Young at Heart – Young Pyromancer Magic: The Gathering Dech Tech
Welcome back, Planeswalkers.
It might not be obvious to everyone who frequents Manaleak.com, but I’ve recently experienced a substantial injection of youth into my life.
This is not an admission that I’ve been receiving botox treatments; rather, it’s a reference to the arrival of my youngest son, Matthew.
In our house, there are as many residents under the age of 3 as there are those over the age of 30. If nothing else, this tends to give rise to a certain empathy with young people and youthful sensibilities, like fearlessness, exuberance and the creation of 1/1 elemental creature tokens.
Yes, you read that last line correctly.
A brewer’s inspiration comes from many places, not all of them based on startling metagame insights or the discovery of a previously hidden card interaction.
Sometimes, one is simply thinking about the bottle of infant formula which must be created in an hour’s time, whilst scrolling through one’s Magic online collection and…voilà! A cheeky little idea is born.
You already enjoy the company of two fresh-faced engines of destruction, observed my internal monolgue drily. Why not build a Standard deck around one?
An underplayed gem
I can’t reasonably call Young Pyromancer an unheralded, or unrecognised card; plenty of people have observed how powerful he is. Unfortunately, they just don’t seem to be doing anything about it.
Players have toyed with the card in Eternal formats, but nothing really seems to have stuck; likewise, the bespectacled firebug has recently surfaced in James Fazzolari’s Boros Burn articles, but it remains to be seen if he’ll establish himself.
I see Young Pyromancer as a gigantic, low cost opportunity to get paid for casting Instants and Sorceries (a pastime I’m already pretty invested in); the card provides remarkable upside if we can chain just a few spells together.
Sadly, there’s an inherent fragility to building a whole strategy around a one-toughness creature with no defensive abilities. If we’re to craft a home for this little guy, it’ll need to be in a deck that shores up his weaknesses as well as exploiting his strengths – and which doesn’t just fall over and die when it doesn’t draw him.
Breaking down the Bad
Young Pyromancer dies to removal.
Before you roll your eyes and type ‘If I wanted this, I’d follow @doombladeguy’ into the comment thread, let me qualify that statement.
Young Pyromancer dies to almost every removal card in the entire Standard Format. A lowly Spark Jolt is going to take care of our little red friend.
Furthermore, the tokens he creates are equally vulnerable.
If there is a resilience spectrum, with Thrun at one end and Gossamer Phantasm at the other, YP is keeping company with sickly illusions rather than rock-hard, uncounterable trolls.
Young Pyromancer wants to be in play as early as possible… but also wants to be adequately protected
Ideally we want to be able to protect our two-drop from the ubiquitous removal which, as we’ve already observed, he’s so vulnerable to. However, holding back the Pyromancer until we have enough mana to protect it will seriously cramp our gameplan.
At the very least, this counts as an uncomfortable tension in our early-game decision making, which we’ll need to account for when building the deck.
Hitting the high notes
Young Pyromancer demands cheap Instant and Sorcery spells
Much like spells bearing the storm mechanic, Young Pyromancer would rather you played numerous little spells with your available mana than try to play one giant effect.
We won’t be required to play exclusively one and two-mana cards – unlike eternal formats, the Standard card pool doesn’t necessarily have enough strong options in any case – but we will need to make sure there are a solid base of these cards in our deck to help us churn out tokens.
Young Pyromancer needs complementary threats
Sometimes, it’s possible to build control decks which rely almost solely on a single two-drop to win matches. These times are very, very rare… and, dare I say it, probably gone forever now that Abrupt Decay has been printed.
While we can look forward to our flagship card doing more than just sulking in a corner of our board, idly striking matches while we crash to another defeat, we can’t expect him to do all the heaving lifting himself.
He’s not Aetherling; he’s an excitable young man who likes setting fire to things. As long as we bear that in mind and support him, things should be just fine.
Ok, enough musing. Let’s build this thing, ticking as many boxes as possible along the way.
The hot list
We might as well start with the gold standard card for this strategy.
Thoughtseize provides everything we want from a support spell.
It can neutralise removal which would have eliminated our Young Pyromancer; it can come down ahead of the creature, creating a window for us to resolve him on the second turn without fearing his immediate demise; it can give us perfect information, so we know whether to be aggressive or cautious in our plays; and crucially, it will be useful whether we have a Pyromancer or not.
To complement this disruptive all-star, I like the idea of a countermagic suite.
These spells both come online the turn after our Pyromancer ideally arrives, minimising the amount of time our shields are down. Once he’s in play and we have countermagic up, we enter La Dolce Vita, wherein attempts to remove the angry young man will be disdainfully denied (and we’ll receive an elemental token into the bargain).
Another important element in a Young Pyromancer deck is card drawing.
The weakness of card drawing spells, traditionally, is that they don’t impact the board. In our strategy they gain that missing element, creating attackers and blockers as a matter of course. Crucially, they churn us through our deck, finding more fuel for pyromancy.
Now, let’s find some cards to help Young Pyromancer close the game…
Spellheart Chimera, your time has come.
I could never quite bring myself to play this card in the past, because it died to everything (just like Young Pyromancer) but left no extra value behind (unlike Young Pyromancer). Everything changes in this deck. Not only do we have Thoughtseize and countermagic, we have the option to Quicken in the opponent’s draw step and cast Rakdos’s Return for their entire hand. We are then free to play our Chimera the next turn unmolested, frequently with mana up to Psychic Strike any lucky top-decks.
What truly attracts me to the Chimera is that it plays well as a follow-up to some extensive pyromancy. Imagine a scenario where we have played an early Young Pyromancer and, through discard, card drawing and removal, have built up an elemental army. We’re pretty pleased with the pressure being applied to our opponent’s life total, but we don’t have a lot of cards left in hand.
Just then, our opponent top-decks…
Drat! All our hard work is swept away with a single, uncounterable sorcery.
If our deck played another card which seems to complement the Pyromancer by working similarly, like Nivix Cyclops, we would probably be in a pickle. Even if we resolved the delightfully nautical-looking defender, we’d need to build up a critical mass of spells to power it up and finish the job; that’s time we don’t want to give our control opponent.
However, by deploying a Chimera instead, we get the benefit of all the spells we’ve already used. It’s not uncommon for our magical, feathery Goat to boast seven or eight power when it hits play; that’s a gigantic threat, which demands an immediate answer.
Lighting the fuse
Here’s the decklist I’ve been monkeying around with for the last few nights:
This deck is an outrageous amount of fun.
The core interactions are very powerful, but equally rewarding are the various tricks which can be pulled off with Quicken. Rakdos’s Return is obviously stellar when you can throw it into the mix at awkward moments – but even the simple joy of holding up counterspell mana, then casting a Divination in the opponent’s end step is not to be underestimated (especially when it carries two elemental tokens as a rider).
It’s quite important not to fall too far behind with this deck, so I frequently burn premium removal spells like Dreadbore on mediocre targets simply to use my mana efficiently, keep the board clear and (hopefully) churn out a token. While I’m not advocating throwing spells away, maximising our mana and our Pyromancer triggers are very important to the strategy, so be prepared to reconsider your traditional evaluations of what’s worthwhile and what isn’t.
I also feel compelled to note just how superbly the Scry-lands have performed in my testing.
By keeping an extremely low curve, we minimise the drawback of the lands arriving tapped – with a couple of mana at our disposal, we can usually cast relevant spells even as we use our land drop to improve the quality of upcoming draws. In this deck more than most, ensuring a stream of spells is very important; to that end, the Temples of Deceit and Malice are invaluable allies.
I’d like to think that this archetype has some legs and I’m interested to see what others might make of it. There are certainly different directions available: switching from Black to White, for example, would allow the adoption of Boros Charm and Gods Willing, bring additional resistance to removal and open up a potential combo-kill with Spellheart Chimera.
The Keranos question
In my last article, I floated the idea that Keranos might fit with the aims of a Young Pyromancer deck – he drew cards, after all and was in the appropriate colours.
After just a small amount of time messing around with the archetype, I can put my hands up and say I was way off the mark. Keranos, much as I love him, belongs in a true control deck rather than this hybrid creation – five mana is too much to ask of anything other than a game-swinging Rakdos’s Return.
Go forth and burn things
I hope you get a chance to play around with this deck in your own circles, because it’s brought me nothing but joy (and singed eyebrows).
However, you’ll need to do it without me. It’s time I got back to my favourite destructive early drops.
Until next time, may you always Quicken into the counterspell on top of your deck… just as the opponent thinks they’ve sealed the game.