Sullivan’s Satchel: Pyrite Spellbomb, Playing Competitively, and Trash Talk

Patrick Sullivan opens his mailbag once again to answer four fan-submitted questions!

Pyrite Spellbomb, illustrated by Jim Nelson

Hello, and welcome to this edition of Sullivan’s Satchel.

Little Modern decklist action for you. Even though this deck hasn’t picked up anything new in Modern Horizons 2 besides Flame Rift, which probably sucks but charms me. In spite of that, the metagame shifts have been positive. Lots of decks vulnerable to Eidolon, creatures everywhere such that Searing Blaze is an easy maindeck card, a bunch of Prowess decks that are ice cold to Kor Firewalker, etc.

I like this deck a ton when enchantments aren’t prevalent and artifacts and/or creatures are everywhere such that you have a set of Blazes and Smashes against a lot of opponents, and the lack of control generally, and meaningful lifegain specifically, means you can move away from Skullcrack and use your sideboard slots on more powerful, impactful stuff. Ari Lax will probably say this deck is fake but I can’t hear him over the MTGO sound effects for match wins, and confirmed trades of chests for tickets. Maybe not the best deck or anything but I know it has its fan club and so I like to chime in when I think it’s viable and relatively affordable. Yeah, there are fetches and whatever, but MTGO Traders puts the exchange rate at about 120 Goblin Guides to a Ragavan, so you could be doing much worse.

With that, the questions. You can send in yours to [email protected] or DM me on Twitter @BasicMountain. Best question wins $25 in SCG credit each and every week, and the rest typically get answered at some point. Regardless of if you’re really thirsting for $25 or just happen to have a humiliation fetish, this is not a bad use of your time, and you help me out on top of that.

From Chris:

Good evening Patrick. I hope you had a nice day. My name is Chris Vrabel and I have been playing Modern burn for a few years. Just curious. Which decks do you bring in Pyrite Spellbomb for? Also, what do you sideboard out for Pyrite Spellbomb in those matchups? Thank you for your help. Have a good evening. Chris

I get asked this a lot, as I’m a very big fan of Pyrite Spellbomb in both Prowess and Burn sideboards, though sometimes the slots are taxed on other stuff and it doesn’t end up making the cut. Some applications, in no particular order:

  1. Creatures with protection from red, from Kor Firewalker to Burrenton Forge-Tender to Sanctifier En-Vec. Not all these cards are game over uncontested, but some of them are, and you don’t know which ones your opponent has ahead of time. Path to Exile helps here as well, but at a much greater opportunity cost, and typically being less strong if your opponent doesn’t end up playing one of the creatures in question, as Spellbomb either kills something or cycles at a much better overall rate.
  2. The threat of your opponent producing such a card in a deck with few-to-no creatures, such that sideboarding in Path to Exile is extremely risky. I have played against Kor Firewalker out of Azorius decks, and boarding in Path there is a non-starter. With Spellbomb, you can cycle to get off of it if your opponent doesn’t have it, while not being dead on the spot if they do.
  3. Some matchups ask for a lot of removal, and even at a modest rate Pyrite Spellbomb is above the line. Recently I played against Elves and was happy to have it, and it does a serviceable job against Affinity, Infect, and various decks in that space.
  4. Sideboard games typically slow down, and Pyrite can be a good dimension alongside Lurrus of the Dream-Den. I’ve had that “engine” demolish Humans every now and again, and earlier today that combination trounced my 8-Rack opponent. Not very common, but for two cards with a  low opportunity cost, picking up a free win every game out of 30 or so adds up.

I’ve never been a big believer on just loading up on Path to Exile due to reasons #1 and #2, and with Lurrus as part of the equation I think the burden of proof is extremely high to not play at least one copy.

As far as to what to take out, in creature matchups I’m usually cutting the Lava Spike/Boros Charm/Flame Rift type of stuff, and otherwise the Lightning Helix/Searing Blaze/Rift Bolt type of stuff, depending on the details. That’s usually intuitive enough that it’s not worth going into great detail, except that I know a lot of Burn players who never cut Boros Charm no matter what, and I have no problem getting off of that card if the opponent is playing a lot of creatures and doesn’t take a lot of damage off their own lands. Not an intrinsically sacred card to me.

From Bloodbraid:

Do you believe complex mechanics inherently carry the burden of tracking issues, or is that just centered around some of Magic’s more notable outliers(suspend, haunt, etc.)

Complexity can emerge in a number of respects, and not all of it is bad. Magic is a complicated game; it stands to reason that people who enjoy Magic have a certain tolerance for complexity. Relatively simple mechanics (in terms of complexity of the keyword itself) can lend themselves to very complicated decisions and battlefields. Take battalion, for instance.

Boros Elite Firefist Striker Frontline Medic

Very simple keyword, probably intelligible to anyone who has played Magic for more than a week. That said, a ton of complexity emerges from that — the cat and mouse game of managing attackers and blockers on both side, the implications of a surprise trick or haste creature, to say nothing of the general complexity of a game centered around combat. I guess one could argue battalion has a bit of “tracking issues”, in that it is something of an on-board trick, but if battalion is past an acceptable line in that respect I don’t think the game has enough total design space.

Blind Hunter Crashing Footfalls

Contrast that to haunt or suspend, where a lot of the complexity emerges just from managing the game actions that are occurring. There can be some room for that too — I don’t really mind suspend, and some other similar mechanics are okay in small doses, too. But I think it’s important to separate different sorts of complexity, and identify the types that are stimulating and fun, and the types that feel more similar to doing your taxes than playing a game.

From Jacob Ginsparg:

In the latter half of 2019 and very early 2020 I had some decent tournament finishes and was excited to start traveling more for competitive events in 2020. Then COVID happened, things shut down, and the rest of 2020 really took the wind out of my sails. Now things are starting to open back up, weeklies are back, but I’m struggling to find my competitive drive again. The last comp REL event I went to was before Once Upon a Time got banned. Things look pretty different now, and I’m not sure my drive is there to really get back into the swing of it. Any advice for trying to re-light that spark?

I have had the experience that many of the communal experiences, hobbies, or otherwise luxurious applications of time and resources to take a different tone now, after the past eighteen months. Being around people makes me uncomfortable at times in a way that wasn’t true in the past; it’s harder to find joy in trivialities. I’m not sure how true that experience is across the board; I definitely know people who are thrilled doing just about anything they couldn’t do a year ago, and I think that perspective is fine, too. Just not where I’m at right now, and I’m not sure how I would have handled this twenty years ago, when grinding Magic was my primary pursuit.

I guess I would give two pieces of advice, possibly conflicting. First, we are so far removed from living a “normal” life, and the last year has been so traumatic in general, that a lot of things are going to have a pall on them, or not inspire the same enthusiasm. It’s good to try, just to see. But also, I wouldn’t push it. It’s reasonable to have a new perspective or value different things and the stuff you used to find fun might not hit the same way anymore. I’d at least give it a shot if it involves getting to see friends you haven’t seen in a while, though.

Lastly, the Question of the Week and winner of $25 in SCG credit, from Andy Hurst:

Hi Patrick, 

First, condolences on the Clips loss. 

Second, I found this archive in a random Magic writing deep dive last week. I hope you’d enjoy it as much as I did! 

Third, my question: 

It seemed to me like a lot of the big American players of your era – guys like Osyp, Antonino DeRosa, Herberholz, Gabe Walls, PTR, etc – were trying to make the Pro Tour something of a spectator sport. From the coverage I remember reading, there was trash talk & wild antics galore. How do you think that generation of players would have done in today’s age of Twitch streaming? Do you think they’d have had channels with huge followings?

Thank you for your thoughts about the Clippers. From my perspective it was a magical run, and even though they didn’t get through the Suns that doesn’t change what happened against the Mavericks or especially the Jazz. I hope the team comes back more or less as is, Ty Lue for President, etc. etc.

Ah, the TOGIT archives. I did a cursory read of my stuff and it is extremely embarrassing but not in a way that’s conducive to being canceled, thank goodness. Would have bet against that. Interesting to read how I felt when that much of my self-worth was tied up in a game I wasn’t particularly good at or tried all that hard to be better at.

To the last (first?) question — I’m not sure. So much of the “humor” veered into mean-spirited and/or abusive behavior that wouldn’t be received as fondly in 2021 than in 2001. All the players you mentioned were incredibly charismatic and funny people, so some of that would have translated, but the style of humor and personality is just very different now. I think Heezy would be the best bet of the bunch — hilarious, self-effacing, insightful, full of one-liners and recurring catch phrases that could easily be converted into monetizable emojis, etc. But I guess I’m bearish overall on how Magic’s culture would port over today, or how those players would do as streamers.