pie chart

Arclight Izzet - Decklist and In-Depth Primer

Modern U/R (Izzet)

molok


I've piloted this list to two 5-0 finishes in the MTGO competitive league.

Why Play this Deck:

Izzet Spells, or Izzet Phoenix, or Izzet Thing, or whatever it is called – takes advantage of some of the powerful new cards brought in by Guilds of Ravnica. Arclight Phoenix is a threat that can be recurred as early as Turn 2. Thing in the Ice   is an already powerful card that has seen success in the past and complements this playstyle very nicely. Finally, all the spells power up Bedlam Reveler, giving the deck some late-game staying power.

What makes the deck fun to play is that depending on your hand and the matchup, you can look like anywhere between Burn, Hollow One, Dredge, and Temur Delver. Players who enjoy those decks will likely enjoy this one as well.

Threats Package:

Arclight Phoenix and Thing in the Ice   do the heavy lifting and are largely self-explanatory.

The ideal play pattern is usually to play out your spells during first main phase, flip TiTi, then have the Phoenixes come back during combat step so they all attack together on an empty board. With a good hand, you’ll have opponents scooping before they’ve placed a third land!

Some notes for Thing in the Ice Show

Bedlam Reveler is a supplemental threat and refuel mechanism. I’ve seen several lists that run 4x Bedlam Reveler but personally I prefer 3 – it’s terrible to draw in multiples and you never want to see it in your opening hand. Also, it gets locked out very hard by graveyard hate and one of the first cards to be sideboarded out in many matchups.

Cantrip Package:

Serum Visions, Manamorphose, Thought Scour.

Visions allows you to keep low-land hands and dig for what you need. It’s preferable to Opt because we want to be playing at sorcery speed a lot of the time anyways to bring back Arclight Phoenix.

Manamorphose is extremely powerful and sets up some of the really unfair draws. Cycling it for a card is almost always wrong unless the situation is desperate. One choice that can be tricky (and actually cost you games) is picking incorrect colors when you still have some cards left to draw before you finish “going off.” Generally, red mana is more necessary than blue if you expect to play Faithless Looting that turn, as you may want it to fuel discarded Fiery Temper.

Thought Scour is just so-so but it fills a necessary role as a 1CMC spell that also can sometimes let you get lucky by milling Phoenix. I’ve seen lists run as few as 2, personally I prefer 3. This card is often trimmed in sideboard games.

If you have multiple cantrips available to play the same turn, play your “draw” effects before your “draw, then discard” effects to increase the odds of getting an extra Phoenix.

For example, the sequence Serum Visions (scry non-Phoenix cards to the bottom) -> Thought Scour -> Faithless Looting looks 8 cards deep into your library. If you’re looking for something other than a Phoenix (for example, an extra land) you may want to alter that order to play the Thought Scour first.

Flex Slot – Mission Briefing. Generally just a worse Snapcaster Mage, this is one deck where Mission Briefing can actually shine. Counting as an extra spell for Phoenix and possibly surveilling another into the bin along the way is quite an upside. However, it’s terrible to draw in multiples and I’d say the maximum a list should run is 2, more likely only 1.

Discard Package:

Faithless Looting, Izzet Charm, Chart a Course.

Faithless Looting is the best card in the deck and using it correctly will win (or lose) you many games.

It’s almost always incorrect to FL on Turn 1 unless you’re desperately digging for a land. Why? Additional draw steps to find Arclight Phoenix opens up for much more explosive turn 3 plays, which is the earliest reliable turn you can be returning Phoenixes and the basis for your best starts. There are only so many 1 CMC spells to cast to return the Phoenix on that turn, and you want to maximize your chances to make that happen.

Unlike decks such as Hollow One, we have very limited ways to use cards once they’re in the discard pile. Use FL to set up your powerful swing turns and you’ll be much happier with the results. Using FL too early can cause you to run out of gas if you’re discarding non-synergistic cards to it. We’re a low land count deck so the flashback mode can take many turns to become useful.

Izzet Charm has great flexibility with utility in every mode. However, 2CMC makes it much harder to chain it into a 3-spell turn unless you have Manamorphose. Personally I think 4x is too many to run, as multiples can easily clog up your hand, and I’ve been happiest playing 3 copies.

Chart a Course is divisive, and I’ve seen some decks that run a full 4 copies. The advantage is that it gives both good card selection, or even card advantage if you don’t need to discard and can play it after an attack. However, only discarding 1 card doesn’t facilitate your biggest swing turns as much, and at 2CMC it can easily rot in your hand for some time. I’d personally not want more than 2x copies.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy   Show

Burn Package:

Lightning Bolt, Fiery Temper, Abrade.

The Bolts are self-explanatory. I’ll add that playing any less than 4x Fiery Temper is a mistake, because even as burn to the face it’s great to turn your discards into extra resources.

I’ve been edging toward 1x Abrade in the main board as a flex slot. Much of the hate that people bring in is artifact based, and it’s very rare for a deck to be totally absent on targets for Abrade.

Notably, a glaring hole in the removal package is threats with >3 toughness. We’re dependent on TiTi to bounce them, or Phoenix to fly over. Harvest Pyre or Spite of Mogis are considerations, but both rely on the graveyard so much that they’re worse in sideboarded games (where we might be considering bringing them in). The deck is very soft to Tarmogoyf et al, but I’m not sure there is a great solution.

Mana Base:

We need a steady supply of red mana and having more than 1 Island in play is typically not desirable. (Incidentally, this is why Blood Moon has no place in this archetype- we want lots of duals in play). The fetches are tilted towards finding Mountains for this reason.

2x Steam Vents has felt generally right to me, as the blue requirements are quite light - excluding Mission Briefing - and taking less damage from the manabase is a perk, compared to 3x copies.

I’ve been playing a list with only 18 lands, and after some testing that seems like the correct number.

Whenever you play a discard effect, try to have 1 red mana source available in play just in case you draw into Fiery Temper.

Which Lands to Fetch? Show

Generally, how you go about winning the game.

Delver Mode: Get an Arclight Phoenix into play as quickly as possible (which can happen as early as Turn 2: Manamorphose, Looting, Discard Phoenix, cast any 1CMC spell, revive Phoenix) and chip away at them while using burn and Izzet Charm counters as disruption. Often this ends up in a racing scenario, which is favorable due to having 8 bolts and hasty threats.

Combo Mode: play Thing in the Ice   on Turn 2, flip it on T3/T4 along with a Phoenix to attack for 10-13 damage. Demands an immediate answer and quickly puts your opponent onto the back foot. The deck can, in theory, kill on Turn 3 but T4 is much more likely.

Grind Mode: not the preferred outcome but often where you end up against removal-heavy or midrange decks. Here is where Bedlam Reveler starts to shine. Often the game plan here is to save up for one big swing turn with several Phoenixes, or to chip away at them with burn to eke out lethal. The longer the game goes, the more Phoenixes you have in the bin, the more threatening that swing turn becomes.

And unfortunately, there is a fourth play pattern: Do-Nothing Mode. Your early draws do not hit a threat or it is quickly removed, and/or your hand is clunky and you’re unable to begin pressuring seriously until turn 5 or 6. Happily, TiTi is a great catch-up tool and this deck is not as all-in on the aggro plan as, for example, the mono-red version. But there is a certain fail-rate that you have to put up with.

Outcome #4 can somewhat be avoided with proper mulligan decisions. However, this deck does not mulligan well as you need a certain critical mass of spells to build velocity, put cards in the graveyard, and get your plan into motion.

One land hand with Serum Visions (plus ideally also a Phoenix): snap keep. The deck can play just fine off 2-3 lands for the first several turns, and your odds of hitting a second land with 1-2 spells to dig for it are quite good. (Note that this is more risky against decks with targeted discard when they're on the play - however the risk of missing your second land drop is usually worse than mulling into a terrible 6 or 5 and getting hit with Thoughtseize anyways.)

In general, land-heavy hands are to be avoided, unless there’s a Looting available to dump the chaff.

The worst possible hand: 3-4 lands, TiTi, Phoenix, Reveler, no spells. If the earliest you can possibly deploy a threat is Turn 4 then the hand is too slow and should likely be thrown back – especially because lacking early spells makes the Reveler-refuel grind plan impossible.

To make the deck work you need a threat plus enablers for that threat (discard effect for Phoenix, Manamorphose for TiTi). These can be cobbled together in a lot of different ways, and the deck sees a lot of cards, so as long as a hand has some cantrips to get the gas flowing then a hand is probably keepable. Going below 6 cards is a massive disadvantage so there’s some incentive to keep borderline hands.

The recent revitalization of Dredge has brought a lot of graveyard hate into sideboards, and you need to be prepared! Izzet has no good way to remove enchantments such as Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void, so you will play many sideboarded games where your main engine has been shut off.

There are two broad philosophies in dealing with hate cards. The first approach is to bring in stuff that removes their hate piece (for example, splashing green for Destructive Revelry). I think this is a bad idea because if they don’t draw the hate, or you get your answer too late, you’re likely to still lose or die with a removal spell rotting in your hand.

In my opinion, the best possible way to beat graveyard hate is one card: Crackling Drake. In matchups where your graveyard might be shut off as a resource, it’s a huge evasive threat and also refills your hand with much-needed gas. If I’m expecting Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace, I’ll trim 2-3 Bedlam Revelers for Drakes. They win many games.

Some broad rules of thumb:

  • Against Blood Moon decks, board out Mission Briefing.
  • Against anything white or black, trim or remove entirely the Bedlam Revelers for Drakes, as you may not have a graveyard to work with post-sideboard. Same for decks playing Bojuka Bog.
  • In fast matchups, sideboard out Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy.
  • Abrade comes in very often as a catch-all, as a lot of hate people play is artifact-based.
  • Alpine Moon is obviously for Tron, but can also act as a Stone Rain against Amulet Titan if you pick one of their bounce-lands.
  • Surgical is primarily for Storm, Dredge, or other graveyard decks. 1-2 copies can be okay against graveyard synergy lists like Mardu Pyro, but don’t overdo it.

Playing Through Graveyard Hate

So the opponent, after getting smashed on turn 4 in the first game, smugly lays down their hate piece in Game 2. Fear not, you still have a very good chance for a win.

Beating Rest in Peace / Leyline of the Void Show

Beating Relic of Progenitus / Nihil Spellbomb Show

Beating Surgical Extraction Show

Variations in the Arclight Izzet Sideboard Show

Highly Favorable Matchups:

Keep in mind that the sideboard guides here are suggestions only, as your opponent's list can easily vary from the "standard."

Amulet Titan Show

G/W Valuetown Show

Bogles Show

Ponza and other Blood Moon decks Show

Mardu Pyromancer Show

Slightly Favorable Matchups:

Storm

KCI

Dredge

Humans - if they get Thalia and you get few lands, it's a non-game. Otherwise the removal matches up very well against them.

Spirits - key card is Spell Queller. If you play around it effectively, you win. These games go much more grindy, as keeping them off a critical mass of spirits is key.

Hollow One - you cannot beat their best draws except with a fast flip on TiTi. However, TiTi destroys them if you land it. Post-sideboard, Hollow One players often bring in many more interactive cards and weaken their engine, which is actually good for you.

Even Matchups:

U/W Control: their removal is good against us and watch out for Detention Sphere on greedy Phoenix plays. Many UW pilots seem to over-sideboard, and RIP shuts off a lot of their card advantage (Snapcaster) while we can quite easily play around it with Crackling Drake.

Burn

GB Midrange (Jund, Rock, etc): Unless they have a hand with a lot of disruption, they can’t keep up with our threats. Crackling Drake is excellent out of the sideboard. Discarding Fiery Temper to Liliana is always amusing.

Infect

Living End

Unfavorable Matchups:

Death’s Shadow - Thing is very bad here. In theory it should be great for bouncing Anglers, but it always dies. Sideboarding out all TiTi for Crackling Drakes and trying to one-shot them may be the correct strategy.

Bridgevine

Tron

I've played a lot of games with the list above and I think it's quite good, but of course improvements are always possible.

Core of the Deck Show

Flex Slots Show

That being said, there are several other variants on the deck floating around out there. I'd even go so far as to say some of my card choices are eccentric and possibly incorrect (depending on the meta).

My jumping off point was the list played at an SCG Open, by Evart Moughon . As a counterpoint, there is another version nrecently played by Andrew Schneider for GP Atlanta .

Compare/Contrast with the Andrew Schneider version of Arclight Izzet Show

Regarding Adding Other Colors

How About Adding Black? Show

How About Adding Green? Show

But... what about Adding White? Show

Thank you for visiting and reading through my comments on this list. Expect this primer to continue evolving as i play more games and gain more experience. If you found this valuable or helpful, I'd welcome your comments or an upvote.

Suggestions

Updates Add

If there's any interest in reading them, I'll continue adding to sideboard guide and comments for each matchup.

I'm up over 100 matches played with this list in the MTGO Competitive Modern leagues with steady results. At some point I'll post data on the matchups I've played. Overall match win rate: 66%

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Compare to inventory
Date added 2 weeks
Last updated 6 days
Exclude colors G
Legality

This deck is Modern legal.

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 2.36
Tokeny Jace
Folders Modern, Modern, Uncategorized, 2.5 Modern Decks, Test Deck, Reference, Modern
Top rank #2 on 2018-11-10
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