Card of the Month - February 2011 - Pyromancer AscensionArticolo del 1-2-2011
The oldest players will surely remember the archetype called Counter-Burn, a blue-red deck with no creatures, full of card drawing spells, counterspells and burn spells. At the beginning, burn spells are used to kill creatures; at the end, they have the goal to get the opponent to zero life points.
The Pyromancer-Combo, one of the strongest decks in the current Extended format, adds a couple of new ingredients to the original recipe:
- Pyromancer Ascension, that duplicates all the spells
- , which creates a recursion with an "active" Pyromancer Ascension on the battlefield and a second Call to Mind in the graveyard: "I cast , I copy it with Ascension, I return the second Call to Mind to my hand, and I return to my hand… I get to play all the turns!"
This is probably why this deck has a good number of fans, even though we cannot consider it one of the favorite decks you will see at GPs and PTs.
Most of the rules questions about this deck are actually about Pyromancer Ascension; let's see its abilities in details.
The first ability
"Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell that has the same name as a card in your graveyard, you may put a quest counter on Pyromancer Ascension"
Adding the counter is not mandatory ("you may"). If the ability triggers, but you forget to put the counter, you won't be able to go back in time to fix the problem and put the counter.
The ability triggers when you cast an instant or sorcery spell, not when it resolves; this means that:
- The ability triggers on top of the spell, and it resolves before the spell.
- The ability will resolve even if the original spell doesn't resolve (because it gets countered).
Let's have a look at two situations which look similar, but have an important difference:
- You have a in your graveyard, and you cast a second Lightning Bolt. After you finish casting it, the Ascension's ability sees a Lightning Bolt on the stack and a card in the graveyard with the same name. The ability triggers. If your opponent now removes your graveyard with a card like , when the ability resolves you will be able to put a counter on your Pyromancer Ascension.
- You have a in your graveyard and you cast it with Flashback. The Firebolt leaves the graveyard and is put on the stack as you cast it. After you finish casting the Firebolt, the Ascension's ability sees a Firebolt on the stack, but can't find any Firebolt in the graveyard. The ability doesn't trigger.
"Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell while Pyromancer Ascension has two or more quest counters on it, you may copy that spell. You may choose new targets for the copy."
Also the second ability has the words "you may"; once again, if the ability triggers but you fail to notice or you forget to resolve it, you won't be able to go back in time.
The ability triggers when you cast an instant or sorcery spell, not when it resolves. In details, assuming that you and your opponent don't do anything in response:
- You cast the spell.
- The ability triggers and is put on the stack on top of the spell.
- The ability resolves and creates a copy of the spell on the stack. The ability leaves the stack.
- The copy resolves and leaves the stack.
- The original spell resolves and leaves the stack.
- Note that the ability triggers before you and your opponent receive priority; your opponent can do something (like countering the spell) only after the ability is already on the stack.
Countering the copy doesn't counter the original spell and vice versa.
The condition "while Pyromancer Ascension has two or more quest counters on it" has to be met only when the ability triggers. Once the ability triggered, it resolves even if the counters get removed and even if the Ascension gets destroyed in response (an ability on the stack exists independently of its source).
Copying a spell means putting an exact copy of it on the stack (that is different from casting it), without paying costs again and without making any choice (any choices done when casting the original spell are taken into account). Targets can be changed, but only because the ability says it.
Let's now have a look at what is allowed or not when copying a spell:
What you can do / positive aspects:
- If you paid the kicker for the original spell, the copy will have its effect as though you paid the kicker cost for it; for example, a copy of a kicked deals 4 damage.
- If the text or mana cost of the original spell contains an X, the copy has the value that was chosen for X; for example, a copy of a for 10 is a Fireball for 10.
- If the original spell had additional costs, you don't need to pay them again; for example, a copy of a doesn't require sacrificing a second creature.
- Any mode chosen for the original spell counts for the copy too; for example, a copy of a which bounces and taps will bounce and tap (you can't choose to counter or draw).
- Any ability that triggers when a spell "is cast" doesn't trigger for the copy; for example, a copy of won't have its cascade trigger (the original will, the copy won't); same for Storm and Replicate, the triggered abilities of the copy won't trigger.
- When you cast a split card, only the half that was cast exists on the stack. For example, if you cast from the card , the copy will be a Fire; you won't be able to create an Ice.
Finally, let's have a look at a few tournament situations that can happen because of this deck.
This deck can create a situation where you can cast infinite times in a row and allows you to play until you win the game, with your opponent unable to play any turns.
Gaining an infinite amount of life points is not a condition that means victory; even if winning is just a matter of time, your opponent is not required to concede the game; you really have to win the game by bringing him to zero life points or ten poison counters or having him draw his entire deck.
What you can do is to declare a shortcut like this one:
Your opponent is at 20 life points; you control a and you got to play ten extra turns. You have a in your hand, a second Call to Mind in your graveyard and a in your graveyard.
You can say the following:
"In each of my next seven turns, I untap, I draw, I cast Call to Mind on my second Call to Mind in the graveyard; I choose Lightning Bolt as target for the copy of Call to Mind; then, I cast Lightning Bolt on you; when I finish my turn with eight cards, I discard the card I drew for the turn"
You will just need to keep four lands (one Blue, one Red and two others) tapped to indicate that you are going to use those lands in every turn to pay the two spells; then, you keep your hand on the table, and you just draw, say "you go to 17/14/11…" and put the drawn card into your graveyard.
Your opponent is allowed to interrupt your shortcut in any moment, if he has any spell to cast or ability to activate, in response to any of your actions.
If you "start your loop" during the additional turns, the number of additional turns will always be 5, independently on who plays them; it's very likely that you are going to play all additional turns, but you will need to win before the end of the last turn, otherwise the game will be a draw; in this case, you might try to convince your opponent to concede by saying "I would have won the game for sure; do you agree with me? I believe it would be very sporting if you conceded", but the actual result of the game is a draw and your opponent may choose not to concede.
You can read the original article in Italian .
You can read the full article on Blackborder .