Your Pyromancer and You: A How-To Guide on the Best Combo Deck In Modern

Looking to play Pyromancer Ascension in Modern? Let the man who qualified with the deck tell you how it needs to be built in Modern, and walk you through several sample hands to a win!

So how about that Modern, huh? Seeing as the Pro Tour is in a matter of days, I figured I should write an article on the deck that I’m heavily
considering. (Yes, somehow I managed to qualify. Play enough PTQs with the same deck and eventually you can win with it.)

That deck is Pyromancer Ascension. Or, as I’ve come to call it, the best combo deck in the format. (Sorry Tom Ma, it’s not Hive Mind.)

So how does this deck work? The deck works by utilizing its namesake enchantment to copy ritual effects (Rite of Flame and Manamorphose with an active
Pyromancer Ascension) and card draw effects (the rest of the deck) to draw through the entire deck until you hit one of the two kill cards, Banefire or
Grapeshot. After you hit one of these two cards, you simply cast them and shuffle up for game two. Banefires for fifty-plus damage alongside Grapeshots
for thirty with Remand back-up (allowing you to double up on Grapeshot in case they are at a high life thanks to Glimmerpost) are not uncommon in this

After all that hype, here’s the decklist:

What’s Up With Stuff?

Now that you’ve seen the decklist, I’m sure there are some questions. The first question is probably about the lack of Cascade Bluffs. For a time I had
been running three Cascade Bluffs in lieu of Misty Rainforests. However, with the addition of Watery Grave and Dark Confidant out of the sideboard,
there needed to be more fetchlands to get Watery Graves. With the addition of fetchlands, you want more lands that tap for actual mana — and
unfortunately for Cascade Bluffs, that means other lands. Too many times I’ve opened up a perfect hand and then realized the only land was Cascade

Another question is about the win conditions. The reason Grapeshot and Banefire were chosen instead of Time Warp and Ignite Memories is because of the
ease of use and the mana requirements of each. Grapeshot is easily cast in a pinch. If you’re short on mana for some reason, Grapeshot can serve as a
miniature Wrath of God, wiping your opponent’s board and shooting him for some damage. Banefire is just in case you happen to draw all Ritual effects
and can’t build up enough of a storm count to successfully Grapeshot someone.

The lack of Time Warp is because it’s a five-mana sorcery in a world where the average win comes between turn 3 and turn 5. When people are casting
Emrakul on turn 4 or throwing Tribal Flames around for five damage apiece, Time Warping on turn 5 is not where you want to be. Likewise,
Ignite Memories is a serious liability with Gaddock Teeg in the format. (Plus, sometimes people don’t even have a hand!)

Muddle the Mixture is used to transmute for Pyromancer Ascension on the occasions when you can’t draw one with Ponder or Preordain. It’s also very
useful if the game goes long and a hard counter is needed for Cryptic Command, Living End, or Restore Balance. Mid-combo, it can also be transmuted for
Manamorphose or Peer Through Depths. It can also be used to end a chain with Grapeshot, or Remand for the Grapeshot.

The maindecked Lightning Bolts are a concession to the aggressive strategies that exist in the format. Without Lightning Bolt to hold back Wild Nacatl
and Steppe Lynx, some very angry cats would end the game very quickly. Lightning Bolt can also sometimes be used to win the game. Doubling up on
Lightning Bolt brings an opponent from twenty to zero very quickly. Bolt will also stop various problem cards like Ethersworn Canonist, Gaddock Teeg,
and Qasali Pridemage.

Gitaxian Probe is a card that lets you Peek for two life. It also activates Pyromancer Ascension very quickly for little to no cost. Sometimes you also
need to see if an opponent has a Spell Snare, Qasali Pridemage, or Mindbreak Trap.

Given that the rest of the deck is just card drawing spells or ways to generate mana, there were some cards that didn’t make the cut due to space

So what cards didn’t quite make the cut? Well I’m glad you asked.

The Bench

First on the bench is Punishing Fire. I tested out Punishing Fire a lot and found out a few things: first of all, you’re never going to win the game
with Punishing Fire. Second, every time you drew Punishing Fire you wanted to jump off a bridge. Yes, Punishing Fire can be good. Sometimes. But the
majority of the time, it’s a terrible card to have in a sleek combo deck.

Punishing Fire could consistently trigger Pyromancer Ascensions if there were multiple Fires involved, but this was often time consuming and
expensive. Costing 1R was also a knock against it. Not only does it cost 1R, but it also does not deal with almost every creature in a typical Zoo
deck. Does the card wreck Merfolk, Elves, and White Weenie? Most definitely. Is it a blank against the most popular aggressive deck in the format? Most

Not only was Punishing Fire slow and cumbersome, but the other half of the miniature combo, Grove of the Burnwillows, made the mana base awkward and
inconsistent. All of these knocks against Punishing Fire (and subsequently Grove of the Burnwillows) make these cards not worth running in a sleek
combo deck.

Another card consideration was Serum Visions… And then I thought, why bother “Post”-ordaining when you can Preordain instead?

In all seriousness, Serum Visions was a poor draw spell and ever since I replaced it with Muddle the Mixture I’ve been enjoying the consistency Muddle
provides. There was no worse feeling than drawing a blank off of Serum Visions in mid-combo and scrying into more blanks.

The last card that almost made the cut was Desperate Ritual. After extensive testing, more Ritual effects were found to be unnecessary and didn’t help
to chain together the combo. The number one priority in this deck is to chain together draw spells with the occasional Ritual effect for a short burst
of mana. If the deck becomes too diluted with spells that just add mana, then the consistency of the deck drops dramatically.

The Super Secret Sideboard

The four Dark Confidants are there to grind out control matches and to get a leg up in the combo mirror. Opponents often take out removal spells
against a creatureless combo deck — and that’s when Dark Confidant shines.

Likewise, the three Vendilion Cliques serve a similar role. You usually never win with Clique beatdown, but the disruption and the body help serve to
pressure combo and control decks alike.

The four Blood Moons are for what you imagine: to stall Cloudpost decks and to stall Zoo decks. If their decks can’t cast spells, you should be

Finally the four Echoing Truths are for aggressive decks and to bounce enchantments like Leyline of the Void, Runed Halo, and Leyline of Sanctity. The
Truths serve as a catch-all sideboard card, bouncing whatever problem permanents there are.

Now that the board is fully explained and some cards were left on the bench, there are a couple tricks that every mage should know with this deck.

It’s Tricky

The first trick involves two active Ascensions, a Remand, and a Manamorphose.

By casting Manamorphose and copying it twice, four mana is generated and two cards are drawn. With the original Manamorphose on the stack, cast Remand
using two of the mana (you must keep at least one red mana floating). Remand copies twice. The first copy will Remand the original Manamorphose. The
second copy of Remand will Remand the original Remand (it sounds more confusing than it is, trust me). The end result of this is drawing two cards and
ending the chain with Manamorphose and Remand in your hand with two mana floating (one of it being red mana). Every cycle draws four cards essentially
for free. This is a useful way to shortcut a combo kill, since eventually you can just draw into Rite of Flame and Grapeshot.

Another trick is a subtle interaction between Ponder and the rest of the deck.

With an active Ascension, Pondering often draws you cards you don’t want. Sometimes it will also draw you cards and leave you shuffling on the second
copy, being forced into the luck of the draw.

To avoid these situations, Manamorphose and Peer Through Depths interact very well with Ponder, given some clever thinking. If the copy of Ponder shows
you three cards you want, but you also want to be able to see deeper with the original Ponder, simply Manamorphose with the original on the
stack. This allows you to draw all three cards while seeing a fresh three cards with Ponder.

Another trick is to cast Peer Through Depths with the original Ponder on the stack (after resolving the copy, of course). This allows a fresh three
cards to be seen with Ponder, granting some more flexibility with what is seen and what can be drawn.

Lastly, Remand is a card that deserves a special mention: if you absolutely need to combo off, casting a Rite of Flame and then casting Remand on it
can be a good way to start to draw cards. With an active Ascension, Remanding a spell and then using the copy on the original Remand is equivalent to
“1U: Draw a card”

Now that I’ve shared my tricks of the trade, it’s time to run through some sample hands and see what this deck is truly capable of.

Rock a Rhyme

In order to fully understand how this deck plays out and the thought process behind every key spell being played, I have decided to run through a
couple of hands to give some samples.

Hand 1: Misty Rainforest, Misty Rainforest, Scalding Tarn, Gitaxian Probe, Lightning Bolt, Pyromancer Ascension, and Pyromancer Ascension.

We will assume that we are on the play. This hand is a definite keeper. I realize that it is a little action-light, but having a Pyromancer Ascension
in your opener is key — and this hand has two. This means that any spell we draw, we can try to draw into duplicates. This hand may not be the best,
but it’s not a hand that you would mulligan.

The first play is to lead off with Gitaxian Probe paying two life. This allows you to potentially draw a one-mana spell to play or to see if you need
to hold up Bolt.

Turn 1 card drawn: Gitaxian Probe.

At this point you want to play a fetchland and pass the turn. If the opponent has some one-drops (for example, Wild Nacatl, Steppe Lynx, Goblin Guide,
Kird Ape, or Loam Lion), Scalding Tarn may be preferable to avoid taking the damage from a Steam Vents.

Turn 2 card drawn: Preordain

On this turn, you just want to play out the Ascension, assuming your opponent doesn’t have Spell Snare or a Qasali Pridemage on the way. However, if
the opponent plays out a Qasali Pridemage, Lightning Bolt is a solid answer.

Turn 3 card drawn: Ponder

Here’s where we can start to go for the combo, or set up for a sure-fire thing next turn. If there’s no pressure from the opponent (in other words,
you’re sure you won’t die next turn), I would play a second Ascension and then Probe, paying two life. This way there is mana available in case
comboing off is in our best interest.

Card drawn: Preordain

Now that there are two Preordains in hand, casting one to see what’s up will set us up for the win on the next turn.

Cards scried into: Manamorphose and Rite of Flame

Now that’s a sure-fire way to win the game! Keep both cards on top, drawing either one of them, and cast the second Preordain. Now both of the
Ascensions have two counters on them and are actively doubling up spells.

Cards scried into: Rite of Flame and Mountain.

Bottom the Mountain and keep the Rite on top. After drawing the Rite of Flame our hand looks like this

Hand: Misty Rainforest, Lightning Bolt, Ponder, Manamorphose, Rite of Flame.

First things first, play the Misty Rainforest and crack it for a Steam Vents.

As a reminder, the board state looks like this:

Steam Vents (untapped), two Steam Vents (tapped), and two Pyromancer Ascensions with two counters each on them.

Using the Steam Vents, play Rite of Flame, adding two red mana and copying it twice with both active Ascensions. Using the floating red mana, play
Manamorphose, adding two blue mana with the first copy.

Card drawn: Pyromancer Ascension

Mana floating: Four red and two blue

With the second copy of Manamorphose, add two blue mana:

Card drawn: Remand

Mana floating: Four red and four blue

Now, here’s the tricky part: using the trick I mentioned with Manamorphose, Remand, and two active Ascensions, you can potentially draw your deck.
Before the original Manamorphose resolves, cast Remand, targeting Manamorphose. Copy the Remand twice (once with each Ascension). The first copy
targets the original Remand. This returns Remand to your hand, with Manamorphose and a copy of Remand on the stack. The second copy of Remand targets
Manamorphose, returning it to your hand.

The net result of this is drawing your deck and generating a high storm count. Each loop generates four mana, which is exactly what it costs to play
both spells. Each loop also draws four cards (two off of Manamorphose and two off of Remand).

Continuing this loop will allow you to eventually draw into Grapeshot or enough Rite of Flames to make Banefire is lethal.

Game won on turn 3.

Well! That certainly was a good demonstration of what this deck is capable of. Now it’s time for another sample hand.

Hand 2: Mountain, Steam Vents, Preordain, Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, Manamorphose, Pyromancer Ascension

This hand is solid gold, and exactly the kind of hand you want every game. Start off the same as last game, paying two life to Probe your opponent.

Card drawn: Preordain

Ding! Here the best play is to play the Steam Vents untapped, and Preordain.

Cards scried into: Probe and Island

Put the Island on top, draw it, and then pass the turn.

Turn 2 card drawn: Probe

For this turn, we’re simply going to play the Island, play Ascension, and pass the turn. Next turn, we can potentially combo off. The reason for not
playing Probe on this turn is because the storm count may be relevant for Grapeshot (although it almost never is).

Turn 3 card drawn: Grapeshot (how ironic!)

Now is the time to decide if we are going to combo out or not. First off, play the Probe, paying two life. The Ascension now has one counter.

Card drawn: Scalding Tarn

All right, so that’s not the best draw. Before we play a land, let’s Preordain using the Island. The Ascension is now active and we have Preordained

Cards scried into: Pyromancer Ascension and Manamorphose

Well, that’s certainly pleasant! The Ascension goes on the bottom and we’ll draw the Manamorphose. Now we can play the Mountain (so we don’t shuffle
the Pyromancer back on top) and play Manamorphose.

Before we continue, let’s have a quick recap of the board and our hand.

Currently in hand: Manamorphose, Ponder, Grapeshot, and Scalding Tarn.

Current board state: Pyromancer Ascension (two counters), Island (tapped), Mountain (tapped), and Steam Vents (tapped)

On the stack: Manamorphose

Using the copy, we will add a red and a blue mana.

Card drawn: Misty Rainforest

Not exactly what we wanted to draw here. Regardless, with the original Manamorphose, add two blue mana. To recap, we have three blue mana floating and
one red mana.

Card drawn: Muddle the Mixture

Muddle the Mixture is an interesting card here because it can be used to transmute for Manamorphose in a pinch or a Peer Through Depths. However, it is
not a card we want to see right now. Our next step is to cast Ponder to potentially set up for the next few draws.

Casting Ponder and copying it, we see Banefire, Peer Through Depths, and Scalding Tarn. We want to draw Peer and not the others — although Banefire
isn’t the worst card to draw in the deck right now. We’ll order the library as Peer on top, and then the other two are irrelevant. The next cards we
see are Island, Scalding Tarn, and Banefire. We don’t want any of these, so we’ll elect to shuffle with our original Ponder.

After shuffling, we draw Preordain. This is a great card to draw because it will let us continue our chain while saving two mana for Manamorphose.

Mana floating: two blue and one red

With one of the floating blue mana, we can play Preordain and copy it.

Cards scried into: Manamorphose and Steam Vents.

Here we’re going to keep Manamorphose on top and bottom the Steam Vents. Now our original Preordain resolves letting us scry again

Cards scried into: Remand and Pyromancer Ascension.

Typically, these cards are great cards to scry into, but only if you have more mana to work with. Right now we’re stalling on two mana, so we’re going
to ship both to the bottom and draw a random card.

Card drawn: Pyromancer Ascension.

Now that we’ve drawn basically a blank, Manamorphose is our next move. With the first one, we’re going to add one red and one blue mana.

Card drawn: Peer Through Depths

The second copy of Manamorphose will add two blue mana and draw into Remand. With four mana floating, the third Manamorphose will be played, adding
blue and red at first. This draws into Rite of Flame. The original copy will add two blue mana and draw into a Misty Rainforest.

To recap: in hand we have Grapeshot, Scalding Tarn, Misty Rainforest, Misty Rainforest, Muddle the Mixture, Pyromancer Ascension, Peer Through Depths,
Peer Through Depths, Remand, and Rite of Flame.

We have five blue and one red mana floating. Using the one red mana to cast Rite of Flame will end up with a total of five blue and four red floating.
Using two red mana to play our second Ascension, we’ll up our storm count. Currently the storm count is at nine (including the Ascension). At this
point (assuming the opponent is at twenty life), playing Grapeshot and then Remanding it to play again will win the game.

If we assume the opponent is at a higher life total (thanks to Martyr of Sands or Glimmerpost), we can continue to combo off with Peer Through Depths.
Once the second Ascension is active, drawing the deck becomes trivial with Manamorphose and Remand.

Once again, that’s a turn 3 kill.

Having done all those sample hands, I may have just convinced myself to run this deck at the Pro Tour. Will I end up running it? I’m not so sure at
this time. There are a whole slew of decks that look interesting to me, and not quite enough time to test them all. Will I be playing with Locus lands
and giant creatures? Or will I be playing with Wild Nacatl and his cat companions? Hopefully I’ll have a better idea of what I’m playing come Thursday!

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