Izzet Dragons❄ Is The Big Winner In Standard Thanks To Adventures In The Forgotten Realms

Izzet Dragons❄ has the power to compete in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Standard and MTG Arena’s Standard 2022. World Champion PVDDR shares his builds for both formats.

Goldspan Dragon, illustrated by Andrew Mar

Standard has been a relatively stale format for a while, and the top decks have mostly remained the same for the past couple of months. Strixhaven didn’t shake things up very much, but it did bring one new deck that managed to infiltrate the format – Izzet Dragons❄. Personally, I was not a big fan of the deck when it came out, but I believe that, of all the decks that are currently viable in Standard, this deck gains the most from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and that makes it worth revisiting. As a starting point, let’s take Andrea Mengucci’s MPL list:

Izzet Dragons❄ plays radically differently depending on what you are playing against. If you’re playing against a creature deck (such as Mono-White Aggro❄ or Mono-Red Aggro❄), you’re mostly a midrange deck with cheap removal; four copies of Frost Bite and four copies of Bonecrusher Giant and Brazen Borrower give you time to deploy your Dragons and stabilize, until eventually you cast Alrund’s Epiphany and win. 

If you’re playing against a control deck like Sultai Ramp (Yorion), you either operate as a tempo deck (cast a couple of Brazen Borrowers / Bonecrusher Giants and sit on counterspells) or you play similarly to a combo deck. The Sultai decks have a lot of removal and you can’t fight on your turn, so sometimes you can’t just ride your three-drop to victory, which means the goal becomes to set up a scenario where you can cast Goldspan Dragon and then counter whatever they cast the following turn, which hopefully translates into a win through Alrund’s Epiphany while they’re tapped out.

There are many different ways of building this deck depending on what you’re expecting. Andrea expected a heavy control field, so he played four copies of Mazemind’s Tome, for example, but you could swap some of them and some counterspells for more removal if you wanted (and I would do that if I were to play on ladder). 

Here are the cards that I believe we should consider from the new set:

Burning Hands

The biggest problem with Izzet Dragons❄ was the lack of good answers to big green monsters. Lovestruck Beast is a big problem (and widely played now, given the popularity of Naya Adventures), and Elder Gargaroth; Polukranos, Unchained; and Koma, Cosmos Serpent are the main ways Sultai decks beat you after sideboarding (I believe almost all of my wins against this deck on Sultai Ramp have involved one or more of these cards). You always had Brazen Borrower to bounce these creatures, but sometimes it’s ineffective, especially versus Lovestruck Beast. With Burning Hands, you can now kill them for only two mana at instant speed. When I did my Adventures In The Forgotten Realms First Impressions: Standard Top 5 list, I included Burning Hands in it in part because of this deck. I think the green creatures were a real problem and this goes a very long way towards solving it.

The beauty of Burning Hands is that, as a non-hate card, it’s not actually that bad either. It’s similar to Mystical Dispute, which excels versus blue decks but has uses versus the other ones as well. Two mana for two damage is certainly not good, but you’ll be happy to have it against Mono-White Aggro❄, for example. If you play against Naya Adventures, it will kill any creature in their deck outside of Bonecrusher Giant, even the white ones. If you compare it to something like Scorching Dragonfire, it will match up surprisingly well a lot of the time (some notable misses being Anax, Hardened in the Forge and Faceless Haven).

This to me means the card can even be considered maindeckable if the metagame is right for it, but even if it’s not, you can definitely dedicate a lot of your sideboard slots to it since it can come in versus so many different decks. 

Iymrith, Desert Doom

The new Dragonlord Ojutai is also likely to find a home in Izzet Dragons❄ (being a Dragon in the Izzet colors and all). There aren’t any Dragon synergies in the deck just yet, but this is a strong card to accelerate into (with Prismari Command, if you play that) and a card you’re happy tapping out for on Turn 5 most of the time, given that it’s rarely answered at a profit.

The deck always felt too reliant on Goldspan Dragon to do anything, and Iymrith offers you some more copies of a powerful five-mana card. It’s not the same thing, of course, and you’d probably rather have more Goldspan Dragons, but this is not something that you can do, and Iymrith is going to outperform Goldspan Dragon anyway some of the time — it’s a very good card to play against their Goldspan Dragon, for example, and it might get ahead of removal spells even if they are very cheap. If you’re on the draw they can spend their entire Turn 6 to Heartless Act it, and if you are on the play that’s not even an option. It also virtually dodges Binding the Old Gods, which is one of the best cards in Sultai Ramp against you.

I don’t think you should play four copies of Iymrith, as your deck can become kinda clunky and it is legendary, but I think two copies will be pretty good in the deck. Once Mystical Dispute rotates, we could even consider more copies. 

Dragon’s Fire

Finally we have an actual Dragon-themed card to put in our Dragons deck. Dragon’s Fire is probably the best two-mana removal spell that you can play, given that it gives you the ability to kill bigger creatures via Goldspan Dragon or Iymrith. Other than these exact cards from the opponent, it also facilitates killing Torbran, Thane of Red Fell; Yorion, Sky Nomad; and Lovestruck Beast among others, which means it’s probably better than Fire Prophecy or Scorching Dragonfire.

The big question is whether you want a two-mana removal spell at all (Mengucci’s deck didn’t run any, for example). I believe that, unless you suspect the metagame is going to be very control-centric, you should probably play one or two, and then Dragon’s Fire is likely the best bet unless green decks are so popular that you should maindeck Burning Hands, which is definitely a possibility.

On top of your actual Dragons, remember that Faceless Haven is also a Dragon. If you need to kill a four-toughness creature, you can just animate Faceless Haven, attack with it, and use the mana to cast Dragon’s Fire.

Den of the Bugbear

Den of the Bugbear has gotten a lot of attention lately, and for good reason, but I don’t think it belongs in this particular deck. The red mana is certainly welcome, but Faceless Haven still strikes me as the more powerful creature-land. It’s possible that we should eschew snow lands and Frost Bite altogether, at which point your manabase would improve significantly, but I’m not quite ready to do that yet. Instead, I prefer the next land in the cycle:

Hall of Storm Giants

Hall of Storm Giants is very expensive to activate, but it deals a ton of damage — seven is almost twice as much as four! Given that this deck doesn’t often activate its creature-lands in the middle of the game, instead using them to go for the kill in your combo turns, I think it’s worth paying more to get the bigger creature. Besides, this deck has some games in which it generates a ton of Treasures and has nothing to use them on, and Hall of Storm Giants is a good mana sink. Not being a snow land and sometimes entering the battlefield tapped is a steep price, though, so you can’t realistically play more than two of them.

Temple of the Dragon Queen

We’re a Dragon deck, so we have the ability to use the new Dragon land. However, given the need for snow lands in particular, we’re probably not going to be playing this one. If we do move to a non-snow manabase, this is also a possible fixer.

So, what does the deck look like in the end?

There aren’t a whole lot of changes, but I think the changes that do exist are very meaningful. Iymrith is a very powerful threat and Burning Hands has the potential to fix many of your problems.

Standard 2022

One of the questions I get asked the most during coaching is, “What deck should I be building now that’s still going to be good post-rotation?” Obviously there’s no way for us to actually know, since there’s a new set and all, but if you want to buy cards for a Standard deck right now with a good likelihood that they will remain good after the rotation, Izzet Dragons❄ is probably the best bet. You lose the Adventure creatures, which are very important, but everyone else also loses the Adventure creatures on top of many other things, and your manabase remains intact, whereas other manabases lose Triomes and some of their multicolored lands. 

There are currently Standard 2022 queues on Magic Arena and even Standard 2022 third-party tournaments, and Izzet Dragons❄ is one of the two clear best decks in the format (alongside Mono-Green Aggro❄). Mono-Green Aggro❄ is not very good in current Standard, though, so if you’re looking for a deck that is both good for current Standard and good for Standard 2022 (which means it has a decent chance of remaining viable after the rotation), that deck is likely Izzet Dragons❄.

As reference, here’s a list Brandon Burton piloted to a win in the very first Standard 2022 tournament I saw (with Brad Nelson getting second on a very similar list):

I think this deck has a distinct lack of Iymrith that I am eager to correct. If anything, the card becomes significantly better once Mystical Dispute is no longer in the format, and you really need a good number of big creatures to be able to beat the reliability that Ranger Class provides. On top of that, this deck is naturally playing Prismari Command, so it’s a shame to not have another five-drop that’s good to accelerate into. I would build my Standard 2022 deck like this:

Personally, I look forward to playing this deck post-rotation — I think I’ve played enough with the Throne of Eldraine cards at this point — but there’s no doubt that it is a viable deck right now and I believe that, of all the major archetypes currently in Standard, it’s the one that received the most help from the new set, which should only improve its current standing.