Mardu Pyromancer was one of my favorite decks up until Faithless Looting was banned. Overall, I feel that banning Faithless Looting has been good for the format but it came with the loss of Mardu. Looking into replacements for Faithless Looting has led me to find Izzet Charm, a modal instant speed looting. Theoretically, the tradeoff of having a 2 mana Faithless Looting isn’t as big of a downside for a deck like Mardu which usually isn’t casting Looting until later in the game. Izzet Charm would mean that we would have to drop white (unless we wanted to play a 4 color deck), but White was mainly giving us sideboard options and Lingering Souls and the meat of the deck was in Red and Black. Can Izzet Charm effectively replace Faithless Looting?
What Does Blue Give Us
I want to go through a card by card discussion of what options we get by going into Grixis. Discussing these options will give us a better idea of what this color combination can provide for the deck. In my testing, switching over to Grixis has been a much more massive change than just simply switching Izzet Charm for Faithless Looting, and has even led to a shift in the playstyle of the deck.
We wouldn’t even be interested in Grixis if this card did not exist. In short, Izzet Charm is a slower and worse Faithless Looting that has minor upsides in other areas. Costing 50% more than Faithless Looting slows the deck down significantly, and means that keeping one land hands is just impossible now. The upside of having a Spell Pierce and a Shock attached to the card aren’t negligible and have come up. Many times when using Faithless you are digging for an answer, but if the answer you need is Shock it’s nice to have that on Izzet Charm. Izzet Charm is a suitable replacement for Faithless Looting, but it’s not ideal.
In a deck filled with as many singletons as this deck, having a way to buy them back is a great way to reuse the graveyard in the late game. Not having Lingering Souls or Faithless Looting to flashback means that the hand is effectively smaller than it would have been in Mardu but Snapcaster gives you a way to use the yard. The problem with Snapcaster lies in 2 different things. First, exiling cards from your graveyard is bad for the deck. Losing that critical mass of sorceries slows the deck down, and while the same argument is true of Looting and Souls, you are usually trying to cast Snapcaster on the same turn you would want to cast Bedlam Reveler. The second and more concerning problem with Snapcaster lies in the mana considerations. If you want to snapback a Blue spell it is going to cost UU, which is something the deck never had to do with White spells. This more difficult mana cost means that a card the archetype used to play in Blood Moon is now good against the deck. Snapcaster seems good on paper, but in practice hasn’t been all that exciting for me.
Thought Scour was another card I tried out as a replacement for Faithless Looting and what I’ve learned that sometimes Thought Scour is better than Looting, but most of the times it’s worse. Not being able to control what you put in the graveyard makes it so that I am more inclined to play Gurmag Angler as opposed to Bedlam Reveler. This deck does have the potential to turn 2 Gurmag if we play Thought Scour and have 2 fetchlands, but this was also true with Faithless Looting. Instant speed is nice, especially with Snapcaster and counterspells, but overall it’s a pretty mediocre card.
There are a lot of other cards that Grixis gives us (Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Countersquall, Force of Negation) but overall I have found that the Grixis version of the deck is much worse than the original Mardu lists. The deck is very successful at controlling the game up until everyone is empty-handed. Then what usually happens is your opponent will top deck one card that you can’t deal with in 2 turns and you will lose the game. Time and time again I would stop my opponent in their track and we would both start top decking and I would eventually lose because I don’t have enough to do. Flashing back spells from the graveyard was key to Mardu’s success. Blue makes the mana much worse than I expected and if something resolves on my opponent’s side of the battlefield, I am much less confident that I can deal with it. Izzet Charm provided the Faithless Looting the deck needed but is much too slow to actually be effective.
With Grixis proving to be terrible in my testing, I believe that moving back to Mardu is the way to go. Lingering Souls was part of the soul of the deck (no pun intended) and cutting it removes a lot of the staying power that souls provided. Modern Horizons also provided a lot of tools to help us overcome the loss of Faithless Looting with Seasoned Pyromancer being one of the best cards printed for the deck. There are lots of different approaches that the deck can take. You can keep to the spells in the graveyard plan and play Ransack the Lab as suggested by Jim Davis in his article that you can find here. You can lean into the premier White midrange card of choice in Stoneforge Mystic and get more staying power in equipment. Or there is potential for a token build centered around Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. I’m going to be experimenting with all of these builds in the coming days and hopefully, I can find a build of Mardu that can replace the old deck. I had high hopes for Grixis, but unfortunately, the deck has way too many problems to be viable as a midrange deck. You’d be better off playing Shadow. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!
Stream Vod of Grixis Pyromancer Here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/479408723
Jim Davis Ransack Mardu