MtG Duel Deck review: Izzet vs Golgari – Steam and Fetid Gas

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Izzet

Steam, blistercoils and mizzium-spheres are some of the favourite toys of the inventive and exploding Izzet guild. They care nothing for rules in the way of their quest for knowledge. However, was disturbing the hordes of the Golgari really the smartest move?

Wizards of the Coast have changed the order in which they release duel decks to make them more relevant to those who enjoy playing standard Magic. Venser vs Koth, for example, came near the close of the metal plane of Mirrodin’s grip on standard. In this new duel deck, we see some old mechanics from Ravinica, splashed with a few teasers for Return to Ravnica, which will be upon us next month.

On one side we have Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind from the Ravnica block. He may seem rather expensive at six mana for a 4/4 flyer, but his true strength comes from his abilities. Any card drawing effects start to hurt your opponent, creating a slow, painful clock until an Izzet mage near explodes in a show of manic magic. The old Izzet mechanic, replicate, can win a game from nowhere in a flurry of spells. Train of Thought, for example, is a great way to draw a card. Or, if you have extra mana, to draw several cards. Casting Train of Thought while your dragon friend is on the table, however, is when your opponent will really cringe. If you prefer a more direct approach, Pyromatics is a great way to get rid of pests and get some direct damage in.

One of the new Return to Ravnica cards, Street Spasm, shows off the overload mechanic.Overload changes the spell’s text if you pay the overload cost, meaning it can either hit one land based critter, or all of your opponent’s ground dwellers. The Isochron Scepter is a great way to get ahead of your opponent. Imprint any of your useful instants that cost 2 mana or less onto the artifact and suddenly you have access to that spell every turn until someone gets rid the scepter. Perhaps you decided to exile Izzet Charm, another Return to Ravnica preview card. You now effectively have access to three spells and you can cast one per turn.

Street Spasm

On the more shambling side of the table, meet Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. This Return to Ravnica mythic rare loves death. Every creature in your graveyard makes him stronger, and he can sacrifice a friend to make his opponent wither. To make things worse, he can rise from the grave again at the cost of lands, if you don’t mind losing a few in your battle. If you do mind, Life from the Loam is your friend. Get those lands back that you lost to Jarad, and then use dredge to bloat your graveyard. Dredge, if you didn’t play in the older sets, can be a bit confusing, so here is an example of it in action: You cast Life from the Loam, because Jarad keeps on hitting the graveyard and you are running out of land. Next turn, instead of drawing a card in your upkeep, you can choose to put three cards from your library into your graveyard to return Life from the Loam to your hand. Hopefully, you tossed a few creatures into early graves to make Jarad more powerful. If you are very lucky, you tossed a Dreg Mangler away, which shows off the Golgari mechanic in Return to Ravnica, scavenge. If you pay the scavenge cost, you can exile the poor beastie from your graveyard and put +1/+1 counters onto a creature equal to the scavenged card’s power. This means Dreg Mangler is equally useful alive or dead.

Another new trick in the army of Golgari is the Korozda Guildmage, who can help your creatures sneak past with intimidate, or kill off one of your creatures to make several saprolings spring forth, increasing the size of your army. The Golgari Grave-Troll, an old favourite, either packs a mean punch later in the game, or fills your graveyard with tender meats. For those cards you want back without dredge, the Eternal Witness can return any card from your graveyard to your hand.

Playing these decks against each other, Golgari seems to fall flat far too often. Either due to no creatures in the graveyard or Izzet getting too much advantage, I found myself too often staring at a hand of creatures that would die if I cast them (due to coming in as 0/0s) or effects to help the graveyard when it was empty already. Niv-Mizzet is far more inevitable, often imprinting Fire//Ice onto an Isochron Sceptre. Cards like Magma Spray punish you for casting Jarad too early in the game, or they can Dissipate it to avoid his recursion. Reminisce can also undo all of your hard work dredging, while Brainstorm nets an answer more often than not, and the sting of all these cards is repeated when Izzet Chronarch or Isochron Sceptre are in play. While I was able to net a few lucky wins with Dreg Mangler and Jarad, it was more through watching a blue and red mana flood than any really repeatable tricks. However, considering the other cards that Golgari will be getting in future, I have a lot of hope for the zombie wizard.

The duel decks are great not only as collector’s items, thanks to foil, alternate art versions of their flagship cards (Jarad and Niv-Mizzet, in this case), but this one also generates a lot of excitement for the next block of cards by showing off just enough to tantalise deck builders. Ravnica was a time of my best Magic, with so many mechanics and deck types. Return to Ravnica is showing that promise too, with great mechanics and awesome dual colour lands.

Here are the full deck lists.

Izzet:

Forgotten Cave
10  Island
Izzet Boilerworks
Lonely Sandbar
Mountain
Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind


24 lands
Djinn Illuminatus
Galvanoth
Gelectrode
Goblin Electromancer
Izzet Chronarch
Izzet Guildmage
Kiln Fiend
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
Ogre Savant
Shrewd Hatchling
Steamcore Weird
Wee Dragonauts


15 creatures

Brainstorm
Call to Heel
Dissipate
Fire // Ice
Force Spike
Invoke the Firemind
Isochron Scepter
Izzet Charm
Izzet Signet
Magma Spray
Overwhelming Intellect
Prophetic Bolt
Pyromatics
Quicksilver Dagger
Reminisce
Sphinx-Bone Wand
Street Spasm
Thunderheads
Train of Thought
Vacuumelt


21 other spells

Golgari:

Barren Moor
Dakmor Salvage
Forest
Golgari Rot Farm
Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
10  Swamp
Tranquil Thicket


24 lands
Boneyard Wurm
Brain Weevil
Doomgape
Dreg Mangler
Elves of Deep Shadow
Eternal Witness
Gleancrawler
Golgari Grave-Troll
Golgari Rotwurm
Golgari Thug
Greater Mossdog
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
Korozda Guildmage
Plagued Rusalka
Putrid Leech
Ravenous Rats
Reassembling Skeleton
Sadistic Hypnotist
Shambling Shell
Stingerfling Spider
Stinkweed Imp


23 creatures

Feast or Famine
Ghoul’s Feast
Golgari Germination
Golgari Signet
Grim Flowering
Life // Death
Life from the Loam
Nightmare Void
Putrefy
Twilight’s Call
Vigor Mortis
Yoke of the Damned


13 other spells

Realms

Also, for the Magic fans reading…we’ll be giving away a very special prize from the Vault! all you have to do is comment here and you could be the lucky winner of “From the Vault: Realms”  – a collection of containing fifteen premium foil lands from the history of Magic. It’s got an extremely limited print run and features new art, cards that have never been in foil before and cards that have never been in the modern card frame. Here’s what it contains:

We’ll announce the winner next week Wednesday – giving you plenty of time to leave your name here.

Last Updated: September 17, 2012

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