.
Fire Servant: 4.0
While this damage-doubling creature may not have burning breasts, it does have something called game-ending utility. As Duels 2012 players know, Flame Servant must be dealt with the turn it’s dropped, or (in most cases) your opponent won’t have another opportunity to win. Flamebreaks become utter cataclysms, and X-damage spells become 2X damage spells. Algebra has never been so fun. That said, Flame Servant is five mana to cast, so you may want to wait until you have extra burn in hand before playing it. Getting it knocked off the board before you have a chance to use its power is never enjoyable.
Magma Phoenix: 3.0
Easily the card I’ve wavered most frequently on, Magma Phoenix is great sometimes, okay other times, and terrible the rest of the time… depending on the board position. Against swarm decks like Odric’s, this card has insane utility, especially since you can pop it yourself with something like Flame Slash when needed. But in many situations, you’ll be the one at a life disadvantage, and putting yourself three points back may seem scary. Still, the utility of an on-demand Firebreak with wings is worth something, so I usually keep one in-deck.
Skarrgan Firebird: 2.0
At first glance, anything with Bloodthirst 3 is going to look appealing. But the reality is you’re going to be holding this card in your hand a long time waiting for it, since casting a 3/3 flyer for six mana is never worth it. The only problem? Casting a 6/6 flyer is barely worth it, too. The fact that its resurrection ability is both paid (unlike Chandra’s Phoenix) and conditional (unlike Magma Phoenix), means this card is a gigantic, flaming, pain in the ass.
Generally speaking, instants with alternative (free) costs have always been pretty powerful. Force of Will, Misdirection, and Sickening Shoal, for example. Fireblast is no exception. You still have the option of paying a little more than you normally would for its effect, but the ability to hurl four damage at whatever you want for free, even while tapped out, is extremely versatile. You’ll almost always catch opponents off-guard, making game-winning plays when they thought you were done for.
A little less obvious than Fire Servant, Hostility is a card that must be killed in one turn lest your foes see true pain thereafter. A 6/6 body with haste for 6 is certainly welcome, but the option to turn Red Sun’s Zenith into a creature-generating powerhouse is better. Where you’d normally cast it for X = 5 and deal five damage, it will instead create five 3/1 tokens for fifteen. Now Flamebreak won’t just clear out blockers, it’ll also create three new things your enemies wish they could block.
Inferno Titan: 5.0
Worst case scenario, this game-winning card gets Unmade and you just overpaid for a copy of Flames of the Firebrand. Best case scenario, you have a free Flames of the Firebrand every turn (removing potential chump blockers), not to mention a creature that can swing for at least twelve damage, too. Inferno Titan is unarguably the most dreadful permanent your opponent can see hit the board, and should be in your deck despite its beefier mana cost.
Disaster Radius: 2.0
Since most of the creatures in your deck don’t cost six mana, Disaster Radius is, more often than not, a really, really expensive board-clearing spell. Yes, it’s a one-sided effect, but it relies on so many variables: what you have in hand, whether you have seven Mountains, etc. Even worse, you’ll often find that creatures big enough to use with Disaster Radius are also the ones you most desperately need to get on the battlefield, forcing you into a no-win decision.
Flame Wave: 3.5
Unlike Disaster Radius, Flame Wave always does what it says it does: make your opponent wish he never joined your game. Four damage is certainly enough to dent most creatures, if not outright destroy them, making this card an excellent precursor to an attack, or a lava-based followup to what seemed like a suicidal swing. Granted, Flame Wave is seven mana, so you can’t expect it to get you out of early pinches. But it’s a reliable and extremely stylish way to end creature stalls.
Lightning Bolt: 5.0
There isn’t much to say about Lightning Bolt – it’s one of Magic’s oldest and most beloved cards for a reason. No matter what decklist you ultimately devise, not including Lightning Bolt would be a crime.
Born of Flame deck list
There is probably more than one way to build this deck, but with a proliferation of extremely middling cards (I’m looking at you, Fire Elemental*), making cuts is easier than in many decks. You’ll still have to choose which, if any firebreathing creatures to keep, as well as picking your paid-recursion Phoenix cards carefully. In both cases, you can’t just take everything and expect it to work; you simply won’t have enough mana. Powerful removal was my top priority, with game-ending bombs left in place to do their job after the battlefield has been scorched and scoured.
- 1 Earthquake
- 1 Lighting Bolt
- 2 Flame Slash
- 2 Red Sun’s Zenith
- 2 Dragon Hatchling
- 3 Searing Blaze
- 4 Searing Spear
- 2 Torch Fiend
- 3 Chandra’s Phoenix
- 2 Flamebreak
- 2 Flames of the Firebrand
- 1 Prodigal Pyromancer
- 2 Chandra’s Outrage
- 1 Firewing Phoenix
- 2 Obsidian Fireheart
- 1 Beacon of Destruction
- 2 Fire Servant
- 1 Magma Phoenix
- 1 Fireblast
- 1 Hostility
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 24 Mountain
Born of Flame gameplay video
* And not because of boobs, either!