Today’s upgrade guide for one of our five Free-to-Play, 0 wildcard decks for the Gladiator Format presents one of the most dramatic changes to a deck so far. This week, we’re not only making sure the deck further embraces its original spells matter theme (with a dash of storm) — we’re removing one entire color from the deck.
Don’t worry, though. The changes to this deck will still only be using 5 common and 5 uncommon wildcards. We’re subbing in a few free cards that didn’t make the cut into the original list, but what we’re losing in big creatures, we’re gaining in mana consistency and theme. Let’s dive into the changes!
For reference, here’s the original list:
While there’s nothing overtly wrong with the original list, the card pool we have available for free demands that the deck straddle the line between a spells matter deck and a mid-range creature focused deck. Sometimes one plan will work out better than the other, but in practice you’ll sometimes draw into a mix of both parts of the deck that just doesn’t quite work the way we want. Let’s take a look at the upgraded list:
The most obvious change you’ll see is that we’ve entirely removed green from the deck, changing the list from Temur to Izzet. While theme is important, the biggest thing that this change does is improves consistency for mana. This allows us to more easily actually play finisher cards like Niv-Mizzet, Parun and the Explosion half of Expansion / Explosion without worrying that they’ll bend up stranded in our hand.
The changes we’ve made also improve the theme of the deck. Compared to our Esper list, we’re focusing less on the control aspect of the deck and more on the tempo and card draw aspects while also adding some additional cheap noncreature spell payoffs. We’ve added the following ten wildcards to this version of the deck:
- Scorching Dragonfire
- Blink of an Eye
- Omen of the Sea
- Thrill of Possibility
- Sprite Dragon
- Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
- Lore Drakkis
- Electrostatic Field
Card draw/selection spells represent the majority of the common additions to the deck. Anticipate, Omen of the Sea, and Thrill of Possibility all help move through the deck more quickly to find our payoffs and removal. While both Anticipate and Thrill of Possibility synergize well with our cards that care about “instants and sorceries,” Omen of the Sea still represents one of the most powerful and low-cost draw options available. The ability to look as far as three deep into your deck (scry 2 and draw 1) can help smooth out your curve in the early game or fish for answers later. The ability to sacrifice it later in the game to scry a further 2 simply cements its place as a strong addition to the deck despite not being a true instant or sorcery spell.
The rest of our common additions are devoted to removal and tempo. Scorching Dragonfire and Blink of an Eye help you control the board in the early game. Scorching Dragonfire’s clause of exiling creatures it kills helps to frustrate some graveyard strategies or deal with otherwise hard to remove creatures. Blink of an Eye helps remove stubborn obstacles such as large creatures, Planeswalkers nearing their ultimate ability, or enchantments (a weakness for both blue and red). While it won’t happen often, due to the lack of available counterspells in the free pool, it can also sometimes be used in conjunction with negate to more permanently deal with problem non-creature spells. Finally, Blink of an Eye can also be kicked to draw an additional card. In the late game (or if you just have mana you’re not using), this ability to replace itself is invaluable.
All of our uncommon card slots (with the exception of Lore Drakkis) are devoted to spell payoffs.
Electrostatic Field and Guttersnipe both use our instant and sorcery spells to deal additional direct damage straight to our opponent’s face. Adding damage onto everything from our removal to our card draw helps us chip in for unavoidable, small amounts of damage while we search through our deck for our finishers. Electrostatic Field’s 4 toughness is also a great way of slowing down aggro decks if it can come down early enough as well.
Sprite Dragon and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer both rely on the broad category of “noncreature spells,” rather than just instants and sorceries. Both also represent a certain amount of inevitability in your deck. Sprite Dragon is more direct, gaining a permanent +1/+1 counter for every noncreature spell, if it’s not dealt with it can end games very quickly given our density of noncreature spells and card draw. Saheeli, rather than going big like the Sprite Dragon, allows you to go wide, creating a 1/1 token every time you cast a noncreature spell. As an additional benefit, you can copy another creature using these tokens, opening up many possibilities (such as copying the sprite dragon to create another creature to accrue +1/+1 counters that don’t go away when the copy effect ends).
Lore Drakkis is the lone standout among our uncommon additions. While it’s not a spells payoffs, it does give the deck some recursion when it mutates onto another non-human creature. Getting back an Expansion / Explosion, Electrodominance, or Inescapable Blaze from your graveyard gives you more options for closing out games if you were forced to use any of them earlier on.
Now that we’ve covered our uncommon and common additions, let’s take a look at some rare and mythic additions that can further boost the deck in power level.
First, let’s take a look at what is probably the best investment of a rare wildcard in any singleton format: Fabled Passage. This card is useful in nearly every deck you can create in this format. This is the card I advise you craft before any other rares. While it’s not the most exciting card in the world, it does wonders towards improving two and three-color mana bases, especially within these budget decks. For this deck, I recommend removing one mountain to make room for Fabled Passage. Your next rare Wildcards for this deck should go towards building your Izzet land base, but these additions don’t need much in the way of explanation.
With our usual land disclaimer out of the way (and I do hope you’re covering your land bases), our main problem in the deck is simply that there’s a lot of filler cards due to the change from Temur to Izzet. There are plenty of directions you could go with rare and mythic additions, but we’ll be focusing on adding end-game inevitability with our two additions.
For our rare wildcard, let’s simply embrace the storm sub-theme happening in the deck by including Sharknado… I mean, Shark Typhoon. This is an incredibly versatile card for this deck. In its casted mode, it creates a flood of flying shark tokens with every noncreature spell you cast. Eventually, you’ll simply overwhelm your opponent in value (and sharks). With its cycling ability, you can use it to dig further into your deck if you’re looking for a specific answer, or simply use it as a tempo or game-ending threat at instant speed. That it can create a flying shark of any size (only limited by your available mana) without being able to be countered or affected by the timing restrictions of Teferi, Time Raveler makes it a very powerful addition to this deck.
Our mythic wildcard is simply about pure power. Chandra, Awakened Inferno is often a game-ending play. All three of its abilities are usable the moment it comes down, offering you an inevitable clock at +2, a board wipe for go-wide or token decks at -3, and a -X that can use loyalty to deal with large creatures or troublesome planeswalkers. The spell also can’t be countered, making it a very effective threat when up against hard control decks. Simply put, this Chandra ends games more effectively than almost any other available mythic option.
These aren’t all the additions you can make, and if you find this upgraded deck fun, here are a few more cards that you can add using wildcards to make it even better:
- Mystic Sanctuary
- Shimmer of Possibility
- Fire Prophecy
- Thought Collapse
- Didn’t Say Please
- Flame Sweep
- Lightning Strike
- Wizard’s Lightning
- Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor
- Invert / Invent
- Narset, Parter of Veils
- Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
- Beacon Bolt
- Faerie Vandal
- Storm’s Wrath
- River’s Rebuke
- The Mirari Conjecture
- Ral, Storm Conduit
- Talrand, Sky Summoner
- Brazen Borrower
- God-Eternal Kefnet
And finally, let’s take a look at an example of a fully upgraded list without wildcard restrictions:
This Izzet upgrade to our original Temur spells deck is obviously not the only way that this deck could go. While testing, I found a variety of different variations that we could take this Temur list with a few changes to the main decklist. It’s an incredibly versatile color combination, and perhaps in a future article we’ll take a stroll down Temur lane and explore those possibilities.
We’ve only got two more decklists to tackle from our original five! Have a preference for which one I tackle next, or have a topic you want me to explore after we finish this series? Let me know!
See you in the Arena!