James Bush: Being the ‘Mardu Guy’

James Bush took first place at the March Nerd Rage Gaming Championship Trial in Madison.


Leading up to the weekend of the CT, we hadn’t seen a lot of the new Modern format.  After the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, the largest Modern event we had results from was the Magic Online Championship.  A knee jerk response to these results showed Jund was our new Modern overlord. I knew going into Madison that the level of competition was going to increase from past CTs. Madison is home to a number of professional players and long-time magic ‘End Bosses’. A number of these players are masters of the Lantern Control deck, which is the deck that Gerry Thompson lost to in the finals of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan while piloting a similar Mardu Pyromancer list. With that in mind I loaded up on hand disruption spells, artifact destruction, and some choice removal for what I was expecting to play against. I sleeved up the list below.

Mardu Pyromancer

As it turned out, the room was packed with Jund.  It seemed everyone was following the hype and decided to dust off their Dark Confidants and Tarmogoyfs. I ended up playing against it three out of seven rounds of Swiss.  My Swiss breakdown went as followed:


Round 1 – Jund W

Round 2 – Grixis Shadow  L (You can find a replay of this match here.)

Round 3 – Jund W

Round 4 – U/R Delver W

Round 5 – Jund W

Round 6 – Grixis Shadow W

Round 7 – R/G Ponza ID (Unfortunately, I was paired against my car mate and good friend, Kyle Veronda. We decided to draw and let tie breakers work their magic.  You can find a replay of our match here.)


As I mentioned above, the Top 8 was made up of all different decks.  You can see the event’s top 8 desklists here.

The Jund matchup plays out favorably for Mardu Pyromancer.  You trade disruption, create value with Lingering Souls and Bedlam Reveler, and pull ahead as the game progresses.  I lost count of the number of times Reveler was a two mana, draw three with legs.   I’ve learned from testing and the CT that the deck needs more hard removal for threats like Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler. Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt go a long way, but still have their limits. Blood Moon and Mardu Pyromancer have a love/hate relationship. The deck isn’t a typical ‘Blood Moon Deck’. It isn’t looking to slam Moon turn 3 against most of the field and still enact its game plan.  Instead, Blood Moon acts as a silver bullet for certain matchups to lock them out of the game.  Black mana is essential and, since we cut Manamorphose, it’s much more difficult to run out Blood Moon every game. Here is an updated list should you be looking to pilot the deck in the future:

Mardu Pyromancer


It appears the dust has settled in Modern and we have a wide-open format. Nothing appears to be too oppressive. While Tron variants and turn 3-4 combo decks still exist, we do have the tools to defeat them. If we look at data from other high-profile Modern tournaments as well as Magic Online 5-0 league results, we find many different decks being successful.  I think the format is in a very good place right now.  Let’s hope we’re allowed to enjoy it before another shift, whether it be a breakout deck or additional unbannings or bannings.

The Nerd Rage Championship series is starting off to be a great one this year.  For me, I started playing in the series late last year.  I was lucky enough to win a CT and punch my ticket to last year’s championship event, so I didn’t have to grind leaderboard points. This year, with prizes growing and the series travelling to out-of-state locations, I’m looking forward to the level of competition increasing.  We’ve already seen professional players such as Sam Black, Justin Cohen, and Adrian Sullivan come out and play in a CT.  I’m hoping for bigger and better things at each event.  By winning the Madison CT and qualifing for the $10,000 Championship,  a good amount of pressure has been off my shoulders.  My goals have changed from qualifying to trying to help my friends get there as well.  This looks to be an exciting race to a highly rewarding finish line.


You can find James grinding away on Magic Online @ JamesDaBoosh or on twitter @JamesABush87

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James Bush