MTG Wiki
MTG Wiki

Direct damage or burn refers to a spell or ability that deals damage to a target player or creature, not through combat, but rather by spells or effects of cards already in play.[1]


Red is primary in direct damage and has it in many forms, including the most straightforward versions.[2][3] The accompanying flavor and imagery of fire and electricity is responsible for the burn teminology.[4][5] Red will occasionally deal damage to all or a subset of creatures, sometimes dealing a small amount (1 or 2 damage, killing small creatures), sometimes doing larger amounts that kill most creatures. Red's damage in this area most often hits all creatures, including its own.[2]

Red may also deal damage to a creature that's been damaged earlier (preying on the weak). It also may sacrifice a creature and deal damage to creature/player equal to the sacrificed creature's power/toughness.[2]

Famous burn spells[]

Burn spells are most commonly used in red aggro decks, and have a low mana cost. A typical Burn Deck is a deck that seeks to reduce an opponent's life total from 20 to 0 as fast as possible, usually in the form of instant and sorceries and a few creatures, doing direct damage and with very little interaction. Pure burn decks tend to suffer in the mid-game, when spells have been used up, a hand size is minimal, and there are no creatures to block with.[6]


Black is secondary, it will do direct damage to creatures or players and then gain life (drain).[2] Black will sometimes deal damage to players as a punishment. Black used to mostly do life loss to players, but as R&D has been trying to give black more answers to planeswalkers, they have been shifting this more into damage. With black getting direct destruction, the life-loss/damage design difference is still nebulous.

Like red, black may deal damage to a creature that's been damaged earlier or sacrifice a creature to deal damage.[2]


White's direct damage only shows up in combat.[2] It is primary in dealing damage to target attacking or blocking creature. White will also occasionally deal damage to multiple creatures or all attackers or blockers.


Green may deal damage to a creature with flying.[2] Green also gets fight and biting spells that have damage effects, albeit with a creature proxy instead of the spell. Charge of the Forever-Beast and Monstrous Onslaught have different templating that require creatures but have the spell doing the damage. There are a handful of Green direct damage spells including Hornet Sting and Unyaro Bee Sting, but these are considered mistakes and color pie breaks.[7]


As always, colorless cards present a way to get effects in decks that might otherwise not have access to them[8] at rates overcoated relative to colors that are normally able to produce them.

In Un-sets[]