I was ready to play Robots at GP Minneapolis. Sure, there’s the near-guarantee of losing games to Stony Silence, but all of my Modern experience leads me to believe that every deck is very weak to something that people are playing. I played the deck in a handful of 8-mans and the occasional daily event and was able to convince myself that I’d be happy playing it. Then I got a message from Chris Kronenberger.
Chris is genuinely passionate about playing Magic his way, as evidenced by his Legacy Open win with Energy Field. Despite my curmudgeonly tendencies, he was able to get me excited about a blue/red Delver list that 4-0’d a Modern daily. His words were nothing short of inspirational.
You should play Young Pryo in Modern.
That is all.
I have been disappointed time and again by Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration in Modern. There’s a lot more removal in Modern than in Legacy and even having your opponent resolving an innocuous three drop like Kitchen Finks or Lingering Souls can just devastate you. Like I said though, everything is weak to something in Modern, so I gave the deck a shot. Well, I gave a version of the deck a shot. Before I began testing I thought it wise to address some issues that I had with the presented list.
There are entirely too many basic lands in this deck. Perhaps the lack of fetchlands was a concession to the dis-synergy with Serum Visions, but I think it’s more likely that this was a budgetary concern. There’s also the fact that being able to leave up a fetch while you peak at your top card with Delver offers a different positive synergy. Either way, This deck at least should have four Scalding Tarn to make the mana smoother. I personally have a tendency to play what most players would consider to be too many fetches, but I would find it hard to believe that most people wouldn’t play at least the four Tarns if they were available.
I also think that Sulfur Falls is totally out of place in this deck. There are quite a lot of decks that just play better fair spells than this deck does, and tempo is the name of the game. An opening hand with only Sulfur Falls is almost always going to leave this deck in a very awkward position. I could possibly forgive playing one, as there aren’t a ton of one-land hands that I’m happy keeping with this deck, but I just see more risk than reward. At the very least, the life loss from a fetchland won’t hurt this deck nearly as much as the tempo loss of leading on a tapped land.
The “Three Drops”
When Chris showed me this list I was immediately skeptical of Sword of Fire and Ice. Five mana is a ton in a 19-land deck and playing the Sword with intent to equip it later means not leaving up Mana Leak. I tried it anyway, I hated it, I cut it, I never looked back. If I have a creature that is living to the point where I have five mana I feel like my opponent should be dead anyway.
Electrolyze performed better than SoFI, but after a few dozen matches it felt ill-fit. There are definitely situations where it does exactly what you want, except that it costs two more mana than you want to pay for it and it draws a card. There are plenty more times where this “cycles” netting two damage to the opponent. In a deck with more lands, that effect is just fine, but it’s quite expensive for this deck. This is particularly bad when you’re trying to draw a specific type of spell off of the cantrip, say a Mana Leak as you’ll seldom have the mana to cast that spell on the same turn.
The Red Guys
Despite the odd game where he just dominates, Grim Lavamancer has been largely lackluster. When you cast him on turn one on the play he can really be stellar. When you’re on the draw, there is quite a bit of tension between him and Spell Snare. Unlike a Lightning Bolt, top decking him isn’t going to deal with any threats for another full turn- and he’s particularly slow when you use Serum Visions to scry into him and have to wait another turn to draw him. Ultimately, he’s more of a control card than a tempo card.
Young Pyromancer, alternatively, is almost always awesome. As a matter of fact, he’s generally only not awesome when you draw too many copies of him with too little spell support. Where I think that most players see him as an essential part of the deck, I think that shaving a copy is fine and even going down to two post-sideboard against combo is just fine.
I really don’t have any idea what is going on with the sideboard here. Three Molten Rain and three Blood Moon is super redundant. Especially so when I personally haven’t had much trouble against Tron decks. The Sulfur Elemental I understand, but don’t love. Lingering Souls is definitely a problem, but Sulfur Elemental tends to match up much more poorly against the rest of the cards in the Modern Lingering Souls decks than it does against the Legacy Lingering Souls decks. There are no Jaces to attack and there tend to be many non-white creatures rolling around. If I was expecting a lot of token decks then I’d like the call, but I just don’t see them being a significant portion of the metagame.
I like the type of effects featured in the rest of the board, though I think that all of it needs some slight retooling. I agree with the need for some artifact hate, but Shattering Spree doesn’t really fit in a deck with 11 red sources. This is likely a nod to the fact that Hurkyl's Recall is 20 tix on MODO, as that is probably the anti-affinity weapon of choice for a tempo deck. Steel Sabotage is also a better option in my opinion, as it has more value against Krark-Clan Ironworks and Wurmcoil Engine- aka Tron decks.
Putting Together a Working List
With these thoughts in mind I got to testing a version of the deck with better mana, and after a couple weeks of battling I got to thinking that Goblin Guide was worth trying. After all, Goblin Guide and Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration already occupy space in a Legacy deck that doesn’t even play Wasteland, so there’s has to be something to their juxtaposition. I mean, if Travis Woo can play Phantasmal Bear, I can play Goblin Guide.
I don’t think that you can afford to play a Delver/Pyromancer deck with Goblin Guide without cutting the Grim Lavamancers, which I was on board with anyway. Goblin Guide has tested very well thus far, and after moving the numbers around a lot I’m currently on this list:
Did I mention that I like fetchlands?
The most unusual choice here is the miser’s Echoing Truth. This call comes from my experience playing Pauper Delver. It’s just nice to have a catchall for tokens and non-creature permanents. It’s pretty nice to have an out to active Pyromancer Ascensions and planeswalkers. Sometimes you get to bounce two Tarmogoyf, too, and that’s pretty special.
Playing the Deck
Tempo decks are pretty notorious for not having wide margins of error for how to play them. While playing this deck there is often tension between deploying a threat/ casting Serum Visions and leaving up counter mana, especially considering the low land count. You always have to keep in mind what the worst possible spell that your opponent could resolve is and whether that possibility gets better or worse if you wait to deploy your threats. Are my odds better if I Spell Snare a potential Voice of Resurgence, or if I have a Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration in play when it comes down? The best way to answer questions like this is through a lot of repetition and by evaluating the rest of your hand for context. And seeing as Young Pyromancer biases the deck towards Gitaxian Probe, a little “perfect” information doesn’t hurt either.
The goal, obviously, is to deal a lot of damage quickly without allowing your opponent to get off the ground. Sometimes you do this by leaving up Mana Leak, and sometimes you do it by slamming an early Young Pyromancer. The difference is largely based on game-state context, though it’s almost never right to slam the early Pyro against a combo deck.
One important note is that the deck’s mana does ask to be played in a specific way. I would almost always recommend fetching for a Steam Vents as your turn one land, as I’m sure the ten fetchlands heavily imply. This will allow maximum flexibility for your turn two play, as Serum Visions + Spell Snare and Goblin Guide + Lightning Bolt are both common options. If you have three lands then two Islands and a Mountain isn’t a bad setup, though it means that your fourth land will need to be a Mountain in order to play the old Bolt + Snapcaster Bolt.
The other thing to keep in mind with fetchlands is sequencing them correctly with Serum Visions. Generally, it’s correct to crack the fetch and then cast the Visions; that way the things that you scry stay where you want them. This is another reason to grab Steam Vents as your first land, as you’ll want to grab basics when fetching as a precursor to Serum Visions, and with the Steam Vents already in play your mana will still be good.
Decks like this have been popping up more and more in Modern Dailies, though I have yet to see anybody else employ Goblin Guide. This means that I’m either ahead of the game or completely wrong. All I can say is that it’s been testing well, and I’ve been averaging one QP for every-8 man that I enter.
Next week I'll go over sideboarding with the deck and why I selected the exact 15 that I did. For now I'm curious what everybody thinks about Goblin Guide in this shell. Give it a try and let me know!
Thanks for reading.