By Thijs Weytens
I wanted to start this article the old fashioned way, with a decklist and an explanation of the card choices.
But after some deliberation and research, I discovered that the Izzet Guild is so deep right now that it would be cooler to make an article about the different strategies that are possible, how they are different, but a little bit the same, how they overlap with each other, and how they are possible in different playstyles.
Gentry is at its biggest right now, with 8 sets of cards at its disposal, and Izzet currently has a few themes going on, spanned over those 8 sets. The overarching themes are:
- Draw your second card in a turn. Improbable Alliance
- Prowess-style effects. Sprite Dragon
- Have a certain number of spells in your graveyard. Crackling Drake
So when building your Izzet decks right now, you have to be very weary about what strategy you want to use. Combining those 3 themes can be a recipe for disaster if you’re not paying attention.
Let’s say you have built a deck with 10 cycling cards for 1 mana. Improbable Alliance and Crackling Drake are going to be your best friends because you will be drawing a lot of cards and fueling up your graveyard, but Sprite Dragon is not gonna benefit from those because you don’t cast any spells.
Apart from those themes, there is also the question about how fast you want your deck to be:
- Aggro: Very lean and mean to the ground, with the cheapest spells and pay-offs available. (Opt, Crash Through, Sprite Dragon, Faerie Vandal)
- Control: Bigger spells to control the opposing board and win with a few big hitters (Flame Sweep, Scorching Dragonfire, Crackling Drake)
- Midrange: A mix of the 2 where you can be lean and mean vs the control decks, but have the tools available to withstand the early aggro decks (Improbable Alliance, Ominous Seas, Scorching Dragonfire)
With that out of the way, let’s jump in and have a deep dive into the 3 themes:
- Common: Opt; Crash Through; Radical Idea; Winged Words; Merchant of the Vale; Thrill of Possibility; Thirst for Meaning; 1-Mana cyclers (Boon of the Wish-Giver, Frostveil Ambush, Go For Blood, Footfall Crater, Startling Development); Cathartic Reunion; Fire Prophecy; Frantic Inventory; Hypothesizzle
- Uncommon: Crackling Drake; Chemister’s Insight; Glimpse of Freedom
- Rare/Mythic: Cavalier of Gales; Cavalier of Flames; Glint-Horn Buccaneer; Gadwick, the Wizened, The Royal Scions; Sea-Dasher Octopus; Shark Typhoon
Almost all of the pay-offs from this category are from Throne of Eldraine.
- Uncommon: Wee Dragonauts; Murmuring Mystic; Electrostatic Field; Spellgorger Weird; Saheeli, Sublime Artificer; Sprite Dragon; Riddleform; Heartfire Immolator; Goblin Wizardry
Most pay-off cards from this category are from Core set 2021, with its Prowess theme, and Guilds of Ravnica. There are no useful Izzet cards in Ravnica Allegiance because that set focussed on the other 5 guilds.
“Instants/Sorceries in your graveyard”
Cards that fit in almost all themes:
Generic good cards for this color combination:
Having this condensed list of cards to work with gives us the best tool to start a Lutri deck or a Brawl deck. Sadly, the companions where nerfed so hard that Lutri is now relegated to the dustbin, so I’m not gonna go that direction this time. However, let’s have a look at a few decklist that utilize one of the themes, or a combination of them.
Speed is the name of the game in this Aggro deck. You aim to get 1-2 threats on the battlefield and just start jamming spells. The term “Prowess” is loosely described here because technically not all of your threats have the exact Prowess keyword, but they might as well just have. (Sprite Dragon even has Super-Prowess!)
Take note that almost all the threats have flying, so this deck heavily leans on Shock and Lava Coil to control the ground. If you’re up against control, you can always discard said removal spells to Thrill of Possibility, Merchant of the Vale or Radical Idea. Heartfire Immolator can even pull double duty as a flexible removal spell, even for Planeswalkers.
Riddleform is a sweet combination of both a threat and an enabler, because it will trigger all your other threats. The same thing applies to Mizzium Tank, a card I’ve been wanting to put in decks ever since it got released.
Radical Idea and Satyr’s Cunning are well suited here, because you can replay them from the graveyard, thus getting a new “Prowess” trigger. Satyr’s Cunning in a vacuum is not the best card ever, but as a singleton, I believe it deserves its place in the deck.
I’m not the biggest fan of Merchant of the Vale, (I would kill for a Serum Visions or Sleight of Hand) but I’ve included 2 because it’s a cheap draw effect and I’ve already maxed out on the other ones. If you’re flooded, you will happily trade a land for a new card, while at the same time getting some Prowess triggers.
- Firemind’s Research: the only card that solely triggers on Instants and Sorceries and not on every non-creature spell. Still, it does trigger the other threats, being an enchantment and will sit in play for a while until you decide to pop all the counters and dome your opponent for 10.
- Mizzium Tank: As stated above, I really needed an excuse to put this card in a deck, and this one is the perfect home for it. Note that when you cast a second spell, it will get +1/+1 a second time (and become a creature again but that’s irrelevant) so it might as well have the Prowess keyword written on it.
- Stormwing Entity: The newest gift from M21. In Modern, this card can be cast as early as turn 2 with a Manamorphose, but in Gentry we have to settle for turn 3. I don’t expect to be casting this for 5 mana but when it happens you still get a real card out of the deal.
- Finale of Promise: This card is the only enabler in our rare slots, but getting 3 Prowess triggers out of 1 card is a good argument to include it. The reprinting of Crash Through opened up this card again, because before M21 there were not enough quality sorcery spells to ensure a balanced split to make this card consistent. This is also the main reason why I’m playing Lava Coil over Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor.
The strategy of this deck is to turbo-charge Faerie Vandal, Improbable Alliance and Pteramander. This Aggro version is made possible by the various Cycling cards from Ikoria, which give the deck access to 19 cards that cantrip for 1 mana.
The cycling cards are also real cards you can cast in the mid to late-game:
- Startling Development on an Adapted Pteramander turns it into a 9/9 flyer.
- Go For Blood can let your big Faerie Vandals and Pteramanders pick off smaller creatures
- Frostveil Ambush can give you the lead in a racing situation.
- Boon of the Wish-Giver is the one that’s mostly going to be cycled, because paying 6 at sorcery speed is not what this deck wants to do. Still, the option is there against the slower decks.
Having this many cantrips allowed me to go down to 18 land cards, which is about the lowest I would dare to go.
I’m only playing 3 Pteramander instead of 4 because I don’t want to draw my second copy in the first 4-5 turns. It does take a while to charge it up to optimal “2-mana 5/5”. This is in contrast to Improbable Alliance and Faerie Vandal, who are very good in multiples. Imagine the sweet curve of T2 Improbable Alliance into T3 Improbable Alliance + cantrip.
Faerie Vandal can also grow to big sizes very fast. Flash it in at the end of your opponent’s 2nd turn. In your turn 3, play a cantrip and pass. In their turn, play 2 cantrips. Then when your turn 4 starts, play another cantrip and attack with your 4/5!
You might think chances of having that many cantrips are slim, but remember the deck plays 17 of them.
You’ll notice that I chose to exclude Crackling Drake in this deck. I know it’s great with 2nd draw effects and can grow huge very fast thanks to all the cheap cycling spells. But in this deck, you want to spend all your turns with a combination of cantrips and other cheap spells. Tapping out for a 4-mana creature, while very strong, just does not fit this general strategy.
The suite of creatures and cantrips are complemented with some removal spells. All of the threats have flying, so some ground control is needed here.
Shock is the most versatile here, because it’s not completely dead against control decks. You can always hit them for 2. I also had 1 uncommon slot to spare for 1 Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor, which is essentially a Dreadbore in this deck.
The 3d removal spell is Fire Prophecy, which is perfect for killing medium-sized creatures, while triggering Faerie Vandal[c] and [c]Improbable Alliance. Pteramander does not fully benefit from Fire Prophecy because the discarded card goes back into your deck and not your graveyard.
The sideboard includes a sweet card in Lofty Denial. With 11 cheap flying creatures, this is a much better Mana Leak. The only reason why it’s not in the main deck is that the deck needs to be very lean to maximize its gameplan. Keeping 2 mana open is a very real cost, and I only would want to make that cost against control decks, where my removal spells get boarded out.
Also, should you ever encounter some sort of a mirror-match, don’t ever side this card in. All the cycling cards don’t get cast so you will be stuck with a useless counterspell in hand.
- Glint-Horn Buccaneer: 15 cards in the deck trigger it. And that’s not counting itself and Improbable Alliance’s activated ability. I’ve seen it put to good use in the Boros cycling deck and figured it might have a home here as well. Also, having 4 toughness is quite relevant because it doesn’t die to Scorching Dragonfire or Fire Prophecy. It’s also very good at blocking the ground and the ability triggers your 2nd draw effects.
To sum it up, this card has the perfect synergy in this deck.
- Irencrag Pyromancer: The perfect rare for a deck based around 2nd draw effects. It’s not going to be attacking very soon, but suddenly you get free Lightning Bolts stapled on your cantrips!
- Rielle, the Everwise: Just as Glint-Horn Buccaneer, Rielle has good synergy with all the cycling cards. She can also grow to a huge beater in a couple of turns, akin to Crackling Drake. I’ve explained why Crackling Drake is not in the deck, but Rielle does make the cut because she’s 1 mana cheaper.
- The Royal Scions: By now, you’re probably seeing a theme in the rares. They all cost 3 mana. I’m choosing to keep the curve of this deck very low, so I made the decision to not include any cards with a higher mana-cost than 3.
The Royal Scions is a very strong card on its own, but in comparison to the other 3 rares, it has the least synergy with the deck. The +1 for looting does help with your 2nd draw effects, but I’d rarely use the other +1 unless it was for getting my big Pteramander to trample through for lethal.
The -8 is something you can work towards, as the tokens from Improbable Alliance are very good at protecting the Royal Scions and you have some removal spells to keep most attackers at bay.
“Instants/sorceries in your graveyard”
This is a good example of how the cycling cards support both the 2nd draw theme and the graveyard theme. Not a single card in this deck demands that you actually cast your cards, they just need to find their way to the graveyard one way or another.
The 2nd draw version above was all about speed, where you wanted to combine your early turns with cheap threats and a cantrip here and there.
This deck looks to go a little slower in the early turns and I would describe it as Midrange. You’re looking to cycle away as many cards as you can, while keeping the aggro off with your removal spells. And then in the midgame you start playing your big beaters in the form of Crackling Drake, Invade the City or Rielle, the Everwise.
I’ll admit the decklist seems like a mess, with lots of 2-offs and 1-offs but this is the line-up that I’m most happy with at the moment. Having lots of cantrips allows you to find your silver bullet cards a little easier.
Crackling Drake is the centerpiece of this strategy, but 4 copies wasn’t enough so I added some additional threats with the same effect. Kinetic Augur is very similar to the Drake, especially because it also has evasion in the form of Trample. Not drawing a card but just filtering your draws is a big difference though.
Oddly enough, while Crackling Drake and Kinetic Augur are your most expensive threats, they are the ones you want to cast the earliest because their power scales up while the game progresses. Invade the City gets locked in as you cast it, and Pteramander isn’t really interesting until you have 6+ instants and sorceries in your graveyard.
We are playing a bit more removal spells here because we’re more pressed to keep the ground clear in the early turns. Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor scales up very nicely as the game progresses and Ral’s Outburst fuels your graveyard a bit more. Fire Prophecy could just as well be Scorching Dragonfire, but that’s just personal preference. I really like that you can cycle lands away in the late-game with Fire Prophecy. I know we’re only playing 19 lands here, but all the cycling cards make sure you do flood out more regularly.
The sideboard has more counterspells because we don’t mind getting more reactive in the sideboarded games. Sadly, Spell Pierce and Dispel are not in this format, so we only get Negate for protecting our threats. Even this format’s Dive Down costs 2 mana in Lazotep Plating. If you really want an efficient spell to protect your threats I would look at Miscast. But you would have to trim some uncommons to put that card in your sideboard.
- The Magic Mirror: The Magic Mirror seems best suited for this deck because you have a more midrange strategy. But I wouldn’t fault you for omitting it. Getting it online does take some work, because you have to get 5-6 instants/sorceries in your graveyard to cast a card that has no effect when it enters the battlefield. But when you’re in a grindfest, this card can really pull you through.
- Ral, Izzet Viceroy: Ral’s +1 fuels your graveyard a bit more while getting you some card advantage, and the -3 is a very good removal effect. The main downside here is not hitting Planeswalkers.
This is where you can see the shift in card design starting with War of the Spark. Most cards that were printed after that set could damage both creatures and Planeswalkers. But Ral was printed in a time before that, and can only damage creatures.
- Rielle, The Everwise: Just as with the 2nd Draw decklist, Rielle pulls double duty here as a big beater (albeit without evasion) and a form of card advantage.
- Teferi, Master of Time: This could very well just be Jace, Wielder of Mysteries or the Royal Scions. As long as you’re having an effect that helps fuel your graveyard. Teferi is the only one of the 3 that’s able to do some creature control with the -3 so that’s the one I went for.
“Draw 2” + “ Instants/sorceries in your graveyard”
The name of the game in this deck is the combination of Improbable Alliance and Crackling Drake. In order to maximize the power of Improbable Alliance I went for the suite of spells that can draw 2 cards on the opponent’s turn as well as my own. (Thrill of Possibility and Frantic Inventory). Coincidentally, Thrill of Possibility can discard more spells in the graveyard, which in turn will grow Crackling Drake[c].
You’ll note that I chose to omit cards like [c]Beacon Bolt and Radical Idea, because I don’t want to exile cards from my graveyard in order to maximize Frantic Inventory and Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor.
Goblin Electromancer makes an appearance here, 18 spells benefit from the cost reduction, so when you untap with it, you’re kinda playing at the speed of Modern.
Apart from the removal spells, Neutralize also finds his way into this deck. Most of the cards operate at instant speed so having access to a Counterspell is a good thing to have. And if you don’t need it, you can always cycle it away and trigger Improbable Alliance.
I consider this deck as Control. That’s why you will find more removal spells and a cost reducer in the form of Goblin Electromancer. You aim to control the board and block with the tokens from Improbable Alliance, while you dig for your finishers in the form of Crackling Drake and Niv-Mizzet.
Spelleater Wolverine is in the sideboard for the control matchups, where you want to trim some of your removal spells. Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor can hit planeswalker so you might want to keep those in.
- Commence the Endgame: Triggers Improbable Alliance on your opponent’s turn and provides at least a 2/2 surprise blocker. Also benefits from the cost reduction of Goblin Electromancer and is great in control matchups where it can’t be countered.
- Jace, Wielder of Mysteries: Draw a 2nd card and fuel your graveyard? Perfect fit for this deck. The ultimate also might just win you the game. Also, going to 5 loyalty is a lot so you might be able to protect Jace for multiple turns while you execute your strategy. Tokens from Improbable Alliance are excellent at blocking!
- Teferi, Master of Time: Just as with Jace, Teferi fuels both Crackling Drake through discarding spells and Improbable Alliance through drawing a 2nd card. Teferi is also better at protecting himself because you can +1 on your turn and phase something out on your opponent’s turn. Getting to the ultimate is also game winning!
- Niv-Mizzet, Parun: Remember when Niv-Mizzet was the best card in Standard? Good times right? While it’s being held down by Teferi, Time Raveler right now, it’s still a very strong card in Gentry. It doesn’t synergize with Crackling Drake, and that’s about the only negative thing I can say about it. If you’re untapping with Niv you’re in good shape! This is especially true when you have Goblin Electromancer on the field, because the plethora of draw spells allow you to keep churning and give you a finish akin to Modern Storm decks.
“2nd Draw + Prowess + Graveyard”
This deck wants you to do it all! Cast spells, draw cards and fuel up the graveyard. Every enabler here works toward one of those goals.
Casting all those spells while Murmuring Mystic or Firemind’s Research is on the battlefield will only advance your board even further. Note that Firemind’s Research is also excellent at enabling a 2nd draw. Oh, and Niv-Mizzet? I already said every broken thing about him in the deck above.
Finally, when you’ve cast enough spells, Pteramander becomes a 5/5 very easily. Speaking about that card, you’ll notice that there are only 2 copies here. That’s because this is NOT a deck that wants to run out Pteramander in the early turns. Unless you want it do die immediately. No, the key difference here is that you wait to cast it until you can Adapt it right away.
This is in big contrast to the 2nd draw deck, which runs 3 Pteramander and doesn’t mind running them out in the early turns to get some chip damage in.
This is also a control deck, but without counterspells this time. Flame Sweep makes an appearance here because all your creatures either have flying or can live through the 2 damage. This is supplemented with the suite of spot removal spells in Shock, Fire Prophecy and Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor.
Once again, Beacon Bolt and the various Escape and Jump-start cards are not included here, because you care about the size of the graveyard. Should Pteramander not be in this deck, then you can look at including those cards.
The sideboard here contains Hypothesizzle, while this card is quite expensive to cast I still wanted to include it because it’s one of the few cards out there that actually enables all of our pay-off cards. It’s a spell cast for Murmuring Mystic, 2 cards drawn for Improbable Alliance, and 2 spells in the graveyard for Pteramander!
All the rares are included in the previous decklists, so they need no explanation here.
I really recommend trying out one of the decks above, as I’ve included something for every play-style. So far I’ve only tried them all out for a couple of games, but I can already say they are a blast to play!
Thanks for reading, and good luck!