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Budget Magic: $86 Izzet Balmor Spellslinger


Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we get to start exploring our new Standard format budget style with our exclusive preview card, Balmor, Battlemage Captain, in a super-aggressive spellslinging Izzet deck that costs just $86 in paper and has zero non-land rares or mythics! If not for the fact that we needed Stormcarved Coast and Shivan Reef to make our mana work, our deck would cost like $25 and have zero rares or mythics at all. The plan is pretty simple: play Balmor, Battlemage Captain and another creature or two, and then sling a bunch of cheap spells like Ancestral Anger and Consider to trigger Balmor, pump our team, and hopefully close out the game in one or two big attacks, maybe combined with a bit of burn like Play with Fire and Lightning Strike. How good is Izzet Spellslinger in Standard? What about Balmor, Battlemage Captain itself? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Izzet Balmor Spellslinger

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The Deck

Izzet Balmor Spellslinger is a spellslinger aggro deck with a mixture of cheap threats and spells, with the goal being to smash our opponent to death with a combination of combat damage and burn as fast as possible.

The Creatures

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We've got four different creatures in our deck, but the most important—by far—is Balmor, Battlemage Captain, which is an absurd card in a spellslinger deck. The two-drop has not only a decent body as a 1/3 flier but also a pseudo-prowess ability where, whenever we cast an instant or sorcery spell, it pumps our entire team and gives them trample. In most cases, how this works in practice is that Balmor, Battlemage Captain gives all of our spells a kicker of "Deal damage to your opponent equal to the number of creatures you control." The amount of damage that Balmor, Battlemage Captain offers is really over the top, assuming we can get another creature or two on the battlefield to benefit from the pump.

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So, what creatures as we playing to back up Balmor? In the one-drop slot, we have two evasive threats in Delver of Secrets and Phoenix Chick. While neither is super powerful on its own, they work really well in our deck. Delver of Secrets takes advantage of the fact that we have 23 instants and sorceries in our main deck, which means it should flip fairly quickly, and once it does, a 3/2 flier for one is super above the curve. As for Phoenix Chick, the combination of flying and haste works super well with Balmor, Battlemage Captain's pump ability, letting us get in a bunch of damage by surprise. I'm not sure I've ever used its second ability to return it from the graveyard—normally, our opponent dies before we get to that point, or they kill all of our creatures so we don't have enough attackers to trigger it—but it is an upside, and I'm sure it will happen eventually.

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Our last creature is another super-powerful Dominaria United uncommon in Electrostatic Infantry. The two-drop is basically like a ground version of Sprite Dragon, getting a +1/+1 counter whenever we cast an instant or sorcery spell, but being ground-bound isn't really that big of a deal thanks to trample. Electrostatic Infantry does two things for our deck. First, it works really well with Balmor because every spell we cast will double pump it, first permanently with a +1/+1 counter from its own ability and then temporarily thanks to Balmor, Battlemage Captain's ability. Second, Electrostatic Infantry gives us a backup plan for games where we don't draw Balmor: we can just cast it, sling some spells, maybe give it double strike, and beat our opponent down with the massive trampler.

The Spells

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Of course, for our plan to work, we need to be able to cast a bunch of cheap spells to trigger Balmor, Battlemage Captain and Electrostatic Infantry and help us flip our Delver of Secrets. First up, we have two cantrips in Consider and Ancestral Anger, which not only pump our creatures but also keep us churning through our deck to find more action. Some of our best, most explosive games involve playing a creature or two and a Balmor and then chaining together enough cantrips to kill our opponent with a single attack!

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We've also got a bunch of burn and Fading Hope for removal. Play with Fire and Lightning Strike are especially important to our deck because of their flexibility. In the early game, we can use them to kill a creature; then, later, we can throw them at our opponent's face to finish the game if we end up just short of winning with combat damage. Oh yeah, and they are instants that trigger all of our creatures. As for Fading Hope, it's mostly a tempo play to slow our opponent down by bouncing one of their creatures, although there are times when we use it to save our own creatures in a pinch.

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Last but not least, we have Twinferno, another new Dominaria United addition to the deck, which is actually surprisingly strong thanks to its flexibility. We can use it to copy an instant or sorcery, or we can use it to give something double strike, all for just two mana at instant speed. When you consider that copying a spell costs two mana (see Doublecast, Dual Strike, and friends) and giving a creature double strike at instant speed costs two mana (see: Critical Hit, Double Cleave, and friends), the rate on Twinferno is shockingly good. In our deck, the main purpose of Twinferno is to give a massive Electrostatic Infantry or Balmor, Battlemage Captain double strike to finish the game, although there are times when we can use it to copy a burn spell or even a cantrip to get some extra value. While drawing multiples can be clunky, the ability to one-shot someone with double strike is super scary in our deck, making Twinferno more than worth a spot.

The Mana

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There are two reasons why I wanted to mention the mana base of Izzet Balmor Spellslinger. First, it is—by far—the most costly part of the deck. Nearly $60 of our budget in paper (and all eight of our rare wildcards on Arena) is dedicated to the mana. The problem is that our deck really wants to curve out and needs both red and blue mana early in the game, which means we can't really afford to play lower-rarity dual lands that enter the battlefield tapped, and we can't really afford to play all basics because we'll have color issues, which makes splurging on the rare dual lands a necessary evil. 

The other thing I wanted to mention about the mana is just how different it is in this Standard from in our last Standard. One of the hallmarks of our last Standard was being able to get extra value out of your lands with things like creaturelands and MDFC lands. All of that is gone now. The end result is that we've only got 21 lands in our deck. If we were building this deck in past Standard, I think we'd probably have something like 24 lands, with cards like Spikefield Hazard and Jwari Disruption upping both our land and spell count at the same time. This isn't a bad thing but will take some adjusting to after last Standard, which was absolutely overflowing with land-based value.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we finished 5-4 with Izzet Balmor Spellslinger, which is a pretty decent record for such a budget-friendly deck, although it's probably worth taking the record with a grain of salt since we were playing on early-access day. It's not the most competitive environment, and best-of-three isn't an option. 

As far as our losses, our biggest problem was flooding out. We had at least two losses where we happened to draw four, five, or six lands in a row and just didn't have enough action to really compete. I'm not really sure how to fix this problem considering we're only playing 21 lands. Maybe we could cut down to 20? 19? Another possibility would be to find a way to put some more card filtering into the deck. While I'm not sure what to cut, I could see playing a couple of copies of something like Thrill of Possibility just to get rid of extra lands.

One thing I really like about Izzet Balmor Spellslinger is that the budget build is pretty close to the optimal build. Apart from a couple of channel lands and maybe some copies of Jaya, Fiery Negotiator in the sideboard, there really isn't much to add to the deck. The optimal build just happens to feature mostly uncommons and commons, which makes it surprisingly cheap.

So, should you play Izzet Balmor Spellslinger in Standard? I think the answer is yes if you are looking for a super-cheap deck to grind with on Arena (or in paper). The jump from best-of-one to best-of-three shouldn't really be a problem for the deck, and both Balmor, Battlemage Captain and Electrostatic Infantry are super-powerful threats in our new format. While we'll have to wait and see how the metagame develops, I wouldn't be surprised to find some Izzet Balmor deck be competitive, and at worse, it should be one of the strongest budget archetypes in our new Standard format!

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Finally, as I mentioned before, the non-budget build of Izzet Balmor doesn't get many huge changes. We get two channel lands in the mana base and Jaya, Fiery Negotiator in the sideboard. Jaya is a really interesting card for the deck. I could see trying it in the main deck—the combination of prowess tokens, removal, and card draw is appealing, although four mana is a lot for a 20-land deck. For now, it's in the sideboard to bring in against control, but it might end up being so good that it ends up in the main deck after more testing. The only other change to the main deck is two copies of Thrill of Possibility coming in over a land, and a Twinferno to hopefully eliminate those flood-out losses that we suffered a couple of times. All in all, the changes up the cost of the deck to around $140 in paper and 13 rares / mythics on Arena, which is still pretty budget-friendly! 

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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