Izzet Wizards: A Master's Guide

Introduction


Hello there, AmplexusFatum here and today I am glad to introduce a deck guide to Izzet Wizards Aggro! I have successfully climbed from Gold Tier 4 to Masters with a high winrate, in addition to multiple 7 QC wins on the back of this deck. For what it’s worth, I believe this list is close to optimal and competitive enough to grind to Masters or 7-x QCs with proper dedication and piloting.

A little bit about myself - I have played paper Magic competitively for many years when I was younger achieving several top 64 GP placement with prize money finishes. In recent years, I was an avid Hearthstone player before switching over to Gwent, both of which I played competitively on the ranked ladder achieving multiple top 20 Legend seasons and finishing in the top 100 on the Pro Ladder, respectively.

When Dominaria came out, I was excited by the addition of Wizard’s Retort, Wizard’s Lightning and Ghitu Lavarunner, as they are essentially Lightning Bolt, Counterspell, and Goblin Guide respectively if incorporated in a tribal Wizards deck. But the card that really caught my eye was Adeliz, the Cinder Wind! These elements combined sealed the deal and inspired me to theorycraft, experiment, and ultimately optimize an aggressive wizards deck that leverages on these amazing cards.

Table of Content


Creatures:
4 Soul-Scar Mage
4 Ghitu Lavarunner
4 Siren Stormtamer
4 Spellweaver Eternal
3 Adeliz, the Cinder Wind

Instants, Sorceries and Enchantments:
4 Opt
4 Unsummon
4 Lightning Strike
4 Wizard's Lightning
2 Insult // Injury
4 Riddleform

Lands

8 Island
3 Mountain
4 Ramunap Ruins
4 Sulfur Falls






Why play UR Wizards?


Firstly, I enjoy deck building a lot, especially with off-meta decks. If you are interested in playing a relatively budget deck (only 10 Rares & 0 Mythics) that is ruthless yet effective, this is the deck for you. Also, it allows for quick games to grind ladder and QCs. Most importantly, playing this tribal deck is a ton of fun and is challenging to boot.

I know that some people dislike Aggro decks in general as they are viewed as linear and boring, but hey - to each their own. In fact, I am mainly a Control player in paper Magic and thoroughly enjoy all archetypes as they offer different styles of play and satisfaction. However, I believe that this list in particular is challenging to pilot as an Aggro deck as it puts you in challenging situations and tests your decisions making skills. It is an all-in deck, therefore every bit of damage matters, which needs to be calculated and planned ahead.

Initially, I wanted to build an Aggro-Control Wizards deck, but after extended playtesting, resulted in a switch towards a hyper aggressive variant. It has a straightforward game plan, huge burst potential and a high damage reach via burn spells to close out games. In fact, I reckon that it is faster than RDW and most other Aggro decks out there.

Consider the following scenarios (inspired by PVDDR1):
Turn 1: Mountain, Soul-Scar Mage .
Turn 2: Island, Riddleform. Attack for 2 (18).
Turn 3: Sulfur Falls , Opt, Riddleform. Attack for 6. (12)
Turn 4: No land drop. Lightning Strike (9), Ghitu Lavarunner. Attack all for lethal (10).

Or:
Turn 1: Island, Siren Stormtamer.
Turn 2: Island, Attack for 1 (19). Spellweaver Eternal.
Turn 3: Mountain, Unsummon a creature. Attack for 4 (15). Spellweaver Eternal.
Turn 4: No land drop, Insult // Injury. Attack for 14 (1). Close out the game in the following turns

It is important to note that the scenarios above are not particularly ideal hands or curve, and even missed the 4th land drop for both scenarios. This can happen relatively often as the deck only runs 19 lands. However, hitting the 4th land drop on Turn 4 enables plenty of possibilities of stronger lines of play, especially with Adeliz plus an Instant. Of course, this is simply a goldfish simulation. However, the point is to open your imagination to the speed and aggressiveness of this deck.

Strengths


The deck is fairly consistent and competitive. I have closed out games on Turns 4 or 5 dealing 15+ damage in a turn through a combination of Adeliz, the Cinder Wind or Insult // Injury. Although most lines of play seem obvious like any other Aggro deck, I’d argue that calculating damage output and xx lethal turn timer are especially crucial in this deck as you want to outrace against aggressive strategies. Even if you cannot close out games within the first 6 turns and are in topdeck mode, most of your cards are live since you have so much reach with burn (including Ramunap Ruins), haste creatures, and Opt/Scry from Riddleform. Lastly, this deck has the element of surprise finishes as it is usually difficult for opponents to anticipate the amount of burst potential this deck outputs.



Weaknesses


Since the full Standard isn’t available yet, the loss of Spirebluff Canal severely hurts the consistency of its manabase, especially as an Aggro deck. Meanwhile, the creatures are incredibly susceptible to board clears such as Golden Demise or Sweltering Suns since it does not run Wizard’s Retort The best you can do is to not overcommit your board as usually 2 creatures sticking can pose significant pressure with your Prowess triggers. Must-kill permanents such as Wildgrowth Walker and Lyra Dawnbringer can be difficult to handle without your Instants available. Lastly, the mulligan can be quite tricky due to the extremely low land count and awkward colour combinations. However, a 2 land hand with the right colours and your core creatures is typically a decent opener. Nevertheless, running 4 Opt improves your land-fixing and draws significantly

Card Choices


Core Creatures

Your primary 1 drop. It trades favourably with most early game creatures as long as you have mana up. Play the psychological game by always representing an Instant when attacking with him, or occasionally when defending. His -1/-1 counter ability is crucial in dealing with bigger creature threats (e.g. Lyra Dawnbringer) and controlling the board as the game extends.

R for 2/2 haste. You can consistently have two Instants/Sorceries in the graveyard by Turn 3 or 4 to make him a great pressure card.

Your core turn 2 drop. Always leave your mana untapped before swinging, just like Soul-Scar Mage. Note that Afflict triggers before first strike vs. Lyra Dawnbringer. 'I'd argue that this the probably the weakest card in the deck.

One of the all-stars of the deck. With 16 Instants, you can reliably trigger this card on most of your turns to be swinging into their face. A 2 mana 3/3 flier is amazing, along with a decent Scry ability to sink your mana late game. Note that this triggers your Prowess abilities and itself, but not Adeliz, the Cinder Wind.


Utility

This is the perfect wizard for the deck. A flyer that will slowly chip damage in and the ability to protect your key creatures, especially on swing turns. Don’t forget that it counters cards like Settle the Wreckage, Doomfall and a Lightning Strike to your face. Her downside is obviously her toughness and keeping a blue mana up, which can be awkward at times.

Your card draw and hand fixing. An amazing card in general that activates your entire deck.

Your tempo pseudo-removal spell. Don’t be afraid to cast this on a small creature early game to gain back tempo and initiative, or to push for damage. Alternatively, on rare occasions you could even use it to save your creatures.


Burn Spells

Try to save these for face damage as much as possible, unless you have to kill a must-remove creature.


Finishers

The Wizard Lord. Usually a Turn 4 play with an Instant to push for damage. Her pseudo-prowess activates all your creatures except Riddleform. One of your key targets to save with Siren Stormtamer. It is occasionally correct to play him on curve.

This card is made for this deck. It activates all your triggers upon cast, and doubles every instance of damage. Your finishers are what allows for the insane, surprise victories.


Alternatives
There will not be a ‘budget replacement’ as the list is pretty affordable as it is, in my opinion. However, the following are some other cards that could work.

I really wanted to make this card work, but it is too reactive and achieving UU is rather inconsistent. If you are facing a lot of control with board clears, you can swap these in over Unsummon.

Very versatile card that provides tempo and utility. However, it has the same inherent weaknesses as Wizard’s Retort. Both these cards might work in a different shell altogether, probably in a UW Flash Midrange version of Wizards tribal.

A cycle with an effect that pushes for damage. Worth considering but I do not like it, personally.

The Wizard Queen that was the primary finisher for a long time. In fact, I tried to make her work as she’s great for this deck in theory, but after playtesting realized it was too slow and awkward in practice - if Hazoret the Fervent is too slow for this deck, she definitely is

A great card for the deck especially against Aggro decks. You could find space for him, depending on your meta.

An option over Unsummon if you are facing plenty of Aggro decks. My reasoning is that with 8 burn spells that can be used similarly, Unsummon is more versatile even versus Aggro, but shines especially against Midrange decks.


Lands



Our only dual lands, a mandatory inclusion.

We can usually ignore the life loss, even against Aggro as we hope to race them. The payoff is much higher when you close out games with this banned card. Only downside is that it doesn’t activate your Sulfur Falls early on.


The number of Islands and Mountains are pretty balanced, as the deck run 12 blue and 11 red mono sources. This matches the fact that you have 8 untapped blue and 7 untapped red sources for Soul-Scar Mage & Siren Stormtamer for your Turn 1 plays.
Further Optimization

You can consider cutting the 4th Unsummon as it is terrible vs. Control decks. Meanwhile, there is a case for adding the 20th land for consistency, although I have mana flooded far more with 19 lands than having been mana screwed. Remember that drawing 4-5 lands in a game is mana flooding for this deck. You really only need 3-4 lands in the first 5 turns of this game, and you can reliably drop 3 lands by turn 3 on the play (76.5%)2, excluding your fixing from Opt.

There could be an addition of the 4th Adeliz, the Cinder Wind as well, although I found hands to be quite clunky with it. 3 Adeliz & 2 Insult // Injury are optimal according to my play testing. Feel free to swap these around as you see fit depending on the meta.


Gameplan & Mulligan Guide


First and foremost, this is a Tempo Aggro deck. That means our game plan is simple - we always want to be taking initiative, be ahead in tempo and pose questions for our opponents to answer.

General Mulligan Rules
  • - Try to have both red and blue mana sources. You can take risks with only blue mana sources if you have Opt.
  • - Try to have a good mix of your core creatures and reactive cards.
  • - Although we should mulligan aggressively, don’t be greedy as it reduces your threat density and the deck only runs 19 lands!
  • - Always assume you are against an Aggro deck, as it is difficult to play from behind and lose tempo.
  • - There’s no such as thing as too many burn spells in hand.


High Priority Cards
Gameplan
Like any Aggro deck, try to push for damage while controlling the board with your spells. It is best to always swing with your Prowess creatures with untapped mana to have favourable combat trades. For example, you swing a Soul-Scar Mage into a 2/2 on Turn 2 with a Lightning Strike up. If he blocks, you can bolt his face and trade favourably, and if he doesn’t – you could bolt the creature anyway and smack for 2.

On The Play
This deck heavily favours starting on the play with the aggressive tempo that it has. You cannot do much on deciding whether you go first or not, but your mulligan decision can be influenced by this factor. My stats show a higher winrate on the play than on the draw, so make of it as you will.

On The Draw
Meanwhile, it advisable to look more for your 1 drop creatures and removals when on the draw to keep up with tempo. Often at times your 2 drops will be too slow as your opponents will either have tempo, or have an extra land up to counter/remove your creatures.

Tips
  • - Always know your outs as you will be in topdeck mode after Turn 5 onwards. Don’t forget to Scry with Riddleform.
  • - Envision how your hand will play out in the first 5 turns. Games are often decided by what happens then.
  • - Recognize the optimal time to use Opt such as before or after your draw phase, especially during the early game. Also, knowing when to save it during your opponent's turn to save your Prowess creatures or block with Riddleform can be crucial.
  • - Remember how the first one in, last one out stack triggers. Simply put, your opponent can Magma Spray/ Moment of Craving your Soul-Scar Mage in response to your Instants and kill it if you are not careful, but unable to do so if the order is reversed.
  • - Know how to spend your mana efficiently and tap colours accordingly. In general, I suggest using Full Control Mode.
  • - Your gameplan is always to try to outrace them, especially against Aggro decks. Use your life as a resource and learn to calculate lethal turn timers accordingly.
  • - Never be too greedy. You will need to understand the right balance between aggressiveness and overcommitting.


General Matchups


I will not go into specific matchups as the meta can be very diverse. However, I will provide a general breakdown of the strategies against the main archetypes.


Aggro – RDW, Merfolk, BW Vampires, Mono Green Stompy, GW Tokens, BW Knights, etc.
You will have a pretty decent match up against Aggro in general, as you are often faster in the face race. Don’t be afraid to use Unsummon aggressively to gain back your tempo and force them to react to you, especially when you are on the draw. Try to save your burn for face to race them as most Aggro decks might even outvalue you in terms of card advantage if you waste too many on their creatures. However, don’t hesitate to remove must-kill targets. Against most matchups, you have the speed and reach to close out games, but not the card advantage to sustain your creatures on the board.
Control - UW Approach, UW Control variants, UB Control, Grixis Control, Mono Black, etc.
Hardest match up by far as they run many of the problem cards. Try to lead strong but manage the pace as you will run out of gas pretty quickly. Siren Stormtamer and Riddleform are all-stars in this matchup. Always keep a blue mana up to protect your board with Siren Stormtamer. Looking for more burn is especially crucial against non-white decks. Try to identify their removals or counterspells and play around them. It is best to consistently threaten damage with just 2 creatures and close the game with a burst turn. Lastly, never ever overcommit your board.


Midrange – UW Historic, RG Dinos, BG Explore, BG/GW Midrange, UW Procession, Ramp etc.
You are a hunter, and these are your prey. Midrange decks in general are too slow to keep up with your tempo and do not have the tools that Control have to slow you down. Unsummon is key in bouncing Lyra Dawnbringer, Steel-Leaf Champions, Scarab Gods, and other slow bombs. Using your burn spells with Soul-Scar Mage helps manage the board effectively.
Combo – God Pharoah’s Gift variants, etc.
Pretty much the same gameplan as versus Aggro decks. Kill them while they are busy trying to assemble their combo to kill you.

Closing Thoughts


Piloting this deck isn’t always straightforward, and can be challenging and rewarding. Every play you make, and when you make them matters as it has a cascading effect on the rest of the game. Every point of damage counts as it determines your xx-lethal turn clock. As with anything, going through the motion of playing the deck and experience in the matchups will greatly improve your understanding on how to pilot it effectively. Lastly, with the inclusion of the full Standard format on the horizon, the benefits of cards like Shock, Bomat Courier, and Spirebluff Canal will outweight the loss of Ramunap Ruins being banned

Thanks for the read and feel free to leave comments on how you would further optimize the deck list or any further thoughts!

Do expect more interesting, off-meta brews from me in the near future!


You can find AmplexFatum on Twitter, Twitch and our Discord:


References


https://www.channelfireball.com/articles/wizards/
https://www.channelfireball.com/articles/how-many-lands-do-you-need-to-consistently-hit-your-land-drops/


Compleat

A Magic: The Gathering Arena content group. 

This website is not produced, endorsed, supported or afiliated with the Wizards of the Coast.

© Copyright 2018 Compleat - All rights reserved.