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How Should I Upgrade the Quick Draw Commander Precon?


For a long while, I talked a lot about finding ways to upgrade all kinds of different preconstructed decks. It was the first topic I ever wrote articles on and it seemed like a fun tradition to keep up on over the years. This ranged from bringing Challenger Decks up to speed in their respective competitive formats to finding ways to enhance Commander precons for newer players. While the former was fairly easy to do by showcasing a step-by-step approach to building up to a viable list, the latter actually proved quite difficult.

There's really two reasons for this. For one, the quality of deck construction in these precons has improved drastically over the years. This led to actual struggles in trying to find things to cut in order to make adjustments outside of the typical "fix your land base" statements that are obvious to most people. The second issue was that a lot of times it felt like trying to pull in what I felt were just "the best" rather than allowing people to take ideas of their own and form something new based off of that.

With Outlaws of Thunder Junction freshly released to the public and a new suite of Commander decks out in the wild, I figured I'd try my hand at some upgrade discussions once again. This time around, I'm not actually going to provide updated lists alongside the existing ones. Instead, I'm going to be talking about how the decks work and give some insight into avenues you might want to look into in order to improve what's there already. After that, you can take it in whatever direction you desire and make it something all your own!

For this week, we're going to talk about what is arguably the best of the bunch right out of the box: the Blue-Red Quick Draw precon featuring Stella Lee, Wild Card as its face Commander.

Quick Draw is a spell-slinger style deck that wants to do just that: throw around a bunch of spells that inevitably kill your opponents dead. If you're any kind of Constructed player as well as a Commander player, you'll likely recognize this sort of deck. We see it all the time in lists like Izzet Phoenix in Pioneer, Izzet Murktide in Modern, Faeries in Pauper, and so on. All of these use a heavy amount of card draw and library manipulation to sift through their decks while utilizing counterspells and removal to remove opposing threats. All the while that player will be simultaneously building a board of threats themselves.

Stella Lee utilizes this strategy fairly well, enabling you to repeatedly get additional value out of a suite of cards that already provide plenty of value on their own. If you're not feeling Stella Lee, this preconstructed list also has a couple of great additional options for you to use instead. The secondary option is Eris, Roar of the Storm, which comes down quick and hits hard, and if you can take advantage of some spell copying you get to make a slew of dragons as well. Speaking of dragons, there's also arguably the greatest spell slinger commander of all time in Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Each provides you an awesome experience regardless of who you choose so take your pick and go to town.

When it comes to upgrading a deck like this it's fairly easy, largely due to the fact that there's so many cards that fit this archetype tremendously well. Heck, while I noted Constructed decks making use of this spell slinging strategy, it's also extremely common in Limited as well. Given this, three fairly recent releases immediately come to mind: Ravnica Remastered, Wilds of Eldraine, and Dominaria United. Each of these three sets had "spells matter" as the ur archetype, which gives us plenty of great cards to work off of that aren't in this list.

Let's start with a few from Ravnica Remastered.

Compulsive Research
Crackling Drake
Izzet Guildmage

Just looking at these three cards, you can already see some really easy spots to add in a couple cards. Compulsive Research is a great bit of card draw/library manipulation for its cost, especially if you end up with extra lands. You can even play the politics route and give some cards to an opponent if you so choose! Crackling Drake provides you another beefy creature off your spells to compliment your similar Haughty Djinn, and Izzet Guildmage provides you a means to get more use out of your spells. There's also cards like Quasiduplicate and Expansion // Explosion in the set that are both really strong, affordable, and benefit what's going on here nicely.

Wilds of Eldraine had a fairly lower supply of quality cards for its Izzet Spells strategy, but more from the context of Commander. Cards like Cut In and Torch the Tower are Limited all-stars, but in Commander they leave a lot to be desired. You do, however, still get access to a couple of rock solid burn spells with Stonesplitter Bolt and Frantic Firebolt, both of which can get huge quickly and can be copied for some serious damage. Even if they can't go directly to the face, making use of Imodane, the Pyrohammer can, and also helps make any of your other burn spells in your deck that much more potent at the same time.

Frantic Firebolt
Johann, Apprentice Sorcerer
Picklock Prankster

Johann, Apprentice Sorcerer provides another legend to work with. He's not quite as useful as some of the other options, so you probably don't want to put him at the helm, but he's excellent if you draw him in the middle of the game so that you can keep your value train rolling. And speaking of keeping the value going, the Blue side of the set offers a number of solid draw options to choose from. Sleight of Hand is a great cantrip for these Izzet Spells decks that's used in plenty of formats, as well as Picklock Prankster becoming a staple of Izzet Phoenix in Pioneer alongside Sleight. There's even a strictly better Divination now in the form of Quick Study, which provides you a great way to draw multiple cards quickly.

Unruly Catapult

This set also provides access to another pinger creature in the form of Unruly Catapult. Interestingly, if we don't count Niv-Mizzet, Parun, there's only two pingers here in the form of Electrostatic Field and Guttersnipe. Those are great, but there's many others to choose from as well, and Unruly Catapult only represents a single option! To name a few, there's also the likes of Thermo-Alchemist, Kessig Flamebreather, Firebrand Archer, and Erebor Flamesmith - each of which fulfills a similar role and lets you profitably dish out damage without needing to run a single burn spell!

Finally, I definitely want to touch on Dominaria United because the Izzet Spells deck in Limited for this set was nuts when it came together. This was predominantly thanks to as single card: Balmor, Battlemage Captain.

Balmor, Battlemage Captain

If I had to pick one strong additional option for a swap in the Command Zone for an Izzet Spells deck, Balmor would be way up towards the top. Simply by casting spells, you can dish out ridiculous amounts of damage just by going into the red zone with your creatures. That gets really out of control extremely fast, especially when you're making use of token generators like Young Pyromancer, Murmuring Mystic, and Talrand, Sky Summoner. Even if you don't put him at the helm, the card should almost certainly be a slam dunk in your 99 because of how quickly he can turn a stable game into a runaway win for you at a moment's notice.

That wasn't the only powerful creature for the Izzet decks either. Both Electrostatic Infantry and Ghitu Amplifier get huge off of all the various spells you're casting, and the Amplifier can even be kicked for additional value as well. Najal, the Storm Runner isn't as generally powerful as Balmor, but provides another strong means of copying spells while juicing your sorceries in the process. Even cards like Battlewise Aven and Defiler of Dreams play extremely well for this kind of strategy, as where they lack in synergy, they make up for it in the value they provide.

Additionally, there's tons of other great spells that showed up to compliment the strategy. Both Shore Up and Timely Interference provided great utility at a low rate and could be found off the back of Micromancer - which also happens to get lots of other spells in the base Quick Draw precon as is. Smash to Dust is an awesome modal spell, Silver Scrutiny lets you draw tons of cards, and Fires of Victory enables you to dish out lots of damage off the back of that card draw.

In short: the set was absolutely packed to the brim with tons of powerful spells, which made the archetype a house if drafted well. These are only three of the recent sets as well, and it hardly takes into account cards like Monastery Swiftspear from The Brothers' War or the new Slickshot Show-Off from Outlaws of Thunder Junction for a couple more powerful options. The best thing, though, is how almost none of the cards I've brought up so far in this article will cost you much to pick up, making this a tremendously easy deck to improve to your liking! I haven't even brought up cards like straight Counterspell or Saheeli, Sublime Artificer as other sweet affordable options to include!

What's great about this is that you can still go bigger and flashier if you want. No one's going to stop you if you want to put in powerful expensive spells like Cyclonic Rift, Mana Drain, and Deflecting Swat if you want. However, thanks to the simple play style, you don't need to either. A deck full of cheap spells will often do the trick just fine and give any pod a run for its money, so you can easily upgrade a deck on the cheap and then improve it later on when you have the means.

All this is to say that Quick Draw is probably the simplest and most elegant to improve on. Most of the other decks for this set rely on more niche and specific strategies, whereas this deck focuses heavily on a very common strategy seen in a large chunk of sets throughout Magic's long history. If Izzet Spells is your kind of play style, I can't recommend picking up the deck highly enough. Even if you don't have tons of big and expensive cards, chances are you've got some stuff in your bulk bins that's worth playing all on their own. Give it a shot and have a great time at your next Commander night!

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: TheMaverickGal

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