Bo1 Standard Izzet Control Deck Guide: Izzet the Best Deck?
Hello everyone! Since I’ve been more on a Bo1 kick, I noticed I was facing, let’s say, a bit of Mono-White Aggro. Alright, maybe I’m facing like 50% Mono-White at certain points, but that’s Best of One for you! To combat that, I wondered what’s the best way to approach beating it while also not being too dedicated to just that matchup. Of course I would like to get the Mono-White matchup as good as I can, but any deck can if all you play is removal and wraths, however, how are you beating anything else then?
With that, I knew I needed a deck that had a good amount of interaction, but also a strong enough game plan that I can still win when my removal isn’t as good or even dead. My first thought was Izzet Turns as that deck can be good both against Mono-White and other decks in the metagame as well. Here’s my list for that.
This deck was definitely very solid (as it is a Tier 1 strategy), but for the amount of Mono-White I was facing I felt I could have teched even harder for it. On top of that, I was facing an influx of Azorius Control decks and that matchup felt near unwinnable for me as if I ever tried to combo they would just double counterspell and it was game over. I wanted something a bit more flexible and something more proactive as both of those elements should hypothetically help me out against Mono-White and Azorius.
After some tinkering, I finally came to the conclusion that Alrund's Epiphany isn’t where I wanted to be in a world of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Reidane, God of the Worthy, and counterspells. I was struggling around the high 90%s for awhile as I kept splitting games so I know I needed to change the list. If I could lean down, have better interaction, and better threats, where would I end up? With a lot of iterations of the deck, I believe I found the (current) best Izzet variant. Furthermore, just with this deck, I went from 97% all the way to rank 125 in the course of 15 or so games.
Many players believe that the most important part of Izzet are the answers it plays which seems reasonable considering that’s the foundation that the deck exists. However, I’ve found in testing that getting the interactive suite correct isn’t that challenging nor even that important since you’re likely to be close to having the right amount of answers regardless. The thing you really need to focus on is the threat count, and I believe my distribution is the way to go.
For starters, we’re playing 4 Smoldering Egg. Now I know a lot of players have been cutting Egg a lot, some even playing just 0-1, but I think that’s incorrect at a minimum in Best of One. This is by far your best turn 2 play and demands an answer within a few turns or it can take over the game. There’s always the argument that playing Smoldering Egg gives the opponent a target for removal, especially with decks like Mono-White where Portable Hole or Skyclave Apparition generally are whiffs. While that is a valid point, my counterpoint is that if they don’t kill this, they lose the game. Mono-White is simply not beating an Ashmouth Dragon and I can’t even tell you how many games I’ve won off the back of Egg into some removal. Even against the Control decks sometimes a turn 2 Egg can spell doom. Same with Mono-White, if they can’t find an answer relatively quickly they’re going to be facing down a 4/4 that can burn them badly out of nowhere. Maybe it’s just the current metagame, but definitely play 4 Smoldering Egg, your win rate will thank you.
The next threat up for us is Lier, Disciple of the Drowned. I hard missed on this card when it was previewed as it seemed too gimmicky for constructed play (great in EDH though!) I probably couldn’t have been more wrong as it’s been the foundation of not only the Dimir tempo decks, it’s absolutely insane here. Considering almost all our spells are extremely cheap, it’s really easy to play out Lier and be able to cast something else. Furthermore, you can also just run out Lier when you have 5 mana and you have the opponent play the fun game of kill my threat or immediately lose the game. If you’re facing Mono-White, it’s extremely rare that they can remove it as their only options would be Brutal Cathar (which they generally play 0-2 copies of) or Valorous Stance (which is a 0-1 of, but mostly 0). So against Mono-White specifically, this generally comes down, they can’t attack, and then they die. If we’re talking about other Control decks, if they can’t counter this on the way down, then all your spells are uncounterable which makes their interaction suite mostly dead. This card has been absolutely insane for me and the only real debate is whether I should play 3 or 4 copies. I’ve liked 3 as most decks can’t interact with it once it’s down so multiples suck, but it’s so powerful I want to draw a copy every game. I still think 3 is probably the right answer as you don’t need it to win, but I wouldn’t fault you for playing 4.
The final threat of the list (excluding Hall of Storm Giants since that’s more or less free) is the new hotness, Hullbreaker Horror. The appreciation for this card from preview to now has been really funny to me as it went from completely underappreciated to quite overhyped. I knew this card is very good, but I don’t think it’s Epiphany levels of unfair, it’s just a great threat. Nevertheless, having some Hullbreaker is good when the game goes really long and having top end for the slower decks is definitely powerful as well. Since we have so many cheap spells, we can make better use of it compared to most decks which makes it even better than it normally is. I opted for 2 copies as you never want this in your opener and I only wanted to play a few Unexpected Windfall so I figured I would draw this relatively often in games that went long.
As a quick shout out before I move to the interaction suite, we have The Celestus as a 2 of. There isn’t much to say except this card is awesome. It ramps, filters, gains some life, and has an activated ability! That’s a lot for 2 mana and playing it turn 3 is so nice, doubly so with a follow up 1 mana spell. You can’t play too many as it’s atrocious in multiples (although you can filter it away), so 2 seems good.
Now we move on to the interaction suite. First, you need a lot of lands for this deck to function, but not so many you’re flooding out. I’m sure this number is malleable, but 20 lands with 4 Spikefield Hazard and 3 Jwari Disruption has been my favorite split so far. Spikefield Hazard is excellent right now with all the Mono-White decks running around and Jwari Disruption has been surprisingly solid as well. I definitely wouldn’t cut any Spikefield, but I wouldn’t disagree with someone who wanted to shave some Jwari for lands, even though I’ve been liking it. For the rest of the 1 mana spells: we have 4 Fading Hope which is obviously great against the creature decks and has been absolutely back breaking for any threat worth more than 1 mana. 2 Wash Away which is mostly for the Blue mirrors, but still fine against anything as it’s Cancel at worst. Finally we have 2 Consider which has been fine as a means to smooth out draws, trigger Smoldering Egg / Ashmouth Dragon, and a great spell with Lier.
Next are the twos, and since we’re Izzet, we get to play Expressive Iteration. I’m sure I don’t have to explain that inclusion as the card is busted. Next, I wanted some creature removal to make Mono-White more sad, so I opted for a 2/2 split of Thundering Rebuke and Abrade. Realistically you can do any combination of these as you want depending on what matchups you’re prioritizing (Rebuke is better against bigger creatures and can hit Planeswalkers, Abrade is better against small creatures has can kill artifacts.)
Then we have our lone 3 drop interactive spell in Divide by Zero. Having Learn cards is really important in Best of One, but also having a psuedo counterspell that works with Lier is very potent as well. Finally, we have 2 Unexpected Windfall which I keep chipping away at since it’s the clunkiest card in the deck, but it’s excellent when it resolves so I’m not sure how many copies I should play.
All in all, the deck has been excellent for the meta, much better against Azorius compared to Turns (even though it’s still not an easy matchup) and absolutely dominates the Mono-White matchup.
POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS / NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS
I’m inching towards replacing Unexpected Windfall with one of these, and if you end up not liking it, I think either would be a good option.
I considered playing this as a 1 off, but we’re already good enough against Mono-White and I haven’t seen that much Epiphany to justify playing this.
This can be pretty sweet even without Alrund's Epiphany, but I couldn’t make room in the deck for it after some time.
Like Syncopate, I’ve never been big on Prismari and I feel like there aren’t enough artifacts to justify it’s inclusion right now.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Generally I won’t prioritize casting MDFCs over using them as lands, but if you have a good opportunity to use a Spikefield or Jwari with the risk of missing land 4+, I would use the spell. This deck can operate on a few lands and getting to the third land drop is generally the most important one against something like Mono-White. In slower matchups, then I would prioritize the lands.
- Always try to run out Smoldering Egg ASAP, even if something like a Luminarch Aspirant is on board. Getting those counters easily can easily propel you into a win.
- Fading Hope early and often, you don’t have to wait for a 3 drop to use it (even though that is technically the best time) as you just need some time to set up a winning board state.
- You are a Control deck and you don’t have many catchup mechanisms beyond Smoldering Egg and Lier, Disciple of the Drowned. Don’t get too cute with holding interaction as you may be run over later on. Stalling is an extremely viable tactic as most of the time you just need time to set up.
Overall don’t overthink playing this deck. Use removal often, use card draw when you can, and find a way to close out the game.
Thank you for reading!