Storm, Forever And Forever, A Thousand Years

Patrick Chapin’s brewing for Standard in the best Izzet tradition! Could Thousand-Year Storm really be the card to beat Golgari Midrange?

Izzet is on the rise, but there’s a boatload of ways we could go with it…

…and I’m not sure anyone has even touched the best one yet.

So far, two cards have provided most of the structure for Izzet decks, and Crackling Drake is one of them. It’s almost a Bloodbraid Elf crossed with a Tempest Djinn. I mean, if you build your deck around it, it’s quickly a 5/4 flier or bigger for four that draws a card on the way in for no reason.

While Enigma Drake never really saw all that much play, “draw a card” is a pretty sweet cherry on top. What’s more, Crackling Drake also counts sorceries and instants exiled from Jump-starting, which is more of a drawback to the Enigma Drake than an upside of Crackling Drake. While Crackling Drake has basically been a ubiquitous feature of Izzet decks, thus far, a few players have begun experimenting with packing playsets of Enigma Drakes on top of their Crackling Drakes. For instance:

With eight Drakes instead of just four, Chart a Course starts to look excellent. Of course, there are just so many good options for card selection, it’s not without some trade-off.

It may seem haphazard, playing three Chart a Course, three Radical Idea, and three Chemister’s Insight; however, there really is a good case for diminishing returns applying to all of these.

For instance, the first Radical Idea can provide some real smoothing and a little extra selection whenever there’s a convenient spot to spend a little extra mana. One way to think about it is that until you spend that first two mana, you’re one option behind. It isn’t until you Jump-start the card that you actually get ahead (as it lets you convert one of the “options” in your hand into a new bonus option).

However, if you have a second Radical Idea, instead of being without that first option for a turn or whatever, you may be without it for several turns. After all, you’ve first got to get through the first two Radical Ideas, and then two more, before you’re even “ahead.” You can discard a Radical Idea to Jump-start another, but you’re still talking about sacrificing some of the selection you’re supposed to be getting. If you do try to play both all the way, you’re going to be discarding your worst card to the first, but effectively your second-worst card to the second.

Similarly, Chemister’s Insight is a potent way to build some meaningful card advantage in the mid-game. It takes a lot of time to play both halves, however, and playing both sides of a second one is a real commitment. The card is good, though. Think of it as a sort of a draw-three, where the third card is effectively a Catalog.

Sure, it costs four instead of three, and you must discard the card before drawing two, but generally speaking, I think Chemister’s Insight is worth more than “draw two-and-a-half,” and that’s pretty comparable to Glimmer of Genius.

While Firemind’s Research is a little slow for the maindeck, I think it’s a solid option out of the sideboard (and if the format slows down enough, the maindeck wouldn’t be completely out of the question). It’s sort of aspiring to be a card draw engine that can’t be killed by Vraska’s Contempt.

Somehow, I think people are underestimating this card. Surveil is an incredible ability to take onto a three-mana Counterspell, and every time you flip a Jump-start card, it really starts to feel like card advantage.

Look, obviously, if you’re splashing white, these are the first two cards you’re adding (assuming, for some reason, you’ve agreed not to play Teferi, Hero of Dominaria). Justice Strike is really not far off from being a Boros Terminate. Deafening Clarion is a fantastic sweeper to begin with but combos incredibly well with Crackling Drake and Enigma Drake. Their four toughness means they live through it, and then their inflated strength total translates into a huge life swing.

And what about big daddy himself? Niv-Mizzet, Parun is vulnerable to stuff like Vraska’s Contempt and Assassin’s Trophy, but even there, at least we’re drawing a card on the way out. If we’ve got even a single mana to spare, a response of Opt or Shock nets us another extra card, plus a point of damage wherever.

Untap with him, however, and you’re easily going to be taking over the game. Six is a lot of mana, but honestly, I don’t think it’s crazy at all to consider just playing all four. The above list features the remaining copies in the sideboard, but we could just maindeck them. Niv-Mizzet just seems so good. He’s even uncounterable, so it’s not like we’re walking into Essence Scatter or whatever.

What about something like:

As much Niv-Mizzet action as this list packs, amusingly, Magic Online player TRUTHORDARE found a way to go even harder. Their secret? A planeswalker that takes advantage of another important aspect of Niv-Mizzet.

Sarkhan’s looting ability gives the card purpose in the abstract; however, the opening of Turn 3 Sarkhan into Turn 4 Niv-Mizzet is where the real action is.

First of all, there’s a subtle importance to the three-drop counterspell selection here.

Ionize is a good card, no question, but as much as I like an extra two damage (and I do), the real upside is needing only a single blue. With just fifteen sources of blue, this list really does want to chill on double blue.

Why not add more?

It’s not like we want to play Izzet Guildgate, and besides, Sarkhan takes double red on Turn 3.

Okay, remember that other victory condition plan alluded to earlier?

Sphinx’s Revelation 2.0?

Actually, yes, yes it is.

Some key differences:

1. Gets games over way faster. Sure, cool.

2. Costs one more to get started…and gives you a Fireball instead of a Stream of Life.

3. The ability to “cycle” it by playing it as Expansion is actually incredible. It’s not like Fork is the worst card ever, and this makes it a lot easier to play tons of copies of. I’m not actually sure four is a bad idea.

That said, this list is clearly trying to get the most it can out of the whole Dragon angle. Once we’re going to the trouble of supporting Dragons with Sarkhan, though, how much would it take to splash Nicol Bolas, the Ravager?

Sarkhan gives us our first four, and Grixis mana is really easy, to say nothing of our cantrips.

And who knows?

Niv-Mizzet isn’t exactly the Dragon that most wants you to cut all the sorceries and instants from your deck for more Dragons, but you don’t need to be ultra-minimalist, or anything. If any of the other Elder Dragons catch your eye, it’s not hard to support most of them.

Most of them.

Err, okay, with that said, it’s back to Izzet, and this time without Niv-Mizzet.

It wouldn’t be a Magic set without a red flier that comes back from the graveyard, and Guilds of Ravnica is no exception. Arclight Phoenix’s hook, needing you to play three sorceries and/or instants, is comically easy, especially when viewed through the lens of a Crackling Drake deck.

MBLH is looking to go under opponents Game 1 and then get a little bigger after sideboarding. I don’t know if I could give up Niv-Mizzet and Expansion // Explosion, though. They just seem like such incredible ways to take over the game.

Instead, this build is a really effective Chart a Course deck, and even goes so far as to pack Discovery // Dispersal for extra ways to find (and bin) Phoenixes.

Do we really not want even a couple of black multicolor lands to have the option of using the five-drop side when the game goes long? It just seems like it would cost so little.

Great card. Not really that complicated of an issue. Biggest thing to note, the burn spells that can’t go to the face are generally stronger (right now), but risk being dead cards in some matchups. However, if you’ve got plenty of Jump-start, you can really ameliorate hands where you draw the wrong interaction.

Speaking of burn not going to face and Jump-start, Beacon Bolt is sort of an Izzet Slaughter-With-The-Buyback. (Look it up. It was a thing.) The self-mill angle does make cards like this better, and sort of begs the question, why not maindeck Ral, Izzet Viceroy?

Of course, there is another way to stock the graveyard…

…the old-fashioned way….

Cheap cantrips, just as Garfield intended!

Enough cantrips that our deck with four-cost blue fliers is playing eighteen land? Alan Comer would be proud.

Yeah, we’re back to Enigma Drake. Puzzling, I know.

Okay, I’ve gotta give it to you there. That’s actually just super-sweet. Yeah, Maximize Velocity isn’t great most of the time, but wow, is that a great card to discard to Tormenting Voice or Chart a Course when you’re playing Crackling and Enigma Drake.

Of course, as much as I want to get fancy and Maximize the Velocity of an unladen Drake, I want to draw X cards even more.

Now we’re starting to really get into it. I’m not sold on this array of sorceries and instants. It’s kind of all over the place. However, I like what this list is trying to do: one-for-one over and over, and then cast Expansion // Explosion and pull ahead. Izzet decks with variations of this plan were really on the rise, this week, as it’s basically the most straightforward way to defeat Golgari decks. They may be getting two-for-ones over and over, but the moment you Expansion // Explosion, you undo all the advantage they sacrificed their tempo for.

All that said, there’s another endgame I really want to dig into. It’s got a lot of competition at such a high cost, but the card seems suspiciously potent to me.

This is not the kind of card that’s supposed to be good. However, this take on the concept is a lot more pushed than usual. If you can untap with it, it’s kind of Mind’s Desire, right?

While we may not have any Rituals (yet…), we might not even need them if we think we realistically can live to untap with it.

Shock and Lightning Strike are obviously fine removal spells early on, but if you untap with a Thousand-Year Storm, it doesn’t seem hard to chain a few spells together and quickly end the game with a flurry of burn copies. For instance, play a one-cost spell like Opt and then Mission Briefing, and you’ll get to “Flashback” two spells. If you choose two different Lightning Strikes, you’ll deal nine and then twelve for a total of 21 (and needing just seven mana).

This deck requires some tuning, as this endgame is just so warped, but also so slow, that it’s not obvious how much we even need to play to “make it better” compared to just making sure we live that long. I mean, are we even supposed to really be a combo deck? For instance, what if we were a “normal” deck that transformed into a combo deck after sideboarding?

The prospect of transforming from a relatively normal Izzet deck into a Thousand-Year Storm combo deck is actually really exciting. Obviously, if people start playing a ton of anti-creature cards that match up well against Izzet, we could also go the other way, starting as a Thousand-Year deck and transforming into creatures later.

I don’t think Thousand-Year Storm and Experimental Frenzy naturally synergize well enough to make up for their awkwardness together (drawing cards isn’t the best with Frenzy and Frenzy makes it harder to set up optimal Thousand-Year turns), but I wouldn’t rule it out completely.

Experimental Frenzy is one of the cards I most want to work with, however. It’s great in fast red aggro, sure, but it seems like it’d be even better with a little cleverness. For instance, check out RA_PO’s update to their PTQ list from this past week:

Treasure Map is absolutely amazing with Experimental Frenzy, giving you so much selection at relatively low opportunity cost. It also gives you a way to build an advantage when you don’t have the Frenzy itself.

Runaway Steam-Kin is the premier red beatdown creature, no question, but the mana rebate it gives us really makes me want to explore it in a variety of quasi-combo decks, even alongside Goblin Electromancer in a build of Thousand-Year Storm that is unafraid of removal.

As for Experimental Frenzy, the real question is what to do about lands on top of our deck.


Wayward Swordtooth is incredible with Experimental Frenzy, not only letting you play two lands a turn but effectively drawing you multiple extra cards a turn by getting lands out of the way (and that’s to say nothing of how much all that extra land will help you cast spells). What’s more, it turns into a 5/5 relatively quickly, and while we may not have Stomping Ground yet, there’s a lot of interesting reasons to consider Gruul Frenzy.

Explore is kind of interesting with Experimental Frenzy, letting you help set up the top of your deck to keep going. Shuffle effects are a mixed bag, as you can’t exactly save most of them for when you get stopped.

Some can be saved, though, and I’d be interested in trying Evolving Wilds (or at least Field of Ruin) in here. Our mana could use the help anyway.

Good interaction in general, but a deck like this is going to be able to get up to enough to kick it fairly often. It’s unfortunate how much it can get stuck on top of our deck, but it’s still nice to have some of it.

I appreciate wanting to make Commune with Dinosaurs and Thunderherd Migration work, but we can probably do better. We might just want more cheap cards anyway.

While Golgari has positioned itself as the deck to beat, this week’s Magic Online metagame really suggests that Izzet and Jeskai are natural foils to it. I certainly don’t think we’ve seen the end of the format’s evolution, either, and I know my first stop is combo, as most of the Izzet decks people are playing seem a little too slow to race combo and a little too low on countermagic to stop it.