Welcome back to Valuable Lessons. Last week, we saw some changes to the Modern banned list. [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Bitterblossom[/ccProd] have been reintroduced to the format, and [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] has been banned. These changes have some big implications for Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Faeries, Black/White Tokens, and Zoo have risen from obscurity and will likely be strong Modern archetypes going forward.

Deathrite Shaman’s banning opens a whole new door of possibilities for us, though. Graveyard strategies like [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card], [card]Necrotic Ooze[/card] combo, Assault/Loam, and [card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card] are once again playable in a world where half of our opponents don’t have maindeck graveyard hate anymore. Today, we’ll be discussing Pyromancer Ascension for Modern.

[draft]pyromancer ascension[/draft]

Pryomancer Ascension is one of my personal all-time favorite Magic cards. Pyromancer Ascension decks aim to use a lot of cantrips to turn on their powerful enchantment and use it to take over the game. We no longer have access to [card]Rite of Flame[/card] or [card]Seething Song[/card], but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with my favorite enchantment.

Combo decks can be comboluted to discuss. We can’t jump right into talking about a card’s specific role in the deck without understanding the deck as a whole. There are a few different routes we can take when building a Pyromancer Ascension deck: We can make a glass cannon storm strategy that aims to win the game quickly by sifting through a deck and firing off a huge [ccProd]Grapeshot[/ccProd]; or we can make a slower, more resilient version of the strategy that eventually wins the game by taking a bunch of extra turns with Time Warp.

[draft]time warp[/draft]

[ccProd]Time Warp[/ccProd] seems like it’s exactly where we want to be in the new Modern. We shouldn’t expect to see a ton of Faeries after the initial hype dies down. The format will likely consist of Zoo decks, interactive aggro decks with a lot of disruption, and slower creature-combo strategies. All of these decks seem like they are going to have a lot of trouble beating a Time Warp version of Pyromancer Ascension. I even doubt the Zoo decks will play [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card] anymore.

What’s our combo? We’re eventually aiming to cast Time Warp with an active Pyromancer Ascension in play, allowing us to take two turns. Our next turn can be used to fire off a flurry of cantrips that are now being copied, and eventually we’ll be able to find a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] or another copy of Time Warp. We can use that Time Warp to take more turns and eventually we’ll be cracking our opponent to death with [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s that are being copied two or three times.

We have a lot of play with a deck like this. Opponents will be wary about comboing into a board with some open mana when we have a full grip. Once we start casting Time Warps it becomes too late for the opponent.

We get to play Snapcaster Mage here and it’s worth noting that Snapcaster Mage aggression can be quite good in a lot of spots. Sometimes we have a glut of Time Warps in hand while our opponent is sitting at a lower life total from their fetch and shocklands. We can cast [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] or [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] on our opponent’s end step and fling a Bolt. Then we can just start beating our opponent with our creature while taking extra turns and sculpting our hand. It’s important that we’re constantly doing the math to see how many Bolts we need to draw in how many turns in order to win. We’ll likely pick up a big portion of wins this way because players will be using mana to prevent us from comboing them instead of applying pressure.

Let’s look at a deck list:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Vendilion Clique
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Pyromancer Ascension
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Serum Visions
1 Cryptic Command
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Time Warp
2 Fire Spout
4 Remand
4 Thoughtscour
4 Steam Vents
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Mountain
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Breeding Pool
5 Island
Sideboard
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Firespout
4 Dispel
1 Flame Slash
2 Cryptic Command
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Ancient Grudge[/deck]

[card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card] is why we’re playing this deck. The card provides us with immense card advantage while effectively allowing us to take enough turns to string together a victory.

[draft]Snapcaster Mage[/draft]

[card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] is perfect in a deck like this. The card gives us an easy method to turn on Pyromancer Ascension, acts as a win condition, and keeps our combo going by flashing back Time Warps. Snapcaster Mage on Time Warp is pretty awesome no matter how we look at it.

[draft]Vendilion Clique[/draft]

[card]Vendilion Clique[/card] is a great one-of here. It lets us interact with opposing control strategies and check out their hand to see if the coast is clear for comboing, applies quick pressure by attacking for 3 in the air every turn, and it allows us to pick apart opponents’ combos while being aggressive.

[draft]Lightning Bolt[/draft]

[card]Lightning Bolt[/card] is the best card in Modern. This card lets us survive against turn one [card]Wild Nacatl[/card], pick off [card]Dark Confidant[/card]s, and it effectively kills opponents when we have multiple Pyromancer Ascension triggers.

[draft]Time Warp[/draft]

Time Warp is a pretty good card. There’s not much better in the way of single cards to resolve when we’re attacking with a Snapcaster of Vendilion Clique. Once we have a Pyromancer Ascension this card becomes a game winning haymaker for five mana.

[draft]Remand[/draft]

[card]Remand[/card] lets us fight counterwars, slow people down, turn on our Pyromancer Ascension, and it works with our combo once we have it going as, “1U Take an extra turn. Draw a card.” We can cast Time Warp, let our copies go on the stack from Pyromancer Ascension(s) and Remand the initial Time Warp, thus ensuring we’ll have another Time Warp for the following turn.

Sometimes Remand can be used to make some really awesome plays. For example, let’s say we have an active Pyromancer Ascension and we go for Time Warp, our opponent uses the two mana they have available to Remand the copy, we can cast Remand, copy it, and target the opposing Remand and our cardboard copy of Time Warp. This lets us take an extra turn, taps out our opponent, and ensures that we’ll have at least two more turns after that.

[draft]Cryptic Command[/draft]

[card]Cryptic Command[/card] helps us get out of unusual jams with its diversity of applications.

[draft]Firespout[/draft]

[card]Firespout[/card] will likely be a necessary evil until we see how much [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] really affects the format. We have room for two copies of the card in our main deck, and our opponents will usually play into it, especially if they think we’re on a Splinter Twin plan.

We’re also playing an unusually large pile of cantrips because, you know, we’re playing Pyromancer Ascension.

We’re not playing [card]Manamorphose[/card] because it’s ironically bad with our early mana. We don’t need to combo into a huge amount of mana with a deck like this, but I could see trying it in future lists going forward.

A deck like this has a lot of options when sideboarding. It’s rough to be a clunky/slow combo deck when the opponent is bringing in a bunch of hate cards, but we have 15 cards to work with and the presence of [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] should give us a reasonable way to apply pressure that likely won’t be expected from the opponent. We won’t be bringing in our Delver of Secrets against players that are sure to be packing a ton of burn spells anyway, we want this plan against control decks that are taking their removal out in favor of more interactive cards.

Control

We need to be frugal with our spells and set up to find an opportunity to resolve Pyromancer Ascension. Remember, we get counters on our Ascension even when our spells don’t resolve, so simply resolving the enchantment is a big win for us in these matchups. Post-board, we can bring in our Delver plan and punish these opponents. Sideboarding will be different against different styles of control, but this is a loose game plan.

Out

[draft]2 Firespout
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Serum Visions
1 Lightning Bolt [/draft]

In

[draft]4 Delver of Secrets
4 Dispel
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Cryptic Command [/draft]

Aggro

We’re looking to hold them off until we can start going crazy with our enchantment. We just need to keep [card wild nacatl]kitty[/card] in the cage.

Out

[draft]4 Remand[/draft]

In

[draft]2 Firespout
1 Flame Slash
1 Vendilion Clique [/draft]

Blue Combo

We can be interactive while trying to get an active Pyromancer Ascension on the table. It’s worth it to play the enchantment right away on our second turn if we’re given the opportunity so we can tick it up and take over the game with an abundance of cards. They’ll be sideboarding to protect their combo more than they will be to stop us. We can adjust and put pressure on them with [card]Delver of Secrets[/card].

Out

[draft]2 Firespout
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Serum Visions[/draft]

In

[draft]2 Cryptic Command
4 Delver of Secrets
1 Vendilion Clique[/draft]

Creature Combo Decks

These are our best matchups, and we can expect a lot in the way of [card]Birthing Pod[/card] in the coming months. We have enough interaction to be sure that we won’t die in the early turns, and once we begin taking infinite turns there’s nothing they can do to stop us. We may want to bring in additional Firespouts in this matchup, but we’re not entirely sure what the new creature combo strategies will look like. We can always adjust our plan accordingly.

Out

[draft]4 Serum Visions [/draft]

In

[draft]2 Cryptic Command
1 Flame Slash
1 Vendilion Clique [/draft]

Pyromancer Ascension is a very powerful Modern card that’s sure to make some waves this weekend at Pro Tour Born of the Gods. This is just one method of abusing the card. Removing [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] from Modern will be sure to have some huge impacts on the format. We should keep our eye out for this and other graveyard-based decks this weekend!