I consider myself a bit of a blue-red aficionado. From Twin to Delver with Blue Moon monstrosities in between, rarely do I feel more at home than with Steam Vents in my deck. Lo and behold, we’re back to a Ravnica Standard, and literal Steam Vents is once again available to grant us the gift of perfect mana. Ever since the full spoiler dropped last week, I’ve had my eye on various Izzet strategies, and I’m happy to present you today with a three-course meal of fully functional decklists, for your enjoyment.
To ease you into this intellectual experience, I’ll start you off with an updated version of the U/R Wizards list that’s been tearing up Friendly Leagues on Magic Online ever since Dominaria hit. Not only did this deck lose very little from rotation, I’d argue that its competitive potential has risen thanks to the declining quality of removal in the format alongside the reprint of Wee Dragonauts. This explosive flier is, coincidentally enough, a wizard.
One of this deck’s major weaknesses was that Adeliz was really its only impactful threat, and being soft to Magma Spray was a serious liability. We now have access to a second beat-stick, and while Wizards is unlikely to be a tier one strategy in this nascent format, it certainly has niche appeal to a breed of aggro players.
This amuse-bouche out of the way, I’d like to bring out the main course. Ever since I peeped Crackling Drake in the spoiler for the first time, I was hooked. A second play-set of Enigma Drakes that draw cards? In a format where there are a bunch of easy ways to fill your graveyard with spells?
Sign. Me. Up.
My apologies for calling the deck Twin, that’s just not reasonable. Splinter Twin is a two-card combo, but this deck actually has no need for the noble Deceiver Exarch as the double-red spell actually wins the game on its own. It is therefore actually much better than Twin, according to my understanding of science.
Unlike the list that Todd Anderson ran this week on the SCG VS Live stream, my build is much more focused on consistency and interaction rather than simply delivering a single loaded punch. I found in testing that treating your threats as Wee Dragonauts was never going to be as effective a strategy as using the drakes as extremely strong midgame cards that threaten to end the game in two turns. This deck wants to interact and develop its hand in the first three or four turns, then play an Enigma Drake, Essence Scatter a threat, and put them dead on board the following turn. While the first swing with a drake will usually be for somewhere between three to six damage, the second attack, powered by a combination of cantrips and burn spells, can easily be lethal — especially if your opponent was foolish enough to take damage off a shockland. That’s a legitimately powerful clock.
The meat of this deck is pretty straightforward, but let’s go through it piece by piece.
Merfolk Trickster serves three roles: presenting the ability to play on-board early without needing to relinquish the ability to use countermagic. It can lock down or otherwise interacting with the creatures that our burn spells are unable to deal with, and being a warm body to empower Chart a Course in matchups where card advantage is critical.
We have three different cards providing card selection and, at times, advantage in Opt, Chart a Course, and Discovery // Dispersal. Opt is weak as far as providing any of those things, but does an excellent job of increasing the deck’s spell density, and therefore the amount of damage dealt by our threats. Chart a Course is significantly more effective than Discovery in this deck if only thanks to its ability to provide advantage in conjunction with your creatures, all of which are typically able to attack profitably. An earlier build of the deck with more copies of Discovery // Dispersal had a couple copies of Watery Grave to enable casting the Dispersal half, but I don’t think the upside is worth the presence of the shocklands with only two copies around.
Essence Scatter is an obvious inclusion in an era of Magic where creatures are king, and Sinister Sabotage is one of the most powerful three-mana counterspells printed in years. Disallow was nice, but Dissolve was extra nice. Sinister Sabotage is Dissolve, but in a deck that cares about your graveyard. We can safely assume that Teferi and Settle the Wreckage will be a part of this format, and having access to a “real” counterspell to deal with those cards in the maindeck is extremely valuable.
Our removal suite is a split of Shock, Lightning Strike and Lava Coil. While these slots will, of course, change as the texture of the metagame is revealed over time, on first glance a split favouring Shock seems wise. There aren’t all that many creatures worth answering with three rather than two or four toughness, and burn that can go to face is quite valuable in a deck that’s able to punch through significant amounts of damage in the air.
Most of the sideboard is straightforward: counterspells for appropriate midrange and control decks, additional Lava Coils for big creature decks and Fiery Cannonade to wipe away the inevitable Selesnya tokens decks. The last few cards are a bit spicier. Rekindling Phoenix is there to shore up aggressive matchups where we need to be on the defensive but still want to play to the board, or as an unbeatable threat against colour combinations that might struggle with it. The last card, the ghost pepper sauce of the sideboard plan, is Daring Saboteur, something we can sneak in on turn two against control decks to help us filter our hands and fill our graveyards for our drakes.
I’m honestly quite certain this deck has legs. It might be that a different, or better-tuned, build of this strategy is optimal, but the strategy is legitimately extremely powerful. Izzet spells is definitely not just a meme in this new format.
Alright, we’ve eaten our vegetables. It’s time for dessert.
There are just so many two-mana blue enchantments in this format rife for abuse in a deck full of the cheap spells that Izzet decks love to run. Unfortunately, Drowned Secrets is not a particularly quick win condition, and must be relegated to the sideboard, while Firemind’s Research and Search for Azcanta have utility in every matchup. I haven’t put quite as much work into this list as I have with the drake deck, but Firemind’s Research offers us a creatureless win condition, which is always something I’m interested in exploring as a control player. It’s possible that this deck is better off with a light splash for the ever-powerful Teferi, but I chose to go with a more focused version of the deck for today.
Let me know if you get to try and of these decks out, and good luck at Prereleases this weekend!