The Key to My Spellheart

Posted in Reconstructed on November 5, 2013

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

This week's ReConstructed takes two very popular requests and puts them in one place: building decks on a budget and spell-heavy Izzet decks. If you like both budget decks and casting instant and sorcery spells, you've come to the right article!

Ever since Theros was released, I've received a torrent of Spellheart Chimera decks each week—and this week it's finally time to take a peek at one.

Spellheart Chimera | Art by Svetlin Velinov

Let's hop right to the decklist. Sent in by the enigmatic Robin (who I can only presume is out there somewhere running around in tights yelling, "Holy Chimeras, Batman!") this is a controlling take on using Spellheart Chimera. Let's take a look:

Robin's (S)Team Izzet

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Budget Rules

Before I get into how the deck plays out, let's take a quick look at my rules of thumb for budget deck building.

  • I will not add any new rares or mythic rares to the decklist. I'd rather make the deck extra budget-y and then let you season to taste with delicious rares than cook it so rare you won't eat it at all.
  • The one exception to the above is mana fixing. Fortunately, for this article you won't have to worry about this one—this deck is one color!
  • I try not to make substitutions. Budget doesn't need to mean making a worse version of a current deck—it just means building toward an archetype that has easier-to-obtain cards. Cards like Snapcaster Mage and Geist of Saint Traft simply can't be replaced in decks that need them.
  • Budget doesn't mean bad. I'm not setting out to make a deck we know will be suboptimal through this process. There have been plenty of highly successful low-rare decks throughout Magic's history, and there are certainly ways to follow in their footsteps.

If you want more explanation on any of those points, check out the beginning of my first budget article.

Now, with that out of the way, let's move onto exploring the deck's battle plan!

The Battle Plan

There are many kinds of Izzet decks and many kinds of Spellheart Chimera decks. There are versions that aim to kill quickly with cards like Armed // Dangerous Dangerous, and there are versions that use cards like Guttersnipe to put more pressure on your opponent with each and every spell. This version on the deck definitely falls on the more controlling end of the spectrum.

Armed // Dangerous
Guttersnipe

By dealing with each threat your opponent presents by casting efficient instant and sorcery spells, this deck eventually aims to close out the game with a massive Spellheart Chimera or a swarm of Young Pyromancer tokens. While it looks like there aren't a lot of win conditions, don't fret: one Spellheart Chimera will often be enough to seal the deal on its own. This deck can very easily end up with ten+ instants and sorceries in its graveyard, making one or two hits with the Chimera all you need.

What are you doing until that point? Well, controlling the game, of course! A plethora of burn spells take out any creatures that get in the way, and a suite of countermagic can help answer any of the noncreature problems you might encounter. Draw some cards, deal with some problems, land a Chimera, and ride it to victory—all the while perhaps amassing tokens from a Young Pyromancer.

A lot of this deck's core is solid, but there are some tweaks that can be made to optimize its goals further. Like what? Well, you're about to find out—it's time to move onto the deck breakdown!

Deck Breakdown

Which cards fit into the mix and which ones just need to burn away? Let's take a look and find out!

Spellheart Chimera
 

Ah, one of the cornerstones of the archetype. Isn't it cute? Don't be fooled, though—the prettier it looks, the more likely it is to kill you. Spellheart Chimera is pretty irreplaceable in this deck, providing a ton of power for only three mana. While you won't actually cast it on turn three that often—rather waiting for a later turn once he's larger, perhaps with countermagic backup—the fact that he only costs three mana is a huge boon later in the game, meaning you don't need to tap out for your win condition.

There is an argument to be made for only playing three copies, since you don't want to draw a grip full of these right away, but the card is so crucial and effective once you've cast just a handful of spells that I'm happy with the full four.

Young Pyromancer
 

While this deck will usually kill with Spellheart Chimera, don't discount the power of this little guy. In a deck like this one where most of your nonland cards trigger his ability, he's incredible. He can either create a large swarm of tokens over several turns to overrun your opponent with, or buy you a ton of time turning each spell you cast into an extra blocker. What will happen most often when you play him on turn two is use the tokens to block for the first few turns, and then take control of the board and start pushing through some damage with them.

Young Pyromancer is a card that only gets better in multiples. While we do have to be careful to not include too many non-instant/sorcery cards in this deck, Pyromancer is definitely worth carving out space for.

Omenspeaker
 

In general, I like Omenspeaker in control decks that look like this. Often, you need to buy a little bit of time and dig to the spells—or lands—you need, and Omenspeaker does that well.

However, what Omenspeaker is not is an instant or sorcery. With eight creatures prominently in the deck and eating away from instant/sorcery space, I'd rather have something here that accomplishes the goals of Omenspeaker while also playing into the rest of my game plan. Unlike Spellheart Chimera and Young Pyromancer, Omenspeakeris replaceable.

The card I'd like to put here instead is Magma Jet. It similarly helps you scry to find what you're looking for and can slow down a creature onslaught, but it has the added bonus of being an instant. Between the damage and scrying, Magma Jet is quite good in this deck—let's play with the full four.

Magma Jet
Lightning Strike
 

Dealing 3 damage for two mana has become the industry standard for red mages these days, first with Searing Spear and now with Lightning Strike. While it is good in this deck, something to keep in mind is that burn spells here are most important for killing creatures.

What I mean is that, unlike in an aggressive red deck where you want to maximize your damage output to your opponent's noggin, in this deck what matters is most is taking out creatures. And, in this format, 2 damage is often comparable to 3. There are a few cards it matters for—Boros Reckoner; Nightveil Specter; combining with a 2-damage spell to off a Polukranos, World Eater—but on the whole, 2 damage will often get the job done.

Why do I bring this up? Well, the scry from Magma Jet is extremely valuable in a deck that is trying to find the right instants and sorceries and then a Spellheart Chimera. I'd rather have the fourth Magma Jet than the fourth Lightning Strike. I'm going to shave down a couple Lightning Strikes here. It certainly doesn't mean it's a bad card, but this deck already has a heavy saturation of burn spells (including Mizzium Mortars, which already kills huge creatures) and I'd rather make room to play some other ones with powerful abilities attached.

Mizzium Mortars
 

And speaking of Mizzium Mortars, here we are! This flexible removal spell kills off a lot of the larger threats in the format and serves as a board sweeper in the late game. While it is weak against control decks, Izzet Charm can help you cycle some dead Mortars away. I'm happy to keep the full four copies of these.

If you don't own Mizzium Mortars and it's a little too rare for your tastes, it isn't crucial—you could easily play some Lightning Strikes, other burn spells, or even Anger of the Gods (if you have those) instead. While I'd play it if you can, if you're really looking for the bare-bones budget version of this decklist, they are cards you can take out without destabilizing the core of the deck.

Izzet Charm
 

Izzet Charm is a great fit for this deck. All three modes are highly useful: it can fend off creatures early on, find you what you need, or give you answers to troublesome noncreatures. The "looting" feature to draw and discard is especially nice in this deck, since chaining instants and sorceries is great with Young Pyromancer, and discarded instants and sorceries don't completely go to waste; they still power up your Spellheart Chimera. I'd like to keep all four of these.

Steam Augury
 

Steam Augury hasn't found a great home elsewhere because you leave the choice in your opponent's hands. Often, that's not what a control deck wants: it is looking for specific cards, which is what made Fact or Fiction so powerful and Steam Augury not quite as splashy.

Fact or Fiction

However, what if instead of a get-what-I-want spell, we looked at Steam Augury as a value draw spell?

Steam Augury shows you five cards—and even if you end up with the pile you don't want, that's still churning through a ton of instants and sorceries for your Spellheart Chimera and Young Pyromancer. So many of your cards are interchangeable that Steam Augury actually works pretty well here. This is one of the archetypes where I'm happiest with the card—and I'm comfortable keeping all of them here.

Turn // Burn
 

Turn // Burn serves a vital role in this deck: killing large creatures. If your opponent lands something large like a Polukranos, it's hard to remove without spending two cards in the process. Turn // Burn Burn helps take out cards like that at instant speed.

This card is also extremely important for fighting off Master of Waves. How so? Well, simply casting the Turn side on Master of Waves kills off all the Elemental tokens (presuming that's their only Master) since the Master loses its Elemental-enlarging ability. And then, if you still want to get those two blue mana symbols and future Elemental helper off the board, you can always use another spell to kill it, since the protection from red is temporarily gone as well.

Turn // Burn Burn fills such an important gap in this deck that I'd like to play the full four copies. You can always just use it as a 2-damage burn spell, and the versatility is going to be useful often enough that I want to make sure I can find one.

Essence Scatter
Negate
 

Countermagic is fairly well positioned in this deck. Not only is it the right card type to help out your creatures, but it gives you answers to threats you might have to two-for-one yourself to deal with otherwise. Essence Scatter is definitely important, dealing with threats like a turn-three Polukranos on the draw.

Izzet Charm covers a lot of your early-game noncreature bases, so I'm not as concerned with keeping Negate around. I'd rather have something that is stronger as the game goes on and is better against more threats, meaning you have additional answers to something like Ætherling. The card I'd like for that spot is Dissolve, swapping straight over Negate.

Opportunity
 

The singleton Opportunity looks a little odd, but I actually like it. It's a massive card drawer you can find late to close out the game, makes Steam Augury piles more difficult for your opponent, and is just generally the one extra source of card advantage I was looking for. I'm happy keeping this.

So, what does this deck look like with all of those changes made? Well, it becomes this:

Gavin Verhey's Heartburn

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I actually think this deck is fairly competitive, and there isn't much I'd look at tweaking if it were unbudgetized. One card I would definitely consider if I wasn't operating on a budget is Anger of the Gods as another sweeper—but that card is such a nonbo with Young Pyromancer that I might not even consider it.

If you're looking for an easy and effective way to get into Standard, give this a try! Practically all the rares can be swapped for something else if need be—Steam Vents for basic lands, Mizzium Mortars for Lightning Strikes and more counterspells, Steam Augury for Divination—so it's fairly easy to build up. Have fun with it!

Honorable Mentions

What were some of the other great budget decks players sent in last week? Take a look!

Wim de Boer's The Wall

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Rory Lindbergh's Scry to Death

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Abraham Parker's Boros Double Strike

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Tim's Infinite Tactics

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Tony Youssef's Peasant Gruul

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Yuta Suzuki's Elemental Destruction

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David Wright's Off to the Races

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Hiroya Kobayashi's Cheap Dredge

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Steffen V.'s Minotaur Madness

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Christian LeBlanc's Dimir Heroic

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Toshiaki Futaba's Hexproof

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Itou Kazunari's Hyper Blitz

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All Aboard the train to Combotown!

That about wraps this week's take on playing budget in Theros Standard. What's up next? Well, I'm going to try a mission I haven't ever done before—let's see if you are up to the challenge!

Format: Standard
Restrictions: Your deck must be built around taking advantage of a combination of cards.
Deadline: November 11, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)

Yourname's Deckname
Standard

20 Land
20 Land
4 Creature
4 Creature
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
4 Planeswalker

Take "combination of cards" to mean whatever you'd like. If you want it to be your instant-win combo deck, that's cool. If you feel your Ethereal Armor + tons of enchantments deck fits the bill, feel free to submit that too. I'm excited to see what kind of offerings I have to look at—I can't wait to see your creativity!

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or feedback on this article, feel free to post in the forums or send me a tweet and I'll be sure to take a look.

I'll be back next week with a look at something rather monstrous for Monstrosity Week. Talk to you then!

Gavin
@GavinVerhey

 
 

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