Last week, I talked about Selesnya Tokens, a deck my teammate Tian Fa Mun played to the Top 4 of the World Magic Cup. Today I’ll analyze the third deck, Izzet Drakes, played by Mattia Basilico.
I’ve never liked Izzet Phoenix. It’s too inconsistent. It’s a great deck whenever you have 3+ Arclight Phoenix in your top 20 cards. If you don’t, it’s pretty weak. Izzet Drakes, on the other hand, behaves like a control deck that can turn the corner very quickly thanks to those huge Drakes.
In our testing, it had good matchups versus Selesnya Tokens and Jeskai Control, and was good post-sideboard against Boros Aggro thanks to the new technology: Raptor Hatchling. Against Golgari it is slightly unfavored, but we managed to go 2-1 against it at the World Magic Cup, and I’m very happy about that.
The list I’m discussing today isn’t the same 75 that we played at the World Magic Cup, because during the event we discovered how underwhelming the Search for Azcantas are, and wished they were Treasure Maps every single time.
Search for Azcanta is bad because you don’t need to bin your instants and sorceries to enlarge your Drakes—you’d rather cast them. Unless you’re mana screwed you would never bin an Opt if you have the mana to cast it, and the same can be said of Discovery and Chart a Course.
Mattia Basilico, 4th Place at World Magic Cup for Team Italy
While Spell Pierce is versatile and can counter March of the Multitudes and History of Benalia, the jig is up, and people play around the card accordingly. Drawing two might be devastating. For example, if you have a very large Drake that Selesnya Tokens needs to get rid of, they can safely tap their creatures and leave 2 up to play their Conclave Tribunal, playing around Spell Pierce but never around Dive Down. Dive Down plays well with the Treasure Map + Niv-Mizzet, Parun combo, which is the main way to win against the mirror, Jeskai, and Golgari.
After watching “Beena,” alias Yuuya Watanabe, playing Sarkhan, Fireblood in the sideboard of his Izzet Drakes at the MOCS Playoff this last weekend I decided it’s worth a try. I like Sarkhan against Jeskai and Izzet Drakes because when it comes into play your opponent isn’t likely to have a creature to attack it, and if it resolves it will be a mirror-breaking card.
Shock might be great if it hits Llanowar Elves on turn 1, but it’s a pretty bad card otherwise. In this matchup, when playing the Golgari side, I like to board out Llanowar Elves, so I love when my opponent draws their Shock that can only target my Jadelight Ranger and Merfolk Branchwalker.
I don’t like to sideboard in Ral, Izzet Viceroy because the Golgari board is usually filled up with small creatures and very often you can’t deploy a Ral. I’d stick to the plan of Drakes + Dive Down, which has only one downside: Detection Tower. Detection Tower is why we like to board in Disdainful Stroke and keep in Spell Pierce, because sometimes Dive Down isn’t good enough.
While the Niv-Mizzet + Treasure Map combo isn’t that bad here either, the plan in this matchup is much different than the one versus Golgari Midrange. Their late game is better and you need to kill them with your Drakes before they can fill the board with March of the Multitudes. While Dive Down is better than Spell Pierce in some scenarios, Spell Pierce is a little more versatile and they don’t have that much removal to justify keeping four Dive Down in.
Be aware of Citywide Bust and Settle the Wreckage and don’t play straight into them if you can.
This is a control mirror match. You want card advantage and to combo with Treasure Map + Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Spell Pierce is very easy to play around for a deck with so many cheap spells, and it’s only really good against Ral, Izzet Viceroy. Shock is only good against the version with Goblin Electromancer, which is basically extinct at this point.
vs. Jeskai Control
There are two versions of Jeskai Control. One plays no creatures in the main deck, but has some Lyra Dawnbringer and Niv-Mizzet, Parun in the sideboard. That version is the one I’m taking into account here. I keep in one Shock since it might just kill a planeswalker that needs to get rid of a creature or a permanent, and that might be a huge tempo swing. They can also board in Legion Warboss as it’s not that unreasonable.
Raptor Hatchling is huge! And while it might seem like a waste of four sideboard slots since it only comes in this matchup, it goes a long way toward fixing a bad matchup. This new sideboard tech that can turn the matchup upside down, especially paired with four copies of Dive Down.
Imagine your opponent attacking with Adanto Vanguard into your Raptor Hatchling. You block and play Dive Down on it, dealing 4 damage and making a 3/3 Dinosaur while still keeping your Hatchling around for the next combat.
And that’s it for Izzet Drakes, a deck that’s fun, challenging, and good!