FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – LET’S BUILD, PART 1 – MELEK, IZZET PARAGON

Dragon’s Maze’s release is almost upon us. In less than a week, the prerelease will be happening. You can expect to see me at the CG Realm, probably playing utter trash (insert mise joke here), so say hi if you see me!

If you’re curious about playing at the Dragon’s Maze prerelease, I encourage you to head to the midnight prerelease happening at the CG Realm! The turnouts for the midnight events are always ridiculous (I believe we had close to 100 for one of ours, which, for a small city like Windsor, is quite a feat), and the prize payout is also quite lucrative.

The CG Realm is located on 3147 Tecumseh Road East in Windsor, and the prerelease events are timed as follows:

April 27th, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
April 27th, 2013, 10:00 a.m.
April 27th, 2013, 2:00 p.m.
April 27th, 2013, 5:00 p.m.
April 28th, 2013, 10:00 a.m.
April 28th, 2013, 1:30 p.m.

Entry is $25.

If you’re confused about how the prerelease works, consult the following video for a better understanding of how you’ll be working with your guild to navigate the Implicit Maze:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/bQ_vMBlJlRU” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

That being said, I’m sure a lot of you are wondering – Liam, what guild are you going to be aligning with? For those of you know know me, it’s rhetorical -

No patience for minds that do not inspire me or explode by trying.

I’m an Izzet mage at heart – a card made in my image would likely have the Weird creature type associated with it – but moreover, I’m a huge fan of both blue and red, and have always loved decks focused on instant and sorcery spells over creatures.

Which is my flawless segue into Let’s Build, another ongoing series of articles while will feature my deckbuilding exploits for EDH decks. To give people an idea of how I go about the deckbuilding process. I’m also going to allow interaction with the series, so if I get comments from Facebook or Tumblr, I’ll definitely be replying to them on the next part of the article.

CHOOSING YOUR GENERAL

Because who would have thought Future Sight and Fork could ever coexist? I most certainly didn’t.

When the mothership spoiled Melek and Ral Zarek in the same day, I was very happy to be an Izzet mage. Melek is justifiably insane in the right deck, and I hope I’ve cracked the code by making the best deck I can on the budget I have. (Note: Non-budget options will also be listed later on.)

I’ve found that most blue/red legends in the game are incredibly boring – Jhoira of the Gtihu is “suspend  Obliterate + Eldrazi, win the game”; I just never feel inspired to build a good Nin, the Pain Artist deck, though I know it exists; Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind is combo-oriented by nature and I’m distasteful towards most combos; and Tibor and Lumia is just a hot mess, in my opinion (I’ve seen a Storm combo and a Charisma engine and neither take on the deck have made me want to build it, to be honest). I’ve stuck with Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius in the hopes that an Izzet general in Dragon’s Maze that revolved around casting instants or sorceries popped up, and here we are.

A BREAKDOWN OF YOUR GENERAL

4UR

The casting cost is daunting, I’m not going to lie – the effect it provides feels “win more”, but you can survive without Melek for most of the game irregardless. As you cast it more, the effect gets worse and worse, but you’re pretty general-independent as far as actually winning the game goes.

Legendary Creature – Weird Wizard

Wizard is a relevant creature type – if you want to include Cavern of Souls in your deck, by all means – many of the creatures I intend to include have the Wizard creature type.

2/4

This is where Melek’s biggest problem is. At 4 toughness, without something to protect him, a Pyroclasm effect off the top means that Melek will die in the process, which you don’t really want to ever happen.

Play with the top card of your library revealed.

Just keep in mind that this means every draw you make with Melek in play is revealed to your opponents, meaning they’ll know what’s in your hand half of the time. At the same time, you can bait the board into playing safe – if you reveal a counterspell, most opponents will never want to play into it, meaning you can sometimes Time Walk stubborn opponents.

You may cast the top card of your library if it’s an instant or sorcery card.

It’s selective parts of Future Sight, a la Garruk’s Horde or Oracle of Mul Daya, but the kicker is, unlike the green portions of it, most creatures and all lands can only be played at sorcery speed. Melek lets you cast Counterspell, Brainstorm and Lightning Bolt off the top, and you can continue to do so if you’re lucky.

Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell from your library, copy it. You may choose new targets for the copy.

This is what sealed the deal for me. Draw spells get double their value. Counter wars from off-the-top counterspells are impossible to lose. And don’t get me started on spells that target multiple permanents. Oh, and did I mention Time Warp?

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH THE DECK?

I already have an instant/sorcery shell in my Niv-Mizzet deck, and I want to port it over. The shell revolves around controlling the board until you can assemble a flicker effect (Deadeye Navigator, Conjurer’s Closet or Nephalia Smuggler), a creature that returns instants or sorceries on ETB (Archaeomancer, Izzet Chronarch or Mnemonic Wall), and a Time Walk effect, then taking infinite turns and killing everyone through 21 points of general damage.

I want to port that shell over, but replace the blink engine with more draw effects and field clears and become a draw-go style of control deck – cast spells on opponent’s turns, draw cards, counter important spells. Melek helps seal the deal by doubling up spells you happen to draw into. Eventually, once control of the board is established, you win by slapping a Runechanter’s Pike onto Melek and shanking your opponents one at a time.

The deck is best described as timid – I didn’t want to play something that would get me hate-targeted, such as a Bribery, if I wasn’t going to be able back it up and keep myself alive long enough to see it through to the end of the game.

On the flipside, I wanted to be able to answer things – which is why I’ve decided to pack the deck full of field clears, counterspells, and basically reactive spells that help deal with whatever offense your opponents could mount against me, until I’ve ground them out of advantages and I was ready to be proactive.

I wanted my win conditions to be subtle, incremental, so the deck stays political above all else until it turned around and won the game outright, like most control decks. Cards like Guttersnipe and Charmbreaker Devils help squeak out small advantages until I garnered so many resources that my opponents could no longer keep up with me.

CARD CHOICES

Suck it!

It’s a control deck, so I have the option to either be a tapout deck and win with bombs, or a permission deck and win with tempo and card advantage. I’ve chosen the latter, as it’s more my style, and -much- more budget-friendly, but if you have the money to invest in a more bomb-heavy shell for Melek, I fully endorse the idea – Bribery is a thing, after all.

Given that we’re a permission, we need a package of counterspells so that we keep the board state honest whenever we can.

In -
Counterspell
Essence Scatter
Negate
Cancel
Counterflux
Dissipate
Faerie Trickery
Hinder
Spell Crumple
Stoic Rebuttal
Rewind

Counterspells don’t get value off being the top card of your library unless you’re in a counter war. Resolving Melek can be crucial in control mirrors as you can respond to an opponent’s spells with a counterspell from the top of your deck, and they have to counter both the spell and the copy to resolve their original spell, a daunting feat for any control player.

Remember if you’re holding multiple counters to assess the spell on the stack before deciding how to counter it – if your opponent has recursion, an exile counter is best. If you’re scared of your opponent’s general, hold back on tuck counterspells. If your opponent can fight back, play cheap counterspells to bait their response. If you have a specific counterspell in hand, play the counter that counters that specific spell (Negate / Essence Scatter)

Aside from that, you don’t get any bonus effects from the counters on top of your library, as without a legal target for the counter clause, the counterspell will fizzle, meaning any additional effects they have will fizzle along with it. That being said, Rewind is still too powerful to ignore, and Cryptic Command gets absolutely ridiculous value if you can invest in one.

May you find whatever it is you’re looking for…

To remain relevant throughout the course of a game as a control deck, you need to be constantly having the cards to answer your opponents, as counterspells often trade card-for-card, and when multiple opponents gun for you, you often times can find yourself at a significant disadvantage when you have to answer three board states by yourself. That’s where card advantage becomes a necessity.

You have to balance the worth of your card advantage vs. the amount of mana you have at all times. Tapping out to draw cards means that opponents will get greedy and force through their spells to try and kill you, and in some cases you can seriously get caught with your pants down. Studying your meta is the best countermeasure to this, but regardless, my number one piece of advice in this situation is to play it smart and don’t get greedy with your spells.

In-
Uncovered Clues
Brainstorm
Izzet Charm
Peer Through Depths
Blue Sun’s Zenith
Electrolyze
Thirst for Knowledge
Fact or Fiction
Prophetic Bolt
Thoughtflare
Izzet Keyrune

Uncovered Clues and Peer Through Depths have a grand total of 44 targets to hit, so the chances of completely whiffing on either are dangerously low. The fact that Uncovered Clues can net you two cards from the ordeal is all the sweeter.

Brainstorm is a must-include in this deck due to its ability to put a key instant or sorcery on top of your library. If you have a Sensei’s Divining Top, Scroll Rack or Jace, the Mind Sculptor, all three provide similar advantages very well.

zzet Charm and Electrolyze are pure value due to simply being incredibly flexible. Many control players in our meta will slam Rhystic Study on turn 3 and expect to sit on it, heedless of any control player who may try to stop them, so you can catch them with the Spell Pierce effect. The ability to answer utility dorks is almost entirely why I’ve included them both, but both have the ability to draw cards as well, which can be a life-saver when you need to dig for the answer you need.

Thirst for Knowledge, Fact or Fiction and Izzet Keyrune round out our midgame punch. There are enough artifacts that can be completely useless at points that you can resolve Thirst and end up +1′ing off it. A 4th turn Fact or Fiction resolved on an opponent’s end step can set you up very nicely for your midgame, because of how much value your spells get off being in your graveyard. I’ve been wondering how Izzet Keyrune stacks up versus the newly spoiled Izzet Cluestone, but I’m partial to the body Izzet Keyrune has for combat purposes. (The fact that it can hold Runechanter’s Pike certainly helps its argument.)

Blue Sun’s Zenith, Prophetic Bolt and Thoughtflare are our top-end draw spells just due to their raw power. While on top of your library, Thoughtflare draws you a whopping 8 cards for 5 mana. Prophetic Bolt can deal with key creatures while still netting you the Impulse effect for advantage. And I don’t think I need to explain the power of Blue Sun’s Zenith in draw-go.

Because if it’s causing problems, you burn it to the ground…right?

Another big theme of creature-light control decks is a package of mass removal. Aggro matchups are hell for control, and you need to adapt accordingly. Luckily, blue and red tend to help each other out by giving each other a hearth of removal to work with. Between counterspells and boardwipes, you can fend off attackers until you’ve built the advantage you need to take your opponents out.

In -
Pyroclasm
Wash Out
Mizzium Mortars
Devastation Tide
Blasphemous Act
Mogg Infestation
Cyclonic Rift
Aetherize
Evacuation
Street Spasm

I admit, Pyroclasm is a long shot, but a lot of decks that focus on utility dorks tend not to do much with their power and toughness, instead leaning on their abilities to get them ahead. Another thing those decks tend to do is overcommit because of how much pressure they provide. Pyroclasm seems like a no-brainer against those decks.

The mass bounce – Wash Out, Devastation Tide, Cyclonic Rift, Aetherize, and Evacuation – are all tempo plays. Most of the time, you’ll top off at two creatures – in fact, it’s only when you’ve assembled your big mana rocks and grindy artifacts and enchantments that playing Devastation Tide seems like a risky play.

The deck can grind out some serious advantages with its board wipes, as most tend to be one-sided, and some are at instant speed. I would advise you not to play these unless you need to, though. This goes double for the instant-speed ones – unless you’re going to win or the board state is truly disgusting, playing them is only going to paint a target on your head.

Sometimes you just need to cast it again!

One thing the Izzet color combination does best is make the most out of spells. Whether it copies them or fills your hand with them, blue/red does a great job of getting absurd value out of the spells you cast.

In-
Izzet Guildmage
Nivix Guildmage
Goblin Electromancer
Surreal Memoir
Mystic Retrieval
Reiterate
Reverberate
Wild Ricochet
Isochron Scepter

This deck makes excellent use out of any excess mana it has. At 2, it can cast whatever’s imprinted on Isochron for value. At 3, you can copy cheap spells with Izzet Guildmage or loot with Nivix Guildmage. At 4, you can copy anything you cast with Nivix. At 6, you start getting ridiculous with Reiterate with its Buyback cost.

Electromancer’s value in this deck is quite obvious with 45 spells, 39 of which have their costs reduced by its effect.

Any must-resolve effect is fantastic to copy with any of the three big Forks of the deck. Have you ever copied a Bribery? It’s fun when you get Blightsteel Colossus and force the opponent who cast Bribery in the first place to block with the creature they stole so they don’t die.

Isochron Scepter is innocuous in this type of strategy, but a word of caution – it will draw hate if played early, without the right amount of backup. Make sure the spell you exile is not only worth imprinting, but not a backbreaking loss if the Scepter gets destroyed or bounced.

Lastly, Surreal Memoir and Mystic Retrieval double as card advantage but can get you insane value if you play them alongside Charmbreaker Devils. The ability to recycle your big spells is extremely powerful.

I don’t need you to be a giant infecting robot, I just need you to give me mana!

Blue and red are perhaps the colors that most interact with artifacts. Aside from Isochron Scepter, there really aren’t many that I felt warranted inclusion in this deck (though I’ll admit, cutting Mizzium Transreliquat was very difficult for me), but accelerating your mana is very important, especially when your general costs 6 mana, and so I decided to throw in a few mana rocks to get me to where I need to be in the game.

In -
Sol Ring
Izzet Signet
Gilded Lotus
Caged Sun
Expedition Map
Phyrexian Metamorph
Leyline of Anticipation

First off, I have no idea what category to place the Leyline in, so I guess I’ll plop it with the artifacts since I don’t think it fits in with anything else. Being able to play extreme draw-go is an option so attractive I couldn’t resist. You literally draw a card, play a land, lose to Krosan Grip, and pass the turn.

Aside from that, all of the cards presented here are standard fare, powerful spells that get you the mana you need. Often times, your Map will find you one of your colorless utility lands – Rogue’s Passage, Reliquary Tower, Desolate Lighthouse or Boseiju, Who Shelters All – but sometimes if you really need the mana, you’ll grab a dual land.

Die.

Spot removal is important in EDH. I’m not a fan of straight-up spot removal in droves (usually one or two slots devoted to it is fine enough), but I will give flexible spot removal the benefit of the doubt – any card that can rid you of any one of a few problem permanents is usually worth including in your deck.

In -
Rapid Hybridization
Capsize
Shattering Pulse

Rapid Hybridization is a test slot – it and Pongify both function very well in my Talrand, Sky Summoner list, which is a draw-go list very similar to this one, but I may remove it if it proves to be a wasteful slot in lieu of all of my board wipes.

Capsize and Shattering Pulse are insane value. Uncountered, they wreak havoc on any board state. You straight-up win if your opponent can’t stop Capsize.

That’s a nice Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre you have there. It’d be a shame if someone stole it from you…

The final point to stress on for spell choices for any control deck is to make sure it can win. It has to have cards that, when you resolve them, you win the game – either that turn, or turns down the road provided you get enough value out of casting them.

In -
Guttersnipe
Charmbreaker Devils
Time Warp
Walk the Aeons
Rite of Replication
Insurrection
Blatant Thievery
Epic Experiment
Runechanter’s Pike

One thing I truly enjoy about this deck is the opportunities for the win conditions to work with each other. Time Warp, Walk the Aeons, Blatant Thievery, Insurrection and Rite of Replication sit on the curve very nicely. Guttersnipe is a fantastic Rite of Replication target. Charmbreaker Devils and Runechanter’s Pike smile when you cast Epic Experiment.

6 of your win conditions are also recursive through various spells and abilities at your disposal that access your graveyard.

Though some of the spells listed here are powerful, they don’t really amount to the most powerful win conditions until you take into account that you can cast them multiple times. That fact, coupled with their sheer power level, make them win conditions in my eyes.

The force of a volcanic eruption has the power to summon goblins. Welcome to Magic, everyone!

If you’ve been keeping track, we’re at 61 spells. Most of the time, I like to keep 40 lands as my standard fare, but it was so difficult to cut from the massive list of cards I initially had going for this deck that I opted to go to 39 lands.

Let’s start off with the nonbasics. I’m going to present the duals and fetches I’m using, based off what I have, but if you have more or less, adjust your mana base accordingly.

In-
Cascade Bluffs
Evolving Wilds
Izzet Boilerworks
Izzet Guildgate
Rupture Spire
Scalding Tarn
Shivan Reef
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Terramorphic Expanse
Tolaria West
Transguild Promenade

I’m not going to lie – short of Volcanic Island, I went out of my way to possess all of the duals and fetches for the color combination. I don’t know if I mentioned I’m an Izzet mage at heart, but…

Irregardless, I decided to play a couple “bad” UR duals as well – sometimes, you need to have the colors to cast your spells, especially early game, and you can afford to hiccup at non-critical moments.

Moving onto utility lands,

In-
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Desolate Lighthouse
Forgotten Cave
Halimar Depths
Lonely Sandbar
Reliquary Tower
Remote Isle
Rogue’s Passage
Smoldering Crater

Boseiju is more a metagame call than anything else – and again, 45 spells, blah blah interactions.

Desolate Lighthouse is probably one of the best utility lands ever printed. You constantly draw cards. With a land. I don’t know if you realize the value of this, but that’s kinda insane.

The cycling lands are a habit of mine – in decks that run 2 or fewer colors, I tend to play them to filter through my draws with – they’re lands when I need them and a draw spell when I don’t.

Halimar Depths is already a pet card of mine, but in this deck especially, it does a ton of work. Rearranging your top card is very powerful in lieu of not being able to shift my Sensei’s Divining Top from my Stonebrow, Krosan Hero deck to this one, but even if I had a Top in this deck, I’d still play both.

Reliquary Tower is a no-brainer when any card in your deck period has the text “draw a card” written on it.

Finally, Rogue’s Passage is simply a vacuum thought – I wanted to make sure that when I slapped a giant Runechanter’s Pike onto Melek that there wasn’t a pesky blocker in my path.

Because Zendikar just isn’t pretty enough!

With 21 nonbasic lands in our deck, we’re left with 18 slots left in our deck for basic lands. Usually I go dead even, but when I took a look over the mana symbol costs of my spells, I noticed an overwhelming amount of color weight shifting towards blue (almost a 2:1 ratio of blue symbols to red). If you were to play this deck without the rigorous manafixing that I have, I’d suggest being a bit more heavy in a focus on Islands here, but because 12 of my 39 lands produce two colors, I allowed myself to keep at a more even amount.

In-
11 Islands
7 Mountains

And there you have it, we’ve arrived at the final product:

(This list as posted in this article will not be final. If you want to see what changes might have occurred to the list since the posting of this article, check out the decklist posting on MTG Salvation at http://forums.mtgsalvation.com/showthread.php?t=504686.)

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I hope I’ve given you some insight into the deckbuilding process for EDH. I know I might have rambled on a bit, but I find that the best decks are those that have a lot of thought put into them.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of this series, and if you’re looking to make a deck and not sure what to do, message me on Facebook or Tumblr and submit your ideas – I think I’ll make Let’s Build a monthly segment if it gets enough popularity.

Next week will be my recap of the Dragon’s Maze prerelease – again, if you’re in the Windsor area, CG Realm is the place to be for the experience of the final set in the Return to Ravnica block! I hope my fellow Izzet mages will be joining me next weekend and helping me be the first to solve the Implicit Maze!

Until next time,

-L

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