The Title Isn’t Important, Izzet?

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It’s getting increasingly difficult, but I still feel like it’s necessary to preface these articles by letting you all know that you’ve stumbled midway into an ongoing series. Most of you know that, I’m sure, but wouldn’t I be remiss if I didn’t do this? I might not, I don’t actually know.

The point is, this is happening and you’re just going to have to sit there and take it. Part one was Orzhov and I introduced the series and its goals. Read it if you’re not sure why I keep talking about Wurmcoil Engine. Part two was Golgari, and while a few readers and I differ on whether we think Abrupt Decay is a likely reprint, we can agree that Eternal Witness will be in the deck because it’s already spoiled.  Part three was Simic, and while I love to play Simic decks, I acknowledge that the only two types of cards Simic gets are 1) cards you don’t want to play because they suck and 2) cards you don’t want to play because everyone wants to murder you in the face.

And Then There Was Blue-Red

Izzet is a bit of a different animal altogether. Izzet does a lot of things well, but it’s hard to know how the commander will be designed and built around. First, we should talk about the commander in case you didn’t catch the update to the spoiler I wrote. We have a card besides Eternal Witness spoiled, after all.

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Will every commander give experience counters? It’s hard to say. In the Simic article, as well as an older Simic article linked in that Simic article because I love my shotcalls nested like Matryoshka dolls, I said I liked Contagion Engine as a pickup. So did a lot of people, it would seem. Since the foil won’t be reprinted in one of these decks, the foil went insane. Previously a $5 card, foil Contagion Engines are up to $90 on TCGplayer and moving it would seem. Who’s paying more than $25 for a Foil Contagion Engine? Not me. Let things calm down and hold off on the foil until it comes back to reality. I wouldn’t touch the non-foil, since Golgari could run it to give -1/-1 counters and kill creatures and Simic could run it just for removal of any kind on top of a counter proliferation theme. Heck, any of the decks could conceivably have the Engine to proliferate experience counters. I’m not bullish like I was given the feeding frenzy, and if you got your copies weeks ago when I suggested it, sell into the hype most assuredly.

With that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about what Izzet is used to doing well and try and see if we can’t puzzle out what’s in store in the blue-red Commander 2015 deck.

Instants and Sorceries

There aren’t a ton of rare cards that aren’t total bulk rares that fit with this theme. There’s not a ton to really discuss here, but let’s rule a few things out.

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First of all, Snapcaster Mage would be a nice pipe dream and would certainly make the deck sell, but there’s not much chance of it getting reprinted in a Commander 2015 deck. I only mention it because while there was like a five-percent chance before, that has slid closer to zero percent with this announcement:

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We are getting a (small) number of Snapcaster Mages into the hands of players, but with such a limited printing, it’s hard to imagine this will affect the price one iota, and it may even backfire by pushing the price up, since a reprinting makes it less likely another reprinting method will go into effect any time soon.

One card I could see would nip its price in the bud.

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This seems like a reasonable card to print in the deck. It would bring the price down, would fit well with an instants and sorceries theme, and it does some of what Snapcaster does but not as well, meaning it is a good power level for a preconstructed deck. Dualcaster Mage was a very poor attempt at a card like this, and Abbot is playable in more formats, giving its price a little more upside.

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Despite a few obvious “buy this promo out on TCGplayer because there are seven copies listed and post mine at $100 to see what happens” attempts, this card could be a $10 promo someday. A reprint in the deck wouldn’t do much to the foil, and a few cards to build around it could make this deck choice more popular. I don’t expect this to be a commander, but I could see it in the 99, since Wizards tends to put a few other cards that could be a commander inside each deck. This is certainly on-theme with instants and sorceries.

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This is another card that could be a commander and could be wedged into the 99 if it’s sufficiently on-theme for how the deck is built. This is a bit of a complete build-around, but it rewards you for playing a lot of spells, and at instant speed to boot. I looked at a few Tibor and Lumia decklists to see if there were any slick cards to consider in them commonly.

If you’re not using EDHrec as a resource because you’re not interested in building EDH decks, you’re missing out on one of the best resources possible for an EDH financier. There is so much data here it’s breathtaking. Sure a given card could be good in a particular deck, but how many people are playing that card?

Here’s the data for Tibor and Lumia, and it’s worth analyzing along with me. There are quite a few goodies in here, and while I don’t expect a card like Basilisk Collar in a deck where Tibor and Lumia are not the commander, or even in one where they are, it’s one card that needs a reprint or it will continue to grow. Basilisk Collar is a very useful card in all kinds of decks and while more mana-intensive alternatives like Gorgon’s Flail and Quietus Spike exist, they’re not quite the same (though I would argue I prefer Quietus Spike in a lot of decks, especially if you plan to do any attacking).

All in all, there aren’t too terribly many cards that would be good candidates for the “Wurmcoil” slot built around the theme of instants and sorceries. Cards like Arcane Melee are shoo-in bulk rares, but so what? If this is the deck’s theme or one of them, expect a lot of the value to be tied up in a new card—and realize that Legacy could be significantly shaken up by this card, potentially.

The other Izzet-specific ability the wiki article references is “looting,” which is barely worth mentioning. Jace isn’t likely in here and that’s basically the only valuable looter, unless I’m missing something (which I’m almost certain to be).

The only other thing I could see blue and red teaming up to do could have to do with artifacts, and there isn’t much there, either.

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Hi guys! Reprint me!

Without a ton to go on, I think I will use the rest of my word count to talk about good blue and red cards that could fit the theme of some of the things these colors both do well separately, and cards that need a second look before the lists are spoiled.

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Cube has made this a $400 foil and made the non-foil worth having and Conspiracy packs well worth cracking. I was lucky this summer to be in Las Vegas for the Grand Prix and be the beneficiary of a lot of players dusting off boxes of Conspiracy and running drafts. Some drafts I paid into, some I drafted for free and gave back the cards, and all of them I had a blast.

Fayden’s future is pretty uncertain given how tricky he would be to reprint without making him legal in Standard, and while this deck would be a good venue, it doesn’t seem super likely unless every deck is getting a non-commander planeswalker. Kiora, Dack Fayden, Ajani Vengeant, Vraska, and Sorin? It’s possible, but not super likely. Besides, Dack Fayden is only one possibility, and Ral Zarek is quite another and might be a better fit for the deck.

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A lack of urgency on this price makes a reprinting not super likely and bound to be a little bit confusing. I don’t think Dack is a good inclusion and I don’t think Ral Zarek, while more reasonable on the basis of price, is a good fit, either. All in all, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a planeswalker.

While we’re spitballing, what would a new blue-red commander look like? If I had to guess, I would say you get an experience counter for casting three or more spells in a single turn and then for every experience counter you have, your spells cost one colorless mana less to cast. That’s boring, but Izzet tends to be a bit one-dimensional. Popular Commanders in Izzet are Nin, the Pain Artist, Melek, Izzet Paragon, and Tibor and Lumia, or not building Izzet decks when you can just add black and play Nekusar or something.

A lot of people seem to be clamoring for something artifact-related, since blue and red are the two biggest colors for artifacts and there hasn’t been a good artifact commander in those colors. Conceivably, you could accumulate experience counters by casting an artifact that costs five or more and then get a reduction on the casting cost of artifacts, but that seems a little boring, also. I personally would like a commander that got an experience counter if you cast a certain number of instants or sorceries then let you scry every one of your upkeeps equal to the number of experience counters you have, but that seems a little unlikely.

There just isn’t a lot to go on, here. Izzet is a tough color and almost always has help, so this will either be the weakest deck or it will be a cool, synergistic deck with a lot of clutch spells and bulk rares like Arcane Melee and Jace’s Sanctum that will make up the value of the deck with an expensive card sure to impact Legacy.

As far as a few cards I could see occupying the Wurmcoil slot, I don’t actually see any. I feel like the value will be in a new card, so instead, I want to talk about cheaper cards that nonetheless could use a reprinting and would be decent inclusions.

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A year ago, this would have been a totally reasonable inclusion. Could Wizards have slotted this in a long time ago, watched the price grow with trepidation, and thought “Welp, this is going to sell a shitload of copies”? Maybe, but I tend to doubt it. Should this be included in the deck, it would be a weird deck, indeed. Instead, I think there is a card in the same vein that’s more likely in the deck, though an alternative to it exists.

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Huh? Maybe?

It feels like I am grasping at straws. Izzet decks are very cheap to build on the whole, so even if I correctly guess the deck will contain Cloven Casting, so what? A bulk rare stayed a bulk rare and no one made money. The problem with Izzet is that Wizards will either have to reprint a very expensive card to justify the cost of the deck or will have to put something in that’s way off-theme. Some off-theme cards I’d like to see reprinted could be interesting.

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Given the proper outlet, the mana from this card can be a huge advantage. This is a $10 card from a terrible set, will be very hard to reprint in most products given its unique keyword ability, and it does something that’s unfair given the removal of the mana burn rule. This reminds me a lot of Black Market, and I’d like to see both cards reprinted.

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While a lot of the abilities on red and blue creatures are triggered (think Gelectrode or Guttersnipe) or simple tap abilities (Goblin Welder or also Gelectrode), some of them, like Nin, the Pain, Artist could benefit from a reduction in cost.

Izzet Difficult?

This was a frustrating article for me. While I encountered a few cards in the $7 to $12 range, all of them were even easier to rule out than the cards in this article, which all have a pretty tenuous rationale for their inclusion. Imagine which cards I cut!

I really feel like the Wizards team has their work cut out for them with this deck. Could Keranos be included, and would that force them to reprint half of the gods and not the other half? Could Scroll Rack or Omniscience or another ridiculous card be included rather than hoping a Legacy game-changer can take up the value? Why aren’t there any good creatures in Izzet decks?

The alternative explanation is that Izzet is a huge blind spot for me, and I missed something huge, significant, and obvious. I’ll admit to doing twice as much online research as other weeks and feeling like I have half the advice. I don’t know what to do beyond say, “Hey, I imagine a big new card in this deck,” because good Izzet decks are built with cantrips, cost-reducers, and spell-doublers, and all of those cards are super cheap. A commander that does all three will certainly be popular, and a card on Snapcaster Mage’s power level in Legacy will certainly move product. With the popularity of Commander, there is less pressure on Wizards to do this, but I think in order to justify MSRP on an Izzet deck, they’ll need to do something drastic. What will it be? My money’s on a new card rather than a reprinting of something above $15.

In case I did miss something obvious, school me in the comments. Which existing cards do you want to see in an Izzet deck? What did I miss? What would you like to see printed new? How could Izzet use experience counters? Leave it in the comments section. We’ll polish off Boros next week and hopefully be forewarned as spoilers trickle in.

As always, I will be handling spoiler coverage, and with my EDH experience, you can be sure you’ll get analysis from someone who cares about the format. Until next week!

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11 thoughts on “The Title Isn’t Important, Izzet?”

  1. All this mention of Izzet commanders and nothing about Jhoira? She is pretty polarizing but suspend is enough of a izzet thing that there could be some deck around it. Off the top of my head, I don’t know of any other colors that positively interact with suspend. Due to it being a design space they don’t wish to bring back in STD, I think maybe it might be over looked as a possibility in commander.

    1. Jhoira is a weird card. She is a great Commander but she also doesn’t play well with anything else izzet does. How could they build a precon with her in the 99?

  2. Another option for filling up the value of these decks would be to include the enemy fetchlands in them. That would lower prices, while also ensuring sales even if the other cards are all bulk.

    1. The enemy fetches can sell an entire block by themselves. I don’t see WotC jamming them in supplementary product when there are much better ways to make the deck worth buying without having 300% of MSRP tied up in one card and making the rest of the deck bulk rares

  3. Any consideration on the ISD block cards? Gisela? Thundermaw? Not sure what else is out there, but it seems to me the demand for these commander decks in going to be fairly low in comparison with the supplementary sets that have come out in the most recent 2 year period.

      1. I wrote Time Spiral in the piece this week before Danny Brown caught it in editing. I always forget about the Reserved list.

  4. hey jason!

    i’m a big fan of all your mtg doings. love the pod-casting and the articles. thanks for all the great content.

    i just wanted to add that i believe foil Dack Fayden’s price, while definitely impacted by cube, is also influenced by vintage. he’s a house in vintage, and while that’s kind of a niche market these days, i think being a foil mythic planeswalker from a small unopened set allows the effect vintage might have to be much more pronounced.

    thanks again

    1. That’s an excellent point. Even relatively-abundant Vintage foil cards can command a high price and any modicum of adoption in a pimp format can really drive demand. You’re going to lay an English, non-foil Dack next to a Black-bordered Lotus? No, you’re not.

  5. 1) U/R artifact theme seems almost impossible given its recent (and really heavy) emphasis in Origins. 2) That leaves us with ‘Instants and Sorceries Matter’ which is *extremely well-trod ground* by now. That leaves: PROWESS. MaRo has explained how Prowess is their ‘breakthrough’ mechanic for U/R and they are already leaning heavily on it. I definitely expect a Prowess general (and Prowess-themed deck) and yeah, I would certainly expect to see an Abbott reprint. Annnd, actually… I would also like to see a return of Spell Mastery mechanic for this deck. Those were pretty cool–you could make some pretty potent effects since these aren’t destined for Standard. How bout a Spell Mastery FoW or Mana Drain? 😀 *swoon*

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