I have only two gripes with Magic 2014. The first is that they’re taking away my beloved [card]Garruk, Primal Hunter[/card] and replacing him with some impostor. No longer will we hunt side-by-side with his summoned Beasts, chasing the fearsome Ursoth of Shandalar. Nor will we spend our summer days feasting on Baloth flesh in the Turntimbers of Murasa. Most importantly, no more ramping into him quickly, dropping a [card]Thragtusk[/card], and drawing another grip of cards in front of a despairing opponent.
Then again, it could get reprinted in the next block (fingers crossed).
My second gripe is that the M14 release date and legendary rules change come a week after GP Kansas City. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great list without a tournament, and in this case, quad-[card]Mox Opal[/card] [card]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/card] is the deck. Arg. Oh well, there will be other events.
On the plus side, there’s still the UWR Twin list that qualified Joe Bernal and myself last season, if you’re looking for ideas.
Back to M14 and the new card that’s turning heads:
I remember when [card]Talrand, Sky Summoner[/card] was first spoiled. At the time, I had some small hope it would be Eternal playable, and even tested a copy in Vintage [card]Gush[/card] combo, where it served as a reasonable backup win condition when [card]Tendrils of Agony[/card] wasn’t an option. Even there, with all of the format’s fast mana and card draw, it was too clunky.
The problem with Talrand in Legacy is that any deck full of spells that wants a 2UU finisher is better off with Jace.
While [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] doesn’t pitch to [card]Force of Will[/card], it does come down early enough to be useful. Imagine casting a [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] or [card]Punishing Fire[/card] with this guy on the board. Historically, cheap creatures with unimpressive stats have seen play if they provide some crazy value. Unlike [card]Dark Confidant[/card], Pyromancer doesn’t draw a card every turn, but a free 1/1 in play is better than a random card if your deck is able to convert that board presence into a win.
Brew Session I: Tempo
My initial thought was that Young Pyromancer would be a fantastic card to protect with [card]Daze[/card] and [card]Force of Will[/card]. One problem with [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] is that sometimes it’s your only threat, and tapping out for it leaves you vulnerable. Against Esper Blade, you’ll counter the first [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card] only to lose to the second. With Pyromancer, the second still leaves you with some residual value. If they had to dig for the kill spell, or wait a turn to Snapcast it, you might have already generated a small army.
Unfortunately, Pyromancer is bad in tempo shells because it doesn’t do the same things as [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]. ‘Goyf closes fast against combo and gives you a giant, efficient body in tempo mirrors. Pyromancer’s stats are so small it can’t even survive a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], and it wins at the same glacial pace as [card]Lingering Souls[/card].
With that in mind, we want something more midrangy and controlling, a deck that wants all the value it can get.
Brew Session II: Start your Engines
RUG Punishing[deck]4 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
1 Underground Sea
3 Volcanic Island
3 Tropical Island
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
3 Deathrite Shaman
3 Young Pyromancer
1 Vendilion Clique
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Force of Will
2 Engineered Explosives
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Punishing Fire
2 Life from the Loam[/deck]
If you recall, I ran Punishing RUG at SCG St. Louis a few weeks ago. I tested the deck extensively against Deathblade, BUG, Omniscience, and Ad Naus because I expected those decks to be out in force (which they were). Unfortunately, I hadn’t tested against Miracles, and didn’t realize how weak my [card]Life from the Loam[/card]/[card]Tarmogoyf[/card]/[card]Punishing Fire[/card] deck was to [card]Rest in Peace[/card]. Facing seven copies of the troublesome enchantment in two rounds, combined with some suboptimal play on my part, led to an early exit.
Here, Young Pyromancer takes Tarmogoyf out of the equation, shelving raw stats for another engine. In practice, ‘Goyf’s purpose was to supplement the main win conditions, as it blocked for Jace and sped up Punishing Fire. Pyromancer does something similar while being less vulnerable to spot removal. That’s not true—if anything it’s more fragile, but it does leave value in its wake. It also doesn’t care about [card]Rest In Peace[/card], which hopefully makes the deck less of a glass cannon.
There are a few other differences between lists, and this one moves away from [card]Stifle[/card] in favor of [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]. It’s not that Deathrite and Stifle don’t belong in the same deck, they certainly can, but running both makes playing much harder. In an unforgiving deck, I want to make the technical aspect as easy as possible.[card]Misdirection[/card] goes from a 1-of to a 2-of simply because it’s much better in this deck. Before, it could protect a [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] or a [card]Vexing Sphinx[/card], but was reliant on the opponent having a target for the [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] or [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card]. [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] creates an abundance of little targets, making Misdirection a more consistent card.
One of the downsides of cutting Stifle and most of the blue creatures is that the blue count goes from 25 to 20. Still serviceable, but the difference matters when we’re trying to chain cantrips together and hold up countermagic.[card]Augur of Bolas[/card] in particular was good at blocking for Jace, finding the missing piece of the puzzle, and using the almost-colorless Grove mana. Now we have more uses for Grove and other bodies to block with, making Augur less necessary.
With only a few hours of testing, I’m unconvinced that this version is better than the list with Augurs and ‘Goyfs. The deck is already doing so much with its mana that finding the time to play a two-mana 2/1 with mana up might be difficult and conflicts with the [card]Wasteland[/card] plan. On the other hand, generating a free 1/1 every time you cast Life from the Loam sounds awesome.
Perhaps there’s a midrange deck that also wants more free spells like [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] and [card]Daze[/card]. Heck, even [card]Gut Shot[/card] has seen play, though at the time we had [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] instead of [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card].
Brew Session III: This Boy Needs Therapy
One place a mini-[card]Bitterblossom[/card] might fit is in Sam Black’s Zombardment deck, and Pyromancer and [card]Goblin Bombardment[/card] make quite the team. However, that deck in particular takes some heat from all the Deathrite action.
Instead of being weak to Deathrite, what if we preyed on it?
Pyro Italia[deck]4 Arid Mesa
2 Marsh Flats
1 Verdant Catacombs
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Stoneforge Mystic
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Dark Confidant
3 Young Pyromancer
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Cabal Therapy
3 Lingering Souls
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Umezawa’s Jitte[/deck]
Back in 2011, Gerard Fabiano brewed up Team Italia, a Deadguy Ale variant that featured red for [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]. At the time, neither [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] nor [card]Lingering Souls[/card] existed, though Lavamancer seems fine against both of those cards.
A notable omission in this list is [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card], which might still belong. For now, we can use the deck’s abundance of sacrificial lambs to test [card]Cabal Therapy[/card].
A side effect of cutting Hymn is that we’re no longer pulling lands out of the opponent’s hand, and the [card]Vindicate[/card] land destruction strategy is less likely to get there. On the plus side, [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] is a much more powerful card. The black planeswalker combines with discard to close games against almost every archetype in the format, balancing the fact that the equipment half of the deck is dead in some matchups.
Note that the inclusion of a green source for Deathrite makes imperfect the mana, as [card]Marsh Flats[/card] can’t fetch [card]Taiga[/card] and [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card] can’t fetch [card]Plateau[/card]. It should rarely come up, but it’s something to keep in mind. When deciding between seemingly duplicate fetches, use the Flats and Verdant first.
Of the decks I’m writing about today, this is the archetype I have the least experience with, and as such I’m less hopeful of its strength. Conceptually, I like putting the tokens to work by suiting them up with busted equipment.
Sharp readers might notice that these lists are constructed with Pyromancer in mind, yet only run three. This isn’t because it’s bad in multiples, and it’s actually awesome having two in play. The reason to avoid the full playset is because there are times when its effect is irrelevant or you can’t find the time to cast it. “When it rains, it pours” goes both ways—good and bad.
That said, it hasn’t yet seen play by the masses. It could be that its effect is powerful enough, and the body fragile enough, that four are warranted. For now, these lists incorporate the Pyromancer without depending on him, which is a good place to start with new cards.
Brew Session IV: Whacking Bushes
Young Pyromancer into [card]Goblin Bushwhacker[/card] has some serious Modern potential. Here’s my take:
Empty Combo[deck]4 Scalding Tarn
3 Sulfur Falls
3 Misty Rainforest
3 Steam Vents
4 Goblin Electromancer
3 Young Pyromancer
3 Goblin Bushwhacker
3 Desperate Ravings
4 Serum Visions
2 Past in Flames
4 Desperate Ritual
4 Empty the Warrens
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Pyretic Ritual[/deck]
While I played a ton of UR Storm while [card]Seething Song[/card] was legal, I don’t have much experience with the current [card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card] lists, and as such I can’t tell you which take on storm is better. I can tell you this one feels good. The average goldfish lies somewhere between turn three and four, which is about where you want to be with a Modern combo deck.
Since our kill relies on [card]Empty the Warrens[/card] into [card]Goblin Bushwhacker[/card], every Elemental token is effectively half of a storm count. Turn two [card]Electromancer[/card] into turn three Pyromancer + rituals is a solid win. Turn two Pyromancer into a mini-Empty on three, followed up by a couple cantrips and a Bushwhacker on four is slow, but can be assembled with mediocre draws through disruption. I like how, even if the opponent counters your important ritual, the Pyromancer is still a threat.
The old storm deck’s worst nightmare was getting Liliana locked, but Pyromancer allows us to chain cantrips together off of the top of our deck, generating an army without any hand size at all. On top of that, spitting out 1/1s defends against the planeswalker’s edict ability.
Since we’re moving further away from [card]Past in Flames[/card], graveyard hate is almost negligible. The card is still necessary in some number as it’s an awesome topdeck, turns a tepid storm count into “zomg you’re dead,” and adds power to your cantrips, helping to find that Bushwhacker to ensure the kill. On top of all that, it combines well with Goblin Electromancer.
Speaking of Electromancer, it’s the only reason to play [card]Desperate Ravings[/card]. I would run [card]Opt[/card] if I could. [card]Peer Through Depths[/card] is another option.
There are a few other directions to take this concept, but they all lean heavily on Pyromancer, including rituals like [card]Battle Hymn[/card] and [card]Infernal Plunge[/card]. If they kill your Electromancer before you get a chance to go off, you’re down an Electromancer. If they kill your Pyromancer when you have a grip full of Infernal Plunges, you’ll want a one-way ticket to the nearest cyanide factory.
Brew Session V: The Best 1/1s Draw Cards
Not many of us still play Vintage, and in truth I only dabble, but hopefully we can all appreciate that drawing piles of cards is one of the most fun things to do in Magic.
I’ve seen a lot of crazy brews over the years, and some of my favorites were focused on abusing [card]Skullclamp[/card] in Vintage. One ingenious Workshop deck combined it with [card]Myr Servitor[/card] to keep the good times flowing. Now, we have a new 1/1 generator to try.
The Pyro Storm[deck]3 Underground Sea
1 Tolarian Academy
2 Volcanic Island
2 Tropical Island
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Young Pyromancer
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Blightsteel Colossus
2 Lotus Cobra
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Merchant Scroll
4 Force of Will
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Time Vault
1 Voltaic Key
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Black Lotus
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Sol Ring
1 Wheel of Fortune[/deck]
The Pyro Storm is a vague name and could be misconstrued, so from here on out I’ll refer to the deck as TPS to keep it distinct and avoid any possible confusion.
This deck chains cantrips together better than any other deck on the planet, and a Pyromancer at any point generates enough 1/1 Elementals to feed Skullclamp or combine with [card]Time[/card] Walk to put the opponent away. In fact, the act of finding a Time Walk and a way to flash it back should generate a lethal amount of tokens.[card]Lotus Cobra[/card] has proven itself an effective tool for going off underneath a prison deck. I look forward to seeing if Pyromancer can also be useful there, struggling along with a few overcosted cantrips per turn to generate a win.
A miser’s [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] is usually gravy in a deck with [card]Tolarian Academy[/card], [card]Tinker[/card], and [card]Voltaic Key[/card], but [card]Preordain[/card] costs less tempo and triggers ‘mancer.
A sideboard should include a basic Mountain and 4 [card]Ingot Chewers[/card] for Workshop decks, 4 [card]Flusterstorm[/card]s for control and combo, and some number of metagame slots.
Finally, if you’re excited about M14 but looking for another take, PV did a great article on the Pyromancer with more of a Standard bent.