People were pretty excited when Young Pyromancer first came out. I was one of them-he seemed as though he had the potential to be a marquee two-drop in red. However, his time never really came to fruition.
Standard remained too creature-based and better options emerged for Burn decks.
Modern has a few fringe decks that house him with the under-powered U/R Delver deck being by far the most popular.
In Legacy, he's just one of those cool cards people want to play with and occasionally manage to brew with.
We're talking about the third option today! I've recently been playing a fair bit more Magic. Qualifying for the Pro Tour has put playing well and building decks at the forefront of my mind, and Modern PTQ season has also. Naturally, with my efforts focused on Standard, Limited, and Modern events, it makes perfect sense that my renegade traitor brain would drive me to start brewing Legacy decklists.
The interaction I most wanted to play with was this one:
This is in reality a two-card combo, as you Entomb for the Bloodghast, and it frequently functions as anywhere from a single to quadruple Thoughtseize that adds a 2/1 body to the board on turn 2. It's not for the inexperienced, as blind-calling Cabal Therapy is half art, half science, but it's always awesome. Keep in mind that later Entombs can double as additional flashbacks of Cabal Therapy, which is especially handy against topdecked Stoneforge Mystics and the occasional Silvergill Adept.
Of course, a little redundancy never hurt anyone.
This one requires you to draw all three cards, but it accomplishes a similar feat-admittedly with a much more powerful finish, as you end up with Deathrite Shaman, Young Pyromancer, and a 1/1 against an opponent running low on cards. If you untap with a Young Pyromancer, any manner of nastiness can happen, and it's very difficult for threats like Tarmogoyf and True-Name Nemesis to race one-especially when you've got Deathrite Shaman in the back to drain them if they try to stalemate the board.
My first brew with these cards was an update to Sam Black's Bombardment deck, which worked about as well as expected in a local Legacy event-not exceptional, but not bad at all.
The Entombs were good, but I needed to liven them in the late game a little bit more. The deck also lacked a really powerful interaction-it had a ton of synergy and could bury the opponent in a grindy game, but without a nut draw it would have issues winning from the draw and could get beat by a topdecked Brainstorm that hit two or three very good cards. I really wanted to access Brainstorm and Gitaxian Probe, and I remembered Young Frankenstein.
Less than a year ago, Todd Anderson put together a spicy little number for an Indianapolis Invitational hybridizing Young Pyromancer with a typical Legacy cantrip engine that featured a small Reanimator package. It could turn 2 you via Griselbrand, it could grind you, and it could do all of these things while packing Force of Will and Daze backup.
I loved this deck when I first saw it. I'm a big fan of powerful combinations in cantrip-heavy decks, and being able to alternately play fair and unfair Magic is a tough thing for many Legacy decks to handle. It can also dramatically affect sideboarding, when opponents aren't sure how unfair you'll be going in games 2 and 3, leading them to overvalue combo hate before losing to attacking creatures.
The deck sort of petered out after that, with no one truly waving its flag. I decided it was possible we'd got it wrong before, or that the winds had shifted enough. I decided to brew up the deck with a focus on Cabal Therapy instead of permission-not a big reach, since I despise the card Daze in general, but let's not get on a tangent.
Drew Levin wrote an excellent article breaking down some of the concepts and ideas that could go into different permutations of the deck, although I disagreed on some points. The primary point of contention for me was that Lightning Bolt didn't belong in a dedicated graveyard deck, as I felt strongly that it was one of the heaviest incentives-it could kill a Deathrite Shaman while not becoming blank in combo and control matchups, although I'll of course admit it wasn't great in them. Its synergy with the Young Pyromancer fair plan was also worthwhile.
At the time, I'd been experimenting with a number of the cards Drew wound up suggesting-notably Delver of Secrets-so I was already pretty familiar with what I wanted to do. In the end, the deck came together as such for the Las Vegas Legacy Open.
You can watch the Deck Tech I did in Vegas here. I'll explain the biggest changes from the previous decks below as well, of course.
This might seem odd, but it's deceptively easy to fire off a Dread Return from either side. Cards like Force, Daze, and Spell Pierce are very mediocre against a cantrip-heavy deck packing Cabal Therapy and very cheap spells, and it enables your Entombs to function as both fatty and Reanimate alongside Young Pyromancer. Hardcasting it is very reasonable as well, considering the deck has 22 mana sources-a high number for Legacy.
Elesh Norn is an obvious choice of fatty to Reanimate, because Norn single-handedly kills several decks in the format and has some very powerful synergy with Young Pyromancer as well. However, that meant my second choice needed to be a card I would typically search for against combo decks and Tarmogoyf decks, where Elesh Norn was less powerful.
Gravy Train looks odd to see, but I've actually found him to be one of the best Reanimate targets in the format. He was suggested to me on Twitter by Andrew Confer, when I posed a hypothetical to see which Reanimate targets people would be most interested in pursuing in the dark. There are a few reasons that he makes the cut, and obviously I chose him over Griselbrand so they'd better be good!
First off, Titan's the faster clock. Griselbrand kills in three swings, while Grave Titan kills in two. That might not seem like much, and I'll admit that against many decks Grisel-B's lifelink or draw 7 will be enough to make it irrelevant. However, Death and Taxes and Sneak and Show are both popular decks that looked like they would be tough matchups for me.
Between Karakas and Swords, both Griselbrand and Elesh Norn are not enough to win the game. I needed a non-legendary threat against Death and Taxes, and Grave Titan is perfect. He's resilient to Swords to Plowshares because he leaves behind some not-irrelevant warm bodies in a matchup that can become quite grindy, and he won't be sent packing by Flickerwisp without punishing the opponent pretty heavily. The deck's best creatures against a Zombie horde, Serra Avenger and Mirran Crusader, also can't be put into play before turn 3, making them easy to Cabal Therapy out of the opponent's hand.
Meanwhile, without permission, Sneak and Show actually has very little to fear from Griselbrand. Simply threatening a turn 4 kill instead of a turn 5 one is clearly the better choice. The only real upside is that on a Pyromancer-backed start, Griselbrand's lifelink or blocking can enable me to survive an Emrakul attack while still presenting lethal-but I can actually still do that by attacking their Griselbrands with Therapy and using Reanimate to get him into play!
Of course, he naturally defeats Liliana and is a great fatty against non-swarm fair decks, but it's possible he'll need to go to make room for heavier demands on the deck's needs. Norn kills most creature decks, Therapy kills most fair decks, and Grave Titan is the best clock against combo-but he doesn't straight-up handle them. He's great at his job, but we may need to pivot from that role.
Force of Will pretty rarely, and in those situations building my deck better probably would have meant I didn't need Force at all. In hindsight, a necessary repercussion of boarding Force is that I need to maindeck a reanimate target that beats non-swarm combo decks more consistently. The options are:
- Iona, Shield of Emeria: Not good enough against Sneak and Show.
- Blazing Archon: Not good enough against Storm.
- Tidespout Tyrant: Probably good enough against Sneak and Show, maybe good enough against Storm-it can counter Infernal Tutor and set their mana back. It's not a slouch in fair matchups, but it's not fantastic, and in all of these situations he requires you to have a stream of spells to be good.
I had Jace in this slot up until the night before the event, when I realized Sylvan could do similar work against Miracles but had wider applications elsewhere. However, I may have underestimated Jace-yes, I am quite possibly that stupid. I'd have loved to have him a number of times, and may try maindecking him at some point.
Lastly, let's talk a little about transformation.
Against most combo decks, I stayed on the Reanimate plan but altered the deck as such:
Of course, if they're playing Reanimator, I keep in the Tropical Island and cut a fetchland!
This gave me a much faster clock with permission to go alongside my disruption. While a passable plan of attack, in hindsight it's a little vulnerable-most combo decks already know how to beat a Delver deck, and while they may not necessarily be favorites they're not going to be especially under-prepared. In fact, a better plan against them than Delver is, as I implied above, a better Reanimator strategy.
For fairer matchups, I transformed very differently. It depended greatly on the specific deck, but it would often look something like this.
Of course, Dread of Night or Ancient Grudge would come in as the case required; I'd often trim a Deathrite Shaman or two against Rest in Peace decks to make room for those cards. I'd usually look to shave more Reanimates if my opponent's creatures weren't good, while keeping a pair in when they were-typically I'm looking to resurrect Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, and occasionally Stoneforge Mystic (to get my Jitte, obviously).
This plan leaves me mostly solid against graveyard hate-it's relatively easy to Entomb a Bloodghast into play before the opponent deploys a significant piece of hate, and you have access to Brainstorm to get rid of the occasional dead piece. However, the True-Name Nemesis into Jitte curve-a combination you're capable of playing on turns 2 and 3-can easily dominate a game if left unchecked for so much as a single turn. What's more, the combination of Cabal Therapy and opponents actively mulliganing for graveyard hate against you makes it more likely you'll be able to set it up successfully!
The Delvers, as I mentioned before, are average, but True-Names were very solid in the kinds of fights this deck is good at setting up.
Here's the list I'm going to start working with next:
The miser's Flusterstorm main was atrocious, but I could see sideboarding one or two copies over one of the fatties or another card. If Tidespout's good enough, you can actually get away with cutting one or even both of those dudes. Iona may not even be good enough against Burn now that they have Eidolon of the Great Revel to deal an extra 4-8 damage to you on the average turn 2, so True-Name into Jitte with some permission is probably the better plan. If that's the case, and Tyrant is all he's cracked up to be, then we may not need the other dudes.
This version is pretty aggressively tuning towards whatever opponent you play against-post-board, you're going to be Reanimator or a more midrangey Grixis deck, with very little middle ground.
There are so many options to consider, including many without Young Pyromancer. It's possible to fight the hate head-on by going BUG and using Abrupt Decay to kill Shaman, Cage, and Rest in Peace-you'd have to go heavy in Bloodghast and Tarmogoyf and maybe even run Buried Alive, but you could do it. A Deadguy Ale deck could likewise feature the Bloodghast-Therapy interaction, with Stoneforge Mystic for the haymaker.
Tying everything together without blue mana is tough-but that's what Esper StoneBlood is for, right? That deck name is so good I may have to build the deck for it immediately. I can't imagine I'll stop brewing with Bloodghast anytime soon, so let me know if you've got any ideas!