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By: magma728, Jake Beardsley
Mar 25 2020 12:00pm

In February of 2018, Gerry Thompson took the Magic world by storm with his second place finish at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan with what to many appeared to be a brand new Modern deck: Mardu Pyromancer. While the deck had been winning pretty consistently in Magic Online leagues, it had mostly been written off as people getting lucky. What many missed was that the deck was one of the most efficient interactive decks the Modern format had seen. Here’s Gerry’s list from Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan:

Gerry’s game plan, much like the deck we’re talking about today, revolved around playing the cheapest interactive elements available, and using his graveyard for value in the form of cards like Bedlam Reveler, Faithless Looting, and Lingering Souls, but not to the extent that graveyard hate would be completely game ending the way it would be against something like Dredge. Young Pyromancer, the deck’s namesake, rounds out the deck by giving you a cheap threat that gets out of hand quickly, providing the deck with a much needed clock. While Mardu Pyromancer has not quite held up since Gerry’s run given the massive changes to Modern over the past 2 years, there is still hope for players who love to interact with their opponent efficiently and leave it to some elemental tokens to clean things up.All it takes is moving to a format that’s a little slower, leaving you a little bit more time to set up and interact favorably with your opponent. With that, I give you Pioneer Rakdos Pyromancer:


This deck operates in a very similar space to Modern’s Mardu Pyromancer, but it exists in a very different context, which is important to understand. With the prevalence of both Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach, being able to attack your opponent’s hand is extremely important in order to effectively disrupt these combo decks. Decks like Mono White Devotion featuring the Heliod, Sun-Crowned-Walking Ballista combo are also picking up metagame share, so being able to interact with decks that play very heavily to the board is also a must for any fair deck. This leaves Rakdos Pyromancer in great shape on both fronts, as between Pioneer’s poster child Thoughtseize, perennially-underplayed Collective Brutality, and the less hyped of the new Titans Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, you have plenty of ways to run your opponent out of cards. You also have Dreadhorde Arcanist to flashback Thoughtseize in a pinch, and it can even retrieve Brutality if you use Castle Embereth to give it that extra point of power.

You also have lots of great interaction for creature decks, between Bonecrusher Giant, Murderous Rider, Wild Slash, and Fatal Push. This package of interactive spells should make it easy to contain Mono White Devotion’s aggressive plan as well as keep them from comboing off. All this removal should also help keep the Mono Green Planeswalkers deck under control, as Rider and burn spells are extremely flexible, allowing you to contain their Karn, the Great Creators as well as their Jadelight Rangers. Finally, any stray aggressive decks should be straightforward provided you can keep your life total high, as you have plenty of removal as well as creatures that can help to contain any onslaught a deck like Mono Red might throw at you. The deck is relatively straightforward to play, which is a nice bonus. Focus on throwing your opponent off their game plan initially, especially against decks aiming to end the game quickly. It doesn’t matter how good your deck is at grinding your opponent out if they kill you on turn 4. Against more controlling decks, you should use your targeted discard spells to eliminate counterspells like Absorb our of UW Control to ensure your most important spells resolve. The flexibility of your answers is likely to leave you covered against whatever strange card your opponent has.

Your sideboard gives you the ability to go a little bit bigger against other midrange decks, allowing you to trim cards that are weaker on their own like Collective Brutality for better grindy cards like Liliana, the Last Hope. Goblin Rabblemaster gives you another threat that can run away with the game against decks where you need to speed up your clock or increase your threat density. Damping Sphere gives you extra disruption against Lotus Field decks, while Leyline of the Void further insulates you against graveyard-based strategies. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet does double duty as additional graveyard hate against creature decks like Sultai Dredge, as well as giving you a lifeline creature to stabilize the board against aggro. Finally, Angrath’s Rampage gives you a couple more pieces of catch all removal that can replace whatever removal spell is weakest in your maindeck given a particular matchup. Fatal Push is pretty weak against UW Control, but Rampage can give you 2 more ways to deal with a problematic planeswalker like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

The deck is extremely fun to play, and attacks a lot of holes in the current Pioneer metagame, especially after the announcement of no bannings in the format. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Rakdos Pyromancer with me, and be sure to let me know about any more Pioneer content you’d like to see!