Road to Regionals – Izzetron 2007

Get ready for Magic the Gathering Regionals!
When I’m testing for a big tournament for Regionals, the modus operandi is usually to build a gauntlet, test, read, test, read, rebuild the gauntlet, settle on a deck, and, usually in my case, audible at the last second. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This year, I thought, might be different. For, you see, I found the deck I wanted to play very, very early in the testing process.

When I’m testing for a big tournament for Regionals, the modus operandi is usually to build a gauntlet, test, read, test, read, rebuild the gauntlet, settle on a deck, and, usually in my case, audible at the last second. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This year, I thought, might be different. For, you see, I found the deck I wanted to play very, very early in the testing process.

I fell in love with this deck at first glance. It’s always dangerous to think this, but I am (or perhaps was – cue the foreshadowing music) dead set on running this for Regionals.

This Tron variant is both elegant and brilliant. Sulfur Elemental was such an obvious inclusion I felt like an idiot for missing it (but I’m used to that feeling by now). Sulfy (may I call you Sulfy? Thanks.) is a workhorse against both aggro and control, and is pretty much responsible for why you likely won’t see many Savannah Lions at Regionals this year. How many cards – uncommon, no less – can say they killed an entire archetype? Let’s not forget the combination of Remand and Repeal and the soft lock of the assembled Tron and Spell Burst, either.

Stall the board, bounce and counter threats, drop an uncounterable Sulfur Elemental against the hordes of U/x control decks and win with a Hellkite or Demonfire. Simple, brutal, efficient.

But this was a deck designed for the Blue-heavy Japanese metagame. How would it fare against the wild and woolly craziness that is the American scene?

I took that to mean that, yes, this deck can do well against what the oddball American metagame has to offer. And this was pre-Future Sight, no less. What goodies did Future Sight bring to an already really good deck? I was hoping for something, anything to allow me to get rid of the decent-but-underwhelming Electrolyze.

Nix: An interesting curiosity against suspended creatures, Lotus Blooms, and, maybe, storm copies? Too narrow, I suspect, but intriguing nonetheless.

Molten Disaster: Yes, why don’t we share a common disaster (with apologies to Sarah MacLachlan). At first glance, this seemed pretty interesting – an uncounterable X-spell to rid the world of Teferi once and for all, a modular Pyroclasm, and a potential finisher immune to Willbender and Teachings-Commandeer-no, Demonfire you chicanery. A friend of mine looked at it and noted that, with the assembled Tron, there was the potential for a lot of draws. I note that a draw is better than a loss, although it may make for some very long games at the XX-1 tables.

Foresee: Nice card, four-eyes. Better than Tidings, perhaps (and, man, I hate Tidings, the Necessary Evil of the deck). Whereas Tidings gets you quantity, Foresee brings you quality, and potentially gets you up to six cards deep into your deck and costs one less mana. If I was still running Tidings in the deck (cue the foreshadowing music), I’d probably replace it with this, at least in the short term.

Tolaria West: What do the words “auto include” mean to you? Not only fishes up that missing Tron piece, but, if you are one of the three Magic players in the world unaware of this, can tutor for Tormod’s Crypt as well.

Pact of Negation: Worthless in the early game. Ties up your mana in the late game. This is a great spell when you have a combo deck going off and trying to protect your chain of spells (gee, what Standard deck would want to do that), but I’ve found it to be otherwise unimpressive.

Epochrasite: Touted as a replacement for Bottle Gnomes, as it chumps as Bruce Banner and comes back in a few turns as Lou Ferrigno. My problem with the card is that after chumping against the likes of Gruul, by the time it comes back into play, you’re often staring at a life total in the single digits and he ends up trading with a Giant Solifuge, or maybe a timely Tin Street Hooligan, while you take more poundings from Kird Ape & His Friends. Now, that said, it does come down on turn 2, it can chump and keep the bane of your existence, a 3/3 Scab-Clan Mauler, off the table for a turn, comes back post-Wildfire and is good against other matchups. I’m not completely sold on it, but it is more versatile than Bottle Gnomes, I’ll give it that.

Venser, Shaper Savant: Probably a great addition to Blink-Riders, if anyone’s playing that deck anymore.

Post Future Sight, I munged together this deck:

I was happy with the performance of the deck, but even with these tweaks, I was having trouble beating the Gruul decks. How had Yuuya done it? Well, it helps, as previously mentioned, that his Izzetron variant was the product of a Japanese metagame which trends towards the control-on-control matchups (note that the majority of the Top 8 decks were running Island), so he wasn’t going to run into too many Red-and-Green beaters. Apparently, the package of Electrolyze, Serrated Arrows, and Bottle Gnomes was good enough to get him to the winner’s table.

The more I played, however, these defenses felt inadequate, especially once Gruul decks started appropriating the Sulfur Elemental tech for themselves. I needed some kind of global sweeper, but Wrath of God isn’t in either of Izzetron’s colors. Pyroclasm wouldn’t cut it, as it only dinged about half of the Gruul forces, and Molten Disaster was too slow at double Red and the damage you did to yourself only shortened the race (ditto Sulfurous Blast). No, what I needed was a bigger sweeper that wouldn’t damage to me, but would clear the board Wrath-style. And a little land destruction wouldn’t hurt, either.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Pinky?

A quick search revealed this number, which seemed to be exactly what the doctor ordered: old-school Wildfire-Tron.

Gavin Verhey punched his ticket to Nats with this fairly simple paradigm:

Drop a Wildfire-proof fatty.
Cast Wildfire.

That revelation led to this new configuration:

It’s a modification from the classic Wildfire-Tron decks; instead of casting a Wildfire-proof fatty and clearing the board, you now want to suspend a Wildfire-proof fatty and clear the board while either Bluntman or Chronic are waiting to come into play (although the EOT Bogardan Hellkite prior to a Wildfire is a perfectly acceptable option as well).

Aside: Bluntman and Chronic? If Aeon Chronicler is now “the Chronic,” then, clearly, Detritivore must be Chronic’s cohort in crimefighting and heterosexual life partner, Bluntman. If it catches on, I’ll want royalties and am willing to fight Kevin Smith for them; he looks pretty pudgy and I think I could take him.

Now, throw Jason Mewes into the mix, it might be a different story, as he’s wiry and God knows what the hell he’s hopped up on this week. End aside.

Looks like a pile now, doesn’t it? Sulfur Elementals in the sideboard? Don’t get me wrong, I still love me the Sulfy, but my testing has indicated he just doesn’t cut it against Gruul. If I flash it out early to chump block, it eats a Seal of Fire or Char and I lose more life to combat damage (and lose the ability to counter the &*%$@ Scab-Clan Mauler that haunts my nightmares).

That slot could be reserved for Epochrasite yet. The sideboard is still “a work in progress” and will probably be different by the time you read this.

Re-tooled to beat Gruul, how did this newer matchup fare against a gauntlet of favorites?

Versus Dragonstorm: A fairly even matchup both pre- and post-board, although the Tron deck really needs a grip of early counters, especially card drawing Remands and Bloom-bouncing Repeals, to get up to six mana to nuke the board. If your first draw doesn’t have a lot of Blue cards that begin with “R,” throw it back. Suspended Detritivores feel too slow against the deck, but Annex is a handy option for those storage lands, and, of course, if you Wildfire once, the odds tilt heavily in your favor.

Re: Annex: I’m starting to like this card less and less. The deck already runs, essentially, seven land destruction spells (more depending on you count Bluntman); is Annex just a “win more” card at this point, one best dropped for a different option? I’m not ready to do that just yet, but, as I like to say, “it’s a consideration.”

Hey, it’s Dragonstorm, and the only deck that really has a better than 50/50 chance of beating it on a regular basis is a) another Dragonstorm deck or b) a deck to tuned to beat Dragonstorm but can’t beat anything else. This matchup feels about 45/55 in favor of the Dragon blitzkrieg; certainly not unwinnable.

Versus Dralnu: Losing the Sulfur Elementals from the maindeck sucks, but the suspend-o-matic duo of Bluntman and Chronic helps to make up for it. Even if Dralnu sticks a Teferi, you’ll still be drawing cards and nuking lands, and here’s where the Elementals from the sideboard shine; as they hopefully won’t be expected.

Favorable matchup? Magic 8-Ball says, “All signs point to yes.”

Versus Gruul: The Prozac match, as it feels like no matter what I do, I keep losing to this deck, and it depresses me. During my testing, I’m far too frequently in a position where I have to Wildfire defensively, and the smart Gruul player who holds back lands recovers faster than I can. That’s just not right! It seems counterintuitive, but the deck almost has to run Sulfy and Wildfire together – Sulfy either to chump in the early game pre-Wildfire or clean up post-Wildfire. Pyroclasm is useful in this matchup, but, again, you aren’t hitting a lot of their heavy hitters with that spell.

Verhey’s version ran the seeming jankiness of Imaginary Pet as an anti-Gruul card. He qualified for Nationals, so clearly, it’s crazy enough to work, but I just can’t bring myself to trade for four of them quite yet. I was toying with Aether Membrane; despite the double Red, it’s Wildfire-proof and the bounce effect is great against Gruul, but, again, as Fox’s Laws state, “If you’re thinking of putting Walls in your deck… it’s time to find another deck.” But just maybe…

Despite all my tinkering, the Gruul matchup still feels very unfavorable, around 40/60 at best. It’s a good thing no one’s going to play Gruul at Regionals, right?

I haven’t tested against Dredge enough to render a fully-formed opinion, other than a) I don’t like the faster versions of the deck and b) you’ll need to run some combination of Tormod’s Crypt and Pyroclasm to deal with the weenie dredge enablers, and c) do not, under any circumstances, suffer a Magus to live long enough to tap.

Maybe I do need to leave Electrolyze in the deck.

Am I still running this deck for Regionals? At this point, I don’t know. I suspect I may have “improved” the deck to the point where it’s unplayable; maybe the Wildfires should go to the sideboard and the Sulfur Elementals return to the main. Or maybe this deck’s time has come and passed, like Lindsey Lohan’s career.

At least I have one more week to make up my mind.