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Budget Magic: Eight-Rare ($78) Izzet Prowess (Standard)

Dobar dan, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Core Set 2021 is here, and this week, we kick off our exploration of our new Standard format with a deck that's not just super cheap in paper but on Magic Arena as well: Izzet Prowess! Thanks to cards like Sprite Dragon and cheap cantrips like Crash Through and Opt, Izzet Prowess already had a lot of good pieces in Standard pre–Core Set 2021, but it was lacking threats. Thanks to Core Set 2021, this is no longer a problem, with Stormwing Entity and Riddleform joining the fray to back up our Sprite Dragons and reward us for playing a bunch of cheap spells. Apart from being powerful and fun, the best part of the deck is that it only has eight rares (and zero mythics), and this includes a playset of Steam Vents in the mana base. So if you're looking for something cheap to grind the Arena ladder in Core Set 2021 Standard, today's deck is a great option! How good is Izzet Prowess on a budget? Can it compete with the best decks in Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Izzet Prowess

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The Deck

Izzet Prowess is a spell-based aggro deck that even has a pseudo-combo finish involving building a massive, flying, double-striking creature. The primary plan of the deck is to stick a threat or two early in the game, cast a bunch of spells to make that threat even more threatening, and then close out the game with huge bursts of evasive damage!

The Threats

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Our deck doesn't have a ton of threats in an absolute sense. In fact, we only have three creatures that we can use to close out the game. However, all of our threats are tied together by their love of cheap spells. Sprite Dragon starts off small but quickly grows into a massive flier as we cast non-creature spells. Riddleform is a non-creature spell to grow Sprite Dragon that also turns into a 3/3 flying Sphinx whenever we cast an instant or sorcery. Finally, the most important new addition to the deck is Stormwing Entity. Our deck has a  massive 16 spells that always cost one mana and another spell that sometimes costs one mana, which means we can usually reduce the cost of Stormwing Entity to just two mana. This makes it extremely powerful as a 3/3 flying, prowess creature that even gives us a bit of extra upside by scrying when it enters the battlefield. 

Together, these cards allow us to get off to some extremely explosive starts. For example, Turn 2 Sprite Dragon into Turn 3 Opt into Stormwing Entity gives us two massive fliers that can become even bigger next turn as we chain together cheap card-drawing spells. Even just Turn 2 Sprite Dragon into Turn 3 Riddleform (to grow Sprite Dragon) and another spell gives us two 3/3 fliers on Turn 3, including the Sprite Dragon, which will grow much bigger if it sticks around. Of course, for any of these to work, we need a bunch of cheap spells to reduce the cost of (and eventually grow) Stormwing Entity, grow our Sprite Dragon, and turn on our Riddleform.

The Cantrips

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Once we get a couple of threats on the battlefield, all we really want to do is chain together cheap card-draw spells to keep our hand full of action and also grow our threats. All in all, we have 16 cards that cost between one and (sort of) three mana and draw us some amount of cards. While most of these cards aren't super powerful in a vacuum, they become absurd when they come with a kicker of triggering prowess and turning on Riddleform. Crash Through and Opt are in the deck mostly because they are just one mana, but sometimes the trample on Crash Through is relevant for attacking through flying blockers. Frantic Inventory is weird. The first copy is bad, the second one is good, and copies three and four (if we happen to draw them, which comes up more than you'd think because we have so many card-draw spells and cantrips) are absurd. Finally, we have Light up the Stage, which might be the weakest card-draw spell in our deck, mostly because we need to damage our opponent to cast it for just one mana. This means it usually isn't able to pump our prowess creatures or turn on Riddleform pre-combat (unless we pay full price). Still, even despite this drawback, drawing two cards for one mana is good enough that we want the full four copies in our deck.

The Combo

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While we usually win by playing a couple of threats and attacking over the course of two or three turns, we do have a potential one-shot combo kill with the help of Infuriate and Raking Claws. Let's say we play a Stormwing Entity on Turn 3. On Turn 4, Infuriate will pump it to seven power, and Raking Claws will boost it to eight (while giving us double strike), which is 16 flying damage all by itself. Throw basically anything else (a Shock, an attack from a Sprite Dragon, or another Infuriate), and this usually amounts to a lethal attack on Turn 4! More importantly, both Infuriate and Raking Claws are fine without the combo kill, with Infuriate saving our creatures from damage-based removal or just forcing through more combo damage, while Raking Claws can always be cycled away if it's bad.

Other Stuff

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Finally, we have Shock, which gives us a bit of removal in the main deck (we have a bunch more in the sideboard) along with another one-mana spell for triggering prowess and cheating Stormwing Entity into play on the cheap.

The Mana

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Two quick notes on the mana, which has Steam Vents and Swiftwater Cliffs alongside basic lands. First, Steam Vents is $50 of the deck's $79 price tag in paper (and also 50% of our eight rares on Magic Arena), so if you already have copies of Steam Vents, Izzet Prowess is even cheaper than it looks. Second, Swiftwater Cliffs is mostly a shout-out to Arena. Temple of Epiphany is slightly better and super cheap in paper (less than $1 / copy), but it does cost a rare wildcard on Magic Arena. In paper, you should just swap Swiftwater Cliffs for Temple, and on Arena, you should do the same if you already have the scry land in your collection (if you don't have Temple of Epiphany, it's not necessary to spend wildcards to upgrade since both lands come into play tapped anyway, which means the upgrade isn't that massive).

Playing the Deck

Not really a ton to say about Izzet Prowess. It's basically all prowess threats, card draw, and a bit of burn, which makes playing the deck fairly straightforward, but I do have a couple of quick tips.

  1. If you have both Sprite Dragon and Riddleform in your hand, it's usually correct to lead with Sprite Dragon because Sprite Dragon grows whenever any noncreature spell is cast, so we can follow up with Riddleform the next turn and grow Sprite Dragon
  2. The biggest upside of Riddleform is that it avoids wraths by sitting in enchantment form. If you are worried about an instant-speed wrath (for example, there's a Teferi, Time Raveler on the opponent's side of the battlefield), it's sometimes better to choose to not turn on Riddleform when we cast a spell, to play around the potential sweeper. 
  3. Finally, always make sure to take the time to count the amount of damage you can deal. Thanks to all of the prowess triggers, random burn spells, and potentially double strike, one of the easiest ways to punt with the deck is assuming you don't have lethal when you actually do.

Wrap Up

All in all, we went 4-1 with Eight-Rare Izzet Prowess, with our only loss coming to Mono-Red in a match that included a series of unfortunate events, including our opponent attacking with Robber of the Rich while empty-handed, stealing an Opt from our deck, casting it at instant speed, and hitting a Embercleave to steal the win. In general, the deck felt super competitive, and we were surprisingly close to going 5-0!

As far as changes to make to the deck, in general, I'm pretty happy with where the budget build ended up, apart from perhaps the Lazotep Plating in the sideboard, which would probably be better as another removal spell or counterspells. In theory, Lazotep Plating sounds like a sweet way to fizzle a removal spell targeting one of our threats, but in practice, we never actually brought it in from the sideboard.

In the end, Izzet Prowess was a blast. If you like aggressive decks but love drawing cards, this seems like a really solid option for Core Set 2021 Standard. Plus, you can't beat the price on Arena or in paper. It's hard for me to imagine there are many better eight-rare decks for grinding out wins on the ladder in Core Set 2021 Standard than Izzet Prowess.

Ultra-Budget Izzet Prowess

The only way to really cut down the price of Izzet Prowess even more is to drop Steam Vents. This would make the deck less than $30 in paper and only four rares (Stormwing Entity) on Magic Arena. However, this would require adding another tapped dual land to the deck (something like Izzet Guildgate), which would really slow the deck down. I wouldn't recommend going this direction for competitive play. Although starting with Izzet Guildgate is fine if you're just testing or having fun on the kitchen table (or playing casual unranked games on Arena), you'll want to upgrade to Steam Vents to play in a more competitive setting.

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For our non-budget list this week, we have a build of Izzet Prowess from Ally Warfield from TCGPlayer. The biggest addition to the deck is Brazen Borrower, which offers another evasive threat and another cheap spell for triggering prowess. Personally, I'd try to find a way to keep Infuriate. The card was solid in general and even better with Raking Claws, but it can also be a dead draw if we don't have a creature on the battlefield, which can be troubling. Thankfully, even the fully powered non-budget build of the deck isn't all that expensive in the paper world, coming in at just $138!


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

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