(Modern) Mardu Pyromancer Primer

Do you like grinding your opponents into dust? Do you want to make every person you play against feel like nothing they do is good enough to punch through your impenetrable wall of 1/1 tokens? Do you enjoy stripping apart your opponents’ hands and destroying every creature and Planeswalker they play? Do you like Ancestral Recall?

Well, I have a deck for you.

Valuetown just isn’t (mar)duing it for me…

Alright, let’s just go ahead and get something out of the way. “I thought you were Valuetown Daddy. What happened?” I’ll have an article coming soon on how to adapt and stay alive in the meta when everything seems super hostile toward your deck; however, for a deep explanation of what made me switch to Mardu from GW, you can check out episode 125 of the Card Knock Life in which I make a guest appearance

The short version is, I got burned pretty badly after a couple of bad events, and I decided to do something completely different to take a break and hopefully rekindle my love for GW. I’ve since played exactly three competitive events with Mardu Pyromancer, and put up the following finishes:

  1. PPTQ 5-8th Place
  2. PPTQ 2nd Place
  3. SCG Baltimore Open 10th Place

Okay, maybe there’s something to this deck. Let’s just dive right in.

Decklist and Core Principles

For starter’s, here’s the decklist I played to a 10th place finish at SCG Baltimore. I went 6-3 in day one, then lived the 6-0 dream day two, only to miss top eight on tiebreakers.

Link to Zach’s deck on StarCityGames.com

 

This is the premier midrange deck in Modern. You win your games by disrupting your opponents game plan through playing a highly interactive game plan. Lightning Bolt, Thoughtseize, Blood Moon are your primary ways of disrupting the board and hand. Lingering Souls and Young Pyromancer put bodies on the table. Bedlam Reveler and Faithless Looting give you a powerful draw engine to churn through your deck and find exactly what you need.

This deck plays a lot more like a control deck than other traditional midrange decks like Jund and Abzan. Since this deck doesn’t play Tarmogoyf, you don’t really have any early game threats that you can jam and start attacking with. You play a resource management game until the mid to late game when you turn the corner and start attacking with your tokens and 3/4s with Prowess.

Ultimately, this is an attrition deck. We want to get lots of one-for-ones and the occasional two-for-one to get into an attrition war with our opponent. Our deck is designed to always top deck better than theirs.

Sequencing and Play Tips

There are a couple of sequencing things and play patterns I want to quickly cover here for anyone who isn’t used to playing this style of deck:

  • Cast Faithless Looting from the graveyard before the one in your hand. Using flashback for a Looting doesn’t change the number of cards in your hand, while casting a Looting from your hand nets you down one card.
  • Sandbag additional lands/Lootings. You don’t need to play all of your lands–we can function very well on three to four. You want to hold on to excess lands as fodder to throw away to Faithless Looting as the game goes on. You don’t typically want to be completely empty-handed, as it makes Looting a horrific top deck.
  • Inquisition of Kozilek before Thoughtseize. This may go without saying, but it’s still worth noting. Your opponent probably isn’t casting CMC4+ spells before CMC3- ones.
  • Prioritize fetching basic lands. Remember, you’re a Blood Moon deck. You’ll need at least one Swamp and you’ll likely want your Plains as well, depending on the configuration of your 60.
  • Don’t just jam Bedlam Reveler if you don’t have to. If you have a hand full of good spells, don’t dump them just to draw three new random cards with your Reveler. Play out all your spells and play Reveler when it makes sense to do so.
  • If your opponent is playing removal spells, don’t jam Young Pyromancer without being able to cast a spell and get immediate value. Without casting a spell, remember that Lil Peezy is just Goblin Piker.
  • Discarding Lingering Souls is technically “free”, but don’t always do it. If your lootings are awkward, then discarding Lingering Souls can be tempting and can feel very “free”; however, sometimes it’s just better to hold it and cast it from your hand. Four Spirits is better than two.
  • Discard Bedlam Reveler to get it back with Kolaghan’s Command. This play speaks for itself, but again, it’s worth noting, as it can be a “free” discard.
  • Use Kolaghan’s Command to make your opponent discard during their draw step. If you’re in a top-decking war and you’re trying to just grind out a little bit more advantage, using Kolaghan’s Command to Raven’s Crime your opponent and Raise Dead a Bedlam Reveler during their draw step can be extremely powerful and feel like it’s even better than Time Walk in some situations.
  • Time Blood Moon well. You don’t always need to jam it on turn three; sometimes that can do more harm than good. In general with this deck, if it makes more sense to be casting other spells, then do that.
  • Take the correct spells with your hand disruption. There are entire articles out there about how to Thoughtseize your opponent. I won’t really have the space to do so here, but I would encourage you to look into that. Put careful consideration into each card in your opponent’s hand and be sure that you can deal with them.
  • Life total is a resource. You don’t have to kill every single creature. Manage your life total accordingly.
  • Play deliberately and quickly. This deck punishes misplays fairly hard. Play tight, smart, and quick.
  • Use Faithless Looting to find lands. It’s okay to keep a one-land hand, as long as the spells are all cheap and you can cast your Faithless Looting. I’d snap mulligan any seven card hand that doesn’t have a second land in it without a Looting.
  • Sideboard out some number of Bedlam Revelers when you’re anticipating heavy graveyard hate (Rest in Peace, Leyline of the Void) and/or need to be lighter and more efficient when you won’t have as much time to set up a reveler.
  • Sideboard out Blood Moons, Thoughtseizes, etc. where they aren’t good. I don’t like keeping a full hand disruption suite in against decks that tend to dump out their hand; however, it’s still good to keep in at least your Inquisitions.

If there’s anything I missed here, or if you have additional questions about particular plays, you can always reach me via Facebook or on Twitter (@zachgoldmanmtg).

Flex Spots and Deckbuilding Decisions

  

One of the great things about Mardu Pyromancer is that the deck is highly customizable. Let’s address some of the flex spots and optional cards you can play, as well as why they might be considered. At the end of the day, it’ll be up to you to decide how you want to construct your list.

Let’s get the mainboard card choices out of the way first:

Blood Moon
Zach, isn’t this a Blood Moon deck? In my opinion, yes; however, not all players are a fan of the blood moon strategy. Gerry Thompson recently wrote an article on why he believes this deck shouldn’t be playing Blood Moon at all. I disagree, personally, however, I have seen lists do well without the precious Moon. One reason in the case for not playing Moon is that it’s neither an instant nor a sorcery, so it doesn’t have synergy with Pyromancer or Bedlam Reveler. If you aren’t playing Blood Moon, be sure to have some kind of land hate in your sideboard, typically Molten Rain (I give my rather strong opinion on this in the aforementioned podcast) or sometimes Alpine Moon.

Basic Plains vs second copy of Sacred Foundry vs Godless Shrine 
You want two white sources in this deck. In reality, Mardu is a B/R midrange deck that splashes white for half of Lingering Souls and a couple sideboard options. I’ve tested each of these three options, and have found the most success with basic plains. Field of Ruin is everywhere, and we don’t want to lose our white source to it. Being able to also cast white spells through a Blood Moon is very nice. If you just don’t like having a plains in the deck, I recommend a second Foundry. We are a base red deck, so having Godless Shrine just isn’t typically where we want to be.

Mainboard Hazoret the Fervent
I don’t want anything that costs more than three mana to cast in my mainboard, even though I board Hazoret in for just about every match-up. It is perfectly reasonable to run Hazoret in the main over the Liliana, the Last Hope that I currently have in that slot. I’ve opted for Liliana since she is higher impact vs the control, midrange, and creature decks of the format.

Planeswalkers
We are a deck that cares about instants and sorceries since we are built around Young Pyromancer and Bedlam Reveler. The “Planeswalker” card type doesn’t have synergy with either of these two cards (except for triggering prowess). Typically, you’ll see lists play between zero and two Planeswalkers in the mainboard. I’ve found one to be the sweet spot here, as you don’t want them clogged up in your hand, and it can be very clunky. The three you’ll see in Mardu decks are Liliana of the Veil, Liliana, the Last Hope, and Nahiri, the Harbinger. Liliana of the Veil is very underpowered right now. A lot of decks dump out their hand, so the +1 is hardly relevant. A lot of those same decks go very wide, so the -2 isn’t very relevant and you can’t justify playing a Planeswalker just on its ultimate. Last Hope does everything this deck wants to do: she kills (or shrinks) creatures, fuels the graveyard, recurs threats, and the ultimate is game-winning and unbeatable for most decks–she is an absolute house vs control and midrange. Nahiri is very powerful, there’s no doubting that; however, we don’t want many white spells in the deck if we can help it, and, as I previously mentioned, I don’t want spells that cost four mana in my mainboard. I don’t think she is a justifiable sideboard option, so she’s kind of mainboard or bust.

Mainboard Goblin Rabblemaster
This card is absolutely insane in the right context, however, since it comes with a pretty weak body, I don’t like having it in the mainboard. I think two or three Rabblemasters in the sideboard is exactly where you want to be. This isn’t to say it can’t do great things for you or steal matches by being in the main, it’s just really down to personal preference.

Fourth copy of Inquisition of Kozilek and/or Thoughtseize 
If you play Liliana of the Veil, I think you want additional discard spells, as it helps that particular plan, and gives you additional discard fodder for your +1. If you aren’t playing Liliana, I have found six copies of one mana discard to feel the most correct.

Collective Brutality
I will never register less than two copies. It’s debatable whether the correct number for your 75 is two, three, or four. In general, I’d say three is the right number. It can be quite clunky at times, but sometimes it’s just insane. With the format being so diverse right now, I’ve chosen to only play two, and it hasn’t really been an issue. If the format were to become more spell-based, I’d be inclined to shave either Liliana or the third Blood Moon to play a third copy of Brutality. It’s not uncommon to see some number of copies in the sideboard.

Fatal Push
After I played my match against Marshall Arthurs in Baltimore (which I won 2-0), we were discussing some of our deckbuilding decisions. The most common ground we found was that we both agreed that Push is the worst removal spell in the deck. Some players play one or even zero. I’m currently playing two and considering cutting one for another cheap removal spell.

Darkblast
I’ve played this card as a one-of in the deck before and it’s been insane, but very narrow. Sometimes you really need to draw a removal spell, and you can just dredge it back. It’s also a “free” discard with your Lootings and Brutalities. It’s fantastic in the early stages of the game. It kills anything with one toughness and can be nice in combat. I probably wouldn’t register it now but I still keep it in my box of playables.

Forked Bolt
This card is kind of in the same boat as Darkblast, where it can either be insane or terrible. This card feels amazing when it’s a two-for-one. Again, I probably wouldn’t register it right now, but it’s worth keeping around.

Manamorphose
Gerry Thompson pioneered this tech when he played Mardu on the Pro Tour. It’s a Pyretic Ritual for Bedlam Reveler that replaces itself. It can also fix your colors through a Blood Moon. I don’t personally like playing gimmicky “free” spells, and would much rather play an actual card in its place. To each their own.

19 or 20 Lands
In the deck’s early stages, it was often seen running 19 lands but has since tended towards 20. This is a matter of preference. I think hitting your first three land drops is too important to go below 20. Yes, Faithless Looting can help us hit land drops, but I don’t really like leaning on that too hard.

Lightning Helix
It’s a fifth copy of Lightning Bolt that gains life. Seems pretty good, right? I’m in the process of testing it out right now. The biggest issue it presents is that it necessitates having white mana.

Inspiring Vantage
Fast lands are great. Some people are trying a R/W fast land in their deck to have another painless way of generating white mana. I think this is a great alternative to a basic plains if you want to go that route but personally, I want my splash color to be fetchable.

Dreadbore vs. Terminate
You want three spells in your mainboard that are just straight up “two mana, kill a thing”; so your two best options are Dreadbore and Terminate. Regeneration doesn’t really come up hardly ever in modern and the deck plays mostly at sorcery speed anyway. I decided to play the full three Dreadbore over any number of Terminate because I’ve found that there are a lot more Planeswalkers I want to destroy than there are creatures I want to destroy at instant speed. This makes the UWx Matchup SO much better, because otherwise, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Jace, the Mind Sculptor are terrifying. Creature lands can be difficult to deal with, but we’re a Blood Moon deck.

Alright, on to the sideboard options. I’m just going to address some of the most commonly selected sideboard cards; keep in mind that there’s an extremely wide array of very good sideboard cards in these colors:

Molten Rain
I personally hate this card. I think Stone Rain effects are generally bad, but some people like them as an edge vs Tron, control decks, etc. We’re already favored vs control decks, and Tron is such a bad match-up that I don’t think playing Molten Rain is worth it.

Fulminator Mage
In the early days of this deck, some people played Fulminator since you can recur it with Kolaghan’s Command, however, this line of play is very slow and doesn’t really advance your own game plan. There are eight mainboard cards that care about sorceries to only three or four that care about creatures. If you want this type of effect, Molten Rain is going to be slightly better.

Alpine Moon
This can serve as additional Blood Moon effects that come down on turn one. If you’ve ever tried to Blood Moon Tron on turn three on the draw, you’ll know it’s just not good enough. This also helps out against Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle strategies as it turns their namesake land into a rainbow land with no other text.

Wear//Tear
This card is super important. Additional Shatter effects are always useful vs decks like Tron, Affinity, KCI, Lantern, and so on, but getting the added versatility of a Demistify is very powerful. A few enchantments you care about are Courser of Kruphix, Detention Sphere, Ghirapur Aether Grid, and Search for Azcanta. One to three copies is good.

Kambal, Consul of Allocation
I’d recommend never leaving home without Kambal. He can outright win games vs spell-based decks, and is great vs any other attrition-based midrange or control strategy. The lifegain can matter a lot vs a deck like Storm or Burn. He also can turn sideways. I’d recommend two or three copies.

Goblin Rabblemaster
This card comes in any time you’re hedging graveyard hate and/or just need a faster clock to come down earlier. Undisrupted, Rabblemaster and friends deal 15 damage in three turns or 25 in four turns. After the third turn, Rabblemaster is a faster clock than Geist of Saint Traft. The fact that this card leaves bodies behind every turn can be very powerful against other one-for-one decks. No less than two copies.

Pithing Needle
Needle has been a recent innovation seen mostly on MTGO. I’m not a particular fan of random artifacts that are kind of (in my opinion) low impact, but they’ve been working out for some people. It can tag pesky Planeswalkers and other permanents like Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. The biggest justification for Pithing Needle is if you aren’t playing Blood Moon and Dreadbore in numbers to deal with these cards already.

Leyline of the Void
This is one that the community is most divided on. I hate playing any Leyline on principle. I hate the play patterns and mulligans they encourage and I think they’re just too gimmicky. Against a deck like KCI, it’s really nice on turn zero; however, they can blow up your Leyline with one of four copies of Nature’s Claim then combo off and kill you anyways. I think the graveyard hate you want to play needs to provide more permanent answers to combo strategies and sticky permanents. Leyline is incidentally very good against a deck like Hardened Affinity since it does shut off modular, however, I think the percentage points to be gained here are very narrow and I find us to be slightly favored in that match-up anyway.

Nihil Spellbomb
Some of my same points about Pithing Needle and Leyline of the Void will apply here. In general, I don’t like Tormod’s Crypt effects unless they’re extremely high impact (like an instant speed Bojuka Bog). The card does replace itself, which is nice; however, it just doesn’t have any synergy with the rest of the deck since it’s neither an instant/sorcery nor a creature.

Surgical Extraction
I think this is our best graveyard hate spell. It’s an instant, so it works well with Reveler and Pyromancer. It’s a “free” spell, so we can cast it on turn zero and/or with no open mana. It permanently answers all copies of any given card (Scrap Trawler, Pyrite Spellbomb, Walking Ballista, Vengevine, Bridge from Below, Bloodghast, Flamewake Phoenix, etc). Surgical Extraction also has application in non-graveyard match-ups, such as Titanshift and Hardened Affinity. No less than three copies.

Hazoret the Fervent
She’s an excellent clock, a hard to deal with body, and can be an easy discard outlet to keep our hand size low for Ensnaring Bridge. She’s an absolute all-star and is a definite consideration for mainboard play. If I wasn’t playing Liliana in the main, I’d probably play Hazoret. I’d only play one copy tops.

Engineered Explosives
This card is a great catch-all. It can hit any nonland permanent and is often a two-for-one or better. It’s worth playing at least one, up to three copies.

Anger of the Gods
This is our best option for a low-cost sweeper. It exiles annoying sticky creatures like Bloodghast, Voice of Resurgence, and Gravecrawler. Against a deck like Humans, having multiple two-for-one options that are diversified (thanks, Meddling Mage) is very important. Sure, we can lose our own tokens or whatever, but that’s a really small price to pay. Sequence correctly and you’ll be fine. I recommend one to two copies.

Ensnaring Bridge
Bridge is a great catch-all vs creature decks. It makes Etched Champion irrelevant, it brings the Humans pain train to a screeching halt, and it makes Slippery Bogle unable to slip in for damage. Between Collective Brutality, Faithless Looting, and Hazoret (she always comes in with Bridge), we have plenty of ways to make sure our hand size is low. Bring this in against most creature decks for sure. I recommend two copies.

Stony Silence
Stony is an option against a lot of artifact decks. Some people really like it, I’m just not a huge fan. I see the appeal vs decks like KCI, Lantern, and Affinity, but I think we’re already good enough or close enough in those match-ups that we aren’t gaining that many percentage points by playing this card. Since we are a Blood Moon deck and we have a known quantity of artifacts/enchantments in our side, decks like KCI are already bringing in Nature’s Claim, so I don’t think a Stony will usually do too much. However, if it sticks around, it’ll win you games outright. If you’re going to play Stony Silence, run two to three copies.

Sideboarding  

As a preface to the sideboarding guide, I want to just be perfectly clear, that even though Bedlam Reveler is one of the best cards in the deck, it’s a necessary cut in a lot of match-ups, as we need to be able to hedge graveyard hate properly in a format that’s very hostile to graveyard-based strategies. The first time you look at a Leyline of the Void while you have an eight mana 3/4 in hand, you’ll understand. You don’t want to always cut all your Revelers, but cutting some number as a hedge is usually appropriate. Additional uncastable copies CAN be discarded, but don’t leave them in the deck with the intention of them just being a throwaway. Boarding in Wear//Tear to try and beat Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void is a trap. Don’t do it.

Since the deck is always changing, and the meta shifts so rapidly, you can find a link to a Google Sheets document here; I’d recommend saving the link to refer back to as things change in the future.

With all that out of the way, let’s get on with it…

Humans

In:

  • 2 Anger of the Gods
  • 2 Ensnaring Bridge
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent
  • 1 Engineered Explosives

Out:

  • 3 Thoughtseize
  • 1 Liliana, the Last Hope
  • 1 Blood Moon
  • 1 Collective Brutality

We want to be more reactive and just kill as many creatures as we can. Use your life total as a resource. Lily is weak on the draw, as is brutality, same with BM. I like having fewer moons in the deck and more spells that actually do things immediately. Blood Moon is great once we’ve stabilized the board. Make sure they don’t have an Aether Vial. They tend to dump their hand quickly, so having more than a couple hand disruption spells isn’t great. Lingering Souls and Pyromancer are great in this matchup. Auriok Champion out of their sideboard is hard for us to deal with, so be aware of that.

U/W Control (Miracles)

In:

  • 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster
  • 2 Wear//Tear
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent

Out:

  • 2 Fatal Push
  • 4 Bedlam Reveler
  • 1 Blood Moon

We don’t want to get deep enough into the game where Azcanta and Colonnade are relevant, so cutting a BM is fine. Opp will usually mulligan to RIP, so we want threats that don’t use the graveyard. You’ll never resolve Reveler anyway. Be careful not to overextend. We want to turn our opponent’s sweepers into one-for-ones. Cast half of a Lingering Souls or lean hard on a Pyromancer. Send burn spells upstairs.

Tron

In:

  • 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster
  • 2 Wear//Tear
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent

Out:

  • 2 Fatal Push
  • 1 Liliana, the Last Hope
  • 2 Bedlam Reveler
  • 2 Lingering Souls

Pressure+clock=victory. Hope to get a little lucky here. We can steal wins from them by pressuring them super hard. Thoughtseize away Wurmcoil whenever possible. It’s very hard to deal with. Reveler and Souls are slow, plus, they usually load up on graveyard hate anyway. Blood Moon obviously is great here due to the prevalence of outs that Tron plays.

Hollow One

In:

  • 2 Ensnaring Bridge
  • 3 Surgical Extraction
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent
  • 2 Anger of the Gods
  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster

Out:

  • 3 Bedlam Reveler
  • 1 Liliana, the Last Hope
  • 3 Blood Moon
  • 3 Thoughtseize

Hand disruption is pretty weak here, but Brutality is fine since it can still be a two-for-one. Plucking a Goblin Lore can actually be really good. Bedlam Reveler will never hit the board since they will usually bring in Leyline of the Void and mulligan aggressively  to it. Try and tag a high impact recursive threat with a Surgical Extraction and we’re in business. Anger can clean up the board very nicely. Liliana won’t actually kill any of their creatures except Bloodghast so it’s pretty awful. Kommand is almost always a two-for-one against them. Blood Moon does nothing against the Rb deck.

Burn

In:

  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster
  • 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent

Out:

  • 1 Lilliana, the Last Hope
  • 2 Bedlam Reveler
  • 1 Blood Moon
  • 1 Lingering Souls

Reveler is super slow to set up, plus they sometimes board in RIP. I like keeping two Moons and shaving one so we still have access to it and can lock out some of their draw steps (they play a lot of white spells). We need a fast early clock. Kambal pretty much is a slam dunk in this matchup. Some people like to board in Wear//Tear for Eidolons but I’m not a fan.

KCI

In:

  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster
  • 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent
  • 2 Wear//Tear
  • 1 Engineered Explosives
  • 3 Surgical Extractoin

Out:

  • 2 Dreadbore
  • 1 Liliana, the Last Hope
  • 2 Bedlam Reveler
  • 3 Blood Moon
  • 2 Collective Brutality
  • 1 Lingering Souls

This one is a doozy. I used to not board EE but it’s important now for cleaning up thopter tokens. The primary goal is to Surgical Extract a win condition (either Scrap Trawler or Pyrite Spellbomb) then beat them in a fair game where they rely on using Sai, Master Thopterist. We can easily win a fair game vs this deck; the important part is making sure they can’t do their degenerate thing.

Mardu Pyromancer

In:

  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster
  • 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
  • 1 Hazoret, the Fervent
  • 3 Surgical Extraction

Out:

  • 3 Blood Moon
  • 2 Fatal Push
  • 2 Bedlam Reveler
  • 1 Thoughtseize

Feel out the match-up and evaluate whether or not your opponent has access to Leyline of the Void. If so, dump all your Revelers. Fatal Push is the worst removal spell here. We want more efficient threats to get out of the gates early. Whoever casts more Lingering Souls usually wins so that’s usually your first target with Surgical. Hazoret is unbeatable so, if you can leverage that, then you’re good. Liliana, the Last Hope‘s ultimate is also unbeatable. Where the older midrange decks board out all of their hand disruption in the midrange mirrors, we don’t necessarily want to do that since it’s such a key part of our engine.

Bridgevine

In:

  • 2 Ensnaring Bridge
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent
  • 3 Surgical Extraction
  • 1 Engineered Explosives
  • 2 Anger of the Gods
  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster

Out:

  • 3 Thoughtseize
  • 4 Bedlam Reveler
  • 3 Blood Moon
  • 1 Collective Brutality

They will mulligan to Leyline of the Void. Reveler is uncastable in this matchup. Tag Bridges and Vengevines with Surgicals. Use spot removal on Viscera Seer so you can eventually use Anger as a clean answer for a board full of garbage. If you live past turn three, you’re good.

Jund

In:

  • 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster
  • 1 Hazoret, the Fervent
  • 1 Engineered Explosives

Out:

  • 3 Thoughtseize
  • 2 Bedlam Reveler
  • 1 Inquisition of Kozilek

If your opponent isn’t playing Leyline, you can leave Revelers in. I always cut them as a hedge if I’m not 100% sure. We’re so favored in this match-up, it’s not even funny. Our removal and threats are all better. Their best threats are all two mana, so Explosives is insane. We take a more traditional approach and board out some number of hand disruption spells, since we’re playing more high-quality threats, and we just grind so much better than they do.

Jeskai Control

In:

  • 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
  • 1 Hazoret, the Fervent

Out:

  • 2 Fatal Push
  • 1 Blood Moon

Pretty clean swap. We can safely board out a Moon since they play red spells anyway and we don’t want to get deep enough into the game where their lands matter. Same situation as UW. Don’t overextend into a sweeper. You can bring Rabblemaster in here but I’m not a fan as they play about 800 Lightning Bolts.

Titanshift (and other Scapeshift variants)

In:

  • 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster
  • 1 Hazoret, the Fervent
  • 3 Surgical Extraction

Out:

  • 2 Lingering Souls
  • 2 Fatal Push
  • 1 Liliana, the Last Hope
  • 2 Bedlam Reveler
  • 1 Collective Brutality

They’re a combo deck, at the end of the day. Disrupt their combo. If you can tag a Primeval Titan and/or Scapeshift with a Surgical Extraction, we will be in a good spot. Be mindful of Kommand discard because they tend to board into some number of Obstinate Baloths. We want to disrupt and clock as fast as possible. If on the draw, you may want to keep more Revelers and bring fewer Kambals, but I like them since they’re mostly a spells deck. Blood Moon is obviously great here, especially if you can take an answer from their hand and stick it safely.

Storm

In:

  • 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
  • 2 Goblin Rabblemaster
  • 1 Hazoret, the Fervent
  • 3 Surgical Extraction
  • 1 Engineered Explosives

Out:

  • 2 Lingering Souls
  • 1 Liliana, the Last Hope
  • 3 Blood Moon
  • 2 Kolaghan’s Command
  • 1 Bedlam Reveler

Shred their hand apart, apply a fast clock. Kommand is pretty weak since it’s slow and doesn’t kill Baral. Kill their dorks, discard their payoffs, and you should be good. EE is a nice hedge for Empty the Warrens.

Affinity

In:

  • 2 Ensnaring Bridge
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent
  • 1 Engineered Explosives
  • 2 Wear//Tear

Out:

  • 3 Thoughtseize
  • 1 Bedlam Reveler
  • 1 Collective Brutality
  • 1 Blood Moon

This match-up is pretty easy for us, unless they nut draw and we draw very poorly. Bedlam Reveler can be too slow and we don’t want to draw multiples in the early game. Bridge helps us buy a ton of time. W//T speaks for itself and ensures we don’t lose to Ghirapur Aether Grid. Blood Moon can disable their creature lands which can sometimes be tricky since I’m not playing any Terminate, however, all of our other removal deals with those fairly easily and Lingering Souls blocks them all day long.

U/W Spirits

In:

  • 2 Ensnaring Bridge
  • 2 Anger of the Gods
  • 1 Engineered Explosives
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent

Out:

  • 3 Blood Moon (2 Reveler/1 Moon if they have RIP)
  • 3 Thoughtseize

Pretty clean swap here. I don’t think Blood Moon is particularly high impact. If your opponent is bringing Rest in Peace, trim two Reveler and keep two Moon. This match-up is actually very difficult. They have a lot of protection and disruption. I’d say we’re slightly unfavored. If we can keep Drogskol Captain off the table, we’re in much better shape. Kira, Great Glass Spinner is also very annoying for us, but that’s usually just a one-of.

Hardened Affinity

In:

  • 2 Ensnaring Bridge
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent
  • 1 Engineered Explosives
  • 2 Wear//Tear
  • 2 Surgical Extraction

Out:

  • 3 Thoughtseize
  • 2 Collective Brutality
  • 3 Blood Moon

Brutality usually just ends up being a bad Disfigure here, which is pretty underwhelming. Walking Ballista is scary enough that it’s worth bringing in Surgical to permanently deal with all copies. They play a lot of basics so we can’t color-screw them with Blood Moon and their creature lands are easily dealt with. Other than that, we want to deal with their big problematic creatures. Anger of the Gods is reasonable to bring in if they’re playing a lot of copies of Animation Module. I think we’re a slight favor to win this matchup. We just have to handle the big pieces of their engine that give us a hard time (Steel Overseer, Hardened Scales, Arcbound Ravager, etc.). Their nut draw is very scary but I think we can weather the storm pretty well.

GWx Collected Company Decks (Vizier Combo, Elves, etc.)

In:

  • 1 Engineered Explosives
  • 2 Anger of the Gods
  • 1 Hazoret the Fervent
  • 2 Ensnaring Bridge

Out:

  • 3 Blood Moon
  • 1 Bedlam Reveler
  • 1 Inquisition of Kozilek
  • 1 Thoughtseize

You’re going to one-for-one your opponent off of whatever plan they’re on and force them to play a fair game. We will beat most decks in a fair game of Magic. We are a strong favor to win these match-ups. Ensnaring Bridge helps shore things up so they can’t just establish a board and start attacking.

Wrap Up

I believe, wholeheartedly, that Mardu is the best midrange deck in Modern, bar none. You have game against every single deck in the format. You have an extremely diverse threat and answer suite and your sideboard gives you access to some of the best sideboard cards in all of Modern.

I’ve evaluated over the past month or so that Mardu is the real Valuetown…as a matter of fact, Mardu may actually be Valuecity. Go forth and destroy your opponents with value.

If you have any questions or comments about any of the content here or otherwise, again, feel free to find me via the Mardu Pyromancer group on Facebook, or DM me on Twitter (@zachgoldmanmtg).

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