Mardu Pyromancer(needs tags and decklists)
Mardu Pyromancer is a quintessential Rock deck; Rock meaning that it wants to trade cards with the opponent and then deploy cards that provide a 2 for 1 advantage to take over the game. It originally became noticed prior to Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, as Magic Online grinder Selfeseik started dominating competitive leagues with the deck, winning more than double as many trophies as the next highest player on the leaderboard. While Selfeisek originally built it as a more aggressive deck, using Monastery Swiftspear and Lightning Helix, with a late game presence (Bedlam Reveler), it has since been modified by other players to become more of a midrange deck. Notably, Liliana of the veil, Liliana the last hope, and Hazoret the Fervent replacing Swiftspears. The deck has been popularized by Gerry Thompson, who finished 2nd at Pro tour Rivals of Ixalan with the deck.
The engine of the deck is Young Pyromancer and Bedlam Reveler, and the rest of the deck is almost entirely instant/sorceries in order to fuel both of them. Young Pyromancer can slowly grow out of control, and Bedlam Reveler is Ancestral Recall stapled onto a Tarmogoyf in the late game.
With this engine, the deck utilizes discard spells to disrupt the opponent and protect its threats. The removal suite is versatile and can handle the threats in the format. The bevy of removal and token makers in Young Pyromancer and Lingering Souls makes it hard for a creature deck to establish a meaningful board.
Faithless Looting serves as card filtering. It digs through the deck to keep the Bedlam Revelers and Young Pyromancers rolling and allows the deck to convert bad interactive cards in the situation to potentially live cards. It can also pitch Lingering Souls to the graveyard, providing a nice bit of value. Some have compared Faithless Looting in this deck to Brainstorm for good reason.
The support cards of Mardu Pyromancer can be some of the most powerful cards in the deck. Blood <oon is a card that has often been under debate of banning, as it can single-handedly win games versus greedy mana-bases and decks such as Valakut, Amulet, and Tron. While it won’t singlehandedly beat Tron, it can definitely win if backed up by pressure.
Liliana of the Veil and Liliana, the Last Hope have both seen play as well, often as one-ofs, to support matchups against fair decks. Liliana of the Veil is great at supporting your gameplan of discarding flashback spells, extra lands, or even allowing you to ditch instant/sorceries to speed up casting Bedlam Reveler. It puts pressure on your opponents hand in control/combo matchups, and is a general great threat against Midrange decks. Liliana, the Last hope, on the other hand, allows you to rebuy your own creatures and pick off annoying X/1s against Humans, Affinity and the like, while quickly threatening ultimate.
Nahiri, the Harbinger is another card that has seen play as of late, as well as Sorin, Solemn Visitor. Nahiri supplements the draw-discard engine while Sorin really powers up the token element of the deck. Both cards, while powerful, are not at their best, since the deck really wants to operate with primarily BR lands, due to its own Blood Moons. 4 mana can be a lot for a deck that runs 19 lands, so in general the curve tends to end at 3.
The construction of the deck is very interesting, as it features a fairly light mana-base, generally between 19-20 lands. The reason the deck can run such a light land count is because of the power of Faithless Looting and a lower curve. Unlike other midrange decks that run 24+ lands, Mardu gains the added consistency of being able to mitigate flood and improve card selection, all via Faithless Looting. The deck is mostly Black, opening up fetching Swamp aggressively and saving life.
Mardu Pyromancer is very strong at attacking small creature decks, as well as other midrange decks, due to its wealth of removal spells and value engine cards. Young Pyromancer, when left unchecked, can create a one man army with every spell in our deck. Mardu can be a nightmare matchup for decks like Affinity, Infect, and Humans, as not only do all the discard and removal spells trade one for one, but Mardu also has plenty of two-for-ones vs those decks, in the form of Lingering Souls and Kolaghan's Command, as well as Young Pyromancer tokens.
Against other midrange decks, Lingering souls has always provided a big advantage, but having Bedlam Reveler in the late game is huge when both decks can be in top deck mode. In addition, as primarily a RB deck splashing for souls, we have blood moon that we can bring in to hose all the greedy mana-bases, virtually winning the game on its own.
The weaknesses of Mardu Pyromancer are most evident in its lack of a real clock. With Young Pyromancer and Bedlam Reveler being the only true creatures in most lists, it can be hard to present a real clock (ala Tarmogoyf) against some of the combo/control decks when you want to win fast. This is especially evident when playing against decks such as Storm and Tron, where it is easy to disrupt them in multiple ways, but unless you have a t2 pyromancer that goes unchecked, it can be hard to kill them fast enough before they recover from your early disruption.
Dredge is also a nightmare matchup, as not only can they have an explosive start, but Conflagrate/Darkblast generally puts an end to any early Pyromancer/spirit army you try to establish. Dredge is almost unwinnable unless you have Leyline of the Void, as it is easy to lose a game even with multiple Nihil Spellbomb / Surgical Extraction type effects. Decks with bigger creatures that Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push cannot handle can also be difficult for Mardu, as Eldrazi Tron presents many big threats, or any deck that plays Wurmcoil Engine which is very effective against the deck.
The benefit of playing a Midrange Rock style deck is being able to adapt to many other decks post sideboard. Against combo decks it can be easy to side out your value cards, such as Lingering Souls, as they can be far too slow. Against non-creature decks, it is advisable to cut your removal spells (i.e. Fatal Push, Bolt, Terminate) for even cards like Molten Rain which can provide some disruption. Pretty much the only card you never want to cut is Faithless Looting, as it adds so much consistency to your deck.
Bedlam Reveler can be shaved postboard in some matchups where you expect a lot of graveyard hate, and I would shave all of them entirely vs Infect. Young Pyromancer and Lingering Souls can more than get the job done there. Blood Moon is also a card that largely depends not only on the matchup, but your opponent as well. If you expect them to fetch more to play around it, or have the ability to negate its effect more-so, it is fine to side out. Against a deck like Jund however, not only is it hard for them to fetch around, but even stopping raging ravine from ever activating can be worth a card. Some typical sideboard cards include:
The benefit of playing a midrange Rock style deck is being able to adapt to many other decks post sideboard. Against combo decks it can be easy to side out your value cards, such as Lingering Souls, as they can be far too slow. Some typical sideboard cards include:
Kambal, Consul of Allocation - This card is primarily a hate card for Storm and Burn, which can be difficult otherwise. The reverse-Eidolon of the Great Revel is also strong in the mirror, if left unchecked, and can run away with the game vs certain control variants
Collective Brutality - This card is extremely versatile, and can be used vs Collected Company decks, Burn, Blue Midrange, or even combo decks such as Scapeshift/Ad Nauseum/Storm.
Engineered Explosives - An oustanding catchall, which unfortunately doesnt fuel our Young Pyromancer/Bedlam Revelers, but answers threats out of Bogles, Jund, Affinity, Humans, Goblin tokens etc. Very versatile and effective at what it does
Liliana, the Last Hope -- This card is excellent in all fair matchups, and can be practically unbeatable in the mirror. In other uses, it can be similar to the 4th Kolaghan's Command, as rebuying a creature while leaving a threat behind can be a game-breaking.
Molten Rain - This is mostly a concession to Tron, which can be difficult to beat, even after resolving a Blood Moon. Molten Rain is very effective, as it slows them down a turn while also removing an important Tron piece, deals them damage, and also fuels our engine threats. This card is also effective against Blue control strategies, or Scapeshift.
Leyline of the Void/Nihil Spellbomb/Surgical Extraction - Currently, I believe Leyline of the Void to be the best piece of graveyard hate, as it is most effective against the mirror, BR Hollow One, and Dredge. While being the most high upside, it is almost essential in order to beat Dredge, and it increases your ability to win the mirror/Hollow One signficiantly if you have it. Nihil Spellbomb is nice vs Snapcaster decks, and Surgical is primarily to remove combo pieces after destroying them (aka Urza Tron lands).
Wear//Tear - Tear is important as a way to remove opposing black and white Leylines, as well as removing key enchantment hate pieces such as Ghirapur Aether Grid, Rest in Peace, and Boggle's auras. Wear can also be used to remove Chalice of the Void.
Goblin Rabblemaster - This is a more recent innovation, and had been tried previously maindeck but didn't stick. In the sideboard however, it gives Mardu a reasonable clock vs the combo decks, and can end a game quickly if unanswered. It is particularly effective when the opponent is siding in graveyard hate to slow down bedlam Reveler/Souls.
Hazoret, the Fervent - This card is a hedge for the mirror and Jund decks, where it is virtually unkillable, aside from a Liliana of the Veil sacrifice on an otherwise empty board. It is useful against decks like Eldrazi or Hollow One, since the 5/4 indestructible can brickwall Gurmag Anglers and Reality Smashers nicely. It is also a nice clock when you need to present pressure in certain matchups.
Sequencing is important both in the early and late game with the deck. In the blind, it is not advisable to cast Faithless Looting turn one on the play, as you don’t necessarily know what to discard. In the late game, do not play all your extra lands because a Faithless Looting can turn into Ancestral Recall if you are able to discard worthless lands for spells. Against a deck with a lot of removal/counters, it can be effective to lead off with Lingering Souls as your first threat. Nothing feels better than having your opponent spend a spell to remove a Spirit token. Keep in mind that you rarely need white, and one Swamp can cast the majority of the deck, so fetching for a Swamp to turn 3 Blood Moon can be game breaking vs many decks (i.e. Jund, Grixis, Humans). It is also important to preserve your life total, which means fetching for basics more often in the beginning, as you have very few ways to gain life (only Collective Brutality) later on.
The Future of Mardu Pyromancer
While many people thought this deck would be outclassed with the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, the deck has surprisingly survived and continued to impress afterwards. This is likely due to the aforementioned cards being unable to find strong homes where they've been able to make an impact, whereas Mardu has excelled vs the metagame otherwise. I would highly recommend Mardu in a field of Humans, Affinity, and other midrange decks (including Death's Shadow). I would strongly advise playing the deck if your metagame is full of Tron, Dredge, or the card Night of Soul's Betrayal!
The deck may struggle getting cards from new sets. The deck is a combination of the most efficient discard, removal and 2 for 1's. Cards that meet this bar don't get printed very often but the deck will pick up small additions. Different removal spells get printed (think Abrade) and add to the tool box of options. While Mardu Pyromancer may not be revolutionized by a new print, it'll gain small additions. Mardu Pyromancer withstood the unbannings of Jace and Bloodbraid Elf and has a bright future.
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