Some time ago Pyromancer Ascension was a pretty good deck, considered by pros as a good choice for the metagame. But that time was long gone when James McLeod decided to play it in US nationals 2011. Not many people decided to do the same, but that didn’t stop him to go big and enter the top 8!
Here is the list he played:
1 Arid Mesa
3 Halimar Depths
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Burst Lightning
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Into the Roil
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mana Leak
4 Pyromancer Ascension
4 See Beyond
The list is practically same as before, with the one big change – New Phyrexia’s Gitaxian Probe is in here, represented with (of course) 4 copies. And it is really good in this deck. You can cycle it for free, see what you’re up against, see whether the coast is clear or not for Pyromancer Ascension (is there a Mana Leak/Spell Pierce in their grip or not), and when you go off with your enchantment, every Probe draws you 2 cards for free.
Besides that, deck is same as always, and you play it the same. Just draw, dig, draw, dig with Foresee, Probe, Ponder and Preordain until you manage to draw ever important Ascension. At that point, your graveyard is already loaded with spells, and every next draw spell not only gives you additional cards/spells in hand but also a quest counter on Ascension. One more and you’re ready to explode.
Burn spells like Burst Lightning and Lightning Bolt helps you to survive against aggro decks or basically any creature based deck, but that’s not all – in this deck they are the one and only way you can kill your opponent (at least before sideboard)!
Mana Leak and Into the Roil are in here to additionally slow your opponents down. Into the Roil bounces their best stuff and draw you 1 card closer to needed Ascension, and Mana Leak in this deck works as a good hoser early game, but also as a hard counter late game. When you copy it with fully charged Ascension they’ll need to pay 6/9/12 mana, which is not an easy task.
When you’re building this deck, first thing you’ll want to do is to put 4 copies of every spell. Since the most important card in this deck (hence the name of the deck) works with multiple copies of every card, having 4 of them is of the utmost importance. But there’s one card that managed to escape this logic – Foresee. And this is why: it costs 4 mana, which is by far the most expansive spell in this deck. You just wouldn’t have enough time to play more copies of it. And the second thing is: it is the best “dig” card in the format. For 4 mana it allows you to go 6 cards deep! Play it just once, and you’re almost guaranteed to hit Pyromancer Ascension.
As the sideboard goes, here’s what James played:
There is no creatures in the main deck, so after sideboarding, when they side out all their removals, you put in Sphinx and destroy them with it. Mass removals are something traditionally always played in this deck, hence 4 Pyroclasms. Spellskite is always a good sideboard against Splinter Twin/Exarch combo, and Flashfreeze can stop any red deck (including complete Valakut deck).
All in all, a very solid deck, and a very good choice if you know your up against field filled with control decks, which definitely was the case at US nationals. He played it, and he was rewarded with the top 8. He even almost managed to beat Ali Aintrazi (future champion) in the quarter finals.
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