Feature Article from Alvin Lau

Burning Bridges

Alvin Lau


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Burning Bridges is essentially a combo deck. I'm going to play Ensnaring Bridge and empty my hand, and unless you were able to sufficiently Disrupt me before that, or unless you can kill me without creatures, then I've won the game. I have a conditional one-card lock. You, my dastardly opponent, argue that you can find an answer to the bridge and then mash my face in before I muster up 20 points of burn. Sure, it's possible, but is it probable? We'll take a look.

First, how to build an Ensnaring Bridge deck correctly:

1) Play good burn. Don't play Flames of Blood Hand or Pulse of the Forge.

This should be pretty self-evident. Even though you're relying heavily on Ensnaring Bridge to handle your worries in the red zone, once in a while you'll need to fire off some shots to keep your life total Healthy. If you're playing with Pulse of the Forge then you won't be able to do that. Keep it versatile, kids. Volcanic Hammer, Shock, and Magma Jet are standard.

2) Don't play board sweepers such as Pyroclasm or Flamebreak.

They're marginal against most decks, and worthless when you have the Ensnaring Bridge active. The biggest problem is that Flamebreak costs RRR, which is so expensive and might leave you with multiple 3cc spells in your hand. If you were going to make any changes to the decklist I suggest below, it would be in the inclusion of this card over Pyrite Spellbomb, but for now it isn't necessary, especially when Sword of Fire and Ice is so prevalent now. Pyroclasm can't even kill Leonin-Den Guard, let alone Theiving Magpie, so I don't recommend it.

3) Play 24 mana sources.

You can skimp, but that means you won't be able to unload your hand as quickly as you want to. This is the second biggest mistake I see people make when they build the deck, and it will cost you a lot of games because you can't do everything you want to in one turn. If you've got the bridge down and your opponent cannot answer it, then it doesn't matter how long it takes to draw into the win, so drawing more burn than land in the late game is a win-more situation. You want consistency.

4) Play Isochron Scepter.

Your deck is totally comprised of one-shot burn spells. Having a consistent source of damage is necessary, and if that damage happens to be Shrapnel Blasts, then cheers to you. Scepter/Shrapnel is the best way to race some archetypes, such as MBC and Tooth. Imprinting Magma Jet is also incredible, but sometimes even a lowly Shock is worth it if you need to dump your hand quickly.

5) Play Welding Jar.

Omitting the jar is the biggest mistake you can make. If you've followed both rule #3 and #4, you're probably playing both Chrome Mox and Isochron Scepter in 3's and 4's. In addition in Ensnaring Bridge, that leaves you with at least 11 artifacts you'd like to defend, and in a format with few artifact removal spells pre- and post-board, Welding Jar becomes undeniably good insurance. In addition to saving you games, it also costs zero, which means it's optimal to throw out with Shrapnel Blasts, or to Accelerate the dumping of your hand.

Here is the build I currently recommend:

Burning Bridges by Alvin Lau
Main Deck
3 Chrome Mox
4 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Hammer of Bogardan
4 Isochron Scepter
4 Magma Jet
3 Pyrite Spellbomb
4 Sensei's Divining Top
4 Shock
4 Shrapnel Blast
4 Volcanic Hammer
4 Welding Jar
Spells [39]
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
17 Mountain (302)
Lands [21]
Deck Total [60]

3 Genju of the Spires
1 Millstone
4 Molten Rain
4 Slith Firewalker
3 Zo-Zu the Punisher
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Why 3 Chrome Mox?

Let's be honest, there's not too much you want to be accelerating into with this deck. You don't have main deck Slith Firewalkers, and with only 16 main deck burn spells, you won't always have something to imprint. However, the benefits of throwing away your hand incredibly quickly against WW can't be overlooked. In the mid and late game, Chrome Mox becomes the best card to throw to Shrapnel Blast if you want to keep your Sensei's Divining Top around. After sideboarding Chrome Mox becomes a little bit better because you will have Molten Rain and Firewalker.

Pyrite Spellbomb?

Because Isochron Scepter imprinted with Shrapnel Blast is the best method of killing your opponent, you really want to maximize your artifacts. Pyrite Spellbomb also is a burn spell that you don't have to commit right away, but still get it out of your hand to support bridge. In a pinch, the spellbomb also helps you dig for the bridge. As I stated earlier, Pyrite Spellbomb is the card you're most likely to change in this deck, but I will always choose prefer long term consistency over long-term power in a deck that locks your opponent.

Where's Zo-Zu the Punisher?

I see a lot of people playing him main deck, but Zo-Zu has really poor synergy with Ensnaring Bridge. When you're drawing lands and playing them to keep your hand low, you don't want to be sucking up damage that might put you in burn range of another red player. Against MUC, MBC, and Tooth game 2, all situations where you're not going to see much creature removal and taking damage isn't relevant, then Zo-Zu turns into gold in the treasure chest of your sideboard.


Mono Blue Control:

This all comes down to the big question. Do they have Echoing Truth or Boomerang? If Boomerang, then multiple Bridges have the possibility of locking out your opponent long enough to burn them down. If Echoing Truth, your job needs to happen faster. Show Bridge first, which will make your opponent save bounce for it, then show them Isochron Scepter, allowing them to make a misplay in bouncing the Scepter. MUC's bounce makes your Welding Jars pretty irrelevant, and Isochron Scepter a lot less sexy. Still, you have an enormous advantage in that your spells are much cheaper than theirs to cast, allowing you to cram burn down their throat in powerful bursts at a time. Meloku and Theiving Magpie also are very vulnerable to being shot down, which makes killing you a difficulty as well. Possibly the best side benefit is that Vedalken Shackles and Bribery, which are all-stars against most other decks, are completely worthless against you.


-4 Welding Jar
-4 Ensnaring Bridge
-2 Shock
+3 Genju of the Spires
+4 Slith Firewalker
+3 Zo-Zu the Punisher

Big sideboard change! Now that your opponent sees a creatureless deck (especially if they cast Bribery on you just to look), they've sideboarded out all their control spells, leaving you to run free with Slith Firewalker and Zozu the Punisher. Hopefully your opponent has also sideboarded in Spectral Shift in anticipation of Boil, which is not only worthless against you, but you can "fake" a Boil in your hand and force your opponent to play with 1U available all the time. Game 2 is a lot easier, and more fun, than the first.

Tooth and Nail

Your favorite matchup. Occasionally casting the Bridge prompts a scoop, and when it doesn't, playing a Welding Jar will. You can be beaten by a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Viridian Shaman, but then that means your opponent didn't cast Tooth and to kill you, which means they have to cast Tooth and Nail twice to win.


-4 Shock
-3 Pyrite Spellbomb
+3 Zo-Zu the Punisher
+4 Molten Rain

Although you're sideboarding out burn, you'll deal at least 2 damage with the cards you're sideboarding in, and including attacks, as much as 8 or 10 with Zo-Zu. Because your opponent has indeed sideboarded in Viridian Shaman, they're impervious to your Jar/Bridge combo. You do keep Jar in because in multiples they can still slow down Tooth, and you'll need them to protect your Isochron Scepters.


What can I say, WW has a lot of creatures you can kill, and Welding Jars can defend your Bridges from their 2 or 3 copies of Terashi's Grasp. Instant speed burn is your friend, especially in response to equipping Sword of Fire and Ice, but Ensnaring Bridge will be the obvious game-winner. Mulligan once for a bridge, and definitely keep your second hand if it has a Magma Jet.


+1 Millstone
-1 Pyrite Spellbomb

Against all white decks you want to make this change. Worship, Story Circle, Pulse of the Field, and Sanctimony all really make your day terrible, but a solitary Millstone, along with Magma Jet to cycle around, can hit for enough to seal the deal. Play conservative: always make sure that Welding Jar is already on the board before you cast the Millstone! Game 2 against White Weenie is much like the first. Your opponent may have upto 4 artifact removal spells now, but Welding Jars can defend your major threat of Isochron Scepter / Magma Jet or Ensnaring Bridge.


A much more difficult game 1. Ensnaring Bridge isn't very good when the opponent can go for the dome with Consume Spirit or dragon-drain. Your immediate goal is to find Scepter/Shrapnel and start firing away, but if you can't find it fast enough it's difficult to race Cranial Extraction, even with Phyrexian Arena on the board. Still, sometimes your opponent can't find enough drains or misses a land drop, giving you the Opportunity to unload burn on them.


-4 Welding Jar
-4 Ensnaring Bridge
-2 Shock
+3 Genju of the Spires
+4 Slith Firewalker
+3 Zo-Zu the Punisher

The same package you bring in against MUC. Now that your opponent has sideboarded out their creature removal, you bring in the most punishing set of red creatures you can find. Zo-Zu the Punisher is a perfect counter to mana-hungry drains, and now that your burn can focus on creatures more, you keep the lanes open for Genju and Slith. Game 2 is where you'll win the most often, so it's important you win game 1, but you still have a big advantage after sideboarding; if you go to Game 3 then your creatures are not as surprising, but a lot of fast threats and efficient burn is good against a slower deck.


Your unwinnable matchup. They have good creatures against burn, and with no board sweepers your best bet is Ensnaring Bridge. They have 8 artifact killers maindeck (4 Zealot + 4 Witness), so Welding Jar does not offer substantial defense. You can Divert their attention from the Bridges with Isochron Scepter, which imprinted with Magma Jet does pretty well against them, but once Troll Ascetic meet Sword of Fire and Ice, it's usually game.


-3 Shock
+3 Zo-Zu the Punisher

Game 2 and 3 are probably even worse for you, now that Creeping Mold comes in. This is a matchup that isn't even substantially improved with main deck Flamebreak, as they can overwhelm Flamebreak between the Trolls and Beacons, and Sword of Fire and Ice still makes everything untouchable. If you expect a lot of Beacon Green I don't recommend this deck at all, but seeing how it has some trouble with other tier 1 decks, I wouldn't sweat it too much.

Until then, twenty to the dome.

- Alvin Lau