If playing red it is very rare to omit this classic spell. Burn spells are hard to balance and vary which means some end up strictly better than others and lightening bolt remains the original and best of the burn. Instant is great, one mana of fantastic and three damage is the icing on the cake. The card itself may be a little dull but red decks don't tend to be about individual cards so much and are themselves great fun to play. It is always rewarding in cube to beat people with the Jace and their force of will and mana drain with you mogg fanatic and lightening bolt. The rest of the burn will be more interesting to review as they have occasions and decks where they are strongest, bolt however is mostly just the first go to burn spell for all red decks. The cube is all about versatility of spell which burn embodies perfectly by operating as cheap removal early then direct damage as a finisher. Most of reds best cards are burn which does make it a slightly narrower colour in some respects.
Basically as good as bolt in red deck wins but much weaker in control decks where the instant effect becomes much more significant. Still, this is the only other sensible card that offers three damage at one mana. While I have seen the extra ability used once or twice in cube it was neither relevant nor clever and tricky as you might hope and can pretty much be regarded as completely irrelevant to the card. It might be good with Swans of Bryn Argoll if that worked, oh well. Regardless of it being strictly worse than lightning bolt I am confident this little spell will remain in the cube indefinitely.
I would give shock a 2.5 rating as the card lacks any real power which kind of implies this gets a full extra rating point for the kicker which is not all that often used. This actually replaced firebolt when it was printed and has impressed greatly since its addition. The only advantage firebolt has over this is that the damage may be split between two targets and over different turns. Burst however costs one less to do 4 damage than bolt and does so at instant speed. This is most relevant in counter-burn decks where burst is best. While mana cost and damage are the main considerations for burn spells burst has proven to me that instant speed is clearly the third consideration. There is good argument for forked bolt and firebolt in the cube but that would give too high a ratio of burn spells making drafting worse, their sorcery speed makes them less playable in all forms of deck and thus worse overall cards despite being situationally better.
Reckless Charge 3.0
This is a spell full of value. One of the very few spells that isn't a cheap damage dealing dork or a burn spell that red deck wins will play. The first time you play this spell it is as good value as lightening bolt. If compared to Firebolt once both are flashed back it it 50% more damage for 50% less mana. The real question is how big are the drawbacks of needing a guy to play it on and having that guy killed or blocked? I play this card a lot, and while it does happen it is not that often, less than searing blaze will be bad for you for starters. Having a charged up guy blocked is usually fine as you have usually dealt with the low toughness blockers meaning you get to take out a real problem card reasonably efficiently, particularly on trampling or first striking guys. When you don't have a guy to play it on it is fine to for it to sit in hand until you draw one. If they do kill your charged guy it is pretty bad but this is easy to play around when using very cheap cards. I have so far reviewed this card as if it didn't give haste, which is not the main feature of this card but does make it much more dangerous to play against. You can feel comfortable and then suddenly be facing down an attack for 10 or something that you didn't anticipate. When you do manage to effectively curve out with this card and make use of the haste on a normal monster it tends to be a bonus damage or two which is certainly what your deck wants. Cards that work particularly well with charge are Keldon Marauders and Spikeshot Elder. You won't find this outside of the most aggressive decks but it is fairly happy in most, particularly red deck wins. The sheer power and potential of this card negate its situational aspect.
Lava Dart 3.0
Lava dart has all the most important requirements for burn covered being cheap and instant and non-situational. The cost of this is low damage output. As with all burn, early it is removal and late it is a finisher. As a finisher this is no weaker than shock or seal of fire and qualifies with the minimum acceptable damage of two for a card. As early removal it is only one damage but this is fine as so few of your other spells will only offer one meaning you are quite likely to have some appropriate targets left for dart. When you use it to kill a relevant creature like a bird of paradise you always feel ahead as you still have late game value from the card. The ability to use this as a forked bolt later on in the game when you have enough mana, is basically a two for one if you kill two things. The main downside of this card it that it is unusable in control decks who are ending the game much later and don't want to sacrifice land, particularly for such a low powered effect. Dart is one of the lowest power level burn spells but easily makes up for this by offering such versatility and lack of any other pesky drawbacks and is a solid contender in aggressive decks using red.
This is a card we are trailing in the cube at present. It is basically Lava Dart for control decks, the best use of which is getting it and a Chandra's Phoenix with an Intuition or Gifts Ungiven. In more aggressive decks the low level of burn combined with the high mana cost makes this the weakest burn spell. Being instant and offering utility and potential card advantage is much more appealing to control decks. While it has not seen loads of play as yet it has never been a disappionting spell. I am unable to justify cutting it as yet but am sceptical if it has enough power and widespread application to remain in the A cube. With cards like Firebolt not in the A cube it is hard to justfy including this far more niche card that has less overall power as well.
Smash to Smithereens 1.5
Shatter and more! I have never been able to decide which card I prefer out of this and shattering spree for red targeted artifact removal in the cube. Manic Vandal is the best and there is barely a slot for the second, let alone a third. Spree is cheaper and can offer card advantage while Smash offers free bonus damage with the all important instant speed. Sadly both are just dead cards if they have no artifacts. I think on balance the Smash is less often utterly dead in red deck wins than Spree and more useful as an instant in control. It is significantly weaker against heavy aftifacts decks where Spree is almost a hoser and can make games duller. The Smash will still go very late and mostly sits in sideboards until needed. The inclusion is to bolster reds ability to deal with artifacts in the cube as it is a defining aspect of the colour yet very unrepresented, with both green and white being more capable.
Once you have put in the obvious lightening bolt your second burn spell becomes an interesting choice. This, Burst and Chain Lightening are all of very similar power level each offering something slightly different. Is 3 damage your priority, is instant speed more important or costing one mana? I generally find that the mana cost is quite acceptable with the colourless half really helping to cast this. When you want to do a lot of damage all at once it can frequently be the lack of red rather than the lack of mana that limits you and in such situations incinerate is your friend. The anti-regenerate aspect of the card is about as relevant as the ability on Chain Lightening but I'll take it anyways, it could easily become quite significant if a really strong cheap creature arrives with the regenerate. For the record, I do think this card is better than lightening helix, it goes in more decks not being gold, most that care not for their life total, and is far easier to cast. Fire is also more red feeling than Lightening which gets most of the top burn slots.
Arc Trail 4.0
There is pure burn like Lightening Bolt and Incinerate, situational high power burn like Searing Blaze, Fireblast, Galvanic Blast etc and then there is utility burn like Punishing Fire and Arc Trail. As pure burn Arc Trail does not shine at all but is still not dead which is the main requirement. I cannot really pinpoint why it is so absurdly good in the cube beyond it doing what you need it to for a very reasonable cost. The slightest change to a burn spell can make it go from good to bad. Arc Trail is just a perfect blend of this kind of damage splitting effect costing less than Arc Lightening and pretty much always doing the same thing, or that extra damage it has over Fire or Firebolt allowing you to take out much more relevant monsters while still being able to gain card advantage. The sorcery aspect of the card has not proved a big a drawback as I would normally expect on a burn spell, mostly as you are setting up the play to get value out of it rather than responding to what they do. I keep finding myself looking at my board position and thinking I pretty much lose to Arc Trail here. Early game this is about a big a tempo swing as you can hope for and late game it is still usually good value. I am happy to play this in any red deck and generally want it as my second favourite all round good burn spell after Lightening Bolt. The card just keeps proving itself invaluable.
Searing Blaze 3.0
I hate this card and always have. I made a futile effort to send this to the B cube but all the less stupid magic players would go find it and put it in their decks. I don't like the Blaze because it is doubly situational, first they need to have a creature and secondly you need to have landfall. The latter is not essential and Blaze can be of use just pinging stuff for one but if it just did that it would never make any deck over something like a Forked Bolt. The beauty of burn is the flexibility and redundancy it offers, which this lacks. I used not to play this unless I knew I would be facing all creature decks as I feared having the dud spells. Two mana for 6 damage is about as much as you can hope for from one card in maic. The most persuasive argument I have heard for this card is simply that it is not always great but when it is it is the best card in your deck. The degree with which this is above the power level of other burn when optimal is much greater than the frequency of it being dead.
Punishing Fire 2.0
A neat little utility burn spell with recursion that works well against certain decks or combos with a few cards. Grove of the Burnwillows is the best way to recur the Fire and frequently end up in the same deck but both are perfectly playable separately. A slightly overcosted Shock is never going to be a unplayable card if drawn without support and neither is a duel land. This means you are more than happy to run a single copy of each in your deck without bothering with any form of tutor to find the cards. For the card to offer value it needs to be recurred a few times which makes it very slow and finds its home most often in control decks or mid range decks that know they will face weenie decks. For red deck wins it is too little damage for too much mana in addition to the fact that you don't want to incorporate any effects that gift your opponent life. While this is almost a red green card like Tin-Street Hooligan if your match ups are known and they have a few incidental life gain effects Punishing Fire can be a worthwhile inclusion. It won't act as a direct counter to the life gain in the way a Sulphuric Vortex does but it will net you card advantage which is something red is not easily able to achieve.
There are a wide array of cheap red mass removal spells of which the cube definitely wants at least one of. This is my personal favourite as it covers most of the bases. Three mana is fine and only double red makes it playable in multi-coloured decks. Three damage is of much more use than two as more and more creatures evade the sweep. It hits fliers which so many fail to do and on top of all this it can double up as a burn spell to the dome which makes it viable in red deck wins as it is never a dead card. So while it doesn't seem like it offers much more than any other spell of this nature, and in many cases it offers less, it does give you all the things you need and most want. Typically played in counter burn decks but due to the all round nature of the card it is finding play in more unexpected places. The most surprising of these homes is the afore mentioned red deck wins where the option to sweep the board is handy in some match ups so as to buy enough time to be able to burn them out or get some value out of measly one drop guys later in the game.
Volcanic Fallout 1.5
As cheap global removal goes Fallout is fine but not exciting. For the extra mana you pay over Pyroclasm you get to damage players, ignore counterspells and play it at instant speed. As this is a control card the damage to palyers is a mixed blessing. On the good side it keeps planeswalkers in check although rarely killing them. It can also help recur a Chandra's Phoenix. Uncounterable is pretty irrelevant and makes the card more of a hoser than making it a better card. Ultimately the question boils down to is instant speed better than 50% more damage that Slagstorm can give. Since Fallout has seen basically no play since the late addition of Slagstorm I would suggest that it is not. If it turns out that red wants two cheap mass removal effects I think Pyroclasm is the better card to complement the Slagstorm for their differing costs. I suspect however that with Earthquake already available red does not need another card to offer redundancy in this role.
Wheel of Fortune 4.0
The red version of Timetwister is as good as the blue counterpart although does see less play and has slightly different applications. The primary function of both cards is to cheaply draw lots of new spells for use in decks that will use all their resources quickly. Timetwister sees more play mostly for the reason that there are more blue decks that need a hand refill than there are red ones. At three mana it can often clog up the hand of a red deck wins player and in big red memory jar has more synergy as well as often being easier to cast. Being symmetrical in effect in can be a dangerous card to use against a number of different archetypes. While often not seeing play in red deck wins the deck is more than happy to see this kind of effect coming from their opponents. The crucial difference between this and Timetwister is the lack of graveyard reshuffle. In singleton formats the ability to reuse a number of your cards that have already gone to the graveyard is pretty important for some control and combo decks and can offer additional robustness to a deck. While this can be desirable in some archetypes others prefer to leave their graveyards intact, indeed some archetypes such as reanimator not only want to keep their graveyards in place but can make use of the discard aspect of Wheel. On the whole I would say more decks want to reuse cards than those that wish to discard cards or retain graveyards however there are more archetypes still that care little either way, predominantly aggressive ones. In these more aggressive decks Wheel tends to help the opponent less than a Timetwister and also far more frequently than you might imagine will simply win the game due to milling the other player out of cards. More than being a very cost effective way to draw spells it is a rare example of card draw outside of blue or black which gives a lot more options for building and designing decks.
Sulphuric Vortex 3.5
I rate this as the best three mana aggressive card. It is not unlike a Chandra's Phoenix in that it costs the same and deals two evasive damage a turn while being difficult to deal with. Vortex offers much better evasion than Phoenix and is harder to stop even if it cannot be recurred. In addition to this impending clock the Vortex provides insurance against reds worst hoser - life gain. Stigma Lasher used to be in the cube as it was an OK dork that had a desirable effect for red but Vortex is so much more reliable and effective in this role it is well worth the extra mana. The damage this does to its owner is basically irrelevant, not only does it do it to them first but presumably you have an aggressive red deck complete with some burn spells to ensure you always have the life advantage. Infrequently you will have had a bad draw and lost the tempo thus being unable to cast this as it will help your opponent kill you faster but in such situations you have probably lost regardless of the dead card. The only time Vortex is not something you want for your aggressive deck is when you are also in black as they have better uses for their life total. Black red is not a common or established archetype and so this is not a real downside to the card. Against any deck trying to be the control player throwing threats of many different forms, man lands, direct damage, planeswalkers, dorks, equipment, artifacts etc is optimal as it makes it less likely they will have the appropriate thing to deal with the threat at the time it is required. There are very few enchantments which are also threats for aggressive decks and so the Vortex occupies two niches very effectively (being an enchantment and preventing life gain).
Chaos Warp 1.8
This is no Beast Within even with reds complete inability to deal with enchantments. The simple reason for this is that you have no way of knowing what the drawback will be prior to use. Lots of the time it is nothing which makes this a lot better than instant Vindicate, let alone Beat Within. Most frequently they get a land which is also probably better than Beast Within most of the time. The thing is it can get something worse than what you dealt with or even exactly the same thing that you just dealt with. Against decks with few big threats such as red deck wins or white weenie or those with cards you have to deal with such as combo decks or something tedious and lame like a Worship then Chaos Warp is the go to card in red. Generally though answer cards want to be reliable and predictable and this is neither. You cannot happily include it against any old match up as you can with beast Within as it will sit in your hand dead until you are forced to use it through having nothing else. If they are playing if couple of big threats you cannot justify using it on things you would otherwise love to spend three mana killing such as a bounce land or a Dark Confidant. The risk of gifting them something far better is rarely worth it even if lowish odds. If Wishes or sideboards were more commonly used in my cube, or if I have had more hoser cards like Engineered Plague and Moat then this would be more useful.
Brimstone Volley 2.0
I am fairly happy to call this the best three mana burn spell that there is. The thing is that three mana is rather a lot to pay for burn in general. The more you pay for burn the lower the ratio of damage per mana you will get. This is to offset the fact that the ratio of damage to cards increases as the burn spells rise in cost. Burn is about cheap removal and tempo and less about card advantage hence the prevalence of cheaper burn in the cube. It is quite easy to get the morbid trigger with red although the reasonably high cost of the card can get in the way of this. That said the card would not see all that much more play if were a guaranteed 5 damage every time (counter burn being the only deck that this would be really significant in). As burn goes it does tick all the right boxes, it is instant, does not have an onerous demand of red mana, is not situational and hits all required targets. Three damage without a morbid trigger is also acceptable. Overall red decks want to pack more game changing and interesting cards in their three slot than just high output burn.
Chandra, the Firebrand 3.5
This is reds best planeswalker being cheap and versatile complete with a self protecting mechanism. Not as aggressive as Koth she tends not to end up in many agro decks and finds her home in counter burn more than any other place. Being easy to splash and generically quite good she does crop up in all sorts of builds but shines most in counter burn or similar styles of decks. She is a little fragile with relatively low loyalty, expensive minus costs and only a low impact plus one ability to boost her. The ultimate is quite cheap and is used more than a lot of the best walkers but still very infrequently. It is unlikely to ever hit more than a few things as well as Chandra would probably not be around let alone loyal enough to fire off a one sided Inferno. It is the unassuming -2 fork ability that has huge blow out potential and rather makes up for the limp but acceptable +1. Forking a Fact or Fiction or a Cryptic Command or a Fireblast or a Time Walk or a Devil's Play, even things as minor as an Arc Trail or a Fire / Ice will completely swing the game in your favour. It is a little bit situational on you having the cards or the mana but this is fine on an ability you will not be spamming. A solid all round walker that is one of the least broken of the good walkers.
Koth of the Hammer 2.0
Koth is a little weaker than most of the other walkers due to being purely aggressive. If you lay him into a board in which you are already behind the best you are likely to do with him is get in for 4 points of damage and save yourself 4 when they kill him. This isn't awful but does compare poorly to other walkers and gives your opponents way to much choice while you lose card advantage. A 4 power haste attacker for 4 mana is easy to come by in red and so Koth's main ability isn't offering you too much new. Red deck wins is the main aggressive red deck and Koth is rather too high on the curve to be any sort of regular in it and has very few homes as a result. Koth isn't all that much harder to cast than most other good planeswalkers however all of his abilities require mountains which highly limits the decks he can be good in and how those decks must be built if he is included. The ultimate is generally game over but getting there implies you got 2 hits in with 4/4 mountains and were ahead on the board before doing that which means the game was probably over anyway. Extra mana is a great second ability but is infrequently used and designed so as to be rather unwieldy. I have yet to see it be used in a really powerful way and is mostly a way to get out a chump after casting Koth when you are already behind. Definitely one of the weakest walkers in the cube although for being situational rather than being underpowered.
Chandra Nalaar 2.5
Red has not been overly gifted with powerful walkers and this is a fine example of that. This Chandra is weaker than Koth in terms of power however fits better into various archetypes and gets the job done. Unlike most other walkers "the job" in this case is keeping things calm where as most other walkers "job" is winning the game. Left entirely unchecked she takes 12 turns to win a game on her own which is pretty pitiful, especially as she fails to progress your board at all in that time. Most walkers will have made a game of magic unrecoverable if they survive for more than a few turns which is not the case at all for this Chanra. To make up for this Chandra is very good at dealing with things that you are facing. I have frequently retorted to a Baneslayer with this Chandra and taken it out out in one hit. Most of the time red has to 2 for 1 itself to take out the higher toughness creatures. She is a little worse at dealing with other walkers but will keep them honest being able to take out blockers or ping them down while growing herself. She is a solid red control card that deals with problem fatties and gains good tempo and often card advantage too. Five is steep but for that you get a lot of loyalty and can often safely cast after they have tapped out to do something big. The biggest weakness of Chandra is that the four mana version is also a good control card while being easier to cast and of higher overall power. In 40 card decks I shy away from cards that legend rule themselves. I have seen this Chandra be especially good with Swans of Bryn Argoll for drawing lots of cards.
A staple card for many red decks that want to be able to win games while casting spells that cost more than two mana. Red is lacking in ability to disrupt certain aspects of magic having mostly only damage at its disposal. By attacking mana bases you can stop ruinous stuff happening that you otherwise could't deal with. I have mixed and rotated Jokulhaups, Obliterate, Destructive Force and a few other big red destroy lots of stuff cards and never really settled on which is the overall best. Those that sac a set number tend to be easier to build around however not being able to kill Titans and some other big dorks is a bit of a problem these days. Wildfire being the cheapest of these (along with Burning of Xinye) makes it the easiest to include and play. More often than not it is cast proactively just to kill lands rather than trying to wait at all and kill dorks with it too. It is primarily for this reason that I prefer it to Destructive Force however their ability to kill different sized monsters does make me elect to run one of both rather than two effective copies of Wildfire. I am not sure this is right but I like to feel I am covered to deal with things when building decks. Destroying lands cripples most decks, those that can recover best from it tend to have lots of little dorks which wiping away as well sures up your advantage. Most land destruction is one for one and tends to cost about three mana to do so. This gets 4 lands at half the usual cost and allows mana denial strategies to be competitive in the cube. The only requirement is that you do not cripple yourself when casting it. A big red staple and playable in a few other archetypes too, all of which have ways to ramp up their own mana quickly.
The rating of this card does not do its power level justice. I want to give it a solid 4.0 however it rarely sees play outside of mono red agro decks, almost all of which are red deck wins. The ways to rate burn are damage per card and damage per mana for which this trumps Lightening Bolt (the actual best burn spell) on both accounts. Most of the time casting this signifies the game has ended and so teh loss of mountains isn't relevant. All the other times you cast it the mountains lost will be a minor set back or a necessary evil as you would otherwise lose immediately. The normal cost is somewhat prohibitive so you have to be prepared to sac your lands if you are to play it. When you do though it ticks every box for burn and it does so with flying colours, instant speed, high damage output, the lowest of costs and freely targettable. The most simple cards are often the best but are also the hardest to express why they are so good. Time Walk is just very very good, this is not quite so good but still qualifies for a double very in the description of its goodness.
Destructive Force 2.5
A bit better at dealing with creatures than Wildfire and both able to hit more lands while doing so at a more efficient mana per land rate. Both of Wildfire and Destructive Force are primarily mana denial spells in red with incidental mass removal. With mana denial spells you are using them because you cant easily beat the things you will face if they have all the mana they need. Waiting to hit 5 lands with Force instead of using it at 4 lands as you would with Wildfire means you are much more likely to be facing a serious problem card. I like the redundancy in these effects too much to cut it down to just Wildfire or to play Jokulhaups instead, and I like the variation in effect too much to play Burning of Xinye over it either. Force is nice in that it is the perfect follow up to an Inferno Titan or a Wurmcoil Engine but this is rather an ideal situation and noth something that should be too influential in deck design. Devastation might be a more reliable effect for your 7 mana as then you can rely on it as a wrath effect and it does not ruin your artifact ramp synergy as Obliterate effects do. Big Red decks don't really need much more than three lands to be able to cast all their things and so this would also be more punishing for control decks who can survive a Destructive Force with enough lands to carry on.
Devil's Play 2.0
The obligatory slot in the cube for the X spell firmly belongs to Devil's Play now. Fireball lasted a long time and kept swapping in and out for Banefire when that showed up to compete. Splitting damage and being unpreventable/counterable are both situationally useful however getting two for one on your X spell is always useful. If your deck suits an X spell it will definitely benefit from having a free one thrown in at no cost. While this may be lots better than previous X spells the genre does not have many homes. The more limited your format the better they become but in streamlined decks there are not many decks who will have the mana to abuse them and are much better off with non scaling damage as it so much more efficient for damage to mana ratios. Play works well with Faithless looting and is powerful enough to see some play in Big Red and counter burn decks where it has single handedly taken some games with big back to back dome shots. Triple red should rarely be a problem for the flashback unless you are only splashing the red in which case it is only very slightly worse than other burn spells. Just losing two damage therefore on your flashback copy of Play is a rather minor cost compared to most flashback spells, especially those with reasonable initial costs.
Rolling Earthquake 3.5
This sort of feels like cheats when you kill off Baneslayers and masses of flying tokens but it also feels like a rip-off when your playing a mass removal spell that fails to save you. As the spell is not guaranteed to kill everything any way, does loads of damage to you and can be prohibitively expensive I have elected to go for the more powerful cheaty option in my cube. I have no cards with horsemanship and so this does hit all dorks which is splendid however the strongest aspect of this card over other mass removal effects is that you can generally take out their team and one of their planeswalkers at the same time. It also works nicely with red in general as you can stop any pressure being applied to you while also putting them closer in range of getting burned out. This however is a mixed blessing as decks wanting mass removal effects are usualyl the control deck and therefore prefer to keep their life over other people losing it. A powerful and flexible card that rates highly on the mass removal charts but does come with limitations. Doubling up as a Fireball to end the game also pushes the card higher than many mass removal cards which are pretty narrow in application for the most part.