Modern: Izzet Murktide Deck Tech & Sideboard Guide

Magic: the Gathering

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Modern: Izzet Murktide Deck Tech & Sideboard Guide

Izzet Murktide is Modern's current best deck, but it's also challenging to play it masterfully, as it severely punishes your bad decisions while gradually rewarding your good plays.

By Humberto, 23/06/22, translated by Humberto - Comment regular icon0 comments

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Myy name is Romeu and you probably know me here at Cards Realm from my Pauper and Pioneer / Explorer articles. But it is with some enthusiasm that I announce that, starting this week, I will also be covering

Modern

, where I'll bring news about deck techs, Metagame reviews and issues related to its health or diversity whenever necessary. To start this new journey, I decided to start with what we can currently consider the best deck in the format —

Izzet Murktide

!

What is Izzet Murktide ?

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Coming after the power level leap that Modern Horizons II brought to the format, Izzet Murktide is a

Tempo

deck that runs powerful low-cost threats with an extremely efficient backup of control and protection. Your goal here is to cast a must-answer threat, and protect it while accumulating card advantage and hindering your opponent from establishing their own game plan. Like many of the best decks in a variety of competitive formats, it also fits into one of the most successful deckbuilding theories in Magic: The Gathering -

Turbo Xerox

.
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Created by Alan Comer in 1997, Turbo Xerox applies the idea that the more cantrips you have, the fewer lands you need to add, and your top deck manipulation will consequently allow you to have access to the right cards when they are needed, in addition to your topdeck being virtually better than your opponent's because you'll have more actions to take while they're drawing lands or other less useful effects, and that's extremely realistic with Izzet Murktide because you have a multitude of ways to filter your draws and throw away useless pieces.
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Historically, Tempo decks have a natural weakness of getting worse as the game goes on and/or if your opponent accumulates more card advantage than you. But here, we manage to extend ourselves spectacularly thanks to the recurring 2-for-1 effects that many of our spells enable, giving Izzet Murktide a late-game traction that makes it possible to take a “Control” stance whenever necessary — accumulating value with your permanents while depleting resources on the other side of the board, or playing evenly against Midranges and the like.

The Decklist

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My list essentially follows the same pattern as most you see in Challenges and other tournaments, with the only differences being the 3-3 split between Dragon's Rage Channeler and Ledger Shredder, plus a Fury on the Sideboard.

Ledger Shredder or Dragon's Rage Channeler?

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One of the recent discussions about Izzet Murktide since Streets of New Capenna came out is how relevant Ledger Shredder has become and whether it's worth replacing Dragon's Rage Channeler with it — an option that many players have been considering to open more spaces for Metagame adaptations. As with most lists with good results, I started my tests with 4 Channeler and 2 Ledger Shredder, but it didn't take long for me to realize how powerful New Capenna's two-drop was and make a number swap between those slots, mostly because Dragon's Rage Channeler looks much worse in post-sideboard games, where opponents will often have numerous permanents and effects that get in the way of its main purpose.

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Ledger Shredder, on the other hand, is super easy to trigger with so many low-cost spells, offers an efficient flying clock, survives Lightning Bolt after the first Connive trigger, requires a higher investment with Prismatic Ending (which is important if you can respond with Spell Pierce) and speeds up Murktide Regent while helping to sculpt your hand. However, as with Delver of Secrets, Dragon's Rage Channeler has the main function of being an efficient one-drop when we need to be the fast aggressor, especially against linear archetypes like combos, but it becomes essentially worse as the Metagame becomes more interactive — factor where Ledger Shredder is much more useful in the long run. When testing the 4-2 split, I concluded that while Ledger Shredder is more important in fair games, its relatively weak body when entering the battlefield makes it a worse topdeck when you want to put pressure on your opponent after a few trades, so I closed the list with a 3-3 split and the addition of a second Fiery Islet, as we had a slight increase in mana values, and we can easily mitigate the flood with both Surveil and Connive. My personal conclusion is that Dragon's Rage Channeler, despite possibly being the worst card on the list today, is needed to play the role of fast clock which also helps filter the top with every spell cast, and despite being an easy target for a huge amount of targeted hate, our Sideboard plan and our complementary slots do a good job of mitigating the damage that Rest in Peace or Chalice of the Void causes.

Maindeck

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As mentioned earlier, all of our creatures are must-answer threats, and we're well-served in that category. Modern's greatest staple today, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, often works as a magnet for opponents' removals. In fact, they respect Ragavan

too much

and usually save a removal in case you Dash it — creating a negative Tempo for them, while you can just keep attacking from the air and saving your resources for more proactive plays. Ragavan is also incredibly useful on late-game and one of the best top decks you can have when both players have run out of spells, since the extra mana and "draw" it provides can completely turn the game in your favor. Another creature that also fits into the “removals magnet” category is Ledger Shredder as normally the first copy will never live to tell the tale or even trigger if cast on turn 2. One of the reasons I play with three copies is precisely to force the opponent to spend resources that could be more important on other threats and/or late-game, while the second copy will normally come coupled with a Connive trigger and/or with a protection of backup. As mentioned above, Dragon's Rage Channeler is the best option when we have the need to pressure unfair decks while holding you back from advancing your game, and no early-game creature does this job as well as it does.

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Finally, our great finisher is Murktide Regent, which can be cast relatively early in this deck, bypasses all the most played removals currently and can win the game on its own against a significant portion of archetypes that don't have the necessary interactions to deal with it.
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With other means of filtering our topdeck and our hand with Ledger Shredder and Dragon's Rage Channeler, we don't need more than 12 cantrips to refine our draws. Mishra's Bauble is basically mandatory for any archetype that wants to cast multiple spells in one turn and trigger Delirium, and it's also one of the few free spells still legal in Modern. Consider is the best cantrip for this archetype today because it helps to speed up Murktide Regent (unlike Serum Visions) and without having to go through the terrible Russian roulette that Thought Scour is on a dozen occasions. Finally, Pioneer's now-banned Expressive Iteration is one of the most powerful card selections created in recent years and allows for a significant increase on quality of our draws, as well as easily generating a 2-for-1 as all our spells have a low cost and are easily castable from exile.
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Our removals package is as standard as it gets, with Lightning Bolt never being a dead card on pretty much every occasion and helping to increase our reach, while Unholy Heat handles pretty much any creature or Planeswalker that sees play in Modern currently for a very low mana investment.
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Counterspell is a staple these days and there is no more efficient way to deal with any threat, or protect your creatures, at such a low cost and so comprehensively. I would never run less than four copies of it in any version. Archmage's Charm can operate like Counterspell 5 and 6, but it's the versatility that makes it so necessary in this deck, as the ability to draw more cards in the End Step to look for what you need, or steal an opponent's 1 or 0-cost permanent can slow them down for long enough or even win the game on its own. Finally, Spell Pierce has two uses: the first and most obvious is to protect your threats and have a cheap way to deal with important opponent spells. But the most important function I found for its inclusion is to

force the opponent to play around it

, a psychological aspect that leads many players to avoid doubling their bets and try to play their most impactful pieces too soon fearing a Spell Pierce spoiling their plans, especially the Combo decks — and that gives us a turn or two where we virtually capitalize on their dread.
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I think the manabase explains itself naturally, but I'm emphasizing Fiery Islet and Otawara, Soaring City since they have other uses besides generating mana. Especially since Otawara is a great answer that can't be countered for a variety of permanents — from Chalice of the Void to Murktide Regent — and it can often be the surprise factor that will lead you to victory.

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Sideboard

One of Izzet Murktide's advantages is that you have access to a plethora of mighty Sideboard options, making it occasionally difficult to fit everything you want into the fifteen slots. In my Sideboard, I considered the most played spells, while trying to expand the variety of options according to the situations we currently find in the Metagame.
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Izzet Murktide is a great Blood Moon deck when needed, but we're not at a point where this enchantment wins games on its own, as several archetypes are working around it. Normally, you would want this effect against the thousands of Four-Color Goodstuff out there in Modern today, but they're only useful when you're in the early stages of the game because your opponent will try to play around this, so they don't get locked, resorting to Utopia Sprawl and Abundant Growth, in addition to searching for basic lands with their fetches and then responding with Prismatic Ending. Magus of the Moon in place of the second copy of Blood Moon is a specific need against Tron and Amulet Titan, who can easily fetch Boseiju, Who Endures to destroy your enchantment, and then proceed with their game plan, since they don't usually have good means to deal with creatures.
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Modern Horizons II's Elementals are useful for different situations, as well as acting as additional threats. Subtlety allows playing around Cavern of Souls and Veil of Summer, as well as allowing a tapout to Murktide Regent or other major threat without the worry of the opponent to cast an even more impactful permanent, basically functioning as a Memory Lapse for free, as well as offering a 2-for-1 in Late-Game if cast for its mana cost. Fury is

absurdly powerful

against creature archetypes: Humans, Hammer Time, Golgari Yawgmoth, and random decks like Affinity, Boros Taxes, Merfolks and anything else geared towards filling the board with small threats will be an easy target for a free pseudo-sweeper.
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Flusterstorm is the best option for dealing with Living End or Crashing Footfalls while also not useless against other archetypes looking to pay cheap for their spells and resorting to few lands, such as Burn and Prowess. Mystical Dispute is especially relevant against Mirror, Four-Color Goodstuff, and Control and typically offers massive Tempo play, as you're only spending one mana to counter three or four drops.
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Dress Down works almost like a Swiss Army Knife on Izzet Murktide: It kills Urza's Saga tokens, removes ETB effects, “counters” Walking Ballista, delays Primeval Titan, whiffs Elementals, among a series of other possibilities that, when you least expect it, you discover that this enchantment also deals with. Engineered Explosives is our best weapon against many hates that greatly hinder our game, but it also destroys tokens created by Crashing Footfalls and Urza's Saga, in addition to basically ruining any Hammer Time or another archetype crammed with low-cost permanents and no efficient means of recovering if they lose their board position.

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Unlicensed Hearse has basically become a multi-format staple by turning into a mix of wincondition and graveyard hate on a single card. In Modern, there is no shortage of archetypes where this vehicle is useful to remove important parts while, in late-game, we can use any of our creatures to crew it and win the game on an empty board. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is, in my view, a necessary evil for games where our Plan A is not as effective — such as against an Azorius Control that has cast Rest in Peace too soon — and helps us maintain attrition and card advantage while remaining in play. Commonly, Jace becomes an alternate wincondition when we have the means to protect him, as we can adopt the Control stance and counter anything that tries to take it out from the battlefield. I consider it a "necessary evil" as I don't like the idea of ​​spending four mana and tapping myself out with Izzet Murktide, but I recognize the need for extra value elements when our primary means of securing victory is not enough.

Mulligan and Stances

Mulligan

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Our ideal hand includes some number of card selections, preferably two threats (as I always assume the first one will die) and at least some interaction or means of looking for what you need. In this hand, for example, we can play Spirebluff Canal on 1, cast Unholy Heat if necessary, and then cast Ledger Shredder and Mishra's Bauble on 2, granting a Connive and playing Expressive Iteration at 3, which will likely find our third land drop and preferably a 1-mana spell to trigger Connive again, and all of this will lead to us having a good amount of card selection to find more answers and/or threats, or cast Murktide Regent on the next turn. Despite this example, Izzet Murktide is extremely adaptable to the most varied situations, and Modern is a format where you

need

to consider what you're playing against at all times - the ability to play your role in the match will define if your keep is really worth it, or if you'd better Mulligan in the search for a more appropriate hand. My general rules for a keep or mulligan against an

unknown opponent

with Izzet Murktide are: • You can keep a one-lander if you have more than one cantrip and one-drop (Ragavan or Channeler) because this will usually grant you the second land drop. Channeler is better than Ragavan for this, basically because I doubt he'll survive to attack the next turn. • Don't keep too reactive hands against unknown opponents—your initial proposition is to be the beatdown and then control the game as your creature sets the pressure. • Murktide Regent is not as well-positioned as it once was. Today, many decks have Teferi, Time Raveler and other spells that can return it to your hand or kill it. I don't recommend relying solely on it as the main threat, unless you're on the play and are sure you can cast it on turn 3 with Spell Pierce backup, or that opponent's removals won't be efficient against it.

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• Sometimes, you have a one-turn delay compared to versions that has four copies of Dragon's Rage Channeler, so I recommend hands that have a removal and a Ledger Shredder. • I don't like to keep hands with four lands, but you can opt to keep if you have Ledger Shredder as, normally, those extra lands can be discarded when needed.

Stances

As I've mentioned, Izzet Murktide seeks to take advantage of the low cost of its spells to pressure the opponent while delaying their game plans, but we can change that stance as needed and keep alternating between being Aggro or Control — and the choice of which stance to take varies after, literally, every decision made by both players. One of the main advantages of this archetype is precisely how well it switches between each plan. The bottom line is that, normally, we don't want to stay in the same stance for too long: if I start out as the beatdown on turn 1, probably from turn 2 or 3 onwards, I assume the control stance while continuing to attack with my creature. If I started with the control stance, I want within the next two or three turns to change and start improving my board since, normally, I will have exhausted some resources on the other side. This need to quickly switch between postures forces us to have a very broad knowledge of how each of the games works, since our

unknown opponent

can be identified as soon as on turn 1, and know how to pilot this deck as that match demands is one of the main keys to victory, often forcing you to change postures in the next turn. In the end, I concluded that Izzet Murktide gives you

everything needed to win any game

— but you need to understand the nature of each matchup and your general knowledge of the format you're playing, how the matches unfold and the archetype will help you A LOT to get good results.

Tips and Tricks

• The essence of Turbo Xerox is that your cantrips exist to find what you need when you need it. So don't use them blindly unless your game plan calls for a fast clock with your creatures and/or an early-game cast from Murktide Regent. This is critical, especially with Expressive Iteration, which gives you card advantage and the reach of up to three top cards. • Remember that Murktide Regent gains counters when any Instant or Sorcery leaves your graveyard — this means that a second copy of Murktide Regent or Unlicensed Hearse can increase the power of a copy who is already on the battlefield. • Remember that Dragon's Rage Channeler, when on Delirium,

attacks each turn it is able

and there are some times when you may prefer not to attack with it, so you don't lose your creature like, for example, if your opponent has Endurance on the battlefield. • There are a dozen micro-interactions with Mishra's Bauble. The most important of these involves knowing when it's opportune to crack your Fetch to clear the top, or crack it at your opponent's draw step to find out what they drew. • Ledger Shredder triggers before any second spell resolves. This means you can cast Unholy Heat, discard something to activate Delirium, and then deal 6 damage to the chosen target.

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• Ledger Shredder triggers when

any player

casts their second spell — in such a mana-efficient format as Modern, it's not uncommon for you to loot on your opponent's turn. • Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer's Dash helps protect you from Prismatic Ending, Supreme Verdict, Wrenn and Six, Fury and any other sorcery-speed removal. • If you draw multiple copies of Ragavan, you can choose to cast one instead of dashing him to usually eat a removal from the opponent's hand as people, for some reason, fear him more than they should. • Just because you

can

use Ragavan's Dash doesn't mean you

should

: we're still talking about a bigger investment in mana that generates a negative board position at the end of the turn and can end up generating a total of zero value, plus an extra mana that won't always be useful. Relying solely on this albino monkey's function doesn't always advance your board state well enough. • This is kind of easy to forget, so I'm putting it in this part: Otawara, Soaring City's ability costs one colorless mana less for each legendary creature you control. That is, it costs three mana with a Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer in play. • Archmage's Charm takes control of the Germ tokens from Batterskull and Kaldra Compleat, and they will remain equipped until their controller attaches the equipment to another creature. • Every card in your deck has an extremely flexible role and/or ability, so try to avoid overextending your spells just to trigger a Ledger Shredder or enable Delirium if you don't need to.

Sideboard Guide

Before talking about the Sideboard Guide, allow me to give a brief disclaimer: Izzet Murktide is an

extremely complex deck to master because its position in each game depends on factors that change every turn

, so although I give an overview of my experience with these games, absolutely everything depends on your own interpretation and reading of the matchup and even the way we use our sideboard can change as the opponent's deck presents itself. These factors will only be aligned in your mind with a lot of training, so my main recommendation is that you play several games with this archetype whenever you can to understand it in depth.

Hammer Time

IN:
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OUT:
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Hammer Time is the match where you need to play for Tempo on Game 1, and that proves to be a challenge as 90% of what they play costs as much as what you use to answer, or even less, and the potential for combo-kill on the side along with problematic permanents like Esper Sentinel make things difficult. But I believe we can have a balanced game if we know how to respond to the right threats while attacking from the air. Post-Sideboard, we've removed spells that are too slow to play, as well as some copies of Ragavan, as he has little impact in this game, and we'll hardly have any use for the spells he steals unless we're lucky enough to catch something such as Path to Exile or Shadowspear. I still like having two copies in main because opponents might usually try to block and trade.

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We've added the best interaction package we have available, with Fury and Engineered Explosives serving as sweepers, while Dress Down handles Urza's Saga tokens, and we look to take a Control stance in Games 2 and 3, but we can't keep this posture for long as they have an absurd inevitability with Urza's Saga and Stoneforge Mystic, in addition to the splash versions commonly having other means to gain card advantage and stay in the game for more turns.

Four-Color Elementals

IN:
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I'm uncertain whether I should be adding Blood Moon in this game — after all, Four-Color's own lists are resorting to a copy of Magus of the Moon — but there are occasions where it makes a significant difference, So I accept to take that risk. Elementals is one of several Four-Color games that I, personally, find unnecessarily tiring, as you need to be aware of the most diverse interactions that can arise on the next turn, and your victory will usually come when you manage to set the clock and prevent them from going too far in the game or end it with Vivien on the Hunt. I don't think this is an easy matchup, since it has too many things to respond to right away, while a significant portion of its threats pretty much mitigate any damage you deal in the early game. Still, your best bet is to pressure them while taking advantage of playing multiple cheap spells and answers to their expensive threats. Post-Sideboard, we try to switch our plan and play around accumulating value to win the game with a well-protected Murktide Regent or even one of our higher-cost sideboard threats that can easily turn out to be cast. Dragon's Rage Channeler leaves, since there are a dozen ways for the opponent to disable Delirium in this matchup, or just block it and perform an efficient trade.

Four-Color Yorion

IN:
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OUT: On the Play:
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On the Draw:
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Basically, almost everything I mentioned about Four-Color Elementals applies to Four-Color Yorion, but it's a lot easier to decipher as its play patterns are more predictable and don't put us under too much pressure. However, Four-Color Yorion has more answers to our threats, and we need to consider all possibilities as the game goes on, and the best proposal I found for this matchup was to go for the beatdown in the first turns and try to destabilize the opponent for time enough to stay ahead. In Games 2 and 3, we need to play better around the late game because our plan is likely not going to be fast enough, but avoid letting the opponent dominate the game — maintain the beatdown stance and be proactive as needed.

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Yawgmoth Combo

IN:
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Yawgmoth Combo is a game played around specific threats that you need to counter and/or remove from play — your main targets are Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Grist, the Hunger Tide and the tutors Chord of Calling and Eldritch Evolution — but you can't afford to spend too much time in the reactive post because it is too redundant in finding the combo pieces. Your best route is to try to attack from the air while holding the game, especially with Murktide Regent, which we can cast early to establish a very low turn clock. I always consider using my Lightning Bolt on mana dorks, as the mere presence of Yawgmoth on the battlefield will usually spell the end of the game if they have two creatures (one with Undying) on ​​the battlefield. In Game 2 and 3, we removed Ragavan because it's just

awful

against so many effective blockers, and they have few useful cards for us, and Spell Pierce because we're dealing with a creature base, and added more board interaction, as well as means to delay or simply counter the combo while maintaining our strategy of trying to attack from the air.

Burn

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Burn is a strange game to side because we can't establish mana advantage with our trades: I don't like Archmage's Charm as a pseudo-Cancel to protect my life total, but I like it as a pseudo-Threads of Disloyalty to handle Monastery Swiftspear or Goblin Guide. This game is all about trading: you want to remove their creatures and protect your life, and your creatures are an incredibly useful resource for getting the to spend spells that could be directed at your face, and when their steam runs out, Murktide Regent will end the game while your counterspells protect you. Ledger Shredder is especially important in this game because it operates as a good blocker and commonly forces a 2-for-1 if it triggers at least once, so don't be afraid to play it and cast a second spell to attract a burn spell into it as the result will be advantageous for you. Post-Sideboard, we stick with the plan, but we now have more interactions in place of higher cost spells and even 2-for-1 trades with Engineered Explosives.

Amulet Titan

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The game against Amulet Titan revolves around Amulet of Vigor, which ironically isn't that dangerous on its own, in addition to Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, Primeval Titan and Cultivator Colossus — all must-answer threats. Since the lists usually resort to a copy of Expedition Map, our focus is on being the beatdown and trying to close the game before they find a Cavern of Souls, and it's even worth countering this artifact if necessary, as they slow our clock down with Arboreal Grazer and can suddenly turn the game around if a Primeval Titan resolves.

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Post-Sideboard, we removed Ragavan since he is easily blocked by everything and absolutely no spells from them are really useful to us, along with a Spell Pierce, as I still have occasional uses for it — means of preventing combos come in, in addition to Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon, but remember that your opponent will have Boseiju, Who Endures and Dismember on the sideboard to deal with them.

Temur Footfalls

IN:
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OUT:
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You might want a second copy of Mystical Dispute, but this match tends to get longer and Dispute gets a lot worse later on. Temur Footfalls is a tricky game and its tokens are difficult to deal with quickly, while their interaction package is

very strong

against Izzet Murktide. We need to be careful with a dozen cards here, but we also need to have a clock because their late-game can easily outrun ours, as everything they do generates a 2-for-1. So try to avoid extending the game too much or being too reactive, as even Murktide Regent can be easily resolved with Brazen Borrower. As in several other games, here we will be rewarded for carrying out micro-interactions that allow us, in the long run, to establish our advantage and stay ahead of our opponent — there's not much of a standard

means

to do this because this is an extremely fickle game. Post-Sideboard, we need to maintain the same posture while we have better options to deal with them. However, the matchup is still difficult as they also add other good cards against us and the current Temur Footfalls decklist seems built to beat our deck.

Izzet Murktide

IN:
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OUT: On the Play:
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On the Draw:
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The mirror match is an extremely complex game primarily aimed at attrition between permanents, as it is played around the namesake card: Murktide Regent. Usually, the player who manages to resolve Murktide Regent will be the winner because there are very few ways to deal with it without forcing a 2-for-1 trade, which is extremely problematic as the game goes on, as its controller can always keep one or two counterspells to protect it, or even allow the opponent's negative exchange to return with Ledger Shredder, Dragon's Rage Channeler or Ragavan. Post-Sideboard, our stance varies depending on whether we're on the play or on the draw since some options like Ragavan and Spell Pierce lose or gain utility depending on who makes the first play, but the real difference comes out in what players have added and, unfortunately, the absence of a second Subtlety might cost us the match. The trickiest card in the mirror is [[Unlicensed Hearse – it allows for a sub-game where both players are cautious about when to tap the artifact to exile cards, as the opponent can respond by tapping their own vehicle to exile the same cards.

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Another point to consider is that a Ragavan on turn 1 is the worst thing you can do as he's an "extra draw" engine here, so always keep him for when it's opportune to dash, or for when opponent's resources are exhausted. We also need to be wary of the possibility of Archmage's Charm stealing our Ragavan, while also being mindful of the opportunity to steal theirs. In the end, this match will mainly be defined by who can pilot their deck better and make the best decisions with their cantrips while both constantly switching positions between aggro and control. I consider this matchup to be very similar to a game of chess, where you need to interpret well the moves and pieces that your opponent is using, trying to consider how the decisions you make this turn will affect you in three or four turns later.

Conclusion

Izzet Murktide isn't just the best deck in Modern today — it's the most fun and the one that demands the most understanding and knowledge of the Metagame and the format to be masterly piloted, as it severely punishes your bad plays while rewarding good decisions. There is no “free win” with it, but we are talking about an archetype that is definitely prepared to handle any Metagame and with plenty of room to adapt as per Modern demands. Thanks for reading!
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Humberto

Writer and translator for Cards Realm and journalism student. Plays virtually every Magic: The Gathering competitive format.

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