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Alrund's Epiphany Art by Kieran Yanner

Explorer Izzet Turns Deck Guide: The Combo Control of the Format

This guide contains everything you need to know to be an excellent Explorer Izzet Turns player in Magic: The Gathering.

In last year’s Standard format, there was one menacing deck that got two cards banned from it at the beginning of this year – UR Taking Turns. The deck utilised Galvanic Iteration and Alrund's Epiphany to take 2 to 6 turns and basically win on the spot.

As cited by the announcement, spells which allow you to take extra turns are primarily predators for midrange decks as they do not typically interact on the stack. Alrund's Epiphany in particular with its Foretell ability can dodge interaction in the form of discard. In addition, they can negatively affect game play as it leads to repetitive actions and usually one player waiting until the other is done – similar to Modern’s Krark-Clan Ironworks ban.

One may ask why there is no such deck in Pioneer when you’ve got all the pieces. The answer is simple – Temporal Trespass. There is no use in playing a 7-mana Time Warp effect when you can do it for just 3. However, as I went down the rabbit hole of analysing the old Izzet Turns deck, I had an epiphany: What is a format that does not have Trespass, but still has access to all the powerful pieces played in the Standard version? Explorer! So after a few hours of pondering, deck tweaking, and playing the deck, this is the decklist I am currently at:

(E) Izzet Turns
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $150.14
best of 3
5 mythic
25 rare
16 uncommon
14 common
Creatures (1)
Instants (24)
Fire Prophecy
Divide by Zero
Big Score
Sorceries (12)
Sweltering Suns
Lands (23)
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents
60 Cards
15 Cards

Deck Tech

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. The deck revolves around its combo-esque top end finisher in the form of copying Alrund's Epiphany with Galvanic Iteration. In practice, you’ll Foretell the Epiphany at some point, often turn 2, and once you’ve accumulated 8 mana you cast Iteration into Epiphany. It results in you getting 4 flying birds and taking the next two turns. From that point, you’d preferably have something to do on the next turn to set up for the second, last additional turn. An example of such set-up would be digging further for more Time Warp effects to never actually let your opponent make another move. If you find another Epiphany, you can use the flashback on Iteration to have two more turns. At that point, the game has to be over. You’ll close it by attacking with the Birds and/or Hall of Storm Giants.

I classify this deck as combo control as it does not try to race to the finish line. On the contrary, it prolongs the game to the point when the deck can close easily. The difference between it and classic control is that once that window opens, the game will end then and there, not giving the opponent a chance to draw out of it.

I play a ton of removal to make sure I can mitigate early pressure. Five pieces of single target removal and four mass removal spells make sure that I don’t get stomped by a flurry of small hasty creatures. Eight main deck counterspells help against other control decks, planeswalkers or push through our win condition later. Divide by Zero requires a bit more attention as its effect is quite unique. First, it bounces a spell off the stack or a permanent off the battlefield which already speaks to its flexibility. In addition, the Learn ability allows us to loot through unwanted cards or take a Lesson from the board. Bear in mind that it cannot bounce a token!

Earlier I mentioned getting to 8 mana, but making so many land drops is a tall order. In order to help with that I present to you, Big Score. It used to be Unexpected Windfall, but a better, less color restrictive version was printed. The two Treasures it makes make it so much easier to go off earlier. The best situation is you Big Score turn 5, untap turn 6, play a land and can immediately go off. If you cast Big Score on turn 6, you can even discard Galvanic Iteration to then just use the flashback on turn 7.

What I love about the deck is its flexibility and it was built with that in mind. Some spells can be played as lands, six spells can by cycled if unneeded, Fire Prophecy lets us filter through cards as does Divide by Zero, and Big Score lets us pitch unwanted cards. At no point do we really have a wrong half problem – something that interactive decks struggle with usually.

Last but not least – the tricks with Galvanic Iteration. While of course it’s our combo piece, it also acts as utility. A Snapcaster Mage of sorts.

One fun case when it came up – I cast Iteration and then Anger of the Gods to effectively wipe the board.

You can find yourself copying Expressive Iteration in the late game, Divide by Zero for multiple counterspells or when you want to counter one thing and bounce another, or copying Big Score to draw 4 and get 4 Treasures. In the late game when you’re running out of gas, a flashback Iteration can make your top deck twice as good.

Note – if you want to make the deck more combo focused, feel free to add the fourth Galvanic Iteration.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Malevolent Hermit Art by Daarken
Malevolent Hermit Art by Daarken

Rakdos Midrange

+2 Soul-Guide Lantern-1 Abrade
-1 Spikefield Hazard

They are very interactive against creatures which we don’t play (beyond the 1 of Lier, Disciple of the Drowned of course). We blank a ton of their cards in this match-up so we only need to make sure not to die to average creature beatdown.

Azorius Control

+2 Malevolent Hermit-2 Anger of the Gods
+3 Mystical Dispute-1 Abrade
-2 Fire Prophecy

We load up on countermagic. While theoretically we cannot side out all the removal, it’s not a problem as they play Shark Typhoon anyway. On top of that, leaving in Sweltering Suns is not a big issue as it has cycling.

In this matchup, remember to take full advantage of Galvanic Iteration as a card advantage spell, for example, by casting it before Big Score, forcing them to have two counters. Then you can untap and play Lier or Epiphany.

Mono Red Aggro

+3 Redcap Melee-1 Lier, Disciple of the Drowned
-2 Alrund's Epiphany

You are a full-on control deck here with the occasional extra turns kill. Your card advantage generated by Expressive Iteration and Galvanic Iteration will lead you to victory. If you want to, you can play some number of Smoldering Egg in the board for this match up as an additional threat and early blocker. If you see them play more small creatures like Foundry Street Denizen, you can board in Cinderclasm.

Mono Blue Spirits

+1 Cinderclasm-1 Lier, Disciple of the Drowned
+3 Mystical Dispute-1 Alrund's Epiphany
-2 Big Score

Again, you’re playing control. Due to them being an aggro deck with countermagic, you don’t want to lean too heavily on the combo. If your sideboard is more hateful against this deck, feel free to trim even more of the combo pieces such as Big Score. A single resolved mass removal spell should be lights out. They might not expect quadruple wrath effect main deck.


+3 Soul-Guide Lantern-2 Sweltering Suns
-1 Spikefield Hazard

With your five copies of 3 damage spells instant speed, it’s relatively easy to kill all of the Greasefang, Okiba Boss. Post-board Lanterns help out a lot in making them unable to recur the Fangs with a potential Can’t Stay Away or the vehicles themselves.

As they usually play no countermagic, you can ensure that once everything is under control, you can easily go off. Anger of the Gods can be useful thanks to the exile clause, but mass removal which does not get rid of Angel tokens isn’t stellar.

Tips and Tricks

Galvanic Iteration Art by Johann Boldin
Galvanic Iteration Art by Johann Boldin

First let’s start off with Galvanic Iteration tips:

  • If you’ve resolved multiple Iterations, the spell after will be copied once for every Iteration that has been cast e.g. if you’ve cast Iteration and then its flashback, the next spell is going to be copied twice.
  • If you copy a spell with modes (no such spells in this version, but you could play one), the modes are copied and cannot be changed. 
  • If you copy a spell with an X in the cost, the spell is copied with the same X.
  • If you copy a spell with additional costs such as Big Score, the copy will not force you to pay that cost again.
  • Even if your opponent counters the spell you wanted to copy, it is still copied. In other words, the spell that triggers Iteration is seen by the Iteration.
  • You can play MDFCs off of Expressive Iteration’s exile such as Spikefield Hazard or Jwari Disruption.

More tips:

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Also known as Skura or IslandsInFront on Twitter and YouTube, Filip started his career upon the release of Gatecrash and has been passing the turn in all formats ever since. He coaches and creates written and video content, mainly centered around the control archetype. He is passionate about Magic game theory and countering spells. Outside of Magic, he is a fan of snooker/pool, chess and Project Management.

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