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September 8, 2012


Duel Decks- Izzet vs Golgari: Izzet’s Deck Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

With the decks reviewed, it’s time to get down to business! Sam’s eagerly awaiting me at the table as she shuffles up the Golgari deck, while I’m about to find out what the Izzet are made of!

Game One

Sam’s on the play for our opener, and drops a Tranquil Thicket. I play an Island and pass, then Sam adds a Swamp to bring a Putrid Leech on-line. It’s a fine start, but I simply Force Spike it for the counter. Next turn I add a Mountain and summon a Goblin Electromancer.

Now turn 3, Sam leads with Dakmor Salvage, then brings out a 1/1 Boneyard Wurm. Back to me, I attack with the Electromancer for 2, then add a Wee Dragonauts. Next turn Sam fortifies her defense with a Stinkweed Imp, though I press on with a Shrewd Hatchling.

Sam then replies on turn 5 with a Brain Weevil. I trigger the Hatchling’s blocking restriction to prevent the Wurm and Imp from standing in its way, then send it in for 2. Down to 16 life, Sam sacs the Weevil to force discard from my hand. I lose an Island and Djinn Illuminatus, then have to pitch a Thunderheads when Sam follows with a Ravenous Rats. Down to one card in hand (a Reminisce), I go to 18 life when Sam turns her Wurm sideways. I then counterattack with the Hatchling, again making sure it can’t be effectively blocked.

Now turn 7, Sam fires in with the Rats and Wurm for 3. I block and kill the Rats, going down to 16 life. She then follows up with her guild leader, the mighty Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, who gets +3/+3 thanks to Sam’s increasing graveyard. I go ahead and fire off the Reminisce to keep Jarad manageable, which has the added bonus of removing a -1/-1 counter from the Hatchling while killing off Sam’s Boneyard Wurm. I then send in the Hatchling with the usual blocking restriction triggers (mainly to keep her from dredging off the Imp), and Sam’s down to 11. Sam’s next turn is a blank, and then I play an Isochron Scepterimprinting a freshly-drawn Call to Heel. I then tap the Scepter to cast a copy, bouncing her Stinkweed Imp back to hand. Sam responds by triggering Jarad to sacrifice the Imp, making me lose 1 life and finally getting the Imp in the graveyard. On the upside, this means that Sam doesn’t get to draw a card off the Call, but it also lets me remove a -1/-1 counter off the Hatchling (since it cares only for casting and not actual resolution). Furthermore, the Wee Dragonauts get their power pump, and I trigger the Hatchling so that Jarad can’t get in the way. I fire in with both the Dragonauts and Hatchling for 7, and Sam goes down to 4 life, with me at 15.

With Sam staring defeat in the face and the Stinkweed Imp no longer a viable option, Sam rolls the dice on a fresh draw, comes up empty, and concedes.

Game Two

Sam opens with a Plagued Rusalka, while I play a Forgotten Cave and pass. Next Sam comes in for 1, then adds a Golgari Thug. Again, I play a land drop and end my turn. Sam fires in again for 2, and still I have nothing more to offer than land.

Now turn 4, Sam keeps the pressure on with another swing through the red zone, then passes. I finally have something to show for my efforts with a Shrewd Hatchling, but Sam simply Putrefies it next turn to clear the way for another 2-point press. I play an Island, but am characteristically mute.

Izzet Chronarch

Now turn 6, Sam fires in for 2 more, but I respond with Fire to kill the pair. Sam ensures that it’s the Rusalka that returns to the top of her library thanks to the Thug’s death trigger, then passes. I- you guessed it- play an Island and pass. Sam replays her Rusalka next turn, while my turn is a complete blank- not even a land drop this time around.

Sam attempts to land a turn-8 Golgari Germination, but she’s been having land issues for the past four turns and is easy prey to an Izzet Charm to counter it. She attacks for 1 with the Rusalka, and I’m now at 12. My next turn is another blank, and I’ve been having some land troubles of my own. I’ve got a Galvanoth in hand just begging to be unleashed, but the string of Islands and single Mountain are a testament to futility. Sam hits her fourth land drop next turn, a Swamp, then summons her Brain Weevil after another 1-point nibble. Unwilling to lose cards in hand and desperate for a second Red mana source, I Prophetic Bolt the Weevile on my turn. I don’t find a Mountain, but do pick up an Invoke the Firemind so I can continue digging next turn.

Now turn 10, Sam drops down a Golgari Signet, then sends the Rusalka in for more. Next up is a Ravenous Rats, and I pitch off a Call to Heel to the graveyard. Back to me, I tap out to Invoke the Firemind for four more cards. Finding an Izzet Boilerworks (at last!), I drop it down and bounce an Island, then discard it and a Mountain to get to seven cards in hand. Next turn, Sam attacks in for 2 with the Rats and Rusalka, then summons a Golgari Rotwurm. I next play Pyromaticsreplicated once, to kill the Rats/Rusalka duo, with Sam having no leftover mana to sac one in response through the Rotwurm. Then I simply Vacuumelt the Rotwurm itself.

Instead of simply replaying the Rotwurm on turn 12 as expected, Sam instead opts for a Gleancrawler. I play an Izzet Guildmage and pass, baiting the trap. The Gleancrawler trundles in next turn, and smashes squarely into a pair of Weirds off my Thunderheads. Sam has the last laugh, though, when she drags it back to the battlefield with a Vigor Mortis– and with a +1/+1 counter for its troubles. Back to me, I stick a Quicksilver Dagger on my Guildmage, then trigger it to ping Sam and dig for an answer. I then play a Train of Thoughtreplicated twice to find salvation in cardboard form. I find nothing.

Sam smashes in for 7 on turn 14, putting me at 1. After drawing and pinging her for one more card, I scoop.

Game Three

I open my account with a Forgotten Cave to begin our final game, while Sam raises me with an opening Elves of Deep Shadow. Back to me, I then counter with a Kiln Fiend, while Sam simply plays a Tranquil Thicket and passes as we come full circle.

Now turn 3, I blast the Elves out of the game with a Magma Spray, both to prevent Sam from ramping as well as to pump the Fiend. In comes the Fiend for 4, and Sam’s down to 16. She then adds a Golgari Signet. Next turn I attack with the Fiend for a much less satisfying 1, while Sam finds herself a Golgari Rotwurm.

A turn-5 Street Spasm kills off the Rotwurm, and again I’m able to carve in for 4 with the Fiend. For Sam’s part, she deploys Svogthos, the Restless Tomb and passes. Back to me, I bring her down to 10 life with another small tap from the Kiln Fiend, while she brings out a Stingerfling Spider followed by a Golgari Rot Farm.

Our turn 7 is a blank for both, though each of us at least finds a land. I bounce the Spider with an Ogre Savant on turn 8, attacking in again with the Fiend for 1. Sam replays it, drops a second Rot Farm, and ends her turn. Turn 9 is another disappointing round as my turn is a total blank, while all Sam manages to do is cycle a Barren Moor into a Swamp.

Now turn 10, I attack with both the Fiend and Ogre. Sam eats the Kiln Fiend with the Spider, though not before I snap off an Izzet Charm to loot a couple of cards (discarding a Call to Heel and Train of Thought, since I’ve been light on Blue). I then summon a Steamcore Weird, finishing off the Spider wounded from the surprise Fiend pump. Sam then pulls the Rotwurm back with a Vigor Mortis- again with the +1/+1 counter.

Next turn, I stick a Quicksilver Dagger on the Weird, pinging Sam and drawing a card (a disappointing and near-useless Force Spike). I play a Wee Dragonauts and pass. At 5 life, Sam then plays a second Rotwurm before swinging with the first for 6, hitting me for the first time all game. Down to 14 life, I ping Sam after drawing my card, finding a Prophetic Bolt on the second. Sam cant stop it, and it take the match.

Thoughts & Analysis

The match played against Sam and her Golgari deck were highly illuminating, and revealed a lot to us about he depth of this product in comparison to some others in the series. When we see folks criticise a Duel Decks construction, for instance, it often seems like its done taking the deck out of the context it’s properly supposed to be in. It’s hard to say, “well, this deck is bad” if you haven’t really taken a good look at the opposing deck, and this makes Duel Decks somewhat unique. Essentially, you’re looking at a self-contained Limited environment, and without an understanding of that you won’t have a full appreciation of what the decks are trying to do, and whether they succeed or fail. The most obvious example here for the Izzet is in the card Reminisce. This is a card that does next to nothing in a vaccum, but is absolutely devastating in the context of the Izzet-Golgari struggle.


The first thing we noticed in looking back on our match was how balanced the games could be. Not necessarily within each game itself, but the match as a whole. Sam and I took turns routing the other, with each victory not easily claimed but still comfortably won based on life total. Neither of us felt like there was a natural advantage built into the deck, but instead saw success in stringing together the right sequence of cards. Both decks have a fair element of combo to them, with the Izzet wanting to chain instants and sorceries while the Golgari had their graveyard to maintain with all sorts of recursive shenanigans. A look through the history of the Duel Decks shows how nuanced this is, and how Wizards has evolved and developed their vision over time. The first release was simply smashing two tribal decks against one another (Elves vs Goblins). Now we have something that felt not unlike a pair of Olympic fencers squaring off with the interplay of cut and thrust. Of course, we’ll want to reserve absolute judgment until we’ve had a chance to swap decks, but the first round is highly encouraging.

In our initial review of the Izzet deck, we compared it to Izzet Gizmometry with the idea that both were decks focused around instants and sorceries. Playing this deck, however, shows that its much more than just a supercharged version of the original as we’d originally thought. Izzet Gizmometry was a poster child for ‘glass cannon’ decks, which are generally fragile but can dominate a game if the right cards are assembled. The Izzet’s Duel Deck seemed much less singular of purpose, and instead felt like a more well-rounded construction. Part of this is attributed to the greater flexibility of cards in the deck versus those in the first iteration. Back then, a card draw spell was a card draw spell and burn was burn, and so help you if you needed one but drew the other- at best, you might cross your fingers and use the card drawing spell to fish a little deeper for the burn! Here, cards like Invoke the Firemind and Izzet Charm gave me the flexibility I needed to better respond to battlefield conditions, and this lent the deck a great deal more potency.

The synergy level was quite solid, though not near the level we saw with the Golgari deck when it went under the microscope. As with any such construction which brings two (or more) elements together, there’s always the danger that you’ll get too many of one and not enough of the other, which happened to me in the game I lost. Nevertheless, there’s an adequate mix of gas and spark to keep things moving steadily overall, and we recommend this deck highly for those who appreciate this particular archetype.

Hits: Good mix of spells and cards that care about spells; excellent versatility and flexibility gives you greater responsiveness compared with the previous Izzet iteration; excellent interplay with the Golgari deck through bounce spells, exiling effects and graveyard hate

Misses: Deck is fairly draw-dependent, and can stall if the right variety of cards isn’t drawn- a factor exacerbated by its somewhat reactive nature

OVERALL SCORE: 4.55/5.00

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Icehawk7
    Sep 8 2012

    I yawn at all the “_ is bad” muttering around these Duel Decks. I’ve enjoyed all of the ones I’ve purchased. This one looks like it’ll be no different. Though I’m very interesting in seeing the next few rounds.

    Reminisce is one of those cards that just works in this pairing on offense or defense. I will say that Scepter is insane. My jaw dropped when I saw what it could do.

    This is a nice complex product. I feel like I could play it a dozen times and discover new interactions and nuances each time.

    • Sep 9 2012

      Agree 100%. I’ve enjoyed seeing the deeper lines of play come through as Wizards gets better and better at designing Duel Decks. What a long way from the abysmal “Anthologies” we’ve come!

  2. I don’t like SB options like Reminisce, Silver Knight, or Slay. The problem is simple: you might want to just grab a deck and jump into a game– you want the deck to at least play like it has a strategy. These cards make it very difficult as often their purpose is dead. This comes up more than you’d think.

    • Icehawk7
      Sep 9 2012

      If you were to add a little more draw, I think Reminisce could serve a useful “refill your deck” role. Granted, that’s not the best outside of this pair, but these decks were designed as a pair. They can easily be tweaked to your heart’s content.

      Going off the cards you pointed out: So I don’t have any problem with Reminisce or Slay. I dislike Protection, so Silver Knight isn’t something I would have ever included. It’s not an ability I care for in any “entry” product.

      This deck certainly has a “Mad Scientist” feel to it at times.

    • Sep 9 2012

      I see your point, though personally I rather enjoy some of the interplay allowed when decks are designed in tandem to be pitted against one another. It makes for an intriguing design dynamic not permitted (at least to the same degree) as other precon formats like Theme Decks and the like. If we didn’t have so many other options, I’d certainly feel more limited, but as it is I feel these decks are at their best when part of the “quasi-Limited” design space they inhabit.

  3. Travis
    Sep 9 2012

    My only comment on this from a glance, was that the Izzet deck is low on lands. You have how many 5cc+ spells? Then throw in Replicate effects and you want a land every turn. I think it is atleast 2 lands ‘lite’. You could really push the envelope by giving it Tolaria West

  4. elias
    Sep 10 2012

    After going several rounds playing the golgari deck vs. My son on izzet, have to say that he always had plenty of lands. The signets do a good job at providing the mana most needed at a given time. Considering how often I had my face smashed in through the combination of the kiln fiend and shrewd hatchling’s tag teaming efforts, I would hate to see the deck get any more lands to abuse opponents with. It may be too early to say without first seeing the result of the second match up and more games played on my end but the Izzet deck may prove to be the more powerful of the pair. Perhaps I just refuse to admit defeat to the playing prowess of a 12 year old!!! This duel deck offering is hands down the most enjoyable and valuable yet. Already they are selling for $30 at the online retailers. My local shop sold out the day they released them and the manager said that was the first time a duel deck has done so. My only gripe is that I neglected reserving a second copy!


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