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Competitive Izzet (Red/Blue) Artisan Deck in Magic: The Gathering

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Sprite Dragon mtg

Sprite Dragon mtg

What Is the Artisan Format in Magic?

You'll find artisan mode in the digital game Magic: The Arena. Similar to pauper format, which bans anything that isn't of common rarity, artisan only accepts commons and uncommons. This shakes things up by letting players encounter spells that normally don't see the light of day.

My favorite artisan deck utilizes Izzet colors of red/blue, emphasizing instants and sorceries. These tend to be better in lower rarities than creatures, making the guild a natural fit for artisan—here's a guide to one of the best artisan decks in the game!

Improbable Alliance mtg

Improbable Alliance mtg

Ominous Seas mtg

Ominous Seas mtg

Experimental Overload mtg

Experimental Overload mtg

Izzet Token Generators

  • 4 Improbable Alliance
  • 4 Ominous Seas
  • 2 Experimental Overload

Since the deck focuses on instants and sorceries, you'll want cards that create creature tokens to stave off enemy aggro. Improbable Alliance gives a flying 1/1 faerie whenever you draw your second card each turn, an easy trigger with all the spellslinging we're about to see.

Meanwhile, Ominous Seas takes longer to trigger, gaining a counter whenever you draw, but by removing eight, you create a fearsome 8/8 kraken token. You can also cycle the card for two mana, useful for triggering your second-draw conditions.

Finally, Experimental Overload creates an X/X token, where X is the number of instants/sorceries in your graveyard, then returns one from graveyard to hand before exiling itself. Not only does this recover a spell you want, it creates yet another formidable token.

Card Draw

  • 4 Opt
  • 4 Crash Through
  • 2 Thrill of Possibility
  • 4 Frantic Inventory
  • 4 Winged Words

Both of your main token-generators rely on draws, so you want lots of card advantage. Enter the above spells, all of which draw bonus cards. Notably, Frantic Inventory and Thrill of Discovery can both draw multiple times on your opponent's turn, meaning you can get tokens from Improbable Alliance even on other turns. Crash Through gives your creatures trample for the turn, great when you're ready to swing your 8/8 krakens through any blockers.

Winged Words is an underrated card that draws twice and decreases from three mana to two just by controlling a flying creature. Your faerie tokens will satisfy this, as will your four Sprite Dragon creatures, who get +1/+1 counter whenever you cast a non-creature.

Frost Bite mtg

Frost Bite mtg

Fire Prophecy mtg

Fire Prophecy mtg

Gust of Wind mtg

Gust of Wind mtg

Removal

  • 1 Frost Bite
  • 2 Fire Prophecy
  • 1 Gust of Wind

You'll want a few removals to handle opposing threats and buy time to swarm tokens. Frost Bite is a nice, cheap removal that goes from two to three damage if you control at least three snow lands. Fire Prophecy instantly hits for three and lets you put a card from your hand on bottom of deck to draw something new, great for triggering your turn's second draw.

Gust of Wind drops from four mana to two if you control a flyer, bouncing any non-land back to hand and drawing a card. This only plays at sorcery speed but works wonders against enchanted/equipped foes or tokens.

Swiftwater Cliffs mtg

Swiftwater Cliffs mtg

Lands

  • 9 Snow Island
  • 9 Snow Mountain
  • 4 Swiftwater Cliffs

You can usually get away with just 22 or even 21 lands thanks to the deck's excessive card draw. With rares and mythics banned, many of your best two-color lands aren't allowed, so basic islands and mountains take up most space; make 'em snows if you run Frost Bite. Swiftwater Cliffs offers a good turn-one play (your best setups cost two), entering tapped but giving either color plus one life.

Soul-Guide Lantern mtg

Soul-Guide Lantern mtg

Mantle of Tides mtg

Mantle of Tides mtg

Hypnotic Sprite mtg

Hypnotic Sprite mtg

Sideboard/Other Cards to Consider

We've now seen the aces of the deck, but here are some more considerations to help round out your build or replace cards you haven't unlocked yet.

  • Mantle of Tides (+1/+2, auto-equips on second draw each turn)
  • Scrabbling Claws/Soul-Guide Lantern (useful graveyard hate that can sac themselves for a draw)
  • Hypnotic Sprite (counterspell for cards costing three or less, later a 2/1 flyer)
  • Cloudkin Seer (2/1 flyer with draw on entry)
  • Teferi's Tutelage (mills two opposing cards when you draw, gives a potential alternate-win con in extended games)
  • Radiant Fountain (colorless land that gives two life, helps outlast aggro)
Teferi's Tutelage mtg

Teferi's Tutelage mtg

Sample Izzet Deck List

I'd say the deck wins about 2/3 of games; not many artisan decks contain much enchantment removal, letting your Improbable Alliances and Ominous Seas run rampant. Mill decks can be a bit challenging to face since you cycle through your cards so quickly, but even they often fall since your flyers soar over most of their ground-based blockers. Below is a complete 60-card deck list; feel free to tweak as needed and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

Creatures

  • 4 Sprite Dragon

Artifacts

  • 1 Mantle of Tides

Enchantments

  • 4 Improbable Alliance
  • 4 Ominous Seas

Instants

  • 4 Opt
  • 4 Frantic Inventory
  • 1 Frost Bite
  • 2 Fire Prophecy
  • 3 Thrill of Possibility

Sorceries

  • 3 Crash Through
  • 4 Winged Words
  • 2 Gust of Wind
  • 2 Experimental Overload

Lands

  • 9 Snow-Covered Island
  • 8 Snow-Covered Mountain
  • 4 Swiftwater Cliffs
  • 1 Radiant Fountain

© 2021 Jeremy Gill

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