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Higher Standard: Week 1 Izzet Ensoul Blade

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

If you follow my “work” at puremtgo.com, I would like to thank you and tell you that I think it’s great.  You see over on that site I am working on a bit of a way to improve my game, and my endurance as a writer.  Every so often while I manage the sites, I get lazy, complacent, and let other writers do the work.

I actually like writing.   It’s fun to be creative and leave terrible awful jokes in my articles.

Some of you may think the entire article is the joke!

Anyways old Standard sucked out loud.  Pack Rat, Sphinx’s Revelations boo those cards right now.  Of course those staples rotated out, and we have a new Standard, which will also suck, but right now everything is roses and sugar and puppy doggy kisses.  The Pro Tour is over, Abzan beat Jeskai in the finals.  A lot of neat stuff came out of the Pro Tour.  Brads Token deck, the aggro Abzan deck, Dimir Control.  The list goes on and on, and thankfully, the Pro Tour is not the end all be all of Magic decklists.

Which is why I am talking about one that did not see any play on the Pro Tour, and was directed to me from a twitter post from @SaitoCardShop.  While the Standard format was new, they would occasionally tweet links to decks that had done well in previous events, and what caught my eye was a sweet little Izzet Ensoul Artifact deck.

Here is the list.

I saw this deck and fell in love.  There is something appealing to me about making indestructible 5/5s.  Of course making an Ornithopter 5/5 and attacking for that much on turn two is also a treat.  Back my quick creature damage up with some stellar burn in Stoke the Flames, Shrapnel Blast and Lightning Strike and I thought there was a pretty neat recipe to winning a lot of games.

I felt so good about the deck in testing that I decided I was going to use it in the Magic the Gathering Online PreTQs.  I played in two of them with this list and went 5-4 over the events that I played.  In three matches I lost to decks that packed Courser of Kruphix.  That showed me that the deck had a weakness.  Firedrinker Satyr was getting sideboarded out often.  It did not match up well against Courser decks, and while it wanted to be an aggressive guy, I had to use my mana to cast spells instead of pumping him.

I thankfully recorded my PreTQs with this deck.  The deck is a lot of fun to play, but it was missing something.  It had a hard time going over the top of Courser, or any of the other giant dumb men that the the green deck typically plays.  Unless the Darksteel Citadel was the artifact with soul, we were cold to Hero’s Downfall more often than not (And Utter End does not care if the card is indestructible at all.)

It was a lot better against Jeskai than I thought it would be.  The two color deck would more often than not strike quick, and while they stumbled on enter the battlefield tapped lands, we would be able to take advantage of that.

The first playlist takes a look at the first PreTQ I played with the deck.  I played all five rounds picking up losses in the 3rd and 5th round.  I won against Jeskai Tokens (not the list that was featured in Pro Tour coverage, but rather another list that had been tweeted out by Saito Card Shop.), Esper Control (my opponent timed out I do believe.)  and a Boros Burn deck (this matchup was a little tighter than I would have liked.  Thankfully Warleader’s Helix is not a card in Standard anymore.  However Deflecting Palm is and that card is the truth for anyone who has yet to play against it.)  I lost to Mardu Tokens and Abzan aggro.  The tokens deck I think I would have been fine had I drawn an Arc Lightning, but I drew blanks and fell behind.  The match against Abzan was foreshadowing for me, it really highlighted what I felt was a hopeless matchup.

I made some sideboard changes to better account in my mind for the MTGO metagame, before I played in the second PreTQ this is what I changed my sideboard to.

3 Negate
3 Searing Blood
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Circle of Flame
2 Singing Bell Strike
1 Aetherspout

Anger and Circle were there for Heroic and Token matches.  Singing Bell Strike was to come in against Courser decks, and Negate does what Negate does.

It counters non creature spells like End Hostilities.  What did you think it did something else?

The next playlist is from the second PreTQ that I played in.  I started off with a bye, so I really went 2-2 in this event.  However that free win got me to the needed cut off to nine packs.  While it was not the finish I wanted, being able to flip those packs into tickets allowed me to keep trying to qualify for the actual Pro Tour Qualifier.

I lost to Jund Monsters and Red Green Monsters.  I beat Jeskai Combo (well they timed out, but a win is a win I guess.  The matchup seems okay, but you really need to keep the enchantment off the table in game two and three.)  and Mono Red Heroic.  They may have been mana screwed in the games, but 5/5s are harder for that deck to deal with.


After this PreTQ was done I took stock of what had happened.  I saw what I was sideboarding out a lot of the games (the Satyr being the biggest offender) and saw what I was losing to. Courser decks at the time on MTGO were a larger than normal part of the metagame and I needed to make changes.  I also decided that if I wanted to qualify for the qualifier I would need to give up on the idea of Izzet taking me there.  (I did manage to qualify, but we’ll be taking a look at that deck next week.)

I made some changes to the deck and this is where I am right now with the Izzet Ensoul deck.

I made one change to the maindeck.  The satyrs came out, because I was using my mana to do things that were not activating its ability.  Swiftspear came in because well, it plays well with what the deck wants to do.  The sideboard for the deck is really weird.  We need ways to deal with Courser decks and the giant monsters that they produce.  Icy Blast at worst taps down guys to keep me from losing the game, and at best allows me to tap guys down to come over for the win.  Disdainful Stroke probably needs to be a mix of it and Stubborn Denial.  The Denials are better against non green decks, but stroke counters a lot of must counter things like Wingmate Roc, Polukranos, and Genesis Hydra.  Denial and Negate can not deal with those.  Revoker is an extra bit of insurance against Walkers and the Jeskai Combo deck.  Circle of Flame and Anger are for the aggro decks of the field.  I think the sideboard covers the majority of matchups, but the numbers are just a bit wonky right now.

Since this was recorded (last week!) the ensoul deck has went in some different directions.  There is a mono blue version that uses Chief Engineer to power out dumb guys like Scuttling Doom Engine.  The deck has also removed the red for white, which gives it access to Heliod’s Pilgrim and Spectra Ward.  (Todd Anderson played this version at the Pro Tour, it is also what I used to qualify for the Pro Tour Qualifier!)  Finally it has also went full Jeskai.  It takes the best parts of the red version (Burn and Rabblemaster) and the best parts of the white version (Pilgrim and sideboard options.), mashed them together with Jeskai mana and went nuts.  I have linked those lists (not the Anderson list though, you get a video link there.) for your viewing pleasure.

That’s it for me this week!  We have gotten one week out of the way, and have 51 weeks left in the Standard for a year project.  Next week we’ll be looking at Todd Anderson’s Azorious Ensoul Blade.  After that, we’ll take a break from running with scissors and look at some other strategies.  Though, if I could write about Ensoul Artifact for another 51 weeks that would make me happy!

Thanks for reading and checking out the videos!

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