Over the last few months, red-based prowess decks in Modern have adopted a variety of secondary colors. The first stop was white, largely to use Path to Exile to gain some advantage in the mirror and against Eldrazi Tron and Primeval Titan decks. Then came Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and the prowess decks moved to black to incorporate Fatal Push and Thoughtseize. After Lurrus was nerfed, prowess players were unsure whether to keep playing Rakdos or go back to mono-red.
But with the release of M21 came Stormwing Entity, which you may remember from my Top 5 M21 Cards for Modern article. Since adopting our new flappy friend, Izzet Blitz has been tearing up Magic Online events, logging a second place finish in the Modern Champs in the hands of NuBlkAu.
2 Bedlam Reveler
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Soul-Scar Mage
3 Sprite Dragon
4 Stormwing Entity
3 Light Up the Stage
2 Burst Lightning
3 Gut Shot
4 Lava Dart
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Mutagenic Growth
2 Arid Mesa
3 Fiery Islet
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Spirebluff Canal
2 Steam Vents
2 Wooded Foothills
Regardless of which secondary color you’re playing, the deck remains intact:
Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage serve as your core creature base. Playing four copies of each maximizes the chance that you’ll have a creature in play on turn one, which is crucial to making sure this deck is greater than the sum of its parts. Adding an extra damage or two onto already powerful cards such as Lightning Bolt is what makes Izzet Blitz incredibly powerful. Bedlam Reveler is also a mainstay of this archetype — with draws involving Manamorphose and free spells, you can power out a Bedlam Reveler as early as turn three, refuel your hand, and set up a burst of damage the following turn.
Spells that maximize the value of other spells are the other half of the prowess formula. One-mana 1/2’s can be threatening in combat, but chaining a Manamorphose into a Lightning Bolt and a Light Up the Stage means you’re getting in with a 4/5 (and either killing a blocker or sending three damage upstairs). Lava Dart looks innocuous on its face, but once you’re adding an additional damage for each creature you have in play, it looks much more powerful, especially when it kills a pair of small creatures to let your team get in.
The Blue Cards
So, why do we have blue cards? The main reason is evasion. As creatures clog up the ground, prowess decks lose a lot of their luster; instead of pointing Lightning Bolt at your opponent, you have to kill an opposing blocker to keep your creature alive. While Kiln Fiend out of mono-red prowess may have a faster unimpeded kill speed, a number of decks in Modern can put anything in front of it. Flying is a much more valuable keyword than you’d think.
Sprite Dragon may not have been enough to tip the scales in the favor of blue by itself, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to this deck. Unlike the red prowess creatures, Sprite Dragon gains +1/+1 counters, growing as the game goes on. Monastery Swiftspear may add one damage to Gut Shot, but Sprite Dragon has the potential to get much more than one damage out of any spell, provided that it sticks around.
Stormwing Entity provides the deck with additional potential for explosive starts. “Five” is the converted mana cost in the corner, which insulates Stormwing Entity from Fatal Push, but you’ll almost always cast it for two mana. Stormwing Entity is also a base 3/3 with prowess, which makes it reasonably hard to kill with damage-based removal such as Lightning Bolt. Getting a scry 2 when Stormwing enters the battlefield is also a nice bonus, as you can filter extra lands to the bottom to set up a powerful follow-up turn.
Opt seems like kind of an odd choice here, but it keeps your draws smooth. Drawing too many copies of Light Up the Stage can be awkward, as paying full retail for that card is often a concession. Opt is another cheap spell to make Stormwing Entity castable, and it adds a counter to Sprite Dragon for just one mana. It’s possible to trim one Opt for an additional Mutagenic Growth or Gut Shot, but three copies of Opt is likely close to correct.
Phyrexian Spells Get Even Better
It’s no secret that Phyrexian mana spells are powerful, but they get a bonus in this deck. They’re “free” prowess triggers, which already boosts their power level quite a bit. But combine Mutagenic Growth with Sprite Dragon on turn two, and suddenly you have a 4/4 flyer with haste that will deal even more damage later. Gut Shot is also excellent at getting Stormwing Entity into play on turn two; it doesn’t need a target and lets you leave two mana open to cast Entity — a role few cards in Magic can fill.
The other nice benefit of Phyrexian mana spells is that you can easily blow your opponent out when they try to kill your creatures. Mutagenic Growth will save any of your creatures from damage based removal and make blocking them unappealing. This makes racing nearly impossible, so you should be able to close out the game if your opponent is too cautious with their attacks. Who would’ve thought that Gut Shot could have such an impact on combat?
The sideboard of Izzet Blitz is pretty similar to mono-red prowess sideboards.
Blood Moon is pretty close to free in any predominantly-red deck, but notably makes casting your blue spells much harder. But in match-ups where you are interested in Blood Moon, shutting down your blue cards to turn off the opposing deck is a fine deal.
The real changes come in the form of Spell Pierce and Aether Gust. Spell Pierce lets aggressive strategies interact with fast combo decks or cheap sweepers like Anger of the Gods — two angles that prowess decks haven’t had before. Aether Gust is largely to handle Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath — which, if resolved, makes life quite difficult. The game often ends when Uro escapes, so packing at least two Gusts can serve you well.
Izzet Blitz is one of the hottest new decks on the scene, and I believe it has real benefits over its mono-red counterpart in the current Modern metagame. If you’re looking for an aggressive deck that can get under the clunkier decks like Eldrazi Tron, or punish decks like Azorius Control that don’t play to the board very well, Izzet Blitz is a great place to start! As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @RappaciousOne, and I’ll see you all next week.