A fully updated version of this guide is now available at our sister site, Playing Pioneer:
With the banning of Expressive Iteration and Winota, Joiner of Forces, there was murmurs that the various Izzet decks would fall out of the Pioneer metagame entirely. At first, it did seem like that would be the case, but quickly we have seen the rise of various Izzet decks from Indomitable Creativity, Izzet Control, Arclight Phoenix, and finally Izzet Prowess.
We have seen various versions of Izzet Prowess in Modern and Pioneer, but this new version focuses on the power of Young Pyromancer, Ledger Shredder, and the latest card advantage tool from these decks, Of One Mind. Of One Mind saw play in Standard in rogue decks and now we are seeing it replace Expressive Iteration and giving this deck eight total draw spells that can refill your hand and ensure you’re never running on empty.
So, what’s new in this build of Izzet Prowess that has brought the archetype back to life? Let’s dive right in!
The creatures for this deck mirror many of the previous prowess builds leveraging the 8 best 1-drop red prowess creatures in Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage along with some new tools. These 8 creatures allow you to apply early pressure and when backed up by card draw or removal, can quickly end the game.
It’s no shock to see that these alone are not enough of a threat for this deck and the hottest creature from Streets of New Capenna continues to loom large over constructed Magic. Ledger Shredder allows Izzet Prowess to churn through the deck with unbelievable speed and consistency. Those spells that otherwise would start to leave you with fewer resources now loot into a bigger threat or help filter through excess lands. Ledger Shredder also gets extra value in this deck thanks to its ability to facilitate Treasure Cruise along with Of One Mind, thanks to being a non-human. We have seen Ledger Shredder in every format since its printing and it continues to impress in this shell.
Lastly, we have Young Pyromancer. This is a card that didn’t tend to find a home in the main deck of older Prowess builds, primarily due to its fragility and slowness to take over the board compared to the aggressive prowess creatures or even a card like Stormwing Entity in Modern. In this deck, however, Young Pyromancer acts to give you a way to go wide around decks that otherwise could slam down a Cavalier of Thorns, Old-Growth Troll, or Graveyard Trespasser and stunt your aggression.
As a bonus – with a single elemental from Young Pyromancer, you can turn your Of One Minds on for one mana. This discount enables play patterns such as playing Young Pyromancer post Supreme Verdict, casting any spell, and then a one-mana Of One Mind to immediately reload the battlefield and your hand.
Pairing with our suite of creatures, we have a handful of draw spells that give you a critical mass of card quantity along with helping filter for card quality. These cards are a major reason why you can churn through your deck rapidly and why you are able to survive the mid to late game against decks that can answer your early threats.
We start with the 1-mana cantrips that all Izzet players have learned to love in Consider and Opt. These cards appear innocuous at first, but work to smooth out draws, trigger all your creatures, and fill the graveyard for the next cantrip on our list – Treasure Cruise.
It’s no secret that Treasure Cruise is one of the most powerful draw spells ever printed. It was swiftly banned in Modern as well as Legacy, and is often a contentious topic among ban discussions for Pioneer. We have seen every iteration of Izzet decks find strength in one delve spell or another and this is no exception. Treasure Cruise pairs with the many cheap spells and Ledger Shredder to rapidly refill your hand and dig you to more spells.
Most Izzet decks with Arclight Phoenix tend to run additional cantrips to help ensure you can cast three spells in a turn or find your few threats. In this deck, you get to play a different cantrip than almost any other Izzet deck we have seen, more mirroring the Rogues decks of Standard in Of One Mind. This card is a solid two-for-one and when paired with Treasure Cruise and the other cantrips, can help you see twenty or more cards very early in the game.
Removal and Tempo
These two subsections of removal and tempo cover the rest of the spells in this deck and mostly allow for you to threaten your opponent’s life total, keep them off balance, or just assist your creatures in crossing the finish line. Play with Fire, Reckless Rage, and Spikefield Hazard all act as removal along with pumping your various Prowess creatures. In the case of Play with Fire and Spikefield Hazard, you can kill off Planeswalkers or hit players directly.
While Reckless Rage can’t target players, it is one of the most effective and efficient removal spells in the format and all your creatures survive the 2-damage portion except for Young Pyromancer, who makes tokens you can sacrifice to that part of the card’s cost.
Next up are the pair of blue tempo spells in Spell Pierce and Fading Hope. While only 3 total copies of these cards are in the main deck, they serve to keep opponents off tempo by bouncing their blockers, protecting your key creatures from removal, or stopping potential catchup spells. Given the amount of card selection and advantage this deck accrues, it’s a strong idea to run some fringe cards like these that may not always be good but can be backbreaking when they are good.
This is a tricky matchup given you have access to plenty of ways to pull ahead via card advantage, but none of your creatures have any means of protection from Rakdos’ glut of removal. You need to leverage tempo positive cards like Fading Hope, Spell Pierce, and your cantrips to ensure you are never running out of threats before they run out of answers. Consider saving your Young Pyromancer for a turn you can cast several spells in response to a removal spell or your Ledger Shredder until you can cast a second spell and get an ensured loot.
The best way to play this matchup is to try and maximize value on everything you do, counter key removal spells or Planeswalkers, and leverage your card advantage engines. You will likely find yourself getting to the mid to late game and worrying about Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, which is the main reason we are boarding in Unlicensed Hearse along with mitigating potential Graveyard Trespasser triggers.
In terms of which removal spell to cut, Reckless Rage can kill Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Graveyard Trespasser, which is why I index towards keeping more of that than Play with Fire. Due to the amassment of removal though, I never want to be unable to kill a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker token, Den of the Bugbear, Bloodtithe Harvester, or Reflection of Kiki-Jiji because I don’t have any creatures, so it is a close call on which one you may want more copies of post board.
Don’t mess around. Get on the board quickly, establish a swarm of creatures and sit back on interaction. The hardest part of this matchup is ensuring you are keeping hands that can kill by turn 4 or have interaction for key spells. If you aren’t killing them ASAP or ensuring they can’t combo, mulligan. This is a very good matchup, and you get the best of Mono Red and counterspells, don’t waste it with greedy or slow keeps.
This is another matchup that benefits from your adjacent position to Mono Red in your creature base, but with the added benefit of interaction on the stack. If you can stick and early Ledger Shredder, you can easily slow them down with removal and counterspells before chipping away at them in the air or with early Prowess creatures.
Much like with Lotus Field, you need your opening hands to have aggression backed up with interaction, but unlike Lotus Field, without both elements, it can become very tough to close out the game through the large bodies of Mono Green Devotion. Leverage using Aether Gust and Fading Hope to clear a path to the opponent and save your Abrade for key Karn targets like God-Pharaoh's Statue, The Great Henge, or Damping Sphere.
|+2 Spell Pierce||-4 Reckless Rage|
|+1 Fry||-1 Fading Hope|
|+1 Disdainful Stroke||-1 Play with Fire|
|+1 Mystical Dispute|
This is another matchup where you want to play to the board early and then become an Aggro tempo deck countering key spells and making life very uncomfortable for the opponent. Supreme Verdict is a tricky card to work around since you need to ensure you don’t overcommit to the board while still actively pressuring them. Given most of your tools in this matchup are best before the mid to late game – since they can pay the extra 2 mana for something like The Wandering Emperor on turn 8 easier than turn 4, you need to leverage an early start.
It should go without saying, but make sure to counter basically every Planeswalker. Narset, Parter of Veils, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and The Wandering Emperor are all real rough for you to win through. Especially Narset. I mean, look at the Cantrip section and weep if that card slips onto the battlefield.
|+2 Spell Pierce||-4 Monastery Swiftspear|
|+1 Fry||-2 Of One Mind|
|+1 Disdainful Stroke||-4 Play with Fire|
|+1 Mystical Dispute|
|+2 Rending Volley|
|+2 Unlicensed Hearse|
This is one of the more interesting and tight matchups for this deck. You want to apply pressure through early creatures that generate value and then protect them via your soft counterspells until the mid to late game where you can contain the graveyard and the opposing big spells.
Given the glut of removal that Phoenix runs, I like to cut our worst threat in Monastery Swiftspear and instead leverage Young Pyromancer, Soul-Scar Mage, and Ledger Shredder as threats that have additional value. Unlicensed Hearse helps to contain Treasure Cruise, Arclight Phoenix, and Temporal Trespass to make up for the lack of Swiftspear.
You have your own glut of removal in Reckless Rage and the uncounterable spells to handle Thing in the Ice, opposing Shredders, and Crackling Drakes. Aim to run the opponent out of credible threats, protect your threats, and watch out for Hall of Storm Giants. This will help you take the game into a state where they are unable to kill you or answer all your threats cleanly.
This is the trickiest matchup to play blind and requires lots of feeling out as to when you want to deploy your threats and how best to interact with their threats around potential counterspells. But, if you can figure out your plan of attack and get a good feel for the tempo of this matchup, I think you can successfully tackle Izzet Phoenix.
You don’t have time to sit back and draw a million cards. You need removal and creatures in play that can threaten to block profitably, forcing bad timings of their spells. This is a matchup where the first few turns of the game are the most important and once you hit the mid-game, you should easily be able to pull ahead. The way you can struggle in this matchup is tapping out on key turns and taking too much early damage or mistiming your removal and getting blown out by Gods Willing. Remember that just because your cards are instants, doesn’t mean you should wait to use them. It is often better to kill things on your own turn if they are tapped out or if you can leverage a mana advantage through Spell Pierce.
Young Pyromancer is at a premium in this matchup since they have very few cards that can give trample and making an army of chump blockers is an easy way to force them to overcommit into bad situations. You can’t kill faster than them, so take on the role of the control deck and leverage your resources accordingly.
Tips and Tricks
- Reckless Rage requires two legal targets to go onto the stack, but even if one of those targets is no longer legal, the other target will still resolve. So, if your opponent removes your creature in response to Reckless Rage, their creature will still take four damage.
- This deck plays a hilariously low number of lands. Do not cut your Spikefield Hazard and be sure to keep in mind what kind of low-land count hands you can keep. 2 lands with a turn 1 threat and some cantrips or removal is usually ideal.
- For Of One Mind, your one-drops are both humans along with Young Pyromancer. Ledger Shredder and the elemental tokens are your non-humans. Well, and Jegantha, the Wellspring.
- This deck wants to kill quickly, but a major part of it is to constantly evaluate what key turns you need to slow down and hold up interaction so that you never fall too far behind. Unlike Izzet Phoenix, there is no ‘Oops I win’ of multiple time walks and Phoenixes.
- Assuming Treasure Cruise costs 1 mana and so does Of One Mind, your entire deck has a mana value of one outside of Ledger Shredder and Young Pyromancer. Leverage how early in the game you can double or even triple spell to naturally pull ahead on tempo and pressure the opponent to catch up.
There you have it, a deep dive into the latest Izzet deck to rise from the ashes of Expressive Iteration. With the deck being a rather new commodity popularized by streamer Todd Anderson or Tandy, there’s still plenty of changes to try depending on the metagame. Especially when looking at the land count and what sideboard options you could afford with a few more lands like Den of the Bugbear. Izzet Prowess is a great option to punish some of the less interactive or over the top decks of the format and continues to show there are more decks in Pioneer for us to discover.
Thanks for reading and stay safe out there!