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Pteramander

Explorer Izzet Tempo Deck Guide: My List for the Mythic Qualifier Weekend

Today I am branching out a bit from my usual Limited content to create a guide for a decklist I am really excited about. Coming up a little short at the previous SNC Sealed qualifier has me hungry for more competitive magic, regardless of the format!

As a result, I have been binging on Explorer lately and was honestly surprised how much I like the format. There is a definite metagame in the Event queues on Arena, and I will outline that in this article. While we can expect some players to bring some creative lists to the qualifier, my deck here has been highly dominant in the current environment.

In this guide I will go over the overall deck, card sequencing, and matchups. I have not finalized a sideboard yet so that will have to be omitted initially. This is an excellent BO1 deck, however, and would be a good candidate for the upcoming Explorer Play-in event if you need to qualify. Let’s get into it!

The Deck

Izzet Tempo (Explorer)
by Compulsion
Buy on TCGplayer $461.62
Explorer
best of 1
0 mythic
25 rare
20 uncommon
15 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (12)
4
Pteramander
$1.00
4
Ledger Shredder
$99.96
Instants (23)
4
Opt
$1.00
3
Spell Pierce
$0.75
4
Dive Down
$1.00
4
Play with Fire
$11.16
4
Fading Hope
$3.16
4
Consider
$9.96
Sorceries (4)
4
Chart a Course
$1.96
Enchantments (4)
Lands (17)
3
Island
$0.75
4
Spirebluff Canal
$87.96
4
Steam Vents
$87.96
60 Cards
$387.18

While learning the format with a basic Mono Red Aggro build I became intrigued by Expressive Iteration and Ledger Shredder. Although, I will confess my primary inspiration goes all the way back to the first Mythic Championship which I suppose is fitting given the nature of this Arena-Pioneer format:

Blue Tempo (Autumn Burchett MC1)
by Compulsion
Buy on TCGplayer $102.48
Explorer
best of 1
0 mythic
8 rare
23 uncommon
29 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (17)
4
Pteramander
$1.00
4
Tempest Djinn
$1.40
Instants (18)
4
Opt
$1.00
3
Spell Pierce
$0.75
4
Dive Down
$1.00
1
Negate
$0.25
2
Essence Capture
$0.50
Sorceries (2)
1
Chart a Course
$0.49
Enchantments (4)
Lands (19)
19
Island
$4.75
60 Cards
$45.06

I thought Autumn’s deck was wonderful, and have a long history of playing Blue and UR tempo decks competitively. So I had the core of Pteramander, Curious Obsession, Opt, and Dive Down in the back of my mind while approaching Explorer recently.

I had also made a mental note during Midnight Hunt of the upgraded Shock (Play with Fire), Unsummon (Fading Hope), and Opt (Consider). These spells truly enable the deck, allowing it to get the absolute most out of its 12 creatures (and find them consistently).

Losing Expressive Iteration to the recent ban was a blow, but again I thought back to MC I and Chart a Course fills in quite well. Taken as a whole the spells here present a lot of utility and decisions to make, which makes both the ceiling and difficulty level of this deck very high. In the coming sections I will do my best to guide you in piloting it.

Deck Overview

Chart a Course Art by  James Ryman
Chart a Course Art by James Ryman

The plan is always to play and protect at least two of your creatures while disrupting your opponent. Pteramander has no trouble becoming a 5/5 flyer by turn 5, while both Ledger Shredder and Dreadhorde Arcanist generate insane card advantage and are threats in their own right. Shredder will often trigger on both turns and grow quickly while Arcanist can continually remove creatures and even deal direct damage via Play with Fire.

Ideally you start with Pteramander into Curious Obsession and hold up Dive Down or Spell Pierce from there. Slower starts are fine since you can start digging through your deck and remove early creatures to slow down your opponent. It may seem like 12 creatures is too few since you need them to win, but it is not unusual to see half your deck over the course of a game. You will even discard creatures in matchups where your opponent doesn’t threaten removal.

So let’s take a look at some matchups. In this section I will illustrate how to approach them and delve into the specifics of card sequencing.

Matchups

Mono Red Aggro

Red Deck Wins
by Compulsion
Buy on TCGplayer $175.89
Pioneer
best of 1
4 mythic
13 rare
20 uncommon
23 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (16)
4
Soul-Scar Mage
$9.16
Instants (8)
4
Play with Fire
$11.16
Sorceries (8)
Enchantments (4)
Lands (20)
11
Mountain
$2.75
4
Ramunap Ruins
$5.16
60 Cards
$177.52

Red decks are probably going to be popular for the qualifier since they are the easiest to pick up and play, but I don’t think they are very good in Explorer. Every deck in the format is reasonably fast and Red suffers from minimal card advantage and inconsistent draws.

At any rate this is a good matchup for Izzet. There are a lot of ways to trade cards and take over the game after their initial push. I tend to leave Pteramander in my hand if I see a mountain until I can play it and turn it into a 5/5 right away. Some RDW builds have been running Fanatical Firebrand and Goblin Chainwhirler as well which make things really tough for Pteramander.

Even on the draw though your 1/3 creatures are great 2-drops. They block well against their early drops and often prevent them from casting Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage early. If they let you untap with either of your 2-drops their life gets really hard. At 2/4 Ledger gets really annoying for your opponent, especially since they grow it more when they cast two spells on their turn.

Dreadhorde Arcanist doubles up Play with Fire, and I have been experimenting with extra Shock spells in the main deck because this synergy is so effective. Hitting draw spells for the card advantage is still great though since you can outpace RDW in the mid game.

Greasefang

Greasefang
by Compulsion
Buy on TCGplayer $899.2
Pioneer
best of 1
1 mythic
47 rare
5 uncommon
7 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (8)
4
Ledger Shredder
$99.96
Instants (17)
3
Opt
$0.75
3
Fatal Push
$11.97
2
Spell Pierce
$0.50
4
Consider
$9.96
Sorceries (6)
4
Thoughtseize
$87.96
Artifacts (5)
4
Parhelion II
$7.96
Lands (24)
2
Deserted Beach
$19.98
4
Watery Grave
$75.96
4
Godless Shrine
$63.96
60 Cards
$553

This is another good matchup which is nice because a lot of people are playing this deck. Their goal is always to get Parhelion II in the yard and cast Greasefang, which they can sometimes do very quickly and if you don’t have Fading Hope there isn’t much recourse. Luckily, it is far more common for them to spend a few turns setting up which generally ends up being too slow. Greasefang is a good deck and you can expect some close games, but Izzet is usually at least a turn or two faster.

Fatal Push is their best card against us, but a lot of their spells are pretty bad. Thoughtsieze only hurts when they find Fading Hope and gives us an extra shock on them. Their rapid fire draw spells give us time to develop a board and can boost our Ledger Shredders. A 5/5 Pteramander allows you to survive Parhelion too since you can block an Angel and take 9 at least once.

Since their removal is so limited you only need to keep one Dive Down in hand and discard Spell Pierce whenever possible since it doesn’t really hit anything meaningful. Because they have so many cards dedicated to setting up the combo, your board can snowball on them quickly by going creature ▶ creature on turns 2 and 3 or getting an early Curious Obsession going.

Angels

Angels
by Compulsion
Buy on TCGplayer $506.82
Pioneer
best of 1
7 mythic
38 rare
4 uncommon
11 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
60 Cards
$540.36

This deck has gotten really popular lately. In addition to this Collected Company version, I have seen mono White and Blue versions (with Clone effects). It is a decent archetype, but this is another good matchup for Izzet. It has good answers for everything and Angel decks typically have no removal besides Skyclave Apparition making an appearance in some builds.

Dreadhorde Arcanist is amazing in this matchup because they are so susceptible to Fading Hope and Play with Fire, which helps you remove pesky creatures like Righteous Valkyrie by double shocking them. This is another matchup which makes an argument for having a 5th Shock in the main deck.

In basically every matchup you want to play Arcanist before Ledger to maximize value. Playing Ledger turn 3 main phase and then attacking with Arcanist and copying your turn 1 spell triggers Ledger and leaves a land untapped to hold up Dive Down and/or Removal/Counter/Draw. Just these two creatures can easily win the game as you can continually slow down your opponent and generate card advantage.

Control Decks

Control
by Compulsion
Buy on TCGplayer $1090.39
Pioneer
best of 1
7 mythic
58 rare
7 uncommon
8 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (9)
Instants (21)
4
Fatal Push
$15.96
2
Dovin’s Veto
$7.98
2
Vanishing Verse
$5.58
4
Absorb
$9.96
2
Void Rend
$5.98
3
Memory Deluge
$4.47
Sorceries (5)
3
Thoughtseize
$65.97
2
Depopulate
$0.50
Enchantments (9)
4
Omen of the Sea
$1.00
2
Oath of Kaya
$0.70
3
Shark Typhoon
$38.97
Lands (36)
2
Island
$0.50
1
Plains
$0.25
1
Swamp
$0.25
3
Drowned Catacomb
$23.97
4
Glacial Fortress
$17.96
1
Field of Ruin
$0.35
1
Castle Vantress
$1.29
2
Deserted Beach
$19.98
2
Shipwreck Marsh
$10.98
4
Watery Grave
$75.96
2
Fetid Pools
$9.98
2
Godless Shrine
$31.98
80 Cards
$754.2

This is another very favorable matchup because we can get under and disrupt Esper very easily. Narset, Parter of Veils can be really annoying and it is important not to overextend into Depopulate, but I haven’t dropped any games to this archetype. Fading Hope is a good candidate to discard in this matchup, although it can be relevant against Shark Typhoon.

Play with Fire is happy to go to the face and make Arcanist more threatening. Dive Down is often devastating, especially when they try to bury something with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

Playing a Curious Obsession with Dive Down or Spell Pierce behind it is extremely effective in this matchup because playing two spells on one turn is impossible for them until at least turn 5 by which point you’ll have multiple threats.

Rakdos

There are two versions of this, Midrange and Anvil:

Rakdos Midrange
by Compulsion
Buy on TCGplayer $768.38
Pioneer
best of 1
8 mythic
39 rare
7 uncommon
6 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (5)
Instants (7)
4
Fatal Push
$15.96
1
Abrade
$0.25
2
Heartless Act
$0.70
Sorceries (5)
4
Thoughtseize
$87.96
Enchantments (5)
60 Cards
$646.68
Rakdos Anvil
by Compulsion
Buy on TCGplayer $330.54
Pioneer
best of 1
0 mythic
8 rare
20 uncommon
32 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (12)
4
Mayhem Devil
$13.96
Instants (12)
4
Fatal Push
$15.96
2
Village Rites
$0.98
2
Voltage Surge
$0.50
4
Deadly Dispute
$11.16
Sorceries (4)
Artifacts (12)
4
Witch’s Oven
$3.16
4
Oni-Cult Anvil
$1.00
Lands (20)
8
Mountain
$2.00
8
Swamp
$2.00
4
Blood Crypt
$79.96
60 Cards
$143.4

Anvil is the scarier of the two since it can maintain a high tempo and we don’t have a lot of tools for disrupting the engine. The key thing is to keep Mayhem Devil off the board. It is actually really difficult for them to attack without it since our 1/3’s stall their 1/1’s. Preventing those attacks adds a couple turns to the clock and allows card advantage to accumulate into the mid-late game. Once you have some big flyers they can race the engine. This is another matchup where Izzet tends to be a turn or two faster, but the clock can be pretty short if they curve out well.

The midrange Rakdos hasn’t seemed too troublesome, but Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is a card to be aware of. I always bounce or shock the first phase Goblin Shaman because allowing them to generate Treasure screws up our tempo advantage. It potentially creates a 1-for-2 since you will want to remove Kiki-Jiki as well, but it is necessary and Izzet has no problem making up the card and then some.

At this point it may seem like an ideal deck that has no bad matchups, but like everything else Izzet has a foil and it is the same color as kryptonite:

Green Decks

Green Rigging
by Compulsion
Buy on TCGplayer $610.93
Explorer
best of 1
15 mythic
38 rare
0 uncommon
7 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (24)
4
Gilded Goose
$11.16
4
Llanowar Elves
$1.56
4
Shakedown Heavy
$1.96
4
Rotting Regisaur
$17.96
2
Elder Gargaroth
$35.98
Sorceries (8)
4
Thoughtseize
$87.96
Artifacts (3)
3
The Great Henge
$224.97
Enchantments (4)
4
Fight Rigging
$3.96
Lands (21)
2
Forest
$0.50
1
Swamp
$0.25
4
Blooming Marsh
$47.96
4
Darkbore Pathway
$35.96
2
Deathcap Glade
$19.98
4
Overgrown Tomb
$67.96
60 Cards
$667.38

Above is the GB version that is a little more fancy, but even super basic Mono Green Stompy decks are very hard to beat. Bolting the bird against them can work, but if they curve out stuff like Old-Growth Troll it is trouble. The best bet is Dreadhorde Arcanist with multiple bounce spells to just keep setting them back. The matchup is certainly winnable but big early creatures are absolutely not what Izzet wants to deal with.

There are many more decks out there, but I need to draw the line somewhere. I am excited to see some creative, maybe even secret brews at the qualifier. I recently saw a pretty crazy self-mill deck that combined Song of Creation and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries with a bunch of 0 mana value cards. I am sure people are coming up with some nutty stuff. Honestly I thought about keeping this deck under wraps since it has been performing so well, but I wanted to share it with you all more. Before I conclude I would like to leave with you some general tips for piloting Izzet Tempo.

Strategery

  1. Opt and Consider (and to a lesser extent Chart a Course) are meant to be in your graveyard. After first turn you don’t really want to be casting them from your hand. This means if you see one of them when you cast a first turn Consider it should go into the graveyard. It also makes them great candidates to discard when Ledger Shredder connives. It will be tempting to connive away lands but it is often better to get counters on Shredder and get extra damage through. Casting Opt and Consider out of the graveyard with Dreadhorde Arcanist is perfectly fine, but your mana should be going toward more creatures and spells that impact the board.
  2. Always know where Pteramander is at and plan at least 1-2 turns ahead. Part of the reason you want to actively dump instants and sorceries into the yard is because Arcanist and Pteramander have some anti-synergy. It isn’t a big deal, but sometimes being short a single spell while looking to activate Pteramander leaves you a turn late and a mana short. Take the time to think ahead to the next 2 turns. Sometimes it is appropriate to cast Chart a Course in discard mode on purpose to set up a subsequent Pteramander activation.
  3. Don’t be afraid to aggressively search for the spells you need. Let’s say you untap with a Ledger Shredder on turn 3 and really need to find Playing with Fire or Fading Hope to deal with a threat. If you cast two Opt or Consider you end up digging through up to 5 cards, giving you very strong odds of finding and casting the answer. The same is true for finding creatures in matchups where opponents have a lot of removal.
  4. Curious Obsession is amazing any time. Early on playing this deck I found myself ignoring or even discarding this card later in the game, but this is a mistake. Unless your opponent deals with it instant speed it is always at least card neutral and often provides a tempo advantage if your opponent removes it awkwardly. This deck also doesn’t deal a huge amount of damage, so the +1/+1 is a welcome bonus to set up lethal that much earlier. I have been finding that some opponents will ignore Curious Obsession when it is played mid-late game and have to choose between removing a smaller creature enchanted with it or a 5/5 Pteramander, for example.

Good Luck!

I hope you found this guide helpful and if you decide to run the deck have fun with it! I am open to suggestions if you feel like the list could be tweaked or have an idea for other inclusions. The deck can be challenging to play but it is very satisfying. It has an abundance of utility and is dynamic in how it can be aggressive or more controlling depending on the matchup.

It does require careful planning and thoughtful lines of play to be optimized, but usually if you are caught flat-footed it is because you took a risk. It is fun to take these calculated risks and have space to modify your line of play based on the opponent at hand. Really, the only matchup that has made me feel pressed is Green, otherwise playing Izzet Tempo has made me feel in control. It provides the tools and challenges you to find those winning lines.

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MTG Arena Zone Premium
Compulsion
Compulsion

I have been playing MTG for 20 years and am an infinite drafter on Arena. I teach high school chemistry full time and have a two year old daughter.

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