Five mana for 5 damage to an opponent seems like
a bad deal when you've seen Lava Spike. It's
also tough that you can't use it to take out a
creature. Sure, it can be good for forcing those
last 5 points through, but it's an awfully
expensive way of doing that.
One way to succeed in any gameplay format is to
figure out what the format is about, so to
speak. Ask yourself what its decks are trying to
do, and then do something that either counters
that or avoids it entirely. In the case of draft
and sealed games, for example, decks are trying
to have better creatures than the opponent. For
such a situation, Lava Axe can be a high-impact,
game-winning card, as it goes around the
creature race and literally hits your opponent
where it hurts.
An aside, but I won a M10 Sealed
tournament with a deck built around three copies
of Lava Axe and a few other burn cards.
The final game was against one of the store's
more outspoken personalities and he was rather
frustrated with being burned down as opposed to
the usual attacks one might expect in Limited.
We were the last game of consequence and had a
pretty rowdy audience watching every play.
Ultimately the game was decided by a topdecked
third Lava Axe knocking out his last five life
and he calmly said good game, shook my hand,
then walked off before yelling and storming out
of the store. He was followed by some of
the crowd, at a distance, and he went into a bar
where he seemingly had a few too many before
wandering around the parking lot muttering and
One of the other players enjoyed all of this so
much that he insisted I sell him the copies of
the Lava Axes I had used so he could frame them
in the store. I politely declined until
gathered additional support from others and
offered quite a bit more than commons are worth
and I couldn't really object to free money.
Though they then demanded I autograph them as
well. So, as far as I know they have three
copies of Lava Axe autographed and framed
sitting in the store thanks to one very burn
oriented sealed pool and a guy who takes losing
way too hard.
My little story that I always think of when I
see this card, so I thought I'd share.
Today's card of the day is Lava Axe which at
five mana for five damage isn't overly
impressive or versatile when other cards like
Unstable Footing or even Fireball exist that can
add more value to the deck. It isn't
really a bad card, but the burn slots of a deck
are often better filled with cards like
Lightning Bolt which can hit players or
creatures for less investment. The change
in flavor text from 2010's elegant "Catch!"
isn't the best either.
For Limited this is actually an overlooked card
that is really quite devastating as there are
few responses available and a decent supply of
support in set. Chandra's Spitfire and
Fire Servant both work very well with this and
any other burn alongside a copy or two of Lava
Axe can end the game in short order. The
single Red in the cost allows it to easily be
played in a multicolor deck, often with Green
for the acceleration, and works well in almost
any Sealed build. For Booster this can be
a tough draft choice, but when going Red this
can be picked up quite early for a very
aggressive deck design.