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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[]

Red is primary in direct damage and has it in effectively all forms, with the most straightforward and unconditional 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, and some will also deal damage to planeswalkers in the same spell. The damage number can be any number, though the most common is the 2-4 range.[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] It may also deal damage to planeswalkers directly, due to the planeswalker redirection rules change.

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 twenty or more instant and sorceries and a few creatures. 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[]

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. Black's ending-the-game player damage tends to template as "each opponent" whereas red will more often use "target opponent/player or planeswalker".

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

White[]

White's direct damage only shows up in combat.[2] It is primary in dealing damage to target attacking or blocking creature, occasionally to multiple or all attackers or blockers. It also has damage to tapped creatures on the premise that such a creature probably attacked. White used to have access to damage redirection and damage based on color hate, but these are not in the current design pool.

Green[]

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] Green has had some forms of player damage, but those are not considered part of the modern color pie; it has, however, started to damage planeswalkers with their bite spells.

Colorless[]

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[]

References[]

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