With rotation fast approaching, time is running out for decks unique to this eight-set Standard. Currently, both Lightning Stormkin and Adeliz, the Cinder Wind are legal, and enemy-color tribal decks have up to 16 good dual lands (shock lands, check lands, scry lands, and Unclaimed Territory). Together, these factors enable Izzet Wizards—a fun tier 2 archetype for anyone who wants something different in the final month of Core Set 2020 Standard. Here is my build.
Izzet Wizards in Standard
4 Steam Vents 4 Sulfur Falls 4 Temple of Epiphany 2 Unclaimed Territory 5 Mountain (343) 3 Island (335) 2 Siren Stormtamer 2 Ghitu Lavarunner 2 Burning Prophet 4 Lightning Stormkin 4 Dreadhorde Arcanist 4 Adeliz, the Cinder Wind 2 God-Eternal Kefnet 2 Experimental Frenzy 2 Ral's Outburst 2 Infuriate 4 Opt 4 Wizard's Lightning 4 Shock Sideboard 4 Goblin Chainwhirler 1 Mountain (343) 2 Disdainful Stroke 2 Ionize 1 Augur of Bolas 3 Reckless Rage 1 Flame Sweep 1 Fry
Game plan and key cards
With my build of Izzet Wizards, the main game plan is similar to Mono-Red: rush opponents with cheap creatures, then finish them off with burn spells. While both decks have Shock and Wizard’s Lightning in common, the creature bases differ.
As long as Field of the Dead remains popular in Standard, flying is a valuable ability. Runaway Steam-Kin and Goblin Chainwhirler are easily chumpblocked by Zombie tokens, while these Wizards evade any ground blockers. Due to Adeliz in particular, I prefer the creature base of Izzet Wizards over the one of Mono-Red.
The main power of Adeliz lies in its triggered ability. If you have a developed board, then a flurry of triggers can easily win the game out of nowhere. To abuse Adeliz’s triggered ability, we need 16+ instant/sorcery spells and 16+ Wizards.
I have seen Izzet Wizards builds without one-drops, but I like to start an aggro curve with a creature on turn one if possible. I don’t want many because I also have Opt, Shock, and Temple of Epiphany for turn one, but having access to a few one-drops is worth it.
Now, the mana base isn’t ideal for one-drops: my build only has the required untapped colored source 80% of the time. I accept this for two reasons. First, I’d rather have an inconsistent one-drop than no one-drop at all. Second, and more importantly, Ghitu Lavarunner and Siren Stormtamer have abilities that get more relevant in the mid-game. Casting them on turn three or four along with another spell is still fine.
Dreadhorde Arcanist, in a deck with 10 one-mana spells, will usually flash something back for value.
Burning Prophet is a card I already liked in Mono-Red, and it’s even better here. It provides flood protection and hits hard.
If the aggro plan fails, then you need to dig towards a critical mass of burn spells or overwhelm your opponent in another way. My first list had a combination of Chart a Course, Light up the Stage, and Warlord’s Fury, which was great when Adeliz lived, but I was spinning my wheels too much when I couldn’t stick Adeliz. After adding powerful 4-mana cards to the deck, I didn’t draw as much air in the late-game, and my win rate went up.
For comparison, Mono-Red generally runs 4 Experimental Frenzy and 1 Chandra for late-game staying power. Even though Experimental Frenzy doesn’t trigger Adeliz, it fits this aggressively-minded, burn-oriented Izzet Wizards deck. Ral’s Outburst and God-Eternal Kefnet fill similar roles. Because all these cards have diminishing returns, I like the 2-2-2 split.
What’s up with the sideboard?
I told you in the beginning that the mana in the current Standard is amazing, and I want to exploit it while it lasts. It may look insane to have Goblin Chainwhirler in the same 75 as God-Eternal Kefnet, but the amount of colored sources (supported by Opt and a sideboard Mountain) actually checks out.
The Chainwhirlers in the sideboard allow me to tweak my creature base for the matchup. Sometimes I want Adeliz, for example against Bant Scapeshift. Sometimes I want Goblin Chainwhirler, for example against Mono-Red. Sometimes I want both. Having the flexibility is great, and opponents rarely expect it.
Tips and tricks
- Adeliz provides a lot of burst damage, making the deck feel similar to a combo deck. But it’s also vulnerable. Unless you’re holding a second Adeliz, it is often better to not jam Adeliz on turn 3. Cast other creatures first. Then you play Adeliz on turn 4 or 5, cast two spells, and set up for a lethal attack. Even if your opponent has a removal spell, they can’t stop you from triggering Adeliz twice this way.
- The spells flashed back by Dreadhorde Arcanist trigger Adeliz. This means that you sometimes have to plan your turns ahead. For example, you may want to Shock an opponent on turn one so that you can curve Dreadhorde Arcanist into Adeliz and get a trigger right away.
- On MTG Arena, if you tapped out for Burning Prophet, then you may want to set a stop for the beginning of your turn. By casting a noncreature spell in your upkeep, you get a scry trigger in time to improve your draw step. Likewise, if you control Burning Prophet and Experimental Frenzy, then you should enter full control mode. This way, if you see another burn spell after casting your top card, then you can play it before the scry trigger resolves.
- God-Eternal Kefnet triggers for the first card drawn each turn. So an Opt in your opponent’s turn will yield another Kefnet trigger.
- Unclaimed Territory will usually name Wizard, but Zombie (for Kefnet) or Warrior (for Goblin Chainwhirler) are sometimes necessary.
- If an opponent controls Teferi, Time Raveler, then you cannot flash anything back with Dreadhorde Arcanist or cast anything via God-Eternal Kefnet. Fortunately, you have lots of small creatures that can attack Teferi.
- The +1 ability from an opposing Ashiok, Dream Render will nullify scrying. If you don’t need the mana, then hold Temple of Epiphany until Ashiok is gone. Conversely, if your 4C Kethis opponent scry’ed a card to the top with a Temple, then you can force them to shuffle by Shocking their Fblthp, the Lost.
- If you Infuriate Dreadhorde Arcanist or trigger Adeliz three times, then you can now flash back Ral’s Outburst. This has come up surprisingly often, and it always feels great.
Boarding often depends on whether one-mana creature removal spells are good in the matchup or not. If they aren’t, then I tend to cut Dreadhorde Arcanist along with Shock. If I don’t know what to cut, then I often shave one-drop creatures and/or Infuriate. I sometimes cut a land and/or card draw spells on the draw. When playing against Legion’s End, I often want three-ofs as opposed to four-ofs.
I’m not going to claim that Izzet Wizards is a tier 1 deck in Standard. I’ve gone exactly 50% with the deck over several dozens of matches on MTG Arena, which is below my average win rate. If I would want to maximize my chance of winning, then Boros Feather would be my aggro deck of choice. But I found Izzet Wizards to be a lot of fun to play, and it’s competitive enough. If you like synergy-driven aggro decks with unexpected angles, then give Izzet Wizards a try. Don’t miss the chance to exploit Lightning Bolt in Standard before the rotation.