It's no secret that I'm a big fan of all things Izzet. I love drawing cards, setting things on fire, and winning the game with weirdo permanents that generate an advantage while I spin my wheels. When Kaladesh first came out, I was all over this card.
I'm easily drawn to things like Dynavolt Tower because you're directly rewarded for doing all the best things in Magic. Playing cheap spells that trade one-for-one or draw you more cards is all I ever want to do, so naturally I'm a fan whenever a card like this comes along. And while Dynavolt Tower might not have lived up to the hype, there's always potential for this kind of reward to pay off if you get the right players around it.
So, what is that card out of Guilds of Ravnica?
We're very early into the preview season for Guilds of Ravnica, but obviously this is my frontrunner for "card I want to build around." I'll be trying my best to find the right shell, and right home, for this busted enchantment. It draws cards and sets things on fire, all for the low low price of casting some instants and sorceries which, conveniently, I'll already be doing.
Firemind's Research is not easy to turn on, but that's going to be a regular trait of cards like these. Dealing five to a target shouldn't be easy for repetitive uses, after all.
My biggest complaint with Dynavolt Tower is that it couldn't kill Planeswalkers or bigger creatures very easily. While the cost is a little steeper, and you have to invest mana into the ability, your big damage output is a bit more potent. And if you find yourself starting to run out of gasoline, you can just start drawing cards instead of trying to build toward that big five damage mark.
Firemind's Reasearch is also a win condition, which is pretty sweet. And while it will take roughly twenty instants or sorceries to get the job done, you must remember that we're playing red, and many of red's spells can directly hit your opponent in the face. So maybe when the time comes to close the game, it only takes two or three activations. And if your removal spells are hitting the face instead of creatures, that usually means you're far enough ahead that you just want some way to close the game. And with control decks notoriously lacking plausible win conditions, it's great to see a cheap spell reward you for playing Magic as the game progresses.
Think of Firemind's Research like Search for Azcanta. Sure, it won't win you the game right away, but it will start to generate an advantage as the game goes. And the further you progress the game, the greater the reward. And while Search for Azcanta can help filter your draws in the early turns, Firemind's Research lets you draw a card here and there when you have excess mana. Cards that allow you to spend that excess mana when you're playing a more controlling game are a boon to control decks, who regularly leave up mana on the opponent's turn to play a counterspell.
With that said, I don't know if a proper control deck is the right fit for Firemind's Research. After all, you want to generate as many counters as possible, and that means continually playing spells whether your opponent is doing something relevant or not.
Spells that are modal are key. Unsubstantiate being able to stall your opponent's spell or bounce a creature was awesome for a deck like this. Similarly, Tormenting Voice (and later Cathartic Reunion) was a way for you to keep cycling through your deck when you hit too many lands. And while our permanents in this version that rewarded us for playing spells were creatures ala Thermo-Alchemist and Thing in the Ice, we had enough juice with Fevered Visions to fight through traditional spot removal.
With Firemind's Research, we don't actually have to play creatures. And unless there are one or two great cheap creatures to play alongside Firemind's Research, I'm under the impression that this deck won't contain any creatures at all. In fact, I might not even play Ral, Izzet Viceroy, just to dodge all opposing Vraska's Contempt. However, if we do end up with a substantial number of threats to play alongside Firemind's Research, the entirety of our threat-package could be focused around the two and three mana slot.
It's rare that you get to play a control deck (or spell-heavy deck) revolving around two-mana threats. That's one of the reasons I loved Thing in the Ice, Thermo-Alchemist, and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy so much. Having a cheap permanent reward you for playing Magic is a big deal, but the trick is always finding the right balance between removal, counterspell-type interaction, and those cheap threats. If you draw too many threats, you won't have enough traction to "turn on" your threats. If you draw none of your early threats, then you're just treading water playing stuff like Tormenting Voice or other card-draw spells.
Utility Spells to Power Firemind's Research
While we don't have that many cards from Guilds of Ravnica, we do have a ton of utility spells still running around Standard. Although we're losing quite a few sets (and tools), it's important to remember exactly what we're going to be working with once the full set hits.
One of the most exciting keyword abilities from Guilds of Ravnica is jump-start. Like flashback, jump-start allows a single spell to get two uses. However, unlike flashback, we aren't gaining any actual card advantage when we play it from the graveyard, as we're forced to discard a card as an additional cost. What that does mean is that we're going to want to play more lands than usual because...
- We want to make sure we hit land drops.
- Hitting those land drops allows us to start casting two or three spells per turn.
- We can always discard excess lands to jump-start or Tormenting Voice.
While jump-start isn't getting a lot of hype from people just yet, I'm under the impression that there will be some uncommons, rares, and mythics from Guilds of Ravnica that will be very aggressively costed. At the moment, we only have a taste of what the ability can do, but here are the Jump-start cards we have so far.
If we end up getting a sweet two-mana creature that fits into the strategy, Quasiduplicate is a great addition to the deck. With Fatal Push rotating out of the format, I expect two-mana creatures to get a lot better without them needing a "second life" ala Scrapheap Scrounger.
While preview season for new sets can have some fake cards in it, I think Direct Current and Radical Idea are legit, and is a great representation to what the jump-start mechanic is all about. And while these cards are likely too weak to make the cut, there's a chance they end up being worthwhile depending on our initial builds.
I also don't want to discount any jump-start card right off the bat, as having a land from your hand (or expensive/redundant card) turn into a useful effect is always going to be desirable.
Jump-start isn't the only useful mechanic that we can use, as surveil from the Dimir guild will be something we can use as well on our blue spells.
If we end up being a bit more controlling, Sinister Sabotage is a great counterspell for our deck. In fact, Dissolve was always quite good in Standard, and I think Sinister Sabotage might be better. When you can put a jump-start card into the graveyard, it allows a dead card in your hand to be turned into an actual spell. Plus, there's a chance we get more "graveyard card" matters, but we also just get to fuel Ral, Izzet Viceroy.
Sinister Sabotage is just a fantastic spell, utilizing a new keyword ability and being slightly better than a tried and true counterspell from the past. Speaking of the past, did you know that Guilds of Ravnica won't be the only Standard legal set? We still have the last year worth of cards to build around! So, what are some cards in Standard that could help us build a deck around Firemind's Research?
Let's start with an easy one.
A solid burn spell that can be thrown at the face and a removal spell that kills most of the early threats from the opponent. Of course, the downside of having all your removal be burn-based is that you can occasionally get run over by a large creature (or hexproof creature). But with the card advantage built into Firemind's Research, using two (or three!) burn spells to take down a single creature doesn't hurt nearly as bad as usual.
Now, let's look at a more difficult one.
I tried building a deck around Primal Amulet right when it was printed, but the existence of Abrade just deflated the whole process. It just wasn't worth the four-mana investment only to have it killed for two mana before gaining any real advantage. Making your spells cost less isn't a great effect when you're spending four mana to do it. However, once you transform Primal Amulet unto Primal Wellspring, you effectively gain access to Pyromancer's Goggles, which was one of my favorite cards of all time.
Primal Amulet is another "build around me card" that could end up being a sleeper hit in the new Standard. Now that Abrade is gone, as well as a host of aggressive red creatures, we might have just enough time to get Primal Amulet up and running before we lose the game. And, of course, having a big finisher like Banefire to end games when you do transform it is awesome. But in our deck, having our spells be a bit cheaper is also a fine ability, and when you look at all the instants and sorceries we've talked about so far, you'll notice that they all have a colorless symbol in the casting cost. Being able to cast Primal Amulet on the fifth turn and hold up Lightning Strike, Essence Scatter, or Negate is a big deal.
I love what this card represents for our deck. A cheap answer to an early threat is awesome, but we can upgrade it as the game progresses. While Shivan Fire is a worse version of Burst Lightning, that's still an okay place to be. It will all depend on whether or not dealing two damage to a creature is a worthwhile ability.
While removal is always a key part of our strategy, I think we need to be careful on having too many of those spells only hit creatures. If we end up being a Primal Amulet deck, those spells going to the dome is hugely important. Spit Flame is only going to be good if we end up with some number of Dragons in our deck, but I could definitely see a Grixis version of Firemind's Research that utilizes Nicol Bolas, the Ravager as our primary finisher (outside of Primal Amulet, of course).
Not exactly in the wheelhouse of what we're trying to do, but a decent reset button if we end up being more ramp oriented with Primal Amulet and/or Treasure Map. It's important to note that destroying a land does have some inherent value as I'm sure more blue decks will be reliant on Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin to take over games.
While Anticipate has seen play in the past, you're spending a substantial amount of time and mana on a card that just replaces itself. You need to play Anticipate in decks that are specifically digging for important cards, and I think that's exactly the case when you're building around Firemind's Research. The faster you get Firemind's Research onto the battlefield, the better your draw will be. And you can still power Firemind Research with Anticipate when you draw it later in the game.
I think this will be one of the better spells for Firemind's Research decks, if only because it allows you to dig deeper into your deck while replacing dead cards. While we don't have anything spicy like Fiery Temper to go alongside it, we do have a host of jump-start cards just waiting to get discarded for later use.
A great spell for a finisher that can't be countered by an opposing control deck. It can also one-shot larger creatures if the game has gone on long enough. I'm skeptical of playing more than one or two copies of this card, but it could be great when we combine it with something that (gasp!) doubles it!
As an Izzet deck, there's a chance that your opponent could resolve some problematic permanent when you aren't equipped to deal with it. In those scenarios, having Blink of an Eye at the ready is solid because it can draw a card to keep the gas coming, but also unlock one of your beast-mode permanents from lockdown ala Ixalan's Binding.
While I wouldn't go overboard playing four of this type of effect, I think two copies could easily make it into most Izzet spell-based decks.
Not the cheapest counterspell, but anything that says "draw a card" with a powerful effect attached needs to be examined closely. While probably too expensive to make the cut, there's a chance we end up with one or two of these in our deck.
While you (likely) won't be attacking early on, having Chart a Course in your deck is effectively just another Tormenting Voice. Getting to discard a jump-start card is just an added benefit.
While a lot of artifacts are rotating out of the format, it is possible that we just want some way to get rid of Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin or the like. While I don't expect Demolish to be a maindeck card, I could easily see one or two in the sideboard as a versatile answer to both annoying artifacts (now that Abrade isn't an option) and annoying lands.
An old favorite, but probably too slow to make the cut. We'll just have to wait and see!
Probably too expensive, but I like to keep my options open. Stealing creatures is a powerful effect, and if the format ends up being creature heavy (and those creatures are large and undercosted), this could be something we want access to.
This will likely be in most iterations of the deck, if only because it's a cheap answer to Vine Mare or other problematic creatures. Plus, if we're able to play Primal Amulet and hold up blue mana, Essence Scatter is a great tool for making sure you don't fall too far behind on the battlefield. And if our opponent isn't playing creatures, we have a few ways to discard it for value.
A cheap sweeper is usually something a deck like this wants. The fact that it doesn't hit Pirates shouldn't be too much of an issue, though.
A cheap way to deal with big creatures, but also a fine "Fireball to the face" type of effect if the game goes super long. And if we ever transform Primal Amulet, this could just be a better version of Banefire because it is cheaper to use early on. The downside, of course, is that it can be countered.
This is an obvious inclusion, as it's a cheap way to trigger Firemind's Research. However, if we end up playing zero total counterspells, this being an instant is mostly irrelevant. But if we decide to play fewer lands because we have a ton of cantrip effects, this could be great at helping us hit land drops in the early turns of the game.
While this card isn't exactly powerful (and it's in a Core Set 2019 Planeswalker deck), it's a burn spell that replaces itself. And if we ever get to copy it with Primal Wellspring, we'll just bury our opponent via removal, card selection, and card advantage. While the cost is steep, this card is actually structured very well in what we're trying to accomplish. I don't think it'll make the cut, but I do want to keep it in mind for future builds.
A fine inclusion if we end up wanting to go a more counterspell-heavy route.
A redundant burn spell that could be good if we end up playing some Wizards in the two-drop slots. With that said, Izzet is traditionally pretty heavy on the Wizard creature type. So hopefully we get access to one or two that fits our strategy.
I don't have a decklist for y'all just yet, mostly because I want to wait until we have more cards from Guilds of Ravnica released. At the moment, any deck I build will most likely look nothing like the polished product. However, I do think that both Primal Amulet and Firemind's Research both have a ton of potential to build your deck around.
As I stated earlier, the only reason why I thought Primal Amulet wasn't good enough was because Abrade was in virtually every red deck in the last year. I'm hoping that there won't be a similar card printed in Guilds of Ravnica, as your deck just doesn't function without one of your engine cards sticking around. If we're able to stick Primal Amulet or Firemind's Research, there is a good chance we can ride those to victory, even if they don't have an immediate impact on the game. And if we draw redundant copies we don't have time to play, or don't want, we can always discard them to either Tormenting Voice or Chart a Course!
I'm very much looking forward to Guilds of Ravnica, like any return to the plane of Ravnica, if only because I get a lot of new Izzet toys to play with. With jump-start as the core mechanic of the guild, I'm hoping for some all-stars, but even if we don't get the tools we need, there are still enough instants and sorceries printed in the last year that can help us get the job done. And while I left a few off the list that could see play, I think these are where I want to start when building decks for Guilds of Ravnica Standard.