I have a massive preference for fair decks. Simply put, this is not ideal for the current Modern landscape. Aggro, combo, and big mana decks define the format.

If fairer and more reactive decks want to compete, they must have a proactive game plan that gives them inevitability alongside a wide range of answers to the diverse set of threats in Modern.

This is why I believe Mardu Pyromancer is a much better choice right now than Jund or the various control decks. The deck fully utilizes its graveyard as a unique resource that other fair decks aren’t able to exploit in the same manner. Cards like Lingering Souls, Faithless Looting, and Bedlam Reveler ensure that you always have ways to spend your mana in the late game and don’t run out of gas.

Pyromancer also allows you to clock your opponent quickly, which is very important against decks where your removal and discard spells aren’t very effective.

This is the list I took to a 12-3 record at Grand Prix Hartford:

Mardu Pyromancer

I thought this list was well positioned for the metagame I expected, but I didn’t respect Boggles enough. This list was mainly designed to beat Hollow One and Humans, neither of which I played against all tournament. Since Modern is a dynamic format, I would make a number of changes going forward. This is likely what I’ll be running in the MOCS playoff:

Mardu Pyromancer

Crackling Doom and Wear // Tear are nods to the growing popularity of Boggles. Wear // Tear is also a versatile card that is an effective answer to some of the best cards against this deck (such as Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, and Leyline of Sanctity).

Manamorphose is just a great card in this deck, acting as a free spell that helps fix your mana under a Blood Moon, fuels Bedlam Reveler, and helps get Pyromancer going.

I cut a Kolaghan’s Command because it mainly shines against the fairer and more interactive decks, which are becoming increasingly rare as the format develops. I also don’t think Liliana of the Veil is well positioned at all in the current Modern format, hence the choice to play Liliana, the Last Hope in the main deck instead. Decks like Hollow One, Humans, Affinity, Burn, and Boggles (if they have Leyline) could care less about a Liliana of the Veil.

Rabblemasters in the board may look peculiar, but they give the deck more ways to put on pressure against combo and big mana decks post-board. People seem to have forgotten since this Goblin was in Standard, but the clock he creates is no joke. In addition, the Rabblemasters and Hazoret allow you to sideboard into threats that are not dependent on the graveyard. This can be very useful when your opponent overloads on cards like Relic of Progenitus, Leyline of the Void, and Rest in Peace post-board.

Since Modern is so diverse, even the most popular decks make up a small percentage of the metagame, so I won’t be able to give a sideboard guide for each matchup. Instead, I’ll just go over the most common ones. There are often many similarities when sideboarding against fair decks and unfair decks, so use this guide to help figure out your plan against the more obscure decks.

Humans

Out

In

This is one of the best matchups possible, since your main game plan of disruption and Blood Moon is extremely effective against them. I cut Manamorphose due to how awkward it is against Thalia. Be wary of Izzet Staticaster post-board, and try not to overextend with Lingering Souls into it. Outside of that, they don’t have many other tools that are terribly effective against Mardu’s game plan.

Hollow One

Out

In

This matchup is tough game 1 since they are quick to the board and many of their threats are resilient to removal. The main way to steal this game is to keep a Pyromancer alive and race them with it. This plan is actually quite effective since you can slow them down with timely removal and discard. When using discard spells on them, your first priority should be to keep them off of rummaging spells (Looting, Inquiry, Lore). If they have multiple rummaging spells and you have a Pyromancer, choose removal instead and hope that Pyromancer is able to run away with the game. Playing a reactive game against them just won’t be effective if they are able to start fully utilizing their graveyard.

Tron

Out

In

This matchup is horrible. I used to play Molten Rain in the sideboard to help, but even then the matchup was so bad I figured it wasn’t worth even trying to beat it. Your best shot is to set up a Blood Moon along with significant pressure, either through a Pyromancer or Rabblemaster. Just a Blood Moon won’t be enough since they can either answer it eventually or just start hard casting their threats.

Storm

Out

In

This matchup is tough game 1 since you have a number of inefficient spells against them. It’s still winnable, since a Pyromancer backed up with some discard and removal puts on a significant clock. Gifts is almost unbeatable game 1, so you should almost always pick it with discard when given the opportunity. Post-board gets a lot better since you get a great answer to Empty the Warrens in Engineered Explosives, and can shut down their Gifts and Past in Flames engine with your graveyard hate. Rabblemaster also gives you another way to pressure them, since Lingering Souls is far too slow.

Boggles

Out

In

Game 1 is almost unwinnable unless they draw poorly or a quick Pyromancer is able to steal the game. Game 2 is favorable since you gain some really valuable tools. Post-board, I would keep a hand with just discard as your only disruption (no Engineered Explosives, Wear // Tear, or Crackling Doom) on the play. Sure, you may lose to Leyline, but it forces them to have both Leyline and a Boggle in their opener. On the draw, I would mulligan the same hand. I would basically mulligan any hand on the draw without Engineered Explosives, Wear // Tear, or Crackling Doom unless you’ve already mulliganed very low. Just discard will likely be too slow since they would be able to land a Boggle before you get the chance to pick it out of their hand.

Affinity

Out

In

This matchup is very good since your discard, removal, and threats all line up well against their game plan. Post-board gets tougher since they now have access to two very effective tools: Etched Champion and Ghirapur Aether Grid. I would basically always select these two cards with discard whenever I have the opportunity. If you are able to answer those two threats, the rest of the game should be smooth sailing.

Jund

Out

In

This is another good matchup since this deck is designed to grind so well. Cards like Liliana of the Veil and 1-for-1 removal line up poorly against Mardu Pyromancer. It’s very difficult for Jund to keep up with the card advantage provided by cards like Bedlam Reveler, Lingering Souls, and Faithless Looting. It’s possible that Collective Brutality is better than Explosives since it is able to protect your Pyromancers by selecting their removal or sweepers. But I like how Explosives lines up against their threats since a vast majority of them cost 2 mana. Hazoret is just a house against them, since they would likely cut their Liliana of the Veils, basically meaning that they’re completely cold to Hazoret.

Burn

Out

In

Your success in this matchup will be directly proportional to the number of Collective Brutalities you draw. It is your best card by a substantial amount. I actually like Blood Moon against them, since if you land it at the right time, it can strand them with a bunch of Boros Charms and Lightning Helixes in their hand. Outside of that, just fetch basics liberally and remember to keep a consistent clock on them since they will eventually draw lethal burn given enough time.