Slinging Spells in Standard and Modern Izzet Tempo
- Marin Magda
Recent sets, such as Ikoria and Core Set 2021 impacted the metagames of multiple formats, but they also made way for some interesting non-meta strategies. One of the most prominent candidates is Izzet Spells, a tempo deck that can be easily tuned to become an aggro and/or even a budget deck.
Finally, now might be the time for Sprite Dragon to shine. With the right tools, it can easily outgrow most creatures, making for fun, explosive, tempo-oriented lists based in blue and red. Even though it came to us as part of Ikoria, the little Dragon did not perform especially well before the release of M21. It still was an undeniably awesome card that attracted a considerate amount of hype, but the right shell just wasn't there yet. In Modern, it had some success in pre-nerf Lurrus decks. In Standard, there were some attempts at Izzet Tempo, but they remained rather underwhelming.
The latest core set, however, gave us Stormwing Entity, a card that single-handedly put Izzet Tempo back onto the map. It has it all: a solid body for its (reduced) mana cost, a combination of flying and prowess, and an additional effect that's somewhat easy to overlook. When played for 2, the Elemental only requires you to pay a single blue mana, a huge boon for specifically Izzet, which runs lots of basic Islands and Mountains.
Standard Izzet Spells
This deck ideally looks to play a prowess beater early on and finish off the opponent before they get to stabilize or play any larger threat. As far as the Standard format goes, this might be the best archetype for Sprite Dragon. Haste is an especially big thing here, as it can hit not just hard, but also quickly. The card has an effect that strictly outpowers the prowess mechanic. At end of turn, these "improved prowess triggers" simply stay on in the form of +1/+1 counters. Soon enough, board wipes such as Shatter the Sky become the only way of dealing with a Dragon. Stormwing Entity, on the other side, isn't as fast and only has "regular" prowess, but it starts out as a bigger creature, making up for the lack of haste. Additionally, it lets you scry not one, but two cards, which is especially important in a deck that wants to chain spells.
The deck does not use the graveyard as a resource otherwise, so Frantic Inventory suddenly becomes a very attractive draw engine. Ally Warfield has put together a list that isn't particularly flashy but still a great choice for best-of-three matches. With just a bit more interaction, say, by adding Bonecrusher Giant, this can work well in best-of-one too. At the same time, when you take out the Borrowers, you've got yourself a nice budget Arena deck!
|Ally Warfield's Izzet Prowess|
Riddleform is a sleeper hit. It's yet another 3/3 flier, but its true power lies in being able to dodge board wipes. It helps you recover from those when your other creatures die and lets you scry as an added bonus. It's so good, it's part of pretty much every Standard Izzet list out there. This includes even more aggressive versions primarily made with best-of-one games in mind. For example this one:
|covertgoblue's Izzet Spells|
Izzet in Modern
Due to the format being nonrotating, it's unsurprising that Modern players usually first seek to improve an archetype that already used to perform well. Therefore, it is also not surprising that the only strong Modern deck with both Sprite Dragon and Stormwing Entity is Izzet Prowess. It is based on Monored Prowess, one of the cheapest Modern decks that also happens to be among the more powerful ones. The update simply adds the two new creatures and makes them synergistic with the old ones thanks to Of One Mind. This deck loves having good card draw, and if you can get this one to work, it is great. Adding a second color not only increases the amount of good, cheap prowess beaters, it also improves the quality of the sideboard by adding cheap counterspells.
The only other difference to the monored variants is the necessary inclusion of Mutagenic Growth, as well as the return of Gut Shot. Besides Manamorphose, you can use these two to call forth a turn two Stormwing Entity, one of the most attractive turn two plays there is for the deck. It's a rather simple, but very powerful formula that can help you breeze through online leagues and grab 5-0 records:
|SPIDERSPACE's Izzet Prowess, 5-0 at an Online League|
Bonus List: Grixis Tempo
Before the nerf of the companion mechanic, Lurrus was all over the place. The Dragon and the nightmarish Cat even helped Delver become a top-tier deck again, but then, there were just straight better ways of winning. The new Grixis Tempo still flies far under the radar. Taking this deck and surprising your opponents is highly recommended, even more so if you're facing lots of control opponents. A good friend of mine piloted his version to a Top 4 finish in an online tournament with close to a hundred players before the companion nerf and to another Top 8 after it. Here's the list — pre-Core Set 2021 — with which he did the latter:
|Siniša Onđoš's Grixis Delver, Top 8 at Modern Leaders #04 @ Magic Mage Masters|
I know, this is not an Izzet deck nor is it prowess-related, but it very much still is a spells-matter strategy. This is why I felt like including it, as it proves that Sprite Dragon and Of One Mind are powerful cards with applications in more than one deck. Here the latter synergizes greatly with Young Pyromancer, as it's a Human that creates non-Human tokens.
The rest of the deck just consists of more good stuff. Mishra's Bauble and Unearth were played in such strategies even before Lurrus. Now they more than justify the presence of the Cat in the main deck. If you can find a way to make its effect useful even without the companion mechanic, it is bound to do well.
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