A New Take on UR in Legacy

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I'm not the first to say it, and I presumably won't be the last, but Young Pyromancer is a pretty exciting card. It has a reasonably costed body and nets "free" resources. While this doesn't make it breakable, this criteria almost always makes for a very playable card. Personally, after reading Travis Woo's Twoo Cents on the card I took the last segment in his article as a challenge to find a home for Young Pyromancer in Legacy.

Before I get started, I'd like to address the comparisons that Travis made between Young Pyromancer and the foursome of Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Stoneforge Mystic and Snapcaster Mage. I'm of the belief that, particularly in Legacy where mana efficiency is clutch in many games, Young Pyromancer matches up unfavorably with each of these four creatures in a side-by-side comparison. As a matter of fact, my initial interest in Young Pyromancer had to do with the common complaint I've heard that people don't have access to Tarmogoyf and therefore can't play RUG Delver. I thought that Young Pyromancer had some interesting applications as a Goyf replacement for a straight UR tempo deck, but the more I thought about it the more I didn't like this idea.

One of the advantages of RUG is that it doesn't really need to protect its threats most of the time and it can just plan on digging for another Tarmogoyf if the first dies. While topdecked Goyfs tend to be somewhere in the order of 4/5s, topdecked Young Pyromancers tend to be considerably less threatening. It's also going to be worse against the odd Hymn to Tourach or general discards in that stripping you of your spells will leave you with a dorky Goblin Piker. Not to mention that you'll need to cast a few spells before your Pyromancer will really matter. A UR shell also doesn't have access to a good shroud threat, which makes matchups against Swords to Plowshares much worse.

This puts Young Pyromancer in a rather strange position. It belongs in a land-light deck as it generates an effect that is rather small compared to the format at large but it's definitely a worse tempo creature than Tarmogoyf. It wants to generate value, but it also wants to attack quickly. A curious dilemma indeed.

Finding a Home

I don't think I like Young Pyromancer in a Stifle/Waste shell at all. I'm of the opinion that a YP deck is going to want to get to about 3, maybe four lands in play and aggressively cast most of its spells. Some counters are a necessity, but too many reactive cards and we severely diminish the value of our YPs. Seeing as counterspells aren't going to play as well with YP as other types of spells, I imagine that the rest of the creature base should be the manner of creature which does. Delver of Secrets // Delver of Secrets is pretty much a lock, but I don't think we want to look too much like traditional UR Delver lists. Straight burn like Price of Progress and very aggressive creatures like Goblin Guide are severely at odds with a value card like Young Pyromancer.

After messing around with a number of different cards- the Stifles, the Wastelands, Grim Lavamancer and some others I remembered a Nivmagus Elemental list that Caleb Durward suggested some time ago. The idea of the deck involved casting some spells and making a huge Nivmagus Elemental with a Flusterstorm. While a fast, huge Nivmagus and a slow team of 1/1s off of Young Pyromancer are dramatically different game plans, both revolve around the same types of cards, which give a potential Nivmagus/Pyromancer deck somewhat disparate angles of attack with interchangeable parts. Intriguing.

If I wanted to play this style of deck, this would be my starting point:

Matchup Speculation

I imagine that this deck is actually somewhat better against combo decks than RUG Delver is, given the inclusion of maindeck Flusterstorm along with the fact that Nimble Mongoose and Tarmogoyf aren't exactly RUG's heavy hitters in those matchups.

I would have to test this deck against RUG, because I could see it going either way. Nivmagus Elemental is going to be difficult for RUG to deal with in game one, and UR gets Submerge out of the board, but RUG's Red/Blue Blasts are quite powerful and Tarmogoyf is pretty significantly stronger than any singular spell in this UR list. I wouldn't be surprised to see the matchup swing either way.

The natural and obvious predators of decks like this from my perspective are going to be UW control decks and Abrupt Decay decks. These are the matchups where RUG can crutch on Nimble Mongoose to ignore removal spells, whereas UR needs to draw a healthy amount of creatures and/or counters to stay on the board.

Cutting Wasteland is also going to make the occasional Maze of Ith or Tabernacle annoying, and it's entirely possible that not playing Wasteland is just wrong, but I feel like this deck wants to be spell heavy and land light, so I'd start testing without them, fully ready to concede the error if it turns out to be one.


As of now, I present this deck as a "budget" alternative to RUG Delver, with some different strengths and weaknesses that, in all fairness, might just make the deck worse, but at a glance I'd be surprised if something close to this list wasn't competitive.

If Young Pyromancer is Legacy playable it's going to be in a shell that contains many of these cards- this I can say to a certainty. I'm also fairly confident in the assessment that Nivmagus Elemental will make the deck's varying game plans difficult for opponents to play around.

I intend to throw this together and see how it fares at some local Legacy events. Without a good amount of testing of key matchups I wouldn't bring it to a 5k or anything like that, but with some tuning it very well might be good enough. Any comments or suggestions are more than welcome.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

2 thoughts on “A New Take on UR in Legacy

  1. I too think young pyromancer would work great in a deck style like this. I would prefer to run snapcaster over nivmagus though. It would also allow you to run cavern’s (naming human) to stick your key creatures…with the downside of being poor to cast your cheap instants/sorceries.

    1. What counterspells are hitting your creatures? You can afford to play around Daze, so I would think that Force of Will and Counterspell proper would be your concern, but in a deck so spell heavy the drawback seems far worse than the benefit. Snapcaster as a 1-2 of is probably solid though. Truth be told I’m not 100% on Nivmagus.

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