Confession: I'm in Love with 12 Bolt Burn in Standard
Andifeated is known for loving Islands, playing control decks, and using many counterspells alongside powerful planeswalkers and instants that draw cards, but he has something to admit: He has a secret passion for Lightning Bolt, and he's finally coming clean about his burning hot Standard affair, featuring powerful cards from Ravnica Allegiance. If you're looking for a cheap way to enter Standard in paper or Magic Arena, this article is for you!
My Favorite Strategy in All of Magic
If you know me quite well or have played with me in tournaments, you might already know my preference for blue control decks that never tap out, react to all game actions at instant speed, and only progress in its own game plan during the opponent's end step. Last year, I only registered control decks in Standard tournaments. In Modern, I was going nuts over Jace, the Mind Sculptor's unbanning and tried all sorts of control decks, like Dimir Fearies, Grixis Control, Jeskai Control, Azorius Control, Izzet Blue Moon, and even As Foretold Living End. In Legacy, I mostly stuck to my trusty Grixis Control or Azorius Miracles. So, you could say that I'm really a Control Mage by heart. I just love having as many options as possible in a game of Magic, and don't like playing "on rails" wherein your deck's proactive strategy dictates most of your turns. I want to understand what my opponent is about to do; I want to disrupt their plan with my knowledge and tricky answers. That's just the way I enjoy Magic the most. It may not be the best way – especially in formats like Modern, where your answers can't always line up well against all available threats, or in Standard, where games can snowball quickly out of control if you don't manage to keep the battlefield clean in the early turns. But Wizards has done a great job at making control decks viable again in all formats in the past few years.
Control Isn't Viable for Magic Arena Ranked Play
When the Magic Arena Ranked Preseason began, I realized that a slow control strategy would not be the best way to rank-up fast and reach the elusive Mythic rank as I wanted to do – especially as there are currently no sideboard games and having access to specialized answers for your opponent's strategy in games two and three is very important for control decks. I, therefore, tried out the Mono Red Aggro deck since I was constantly getting paired against Bant Turbofog and Jeskai Control, and the red deck was a win favorite against these archetypes. I enjoyed it very much and, as expected, won a lot of matches. It turns out that Experimental Frenzy is an exceptionally strong card advantage card, and the ability to play cards like Risk Factor, Lightning Strike, Shock, and Wizard's Lightning at instant speed makes the deck very interesting to play. The deck definitely caught my attention.
The Cult of Rakdos Is Back!
We're receiving new cards featuring the Rakdos guild with the release of Ravnica Allegiance. The new mechanic Spectacle allows us to cast cards for either a cheaper mana cost (if your opponent has lost a life during that turn) or for additional effects. This fits perfectly into a red Burn deck! There are two cards that immediately caught my eyes when I looked over the complete set for the first time:
Skewer the Critics is the third Standard-legal Lightning Bolt homage, which means you can now play 12 Bolts in your Standard deck! Light Up the Stage is very efficient at providing burn spells for cheap, so that you don't run out of gas mid-game. You might not know it as I'm a control player, but I simply love Lightning Bolt. It's one of my favorite cards to cast, and I believe the card gives one of the best gameplay experiences that Magic has to offer. It's also considered as one of the strongest cards in Magic history, so whenever I have the opportunity or find an excuse to play it in my Modern or Legacy deck, I happily include it. Why wouldn't I choose to play similar cards in Standard as well?
The fact that it can serve so many different roles – catching you up in tempo when you're falling behind by killing a creature that costs more mana; finishing the game by dealing the last needed damage to kill off your opponent; serving as a bad combat trick in order to kill a big creature after blocking your small attacker – makes it a powerful and flexible card. There are almost endless scenarios where cards like Lightning Bolt can be useful.
When Ravnica Allegiance was finally available on Magic Arena, I started off with this list:
You might notice that this deck does not contain mythic rares – only six rares, eight uncommons, and the rest of the build are almost completely commons. This means the deck is very cheap to build, making it the perfect entry point to playing MTGA Standard or even trying to make your first splash in Ranked Play.
Since there's no sideboard in Ranked Play, I'm not including one here as well. However, if you need one, the most problematic cards for this deck are Shalai, Voice of Plenty, Lyra Dawnbringer, and cards like March of the Multitudes. Thus, I'd include cards like Lava Coil and Fight with Fire to deal with the pesky angels and probably Goblin Chainwhirler if you're worried about lifelink tokens. If Absorb gives you trouble, you could run Banefire or Rekindling Phoenix to race the big green creatures.
Why Should I Play 12 Bolt Burn?
Since my Magic Arena collection is pretty big at this point, I'm by no means in need of a budget deck like this due to card availability issues. I, however, still choose to play this deck for a number of reasons.
First, time is a really important factor if you want to become a Mythic rank player. This deck takes less time to complete a game than all the other Standard decks, so this deck will help you achieve the highest rank faster – if you win more matches than you lose.
Second, Bant Turbofog is a very potent deck right now, and I'm struggling to beat it consistently with other decks because the printing of Wilderness Reclamation has put its power level through the roof! A fast deck featuring a lot of burn spells with instant speed, however, will have an easy time beating this clunky combo deck. Furthermore, since your burn spells can also be pointed at creatures, plus your staying power due to Risk Factor and Light Up the Stage, you can easily out-grind creature decks like Mono White Weenie or green decks featuring Wildgrowth Walker. 12 Bolt Burn has very strong draws that can even win unfavorable matchups, although most matchups will be very close anyway.
On a different note, I generally shy away from aggressive strategies because their gameplay patterns are somewhat dictated by their proactive game plan, as I've already described before. I don't like being forced into overextending the battlefield then losing to Deafening Clarion or having my combo shut down by a generic piece of interaction. Again, I like having more options than my opponent. 12 Bolt Burn has many instants and modal cards that I can use in different ways alongside its card draw effects that give me more routes to choose from during a game, making this aggressive red deck really different. It offers the gameplay that I love in blue control decks that operate at instant speed, while forcing the opponent to have the right answers at the right time, and punishes bad draws and clunky hands really hard.
If you're struggling with becoming a Mythic rank player or beating Bant Turbofog; if you're looking for a cheap way to start playing Standard; or if you simply enjoy winning games by casting Lightning Bolt as much as I do, then this deck is for you!
Finally, in order to convince you of my love for Lightning Bolt, let me show you how I've recently (and expensively) upgraded my Lightning Bolts:
What's your favorite version of Lightning Bolt and how do you like the deck that I showed you today? Let me know in the comments!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.