A Portrait Of The Pyromancer As A Young Man

Brian looks at Young Pyromancer for control, combo, and aggressive decks. Sorry Workshop players, no bonus love just for you contained within.

With every new Magic: the Gathering release comes the opportunity to add new and exciting cards and strategies to every format. Traditionally I write a Vintage review of every new release, and speculate as to how new cards will specifically affect Vintage.

As many readers who have followed my Vintage set reviews from new Ravnica block well know, the pickings for new Vintage printings have been rather sparse this past year. So, rather than do an M14 “set review,” I figured that instead I would focus on the one M14 printing that I think is likely to be high impact in Vintage.

Young Pyromancer

A fiery youngster

While the rest of Magic 2014 may generally lack cards likely to see anything but outside fringe play in Vintage, Young Pyromancer appears to be a very important new printing.

First, let’s talk about what makes Young Pyromancer good in the abstract.

It meets the all-important costs-two-mana-or-less criteria. With a 2R casting cost, this card would simply be too expensive for Vintage and would be unplayable. Vintage is so fast that being able to slam these types of 2cc “set up, value creatures” (Dark Confidant, Lotus Cobra, Stoneforge Mystic, Scavanging Ooze etc.) on the first turn with a land and a Mox is an important threshold.

Secondly, Young Pyromancer is a card that once deployed on the first turn continues to supply incremental advantage for the rest of the game in the form of a near-endless supply of 1/1 Elemental tokens, so long as it remains in play and its controller continues to cast instants and sorceries.

It is a known fact that casting instants and sorceries is already a premier route to victory in a variety of different archetypes in Vintage. So a new card that readily rewards a player for casting a lot of spells (so long as it is cheap to deploy and the reward received per spell is worthwhile) can have a real chance in Vintage.

One thing that stands out in my mind that is likely a testament to how good a Vintage card Young Pyromancer is likely to be is that I cannot specifically think of one deck to place him in. Most of the time when I see a new non-sideboard hate card it is pretty easy to say: “Oh, we put this new card in deck X, Y, or Z.”

Let me provide an example of another 2/1 for two mana creature:

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Pretty obvious which Vintage decks want this card

When I reviewed this card it was pretty clear to me it was a Vintage-quality playable card, but there was no doubt in my mind where she would see play. Thalia is a card that is only playable in creature-heavy decks like GW H8 Bears or UW Fish-style decks. There was never any doubt in my mind that she belongs in a creature deck, and not for instance in the Jace, the Mind Sculptor combo-control decks.

Young Pyromancer is unique in the sense that I believe there are multiple types of decks that might want its services and the endless swarm of 1/1’s the card is apt to supply.

Provided the 1/1’s are as good as I suspect they ought to be, there are many Vintage decks capable of playing a lot of instants and sorceries to reap the reward of putting this card into play. Control, Storm, Gush, and Delver decks all hit a critical mass of instants and sorceries and could take advantage of the 1/1’s in a variety of very different ways.

Let’s examine how Young Pyromancer might best be utilized by each archetype.

Storm & Gush Combo

Young Pyromancer as a Storm combo card is going to draw an immediate comparison to an already-played victory condition:

Empty the Warrens

Calling all Goblins!

The general idea behind Empty the Warrens is that a player casts a bunch of spells and ends the turn with an arbitrarily large horde of Goblins in play at the end to attack his or her opponent to death.

In an idea world a Storm player would always cast ten spells, have 2BB up, and a Tendrils in hand to actually win the game on the spot. Tendrils is great when it works, but if you can’t make a high enough storm count, it basically does nothing.

Empty the Warrens, on the other hand, is a nice back-up plan for the times you can’t get to ten storm since you can storm for five or six and make enough Goblins to chump block and still kill your opponent in two swings.

Young Pyromancer feels a lot like Empty the Warrens to me, in the sense that you play it and it pays you free Goblins for spinning your wheels.

There are obvious pros and cons to both cards.

The downside of Young Pyromancer is that it doesn’t pay you Elementals for casting non-instant or sorcery spells like Moxen. Also, you only get rewarded one 1/1 per spell, rather than two 1/1 Goblins per spell. Non-trivial stuff.

The upside, however, is pretty high. Firstly, it lets you play out the Pyromancer first and get 1/1 tokens while you cast your set up spells like Ponder, Mystical Tutor, and Preordain while you dig and filter to set up a big turn. With Empty the Warrens, a player only gets paid for the big turn, whereas Pyromancer can pay you up-front while you set up.

The biggest upside is that with Pyromancer you only have to pay 1R up-front for the ability and that mana can be paid on a turn before your big turn, whereas Empty the Warrens requires an investment of 3R at the end of your big turn.

Young Pyromancer also seems like a much more reasonable Storm victory condition against Workshop decks. Against MUD it is often impossible to create a big turn because of the pressure they put upon one’s ability to create a surplus of mana and/or storm. With Pyromancer you can essentially play small ball and generate resources throughout the game.

Also keep in mind that if you have two Young Pyromancers in play you get two 1/1s per spell which will get out of control pretty fast.

The Pyromancer Storm deck really takes advantage of the ability to spend more time grinding and setting up while reaping the advantages of the Young Pyromancer. Cabal Therapy seems especially awesome with the Pyromancer since it allows us to utilize our free 1/1s in the form of a free spell via Flashback, while replacing the 1/1 token.

I also have Dark Confidant in this deck because while the Young Pyromancer might be the new ‘hot’ 2/1, Bob is still the best two-drop in Vintage.

Gush is another strategy that seems well suited to take advantage of Young Pyromancer, perhaps even better so than traditional Storm because it has a higher critical mass of instants and sorceries.

Gush seems really well set up to take advantage of Young Pyromancer, especially because of all of the free spells the deck plays via Fastbond + Regrowth + Lotus Cobra.

Counterspells, especially free counterspells like Mental Misstep and Force of Will, also seem like a really sweet way to leverage the free guys from Young Pyromancer, since you essentially disrupt their turn and add some beatdown to your side of the board.

Grixis Control

I could easily see including a couple of copies of Young Pyromancer in a Grixis deck as a way to generate free resources and to protect Jace, the Mind Sculptor from opposing creatures.

It is also pretty awesome the way that Pyromancer Elemental tokens provide perfect fodder for chump blocking Lodestone Golems or for tapping down to Tangle Wire to keep one’s mana available.

Here is an example of a much more controlling version of Grixis that can take advantage of Pyromancer.

SkullclampTrinket MageYoung Pyromancer

Card advantage!

The ability to tutor up Skullclamp and use it to turn a 1/1 Elemental tokens into +2 cards seems insanely powerful in any deck.

I’m also really liking the idea of using Cavern of Souls to protect the human trio of Young Pyromancer, Dark Confidant, and Trinket Mage. It is also an added bonus that sideboard Notion Thief also qualifies as a super powerful uncounterable powerhouse in the control mirror.

Delver & Fish

You know what they say, “Delver is a Pyromancer’s best friend.”

Both Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer are cards that pay off big time for loading up on instant and sorcery spells and it only makes sense to team them up.

One aspect of Young Pyromancer that I really like, especially in creature based decks is its ability to overwhelm and defeat a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Pyromancer, by virtue of bringing a bunch of friends to the party, is a creature that would easily pass the original “Jace Test.”

This deck also uses Skullclamp and because it is already playing white spells can pair it up with Stoneforge Mystic as opposed to Trinket Mage.

Another card that I am interested in with Pyromancer is Lingering Souls. Casting and flashing back a Lingering Souls puts six 1/1s onto the board, which seems like it would be very strong in the creature mirror match!

Delver seems like a pretty obvious place to stick Young Pyromancer because Delver decks already try to emphasize a maximum capacity of instants and sorceries in order to flip the Delver as often as possible.

I also really like Mental Misstep in this deck. It protects our Pyromancer from Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares while netting us a creature and also lets us get maximum value out of our Snapcaster Mages.

Another card that I have been thinking about for Vintage is Izzet Staticaster.

Izzet Staticaster

A port from Modern Pod?

If Young Pyromancer takes off, Staticaster could be a good catch-all card for shooting down tokens.

Well ladies and gentleman, this is the longest article that I have ever written about a single card!

Young Pyromancer seems like it has a lot of potential across a wide variety of archetypes for competitive Vintage play. I really look forward to observing where this guy is going to pop up in the near future and which decks will best be able to utilize him moving forward.

Thanks for reading!


Brian DeMars