Ultimate Masters has been making a pretty big splash in the Pauper format already with some wild downshifts. Last week I talked about Dimir Angler and how Foil was showing an absolutely massive impact in its first week alone. Make no mistake, that's still happening and is arguably rising at a rate unprecedented for the format. While the free counterspell may be pushing that deck over the edge, why not look at another big contender: Fire // Ice.
Surprisingly, this card was getting some of the biggest hype among the downshifts from Ultimate Masters but has yet to make a big splash. As I mentioned in my set review, Izzet Delver doesn't really want it. After all, the list is already airtight enough. It hasn't really been seeing quite so much use in Tron or Boros builds like I thought it might either and Foil is clearly showing itself to be the big winner of the downshifts. It is, however, showing up in one of the format's chief combo-aggro deck: Izzet Blitz.
Izzet Blitz | Pauper | Amoras27, Competitive Pauper League
- Instants (19)
- 1 Brainstorm
- 1 Spell Pierce
- 2 Apostle's Blessing
- 2 Daze
- 2 Dispel
- 2 Fire // Ice
- 2 Gush
- 3 Mutagenic Growth
- 4 Temur Battle Rage
The core game plan is fairly straightforward. You start your game by cantriping and setting up a perfect hand. When you're able to do so, you then play either a Kiln Fiend or a Nivix Cyclops. On the turn that follows, check that the board looks fine and you expect little-to-no interaction from your opponent. From there you cast multiple spells, pumping your creature, and swinging in giving it additional evasion as well as Temur Battle Rage for maximum damage.
This can seem simple enough but there's a lot more complexity to this. As I mentioned with Bogles a few weeks back, sequencing is key here. Making sure you line your spells up right to get maximum damage is key. Sometimes it's good to even just wait a bit and drop extra Fiends or Cyclopi to make your you're able to get enough damage through. If all else fails, you can even try flipping a Delver on turn two and beat them down that way.
Thankfully, Blitz has a lot of ways to handle the opponent. Much like Angler Delver, which is arguably the format's current deck to beat, Blitz relies on numerous free or cheap spells.
One of the major key cards to ensuring your victory is Gitaxian Probe. This free spell is great as it fuels your creatures, cantrips, and most importantly lets you know exactly what your opponent is up to and whether or not the coast is clear.
Next we have the Standard free Blue spell package of Daze and Gush. Daze helps both to slow down your opponent's game plan as well as protect your win conditions when your opponent least expects it. Gush's key role here is just trying to find more fuel. Lastly, Mutagenic Growth fuels out the package to fully push your creature onslaught through.
Unlike, say, Angler Delver or Mono-Blue Delver, Blitz doesn't seem to be running the new spice that is Foil as of now. A lot of the talk with the card has actually been with Blitz specifically, and for good reason. Look at the list again. Do you notice something weird about this list? Simply put: it's a Blue deck that isn't running Counterspell. Instead it runs somewhat conditional counters such as Dispel and Daze as well as Mutagenic Growth and Apostle's Blessing should you count their protection granting abilities.
Because of this, I can't help but wonder why Blitz isn't running Foil currently. Perhaps people just haven't been testing it, convinced it won't break things. It could just be they did in fact test it and it turned out to not be as good as they hoped it might be. Whatever the case, I'm not counting the card out just yet and think it's worth giving a chance. Time will tell if the card makes a lasting impact.
What is making waves, however, is the sweet new spice of Fire // Ice. This is one I mentioned in my set review of Ultimate Masters. Unlike with Izzet Delver, it seemed to fit like a glove here. Taking out small critters, getting the last points of damage to the face, clearing a big blocker, and even just cantripping make the card so very versatile. No matter how you cast the card, though, you'll always end up making your creatures that much larger and ready for the kill.
Ultimately playing the deck relies a lot on matchups and navigating the game effectively. It's easy to sneak wins in against the likes of Elves or Stompy, for example. Not only are you just able to speedily hit them with a giant creature, you can blow up their boards reliably with kill spells, especially ones out of the sideboard. Even most Tron variants played today crumble to the sheer speed of Blitz.
The real challenge comes when facing against decks that are more midrangey or controlling from the start. Red and Black decks have numerous removal spells and if there's countermagic in the mix you can really have one heck of a tough time. In these matchups, rather than going for speed, it can behoove you to take your time. Like Storm players often say in other formats, sometimes it's just better to wait for the right time to go off as opposed to going for it prematurely and having it blow up in your face.
If you can manage to push through, however, the rewards are more than worth it. Blisteringly fast games translate to quick leagues. The more you play, the better you get, and the more you'll find yourself crushing it.
One last sweet thing that can happen is that Blitz still has lots of room for innovation and improvement. Just ask my good friend Lauren Mulligan who took down a Rags to Riches Pauper Event in Seattle.
Izzet Blitz | Pauper | Lauren Mulligan, Rags to Riches
While the event's legality varies from the standard Magic Online legality, allowing for paper commons as well, Lauren's list is still playable in the traditional format. However she really brought the spice to the Rags event! Spellweaver Eternal in place of Delver and Manamorphose and Vapor Snag in the spell slots. These hardly ever see play in this archetype!
Others have adopted Lauren's method of removing the Delvers from the deck in favor of creatures that align better for their all-in strategy. After all, like I mentioned before, in the context of the rest of the list, the Delver attack plan is more of a plan B than it is a plan A. Spellweaver here basically acts as a third creature that pumps up tremendously. Elusive Spellfist has also seem fringe play in this slot as well. Usually these days, however, the slot is taken up by Augur of Bolas, a card that both helps you against early aggro strategies and helps you fill your hand properly.
When all is said and done, there's a lot of ways to take this classic archetype and make it fresh. Lauren's take is a bit dated now, with the event having taken place in the early spring. As such, it was made with a different meta in mind. Despite that, the new takes are refreshing as ever, be they with Fire // Ice, Spellweaver Eternal, or an as yet to be discovered piece of tech. How will you ride this blazing Death Star deck to victory at your next big event?