Owen’s a Win – Izzet Modern?

This last weekend was the first weekend in a very long time where I had no plans at all. This is rare because half my weekends I find myself flying to a new city in the U.S. to play in a Grand Prix and the other half I relish the opportunity to spend a moment at home relaxing. This time I was itching to get out and game and there was a local Modern tournament on Saturday. This is how I grew up—grinding away at local events. I haven’t played Modern in ages and last time I did was Pro Tour Born of the Gods where I played Big Zoo. Since then I have dismissed that deck as an option for me and I’ve been experimenting with new things. I knew I didn’t want to take this tournament too seriously and I also made the final decision to go at about 10 p.m. the night before, so to say I was scrambling to figure out what deck to play would be an understatement. My solution was to cobble together cards from off the floor of my room and play whatever I could piece together. It’s also worth noting that I don’t have a very extensive collection. I borrowed exactly 1 card for the event: Blood Moon. Here’s what I cooked up in 1 hour.

This deck was incredibly fun to play and I’m pretty satisfied with the healthy amount of fun-ofs in the list.

I played one copy of Desperate Ravings because I could not find my 4th Think Twice. I believe Think Twice is an underrated card and really helps make decks like this function. When Think Twice was in Standard I basically always played four in my Sphinx’s Revelation decks. Think Twice is excellent because it allows you to gain an incremental advantage without giving up very much at all. You get to make your land drops more often in the early game and you’ve almost always got action later in the game as well. Desperate Ravings does something extremely similar and it could be either better or worse but on average it will be slightly worse. This decision was made due to card availability and wanting more different interesting cards in my deck. Mission accomplished.

I only played three copies of Spell Snare to try to hedge against the possibility that it isn’t a very good card in Modern. In recent times it seems everyone who plays a blue-based deck with Snapcaster Mage will always play one and only one copy of Spell Snare in their list. This is odd to me because it’s an amazingly powerful card. Back in the day when blue control existed in Extended or even new Modern Spell Snare was a snap 4-of and it was a card people feared and even aggressively constructed their decks to play around. I decided to give it a shot and it did not disappoint. It’s possible four is the right number but I was happy with 3.

Batterskull was probably the biggest innovation at play here. Almost every blue control deck that exists will have one or two Batterskull in the sideboard and in my experience it’s pretty much the best card ever. The logic is that after sideboard the opponent will have more reactive cards and Batterskull attacks from a different angle. This is true but I think people are forgetting that Batterskull is a super powerful Magic card and I was dominating people all day with it. I would play it and they would get a look on their face like, “oh yeah… that’s a card.” Batterskull differs from every other option for a win condition in one key way: it presents inevitability while also being immune to removal spells. It doesn’t matter how many Path to Exiles you have, you will lose to my Batterskull.

I went with two copies of Vendilion Clique and I was not disappointed here either. I have always been  a big fan of V. Clique and consistently try to put it in my decks. It’s even more powerful than you may be giving it credit for. One thing that’s great about Vendilion Clique is that it’s a totally passable card in all matchups and it can also be the best thing since sliced bread. If you can sneak it down while you and your opponent both have a ton of counterspells, then it’s a threat that needs to be dealt with or it will end the game on its own. I’m not above having more cards in my deck that can end the game. I also like that it’s a sweet disruptive card against combo decks or against decks like UWR control that like to sit back and build up a powerful hand. I wouldn’t play a blue control deck in Modern without giving Vendilion Clique due consideration.

I went with 1 Chandra, Pyromaster and it was a real treat. It flat-out won a game in two different matchups, Affinity and a Blue/Red Delver deck. When your opponent’s deck has Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, and Grim Lavamancer then this Chandra is going to be one of your best cards. I also had a good experience with it picking off Vault Skirge, Steel Overseer, and Signal Pest one by one. I was concerned at first that the “0:” ability on her might be weakened by the fact that I have so many counterspells in my deck and if I flip over a Mana Leak on my main phase that’s as good as not hitting a card at all. This is probably a legitimate concern but it never came up for me and Chandra is a sick card in Modern.

Magma Spray/Flame Slash/Twisted Image/and Electrolyze are all pretty reasonable cheap removal spells. Electrolyze and Twisted Image have the upside of cycling at any point in the game which is oddly quite integral to my deck’s core strategy. I only played 24 land in my long-game control deck but I knew as long as I included enough cards with the words “draw a card” I would be able to get to the four lands needed to function, and start hitting Cryptic Commands and chaining into more gas. I’ve advocated Twisted Image before and I couldn’t in good conscience play a deck like this and exclude it. I killed a Signal Pest with it which was fun. Magma Spray was a nod to the power of Voice of Resurgence and although history has shown me to prefer Pillar of Flame, that comes from playing decks like Jund and not decks that have a ton of instants like this one. Flame Slash was a concession to possible Tarmogoyfs or Loxodon Smiters, it’s also way way better against an Arcbound Ravager than a Magma Spray would be.

Counterflux and Izzet Charm may not make a ton of sense in the deck and that’s largely because they were added to get up to the 60-card minimum requirement. Neither is an embarassing card and under certain circumstances could shine but if you were trying to build the deck optimally for a competative environment it probably would not have these cards. Though I admit they have both seen success in Modern, so maybe I am overstating their weaknesses. Neither were great for me in the event, Counterflux was a good draw one game where I was in control and as long as my opponent didn’t topdeck a Lightning Bolt I couldn’t lose, so in that sense a Cancel was great.

My sideboard was a bit of a doozy—I played 2 Sower of Temptation! I may have just been playing it to relive the old days but I will say that it was good for me in the tournament. In combination with cheap removal spells a card like this is a blowout against a Birthing Pod deck. Affinity can’t interact with it in any meaningful way outside Galvanic Blast which will usually be sideboarded out. I won a game against Living End just gaining control of a Street Wraith that could not be blocked. I also quite like it against Jund decks who may overcompensate their removal suit in the direction of cards like Abrupt Decay and Liliana of the Veil which are downright embarassing against Sower of Temptation. I also like it as an answer to hard-to-handle creatures like Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks.

With the countermagic in my sideboard I went with 2 Gainsay and 2 Negate. This may have been a bit foolish as I ended up being paired against two combo decks: Living End and Storm, and I did not side in Gainsay against either. It’s very hard to put a counterspell in your sideboard and have it be completely useless against two different combo decks but I found a way. I preferred Gainsay at first because in grindy matchups it can neutralize Snapcaster Mage which is one of the most important cards and I also wanted something that would be good against Splinter Twin. Having a two-mana hardcounter for Deceiver Exarch was appealing. Negate was great as usual.

The tournament itself was quite fun. It was six rounds of Swiss with a cut to Top 8, and I went 4-0-2 beating Affinity, Burn, Living End, and UR Delver, followed by a match in Top 8 against Storm which I also won. At this point we agreed to a Top-4 split and with no additional prize to be granted outside what we already split, I conceded to go enjoy the rest of my Saturday afternoon. This deck seemed like it was really on to something and I don’t know how to judge it moving forward. I played 5 matches against good decks and won them all. I can’t say I fully recommend this deck moving forward if your only goal is to win, but I can say that it’s super fun and with some time it could be morphed into a deck that is ready for prime time.

If you have any tips for the deck moving forward I’m all ears and I can’t say the deck is clearly better than UWR control in Modern, but I do know this deck doesn’t care about opposing Blood Moons, and you even get to play with Blood Moon yourself.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter


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