Bonfire of the Damned – Avacyn Restored
Date Reviewed: September 30, 2021
Commander [EDH]: 3.38
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
In past Standard seasons, Bonfire of the Damned was known – alternately affectionately or grudgingly – as somewhat of an “I win” button. When you get to cast it for its miracle cost, there are very few X spells as efficient as it is. It can represent four- or five-for-one card advantage in the right situations, and when it’s followed by a devastating attack, your opponent basically won’t know what hit them. Of course, few people were content to leave that outcome to the vagaries of fate, and so we also saw it appear in decks full of library-manipulating cards, with all the good and bad effects that has. It’s not seen so much in competitive Magic nowadays, but it can still be a casual powerhouse when used in the right deck – not to mention a lesson about how variability-based mechanics in Magic tend to be abused almost as much as symmetry-based ones.
One of the most notoriously polarizing mechanics of past years is miracle, almost seemingly by design. A cheaper spell if your luck pans out is potentially back-breaking, and it’s of note that this can trigger on any turn. If you draw a sorcery-speed miracle on an opponent’s turn, you’re free to cast it. It’s high variance, but it can make for some spectacles at tables, and one of the most famous miracle spells is Bonfire of the Damned.
A combination board wipe and burn spell, Bonfire isn’t outright unplayable for full price. 3 mana to wipe a board of X/1 creatures is passable enough in a pinch, as is 5 mana to wipe out X/2 creatures. Of course, 5 mana to blast everything for 4 damage is even nicer, and it’s of note that this only targets a single player on cast. It won’t escape protection, but it does duck around hexproof and shroud rather nicely (if not on players themselves).
The issue is, of course, Bonfire of the Damned anymore is way too unreliable outside of things like Mystical Tutor set-ups, and it’s a bit too inefficient in deeper formats if you have to pay full price. It’s earned fame for a brutal top deck moment at the 2012 World Magic Cup, and it was a massive force for all of the original Innistrad block’s Standard lifespan, but it’s a bit too fiddly to justify play in the modern game.
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