Modern isn’t in great shape at the moment. We talked about the degeneracy involved with Tibalt’s Trickery last week, and the deck is still putting up numbers. The real issue, however, is Tibalt himself with Valki, God of Lies. Modern is awash with decks that cascade into the two drop half of the card, and then cast the seven drop half instead.
It’s a real problem, and it’ll probably demand some kind of action from Wizards. It remains to be seen what they do – the cascade rules could, conceivably, be changed – but in the meantime, Modern is a wretched hive of scum and villainy as various decks race to the bottom to see just how broken they can be.
The Valki/cascade combo is being shoved into more or less any deck that will fit it – I’ve seen variants of almost all colors, including a terrifying amalgamation with the Four Color Uro deck that has been running roughshod over Modern since last year. Troubling times, indeed – is there a solution?
If you want to beat ’em rather than join ’em, the only thing I can reasonably suggest is, in the words of the famous hedgehog philosopher, you’ve gotta go fast. I don’t think there’s much point trying to play a slower and more reactive game against such degeneracy – you want to beat them at their own game, and be as quick as possible.
MTGO player Talisker did exactly this with a Top 16 finish in a recent Modern Challenge, blasting their way through the opposition with a lightning-fast Izzet Blitz deck.
Modern Izzet Blitz by Talisker
There’s good news and there’s bad news, then one more bit of good news after the bad news. The good news is that this deck is fast – it curves aggressive prowess creatures into burn spells, has card selection and card draw and can even manage the board a little bit with Lightning Bolt and Burst Lightning.
The bad news is the fetch/shock mana base costs hundreds. But there’s good news to follow – we can change this! This is a straightforward two color deck without stringent mana requirements, and while the fetch/shock mana is certainly better than what we’re going to cook up, cheaping out on the lands is not going to render this deck unplayable.
Before I get to the lands however, let’s have a look at some of the more expensive nonland cards here.
Soul-Scar Mage is the priciest of them all, at $8 each. That’s nothing to sniff at for the budget mage, but not outrageously expensive. Soul-Scar Mage is a staple in red decks like this, so there’s a good chance you get your money’s worth. I wouldn’t skimp on this card. Alternatively, there’s the $5 Goblin Guide, but in this deck, Soul-Scar Mage threatens a lot more damage.
Outside of that, Lightning Bolt is $3.50, but you should already have a playset as this card is one of the best in the format. Manamorphose is $3, but it’s essential to a deck filled with prowess creatures as a “free” spell and can even help fix your mana if you’re stuck without blue. Monastery Swiftspear is $2.30, and by now we’re reaching a price point that even budget players can’t grumble over. The nonlands in this deck are, I think it’s fair to say, cheap – I wouldn’t make any changes there.
As ever, the issue is with the lands, and specifically with the fetchlands and shocklands. But the solution is at hand – once again, I refer you to the breakdown of Modern land options I made a few weeks ago. You cut all the fetches and shocks, saving hundreds, and instead play cards like Shivan Reef, a $1.30 card that does a decent enough impression of a Steam Vents most of the time.
You can also shave a number of Fiery Islets, a $10 card, along with the fetches and shocks and replace them with Riverglide Pathway instead. Sometimes, Pathways are a liability, as they’re not “true” dual lands – but given how forgiving the color requirements of this deck are (you only really need one blue source, maybe two in a more drawn-out game), the inflexibility of Riverglide Pathway isn’t ever going to be too punishing.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – by making substitutions in this way, you’re making the deck worse. There’s no denying it. However, it’s not by all that much – saving hundreds of dollars by sacrificing a few percentage points is a trade-off I’m happy to make. Maybe you lose one percent of games because your Shivan Reef costs you a fourth point of life when fetching and shocking would have only cost three, but that’s so marginal that it’s hardly worth thinking about. Making substitutions like this is, in my view, well and truly worth it, especially in a deck without strict mana requirements.
Happily, the sideboard for this deck seems to be very fluid. While Talisker is playing some cards that command a serious price tag – Surgical Extraction and Force of Negation – and while some other players have included pricier cards like Blood Moon, I’ve seen plenty of lists that run a very cheap sideboard indeed. MTGO player Schiaveto, for example, played this sideboard to a 5-0 finish in a Modern League.
2 Abrade 2 Aether Gust 1 Bedlam Reveler 2 Cleansing Wildfire 2 Dispel 1 Kozilek's Return 2 Mystical Dispute 1 Soul-Guide Lantern 2 Vapor Snag
Kozilek’s Return and Bedlam Reveler are the most expensive cards here, at $4.50 and $3.50 respectively – hardly the sort of outlay that’s going to break the bank. Even then, you can probably bring those numbers down, as there are no shortage of cheap utility spells in red and blue.
Other options for the sideboard include Spell Pierce, Dragon’s Claw, Tormod’s Crypt, Grafdigger’s Cage and plenty of others – all these cards can be found in the sideboards of high-performing MTGO decks from recent weeks. In short, the sideboard doesn’t need to drag the price of the deck up – as strong as Force of Negation can be, the majority of Blitz players don’t seem to run it, so it’s by no means necessary.
Here, then, is the amended list – a few hundred bucks cheaper than the original, and only fractionally less powerful and consistent.
Budget Izzet Blitz by Riley Knight
This deck can go toe-to-toe with the best decks in Modern at the moment, and it’s a good place from which to contest the utter degeneracy into which the format has descended. Until something is done about Tibalt (and his Trickery, for that matter), this is where you want to be – playing a fast, proactive deck that punishes any stumbles or misplays. That’s not mentioning its ability to pressure the life totals of those playing four and five color decks with their painful mana bases!
Izzet Blitz is fast and consistent, and while it’s not as powerful as a turn three seven drop, it can still put up the numbers. I recommend taking it for a spin!