It’s Grzegorz Kowalski here and it’s time for my second Modern article. If you’re interested in Modern, you can also take a look at my last Jeskai Tempo guide!
For those who don’t know me well – I’m the midrange kind of guy. Whenever it’s possible, I’m trying to play fair decks with a reasonable plan for the mid- and late game with some kind of distruption. I like being able to play discard, removal, some way to generate card advantage and powerful creatures instead of super linear, all-in aggro or “let’s do puzzles” combo.
This is why Modern is not a great home for me and why I don’t enjoy the majority of the decks in the format. After GP Madrid I decided to try some new stuff and explore the format a little bit more, so I abandoned Jeksai Flash. I tried to play BG Tron, but it was super boring for me; same thing with Burn.
After that I gave Lantern Control a shot; many people told me that the deck is great and I have to try it before the PT. Well, guess what? Indeed, the deck is powerful but I just couldn’t handle playing more than one league per day with Lantern. It has a playstyle very different from my preferred one and playing with it was very exhausting for me.
Finally I’ve found something that I like. The deck I want to share with you today. The king of the midrange decks in Modern! I present to you: Mardu Pyromancer.
2 《Sacred Foundry》
1 《Blood Crypt》
4 《Bloodstained Mire》
3 《Wooded Foothills》
1 《Marsh Flats》
4 《Blackcleave Cliffs》
-Lands (19)- 2 《Monastery Swiftspear》
4 《Young Pyromancer》
4 《Bedlam Reveler》
4 《Lightning Bolt》
4 《Inquisition of Kozilek》
2 《Forked Bolt》
1 《Fatal Push》
2 《Lightning Helix》
1 《Collective Brutality》
4 《Lingering Souls》
3 《Kolaghan's Command》
Why do I love it so much?
As I said before, it’s my type of deck and I believe every fan of midranges will be delighted with it. Mardu has options to fight against everything. Even bad matchups are more like 40-60 than 20-80 – and having the latter type of bad matchups are a very annoying part of Modern for me.
I can be proactive and reactive at the same time and there’s an easy way to generate a lot of additional value (by means of prowess triggers, Pyromancer tokens and even making 《Bedlam Reveler》 cheaper) with my classic one for one spells.
Even though Mardu is full of one mana spells, our lategame is still great. It might come as a surprise, but thanks to our red pseudo-delve guy we’re able to outgrind almost everyone.
《Faithless Looting》 has also been consistently overperfoming for me. I didn’t have great expectations for this card, but it shines in this deck. It digs deeper for Reveler (or any other card that we might need at the moment), while making him cheaper at the same time; it discards 《Lingering Souls》or just dead cards in the given matchup which gives me a great feeling compared to Jeskai, where we had infinity of point removal, that we couldn’t do anything with. Here you just “cycle” it for new cards, with some bonuses to boot.
There are so many options each game and sequencing really matters. This is the Magic that I love to play!
The general gameplan
In most scenarios you’re not the aggro. Your main goal is to trade resources for as long as possible, discarding cards from your opponent’s hand, killing his creatures and then refilling your hand with 《Bedlam Reveler》.
You don’t necessarily care about dealing early damage, so it’s almost always correct to cast discard spells over 《Monastery Swiftspear》 turn one. That’s especially true in game one, when you don’t know what you’re playing against.
Unless you have some 《Lingering Souls》 that you want to discard, you shouldn’t be casting 《Faithless Looting》 turn one on the play in game one. It’s very important to know what you’re facing before you get to discard cards to know which can be safely pitched.
Here is some other general advice for 《Faithless Looting》 that is very important, and might be not obvious for someone who is playing Mardu for the first time.
Matchups and sideboard guides
There are a lot of different lists of Mardu, so I don’t think classic “add these, remove these” guide would be useful. Instead of that I’ll try to mark which cards are good or bad against given archetypes. It should help you to understand the basics and build your own sb plan for your list!
Very Favored Matchups
One of our best matchups. You should kill everything they plan and concentrate on getting value out of 《Young Pyromancer》 and 《Bedlam Reveler》. We have enough removal, so 《Meddling Mage》 or 《Kitesail Freebooter》 don’t hurt us that much.
Good cards: Removal in general, you don’t really need to board in many cards. Probably just 《Fatal Push》 if you have it in your sideboard.
A lot of what was said about Humans applies here; the big difference is 《Etched Champion》, which sometimes might steal the game against you. Your main goal with discard is to hit the 《Etched Champion》 or 《Cranial Plating》, since for the rest of Affinity you have more than enough removal.
Definitely a worse matchup than both of the decks above, but we’re still favored. Best cards against us are 《Collected Company》 and 《Eternal Witness》 because they counter our one for one plan. If we manage to discard them early it’s pretty hard for them to combo out through our removal and eventually we will kill them with 《Lingering Souls》 or 《Bedlam Reveler》.
Slightly favored Matchups
Both decks have the same plan as we do: trade resources one for one and gain advantage in the midgame. Our card advantage is just better and harder to deal with than theirs: 《Bedlam Reveler》 dodges 《Inquisition of Kozilek》, 《Lightning Bolt》 and 《Fatal Push》, while everything can take care of 《Dark Confidant》 or 《Grim Flayer》.
Bad cards: 《Forked Bolt》.
Grixis Death’s Shadow
Similar to Jund and Abzan, we’re just the better midrange deck. Tokens are great, so never play 《Young Pyromancer》 turn two without value – unless you cast discard turn one and you know that the path is clear. 《Lingering Souls》 are MVP here.
Our clock is slow, so we have to attack their hand with discard. Sometimes it’s simply not enough. Putting pressure on them should be your priority: this is one of the matchups where I prefer to play 《Monastery Swiftspear》 turn one over a discard spell.
Good cards: 《Leyline of the Void》, 《Kambal, Consul of Allocation》, 《Fatal Push》 (better than 《Dreadbore》 or 《Terminate》, but worse than 《Lightning Bolt》 and 《Lightning Helix》 — you don’t have to bring it in).
UW / Jeskai / Grixis Control
I think the toughest one of the lot is UW for us. This is because of their ability to attack our mana base – which is really painful – and their acces to a larger number of mass removal spells. The games are all about 《Young Pyromancer》, 《Lingering Souls》 and 《Bedlam Reveler》 for us. If we are able to draw and resolve enough of them, we are very likely to win.
Good cards: 《Pithing Needle》, 《Kambal, Consul of Allocation》, 《Leyline of the Void》 (good vs 《Snapcaster Mage》 and 《Search for Azcanta》. It’s better than a part of our removal spells, and worst case scenario we can discard it for free with 《Faithless Looting》)
Bad cards: 《Terminate》(keep it for Grixis), 《Forked Bolt》, 《Fatal Push》 (keep it for decks with 《Celestial Colonnade》), 《Lightning Helix》 (you might keep if for decks with 《Spell Queller》, but it’s not great here anyway).
Big mana decks. Unfortunately for us, they are a big part of the current meta
It’s really hard to fight for us. Early 《Wurmcoil Engine》 is almost unbeatable, and we don’t have a good way to stop him from casting it. Even if somehow we manage to do that, our clock is still not good enough as we will face 《Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger》 or any other payoff card shortly. We can try to attack their mana base with 《Blood Moon》 and 《Stony Silence》, but even on turn six the 《Wurmcoil Engine》 is still very scary.
Bad cards: 《Fatal Push》, 《Forked Bolt》, 《Collective Brutality》, 《Lightning Helix》, 《Lightning Bolt》 (remember that they’ll bring 《Thragtusk》 and 《Thought-Knot Seer》, so it’s worth to keep 《Dreadbore》 and 《Terminate》).
Similar to BG Tron, but instead of the big payoff cards, they have a faster clock and 《Chalice of the Void》. Our removal is very inefficient here.
Our removal is almost dead here and we don’t have a good way to improve the situation postboard. Don’t cast 《Thoughtseize》 in early turns – it’s important to hit a payoff card with it, so you should cast it the turn before they can reach the 6th land for 《Primeval Titan》 to maximize our chances of hitting it. 《Inquisition of Kozilek》 on the other hand is very good early as it can take a ramp spell away from them.
Bad cards: Removal, which means basically half of our deck.
King of midrange!
I believe Mardu is currently the best midrange deck in Modern.
It doesn’t have a great time right now, due to all of the big mana decks raising in popularity lately – but that is true of midrange decks in general. In any case, I believe it’s worth to keep Mardu in mind; when metagame shifts a little bit and we can see more of fair or creature based aggro decks we will have a great opportunity to remind everyone that there is still some space for fair Magic in Modern – exactly as Jund drivers did few years ago!
Modern is an extremely diverse format and there are a lot of decks of similar power level that you can win with. It’s really important to have fun when playing Magic: enjoy your deck and the time that you spend practicing. If you’re a midrange player like me, don’t be afraid to try Mardu Pyromancer. Even if it’s not the best metagame for us right now, it might be better to play the deck that you understand and like instead of some weird combo. Metagame is bound to change at some point!
Happy New Year!
He won the top eight in GP Lille 2012 and GP Brussels 2015, and GP Santiago 2017 has achieved second place.His extraordinary skill is also demonstrated on Pro Tour, experiencing countless top prize and money finish.
He is one of the top players who travels the world and continues to fight.