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Budget Commander: Melek, Izzet Paragon


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Hi! Do you like casting lots of spells? How about drawing lots of cards? Does the thought of casting Epic Experiment for X=20 excite you? How about Fork'ing it to cast it twice, or three times, and then scooping it out of the graveyard to cast again?

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Sweet, glorious SCIENCE!!!

If you answered "yes" to all these questions, then the Izzet guild welcomes you! All aboard the magical steampunky science train of combotastical value! Where it goes, nobody knows, but I guarantee you're in for a wild ride! Choo choo!

Slinging Spells All Day

Let's get started Izzet recruit. Melek, Izzet Paragon shall instruct you on how to spellsling your way to victory. Our wonky weird leader wants you to focus on instants and sorceries — none of those silly "permanent" things that those smelly Green players harp on about. Bashing with a 50/50 fatty is boring and predictable; dealing 50 damage to each opponent with Comet Storm is more fun!

This is a similar build criteria to Talrand, Sky Summoner, which I've written about before. But that's where the similarities between these two decks end.

Talrand is a control deck. He likes taking things slow and steady, grinding out opponents with card advantage and an ever-increasing army of drakes. 

Not so with Melek. The Izzet Paragon wants to end things in one massive turn taking out the entire table all at once. He is the "holy crap what am I doing" combo player, not knowing where the combo will go, only that it's going to be awesome.

You combo off by following these easy steps:

  1. Generate tons of mana.
  2. Draw tons of cards.
  3. Cast tons of spells.
  4. Win!

As always, let's break things down:

Tons of Mana

The first step is you need lots of mana. Unlike most decks, your mana generation comes in two forms instead of one:

  • Permanent mana sources. The standard across all Commander decks. You'll need permanent sources of mana ramp to get your deck up and running in a timely manner.

Chromatic Lantern, Darksteel Ingot, Gilded Lotus, Izzet Signet, Sol Ring, Wayfarer's Bauble, Arcane Melee, Burnished Hart, Goblin Electromancer, Sapphire Medallion, Ruby Medallion, Coalition Relic, Gilded Lotus, Commander's Sphere, Walking Atlas

  • Temporary mana sources. As a combo deck that goes off in one big turn, these cards are essential to combo off when you're ready. I count Mana Flare here because it should be played on the turn you go off, like a second High Tide. Otherwise it assists your opponents too much.

High Tide, Seething Song, Turnabout, Mana Geyser, Helm of Awakening, Mana Flare

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Tons of Cards

Now that we're juiced up, let's do the best thing in Magic: drawing a TON of cards!

Many of these choices are typical for Blue/Red decks, but a few in particular are uniquely suited for Melek:

  • River Kelpie is a hidden gem and bonkers good here since a ton of the important combo spells have flashback.
  • Frantic Search is a net loss of cards, but it's excellent when you want to combo, filtering out useless cards for no mana loss (actually, mana gained with cards like High Tide).
  • While it's no secret at this point that Treasure Cruise is great, this deck is dumping cards into the graveyard so consistently fast that it's always an Ancestral Recall
  • Brainstorm is also not a net gain of cards, but it's an excellent way of setting up Melek's ability
  • Intellectual Offering: I feel like I'm the only one who loves this card. It's uniquely great in Melek decks that can use it to generate mana with mana rocks on the turn you combo off.

Brainstorm, Cerebral Vortex, Fact or Fiction, Frantic Search, Impulse, Anticipation, Intellectual Offering, Opportunity, Opt, Steam Augury, Telling Time, Compulsive Research, Deep Analysis, Faithless Looting, Ponder, Preordain, Recurring Insight, Treasure Cruise, River Kelpie, Rhystic Study, Mystic Remora, Windfall, Wheel of Fortune, Molten Psyche

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Tons of Spells

What's that? You need more ramp? More card draw? More XYZ??? Say no more! Izzet technologies lets you have it all! Fork your spells, Recoup them from your graveyard, and play them again and again until all your opponents are blue and red in the face! Keep it going with Mind's Desire or Epic Experiment!

One quirky card you don't see often is Spellweaver Volute. It's definitely a weird one and requires a special setup, but if you cast a lot of sorcery spells (which Melek does), then you're getting a ton of free value by flashing back instants in all graveyards for free. It's really fun and effective.

Forks: Fork, Reverberate, Increasing Vengeance, Wild RicochetHowl of the Horde, Twincast, Nivix Guildmage, Mirari, Dual Casting, Djinn Illuminatus, Cast Through Time

Flashback/Retrieval:  Recoup, Call to Mind, Mystic Retrieval, Runic Repetition, Spellweaver Volute, Charmbreaker Devils, Pull From the Deep

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Winning

Now that you've cast a ton of spells, it's time to win. Try these:

Or just win with standalone bombs like Rite of Replication and Insurrection. BAM! SCIENCE!

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Dealing With Distractions

Unfortunately, while you're setting up your epic experiments, your less intelligent foes are doing... whatever non-geniuses do. Point is, it's annoying and hindering your progress. Best deal with it.

One of the best new cards for Melek is Volcanic Vision. It's expensive, but in this deck it's a cheaper Plague Wind AND Call to Mind rolled into one. Value!

Another great card that I don't see played much is Domineering Will. While it's situational and not a real substitute to on-demand removal, I've been consistently impressed in the blowout potential of taking out one or more threats with surprise blockers. Note that you don't need to be the one being attacked to use this card; it works on anyone.

Creature Removal: Rapid Hybridization, Pongify, Volcanic Offering, Reality Shift, Blasphemous Act, Volcanic Vision, Mizzium Mortars, Mercurial Chemister, Curse of the Swine, Blast of Genius

Artifact Removal: Vandalblast, Shattering Spree, Shattering Pulse, Into the Core

Everything Removal: Chaos Warp, Cyclonic Rift, Devastation Tide

Graveyard Wipe: Burn Away, Relic of Progenitus, Tormod's Crypt, Time Reversal

Countermagic: Arcane Denial, Counterflux, Counterspell, Negate, Muddle the Mixture, Disdainful Stroke, Swan Song

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Stayin' Alive

One minor nuisance about casting instants and sorceries all day long is that your board is empty of permanents. That in itself isn't an issue, but with those pesky creatures romping about the battlefield, along with Melek's reputation for being scary combo, means your opponents are encouraged to attack into your empty board and take you out early. Not good! So, aside from board wipes, we should run those strange non-spell things that stay on the battlefield and keep you defended.

Thankfully, three of our win conditions, Talrand, Sky Summoner, Young Pyromancer, and Rite of Replication, keep us well defended.

Beyond that, we can run creature-producing spells like Stolen Identity and Supplant Form. There's also Propaganda, Meekstone, and Crawlspace to make attacking us difficult.

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Other Utility

Flash: Leyline of Anticipation, Vedalken Orrery, Quicken, always good to have

Tutors: Firemind's Foresight, Long-Term Plans, Muddle the Mixture, Merchant Scroll, Quiet Speculation (flashback toolbox!)

Topdeck Manipulation: Ponder, Preordain, Brainstorm

Though topdeck manipulation is great, I wouldn't recommend going deep on it with inferior cards like Soothsaying. I find that Melek gets hated off the table so much that I rarely even get to use him, so run the topdeck manipulation you'd want to run even without him. Ponder is a good example of this.

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Lands

Izzet Boilerworks is amazing in Melek decks because of its synergy with cards like Frantic Search and Turnabout, netting you more mana when you combo off. U/R manafixing lands are good here in general. I'd recommend Manabase Crafter to find good lands in your budget range.

Keep in mind that High Tide gets worse the fewer Islands you run. I wouldn't go below 15 while running that card.

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The Good

If you love drawing a ton of cards and casting a ton of spells, you'll love Melek. It's that simple. 

What I really enjoy about Melek is that he's not a linear combo deck. You're not tutoring for card X, then card Y, and winning the exact same way each game; instead you're playing off the top of your library and seeing where it goes. This keeps the deck fresh. I've played with Melek a ton and each combo is an interesting and engaging experience. Good replay value.

The Bad

Melek is known for combo and you don't have access to a formidable defense. This means you'll be drawing a lot of hate. If you're killed off before you're allowed to do your thing, you either need to tweak the deck to combo off faster or add more defense while slowing the combo down.

The biggest drawback of the deck, however, stems from piloting it. Melek players are sometimes known for taking a long time combo'ing off, which basically devolves the game into 10+ minutes of solitaire. I've been guilty of this myself. Trust me, your opponents do NOT want to watch you play with yourself for a long time, waiting to see if you go off or fizzle. It's annoying or traumatizing, depending on the situation.

So, for the sake of your friends, pilot your Melek deck on your own time first. Get a feel for how it plays and learn the motions of the combo. Take note of how much available mana you have and what you can do with it. When you do play against other people, you can plan your future turn while you wait for others to do their thing. Your combo turn should take a couple minutes, no more.

 

Budget Lists

 

You could drop the price down another $3 by cutting Epic Experiment, but I think it's worth splurging for.

 

Upgrading and Fiddly Bits

The first big purchase I'd get is Time Spiral. It does everything this deck wants to do: it refills your hand, generates mana, and acts as graveyard hate against all your opponents. So good!

The second upgrade I'd recommend is Past in Flames. It's basically a Yawgmoth's Will in this deck, letting you replay all your mana spells, card draw spells, and complete your combo.

Other sweet inclusions:

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That's All, Folks!

With Dragons of Tarkir out, I've been getting a few requests for dragon tribal. Let me know which commander you want to see leading a dragon tribal deck and I'll see what I can do!

Follow me on Twitter @BudgetCommander for notifications on when the next article is up, updates on future decks, and input for what to work on next. Thanks for reading!


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