The Fastest Deck in Pioneer: A Guide to Mono Red Burn
Magic can be a long, grindy game, not to mention expensive. If you wanna play Magic's newest premier format, the format that you can play at all of the Regional Championship Qualifiers around you, Pioneer Mono-Red Burn is quick, cheap (~$115), and powerful. While your friend goes 10 minutes overtime in their Rakdos Mirror and gets a migraine, you can go to your local gas station & pick up a snack with plenty of time to spare after you 2-0 your opponent in 10 minutes.
In this article, I'll go over the plan of the deck, each card, important or corner-case interactions, and the sideboard. The list we are focusing on today won a Pioneer Preliminary just a couple of days ago (5/11/2023) and is just over 100 dollars.
The plan of the deck is quite simple: you are playing the most efficient cards to kill your opponent as quickly as possible. You will want to get as much damage as possible out of each card. This means making sure you can trigger your Prowess Creatures as much as possible.
4 Bonecrusher Giant
4 Kumano Faces Kakkazan
The 16 one-drops and 4 Viashino Pyromancers are cards built to curve out well early and start dealing damage as quickly as possible. The 4 Kumano Faces Kakkazan are, in my opinion, the best one drop in the deck, though, that is up for debate in the community at large. It pings your opponent right away grows your creature, and becomes a 2/2 with haste with a relevant static ability. The +1/+1 counter doesn't seem relevant until you're swinging at your opponent with a 2/3 Monastery Swiftspear that also pumps itself each turn. The 4 Bonecrusher Giants serve as your curve toppers. A 2-mana burn spell and 3-mana 4/3 are not that great individually for this deck, but when stapled together become insanely powerful. Stomp triggers prowess for all your creatures and just deals 2 damage which is still just a chunk of your opponent's life total. Not only that but the fact Bonecrusher Giant Shocks your opponent when targeted really is just the cherry on top for a burn deck. Soul-Scar Mage's ability to put -1/-1 counters for non-combat damage can thoroughly muck up your opponent's combat math. Lastly, 12 of your creatures, the Soul-Scar Mage, Viashino Pyromancer, and Ghitu Lavarunner, are wizards which will be notable later.
4 Play with Fire
These are the best direct damage spells in Pioneer if they can be enabled. Wizard's Lightning is often just Lightning Bolt in this deck thanks to our high Wizard count. Skewer the Critics, though easier to enable, is only a sorcery, which restricts how tricky you can be with it, but as a spell that can deal 3 damage for one mana, it is exceedingly good. Play with Fire is the most fair spell in this deck in my opinion. It is never exceedingly powerful but will always deal 2 damage and often will allow you to scry.
Light Up the Stage is very good. The spectacle ability is very easy to turn on and in combination with how low the curve is for this deck the timing restriction is rarely relevant and essentially reads 1-mana draw two cards.
2 Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
The lands are no joke one the best parts about this deck. The flexibility and reach provided by them means that as the game goes longer you can still apply a lot of pressure. I have killed and been killed by so many Den of the Bugbears and Ramunap Ruins. Sokenzan can introduce 2 more hasty creatures that often deal the final points of damage.
Stomp vs Brave the Elements. Against Monowhite often when your opponent is on the defensive they try to use a Brave the Elements to try to blow you out in combat. This would prevent all the damage of your creatures on their creatures and likely wipe your board. However, Stomp also says “Damage can't be prevented this turn.” which overrides their protection from red and allows you to continue your aggression. Be careful though if you plan to do this try not to target a creature with your Stomp as a second Brave the Elements would then make the targetted creature an illegal target your Stomp would not resolve and damage is still prevented.
Etching of Kumano vs Mono-Green & Other Decks
Etching of Kumano's static ability replaces death with exiling, which will stop any death triggers. This is often an obvious interaction but still an important one to state for newer players. This means against Mono-Green their Cavalier of Thorns, Old-Growth Troll, or flipped Polukranos, will each not get their death triggers. Some other places this is relevant is against Rakdos bolting their Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger with its' sacrifice trigger on the stack will exile it and prevent you from ever having to deal with it.
Killing your own Creatures vs Atraxa
With the rise of Indomitable Creativity, Transmogrify, and Neoform for Atraxa, Grand Unifier many novices see an Atraxa as the end of the game. This is not necessarily true, in some situations it will behoove you to attack with all your creatures and then use one of your spells to kill whatever creature is blocked by Atraxa to then prevent the damage from being dealt and the life from being gained.
Due to the sheer variety of decks available in Pioneer, it is not feasible to provide a sideboard guide to all the relevant matchups. Instead, I will go through each card in the sideboard and give a brief explanation of its use.
3 Rending Volley: Rending Volley is very good against Greasefang, Mono-White Humans, Mono-Blue Spirits, and especially 5c Midrange as it kills Omnath for 1 mana and can do so with the draw trigger on the stack meaning they won't get to gain life as they don't have the opportunity to play a land.
1 Soul-Guide Lantern: Lantern is a pretty specific card. It hates on all graveyard decks, this means Gearhulk Creativity, Greasefang, and Neoform. Against Neoform you cannot activate it in response to a delve creature so you will have to be careful to fire it off at the most opportune time. It is a tricky balance to strike but is heavily rewarded once perfected.
2 Fry: Fry is good against the same decks as Rending Volley but can also be brought in against Control to kill any of their Planeswalkers.
2 Roast: Due to the fact that Fry and Roast are so similar in naming you may think the decks they are good against are similar however this is untrue. Roast is primarily here as a card to kill Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. It is also good against Gruul Vehicles.
2 Chandra, Dressed to Kill: Chandra is for adding some ability to grind. A planeswalker that essentially draws a card is very good and can provide the necessary card advantage to finish a game against a deck like Rakdos.
2 Goblin Chainwhirler: Goblin Chainwhirler is a monster against any other aggressive deck. It will sweep Mono-white Humansboard early and often. It can also kill any mana-elf in its sight. A 3/3 first strike is quite formidable in combat as well.
1 Kari Zev's Expertise: This steal spell is good in a lot of matchups as taking your opponent's biggest threat when they are low on life is very good. This spell also has a word very few other Threaten (I think this would be useful to have a picture of threaten here as it was like the first steal spell) effects have, “Vehicle”, this makes this card exceptionally good against Gruul Vehicles. Stealing other things like Sheoldred is good too though.
2 Rampaging Ferocidon: Ferocidon is here for the ability to prevent life gain. Its other ability is very good against go-wide aggro decks but against those decks getting it down on turn 3 is often too late. Ferocidon is good against 5c Midrange, Angels, Atraxa Decks, and really anything where your opponent is planning on gaining lots of life.
Hopefully, this was helpful for you! This deck is an absolute blast to play, only !$115, and I cannot emphasize enough how nice it is to have time after rounds and not have your head hurting from long games. It's a great choice for an RCQ where a deck like Angels isn't gonna be popular.