The upcoming core set introduces plenty of exciting planeswalkers, Dragons, and other gigantic creatures. But as an aggro aficionado, I tend to get even more excited by 1-mana or 2-mana creatures that support a beatdown plan.
Core Set 2019 contains several such creatures. Diregraf Ghoul might allow a resurgence of W/B Zombies, and Gearsmith Prodigy might enable a U/R Artificer deck. There are also a few Goblins that might see Standard play if their tribe gets additional support. But my favorite new addition is a 2/1 for 2.
Err, wait—another one.
Viashino Pyromancer reminds me of Keldon Marauders, Kessig Malcontents, or Goblin Legionnaire, all of which have been included in successful Pro Tour decks. The reason these creatures are perfect for aggro decks is because they are good in every stage of the game. Early on, they’ll attack for a few points of damage, and in the late game, they provide the reach to finish off your opponent. Modern Burn decks know the power of Lava Spike, and if you think of Viashino Pyromancer as a mini-Spike that puts a free creature onto the battlefield, then its appeal becomes clear.
That said, 1 toughness isn’t great against Goblin Chainwhirler, and for Mono-Red Aggro or R/B Chainwhirler, Viashino Pyromancer is almost surely worse than the existing options: Kari Zev and Scrapheap Scrounger attack for 3, and Earthshaker Khenra has a stronger late-game ability for a deck that isn’t as burn-oriented. But all three of those 2-drops will rotate out of Standard with the release of Guilds of Ravnica in October, leaving us with the likes of Dire Fleet Daredevil, Nest Robber, and Goblin Trailblazer. After the rotation, a Mono-Red Aggro deck might want to start with Dire Fleet Daredevil and Viashino Pyromancer as its 2-drops.
But we may not even have to wait until the rotation to see Viashino Pyromancer in action. The card has two other things going for it that are really important to certain decks.
First, it’s a Wizard. There is already a U/R Wizard Prowess deck in Standard that might be interested in another on-tribe 2-drop. Also, Mono-Red players can now play twelve decent Wizards by combining Viashino Pyromancer with Soul-Scar Mage and Ghitu Lavarunner. Such a deck would have an 85.9% probability of having a Wizard for a discounted Wizard’s Lightning on turn 3. Lightning Bolt is a good payoff.
Second, Viashino Pyromancer synergizes nicely with The Flame of Keld. This Saga is best in decks with a high density of burn spells, as creatures will probably be answered by blockers or removal spells by the time the third chapter triggers. Viashino Pyromancer allows you to increase your burn density without having to sacrifice creature slots, which is great for deck building. You can now build a deck with twelve burn spells, four Fanatical Firebrand, and four Viashino Pyromancer, which holds a source of direct damage 82% of the time for The Flame of Keld’s third chapter.
Here is a sample list, obtained by replacing Earthshaker Khenra with Viashino Pyromancer in Joakim Stahle-Nilsson’s Grand Prix Copenhagen Top 8 deck. His 20-land deck would rarely hit eternalize mana anyway, so it seems like a natural replacement to me.
The strategy has been proven to be competitive. It’s one of the best budget options available, and Viashino Pyromancer is a nice addition.
I would be somewhat hesitant to run this many 1-toughness creatures while Goblin Chainwhirler remains dominant, but it still worked in Copenhagen. Goblin Chainwhirler decks draw an early copy only about half of the time, so if a third of the field is running Goblin Chainwhirler, you’re only facing it once every six games or so. In the other games, this deck’s super-low curve allows you to go under your opponent before they have a chance to set up their defenses.