By: Chris Taylor
The wildfire deck is a curious beast. Most cubes include Wildfire, but few designers consider the deck a core part of their metagame makeup, usually because it so rarely comes together.
To start making that more of a reality, here’s the card and some history.
title="Kai Budde 1999 Worlds"
4 Covetous Dragon
1 Karn, Silver Golem
4 Cursed Scroll
4 Temporal Aperture
2 Mishra’s Helix
4 Fire Diamond
4 Grim Monolith
4 Thran Dynamo
4 Voltaic Key
2 Worn Powerstone
3 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Traitors
That list is the winning deck from Worlds 1999, piloted by Kai Budde, and the world’s introduction to the Wildfire archetype.
The basic game plan of the deck is to get to 6 mana (either by acceleration or control elements) and resolve Wildfire + a threat that survives it (either via having 5+ toughness, or not being a creature at all, like with Jace, the Mind Sculptor).
Kai’s list provides us a basic blueprint for the configuration of the Wildfire deck, and its various moving parts. Below is a chart illustrating what those numbers look like in the land of 40 cards:
Threats: 12 (8)
These numbers reveal a lot:
- 12 ramp spells is a tall order in any draft environment, especially with people cutting down on signets to make things harder for control strategies
- 13-14 lands is almost unheard of in cube decks (though that number is probably deflated since 7 of his 20 tap for 2 mana)
- Some cubes don’t even have 2-3 wildfires (basically anyone who doesn’t run Portal cards)
- The combo-centric Tempest/Urza’s constructed environment saw little aggro play, as we can see from the zero sweepers in the main (this probably needs to be corrected for cube)
Here are a few without the sweeper aspect if you feel like a card aggro might be able to use as well:
Do note that Destructive Force is far harder to leverage than Wildfire is; a creature with 6+ toughness is a much taller order than a creature with 5+ toughness. As well, the additional mana that force costs is critical, representing an additional turn for a deck to slip in something to kill you, or worse: survive a Wildfire.
Rite of Ruin, Devastation and Jokulhaups represent a more creatureless variant of this deck, employing planeswalkers and suspend cards as its main win conditions. Devastation can act as more of a value card (much like Upheaval, another excellent card for this deck, which I’ll talk about below), leaving the board empty but for your artifacts, enchantments, and walkers. Again, be aware of the extra mana (and extra turn) it takes to cast these 7 mana variants.
Second most important for the deck is the acceleration: artifact, ramp or creature. Artifact proves the most effective: not committing you to another color, surviving both of Wildfire‘s effects, and generally accelerating faster than other methods (hello Coalition Relic!). Ramp spells prove an effective middle ground, accelerating with the conceit that some of them will die when you Wildfire. Creatures, on the other hand, all die to Wildfire, but provide a nice plan B for when Wildfire doesn’t show its face.
Most cubes (rightfully) curb the ubiquity and power of acceleration in their cube to lend more power to aggro decks. For this deck to be a mainstay in your cube, you will almost assuredly need to add more artifact mana. While the 12 number shown above is probably unreasonable, if your drafters can’t get at least 6+ pieces of acceleration, the deck will wither on the vine.
My suggestion if you think this change will make control decks too powerful is to tightly control the power of your artifact mana: Sure a control player will draft an Azorius Signet without a second thought (even though the Wildfire deck needs it so much more), will they really pick Fire Diamond? Prismatic Lens? Talisman of Impulse? Guardian Idol?
Lastly: pay REALLY CLOSE ATTENTION to anything that adds more than one mana. Grim Monalith, Mana Vault, Sol Ring and Coalition Relic are all strong cards to be sure, but the ability to jump that far ahead really hampers the aggro decks in your cube at large.
While most cubes don’t really need help supporting Wildfire in this aspect, (seriously, any creature with 5+ toughness will do) I will take some time to mention some more unconventional/extremely effective ones:
This is the granddaddy of all win conditions in this deck. With him suspended, cast Wildfire, sacrificing all your lands and creatures which would die anyway, leaving him at one counter. Then play your land for turn, sac it, and swing for 9. Pass, and drink deep your opponent’s tears.
In a similar vein to Gargadon above, but kills slower while providing card advantage. This can work worse in the more ramp focused variants, since so much acceleration will shrink your hand size, leaving it a puny bear the turn it comes down.
This depends on the makeup of your cube, but the thought of Wildfiring and having this guy come in next turn, destroy a land, and swing for 5-8 damage sickens me. In a good way.
Doesn’t matter if he dies to Wildfire, cast it anyways! Bit slow, so keep that in mind.
Just remember to untap a mountain AFTER you Wildfire, not before. (Though can you choose the creature mountain as one of the lands you sacrifice? Will that work?)
Using his -2 to power out Wildfires is highly recommended, as it lets you use the extra mana to cast a threat post-Wildfire, instead of specifically needing one that survives it. Sometimes that extra Goblin Ruinblaster cinches it for you.
Special mention must of course go to Upheaval, the blue Wildfire (this is an understatement) because it synergizes so well with the same cards (mostly) that Wildfire does: manafacts and suspend cards.
For those of you unfamiliar, the plan with Upheaval is to tap as much mana as you can (hopefully 9-12 mana), play Upheaval, and either replay your board or play a threat with the leftover mana, essentially acting as 6 mana sorcery that lets you cast Karn Liberated‘s ultimate.
This, while doubling as the most effective sweeper in the cube.
Discuss this article in our forums.