I’m just going to get this out of the way: for the last fifteen years I’ve been obsessed with building janky counterburn decks similar to Dodge and Burn. I put together one of the first effective builds for the previously mediocre Cloudburst deck in Duels 2012, and also managed to salvage Mindstorms in Duels 2013. In other words, I carry a fairly significant amount of Izzet street cred.
So don’t take this lightly: Dodge and Burn is the most powerful blue/red deck to ever see play in Duels of the Planeswalkers, and is at the very least a meta-contender for A-tier in the Magic 2014 deck tier list.
What makes D&B so great? Unlike most of its wannabe midrange and control cousins (Masks of the Dimir, Enter the Dracomancer, Firewave), this Izzet pile is packed with cost-effective board wipes and tempo-saving countermagic. In other words, this is one of the only decks with the tools to destroy early threats en masse and generate the card advantage necessary to pull into the midgame.
As such, it’s more than capable in fights with typical Avacyn’s Glory, Deadwalkers, Mind Maze, Elf, and Samurai builds. Sure, Dodge and Burn may not be well equipped to win against stuff like Chant of Mul Daya, Firewave, or Guardians of Light, but having a handful of bad matchups in a game with fifteen decks isn’t really a big problem.
Despite a generally high power level, this blue and red setup is not something you can simply autopilot. Playing your burn, counters, and sweepers as soon as you get them will result in huge card disadvantage, lots of self-inflicted damage, and waste opportunities to trick your opponent into bad plays. You can learn a lot of strategy nuance from reading my previous Izzet deck guides linked above, but here are some general rules to keep in mind during your time with Dodge and Burn.
- If it’s not an immediate, unburnable threat, don’t counter it
- If you can afford to lose life, hold back on your sweepers
- Burn to the face is good if it’s massive of lethal; otherwise, hit creatures
- Use your opponent’s hesitation to buy you the time you need to win
Most of this should be self explanatory, but I find new players (or players new to permission/control decks) will break all of these rules. They’ll counter a 5/5 creature, even though they need that counter to protect their Wee Dragonauts for a game-winning attack next turn. Rookies will use Sulfurous Blast to stop two 2/2 creatures, even when they’re at 18 life and the opponent has enough lands and cards in hand to all but guarantee a better end step card trade. Newbies will waste a Searing Spear on an opponent turn 2, or throw it away on an inconsequential critter late game, despite the other player being at only 7 life. And of course, new players will predictably cast everything they draw, including land, essentially signaling their entire hands and battle plans to the enemy.
Can you be a moron and win with this deck? Sure, possibly. But if you really wanted to play on autopilot, perhaps Avacyn’s Glory or Hunter’s Strength is more your style. For anyone who’s far more interested in planning, setting, and detonating gigantic traps, Dodge and Burn is for you!
Dodge and Burn sample deck list (by mana cost)
- 2x Pongify
- 2x Peek
- 2x Earthquake
- 1x Banefire
- 4x Remand
- 3x Searing Spear
- 4x Wee Dragonauts
- 2x Electrolyze
- 2x Cancel
- 4x Char
- 2x Volcanic Fallout
- 2x Browbeat
- 4x Sulfurous Blast
- 1x Fireblast
- 1x Spelltwine
- 4x Terramorphic Expanse
- 10x Island
- 10x Mountain
This low-creature approach relies on board-sweeping burn to kill off opposing armies while chipping away at your opponent’s life total. Once they’re in the red zone, it’s relatively easy to win with one or two lucky Dragonauts swings or just a massive pile of burn directly to the face.
There are certainly other ways to build this deck, including less sweeper-focused approaches that give you additional attack options via Kiln Fiend. Or you could just cut blue out entirely and cobble together a strange version of “red deck wins.” Let me know your build in the comments section!
Dodge and Burn card-by-card analysis (alphabetical)
Banefire, 3.5/5.0 (4.0/5.0 versus control)
The first card I’m looking at is one I believe most players also severely overrate. Banefire is a great tool in lategame/control matchups (Dimir, demons, Izzet, etc.) where it’s common to sit on tons of land with 7 cards in hand. But as far as mana:damage ratios go, this burn spell is one of the worst in the deck. Almost Searing Spear and Char grant more bang for your buck, and all the board wipes offer the possibility of card advantage. Leave this out of your builds unless you know you’re facing someone playing with countermagic.
Breaking Point, 2.5/5.0 (3.0/5.0 in larger matches)
If this conditional Wrath-style card was an instant, it would be an auto-include for Dodge and Burn. But at sorcery speed? Not so much. Smart opponents will take the six damage almost every time, which may sound great until you’re taking eight damage from their not-killed creatures next turn. Breaking Point does allow you to take down fatties (in theory), but in most situations it’s better to have a more versatile spell.
Unlike Breaking Point, Browbeat is a card that rarely comes with a downside. Sure, your enemies may not let you draw three cards for three mana, but neither will this spell nuke your Kiln Fiends and Dragonauts when worse comes to worse. In other words, Browbeat is always useful, whereas Breaking Point is dead-in-hand whenever there are no creatures on the table or the only threatening ones are yours.
It’s a counterspell. It counters spells. Your foes like casting spells. You get to say no. The two blue requirement will sometimes be an issue, but usually not.
Cerebral Vortex, 4.0/5.0
I’m definitely on the fence with Cerebral Vortex, as it’s incredibly flexible throughout the game. You should be using it on yourself during your opponent’s end step 85% of the time, but there will be the rare occasion when casting it on your turn to fuel a pump creature or make a land drop is the right play. There’s also the rare but important option of burning your enemy… just make sure you’ve got lethal damage in hand before filling theirs with new options.
Other than having the best flavor text on any card in the deck, Char is an immensely powerful spell capable of killing most creatures and inflicting massive pain to your opposing planeswalkers. Paired with Kiln Fiend or Dragonauts, you’ve got an easy way to clear blockers or do massive direct damage. Yes, you’ll take a searing yourself, but sometimes you must accept two damage now in order to prevent twenty damage later.
Charmbreaker Devils, 4.0/5.0
While relatively expensive, Charmbreaker Devils basically win the game if you make it to your next upkeep. These guys are like Mnemonic Wall + Kiln Fiend on steroids, offering everything other than the evasion needed to push them through. Their four toughness puts them out of range of most of your universal burn, and their recycling skill can produce nasty lockdowns even if the devils themselves can’t attack. Expect these guys to be prime removal targets.
Compulsive Research, 4.5/5.0
Drawing three cards is immensely powerful, even when paired with sorcery speed and a huge drawback. I wouldn’t run every copy of both Compulsive Research and Browbeat, but you can’t really go wrong with either. One deckbuilding tip, though: since ditched cards go to the graveyard, this spell is significantly better in decks using Mnemonic Wall and Charmbreaker Devils.
Djinn Illuminatus, 2.0/5.0
This creature’s effect is ridiculously powerful, basically allowing you to churn spells out as often as you can afford to. Unfortunately, he’s sitting on an expensive (and not terribly durable) body. You’ll have this card dead in your hand far more often than you’ll get to use his game-winning perk.
Draining Whelk, 3.5/5.0
Draining Whelk is super powerful, but I’m just not a fan of it in most instances. Against aggro decks, it’s too expensive to stop key threats and less likely to absorb something big late game (if you survive to late game). Against control and midrange piles, it’s still expensive and too much of a liability to sit on for six mana. This guy’s great against Eldrazi, Hunter’s Strength, and Lords of Darkness, but there are twelve other decks you’ve got to account for. Marginally playable.
Kill all the creatures. Kill all the players. Trigger your Dragonauts and Devils, even with X=0. Earthquake is an incredibly powerful spell that makes decks like Avacyn’s Glory, Sliver Hive, and Deadwalkers cry. Don’t feel bad… they deserve it.
Three mana for a toned-down Flames of the Firebrand would be good enough, but card draw throws this instant into epic territory. No Dodge and Burn deck should be without this cheap, powerful, flexible card. I especially enjoy the art, which depicts a Selesnya hippie being roasted to death.
At first, I doubted the inclusion of a “red deck wins” card in a two-colored deck. But the option to nuke anything instantly without paying mana is just too broken to ever be bad. It’s possible to win on turn 4 thanks to this card, and pulling bullshit swings out of nowhere on any turn with Devils/Fiend/Dragonauts is not unheard of. Even if you’re forced to pay the regular mana cost, four instant damage for six is still a fair deal.
Future Sight, 3.0/5.0 (4.5/5.0 in blue-heavy mana base)
Getting access to more spells is always good, but getting all the blue mana necessary to cast this enchantment may be tricky. I prefer to load up on mountains over islands, but a blue-heavy build may be able to sustain this card more easily. It’s a fantastic card-advantage machine if you can play it, but don’t force your mana base for this option alone.
Gather Specimens, 1.5/5.0
There are dream scenarios where you get 50 zombie tokens instead of your opponent after casting this card. They won’t happen.
Invoke the Firemind, 2.5/5.0
Okay kids, let’s do the math. If you spent six mana on Invoke the Firemind, you could deal three damage or draw three cards. If you spent the same resources on other cards in your deck, you could do up to twelve damage or draw six cards. Despite the flexibility, Invoke the Firemind is a raw deal for Izzet. Don’t use it.
Kiln Fiend, 3.0/5.0
An absolute beast of an attacker, Kiln Fiend can swing for nearly lethal damage on turn 3 and easily lethal damage on turn 4. That said, it’s also extremely vulnerable to removal… both your own and your opponent’s. This guy will have a target on his back, and with only two toughness he’s likely to be assassinated quickly. Since I prefer damage-based, sweeper-heavy Dodge and Burn builds, I leave Kiln Fiend out… but he could work pretty well with Breaking Point.
Memory Lapse, 3.5/5.0 (4.0/5.0 vs aggro)
Unlike Remand, Memory Lapse prevents your opponent from immediately recasting his or her spell. But also unlike Remand, Memory Lapse doesn’t net you card equity and can’t be used as profitably on your own spells. This is a good card in the aggro matchup, but doesn’t provide enough tempo against everything else for me to wholly endorse it.
Mnemonic Wall, 4.0/5.0
While you may not find Mnemonic Wall in my example build, don’t take that to mean this card’s bad… there are just too many good cards in Dodge and Burn to include them all. This 0/4 is capable of blocking most threats while also surviving your own creature-sweeping spells. Best of all, it nets you the instant or sorcery of your choice. This is a great play following a turn four board wipe and is useful throughout drawn-out games.
Opportunity, 3.5/5.0 (4.5/5.0 vs battlecruiser or control)
Drawing three cards isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Drawing four cards. And while that’s certainly true, the prohibitive cost of Opportunity doesn’t sit well with me considering the large number of dangerous early-game decks. Sure, you can sit on this baby during bouts with Chant of Mul Daya, but you may not live to cast it against speedier adversaries.
Overwhelming Intellect, 1.0/5.0
Expensive and narrow? Terrible.
Some players scoff at Peek, but putting two in your deck essentially allows you to build a 58-card deck with two “free” cantrips/recons. Knowing what your enemy has allows much smarter use of your counters, burns, and creatures… a critical tactical consideration. If that wasn’t enough, Peek’s draw ability can help you avoid mulligans on borderline hands and it pumps your creatures for just one mana. Awesome!
Pillage, 3.5/5.0 (4.0/5.0 vs multicolor decks or samurai)
The ability to set your enemy back a land (or even a whole color!) is powerful, as is the option to demolish an opponent’s Jitte or Coat of Arms. But this may not be enough oomph to save you against faster decks on the draw. Plan accordingly.
It sucks to admit, but there are just some creatures you won’t be able to beat with low-level burn or stall-type countermagic. And if something like It That Betrays or Vigor makes it to the battlefield, you are pretty much screwed if your plan was basically “spam red spells.” Pongify instantly negates mega-threats like these, turning them into a much-more-burnable 3/3 token. This spell can also be used to “save” your creatures or simply delay a lethal attack for one turn.
Reins of Power, 4.0/5.0
My favorite combo in all of Magic: the Gathering involves this card and Dracoplasm, but in the absence of such an opportunity, this instant is relegated to just “very good” status. It’s a hilarious trick to flip on enemies who’ve amassed an unstoppable army, but it can also be used mid-combat to negate an in-progress swing. More hilariously, use it to control creatures with activated abilities and turn them against one another.
In addition to your life total, your cards, and your lands, the biggest resource you’ve got in a game of Magic is tempo. Tempo represents your deck’s ability to play the cards it needs to at the right time to pressure or stall an opponent, and Remand is a tempo-generating goldmine. Yes, your foes get to cast their precious spell again next turn, but hey – they might not survive till next turn, or you might draw into a better answer thanks to Remand’s cantrip. It should also be noted Remand can be used to save your own spells from counters or to drive up triggers on your Izzet-y creatures.
Searing Spear, 5.0/5.0
Efficient burn aimed at creatures or players. Use every copy.
In most instances, Spelltwine will either win your the game the turn you play it or immediately reverse all momentum your foe previously carried. Almost every deck in Duels of the Planeswalkers is stuffed with splashy removal, burn, ramp, and token generation, giving you oodles of juicy targets to ‘twine. Cast your old Browbeat plus your “friend’s” Armageddon, or find a use for Char + Path to Exile. Huge bonus: Spelltwine triggers your pump critters three times. If you can’t win the game with that, I can’t help you.
Spirit Away, 2.5/5.0
A cool effect that’s just too damn expensive without a guaranteed payoff.
Instant X removal with the option to cycle is super powerful. The lack of player damage could be seen as an upside or downside, depending on your build. Personally, I’m biased against this card, but the reality is you’ll be happy to see it in almost any situation midgame or later.
Stolen Goods, 2.0/5.0
Let’s see… you could spend turn 4 killing your opponent with Kiln Fiend or Wee Dragonauts, or you could pay four mana to gamble your turn on whatever your opponent topdecks. No thanks.
Sulfurous Blast, 5.0/5.0
I didn’t know this card existed, so I was blown away the first time I read it. It’s a Flamebreak that hits the air. It’s an instant Pyroclasm. In addition to destroying humans, zombies, samurai, illusions, and saprolings en masse, this thing helps tick away at your opponent’s life total, making the killing blow easier a few turns later. Plus, it’s perfect fuel for your Wee Dragonauts during the combat phase (all the tiny creatures below look like burning ants from up here!).
What’s that? You want to Banefire me for eleven? That’s funny… it looks like you really want to Banefire yourself! Redirect effects have always been powerful in Magic the Gathering, and swerve is no exception. It’s not perfect in every matchup, but even against spell-light decks like Hunter’s Strength there are opportunities to cause unforeseen chaos. It also functions as countermagic against blue decks.
Terramorphic Expanse, 4.5/5.0
Since Dodge and Burn really doesn’t get rolling until turn 4 or so, I highly recommend packing your deck with all copies of this land-fetching card. You can easily set up your Sulfurous Blasts and Cancels while also slightly thinning your library of remaining lands.
Overcosted and narrow. Terrible, terrible art.
Volcanic Fallout, 4.5/5.0
Remember when I was talking about an instant-speed Pyroclasm? This is it! Volcanic Fallout is incredibly powerful, potentially laying waste to all your enemies’ ranks as early as turn three. I’ve docked half a point because it lacks the versatility of Sulfurous Blast, but the reality is you’ll want to run both/all of these options against the faster, creature-focused decks.
Wee Dragonauts, 5.0/5.0
Wee Dragonauts is, by far, the most reliable creature and win condition in Dodge and Burn. As a 3-drop 1/3 flyer, it’s already a capable defensive option. But paired up with your plethora of burn, draw spells, and other tricks, these twins are brutal, evasive assassins. The fact that they can survive Sulfurous Blast, Volcanic Fallout, low-level Starstorms, and any level Earthquake is incredibly powerful, as is the fast that they can end the game the turn after they come out with the right card combination. Do not under any circumstances cut these from your deck.