Josh Milliken- Brewing With Young Pyromancer

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Brewing with Young Pyromancer

It started out as a joke; something fun to play at a Modern tournament at one of my local shops. As I played it I was joking around and my opponents were laughing as well. My record with the deck is no laughing matter though, as I went 11-1 in matches over the course of three tournaments.

I had haphazardly thrown this list together in about twenty minutes a couples days before the tournament since I wouldn’t have time to build anything else because of my work schedule. I had been wondering for a couple days what to play for the upcoming Modern tournament waffling between my norm of RUG Delver and something with Scavenging Ooze or Young Pyromancer when it hit me that I could just run Izzet with Young Pyromancer. This led me to the thought that I would be playing strictly tempo as there would be no beefy win condition like I had in RUG Delver with Tarmogoyf.

This is where I ended up after that mad twenty minutes of brewing.


Tournament #1

Round 1 – Selesnya Hatebears 2-0

Round 2 – Simic Delver 2-0

Round 3 – R/W/U Control 2-0

Round 4 – Mono Green Aggro 2-1

I felt like I was going to get crushed going into the tournament, but was pleasantly surprised when I ended up dropping only a single game due to my own negligence against Mono Green. I did however feel like my sideboard needed a lot of work afterwards. I also only played against one deck I would expect to play against at a high-level Modern tournament, which may be one reason why the deck did so well.

After giving it a try for the first tournament I decided some changes were in order, mostly for the sideboard. So the next day I spent three hours or so poring over the cards that want to be in the main and what I needed in the sideboard. Some of the cards I looked at pretty hard but they didn’t quite make it due to a lack of space.

Here’s where I ended up after I looked over everything, and what I played the next three weeks for Modern.

The Vendilion Clique, while good, just didn’t do as much work as the Vapor Snag did; I felt like the deck was a little creature-heavy as well. This sideboard was better thought-out after seeing some of the deck’s strengths and weaknesses, though I still need to play against some combo decks to get a better idea of whether anything else is needed.

The Mana Base

After playing RUG Delver for almost the entirety of the Modern formats existence I knew I wanted to run as few lands as possible. Keeping the deck two colors allowed me to go as low as eighteen lands as long as I ran a significant amount of cantrips and I didn’t add any lands that produce colorless mana. Being in two colors also means I need to run four Steam Vents and eight fetchlands to hit my mana consistently, and running the eight blue fetchlands allows the deck to run Blood Moon without having to worry about getting hurt by it. I still needed two more red sources, so I put in a Sulfur Falls and a Mountain, then rounded the mana base out with four Island.

The other lands I considered were Faerie Conclave, Desolate Lighthouse, Halimar Depths, Mutavault, and Ghitu Encampment. Some number of these may prove to be useful in the future, but as of right now there’s just not enough room in the mana base for them.

The Creatures

It was pretty easy to pick the creatures this deck needed to function, using Young Pyromancer as a starting place. I knew I needed to play a lot of spells quickly, so keeping the instant and sorcery high limited me to which creatures I could play. With that in mind I needed to find a way to use this to my advantage. The core creatures became Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster Mage to team up with those Young Pyromancer in an aggressive way. Some form of disruption was needed to keep creatures off the board and nasty cards out of my opponents’ hands, and that led to Grim Lavamancer and Vendilion Clique.

The other creatures I considered were Goblin Guide and Spellstutter Sprite, which, while they do play well with the rest of the deck the other creatures, are just better choices when considering what the vision of the deck is.

The Spells

I knew to maximize the effectiveness of Young Pyromancer, I needed to run a bunch of cheap spells and cantrips. The starting point was the two most efficient of each in the format Lightning Bolt and Serum Visions. It was a little more difficult from there as there were a lot of close choices. One of the tough choices was in Remand versus Mana Leak, but the tempo of Remand won out in the end. Another was Gitaxian Probe versus Thought Scour, but being able to cast Gitaxian Probe for free and the information it gets you in game one felt a lot more important than getting extra cards into the graveyard. As it became more of a tempo deck Vapor Snag became a great choice to fight bigger creatures and clear the board for the onslaught of weenies. I still felt like there was still some more removal, counterspells, card draw needed, and Izzet Charm fit the bill as an all-in-one stop. And to top out the curve I decided some Electrolyze were needed to slow creature assaults and to get an edge on some of the decks that it takes longer to win against.

There were quite a few more spells that I considered that didn’t make it like Into the Roil, Dispel, Burst Lightning, Forked Bolt, Flame Slash, Turn/Burn, Searing Blaze, Mizzium Skin, Cryptic Command, and Sage’s Dowsing. Many of these I intend to try out in the future, but testing that many cards one event per week could take the rest of the year.

The Sideboard

There were a lot of cards I wanted in my sideboard, but I ended up having to shave numbers to cover all the major bases. The first auto include was Blood Moon to steal a lot of games the deck doesn’t have any business winning otherwise. The next was Dismember, as big creatures like Tarmogoyf and Restoration Angel are pretty difficult to deal with in Blue and Red. After testing I felt like a hard counter was needed against other decks with counterspells and combo decks, the winner there was Deprive due to it only costing two mana. Next, I needed a way to deal with Tarmogoyf and Snapcaster Mage without letting them resolve, this led to Spell Snare which lets me deal with lots of things even when I’m on the draw. Next was dealing with artifacts in a semi-profitable way; there are a few other options but I felt like Smash to Smithereens was the best use of resources. Playing against Kitchen Finks and Voice of Resurgence made me realize that I needed Pillar of Flame to not get destroyed by card disadvantage against them. And lastly, I decided an extra Grim Lavamancer was needed against the aggressive decks, because if he sticks for a turn he can turn the whole game around quite quickly.

Tournament #2

Round 1 – Mono Green Aggro 2-0

Round 2 – Red Affinity 2-1

Round 3 – Jund 2-0

Round 4 – Gruul Zoo 2-1

Round 5 – R/W/U Control 2-1

With another tournament undefeated I really couldn’t think of any changes I wanted to make to the deck that would benefit against a normal metagame. I did play against four decks I would expect to see at a high level of play this time though, leaving me with a few more game losses than the last tournament.

Tournament #3

Round 1 – Mono Black Vampires 2-0

Round 2 – Mono Green Aggro 2-0

Round 3 – Bogles 1-2

I had been researching ways to fight the Bogle deck if I were to play against it for a few days prior to this tournament, and had heard about the card Aura Barbs but was unable to get any to try. I also learned that Hibernation is Modern-legal as well after this event, and would definitely consider it if you expect a lot of Bogles running rampant. This time I only played against one deck I would expect to see, and I lost to it due to keeping one land hands in both games two and three. I would expect to lose to this deck pretty consistently though, as it had some pretty terrible draws against me.

After my loss to Bogles I felt I needed more ways to interact after Sideboard so I added black to disrupt my opponent’s plans. This gives an added advantage against the combo decks in the format as well as the ability to cast Dismember without losing any life.

If you want something fun to try out for your next Modern tournament I would suggest giving Izzet Pyromancer a try, I’m not sure I want to play anything right else now.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below, and I will try to get to them.

Thanks for Reading,

Josh Milliken
@joshuamilliken of Twitter

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Jason Alt

Jason Alt

@JasonEAlt     -     Email     -     Articles
Jason is a financier living in Michigan. You can find his work on Gathering Magic, Quiet Speculation, and MTG Price. Jason brings several years of MTG finance experience to the podcast as well as his signature wit and comic relief. Jason joined the podcast as a guest on Episode 10 and again on Episode 12 and it was clear that the group had a great dynamic. He became a permanent member of the cast soon after and the world of MTG finance hasn’t been the same since. Jason is also a disgruntled former member of Team Simic.
Jason Alt

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Jason Alt

@JasonEAlt     -     Email     -     Articles
Jason is a financier living in Michigan. You can find his work on Gathering Magic, Quiet Speculation, and MTG Price. Jason brings several years of MTG finance experience to the podcast as well as his signature wit and comic relief. Jason joined the podcast as a guest on Episode 10 and again on Episode 12 and it was clear that the group had a great dynamic. He became a permanent member of the cast soon after and the world of MTG finance hasn’t been the same since. Jason is also a disgruntled former member of Team Simic.


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  1. Jason Alt

    I like seeing how the deck evolved. If you’re still jamming this in a few weeks I hope you’ll favor us with a sideboarding guide.

  2. Perry Stewart

    I would like to see how this deck performs against a more typical modern field. Try building it on MTGO to see what it does against decks that aren’t non-red mono colored aggro. It certainly seems fun though.

    1. Jason Alt

      What I am guessing you mean by this is “play jund 40 times and tell me how it went.”

      1. Sander van der Zee

        I think there is some legitimacy to his comment. My eye also fell on the choice of decks piloted by his opponents, which still doesn’t vow for the deck’s viability in the current Modern metagame seen as a whole (After round 3 at a GP, for example.)

        Still I think it was a compelling story to read and I am certainly interested in seeing how this deck will differentiate itself from the UR tempo lists that have been popping up lately.

  3. Enmou Gao

    I’ve been following Jeff’s stream closely and have been playing the UR Spellstutter deck for the last couple months. I’m looking to transition to the Pyromancer build for more threats.

    I’m definitely not a fan of Izzet Charm, it’s too expensive for what it does, and the damage doesn’t target players. Spell Pierce as a 3x is worth trying out, and it’s what’s commonly run in UR Tempo.

    Dismember mainboard seems painful, I don’t think I would board it in without removing some number of Gitaxian Probe so I don’t accidentally kill myself between fetches, probes, shocks, and dismembers.

    I’m personally very much against splashing black just for discard. You can only have 10 black sources, which is not even close to having reliably on turn 1. Ideally as much as your sideboard as possible should be instants, which are by far the best spell type for this deck. I think there’s a lot of work to be done for the sideboard, but first and foremost is switching Pillar of Flame for Magma Spray.

  4. Doki

    I love these kinds of builds! I have been toying wiht an izzet idea in standard involving purphoros and pyromancer as they can be really good friends. My experience in modern is near to zero (I have only watched matches and am now saving for more). Do you think purphoros could also work in this deck as a 2 off? Or will it slow things down too much or might it just totally require a big rebuild around him and pyromancer?

    Feels a bit like a pure black build I made that just eats little bits of life at a time but got out of hand that instead of me playing a nice casual cheap deck I was beating people :D.

  5. Stefan

    I’ve really enjoyed piloting this deck on random cockatrice matches. I’m working on building it in paper now too, just because it’s super fun. My win rate is pretty high, around 80% I would guess. (my opponents are not necessarily good, but they do play tier 1 modern decks). Thanks for sharing the brew

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