(Author’s Note: I like to think I’m ahead of the times. I had this article ready to go about three weeks ago, before 7th Edition officially rotated into Standard. And then Star City went down for "a few days." So I’ve been sitting on it since then. In that time, many other people seem to have jumped on the Wildfire bandwagon, such as Theron Martin and Sean McKeown. Well, I ain’t scrapping a good article just because it’s late – so here it is for your perusal. Hopefully I’ve covered a few tidbits that Sean and Theron missed.)
When I was perusing the cards from 7th Edition rotating into Standard, looking for fun things to build decks around, I was immediately drawn to Wildfire. Any card with a global removal effect such as Wildfire’s has a lot of potential… So, of course, I had to build some.
But first, the Wildfire Historical Treatise, also known among English students as the "introductory paragraph," the starting point of many a thesis: Wildfire was one of the more powerful cards from Urza’s Saga and saw considerable play in UBC and Standard tournaments when it was tournament legal. Using artifact mana acceleration and hardy creatures, the deck would use Wildfire to clear the board and deprive an opponent of both mana and offense. UBC Wildfire decks were usually mono-red (although some U/R variants running Tinker saw some success), depending upon Thran Dynamo and Worn Powerstone to provide Wildfire-proof mana acceleration and Temporal Aperture to get the deck to its kill sources, usually Karn, Masticore or Covetous Dragon. The best Standard version was the version run by Kai Budde, "German Dragon," a mono-red deck that had access to Cursed Scroll and Fire Diamond as well as Covetous Dragon, a flying 6/5 that (surprise!) could live through the Wildfire. Kai won Worlds 1999 with this deck, steamrolling the competition.
The theme of most Wildfire decks of the day was the same: accelerate mana with artifact mana (Thran Dynamo, Fire Diamond, and Worn Powerstone), put fatty into play, cast Wildfire. My decks are slightly different. I’ve put together not a single mono-red version, which is also quite viable, but two different version, one green/red, one black/red.
Slash & Burn (B/R)
4 Dark Ritual
4 Scorching Lava
3 Tsabo’s Web
3 Phyrexian Scuta
2 Scoria Cat
4 Chimeric Idol
4 Chilling Apparition
4 Urborg Volcano
4 Sulfurous Springs
The B/R version of Slash & Burn deck is built around creatures that can survive a Wildfire; Phyrexian Scuta, obviously, and Chimeric Idols fit the theme of the deck perfectly. Scoria Cat is a late addition that not only combos well with the Chimeric Idol but also with a turn six Wildfire. Get a few fatties on the table, blow up the world, steamroll opponent. It’s almost like NetherHaups in that regard.
Chilling Apparition can survive a Wildfire (with a little extra mana), but it serves two other purposes – one, a turn one Apparition Ritualed out puts a lot of pressure on a control deck (unless it’s a control deck packing Nether Spirit – good Lord, what are the odds of that!), and Fires ain’t too fond of it either. Secondly, it’s a fine, fine Blastoderm (or other fatty) blocker when need be.
Scorching Lava is a current metagame call for an environment filled with Nether Spirits. In an environment that may not be so heavy on Spirits, such as your local metagame, then Seal of Fire or perhaps Urza’s Rage would fit this slot capably.
So why Rituals and no Diamonds or other artifact sources of mana, as are "traditional" in a Wildfire deck? Speed, primarily. I run Rituals so I can get out creatures fast, like a first-turn Apparition or second turn Scuta. Unless my opponent is playing bounce, very few decks can deal with a second-turn 5/5 or the Li’l Discard Machine. Ritual also allows for the possibility of a turn four Wildfire, and allows me to recover just as fast from said Wildfire. With a high mana base as well (25 lands), recovering from Wildfire is not difficult.
The B/R version tests well against most control decks, both U/B and U/W, but has trouble with Fires (again, surprise, surprise, Saproling Burst is the bane of B/R decks everywhere).
The sideboard is still incomplete. Boil is probably a given, and my new favorite anti-control card, Blood Oath, qualifies as well. Persecute is almost good enough to pack main. Other cards worth consideration are Tsabo’s Decree, Smoldering Tar and Void, and Slay is a decent enough replacement for Perish.
Slash & Burn (G/R)
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Jade Leech
3 Shivan Wurm
3 Kavu Titan
4 Chimeric Idol
4 Scorching Lava
2 Ghitu Fire
3 Urza’s Rage
3 Fire Diamond
2 Moss Diamonds
2 Shivan Oasis
4 Karplusan Forest
Again, the G/R version has a similar philosophy to the B/R version: play out big fatties that survive the Wildfire, blow up the world. The fattie base is slightly superior to the B/R version: untargetable Blastoderm, cheaper Jade Leech, Kavu Titan and Shivan Wurm, and of course, Chimeric Idols. The G/R version is closer to the "traditional" Wildfire setup in that it runs Diamonds for extra mana. It also runs Birds of Paradise for extra mana acceleration.
The "burn" base is also stronger, with maindeck Urza’s Rage and Ghitu Fire, and of course, Scorching Lava for those pesky Nether Spirits. Both the Rage and Fire are better choices in a control-heavy field, give the deck an alternative method of killing an opponent getting a successful Wildfire off appears to be a non-option.
The G/R version does not run Tsabo’s Web, as the B/R version does, primarily because it doesn’t fear Dust Bowls and Ports as much. With Birds of Paradise and Fire and Moss Diamonds, it can negate the power of these two cards by simply outstripping them in terms of mana production.
Curiously, the one deck that gives the G/R version of Slash & Burn the most trouble is Fires. Even with enchantment removal, the lack of the ability to do so at instant speed (save for the very fragile Elvish Lyrist) hampers the deck somewhat, since Fires can play it out on turn four, faster than a Wildfire can go off.
Against control, G/R Slash & Burn has to be patient and persistent. Play out a threat at a time and force the threat to be countered or otherwise dealt with. Make control spend a Wrath or Decree on a single creature until you win the war of attrition.
At least in theory.
So which is better? The B/R version has the same problem all other B/R decks have in the current Standard environment-it can’t get rid of enchantments. The G/R version can pack better defenses against current Fires decks, but it’s probably more vulnerable to control, whereas the B/R version can better handle control with discard.
Right now, I’m leaning towards the B/R version. Tomorrow it’ll probably G/R. Or maybe mono-red is the way to go.
Or maybe I’ll just play Fires like everyone else.