“Awesome” Also Includes Forked Bolt

In the quite likely event that you read Top Decks last week, you know that I listed not just Flame Slash but Forked Bolt in the “awesome” at one mana category. This post is going to be a follow up to the Flame Slash post as well as a brief discussion of its one mana twin / competitor / equal and opposite.

First of all, I just wanted to should out to our great FiveWithFlores.com community for some of their additional Flame Slash commentary.

I focused on Malakir Bloodwitch (probably because I tend to think of Naya first… and Burst Lightning was an important component of the World Championship winning deck); but Twinblaze pointed out that Flame Slash is good against Putrid Leech, and Alfrebaut and some others talked about using Flame Slash to help a beatdown deck get past Wall of Omens, or a Red Deck deal with problem creatures like Rhox War Monk (and any Red mages out there know what a serious problem that 3/4 can be).

So what about Forked Bolt?

Forked Bolt
Forked Bolt

Forked Bolt v. Lightning Bolt

First up, it is not strictly true that Lightning Bolt is better than Forked Bolt. I mean it is probably true, but it isn’t even strictly true that Forked Bolt is better than Shock. I mean we all know that Lightning Bolt is the better card due to the twofold “I deal three damage” and “I do those three damage at instant speed” brothers, but we can’t say strictly.

Because of that, I don’t know that Forked Bolt will do much displacement of Lightning Bolt in the first four slots allotted to Red one mana removal spells (don’t forget that Boss Naya and Naya Allies don’t even play four Lightning Bolts main deck). However I feel like Forked Bolt will be a second string main deck card more readily than Flame Slash.

After all, it goes to the head.

Forked Bolt v. Burst Lightning

Forked Bolt v. Burst Lightning makes for an interesting comparison. Burst Lightning — at least before Rise of the Eldrazi — sat on the front line of the second string. There were decks like Grixis Burn that actually appreciated a Burst Lightning and the ability to deal four points of damage. As a Shock variant, Forked Bolt is not going to match that incentive from Burst Lightning.

How about killing little guys?

I have found a lot of tension during the first couple of turns of a game, especially against Vampires or Naya decks… Which one mana spell should I use? Against Vampires you often want to clear out a Vampire Hexmage before playing Ajani Vengeant; against Naya the target is Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch. So do you Lightning Bolt or Burst Lightning?

It’s been months and I still have no clue!

Against Vampires you typically want to save Lightning Bolt for Vampire Nighthawk… But sometimes you have to make sure you have ammunition for Vampire Nocturnus (I mean, should the worst happen). Against Naya, you usually want to save Burst Lightning for Knight of the Reliquary (provided you can still deal with it at all, Burst Lightning will often be better than Lightning Bolt) or Woolly Thoctar; on the other hand, the Burst Lightning deck I played for months would often have to respect Great Sable Stag.

While Forked Bolt can’t actually kill a Woolly Thoctar [by itself], it does remove a lot of the tension on the first turn. For example Forked Bolt versus Lightning Bolt is not much of a fight when you are faced with Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, or Vampire Hexmage; you can kill any of those little guys, and send an extra point to the opponent’s head. Perfect!

Subtly, Forked Bolt is a good supplement to Lightning Bolt when you have to kill a larger creature. You can tag team to take down a Woolly Thoctar, say, and still point the last ding ding at the opponent; while that doesn’t make up for the craptastic-ness of blowing a second card on a three drop, paying yourself back a point is nice (or you can snag an X/1 while you’re at it, to more-or-less break even).

Forked Bolt v. Flame Slash

As far as second string single [mana] sorceries go, these two are both awesome… but don’t really compete for the same jobs. They are like Diet Coke and Vitamin Water.

Forked Bolt does something pretty unique; in the past you needed to invest three mana for this effect. And even if it was good (Osyp made Top 8 the first Pro Tour Electrolyze was legal), no one has played it in forever… We just don’t like to deal two damage for three mana even when we get to draw a card. Make no mistake, this card can be a blowout against some draws. You know those games where the Green deck kept two lands and two Elves (or whatever Birds / Druids)? Forked Bolt can Mind Twist them at the same time as manascrewing them on one of these draws.

Plus, Forked Bolt is so much more versatile. You can pick it up and point it (or, as we’ve said a couple of times, point half of it) at the head. That makes it hell off the top.

Flame Slash is different. Flame Slash is surgery. That might be a strange thing to say given what a generally inflexible, brute force (if awesome) card Flame Slash is. But think about it: You want Flame Slash for a specific job. Specific kinds of decks want it, typically out of the sideboard, to get rid of or compete against known — dangerous — quantities.

In the words of the great Tsuyoshi Fujita, “Depends on the metagame.”

I think Flame Slash is unlikely to be a main deck card, but quite likely to be a sideboard Staple.

I think Forked Bolt will be the new second string main deck card, largely replacing Burst Lightning in that role. That is due to the ability to go to the head and the ability to deal with common creatures while still hitting for a little damage (all for so little mana, of course). However depending on how the metagame evolves one might be more common than the other. Alternately the decision might be dictated by what deck is making the decision. For example, I don’t really see my school of Naya decks fighting over little X/1s rather than caring about the much-mentioned Malakir Bloodwitch.

But it would be perfectly reasonable for some Red Decks to go the other way.


facebook comments:


#1 dyee418 on 04.25.10 at 9:08 pm

Definitely a fantastic standard elves killer in the room, I have been playing elves recently and because they can only kill one of my llanowar elves at a time with spot removal, I still have one on the battlefield; but, this and shrivel are making me to not want to play elves/an eldrazi ramp deck because of the reliance on X/1’s, but yes it is more versatile burn spell against boros, elves, tokens (assuming there is no enchantment or other pump), and even cobra decks; definitely will be very good on the meta-game.

#2 MTGBattlefield on 04.25.10 at 11:16 pm

“Awesome” Also Includes Forked Bolt…

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#3 Alfrebaut on 04.26.10 at 12:14 am

Both are some of the few cards I like out of this damned Timmy set. I actually think Slash is better for the current metagame, because for the most part, Bolt will “feel” like a one-mana unkicked Searing Blaze. And no one wants an unkicked Searing Blaze. Either way, though… I’ll probably pack both in Block and maybe one in the side and one in the main in Standard.

#4 Dold on 04.26.10 at 8:01 am

I’m not a fan of Forked Bolt. I’m perfectly fine with killing X/1s with a Lightning Bolt. Its worse than Bolt for killing X/2s because its a sorcery. And when would you play this over Cunning Sparkmage?

#5 Diego on 05.01.10 at 11:27 am

Forked Bolt > Burst Lightning.

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