My last article about Izzet Drakes happened just after Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, and I had speculated that the Drake decks would begin moving into a Jeskai shell for Deafening Clarion and Revitalize after seeing how aggressive the meta was shaping up to be. While I was right about the need for a change of pace in order for the deck to survive, I was wrong about how we needed to change.
I respect the reasons as to why I was wrong, essentially, if you’re playing Jeskai, you may as well play Jeskai Control. It’s the better Jeskai deck, and the strain that the third color put on our mana was a bit much. Without Hallowed Fountain, we had to opt for more red can trips such as Crash Through and Warlord’s Fury, which are less than optimal can trips.
This is a version of Drakes that simply aims to control the board until we can stick a threat with Dive Down or Spell Pierce back up. Let’s talk about some of the notable exclusions.
Arclight Phoenix allows for some of the craziest, out-of-nowhere wins that I’ve ever stolen. Its a great re-occurring threat that can get started on turn three in the proper deck. Unfortunately, the explosiveness that it allows comes at a cost in variance. It’s re-occurring, but it’s not consistent. Not only is it not consistent though, it’s not the best way to be explosive in Standard. There are many more explosive decks in Standard that are just better at it. White Weenie and Runaway Red to name a few. They produce a stronger board state faster, and while we have air support, their creatures punch harder. Arclight Phoenix was cut from the deck because of the inconsistent strength it has.
Goblin Electromancer was the next cut from the deck. This one was easier to justify after cutting Arclight Phoenix. Without the Phoenix, we no longer needed to cast three+ spells a turn, which was enabled by the Electromancer. He’s still a fine card in the deck, making our Chart a Course and Lava Coils cost half as much is great, but we’ve also switched game plans. This version of the deck looks to answer threats, then land our own and protect it. When he doesn’t discount our threats, or our protection spells, that’s reason enough to cut him.
Radical Idea was also cut from the final version. Without Goblin Electromancer to discount this spell to one mana, and with no good discard synergies in the deck anymore, the card is just too awkward to keep.
Those are the three biggest exclusions that stand out to me in this iteration of Izzet Drakes. Now let’s go over card choice.
Enigma Drake / Crackling Drake
Great threats that go with our game plan. In my mind, these will never get cut. They’ve got big butts, they fly, and they grow. 10/10.
Opt / Chart a Course / Discovery
These are the can trips of the deck. Opt is a good filler in any opening hand, allowing us to sculpt it a little bit better depending on our match up. Chart a Course get’s a bit more awkward without Arclight Phoenix, but it can still be cashed in for some good value later in the game as a two mana Divination, which isn’t bad. Discovery is great, it digs harder than any other card in our deck for when we need to find an answer to something ASAP.
Shock / Lava Coil / Beacon Bolt
The best removal this side of the Mississippi. Well, not really, it’s still fine though. It answers the threats we need to answer before we start landing our own, and that’s whats important.
Niv-Mizzet is #1. This guy is the only reason this version of the deck can survive, as he’s how we beat the midrange and control decks of the format. Casting him with Dive Down back up almost guarantees a closed game.He’s card advantage, removal, and a win condition packed into one. I’m very happy that he has finally found a main-board home.
Dive Down and Spell Pierce
This is our new game plan. Dive Down has proven to be a lot more versatile of a card than I had originally thought. It provides the Hexproof to protect our threats from removal spells, pumping our Drakes’ toughness AND boosting their power can cause for some “Gotcha” combat steps that looked pretty unfavorable. The only issue with this card is how dead it is in the early game. We don’t deploy any threats usually until turn four, that way we can play an Enigma Drake and have the Dive Down back up, but sometimes we don’t play threats until much later. It doesn’t feel great to have Dive Down in your opening hand for this reason.
Spell Pierce has also surprised me with its versatility. It primarily acts as disruption in the early game that can hit a History of Benalia, Search for Azcanta, or Legion’s Landing early, that can also counter a Vraska, Vivien, or removal spell later. I’m definitely sold on main decking this card right now.
Search for Azcanta
This is still a toss up slot for me. I’m not sure if I’d rather go with Search for Azcanta or Treasure Map in this position. I decided to go with Search for Azcanta because it filters your draws every turn for free. While Treasure Map has a higher likely hood of providing you with card advantage, and it provides more mana faster, I like being able to let a Search for Azcanta sit and filter my draw steps to try and increase consistency. After it flips, it’s an engine that won’t stop, even if we run out of Treasure.
I’ve been playing this build quite a bit on Arena and in paper, and it feels very good. It’s consistent, it’s resilient, and it plays some of my favorite cards in Standard. Every deck in Standard is still growing and evolving, so this is definitely not the final iteration of the deck, but that’s what makes for such a great Format.
The one that can’t be solved.