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Pardee Time – Pyromancery in All Formats

This past weekend, I found myself in the unusual position of playing all three of Magic’s major sanctioned Constructed formats at the SCG Invitational in Seattle. I had decided going into the event that if I didn’t make the Top 8 on Sunday I would play in the Modern 5k to try and prepare for both GP Omaha as well as the upcoming Pro Tour, so I made sure to come prepared. I ended up playing decks featuring some form of Pyromancery in all three formats, and I feel fairly confident that it’s among the best choices for at least two of them.

In Standard, I played the RW aggro deck I played last week on video and it performed admirably:

 

Stormbreath Dragon is an amazingly underplayed creature in the current format and over the course of the tournament, several of my opponents showed me their hands of Utter Ends, Abzan Charms and Banishing Lights as my loyal Dragons took 4- and 7-point chunks out of their life total. I think that this deck in particular takes good advantage of Stormbreath by providing lots of other must-kill targets for Hero’s Downfalls, Murderous Cuts, and Stoke the Flames, so that by the time you can cast the Dragon, it has a higher chance of sticking around and closing out the game.

Chained to the Rocks is also an underplayed gem in this format, but obviously takes a bit more setup to actually work. One of the most notable qualities of Standard is that while the removal is generally very versatile, you are generally paying 3 mana to kill a creature. Coupled with the fact that there are very few playable 1- or 2-mana creatures, Chained to the Rocks usually lets you both play a threat and answer one of your opponents’ on the same turn much earlier than most other decks in the format. There were many games where I was able to Chain my opponent’s Siege Rhino and add a Rabblemaster to my board in the same turn, creating a huge tempo swing that was really difficult to recover from.

In the sideboard, Hushwing Gryff overperformed. It not only shuts off Siege Rhinos and Hornet Queens, it provides a flash threat to help play around post-board sweeper effects that are very common in this format. I expect most red decks to have Anger of the Gods in the sideboard, while black decks tend to have Drown in Sorrow and white decks often have End Hostilities. Because almost every deck in the format will have sweepers post-board, you have to navigate those games carefully to avoid losing too much tempo to their 3-mana spells. This means that I will often avoid curving out with Seeker into a non-Brimaz 3-drop, meaning that it’s usually safe to sideboard out Seeker despite it being the only 2-drop in the deck.

Overall, I went a respectable 6-2 in Standard, beating 3 Whip decks, a Mardu deck, a Yuuya Jeskai Ascendancy deck, and a wacky 4-color control deck, while also losing to 2 Whip decks. I think the Whip matchup is pretty close to even, and two of the games I lost involved me discarding on turn 4 after missing my third land drop so it’s possible I ran slightly below expectation.

I think RW will likely still be a great choice for the upcoming GP Denver, but I want to experiment some with Sam Black’s Wingmate Roc-style RW deck. The biggest strike against it in my mind is that you don’t get to play Hushwing in the board because of how poorly it interacts with Heliod’s Pilgrim and the Roc, but I’ll definitely be giving it a try leading up to the GP.

Next up for me was Legacy, where I played BBD’s 75 from GP New Jersey. I had played the deck the week prior at a local CFB 1k, where I ended up splitting the Top 4 and felt like it was pretty good but not really anything special. I described it to others as “the most medium deck in the format.”

I played this deck because it does feel like it has game against everything in the format while also having a great sideboard that allows you to improve almost any matchup after game 1. However, after having played the deck in 2 events, I think that it’s missing the kind of free wins that you can sometimes get with a deck like UR Delver or the various combo decks available. I ended up going 5-2-1 with this deck, going 1-2 against UR Delver while beating Sneak and Show, the mirror, Death and Taxes, and Miracles. I ended up drawing in the last round because while some 12-4s would make the Top 8, my breakers were such that I would not be one of them and I had to settle for a Top 16.

I don’t think that UR Delver is a bad matchup, but it’s certainly very close. All of my matches against it went to 3 games and tended to come down to who could Cruise harder or better (or faster or stronger). This kind of made me wish I was playing some number of Thought Scours to help power up my Cruises.

Going forward, if I were committed to this strategy, I think I would try out a Sword of Fire and Ice in the board (or maybe even the main deck) but I think I would probably rather just play something else. Storm looks really good right now and I’ve been consistently impressed whenever I’ve played either with or against it. Since the event, I’ve also had the opportunity to play some games with Sam Black’s Jeskai Ascendancy deck and was somewhat blown away by the power level. It makes me think there could be something great there because the deck is so new and not a lot of people have put in work to improve it yet.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t at least mention mad scientist Greg Hatch’s unbelievably cool Artificer’s Intuition deck (I believe the title he ended up on was “Searching for Coggy Fischer”). He gave what has to be one of the greatest deck techs I’ve ever seen and it certainly felt like if his list could somehow be refined, the core engine of the deck is both sweet and powerful. It might be that his version is about as good as it gets because the constraints on playing with a card like Artificer’s Intuition are so high, but it’s definitely one to watch out for as new artifacts get printed.

Because I had failed to make Top 8, I was stuck playing in the Modern 5k on Sunday and I chose to play UR Delver. I think Pod is probably still good, but I wanted to try out Delver and I figured I would get more value out of practicing a non-Pod deck. I ended up playing something very close to what Pat Chapin played to a 4-0 record at the World Championships. I played:

The Disrupting Shoal in the main deck was thrust upon me by Greg Hatch, who swore to me that the card was underplayed and that I would have a newfound appreciation after playing with it some. Unfortunately it seriously underperformed for me, mostly because you have very few blue cards that cost something other than 1 or 8 mana, making it pretty narrow. The slot it was replacing from Chapin’s deck was an Electrolyze, which is also a card I don’t love in this type of deck. When you have a card like Treasure Cruise, I would rather that all your other spells be as cheap as possible so you can both Cruise faster and unload your cards quicker post-Cruise. In the future, I think I might try out a Dig Through Time as Cruise number 5 in that spot.

The one-ofs in the sideboard were mostly just to try some new stuff and see which ones worked well and which didn’t. After having played with them, I think I would play Spellskite, Pithing Needle, Threads of Disloyalty, Counterflux, Negate, Combust, Sowing Salt, Magma Spray, and Spell Pierce again. Electrickery ended up being much worse than I was expecting, basically being a 2-mana Forked Bolt that could also never kill a Swiftspear and could be countered by Dispel. Molten Rain is probably just worse than either Blood Moon or additional Sowing Salt. If I were to play an event today I think my sideboard would be:

 

I think this is among the best decks in Modern right now, and something very close to this list is what I would advocate going forward. As much as it pains me to set aside my beloved Birthing Pods, Treasure Cruise is just too insane to ignore.

So there you have it. Over the course of the weekend, I played 8 matches in each major Constructed format and ended up 6-2 (or 5-2-1) in all of them. I played either a Pyromancer or a Pyromaster in every format and can say with certainty that playing with fire is something I want to be doing regardless of which specific cards happen to be legal. Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions about any of these decks in the comments!

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