By: AL Wainer
Hello People of the Republic! Today I’d like to talk a bit about one of my favorite decks in the Modern format: Mardu Pyromancer.
Why This Deck?
The modern format is wide open with a variety of strategies, and unless you’re highly in-tune with the local meta, it can be daunting to know where to start. Midrange decks like Mardu offer a versatile package that won’t outclass the field but will always provide you with possible outs no matter the matchup. The deck leverages hand disruption, ample point removal and highly synergistic creatures that can provide you the tools you need to grind out wins against almost any opponent. If you like an interactive game of Magic, Mardu may be the deck for you.
What’s the Game Plan?
This deck leans heavily on discard spells like Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize to throw your opponent off their game plan, then leverages your point removal spells like Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt to maintain board advantage. The heavy point removal package synergizes perfectly with the deck’s namesake: Young Pyromancer. Our boy, Peezy, will grind out advantage for you in the form of 1/1 chumps that will buy you time by blocking anything you aren’t currently able to outright remove and acting as an instant army for when the board is clear enough that you feel safe swinging into the red zone.
You’ve also got access to Faithless Looting, which, for this deck, could be the best card draw spell in Modern. The “drawback” of discarding cards from your hand can work in your favor, as this deck can discard Lingering Souls or other copies of Faithless Looting to be flashed back. As you thin out your hand and fill your graveyard, you’ll be setting yourself up for a one-way ticket to Valuetown and readying the powerhouse that keeps you alive: Bedlam Reveler. Reveler gets cheaper for every Instant and sorcery in your graveyard and refills your hand when he comes down.
Lastly, the deck takes full advantage of main-deck Blood Moon as an extra push that can be difficult for some decks to come back from. You’ll want to prioritize grabbing at least one basic swamp from your fetches to ensure you don’t find yourself cornered by your own hate card. If everything goes according to plan, you’ll have run your opponent out of cards while you chip away at their life total with Spirit tokens and Bedlam Revelers.
Here’s what I would consider to be the core of the deck:
Young Pyromancer and Bedlam Reveler are your key creatures, with Pyro creating an army and the Reveler as a finisher that refills your hand and keeps your options open. You’ll always want four of each in your deck.
Instants and Sorceries
Inquisition of Kozilek
The hand disruption provided by Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize are vital to your early game plan, keeping your opponent off balance. Faithless Looting, thanks to flashback, grants us the ability to filter quickly through the deck for whatever piece is needed at the moment. Lingering Souls offers up a victory condition in the form of flying tokens in copious amounts.
Then there’s Kolaghan’s Command, which is one of the most versatile spells we have in our arsenal: it can shut down an opponent’s Aether Vial; it Shocks; it can further attack your opponent’s hand; and it gets you more value from creatures in your graveyard. And not only does it give you all of these options, but you’re getting any two modes every time you cast it. Rounding out our core cards are our main pieces of creature removal, Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push.
Liliana of the Veil
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Hazoret the Fervent
Outside of our core package, we have a little room to improvise. We want to prioritize instants and sorceries to get the most out of our Pyros and Revelers, which makes Dreadbore and Terminate effective additions to the removal suite of the deck. Collective Brutality isn’t as versatile as Kolaghan’s Command, but it does help fuel our graveyard. Lightning Helix is great to help you stabilize while you slay, but white mana can be tight in this deck, especially if you’re running Blood Moon (and I do advocate running Blood Moon). You can round out your final few flex with slots additional threats like Hazoret or alternate value engines like Narhiri or Liliana of the Veil.
Mardu Pyromancer by Al Wainer
Let's take a look at the list I’m currently running:
4 Young Pyromancer
4 Bedlam Reveler
2 Hazoret the Fervent
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Fatal Push
2 Kolaghan’s Command
2 Lightning Helix
4 Lingering Souls
4 Faithless Looting
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Collective Brutality
2 Blood Moon
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Arid Mesa
2 Marsh Flats
2 Blood Crypt
1 Godless Shrine
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Inspiring Vantage
1 Concealed Courtyard
2 Stony Silence
2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
2 Goblin Rabblemaster
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Leyline of the Void
2 Wear // Tear
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Engineered Explosives
I like using Hazoret in two of my flex slots, as she provides a great finisher for the deck and allows me to come at my opponent from multiple angles. Activating her ability to pitch a Lingering Souls and Shock your opponent is probably one of the best moves you’re able to pull off with her on the field, and it will make short work of most opponents. I do think it’s worth trimming down to a single copy for an additional Kolaghan’s Command, as that card is always a welcome draw and two copies is just not enough.
In my time playing Mardu Pyromancer, I’ve been able to identify a few decks that are difficult games for us: big mana decks like Tron; combo decks like Storm, Ad Nauseam and KCI; and aggro decks like Affinity and Elves.
Big mana decks put us in a tight spot if they’re able to get Tron online, and even with Blood Moon on the table, we have a hard time against their threats once they get to seven mana. Our best chance in this matchup is to try and board in aggressive cards like Goblin Rabblemaster and hope to race them to victory.
Combo decks like Storm, Ad Nauseam or KCI can mostly ignore our game plan and play around our threats. Each of these matchups tend to be very bad for us in the first game, and drawing appropriate sideboard cards (like Stony Silence against KCI) can mean the difference between squeezing out a victory or meekly standing by and watching your opponent go off.
Lastly, aggro decks like Affinity or Elves present problems in that they can quickly outpace our removal suite and outclass our tokens. Bringing in Anger of the Gods and Rakdos Charm is your best bet in these games.
Don’t be afraid to pitch Bedlam Revelers or Pyromancers to Faithless Looting early in the game, especially if you dig up a Kolaghan’s Command.
Prioritize fetching at least one basic Swamp to avoid accidentally cornering yourself with your own Blood Moon.
Don’t feel bad if you can’t cast Lingering Souls from your hand. Pyromancer will help generate tons of tokens, and we’re light on the white sources, which makes Lingering Souls a premium card to pitch to a Faithless Looting or Collective Brutality.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with this deck and find that, even in bad matchups, I rarely feel completely outclassed. That being said, I’m no expert. So before I leave you today, I’d like to include some additional resources on Mardu Pyromancer from some real pros:
Here’s Reid Duke taking Pyromancer out for a spin on MTGO.
Emma Handy has an excellent write up with her take on the deck.
And here is Brian DeMars brewing up an interesting take on the shell by adding in Death’s Shadow.