In this article, I’m taking a break from my usual FNM Report to instead report on my participation and experience in my local RCQ. Time for “Competitive Jake” to make an appearance in this week’s report.
Knowing that I would be participating in a competitive event, I took my deck choice very seriously. While I didn’t necessarily expect to win the event, I wanted to do my best and have the greatest chance at winning regardless. I looked at which decks I had available, how much experience I had playing each, how I performed with each in the past, and how the current meta looked. With all of these factors, I decided to stick with a mainstay in my arsenal, Izzet Prowess – now Izzet Pyromancer. I had noticed an uptick in Aggro decks (especially in my area) and felt this deck had the ability to remove key aggro threats while also acting the beatdown against decks such as Green Devotion and Control.
I have written about Izzet Prowess before. More specifically, a version that did not play Young Pyromancer, so I want to start by breaking down this version of the deck and why I thought it would be an excellent choice for this event. I will then share how it actually performed and reflect on my experience.
The mainstays in these Izzet decks are playsets of Soul-Scar Mage and Monastery Swiftspear, which leverage the deck’s numerous cantrips and damage spells to increase their power and toughness. Unfortunately, this has proven to not be enough to overcome many decks in the Pioneer meta, so this version of the deck includes other creatures that benefit from our spell-slinging strategy. Ledger Shredder not only has a relevant body as a 1/3 for two mana, but also allows its controller to “connive” whenever a second spell (per player) is cast each turn. This allows the pilot to not only sift through the deck, filling the graveyard for Treasure Cruise and keeping the most relevant cards, but also grow the Shredder in the process.
We then get to the new namesake of this deck, Young Pyromancer. This card will create a 1/1 red elemental each time its controller casts an instant or sorcery spell. This new inclusion really changed the dynamic of the archetype by providing tokens that can be used in a variety of ways. They can be extra attackers, chump blockers, and can even help reestablish a board presence right after a board wipe. Creating extra bodies as a by-product of doing what the deck already wanted to do is an upside that helped certain matchups a ton. My thinking was that this list would provide me with an aggressive edge against midrange and combo decks while being able to stonewall other aggressive decks with a field of elementals.
While this deck continues to run a playset of Consider and Opt, the inclusion of Young Pyromancer opened up the use of the card Of One Mind. This card costs two less mana if its caster controls both a human and non-human creature, making this card a one-mana draw- two spell most times. Of course, the spell is discounted by a combination of either Pyromancer, Monastary Swiftspear or Soul-Scar plus Ledger Shredder; but since Pyromancer creates elementals, there should be no shortage of non-humans on the board. When Expressive Iteration was banned, many Izzet decks struggled to find a replacement for its massive card advantage. This deck may have found it in Of One Mind combined with the Pyromancer.
While the cantrips geow my creatures, my board, and keep my hand stocked I needed to make sure I could push through the damage. Luckily, being in red meant there was no shortage of cheap and efficient interaction. Play With Fire can pick off small threats or chip in extra direct damage to the opponent. Fiery Impulse quickly becomes a bolt for creatures with its spell mastery ability and helps clear the many relevant threats such a Greasefang or Graveyard Trespasser. Lastly, Reckless Rage offers four points of damage to an opponent’s creature while only dealing two to one of mine. The two points to my creature rarely matters (since prowess will make their toughness greater on cast), but the four damage can remove Thing in the Ice, opposing Ledger Shredders that have grown, Old-Growth Troll, and even other prowess creatures. With all these tools, I figured I should be able to clear the way for my creatures to take the game!
This deck does run Jegantha as a companion and I still stand with that choice. Having a 5/5 body can be a game-changer in certain matchups, especially against Mono-Red. Speaking of Mono-Red and other go-wide decks, we have seen Crush the Weak getting added to more sideboards and I decided to include it as well. My prowess creatures and Ledger Shredder survive this while clearing the field, which made it more than a worthwhile inclusion. Abrade can be used destroy Parhelion II or just kill Greasefang,
Aether Gust is a house against Mono-Green and Spell Pierce and Mystical Dispute are perfect sideboard counterspells. Lastly, I chose to play Unlicensed Hearse as my graveyard hate because not only does it help clear the graveyard, but it also can be a body – and a big one at that. An early Hearse can quickly grow to a 6/6 or larger and help push through damage if I run low on cantrips.
The RCQ Report
Location: The Game Closet, Waco TX
Date: July 30th, 2022
Result: 9th Place, 2-3
Well, I ended up losing my win-and-in for the Top 8, but overall, I’m roud of my performance. I definitely felt I could have played better and I do wish I had more practice with this exact list going into the event. But I stand by my deck choice and I feel I not only learned a lot from the experience but I also enjoyed my time playing. While it was a competitive event, most people there were very relaxed and set on enjoying the day. While I didn’t achieve the results I wanted, I can’t complain after spending the day with people who were smiling and enjoying the game we all love.
Round 1 vs. Mono Red
Result: Loss, 0-2
I specifically chose this deck to help my matchups against Mono-Red, and that didn’t seem to work this round. In round one I started on the back foot and as soon as I resolved any threat it seemed like my opponent had a way to remove it. I think I tried to out aggro THE aggro deck and it really did me in. In game two, I sided out 2 Treasure Cruise, 2 Opt, and 2 Chart a Course, and brought in 1 Unlicensed Hearse, 3 Aether Gust, and 2 Crush the Weak. I never drew the crush which would have helped tremendously. While I did have the play and managed to get some damage in, my opponent quickly stabilized and took over the beatdown. Had I played as if I were a midrange deck things might have been different, but I still had four rounds to go so I took my lumps and rallied.
Round 2 vs. Possibility Storm
Result: Win, 2-1
I will admit, I didn’t expect to see this deck at the RCQ, but it was a neat sight! This was played by one of our local players and he played it quite well. In game one, I was on the draw but was able to establish a board presence that the opponent had to keep answering while fumbling to assemble their combo. I was able to push through damage after clearing their mana dorks.
For game two, I sided out two Play With Fire, two Chart a Course, two Opt, and one Fiery Impulse and put in two Mystical Dispute (I brought these in to specifically disrupt my opponents Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner), three Aether Gust, and two Negateto counter my opponent’s combo. This should have worked in game two, but my opponent pivoted towards a more aggressive game plan by siding into Gruul Stompy with staples such as Glorybringer. It was a close one, but my opponent was able to take game two with their creatures and by topdecking a Chandra, Awakened Inferno to deal the last point of damage to me.
In game three, I kept the same sideboard but played around my opponent’s more creature-based strategy. I kept the board relatively clear and ended up countering their Possibility Storm. With that, I was able to keep swinging until the game and the round was mine.
Round 3 vs. Izzet Phoenix
Result: Win, 2-0
The results of this one surprised me as well. Many consider Phoenix to be the strongest Izzet deck out there (and for good reason). It has constantly remained near the top, if not at the top of the meta. But with my deck’s aggression as well as answers for the dreaded Thing in the Ice, I was able to take the round in two. In game one, my opponent ended up flipping their Thing into Awaken Horror but two well-timed Reckless Rage took it out and cleared the way for a win.
In game two, I took out two Chart a Course, two Play With Fire, and two Opt to make room for two Unlicensed Hearse, two Spell Pierce, and two Mystical Dispute. Game two saw me playing out multiple threats and my opponent not having enough answers to overcome my aggressive start. Once my Ledger Shredder resolved and grew over five toughness, there was no stopping it. Game two was quick and left us feeling good with a 2-1 record.
Round 4 vs. Abzan Greasefang
Result: Loss, 0-2
This was the match I was most disappointed in. I specifically made sure to bring in sideboard tech for this matchup and I feel the deck already has a strong matchup against Greasefang. I definitely made some silly mistakes and it showed in this round. In game one, I decided to keep the pressure going and tapped out to play another Swiftspear rather than keep up removal. Opponent had the turn-three Greasefang and I was toast.
For game two, I sided out four Play With Fire and two Chart a Course and brought in two Unlicensed Hearse, two Abrade, and two Spell Pierce. I knew the deck, I knew what was coming, but maybe it was just bad luck. I kept a hand with Fiery Impulse but my opponent still had a Greasefang on turn three, while I didn’t have enough spells in the graveyard to have spell mastery and kill it. Parhelion II hit the battlefield and with it I was on a 2-2 record.
Round 5 vs. Azorius Control
Result: Loss, 0-2
Now this was it, my win-and-in for Top 8. I knew the player and their deck and they knew mine. Usually, I had lost to control, but with my experience and new mindset I was hopeful in this matchup. I knew it would be difficult but possible, and I could see that promo Nykthos off in the distance.
In game one I started off VERY aggressively. Turn-one Swiftspear, into Turn-two Swiftspear and Soul-Scar. I knew I had committed heavily to the board but had a Young Pyromancer in hand to rebuild when the inevitable boardwipe hit. I got my opponent down to 8 life before they started gaining more with a well timed Absorb. They then wiped the board and resolved a Narset setting back my card advantage. I was able to kill the Narset with Young Pyromancer and a few tokens in the coming turns but by then my opponent had resolved a Shark Typhoon and then a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. I wasn’t able to get under my opponent before they stabilized and they made quick work removing my creatures and finishing me off with flying sharks.
Without the need for removal I took out three Fiery Impulse and three Reckless Rage as well as one Chart a Course to make room for three Mystical Dispute, two Negate, and two Unlicensed Hearse. Unfortunately I had to start the second game off with a mull to five. I had threats and cantrips in hand but needed to play a bit more conservatively due to the mulligan. MY opponent was able to one for one me the first part of the game until I had no threats and a Narset on their side of the board preventing me from drawing answers. I lost game to and with it my chance at the Top 8.
As I mentioned earlier I was proud of myself for entering but definitely regretted some of my plays afterwards. That being said, the event itself was well run, the participants were all having fun, and I really can’t complain about spending half a day playing MAgic with friends old and new. Crew 3 Podcast even showed up and I was able to chat with them and even played against their member, Ricky, who piloted Mono Red to the Top 8.
Going from FNM to RCQ was quite a jump. My LGS clearly attracted out-of-town folks which brought in a slew of metadecks being piloted with the utmost precision. I am glad I attended and participated in the event but wish I would have spent a little more time preparing for it. Maybe picking my deck earlier at practicing it more at FNM and on MTGO. But for only $15 I felt the entry cost was well worth the experience.
If you have been racking up the wins at your local FNM and are seeking a more competitive environment I highly recommend checking out RCQs in your area (especially the Pioneer ones). They are a great way to meet new people and get experience playing your deck against very skilled opponents, plus you have the chance to win prizes including the WotC promos, store prizes, and of course the invite to the Region Championship. I haven;t attended multiple RCQs like I have seen some folks but as a mostly casual player I felt that the RCQ system has been working well from what I have seen being posted on the internet. I would love to hear about your RCQ experience and how you feel about Pioneer starting to make its way into Competitive Play?
I’m Casual Jake reminding you, “Don’t forget to play your land drops!”. See you next time!