Modern: Izzet Tempo and Topdeck consistency

Magic: the Gathering

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Modern: Izzet Tempo and Topdeck consistency

Today, we'll present a detailed vision of one of the most important decks in Modern today: Izzet Tempo!

By Gabriel, 09/10/21, translated by Romeu, with help from our readers

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September started, and we already had our first challenge on the 09/05 with the famous UR Tempo reaching the first place! Since the arrival of Modern Horizons II, this archetype has shown that it is here to stay and dictate a new era of the format, so I came to the conclusion that this is the perfect time to talk about this deck, which has been showing a lot of presence and impact in Modern.

The List

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Here we have a pretty straightforward version of what the deck is today. The only "notable difference" from the conventional maindeck is a single copy of Engineered Explosives:

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The card is probably there to deal against cards from the current meta, such as Rhino tokens from Crashing Footfalls, all 0 cost creatures from Hammer Time, tokens from Urza's Saga, and maybe even in a moment with the most unbalanced table, cast it with 1 counter, and deal with another range of permanents, like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Dragon's Rage Channeler on a mirror, Sigarda's Aid and Colossus Hammer against the aforementioned Hammer Time, among other various possibilities that are within reach of this very versatile artifact. But let's also talk about the gears that make the deck work with consistency and precision: the deck's key parts and supports!
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Just a look and we can see that the list uses practically the best and most placed spells in red and blue, benefiting both from classics like Lightning Bolt, Serum Visions and Thought Scour, that were always present in the attempts to create this archetype in Modern, as with the new weapons of this diverse arsenal, which are our main focus here, where we will see the cards that made Izzet Tempo not only a viable option in the format, but one of the main decks that dictate how Modern is today.

Instants and Sorceries

When we talk about Izzet Tempo, we immediately think of the creatures that threaten us so much and impact the board. But without the support of the spells that surround them, they would hardly be all that menacing... And, in fact, recent sets have changed the world of instants and sorceries quite a bit.
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Starting with the new favorite cantrip of Izzet colors... well, Prismari colors actually! Yes, I'm talking about Expressive Iteration, a card that, even though it costs one more mana than the usual cantrips of the format, also "draws" one more card, which becomes powerful in a deck with such a low curve, often taking advantage of cards like Mishra's Bauble, lands, or even the proactive cost 1 cards. Speaking of cost 1 proactive spells, Unholy Heat is here as one of the strongest removals ever released, mostly for its versatility. Being a powerful weapon against creatures and planeswalkers, it's a fair early game removal, dealing with a relevant number of targets with 2 toughness or loyalty, but as this deck is designed to quickly hit Delirium, it's perfectly possible and likely to see the card at its maximum potential and range, so few creatures and planeswalkers in the format can take an Unholy Heat and survive to tell the story later. Another thing that always comes to mind when we talk about this type of deck is counterspells, and here we have a "new classic", Counterspell. Being one of the most emblematic cards since

Alpha

, Counterspell being legal in Modern has always been a great desire of many of the blue players in the format. Simple and effective, the card proves to be a powerful response to everything that enters the pile after turn two, regardless of its type, cost or almost any other factor, making it a lightweight resource that the opponent needs to consider throughout the game. We're talking about counters, board disruptions and card draws, so how about a card that does all three?
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Archmage's Charm It is one of the most efficient cards in contemporary Magic and has a cost-effectiveness that compensates for its relatively high mana value, as it is virtually the top of the curve in this deck.

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All of its functions are perfectly valid today, the only difference being its need at the time, especially for the ability to steal permanents with a mana value of 1 or less, which gains extra strength given the current metagame, which has great focus on this curve. In terms of versatility, Archmage's Charm is extremely relevant. All of these recent additions build a strong support base for decks that aim to gain in interaction and advantage, creating gaps in opposing decks for creatures to go through.

The Creatures

Yeah, support is important, but what really shines in this deck are the powerful creatures that Modern Horizons II gave us as a gift. They make the biggest impact on the game and make sense of this whole league of disruption and card advantage. It's impossible to talk about Izzet Tempo without talking about its offensive core. Both Dragon's Rage Channeler and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, in my view, are opposite sides of the same coin (which was even the subject of one of our recent articles). They are creatures that share space in terms of playing time, as they have the same cost, but both have entirely different functions in this deck. The Channeler is a creature that works totally for the deck, being a support for other cards, such as the delirium of the aforementioned Unholy Heat and delve for Murktide Regent, which I'll mention in the future. In addition, she is a great card selection piece as well as an impressive offensive creature, making her one of the most important pieces in the deck. On the other hand, Ragavan is the opposite as he is totally the most supported card by the entire deck, needing all the support possible to have relevance in the game, the removals and counterspells will often serve to remove the blockers and protect the valuable monkey. But all this effort is usually worth it after damage connects, where he becomes a true "Ace", making each connection give you mana and card advantage at a level where it's often impossible for the opponent to go back to the game. It's as if the entire deck worked for the little monkey, and he returns the value invested with profits.
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In fact,

almost

the entire deck, as there's a creature that's in the deck for one simple function: finish the game and finish it fast.
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Murktide Regent is the big cannon in the deck, with its cost easily reduced (much because of his friend Channeler), the big dragon doesn't come to bring card selection or card advantage, he has a service and will use his resilience and great body (it can easily reach 8/8 with flying, excluding future buffs thanks to its other ability) to finish the opponent in two or three hits, being one of the most dangerous creatures and forces immediate reaction from the opponent. These three aces, allied to all the support we've mentioned, can subvert almost any game, and because they are high-impact cards that enter the game very early, they ended up dictating a whole new rhythm for Modern, where it is necessary to have answers and resources in earlier turns to follow your game plan without losing the thread.

Natural Predators

As we are talking about one of the most targeted decks in Modern, I believe it is relevant to talk about some of the cards that many decks use on sideboard and some even maindeck to stop Izzet Tempo, these are cards that any player who wants to use the deck needs to take science and prepare.

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Starting with the most present and generic option, Chalice of the Void is one of the cards that most scares this deck, as we play with a huge number of spells with a mana value of 1, (this list, for example, uses twenty-four cards that cost 1 in the maindeck), which will inevitably be punished when the opponent casts a Chalice at 1. Not to mention that today, many decks that are more cadenced or that manage to circumvent the Chalice in some ways are using the artifact in the maindeck, which makes our game even more difficult.
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Another easy target in Izzet is the use of graveyard for delirium and delve, as without access to our graveyard, many cards in the deck worsen drastically. To prevent it, Modern has a huge diversity of cards, but one of the most problematic is Sanctifier en-Vec. In addition to exiling most of our cards, this creature has protection from red, which in addition to freeing her from most of our removals, makes her the best possible blocker against Ragavan and even against Channeler, who probably will not be able to fly. It's a card that, once in the field, is quite irritating and difficult to deal with.
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To close this chapter, I'm not going to talk about a specific card, but about a situation that will happen many times... Modern today has plenty of removals prepared for exactly the cards this deck uses, so don't be surprised if your opponent has a removal waiting for your Ragavan or Channeler in the first turn, it's something that will happen a lot, and you already need to play around cards like Prismatic Ending, Fatal Push, Dismember or even Gut Shot.

Card Alternatives

As we know, no list is definitive and there will always be space for deckbuilding depending on the environment and especially according to your game posture, here we will see some inclusion options that make sense both for dealing with the metagame and the deck proposal. In case you're worried about Chalice of the Void, Brazen Borrower is a perfectly viable card here, being a light beater due to its flash and a board disruption that can momentarily handle almost anything, Brazen will be your counters' best friend, turning the threat back to your opponent's hand when you're ready to answer it with Counterspell, then still serving as a great creature to hit in the air.
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For those looking for even more card advantage and value, the good old Snapcaster Mage can also list fit into the creatures. Even with little offensive value, our mage is great with all these low-cost instants and sorceries we play, as well as having a small synergy with our Murktide Regent, making it a great alternative for more in-game interaction.
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Conclusion

It's not just any deck that can stay at the top of a tier for so long, and today we saw the pieces that make all the consistency of one of the decks that is the face of the current Modern, with several new cards and a fast pace, which may not be pleasant to all players, but it's working, and it's apparently here to stay. That's it for today, until next time!
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Gabriel

Escritor para a Cards Realm, Streamer e Jogador de MTG Online.

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