Pyromancer Ascension in Modern
Thing in the Ice had a lot of excitement behind it when it was first spoiled. A two mana board wipe that looked easy to enable, and left you a 7/8 creature behind afterwards? Truly a dream. Unfortunately, Thing shells never stuck in the format, and the hype around the card died as quickly as it had popped up. Looking back about a year after TiTi was printed, we can see Pyromancer Ascension Storm, and its death with the banning of Gitaxian Probe. Both Thing in the Ice and Pyromancer Ascension have fallen to the wayside, and haven’t been seen in the past few years. But thankfully, this week’s deck revives both cards alongside Mardu staple Bedlam Reveler. Let’s take a look at what we’re working with:
The deck is very reliant on the Xerox principle, which basically says that for every four cantrips that cost 1 or 2 mana, you can remove 2 lands from your deck. This allows us to run 18 lands while still having plenty of spells for Ascension, TiTi, and Reveler, and effectively raises our land count to 28. While this may seem like a lot, it’s important to remember that the rule isn’t necessarily hard-and-fast, and since most of our cantrips scry, we can get rid of any lands we don’t need to make sure we keep drawing gas. Because of the necessity of having a lot of instants and sorceries in the deck, we only run six creatures in total. The TiTis are the deck’s primary gameplan, since slamming one of these gives us inevitability in the form of a potential turn 3 board wipe, followed by a swing with a 7/8 monster. Bedlam Reveler has a nice synergy with TiTi since it’s a horror, and it benefits by the Xerox plan since spells in the graveyard reduce its cost, making this easy to cast for two mana.
Our spells are pretty straightforward, and though they are weird when compared to what most decks would run, they make sense in context. Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and Path to Exile all act as removal, with the first two also giving us some extra reach. Opt, Serum Visions, and Sleight of Hand all give us some card selection while quickly churning through the deck, helping to set up Ascension. Thought Scour also helps us dig, but has the added benefit of throwing cards into the graveyard for Bedlam Reveler and Pyromancer Ascension. Manamorphose acts as a non-card, fixing mana and replacing itself while also triggering Ascension, Prowess, and Thing in the Ice, and Remand can slow the opponent down just enough for us to finish them while also drawing a card. The mana is straightforward and consists of fetches, shocks, basics, and fastlands. The fetches are fairly important here, since they bring down the effective land count of the deck with each use.
In the sideboard, we have Monastery Mentor to help apply pressure and give us extra threats in grindy games, and Dispel to take care of Storm and decks heavy on permission. Engineered Explosives is great for tokens and other creature swarm decks like Humans, while also being good against Mardu. Surgical Extraction can slow down decks with a heavy graveyard focus like Dredge as well as ones with a light graveyard focus like control. Abrade is great against Vial decks, since it can take out creatures or Aether Vials, and Blessed Alliance can help against decks that are focused on swinging with a single creature, such as Bogles or, in Magical Christmas Land, the mirror match. Negate is useful in some of the same matchups as Dispel, while also having some broader applications. Wear // Tear is great for taking care of individual artifacts and enchantments like Blood Moon, with Molten Rain helping against Tron and decks with greedy manabases. Finally, Anger of the Gods is an extra board wipe for dealing with swarms of creatures, and works out well since it doesn’t kill either Thing in the Ice or Bedlam Reveler.
- Play Pyromancer Ascension as soon as you can, as long as it doesn’t slow down flipping TiTi. The card may look unassuming at first, but double Lightning Helix or Lightning Bolt can end a game quickly, and even doubling cantrips can be very potent.
- Prioritize your cantrips to maximize Pyromancer Ascension. If you need counters on it, and are scrying or looking at the top two with Sleight of Hand, grab cards that are already in your graveyard so you can double spells as quickly as possible.
- Manamorphose can be good for breaking a Blood Moon. If you save it, it can help you combo into a winning position, even if you don’t necessarily have a way to destroy the Moon.
- Don’t be afraid to discard more than three cards with Reveler. A hand of four cantrips is almost always going to be worse than what you draw, especially with the potential for Bolts and Helixes.
- Don’t bother with Snapcaster Mage. Most of the time, it will just get back something you’ll draw off of a cantrip or two. While it can be effective, it often just serves the purpose of Serum Visions or Ascension, and is generally a worse version of either card in this deck.
- The deck rewards tight sequencing, but doesn’t necessarily punish horrible sequencing. Practice on which spells to cast in what order if you want to squeeze out percentage points, but often just a basic understanding is enough to win games.
- Boros Charm can help out in removal-heavy metagames. It can act as a big Bolt, protect your creatures, or give the TiTis and Revelers double strike, all of which are powerful modes in the deck.
- Faithless Looting can act as a different sort of cantrip. While it can help to fuel Ascension and Reveler, it also leaves you down a card, unlike our blue cantrips.
- Reverberate, Twincast, and Increasing Vengeance can be fun little cards, especially with an Ascension active. Cast Bolt, Ascension copies it. Cast one of these, Ascension copies it. Make two more Bolt copies. You now have 12 damage waiting to resolve.
- Stubborn Denial can help against decks that have big spells later in the game. Ferocious is active with either Thing or Reveler, since Prowess will trigger before Ferocious is checked.
Xerox Ascension is a surprisingly powerful deck, in part because of the strange playstyle, and in part because of the raw power it can have. Seven damage on turn 3 is nothing to sneeze at, and having that backed up with Revelers, burn spells, and additional Things gives the deck a lot of explosive potential. While not overly complicated, it still definitely rewards tight play, and the speed alone makes the deck a ton of fun. Thanks to the unreasonable number of cantrips, drawing the wrong half of the deck doesn’t happen very often unless you keep a no-lander or a one-lander with no cantrips. Take the deck for a spin, and happy spellslinging.
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