Izzet Charm | Illustration by Zoltan Boros
There are about 3,200 instants in Magic: The Gathering. Izzet decks have access to about 1,400 of them. In comparison, Golgari can use just about 900 of those instants, and Boros or Selesnya about a thousand.
That's why when we think of spellslinger decks, decks that love playing on the stack and making non-permanent spells matter, is the first color pair that comes to mind.
Let's take a look at what red and blue have to offer when mixed together!
Niv-Mizzet, Parun | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
The Izzet League is one of the 10 guilds from the Ravnica plane. Each guild is associated with a color pair, and since their introduction during Ravnica: City of Guilds, the guilds' names became the official designation for each color pair.
The Commander format uses a different definition: Izzet cards are cards with the color identity. This means that Izzet cards are those that include both the and mana symbols in their cost and/or their rules text, but no other mana color. That makes Izzet Signet an Izzet card for EDH purposes (it has in its rules text) even though it's a colorless artifact that you can cast with generic mana.
In this ranking, I'll stick strictly with color identity, but there are of course many amazing red, blue, or colorless cards that you can include in a deck.
Also, since I’m talking about all Izzet cards, I'll include lands as long as they produce red and blue mana. Lands may not be as fun and flashy as spells, but as any spellslinger knows you just can’t sling 'em with an empty mana pool.
Molten Tributary is the worst among the best Izzet lands: It generates the or mana you need, but enters play tapped which is a bummer.
And if you can pay its overload cost, it's like bringing a nuke to a gun fight: You get rid of everything on the stack. Even better, in fact: everything you don't control.
#38. Enthusiastic Mechanaut
Cheap, effective, and makes all your artifacts cheaper: Enthusiastic Mechanaut is the sort of card that’s glad to let other cards razzle and dazzle the audience… but keen observers know who's the real hero here.
#37. Expansion / Explosion
Spellslinging decks are often about flexibility, and Expansion / Explosion provides it in spades: You get to copy any instant or sorcery (not just yours) that costs up to 4, and in the late game you can offload a lot of damage to any target of your choice.
Also note that the first mode costs hybrid mana, so you can cast it by paying , , or . And remember that you can copy instants or sorceries even if they don't have targets (you just don't choose any target in that case, of course).
#36. Storm the Vault / Vault of Catlacan
Swimming in riches, for fun and profit!
Storm the Vault / Vault of Catlacan can slot into Izzet decks that focus heavily on slinging instants and sorceries, but it truly shines with artifact- or Treasure-matters commanders like Galazeth Prismari (or Breya, Etherium Shaper, if we expand the color palette). Storm the Vault / Vault of Catlacan is also a solid addition to the 99 of commanders that enjoy slapping faces repeatedly, like Admiral Beckett Brass.
Note that Storm the Vault can trigger more than once per turn if your attackers can deal combat damage to more than one player at once.
#35. Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer
Its first and second abilities are interesting enough (all your creature tokens get haste, and you get a 2/1 creature token when your combat starts), but Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer‘s real charm is the third: This artificer turns all your tokens into a copy of your chosen token.
Notice that the first two abilities refer to creature tokens, but the third refers to any token. You can turn Treasure tokens (that Storm the Vault may have created) or Blood tokens into the 2/1 Myr token that Brudiclad spawns.
And they all get haste!
#34. Third Path Iconoclast
“Wizards” is what comes to mind when thinking about spellslinger decks, but here we have a monk providing a nice payoff.
#33. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
All hail Niv-Mizzet, founder of the Izzet Guild!
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind isn’t its very best side, though. It's a solid addition to your 99 but that's about it; Niv-Mizzet's best version still awaits.
#32. Prismari Command
Removal, card selection, mana fixing, and ramping – Prismari Command is an Izzet Army knife!
As both a land and an artifact, Silverbluff Bridge can feed mana while adding to any artifact synergy. And it's indestructible, so it shrugs off artifact or land hate.
#30. Ral, Storm Conduit
Here's how: First you need Ral, Storm Conduit on the board. Then put on the stack any instant or sorcery of your choice – you're in red-blue, so this part is easy. Then you copy the spell on the stack with Fork or Twincast, and then use Expansion to copy Fork. Let Expansion resolve and use the Fork copy to duplicate the original. Rinse and repeat forever while Ral, Storm Conduit machine-guns your foes.
Izzet Boilerworks needs some setup before you can make it boil at full steam – above all, keep in mind that if you play it as your first land you'll be forced to bounce it back.
But once this train gets a-choo-chooing, Izzet Boilerworks generates 2 mana every time you tap it!
#28. Thousand-Year Storm
According to Magic's head designer Mark Rosewater, the storm keyword “is probably the most broken mechanic we’ve ever created.” So much so that Mark's storm scale gauges how unlikely an existing mechanic is to return… with 10, the scale's maximum, being storm.
Thousand-Year Storm gives a storm-like effect to every instant or sorcery you play. The difference is that the storm keyword counts every spell type you've cast thus far this turn (that's to say, it includes permanents) while Thousand-Year Storm only cares about instants and sorceries. Needless to say, that's not too big a difference for spellslinger decks!
#27. Izzet Charm
Izzet Charm sees high-level play in Pioneer as a one-of in Arclight Phoenix decks, and it’s extremely popular in Commander decks.
#25. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Mixing a spellslinging payoff with an artifacts-matter theme, Saheeli, Sublime Artificer pairs well with commanders like Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer if you’re going for aggression, or Galazeth Prismari if you prefer ramping to cast big spells or lots of stuff.
Remember that Sulfur Falls checks for any land with the island or mountain type: It doesn't have to be a basic land.
#23. Expressive Iteration
Expressive Iteration was banned in Legacy and Pioneer (according to Wizards, for the crimes of providing outstanding card selection and card advantage to Izzet decks), but if you're playing Commander your deck is a safe haven for this convicted criminal.
In return, you get exactly what the jury found Expressive Iteration guilty of!
“Reveal lands” are a cycle of dual-color lands that, if you want to play them untapped, require you to reveal another land from your hand.
In Frostboil Snarl's‘s case, you need to reveal either a mountain or an island. Any land with these land types will do.
#21. The Locust God
Izzet decks just love drawing cards. I mean, everybody does, of course, but Izzet decks tend to have lots of payoffs for doing so.
The Locust God is a great example, spewing a swarm of 1/1 fliers to either chump-block attackers, offer sacrifices for the greater good, or push through the last bit of damage to finish off the enemy.
The Locust God is a competent commander but more often serves as a 99er for drawing-matters commanders the likes of Niv-Mizzet, Parun, Nekusar, the Mindrazer, or Gavi, Nest Warden. And it has made some inroads into competitive Pioneer as a sideboard card in Creativity decks.
Notice that, in Commander games, this return-to-hand ability means you can dodge the Commander tax.
These filter lands enter the field untapped and can provide colorless mana for free, so they’re never entirely dead.
#19. Flame of Anor
Flame of Anor has had quite a big impact in Modern since its printing in The Lords of the Ring: Tales of Middle-earth.
#17. Goblin Electromancer
Goblin Electromancer is a very popular non-legendary creature in EDH decks and also playable in Modern, and a single glance at its short ‘n' sweet rules text should make it clear why: Discounting sorceries and instants is huge for spellslinging decks.
The effect is cumulative, by the way: If you get two Goblin Electromancers in play, you get a reduction of .
Best of all, Goblin Electromancer is a cheap card in all senses of the word: It just costs a few cents per copy.
One of the best land cycles in MTG are fast lands: dual-color lands that, as long as you play them in the first couple of turns, have no drawbacks. In other words, the type of land you love to see in your opening hand.
Spirebluff Canal is Izzet's version of a fast land and is a cross-format all-star seeing play in Modern, Pioneer, and Commander.
Triggered abilities are one of the things that make spellslinger decks tick. The whole idea is to cast instant or sorceries and get additional value with the likes of Third Path Iconoclast, Young Pyromancer, or Guttersnipe.
Any effect that lets you get twice the mileage for your triggers takes your deck a long way, and Veyran, Voice of Duality is here for it. Both of Veyran's abilities care about casting instants or sorceries, and Veyran's second ability doubles every triggered ability, including Veyran's first one.
“Slow lands” are the ying to fast land's yang: As you can probably guess by their nickname, slow lands like Stormcarved Coast come into play untapped if you control two or more (rather than two or less) lands. Not amazing as your first or second land, but great at any later point in the game.
Speaking of Izzet loving to draw cards, here's Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain: Every historic spell (sagas, artifacts, and legends) that you cast gets you an extra card. Good sagas and legendary cards aren’t that frequent in , but there's a gazillion artifacts to make Jhoira click as one of Izzet's best competitive commanders.
Back in 1995, Ice Age introduced the five allied-colored “pain lands“: lands that ping you for 1 damage whenever you tap them to generate colored mana, and have the option to create colorless mana painlessly.
Enemy colors had to wait until Apocalypse six years later to receive their versions. Shivan Reef is the Izzet representative; very popular in Pioneer, and extremely popular in Commander given that a bigger health pool makes these lands' drawback not as painful.
By themselves, neither of these two commanders are : One of them is red, the other is blue. Strictly speaking, neither of them meets the Izzet color identity criteria I set before starting.
Krark, the Thumbless and Sakashima of a Thousand Faces are awesome EDH partners, and they merge their color identities into bona fide . When doing so, Krark & Sakashima is one of the most proficient Izzet decks in the competitive EDH scene.
The downside versus regular pain lands is that you don't have the painless, colorless option. But the utility of drawing a card at instant speed is excellent, making it a Modern mainstay that even sees play in Legacy.
#9. Dack Fayden
In MTG's lore, Dack Fayden was the (self-proclaimed) greatest thief in the multiverse, and its planeswalker card lends a lot of credibility to those claims!
In Commander games, Dack Fayden‘s second ability snatches any of those surplus Sol Rings or Esper Sentinels that your foes don't need that badly. And this light-fingered rogue is swift enough to sneak its way into Legacy and even Vintage.
#8. Training Center
But in Commander, Training Center is among the best Izzet lands you can find. Aside from not being fetchable by abilities that only grab lands with a basic land type, this is as good as it gets.
#7. Exalted Flamer of Tzeentch
Exalted Flamer of Tzeentch feeds the flames and fuels your hand each of your turns, while helping you burn your foes down. Spellslinger decks have a penchant for pinging opponents to death (Izzet's version of “Death by a Thousand Cuts”!), and Exalted Flamer is excellent in that regard.
Printed in The Ruinous Powers preconstructed deck from Warhammer 40,000 Commander, Exalted Flamer of Tzeentch‘s pinging pairs perfectly with one of Izzet's most popular commanders: Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph, also from the 40K set.
#6. Talisman of Creativity
When life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. And when it gives you lands, you should make mana. But what if life doesn't? How do you get the juice for your spells?
If you’re playing a strictly Izzet deck, Talisman of Creativity is arguably better; but if you’re playing a 3+ color deck, the mana fixing that Izzet Signet provides can come in clutch. And if in doubt, you can always fit both!
Notice that Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph doesn't just work with single-target pings, though – with Starn on the board, End the Festivities becomes a 1-mana, 3-damage sweeper. And your gunslinging Tyranid is the source of the extra damage: slap a Curiosity on it, and it'll draw cards every time an opponent takes 1 damage from you.
Steam Vents is also both an island and a mountain: You can put it in play with fetch lands, and it fills the requirements for check lands or reveal lands.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun is the quintessential Izzet card. Literally: “Parun” is Ravnican for “Founder of one of the Guilds,” and this good ol' dragon is the founder of the Izzet League.
The most popular Izzet spell in EDH decks and also the strongest Izzet commander at competitive play, Niv-Mizzet, Parun is wings, neck, and shoulders above any other creature when it comes to power level.
And when your Parun leads Izzet into the fray, it makes many other Izzet cards shine. Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, or Goblin Electromancer are all excellent under Niv-Mizzet, Parun‘s command.
But, truth be told… as befits one of the most brilliant minds in the multiverse, Niv-Mizzet's best friend is Curiosity. Just make sure you don't deck yourself out!
Volcanic Island is as simple as it gets. And such humble, non-flashy simplicity is how it earns it the #1 spot.
Put another way, Volcanic Island on its own cost around four times as much as the rest of this list, combined
That's how powerful and sought-after the original dual lands are. Printed in Beta during Magic's dawn (this was left out of Alpha for some reason), Volcanic Island is a staple in every Eternal format, including Vintage. Simply put, the best Izzet card in the game.
Not trying to sound like Captain Obvious here, but the payoff of playing Izzet cards is that you get to play Izzet cards!
There are indeed some cards that give you a payoff for casting spells of certain colors. Mana Cannons deals damage every time you play a multi-color spell… but that's hardly a reason to play Izzet cards.
Also, it's extremely rare for an Izzet deck to only have Izzet cards. Nearly all Izzet decks have a combination of red cards, blue cards, and red-blue cards; some of the best enablers and payoffs for a spellslinger deck are mono-colored cards like Young Pyromancer, Baral, Chief of Compliance, or Guttersnipe.
Blue has some of the best card draw and countermagic in MTG, while red provides removal and interaction. But this brings a certain internal tension in Izzet decks: Red tends to be the most proactive color in MTG, while blue is the most reactive.
The way to connect blue and red is often through cards that reward you for playing a lot of instants and sorceries: Many of the best Izzet cards provide a payoff just for casting spells. Izzet also has a knack for using card draw as either enabler (like Niv-Mizzet, Parun) or payoff (like Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain).
As noted by Magic's head designer Mark Rosewater in an article about designing MTG cards for the Izzet color pair: “When you combine the intellect of blue with the passion of red you get creativity. I like to refer to the Izzet as passionate thinkers. Blue-red wants to do things where things interact with other things and the end result is something bigger than the sum of its parts.”
And another angle for Izzet decks is artifact synergies, as illustrated by Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain.
Expressive Iteration | Illustration by Anastasia Ovchinnikova
And that finishes our ranking of MTG's best Izzet cards. I hope it's been an informative bit of spellslinging!
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