One of the most (or least, depending on who you ask) fun aspects of playing higher caliber Magic is getting to watch decks go through endless iterations and evolve with their respective formats. Tiny changes over time stick and become the optimal choice, as other decks adapt and make similar changes in response. A new card gets printed and adopted, starting the cycle again. Sometimes these changes are miniscule, other times they lead to massive sweeping alterations in how a deck and its pilot approach the format. Today, we’re going to look at a deck that’s gone from hero to zero and back again between bannings and new cards. Let’s check out Izzet Pyromancer.
Budget Pioneer Izzet Pyromancer by Darren Magnotti
Izzet Pyromancer is a spellslinging tempo strategy that relies on the synergies between casting a dozen spells each turn and cards that reward you for doing so. The main game plan is to establish a threat early in the game, and from there begin interacting with the opponent and their resources to start reaping the benefits from that threat.
While other similar builds are built with the plan of protecting their early threat in mind, this deck leans more into a proactive game plan in order to come at the opponent as hard and as fast as possible. The deck is loaded up on creature and planeswalker removal without concerning itself with countermagic, as additional threats are relatively easy to come by given the deck’s extensive draw suite. It then chooses to close out the game by overwhelming the opponent’s board state by way of Balmor, Battlemage Captain pumping the team and creating a huge wave of attacking power seemingly out of nowhere.
Izzet Pyromancer most heavily relies on its namesake, Young Pyromancer, to be the beast of burden and carry the team. The boy’s chipper demeanor and can-do attitude, combined with his ability to create a tremendous army, are frequently too much for an opponent who’s light on removal to handle. The deck takes advantage of the particular metagame trend right now where it’s not extremely popular to load up on creature removal. With the likes of Green Devotion, Greasefang, Heroic and Humans all skimping heavily on interaction, decks like this that like to gain value from a creature sitting in play uncontested get a huge buff. The signature move of the deck is to jam out a Pyromancer as early as possible, let it amass a small army of tokens while clearing the board of any potential blockers, then proceeding a couple of cantrips with a Balmor to wildly swing the combat math into its own favor.
Aside from this powerplay, the deck also packs a small handful of individual threats as well to help diversify its angles of attack. Monastery Swiftspear and Sprite Dragon both fill equal and opposite role of Young Pyromancer, letting the deck go tall instead of wide and dumping all of its eggs into one basket. While this isn’t the most ideal plan of attack in the current Liliana of the Veil meta, many decks simply aren’t capable of addressing both the tokens from Pyromancer and a giant 8/8 threat coming at them. The haste on each of them also helps tremendously to recover swiftly from board wipes, as these cards can relatively safely sit in hand while the other threats are out doing their work.
As Pyromancer moves toward the midgame, the deck begins to heavily rely on setting the opponent back in their game plan. The most common method is via burn spells as the prominent card type in Pioneer is “creatures that die to a Lightning Bolt.” Fiery Impulse and Strangle are the best options at the moment, with Impulse being favored for its instant speed rather than Strangle’s planeswalker interaction.
As mentioned above, the deck chooses to skimp on countermagic both because that’s not the sort of thing that the format demands at the moment, but also because it clashes with the proactive nature of the threat base. Being a tempo deck, the list is also packing a surprisingly powerful inclusion at the moment in Fading Hope. While the Unsummon effect has been around forever, this particular deck at this particular time actually gets a lot of really good use out of the spell and both of its modes. Decks like Rakdos, Green Devotion and Heroic like to sink a lot of their time and mana into one large creature threat, and being able to force them to repeat that action while netting additional benefits is extremely worthwhile. Between Old-Growth Troll, Sheoldred, 4/7 Ledger Shredders and Greasefangs, being able to buy an entire turn for one measly mana can swing entire games. This effect is typically slept on since it has been around for so long and we’re used to not seeing it, but it can be extremely potent in the right circumstances.
Izzet Pyromancer is the latest in a long line of Pioneer builds who revolve around the cantrip suite of four Opt and four Consider. These cards, like their forefathers in older formats, both smooth out draws and can be chained together to dig for exactly the necessary spell right when its needed. The cantrip suite really does make the deck, as they improve and enhance almost every other card in the list, from triggering the creatures’ abilities to filling up the graveyard for delving.
Speaking of which, the deck also relies on its equally important suite of cards meant to refill the hand. Treasure Cruise was to be expected here, as its been a mainstay in Pioneer spellslinger decks since day one. Most of us are aware of the power of drawing three cards for one mana, but for those that haven’t been afforded the luxury yet, the feeling is absolutely indescribable. Emulating the Cruise is a relative newcomer to the competitive scene in Of One Mind. This frequently-one-mana Divination, while not nearly as explosive singularly as the Cruise, works in conjunction with the rest of the engine pieces to make sure that the hand is always loaded up.
An important factor in the successful piloting of a tempo based strategy is the assurance that I have more resources than my opponent, and cards in hand is a big factor there. Having access to several different choices each turn helps to mitigate the compounding of mistakes by making it so that the correct answer can be played at the correct time more often, and being able to recast replacement threats when the ones in play are dispatched can often put more of a squeeze on the opponent’s resources than they’re able to handle. While all of these cards may look individually unappealing on their faces, their combined efforts create a scenario where the opposition is quickly overwhelmed by the amount of options that you have access to.
One of the biggest strengths to this deck at the moment is, as discussed up top, that a large number of the top decks in the format are spending their turns committing singular threats to the board and expecting them to stick around. The Pyromancer deck leans into that on two fronts, both with its removal package and with the go-wide plan. Being able to attack around a giant Cavalier of Thorns with an expendable army of Elemental tokens for several turns in a row is a plan of attack that a deck like Green Devotion just isn’t prepared for. That’s not to mention the deck’s multi-angled attack plan with its go-tall creatures as well, and how the difference between those two plans is frequently enough to divide the opponent’s resources so thinly that they find themselves wondering how they’re losing to a pile of uncommon cards.
Needless to say, I am a huge fan of this strategy at the moment, as I feel like it brings the most efficient version of something to the table that no other deck in the format is currently bringing or is prepared for. While the deck certainly comes with its weaknesses, such as to spell-based strategies like Azorius Control, with how today’s metagame is shaping up, players certainly need to be prepared for the tempo decks to perform. The consistency in this deck is off the charts with how many cards it draws per game, and there is very little hate being played right now that causes the strategy to fold.
All in all, I think that this deck (the non-budget version specifically, though this budgeted list was also giving very promising results) is poised to take over the format if things continue as they have been.
Pioneer Izzet Pyromancer by debatebro
The major upgrades to this deck are easily the copies of Ledger Shredder, which meshes with the later game plan so well that it’s impossible to pass up on. While the creature suite in non-budgeted versions varies fairly widely, one constant is the inclusion of Ledger Shredder, as the card can singlehandedly take over games and refuel you from nothing by filtering your draws into exactly the cards that you need. Being a strong blocker and aerial threat in the later turns is also a huge boon.
Other notable pieces are the likes of Otawara, Soaring City and Hall of Storm Giants/Den of the Bugbear, which give the deck alternate options that help maximize mana efficiency while retaining some number of spells in hand to make the explosive turns that much more so. Lastly, some variants have been experimenting with the likes of Brazen Borrower, which I think is an excellent inclusion in this list for the same reason that Fading Hope is good. Ultimately, this archetype is extremely flexible right now, and can be adapted to form-fit your metagame, so experimentation and iteration are key.
That’s all for this one! It’s always a joy to get to experiment with things that are slightly outside of my typical wheelhouse, and every so often I just get in the mood to ruin someone’s day with a tempo shell like this. They are always mindbending in just the right ways, and a fun way to mix up ones approach to the format. Until next time, stay safe, play smart and thanks for reading.