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Budget Magic: $59 (48 tix) Izzet Scissors (Pioneer, Magic Online)


Meow, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading to Pioneer to play an ultra-budget deck that can be one of the fastest in the format: Izzet Scissors! If the name is confusing, the "Scissors" refers to Ensoul Artifact, a two-mana enchantment that turns a random artifact into a massive 5/5 beater! Throw Skilled Animator into the deck as a backup pair of scissors, and the deck's goal is to consistently turn something like Ornithopter or Gingerbrute into an evasive 5/5 creature very early in the game and use it to snip our way to victory. How good is Ensoul Artifact in Pioneer in ultra-budget form? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Izzet Scissors (Pioneer)

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The Deck

Izzet Scissors is basically an artifact-based aggro deck, with the primary game plan being to turn a one- or two-mana artifact into a 5/5 artifact creature early in the game and use it to beat our opponent down before they get a chance to recover. Thanks to a lot of redundant pieces, the deck is very consistent at executing its plan and putting our opponent to the "can you answer a 5/5" test early in the game, although it does come with risk since if our opponent can answer our 5/5. we usually end up two-for-one'ing ourselves, which is quite painful.

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The core of our deck is Ensoul Artifact and Skilled Animator, both of which do the same thing (turning an artifact into a 5/5 creature) in their own unique way. Ensoul Artifact is the better of the two, because it is both cheaper and harder to kill than Skilled Animator (and if Skilled Animator dies, our artifact returns to its normal form). That said, the big upside of Skilled Animator is that it adds redundancy to our deck. With eight ways to turn an artifact into a 5/5, we're very likely to have a least one in hand every game to start the 5/5 beats.

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Ghostfire Blade does double duty in our deck. On one hand, it offers a backup way to pump our cheap artifact creatures. Turning Ornithopters into attackers and Gingerbrutes into 3/3s rather than 1/1s offers a lot of value. Plus, Ghostfire Blade is repeatable, so in the worst case that the creature carrying the blade dies, we can always move it over to another colorless creature for just one mana. On the other hand, Ghostfire Blade is a cheap artifact that we can turn into a 5/5 with Ensoul Artifact or Skilled Animator, and as a non-creature artifact, it offers some upsides. One of the risks of putting Ensoul Artifact on something like Ornithopter or Gingerbrute is that our opponent can kill our creature in response before it becomes a harder-to-kill 5/5. Ghostfire Blade, on the other hand, goes from inanimate artifact straight to hard-to-kill 5/5, with no window for cheap removal like Wild Slash.

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When it comes to the artifacts that we are looking to animate into 5/5 creatures, we're mostly looking for two things: protection and evasion. Darksteel Citadel is one of our best artifacts to animate, both because it's a land (so we can slot it into our deck at a very low cost) and because it's indestructible (helping it dodge most of the removal in the format). With our best draws, we can turn Darksteel Citadel into a 5/5 on Turn 2 and be attacking with it on Turn 3, which is fast enough to best most decks in the format, especially since removal like Fatal Push and Wild Slash are useless against a 5/5 indestructible. 

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While protection is nice, the downside of Darksteel Citadel is that it is very blockable, so it isn't guaranteed to get through damage. This is where our evasive artifacts come into play. While cards like Ornithopter, Gingerbrute, and Hope of Ghirapur do die to removal (although once they turn into 5/5s, they become much harder for some decks to kill), their upside is that they are mostly unblockable. Something like Ornithopter or Hope of Ghirapur on Turn 1 into Ensoul Artifact on Turn 2 means we are immediately attacking for five, forcing our opponent to either have removal at the read or die in just a few turns. Meanwhile, Gingerbrute has the upside of haste, so in the late game, it is often one of our best top decks since we can play it, make it unblockable, and turn it into a 5/5 (or load it up with Ghostfire Blades) to steal a win out of nowhere.

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Bomat Courier isn't evasive or very well protected, but it does come with another upside: it gives us a way to refill our hand. In general, our deck is cheap, which means we often empty our hand very quickly. Bomat Courier gives us a way to draw some cards after we run out of action that is also a fine creature to turn into a 5/5 or suit up with Ghostfire Blades. 

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Mask of Immolation is just a two-of in our deck, but it offers a lot of value. By itself, it can snipe down a Llanowar Elves, an Elvish Mystic, or another small creature, and with the help of cards like Ornithopter, it can even offer repeatable removal. Then, since Mask of Immolation is an artifact, we can turn it into a 5/5 with Ensoul Artifact or Skilled Animator and use it to beat our opponent down.

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At the top end of our curve are two one-ofs in Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Whirler Rogue, which aren't technically artifact creatures but do add two 1/1 flying Thopter tokens to the battlefield when they come into play, making them good ways to gum up the board, especially in removal-heavy matchups. Plus, both of our four-drops come with some extra upside. Pia and Kiran Nalaar allow us to turn random artifacts into damage, giving us a bit of extra reach to close out the game if things go wrong with our Ensoul Artifact plan, while Whirler Rogue can make a creature unblockable, offering a way to force through the last few points of damage once our opponent gets their defenses set up. 

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Last but not least is a bit of burn. Shock is mostly for killing opposing creatures in the early game, although it can go to the face. Meanwhile, Shrapnel Blast is insane in our deck since we have so many cheap artifacts to sacrifice and five damage for two mana is an absurd deal. The other upside of Shrapnel Blast is that it lines up with how our deck deals damage. Thanks to Ensoul Artifact and Skilled Animator, we often damage our opponent in increments of five, which means if we can get in three hits with a 5/5 artifact creature, Shrapnel Blast offers the perfect way to close out the game, and if we have two copies of Shrapnel Blast, we usually only need two big attacks to have lethal.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we ended up going 3-2 with Izzet Scissors, although both of our losses were extremely close. One loss mostly involved us flooding out in game one and then getting mana screwed in game three, while the other involved our opponent drawing four copies of Abzan Charm (one of the few cards in Pioneer to cleanly answer a 5/5 Darksteel Citadel) to just barely sneak out the win. With a bit more luck, our record could have been even better, although a 3-2 record with an ultra-budget deck is still more than acceptable.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, Mask of Immolation might be a bit too cute. It could be better as another one-mana artifact to maximize Ensoul Artifact. Steel Overseer is another consideration, offering a backup plan for pumping our cheap artifact creatures, although it comes with the downside of dying to most of the removal in the format, so I'm not sure how consistently we'd be able to activate it. Maybe the biggest issue with the deck was that we can have a hard time winning when we flood out, so finding a way to sneak some more card advantage into the deck could be worthwhile. Mystic Forge is interesting, although we have an oddly high number of colored cards for an artifact-based deck. Experimental Frenzy might be a better option since we can generally dump our hand quickly and then (hopefully) use the enchantment to play multiple cards a turn off the top of our deck. 

All in all, Izzet Scissors feels like a fairly competitive ultra-budget build for Pioneer. It does a really solid job of forcing the opponent to have an answer very early in the game. If they do, things can go wrong in a hurry, but if they don't, our reward is a free win from a massive 5/5 beater. The deck also has a lot of upgrade potential toward a deck that could very well end up being top tier in the Pioneer format and, as an added bonus, doesn't play any cards that are in danger of being banned. If you like beating down with big creatures or artifact-themed decks or are just looking for an ultra-budget (and likely ban-proof) entry into the Pioneer format, Izzet Scissors seems like a fine option!

Ultra-Budget Izzet Scissors

No ultra-budget list this week. At $59, the build we played for the videos is close enough to the ultra-budget price range that trying to shave an extra $10 probably isn't worthwhile. Plus, there aren't really any expensive cards in the deck to cut, with the most expensive being Shivan Reef at just under $4 a copy (which is needed to make the mana work), while everything else in the deck costs around $2 or less. 

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For our non-budget build this week, we have Kanister's build of Izzet Scissors. The deck's core is very much the same as the build we played for the video, although there are a handful of upgrades, with cards like Emry, Lurker of the Loch and The Royal Scions helping to fix the "flood out" issue we had in some games with the budget build. Otherwise, the deck gets some expensive land upgrades in Mutavault, Spirebluff Canal, and Steam Vents, although in reality, our budget mana works pretty well, so I'd focus on upgrading the non-lands first and then work on upgrading the mana.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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