Hello everyone! As everyone knows, metagames are both very cyclical and tend to be a rock/paper/scissors dynamic. When Alchemy started, the metagame was flush with aggro decks and faster midrange decks to capitalize on the new metagame. Some time passes, then Blood on the Snow control picks up a lot of steam as it foils them well.
Finally we arrive to current Alchemy where control decks have come in to try to beat up on the aggro decks as well as the Blood on the Snow decks. This isn’t a huge surprise to me as I’ve personally been grinding with a Control deck in Bo1 for awhile, but the more I played it, the more it seemed that not much could beat the archetype. Sure there were versions of Control looking to beat up aggro and some looking to win in the mirror, but what could you play that wasn’t control to topple control? Going underneath them seemed very difficult as we’re flush with good interactive options, especially if you’re Azorius playing Divine Purge. Furthermore, it’s very rare that a midrange deck has a good Control matchup, especially in Bo1. Is there no strategy that can just inherently beat Control? That’s more or less where I was, until I learned about Izzet Mill.
I knew Izzet Mill existed, it was an archetype in Standard 2022 but it was one of the worst ones to play with an abysmally low win rate. I tried the deck a few times then and unsurprisingly, it felt very bad. However, one of our writers (Josh to be precise) was telling me that he kept facing the same Izzet Mill opponent and getting destroyed playing his Esper Control deck. That opponent was even rank 2 (it was early in the season but still)! Well, I figured it was a one off. Sure, maybe it beats a really slow Control deck, but it’s still not good. That was until, I saw more and more players picking it up.
On Twitter, more players were talking about the deck and their success with it. One of those players were kind enough to tag us, and I got to see what the hubbub was about.
I’m not going to lie, I was pretty confused. I figured there must be some new tech that was pushing this deck over the edge, but it looks like more or less all the same cards we already had access to. Sure the list looked a little different from how I remember it, but could it really play out that differently? Well as it turns out, yes! For starters, having a metagame that’s abundant with slow Control decks is a major boon for this strategy.
All their interaction means very little if we’re more or less completely circumventing it! Second, this version plays more interaction for creatures which the previous versions lacked to help us out there. Although we still weren’t amazing against the creature decks, being so strong versus control did feel like a fair tradeoff. After some playing and tuning, I arrived at a list very similar to the base TheChemist used.
To start off our curve, we have the lone creature in the deck: Ruin Crab. Ruin Crab does a lot of heavy lifting for us as it mills 3 cards per land as well as blocking smaller creatures. This deck tends to win by inches rather than miles, so having something early to start off the mill plan is a huge advantage for the deck. The other one mana spell in the deck is Fading Hope. Fading Hope has been seeing play in a multitude of Blue strategies and we aren’t going to be the exception. Bouncing a creature and then (more often than not) getting a scry out of the deal is extremely valuable when looking to sculpt our hand.
Next we move up to the crux of our curve which is dedicated mostly to our actual win condition. To that end, we have to start off with Galvanic Iteration. For those who have played enough Standard, they know just how powerful this card is in the right shell. Usually paired with Alrund's Epiphany, Galvanic performs a similar function here copying our mill spells for a combo kill. In the same vein, Dual Strike performs the same role, just a little bit worse at it as double Red can sometimes be a pain and no Flashback, but with the upside of being able to Foretell it.
Then we come across our first mill card of Maddening Cacophony. Glimpse the Unthinkable was always the gold standard for mill cards as 2 mana for 10 cards was pretty great. Cacophony only does 8 cards, but if you kick it, you get a Traumatize out of the deal instead! You don’t get to do this often, but it’s super sweet when you do! Finally, we come to one of the best Izzet cards ever printed, Expressive Iteration. Pretty much everyone knows how busted this card is already, but in a deck that the average card costs 2, it’s so much better than average. For our final 2 drop, it’s the overall innocuous Cathartic Pyre. This is far from exciting, but dealing 3 against creature decks or looting against Control decks is reasonable and will often be better than given credit for.
Finally, we move up to the 3 drops of the deck and where the curve ends (can’t say this deck isn’t efficient!) To start us off, we have our second win condition with Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Tasha’s is such an interesting mill card as it tracks the CMC it hits rather than an amount of cards, so against aggressive decks you could get a lot of hits but against slower decks you may only get 5+ cards. With that, it does make using this card feel like a bit of a gamble, but if it’s copied a bunch of times or you’ve already milled a good amount of cards, that risk is severely mitigated.
Then we have three more interactive spells, starting with Divide by Zero. This almost goes without saying, but if you’re playing Blue, 99% of the time you’re playing Divide by Zero. It’s just too strong of a card to not play as it can interact with spells, permanents, and net you a card in the process. Speaking of interacting with spells, we than have a singleton Saw it Coming just for the extra help in the interaction department. Finally, we end the deck with 2 Demon Bolt to have more interaction for larger creatures.
Overall, this deck has plenty of interaction to stall out the game and a pretty swift combo kill which makes it a real player in the Alchemy metagame.
NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS / POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS
You could play some creature lands in this hypothetically, but we aren’t attacking otherwise which makes them an awkward proposition. I don’t think it would be crazy to include them, but they don’t seem great either.
This does mill on hit and loot when they have enough cards in yard, but that’s honestly pretty weak, even for a one mana card.
Unless we have a Ruin Crab out early, we tend to not mill that many cards until we’re looking to combo, so definitely not great.
If you like Disruption enough, you definitely could play it.
The original list played a Test of Talents, and although I like this card in general, it doesn’t make as much sense in Bo1. Maybe they were respecting the mirror or wanted more Control hate, but it seems pretty unnecessary.
Could be another solid MDFC to find combo pieces, but this deck doesn’t have a particularly hard time doing that in the first place.
I’m a big fan of this card when you play a good amount of basics like this deck does. Could be a solid 1 of if you’re also a fan.
Abrade and Cathartic Pyre are basically interchangeable as it depends on what you care more about. Looting? Go Pyre. Killing Pyre of Heroes, Key to the Archive, and The Celestus? Abrade. I think the looting is a smidgen better, but they’re functionally the same power level.
Smoldering Egg isn’t the best in decks with no expensive instants or sorceries, but it is still excellent against aggro if you want more effects for that matchup.
Much easier to cast than Dual Strike, but you lose out on the Foretell value so probably not worth it.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Don’t be afraid to block with Ruin Crab! I wouldn’t chump aggressively, but you play an 0/3 for a reason!
- Use your interaction very aggressively in general. You’re a combo deck so living long enough to execute the combo is the highest priority.
- Remember that copy spells stack, not multiply. If you Galvanic Iteration and flash it back, you’ll get 3 copies of the next spell. This may be obvious, but I’ve run across players thinking it would be 4 copies.
- You do want to save your copy spells for the combo, but they’re also excellent with interaction! Double Demon Bolting on turn 3 is very punishing for aggressive decks!
- This is definitely far from a hard and fast rule, but against control I generally see my Tasha's Hideous Laughter as a mill 8-12 and against aggro as a mill 10-14. This can range wildly depending on what you hit, but knowing more or less what to expect from your Laughters can help determine when to combo off.
- Environmental Sciences is going to be your most common Lesson board grab as you need a lot for mana for your combo turn.
- If you have multiple mill pieces, you can just fire one off when you have the chance. You don’t need to wait until the very end of the game to do it.
Thank you for reading!