Friday, 25 September 2015

Top 10 Izzet Cards

Prophetic Bolt
After having done Golgari, a guild chock full of golden goodies I am moving to the far end of the spectrum to Izzet, a guild which has historically had a threadbare selection of gold cards. Despite the deficit of gold options Izzet is a powerful and diverse colour pairing with combo, agro and control options all available. The age of the cards on the list is much less than the average on most of the other lists as would be the average power rating of the cards. Some of the list have never even had a permanent cube slot and have only seen very occasional play when specifically picked out for some reason such as nostalgia, quirkyness or just plain old variation. I thought long and hard about how to actually present this list as I can't sensibly extend it beyond the top five. There really just are not that many Izzet cards that deserve to be in a cube. There are some interesting cards that are way too niche and some nice rounded cards that are too aimless and pricey. From these you can pick and chose as you like to make up the numbers but in reality there are only about ten Izzet cards that have seen cube play two or more times and of those only five that are into the double figures. Compare that to a sac land which will likely get play most cubes and has a play count in the thousands.

Frenetic EfreetC cube

Steam Augry
Jhoira of the Ghitu
Nivmagus Elemental
Wee Dragonauts
Mystic Retrieval
Nivix Cyclops
Frenetic Efreet
Izzet Staticaster
Nin, the Pain Artist
Cerebral Vortex
Epic Experiment
Hypersonic Dragon
Spellheart Chimera
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

B cube

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
Desperate Ravings
Frostburn Wierd
Prophetic Bolt
Keranos, God of the Storms

8. Ral Zarek
7. Goblin Electromancer
6. Jilt
5. Izzet Charm
4. Desolate Lighthouse
Fire // Ice

A cube

3. Dack Fayden
2. Electrolyse
1. Fire / Ice

1. Fire / Ice

Having bibbled on about how poor Izzet gold cards are we can at least start proceedings with a top power staple. Fire / Ice is about as good a filler card as you can hope for. It does so very much for a price that does not reflect the versatility of the card. If you look at most charm style cards you can expect to pay slightly over the going rate for your effect, Izzet Charm for example is essentially Careful Study, Spell Pierce or Shock but each at two mana as opposed to the going rate of one. Fire / Ice is also far less restrictive than most of the charm style abilities with each half of the card offering way more than one application. Fire / Ice is so strong you can wind up playing it without access to one of the colours. I have certainly played tournaments with a full suite of Fire / Ice and no red mana sources in my deck. People think Counterspell is the ultimate control card, they are wrong, Fire / Ice is clearly the superior technology. It is one of the easiest and cheapest two for one cards going. It is also one of the least dead cards for any given situation resulting in a card that I will never leave out of an Izzet deck should I have the option to play it.

2. Electrolyse

Electrolyse is presently the second most popular Izzet card and by quite a margin as well. Despite this it is a far cry from Fire Ice. Electrolyse is all round harder to cast than Fire / Ice. It does almost always gets a two for one and can even get a three for one however the two for ones that it gets are usually just killing of a utility Grey Ogre. Losing the tap option also wildly decreases the utility of Electrolyse compared to Fire / Ice as well. It is unfair to hold a card up to such high standards, in its own right Electrolyse is a powerful spell you can play in most decks fairly comfortably. It is the fact that it is both instant and a two for one that makes you more than happy to pay three mana for a spell with relatively low impact. Damage and card draw are always useful things.

Dack Fayden

3. Dack Fayden

Up next is an interesting little fellow and our newest entry. Prior to the release of Khans block Dack was quite niche, he was played as an out to artifacts or in decks with strong graveyard synergies. Recently the extreme way Dack fuels your delve spells has upped his playability significantly. He is a double looter with haste that can also Control Artifact. Both his - abilities are somewhat situational and so he is one of the few planeswalkers that doesn't in some way become a threat if he sticks around too long. When you are seeing 3 cards a turn and gaining two mana per turn for delve cards however you don't really need Dack to be a threat to takedown games.

Desolate Lighthouse4. Desolate Lighthouse

A long step down is needed to get to our next card on the list. So desperate do we find ourselves for strong cards the number four Izzet card is neither gold nor a spell. Desolate Lighthouse is an outstanding card that offers a lot of free value to a wide array of archetypes. Cards that double up as one thing early game and another late are generally very strong, especially when one of those things is always useful i.e. lands. Anything you get to usefully spend mana on later in the game for free (or just the cost of not having a coloured mana earlier at some point) will give you a vastly improved late game. Games of top deck where one person has a Lighthouse active are not that closely run contests. Sadly Lighthouse, despite getting a really powerful early run in the cube, is now seeing a huge fall off in power and playability. You can only have so many colourless lands in a deck before they become overly damaging and the alternatives are typically more powerful. Lighthouse is a marginal, costly and super late game effect which makes it more of a luxury than anything else. It is too expensive to be using as a main part of some synergy and may even get edged out of discard decks because you have sufficient outlets in your Faithless Looting, looter Jace, Looter il-Kor and Dack Fayden etc to not need it at all. I like the card a lot but when push comes to shove I tend to find I want to play Rishadan Port, Wastelands, Myriad Landscape or Temple of the False God instead.

Izzet Charm5. Izzet Charm

Izzet Charm is a cute card that offers a lot of handy little effects covering a broad spectrum. It is never overpowered but it is also never dead. If your deck needs to get more breathing room this is a great little support filler card. It is one of the better Return to Ravnica Charms but certainly not the best or most played, the fact that it is the highest rated is just the result of Izzet being so light on choices. You can Shock a guy, Careful Study or Spell Pierce, all one mana effects that you can stomach paying two for because it is instant and offers so much versatility. It is easy to misplay with Izzet Charm, I find I intuitively want to hold it over say another burn spell or counterspell when I have two options on what to do based on it's future potential utility. This is usually wrong, lots of creatures are too big to Shock and lots of times people have spare mana to avoid getting Pierced. Izzet Charm is individually quite situational and is best to use sooner than is often intuitive. The Careful Study option is generally a last ditch solution that you don't want to resort to because of the card disadvantage.

Jilt6. Jilt

Good old Jilt, a true limited players card. Not strictly a gold card but then neither is Fire / Ice or Desolate Lighthouse... Jilt is cheap, versatile and reasonably powerful. It is like a weak cross between Fire / Ice and Electrolyse. I significantly prefer Send to Sleep as a card in this role and find Jilt to be a little gold and a little situational for me to include it in the cube despite it being a viable candidate.

7. Goblin Electromancer

Goblin Electromancer is a cute card that doesn't really offer enough to a non-combo deck to merit inclusion. As such he is too niche for a main slot in the cube and sits in the ranks with Sapphire Medallion, Helm of Awakening and Sunscape Familiar. When you want the cost reduction most the body makes him overly vulnerable and when you want a threat with some value a 2/2 for two does not get the juices flowing. Mana reductions are always powerful, the more so on cheap cards like this. He is very powerful indeed but you don't want him that often and when you do a gold 2/2 is rather the drawback.

Goblin Electromancer
8. Ral Zarek

Ral Zarek is like a weak Ajani Vengeant, a bit more loyalty but at the cost of weaker abilities. It is very hard to get use from both the tap and the untap on the +1 although having both does grant Ral some bonus utility over Vengant. Not being able to use it to defend himself however makes Ral hard to safely play which is one of the main things you look for in good planeswalkers. Sure you can lay him and bolt a threat down but then you have a two loyalty planeswalker that almost anything else will take down. Certainly playable and useful but not really comparing that well to the four mana red or blue walkers on offer.

Ral ZarekKeranos, God of the Storms is a card I didn't like to begin with and despite being proved a little wrong about it I still hate the card. It has seen a little cube play and has been annoying if nothing else. Certainly it is a lot harder to deal with than a planeswalker and fulfils a similar role. The problem is that it is fairly devoid of options and doesn't threaten an ultimate ability. It is much easier to kill in cube than it is in a format like modern, in addition to that it is all too easy to ignore the effect of Keranos in the cube as well.

Prophetic Bolt is a classic card and as such makes you feel cool when you play it. It is also never bad when you cast it in the same kind of vein as Fire / Ice or Cryptic Command. That said it is five mana and neither as powerful or as versatile as either of the previous comparisons. The problem with Bolt is not that it is underpowered but that it is more like a filler card than something you would have taking up a valuable five slot in your control deck. Five mana gold filler cards do not deserve main cube places even if they do may you feel cool. You get quite a lot more bang for your buck with Prophetic Bolt than Electrolyse but it is substantially harder to find a space in your deck for the Bolt.

Frostburn Wierd is easily the most played Izzet card from my B cube but it is not really in keeping with this Izzet top X list as it is always used as a mono blue card. It is fine as red monsters go but not really offering anything new or overly powerful to the colour. In blue however it offers a robust, cheap and decently offensive dork that gives great devotion.

Desperate Ravings saw a little bit of play in graveyard themed decks where it outperforms Think Twice. Overall it is too slow, gold and unreliable to merit inclusion in the main cube but it is a cute card. In mono red this would be far more of a lock in.

Niv-Mizzet was OK as the Firemind (for the era) and is somewhat better as a Dracogenius. That said he is a very narrow, fairly generic limited style threat. Sure his power level is good enough for the cube but with the competition for slots it is unwise to waste them on narrower gold cards that offer little more than good value. If you want cards, play a Consecrated Sphinx, if you want to damage things, play an Inferno Titan. This sort of logic in your cube design should leave this kind of clunk out of the picture.

The Real Chaff

GelectrodeSpellheart Chimera is another underwhelming card. It looked so promising, the new Tarmogoyf, the new Pyschatog etc. It can be a highly dangerous cheap threat in the late game much like Psychatog however it is a little too easy to kill to be relied upon in this role. As a fat dork to threaten walkers and offer board control in the mid game it does not have enough toughness to satisfy and is inferior to Serendib Efreet. On paper certainly one of Izzets most powerful gold cards but in the cube environment it has not been able to perform overly well. So often you want to be delving or shuffling away your graveyards, certainly putting them to more use than pumping this rather naff dork.

Gelectrode is a bit of a silly card, very easy to kill and quite an investment of mana but should it live it will dominate the board. Not unlike Goblin Sharpshooter but with a more control bent the card is a little too niche to see play often in the cube but is highly impressive when surviving in the right deck.

Steam Augury has been a massive let down. Where it not gold I suspect it would have seen more play. Being directly worse than a mono coloured card obviously does not help its playability. With Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise now on the map Steam Augury just has no hope.

Frenetic Efreet was a good creature in magic way back in the day but the power creep in creatures had already pushed him out of the running when I first made my cube in original Mirrodin block. Annoying for sure but really quite a long way off a True Name Nemesis.

Wee Dragonauts and Nivix Cyclops have both seen play in Kiln Fiend style decks, the archetype is a little narrow for the cube because you never want these cards in any other deck. Despite this it is a powerful and dangerous archetype that is a free win against a lot of decks.

Herald of KozilekHypersonic Dragon had some promise but you really either want a hasting dragon or to be able to cast your sorceries at instant. Like so many of the better Izzet cards this is just not doing a specific thing well enough to offset the fact that it is narrow and gold. As a mono red card this might have some merit over Stormbreath Dragon (although probably not).

Counterflux is a good card against a lot of the nonsense going on in cubes like storm and cascade. The problem is that it is pretty weak otherwise and you cannot reliably know what you are going up against.

Heral of Kozilek is a new card that should slightly outperform Electromancer all be it in slightly different decks. Overall it is a weaker card but the extra toughness somewhat make up for the downside of being a creature in the first place.


  1. Replies
    1. Your right, one of the better Izzet cards, I just don't like clones at the best of times and so a gold one is a real tun off! Certainly cube worthy if you want to balance your gold.

  2. New entries - Jori En, Ruin Diver in number 2 and Stormchaser Mage at 3 or 4. Izzet on the rise! Boros and Dimir the weak guilds for gold stuff now.