The New Prowess
We’ve seen many Izzet decks rise to prominence over the years in Pioneer. From Izzet Control to Izzet Phoenix and even to Izzet Creativity leveraging both Torrential Gearhulk and Worldspine Wurm. With the printing of Ledger Shredder and the banning of Expressive Iteration, Izzet decks have had to continually reinvent themselves. Two of the many versions of Izzet that came about were Izzet Drakes and Izzet Prowess. These two decks took Izzet in a new direction away from Thing in the Ice and Arclight Phoenix and act as inspirations for this latest take on Izzet: Izzet Pyromancer.
This deck operates like Izzet Phoenix’s sideboard plan when leaning less heavily on the graveyard – milking the power of Young Pyromancer and Crackling Drake to overwhelm opponents while keeping your hand full and the board clear. Leveraging the best spells in both red and blue, Izzet Pyromancer manages to beautifully pair the power level and synergy of Izzet Phoenix with a different suite of threats.
So, let’s dive right into the exciting new deck that is Izzet Pyromancer!
This deck runs four primary non-land threats alongside a pair of creature land threats. These threats are powerful, cheap, and can take over the game by themselves. These qualities allow these cards to warp the game and demand interaction from your opponent.
The first threat is everyone’s favorite Streets of New Capenna card, Ledger Shredder. This bird has taken over Pioneer since it was printed and has helped to revitalize the various Izzet decks through its ability to connive. Ledger Shredder gives you an opportunity to filter through your deck, while pressuring opponents and their Planeswalkers.
Much like Ledger Shredder, if you’ve been playing Izzet for any length of time, you know this next threat well: Crackling Drake. Crackling Drake was once the top threats in Izzet Decks alongside Arclight Phoenix and Thing in the Ice, but lately this powerful four-drop hasn’t been seeing as much love in Pioneer. It is a guaranteed two-for-one and can one-shot opponents in the mid-to-late game. Unlike older versions of Izzet with Drake, this deck isn’t running any Kazul’s Fury or Escape Velocity to make Drake into a combo card, but instead uses it as a value threat.
If you find yourself unable to leverage these flying threats to end the game, the deck also runs a pair of ground threats that can help you snowball and run away with the game. Young Pyromancer is a powerful threat that acts as an army in a can. Once you resolve this two-drop, you can start powering out 1/1 elementals and threaten to go wide around most deck’s defenses. While a few 1/1s aren’t too scary, left unchecked, this threat can easily make enough 1/1s to overwhelm and kill, even through many blockers.
Like Young Pyromancer, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker can carry the game by itself and demands answers immediately, while almost always getting at least a two-for-one in value. The 2/2 goblin is reasonable and can help you ramp into your bigger spells. The discard mode is especially effective in a deck like this, wherein you can pitch extra lands or ineffective spells to churn through your deck. Paired up with Treasure Cruise, several of your threats help you to find this powerful delve spell and to keep your hand always stocked. While this deck doesn’t have the same firepower as say, Rakdos Midrange, to utilize the Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, Crackling Drake is an incredible target to copy and can allow you to draw extra cards and threaten a quick lethal with your hasty flier.
Most of these threats, along with your pair of creature lands, are stock staples of Pioneer. Though some in sideboards rather than in the main deck –anyone who has played a variety of Pioneer decks recently should be familiar with each of these threats. The big key in this deck is to appropriately sequence and choose how to best use your spells and threats to generate the most value.
Along that vein, Den of the Bugbear and Hall of Storm Giants give you some flood protection by enabling you to have wrath-proof threats that you can leverage in the mid-to-late game to push through lethal damage. Hall is especially effective right now if you can keep the board clear with your various removal spells.
The cantrip suite in this deck strongly mirrors Izzet Phoenix and if you have any experience with that deck, these cards should all seem familiar. First up we have Opt and Consider. These two one-mana cantrips help you filter through your cards and enables most of your creatures as cheap spells that can trigger Shredder or Young Pyromancer easily. These cards aren’t ever going to take over the game, but they certainly help you find the right threats and spells for any matchup.
Next up is Chart a Course. This two-mana cantrip has seen play for a long time with Arclight Phoenix, but now in this deck you are often leveraging Chart as an actual two-mana draw-two, which helps you churn through your deck and pull ahead in card quality and quantity.
Finally, we have Treasure Cruise, the delve spell that these Izzet decks have leveraged to the maximum. Treasure Cruise is incredibly powerful and while you don’t have as many cards that put cards in the graveyard for free as compared to Izzet Phoenix, a deck with this many cantrips and discard effects allows you to quickly draw three and take over the game. The scariest thing that a Treasure Cruise can find is another Cruise when you have enough cards in graveyard to chain your draw spells. Especially in grindy matchups, Cruise will help you pull ahead and bury opponents in card advantage.
Removal and Interaction
Like other Izzet decks, Pyromancer uses some of the best red removal in the format along with some cheap counterspells to keep opponents off-guard and unable to find their footing. If you are familiar with Izzet Phoenix, all these removal and interactive spells should be familiar outside of the latest addition from Dominaria United.
Fires of Victory is a new removal spell that can cantrip when you kick it, but otherwise serves as a two-mana burn spell that can hit creatures or Planeswalkers equal to the number of cards in your hand. This is a great tool to deal with larger creatures or Planeswalkers that start with higher loyalty. The main reason this card doesn’t warrant more copies is due to the late game potential of not being able to kill large creatures if your hand has been stripped by discard.
Next up, we have Fiery Impulse. This four-of removal spell benefits from nearly always having spell mastery, turning this card int a Lightning Bolt for creatures. While you do need to ensure that you have spell mastery, if you do, there aren’t many creatures you can’t kill at a mana advantage.
After Fiery Impulse, we have the various flex slot removal spells in Strangle, Abrade, and Lava Coil. This version plays one of each, but you can swap around your numbers depending on what you expect to face. Obviously, Strangle does a good job against Aggro and Planeswalkers, while Abrade pulls double duty killing off artifacts and smaller creatures. Lava Coil is a great tool in a world where most decks are playing some larger toughness creatures like Old-Growth Troll and the exile clause can help this deck to survive recursive threats like Arclight Phoenix.
Lastly, we have the main deck counterspells in Spell Pierce. While Pierce can be dead in some matchups, the top matchups in Pioneer right now Depend on their mana early and often play Planeswalkers or non-creature spells. If you can snag one of these cards for one-mana, you are often pulling way ahead on tempo. Spell Pierce is one of the flex slots you can mess around with, but it does a great job of protecting your threats and stopping your opponent from establishing a foothold into the game.
-1 Abrade, -2 Fires of Victory
Matchup Feel: Difficult
Matchup Approach: Rakdos punishes Izzet decks cleanly thanks to their abundance of removal, discard, and newly acquired hard to answer threats. I would consider adding in some Lightning Axes into this deck even though it lacks synergy without Arclight Phoenix thanks to the addition of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse to Rakdos.
This matchup is a grind fest where you are going to need to answer their threats without using up too many resources. Each time you suffer a two-for-one, you’ll need a card like Treasure Cruise to help level the playing field. If you fall too far behind, it is nearly impossible for this style of deck to rally back.
You need to leverage your two-drops and ensure that they get value to set up for your Planeswalkers to lock up the game. If you don’t get enough value off your Young Pyromancers and Ledger Shredders, it will become very difficult to get through their removal.
Matchup Feel: Difficult dependent on Reckless Rage quantities cast per game.
Matchup Approach: This matchup revolves around your ability to kill everything and keep the board clear. That is obviously easier said than done and can lead to fighting through plenty of protection spells and creatures too large for red removal. While this can lead to disaster, if you can leverage your removal and protect your threats from potential Reckless Rages, that will give you a great shot to take this matchup.
Conversely, if they can protect their threats or land a Portable Hole to answer your early threats, it can be very difficult for you to come back. Cards like Young Pyromancer can buy seemingly infinite time in this deck, but remember that in the end, all those creatures are red and a key Gods Willing can end the game out of nowhere. This is a matchup where you will always feel safe and secure until either you’ve wiped them out or they’re able to leverage some key spells and negate your removal spells.
Matchup Feel: Good
Matchup Approach: You are pre-sideboarded for this matchup in some regards. While you do have some dead removal spells, you can easily ditch those cards with your discard outlets and your threats and creature lands do a great job of going wide and forcing interaction and wraths on key turns. Post board, you are an Aggro tempo deck, looking to stick a threat and protect it until you are safe to close the door with a second threat or final counterspell.
Leverage your decks mid-to-late game here and don’t let them resolve haymaker Planeswalkers when you can help it. It’s better to develop a threat than to sit back against Azorius, but it is best to develop a threat and then back it up with cheap interaction. Counterspells are your best friend in this matchup along with all your two-for-one threats like Fable, Crackling Drake, Young Pyromancer, and Ledger Shredder.
Matchup Feel: Close. Difficult if they have discard to protect their Greasefang.
Matchup Approach: This is a matchup where you need to have interaction for Greasefang, and you need to have it on time. It can be dangerous to rely on a single piece of interaction in this matchup as often Greasefang can hold out until they find discard to take your removal spell.
The fair plan of Greasefang is generally reasonable, but if you can keep your opponent off Parhelion II, you should easily be able to pull ahead. Remember that the hardest thing for you to beat in this matchup is a discard heavy hand that has the combo locked up. While that sounds like the best-case scenario, Abzan is the most consistent Greasefang deck at making that happen every game.
Carefully use your removal and leverage the points when you have enough mana to deploy a threat and still not die to the top end hands from Greasefang.
-4 Fiery Impulse, -1 Abrade, -1 Strangle
Matchup Feel Close. Mostly dependent on your ability to play Aggro control against their top end.
Matchup Approach: Your threats are key here. Thanks to their endless endgame of taking extra turns, you are somewhat always on a clock to end the game. Especially leveraging your two-drop creatures to generate plenty of value, is important, especially once you have extra counterspells to work with in protecting your early aggression.
While they certainly have some pesky creatures as well, you are mostly focused on dealing with their recurring threats that deal plenty of chip damage. Keep your removal up in this matchup, especially things that can kill a Ledger shredder, so that they can’t run away with a similar gameplan as you have post-board. There isn’t too much more to say about this matchup other than you are both going to see most of your deck, so play carefully with that in mind so as not to deck if your games go on too long and understand that every threat that doesn’t get at least a two-for-one was underutilized.
Matchup Feel: Good, though you are weak to Rending Volley and burn spells.
Matchup Approach: You need to leverage your removal spells to keep the board mostly clear while eventually taking over with your various cheap threats. Fable isn’t great here as it only creates one body and cards like Young Pyromancer can make plenty of cheap blockers. If you run into a Goblin Chainwhirler, I would cut the Pyromancers instead.
If you get to the point where you have a threat in play and you are casting your big spells like Treasure Cruise, if you aren’t in range of dying to burn, you should be favored. Always work to keep the board clear, even if that means trading off with some of your threats along with burn spells to continually keep your life-total high.
Matchup Feel: Good
Matchup Approach: This matchup is favored towards the Izzet deck, especially post board. While they can play plenty of massive threats that can lock you out of the game, you are able to drop a two-drop and hold up removal and counterspells, making their plan difficult to enact. This is the same reason that Izzet Phoenix is a tough matchup for Mono-Green.
If you can’t find a hand with a two-drop and some interaction for their early turns, it is likely a bad keep. You need to have early threats and interaction to stay ahead of their curve. This is especially important since you are boarding in cards like Mystical Dispute that are only effective if you are presenting a clock and ending the game early. Post board you are an Aggro control deck, and you need to apply enough pressure to get them dead after one to three counterspells.
Matchup Feel: Good, but Brave the Elements is a scary card.
Matchup Approach: If you can keep the board clear with your various removal spells, you can leverage your powerful and cheap threats to take over the game. This is a matchup where Young Pyromancer is more for creating chump blockers as opposed to threating the opponent. Your fliers are at their best here and cards that double up as cantrips and threats can allow you to take over the game, even through sideboard threats like Wedding Announcement.
Save some removal for cards like Adeline and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben as they can make it difficult to answer creatures effectively or stop your opponent from overwhelming the board. While this is a matchup you are happy to play, cards like Brave the Elements can blow you out and allow the Aggro sides of this deck to take over. Especially with cards like Portable Hole, Skyclave Apparition, and Deck in Stone, Mono-White clearly has more tools to deal with this style of deck than most would expect, but the overall matchup still feels Izzet favored.
Matchup Feel: Close, but favorable if you can leverage your removal effectively.
Matchup Approach: The hardest part about this matchup is timing your removal spells to kill creatures before they get too big along with not letting your threats to be blanked. If your opponent can land a creature and have interactive backup, it can be hard for you to find any footing. Cards like Crackling Drake and Ledger Shredder do a great job of threatening to trade with or eat various fliers.
Traditionally it is very difficult for spirits decks to deal with Ledger Shredder and a glut of removal. Especially for Mono-Blue, there are so few answers to your key threats if they aren’t countered. Work to keep your life-total high and your hand full of interaction. Don’t keep overly threat heavy hands, though you certainly will need to close the game out before spirits can assemble and overwhelming lead in tempo.
Tips and Tricks
· Save your two-drops for a turn where you can play them and at least one spell. Most of the value in your threats come from them generating extra value. Don’t let them die without getting any extra value!
· When you are working to fill up your graveyard for a Treasure Cruise or a large Crackling Drake, I prefer to lead on Consider, but it is less important than for Phoenix which cantrip you lead on early in the game.
· You can pay for extra costs on cards with Delve with your graveyard. This is especially relevant against Mono-White Humans and other Thalia, Guardia of Thraben decks.
· Learning what decks, you need to operate primarily at sorcery speed with versus instant speed to ensure your removal lands is a major element of this deck. While the deck appears somewhat straightforward, knowing how to leverage removal, cantrips, and counterspells correctly is where the majority of this deck’s skill cap lies.
· Remember that Drake still gets bonus power for exiled spells. With carious graveyard hate cards existing in Pioneer, this can help you not have to care about likely graveyard interaction. Though you can trim a Cruise in matchups where you fully expect cards like Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace as early pieces of interaction.
That’s it for Izzet Pyromancer. This new version of Izzet in Pioneer continues to deliver thanks to cheap threats, cheap interaction, and a constant stream of card filtering and cantrips. While this deck plays out very differently compared to a deck like Izzet Phoenix, many of the core concepts overlap and you should be able to pick up this deck if you’ve been playing Phoenix.
Like with Phoenix, always ensure you are maximizing your value and avoid missing land drops when you can help it in the early turns to enable more destructive turns in the midgame. While your sense of inevitability is reduced due to the lack of Temporal Trespass in this decklist, the tradeoff is more immense pressure and a much better Aggro tempo gameplay against various control decks.
Thanks for reading and be sure to stay safe out there!