Greetings, readers! This week marks the return to my Top Soldiers Of series, where I highlight the most powerful legends and non-legends alike in each color combination. This week highlights the spell-heavy flavor of the combination of blue and red that is Izzet.
Izzet has always lent itself to a spell-heavy theme, focusing either on what the spells do themselves or permanents that function well when you cast spells or augment when or how you cast them.
Arguably, this list contains some of the least powerful cards overall. Whether it’s the fact that the cards had more impact in Standard, or the fact that Izzet’s suite of spells has been run through balance testing, I found that the quality of cards overall is lower than most of the other color combinations, which is disappointing, because it’s my favorite color combination overall.
Regardless of that, the combination has some subtly powerful cards at its disposal that have either a high amount of utility or raw power, because there’s always going to be cards that eke by due to their innate power level. Let’s get right into it with…
#10 – Ral Zarek
We open on Izzet’s flagship Planeswalker, and some might wonder why he only managed to get to #10. He defends himself, does interesting effects, and he has a great ultimate. Well, for those who are just cluing in, Planeswalkers are inherently less powerful and impactful in EDH because of the fact that you have three opponents that can attack them, they draw insane amounts of attention irregardless of what the ‘Walker does, and Ral Zarek‘s synergy with cards in his color combination is iffy at best. Time Walking two and a half times on average is pretty cool, but really, when you consider the fact that he neither draws cards or interacts with instants or sorceries, the glitz and glamour stops. He’s great if you’re running Gilded Lotus, and in other colors, where you’re able to protect him better or just run Doubling Season, he’s great at being a Time Walk engine, but aside from that, he’s a goodstuff card that does a few things great, but none exceptionally well.
#9 – Call the Skybreaker
What many people underestimate about a simply-designed card like this is how quickly things accumulate. On paper, a 5/5 flying token for 7 mana is not impressive. Having two of them on turn 8 (or faster), however, is a different story. And, with the propensity of cards Izzet inevitably draws, this thing may just wind up finding a bunch of fuel to snack on.
I’m definitely the type of control player who looks to a card like this as your finisher; for one, it’s a creature no one can Bribery or will Clone. For two, it filters your “dead draws” and turns them into beaters that can start putting some serious pressure on your opponents after a while. Third, the threat of it is ever-present, even if your opponents sweep the board, making it a resilient, powerful choice. Sure, it’s not exciting or flashy, but it’s solid, and sometimes, you just need solid cards in your deck.
#8 – Steam Augury
It’s no secret to anyone; any player who’s ever put an Island in their deck loves to draw cards. Steam Augury, like its predecessor Fact or Fiction, can be one of your top choices to do this if you cast it at the end of turn 4. Drawing 3 cards can be an absolute blowout, because believe it or not, Concentration is already a solid draw spell in and of itself in EDH.
That being said, its drawback, while subtle, makes it far worse than its original. Your opponent being able to pick which pile you get is risky, and that’s putting it lightly. Sure, there are political ramifications of choosing the right opponent (For example, the opponent who’s the target of wayward aggro chooses a pile that contains a lot of good cards but has the sweeper in it just so they survive the next round.), but overall, the card is volatile in its best-case/worst-case, and difficult to utilize properly.
#7 – Izzet Guildmage
Izzet Guildmage has a lot of draws to it; for one, it’s really ascetically-pleasing overall; the frame of blue and red in hybrid, like Vexing Shusher before it, is just really pretty to look at. While I don’t usually have bias towards pretty cards, in the few cases where I think a card looks pretty and is powerful, I’ll definitely mention it. (Okay, I’ll admit I was really tempted to put Crackelburr on this list simply because of my bias.)
Ascetics aside, Guildmage is the real deal. He might be narrow, but in the wake of Epic Experiment, as well as various other new spells introduced at a low converted mana cost (Izzet Charm, as well) he’s gained a lot of power. Of course, he’ll always be known for combos with cards like Reset, but as a goodstuff buffer to your cheap cantrips, the Guildmage does work.
#6 – Nivix Guildmage
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Izzet’s newest guildmage, the Nivix Guildmage, who gains flexibility in the spells you can copy at an additional cost. Granted, the ability is not only more expensive overall, but more mana-intensive to activate, but having a permanent Fork machine is literally ridiculous when casting certain things.
That’s not to say his ability to loot isn’t valuable, because sometimes, there are moments when you just need to dig for the right card, and he’ll do that just fine in a pinch. In fact, there are very few ways to effectively activate such an ability more than once at a time (Compulsion is the only one that comes to mind), so if you need a good looter with a bonus, Nivix is a great card to work with.
#5 – Izzet Chronarch
Izzet Chronarch has always been one of the flagship creatures of this effect, recycling your best spell since his original printing back in Guildpact. Regardless, nowadays we have both Mnemonic Wall and Archaeomancer, but the difference now is that neither of those creatures attack particularly well (the latter also requires double blue, which can be annoying to work around sometimes), whereas a bear-sized body can actually break through sometimes, no matter how lame the concept of 1 power may sound.
Overall, though, he’s the poster boy for the effect, and has had hilarious combos, mostly with newcomer powerhouse Deadeye Navigator. Just in general, the Chronarch is an extremely efficient recycle creature depending on how well your deck can enable it. Insurrection, Blatant Thievery and Bribery are great grabs.
#4 – Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
Let me just start by saying what most people who know me already know – the fact that this isn’t legendary is incredibly disappointing. I must have spent a good hour and 45 minutes brewing up a list when it was first spoiled, only to re-read the card and curse at myself for my own stupidity. You can’t argue that he’d make an absolutely fantastic general.
Overall, though, what the Esper-aligned minotaur brings to the table is unique and yet powerful all the same. If you can find yourself with the mana to consistently cast him, he’s an absolutely fantastic card at generating resources, but what’s really unfortunate that I’ve learned over my year and a half of casting him is that he almost requires Forests in your deck to be effective. The ramp helps you to constantly cast him, and the number of green’s 5-drop creatures that are good with this are just dumb. (Acidic Slime, Prophet of Kruphix, Deus of Calamity, etc.)
#3 – Mercurial Chemister
Mercurial Chemister is an awkwardly weak body attached to an absolutely absurd value creature. Paired with an untap enabler like Seedborn Muse or especially Prophet of Kruphix, this guy is just dumb. Being able to draw 2 cards every go-around is great if you think about the standalone value of it, but if you’re paying one more mana, you get Consecrated Sphinx, which just does what the Chemister does best, better.
That being said, it’s unwise to discount the second ability. For the longest time, I’ve rotated it in and out of my Maelstrom Wanderer deck, a deck filled to the brim with cards that have a converted mana cost of 6 or higher. Whereas it doesn’t particularly outperform Consecrated Sphinx at card draw, it’s certainly very good at sniping one.
#2 – Dominus of Fealty
What really makes Dominus useful is the synergy it has with a multitude of powerful effects, especially outside of its own colors. Altar of Dementia, Greater Good and Attrition are but a few of the powerful sac outlets you can utilize to great effect with a Threaten effect.
Overall, while it’s not a very powerful creature in most stereotypical Izzet-based strategies, the Dominus really shines in aggressive lists, most of which are outside of its colors. Taking the best creature on board and beating face with it every turn is just too strong to ignore.
#1 – Epic Experiment
This shouldn’t really surprise anyone; entire decks are built around this thing, and for good reason; it’s Izzet’s Genesis Wave. It takes all your silly win condition spells, such as Insurrection, Enter the Infinite, Bribery and other such shenanigans and just does the work for you by shoving them all in your opponent’s face.
Now, I haven’t had all that much experience with the spell, myself, but if my limited knowledge of advanced rulings is correct, this thing can just be played alongside Fork effects far and wide, so that if you hit something like Time Stretch along with multiple Fork effects, you’re able to copy the Time Stretch multiple times. This is something that really highlights just how powerful of a card Epic Experiment is, because while Genesis Wave got you a bunch of dumb, crazy monsters, if you weren’t in blue, you didn’t have access to Clone effects, so you didn’t capitalize on hitting a giant bomb that won you the game.
Irregardless, this card is absolutely insane in its own colors when you can just copy some insanely busted spell 2-3 times, and when you branch off into other colors, it just gets that much more powerful. (Storm Herd, Rise of the Dark Realms and Boundless Realms, for references.)
Now that we’ve gone over the non-legendary picks, let’s go over the top three legendary creatures in Izzet. You’ve probably guessed the top three already, because it’s very clear which are more powerful than others, but let’s get right into it:
#3 – Melek, Izzet Paragon
Melek is very much the flagship spellslinger general for Izzet. (Don’t get me wrong, Tibor and Lumia also have a unique niche for the archetype, but they’re subtle about it, whereas with Melek, it’s very clear-cut.) Believe it or not, none of the other five Izzet generals interact with instants or sorceries, which is a bit of a shocking realization this far into Magic’s history. That being said, despite being the first, it does a damn good job of filling the niche it fills.
For those who aren’t aware, Future Sight is absolutely incredible card advantage. Restrictive versions can arguably be very awkward to play around, but trust me when I say, underestimate the power of just being able to play the top card of your library at your peril. To top it off, Melek copies the spells you cast off the top, meaning that you can get insane value off cards like Bribery or Blatant Thievery.
That being said, Melek is not without weaknesses. First off, a CMC of 6 is actually quite steep, and paying any more than 8 mana for Melek is a daunting prospect for how poor his stats in combat are for a 6-CMC creature. Secondly, the drawback to restrictive Future Sight variants is how opponents can see your plays coming. Wayward discard and aggro might be coming your way if you pack too many shenanigans in your deck, so be careful about such things as Ruination or Obliterate. That aside, Melek is an incredible creature, and the only one I’ve seen so far that can make Ignite Memories work in EDH.
#2 – Jhoira of the Ghitu
Jhoira has a long-standing reputation of being one of EDH’s biggest nuisances. Whether it’s Decree of Annihilation, Obliterate or Jokulhaups, followed by Blightsteel Colossus or Tidespout Tyrant, Jhoira is equal parts predictable and annoying. While I don’t like playing against her, I very much see the necessity of cards like her for the format.
She functions a lot like Zur the Enchanter, where just being in the general zone keeps players on their toes. Cards like Azorius Guildmage and Aether Flash might end up being picked up in your meta simply because of how annoying Jhoira is. She poses a huge threat the minute she’s cast, and she’s played both with and against with extreme caution, just because of what might happen. A card like that, no matter how much I personally dislike it, is extremely powerful, and I have to give Jhoira the respect she commands.
#1 – Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that Niv-Mizzet tops this list. While I find his new incarnation, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius, far more interesting as a general, the fact that his original incarnation lends itself to so many on-the-spot wins is just too strong to not give him the number 1 spot. Plus, it’s Niv-Mizzet; would he have it any other way?
So, for those who don’t know, any effect that lets you draw a card when a creature deals damage works with Niv-Mizzet to loop triggers of drawing cards and dealing damage for as long as you like. The three cards to do this with are Curiosity, Ophidian’s Eye and Tandem Lookout. Most opponents will concede to the combo should it resolve, but if your opponents are smart, they’ll make you go through the process of killing them individually before you deck yourself. Usually, you just draw your entire deck and then cast Laboratory Maniac and Gitaxian Probe in tandem, backed up by every free-to-cast counterspell in the game, but sometimes your opponents will just have you win on the spot.
Now, before I continue, let me just chip in and mention that combos, while I respect their innate power and necessity, are not very fun to play against. While I think they’re great to win with, there is literally no fun whatsoever in having the power to end other people’s fun at a moment’s notice. I say this having cast a turn 3 Village Bell-Ringer into a turn 4 Splinter Twin in EDH; every time you infinite combo, God kills a kitten. For God’s sake, think of the kittens!
Irregardless of my distaste for them, combos are quite powerful, and Niv-Mizzet’s combo is classic, notorious, and by no means an exception to the rule.
Well, that’s my list of the top Izzet cards in EDH! Next week, I’ll be moving to Golgari!
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586
M14 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508
Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617
Part 12 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2691
Let’s Talk M14:
Painting a Target:
Planeswalking and You:
Stacking Up Commander 2013:
The Slippery Slope:
The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Gruul - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2669
Orzhov - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2681
Rakdos - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2663
Selesnya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2677
Trial & Error: