Drafting Cube : Counterburn

Why to play counterburn?

You’re running few creatures, so a lot of your opponents deck becomes blank ; Wrath and Go for the Throat look kinda sucky against Hell’s Thunder and Hellspark Elemental, and are even worse when you’re not playing against them. Since most of your cards are instants, you can also play the draw go game.Like Boros aggro, this deck doesn’t need any specific support, it can be built in almost any cube.

Counterburn is also very versatile, and very forgiving to draft. For example, if you draft too much blue, and have too many counterspells, it’s not like you’ve take Sun Titan for your aggro deck. It just slows your deck down and gives you a slower win. On the other side of the coin, if you draft more burn, you can play a very fast game. Together, blue and red can handle any permanent except enchantments, so the deck can handle a fairly versatile metagame, and usually doesn’t require any sort of splash.

Why not to play counterburn

Since the deck is almost all about tempo, a quick start by an aggro deck can easily rip this deck apart. This is exasperated by the decks low board presence. Also, since most trades don’t create card advantage, if an opponent makes a play which generates card advantage, you’re already on the losing side.

General Game Plan

The general game plan is to use burn in a blue control shell to make 1 for 1 trades with opponents, gradually gaining card advantage using flashback, divisible damage, and cantrips. You’ll want to be playing an almost entirely reactive game. In the midgame, you’ll be hoping to drop Looter il-kor or Thieving Magpie, keeping your hand full. Finally, you’ll win by dropping a  control finisher like Jwar Jwar or Inferno titan. As soon as your opponent has taken a swing or two, you can use your burn to finish them off quickly.

Drafting the Archetype

As always, there are several things to look out for:

1.Card Draw. Whether it’s ancestral recall or memory jar, card draw can give this deck an explosive win. Dropping memory jar one turn, and cracking it  the next and throwing down a hand full of burn is a nice easy way of winning in this deck. Card draw is also needed to keep a full hand, allowing you to play the control game, and repeatable card draw, like Looter il-kor and Thieving Magpie will draw cards and deal a little damage. Look out for the draw 7s, cantrips, and ophidian clones.

2.Burn. Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning, Volcanic Hammer, the works. It doubles as creature removal and a win condition. Get as much as possible, and you’ll be a very happy drafter. Any mass removal type burn, like Pyroclasm, Slagstorm, Starstorm, or better yet, Earthquake should be valued, since it can stop slower builds autolosing to aggro.

3.Counterspells. Pretty much your only answer to ETB creatures, enchantments, instants and sorceries. I’d rate the tempo counterspells higher here, since you need to be able to play them, or play burn, so the 1U cost makes them a lot better for this deck.

Sample Decklist


  • Hellspark Elemental
  • Looter il-kor
  • Keldon Marauders
  • Vendilion Clique
  • Thieving Magpie
  • Inferno Titan
  • Crater Hellion


  • Lightning Bolt
  • Chain Lightning
  • Fire Bolt
  • Brainstorm
  • Volcanic Hammer
  • Pyroclasm
  • Arc Trail
  • Fire // Ice
  • Impulse
  • Memory Lapse
  • Mana Leak
  • Remand
  • Electrolyze
  • Wheel of Fortune
  • Molten Rain
  • Jace Beleren
  • Red Sun’s Zenith


Sometimes mid-draft, you’ll see Lightning Helix, Ajani V, or some early white aggro drops coming round. This is a sign that you could move into American aggro/control.  You can splash white for some early creatures, some additonal burn, and O-ring. This’ll give your deck some more versatility and make it more interactive. However, by making it more interactive by upping the creature count, the section of your opponents deck which was previously blank is now back online.


Counterburn is a nice easy deck to draft, and can give newer players a first taste of a non-creature based deck. The deck can easily fall together on its own, and it can even perform well as a RU goodstuff build.  It’s a fun deck, an easy deck, and it’s blue. What more can you ask for?

Thanks for reading,



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