It's been a real pleasure over the last few weeks to play extensively with decks featuring the best card in Standard: Chart a Course.

Draw two cards for a single blue mana is an extremely powerful effect, and while that's not exactly what's printed on ol Charty MacDennis, otherwise known by its printed name Chart a Course, that's frequently the case when you have a Goblin Electromancer in play.

I don't know about everyone else, but I personally always have a Goblin Electromancer in play. It's likely because I play four copies of the card, play lots of ways to dig for them, cast them as soon as I draw them, and will concede the entire match if my opponents kill them because I can't bear the thought of playing without the 'mancer, but still, I always have a Goblin Electromancer in play.

I've become addicted to the thrill of drawing two cards, occasionally discarding one card, and then playing on from that point. I've become addicted to the Izzet way of life.

I never thought I'd say that. In fact, if you asked me anytime before this moment in time, Izzet is one of the guilds that I have historically liked the least, trailed only by Simic in my guild hierarchy. I never cared much for the mad scientist aesthetic, nor for the style of gameplay traditionally associated with Izzet, which is kind of a random spells lead to random results type of play. I vastly preferred the law and order ways of the Azorius and everything paled in comparison to the Drain-and-Brain methodology of the Orzhov and their champion of choice, The Obzedeezy.

Goblin Electromancer has changed me. In some ways, it has ruined me. I'm so addicted to casting spells for less mana than they cost that it feels horrible to have to spend three mana on a Divination or an entire four mana on a Chemister's Insight. I need my cheap thrills. Paying two mana for Radical Idea? Gross. Disgusting. Yuck.

At any rate, I've spent the last week playing exclusively with two similar yet different Izzet decks and I want to talk about their role and place in Standard.

Let's start with the Phoenix in the room.

This is the decklist I posted on Twitter prior to Grand Prix Milwaukee. While a number of folk messaged me to say that they made Day 2 with this list, unfortunately, nobody crested into the Top 8 with it.

I want to start out by talking about the game plan for this deck. This deck is not trying to race the opponent in most games. In fact, it plays the control role in basically every matchup except actual control, or in some games against Golgari where Carnage Tyrant is involved. This is a huge difference from traditional Arclight Phoenix decklists and an important distinction.

That is one reason, for example, why a card like Discovery // Dispersal is not in the deck. While I think that card offers a powerful effect, it is worse here than Radical Idea or Tormenting Voice. This deck is trying to play games that go long in a lot of matchups, and Radical Idea and Tormenting Voice both are cards that will mitigate flood later in the game. You pretty much want to keep every spell and discard every land past the fifth one as games progress, unless you have Niv-Mizzet, Parun, in which case the sixth land has value. You also sometimes slowroll casting your spells to get maximum value out of returning Arclight Phoenixes after you've traded off all your Phoenixes in combat.

In traditional lists, Discovery // Dispersal will turbo-charge Crackling Drake and Enigma Drake as you dig for exactly the card you need right then to push through to finish the game, often putting 2-3 spells in the graveyard to pump the drakes. In this list, you pretty much will want to keep any spell and dump any land you see, almost regardless of what they are, so it has far less utility, and thus isn't worth the mana investment.

Because you are trying to just maximize the value of all your cards, play defense with Arclight Phoenix, play a game that goes long, and avoid flooding out. Don't cast cards like Opt early in the game unless you know exactly what card you are looking for. There are only eight one-mana cards in the deck, which are important for returning Arclight Phoenix to play when you don't have a Goblin Electromancer, so often it is best to hold onto these cards until you know what you need or need them to bring back a Phoenix. The only time I Opt on turn one is against aggro decks where I need a removal spell or in games where the only card I want to draw is a land.

The two cards that allow this deck to play a controlling role are Entrancing Melody and Murmuring Mystic. A Murmuring Mystic left unchecked will completely take over a game against any aggressive deck or the mirror. The white aggro decks don't have a lot of removal, the red aggro decks have to throw two spells at it (that aren't going at your face), and outside of Beacon Bolt, other Izzet decks also have to burn two spells to kill the Murmuring Mystic.

It survives a lot, and it takes over the game if you get to untap with it, barring cards that go way over the top of it like Niv-Mizzet, Parun or Carnage Tyrant + Find // Finality.

In fact, one of the things about this deck that is so good is almost every single creature just wins the game almost on the spot if you get to untap with it in play. Turn-two Goblin Electromancer untouched can often mean a turn three that looks like Tormenting Voice pitching Arclight Phoenix, Shock your creature, Radical Idea and attack for 5. That's tough to come back from. It's rare that a turn-two Goblin Electromancer that survives isn't good enough to win. The same is true for Crackling Drake and Murmuring Mystic, which both usually win if you can untap with them. Let's not even talk about Niv-Mizzet, Parun out of the sideboard, which is the ultimate in winning a game when you untap with it.

You would think this deck is busted hearing me talk about how you just win the game if any of your creatures live through the turn for you to untap with them.

And you'd be right. The deck is busted.

There is only one problem. This deck is not favored against Jeskai Control for one reason and one reason only. It's a large reason. A Dragon-sized reason, one might even say.

The Nivical Miz, or Niv-Mizzet, Parun, is an enormous beating for this deck, as it is tough to Dispatch with removal, and nearly every card in this deck is a spell that triggers its ability. If you cannot remove it immediately, it will win the game. If you can remove it immediately, there's a good chance it will still win the game, because it cost two spells and they drew two cards. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is also quite difficult to defeat as this deck does not play countermagic to beat it on the stack and cards like Seal Away do a great job of keeping any Phoenixes or Drakes from taking it down in combat.

The rising prevalence of Jeskai Control has made me reconsider my stance on this being the best deck in Standard. I now believe that it is merely one of the better decks in Standard. This strategy is also unfavored against Disinformation Campaign decks, however, those decks rely heavily on The Eldest Reborn to defeat you and that can be beaten with good timing on Murmuring Mystic or by adding Legion Warboss to the sideboard to punish them for their sins.

I think Jeskai can also be beaten with a sideboard tailored to defeating it, although game one will always be quite tough.

Sideboarding

Vs. White Aggro

+2 Shivan Fire
+1 Murmuring Mystic
+1 Entrancing Melody

-1 Crackling Drake
-1 Tormenting Voice
-2 Radical Idea

Two-mana draw spells can easily clunk up a hand and be too slow, especially on the draw. I lean toward Radical Idea being worse because turn-two Tormenting Voice discarding a Phoenix is a strong turn-two play after a turn-one removal spell, whereas Radical Idea is much worse there.

Vs. Mono-Red Aggro

+2 Shivan Fire
+1 Crackling Drake

-1 Murmuring Mystic
-2 Entrancing Melody

Sometimes mono-red sideboards into a more controlling version with Experimental Frenzy, Treasure Map and Fight with Fire. While my sideboard plan doesn't play into that sideboard plan very well (You would want Dive Down and Niv-Mizzet, Parun most likely vs. that configuration), I don't think it matters, because I'm pretty sure they can't possibly win vs. any deck in the format when they side into that go big plan. That's a bit extreme, of course, but I haven't found that plan to be threatening vs. any of the decks that I've been playing, and in fact the only times I lose to Mono Red are when they stay low to the ground and run me over.

Vs. Golgari

+2 Dive Down
+1 Sorcerous Spyglass
+1 Crackling Drake
+1 Entrancing Melody
+1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy

-2 Murmuring Mystic
-4 Shock

The plan here is to stick a Crackling Drake and then let it go swimming with a nice Dive Down to save it from a removal spell, preferably one that costs them four mana at sorcery speed to deploy. Outside of Carnage Tyrant, it's really difficult for them to kill you, as Lava Coil and Entrancing Melody do a great job of keeping the board clean. If Carnage Tyrant didn't exist as a card, this matchup would be strongly favored for the Phoenix player. As it stands, it's close.

Vs. U/R Drakes

If they don't have Goblin Electromancer and do have Enigma Drake:

+2 Shivan Fire
+2 Beacon Bolt
+1 Murmuring Mystic
+1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
+2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

-4 Shock
-1 Crackling Drake
-3 Opt

If they have Goblin Electromancer and not Enigma Drake, or both:

+2 Shivan Fire
+2 Beacon Bolt
+1 Murmuring Mystic
+1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
+2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

-3 Shock
-1 Crackling Drake
-2 Entrancing Melody
-2 Opt

The mirror is weird in that games are explosive and sometimes can be over extremely fast, especially if one person sticks a Goblin Electromancer that doesn't die immediately. However, games can also be extremely grindy and go long, as both players have answers for all the threats the other plays. Niv-Mizzet, Parun is the ultimate trump, Ral, Izzet Viceroy and Beacon Bolt kill Niv-Mizzet, Parun and Murmuring Mystic wins every game that doesn't get won by Niv-Mizzet, Parun.

It seems wrong to cut cheap removal in the mirror when the easiest way to win is with Goblin Electromancer, but Shock is very weak in games where Goblin Electromancer isn't played or when you draw other removal for it. I'll take occasional losses to turn-two Goblin Electromancer to have a more robust Game Plan in the more typical case where you do have a removal spell for their Goblin Electromancer, the game goes long, and you win with superior card quality because you're not the one with Shock still in your deck.

Opt can be cut because games go long and you don't generally need to dig for anything, just avoid flooding out and be able to line up threats and answers appropriately.

Vs. Jeskai Control

+2 Negate
+1 Sorcerous Spyglass
+2 Beacon Bolt
+2 Dive Down
+1 Crackling Drake
+1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
+2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

-4 Shock
-4 Lava Coil
-2 Entrancing Melody
-1 Goblin Electromancer

I actually kind of hate Dive Down against Jeskai, but I still think it's worth having. Dive Down is not a good answer to Settle the Wreckage or Cleansing Nova, but it's good vs. Justice Strike, Seal Away, and Teferi's -3 ability. Things just need to line up well in this matchup, and it's a card that can sometimes be a blowout.

Vs. Grixis Disinformation Campaign

+2 Negate
+2 Beacon Bolt
+1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
+2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Murmuring Mystic

-4 Shock
-2 Lava Coil
-2 Entrancing Melody

2 Lava Coil, 2 Beacon Bolt, and 1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy is enough removal for Nicol Bolas, the Ravager which can be ignored until they get to seven mana anyway, and Lava Coil is a nice insurance policy against Thief of Sanity. Beacon Bolt is the best removal spell, as you can discard it to their wealth of hand disruption spells and still have it for later if you need it.

Vs. W/G Tokens

Sideboarding here will have to alter based on their composition as there are a ton of different G/W decks that all look a bit different.

+1 Murmuring Mystic
+2 Shivan Fire
+2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

-2 Entrancing Melody
-2 Shock
-1 Crackling Drake

Bring in Beacon Bolt if they have Angels. Entrancing Melody is insanely good vs. them if they don't have Trostani Discordant (like if they are a white-green Angel build), but very bad if they do.

BONUS DECK

I came back to this deck because I realized that Murmuring Mystic and Entrancing Melody were the missing pieces that kept this deck from being good back when I was testing it for the Pro Tour weeks ago, as I could not beat white aggro decks. Dive Down was also the solution to Golgari, another matchup I struggled with, and Murmuring Mystic also made the Phoenix matchup very favorable. There is a good chance this is just a worse version of the deck discussed above, but I still really enjoy playing this deck because Niv-Mizzet is so insanely good.

I actually believe that Dive Down might not be good in the maindeck in this deck and that perhaps Negate is superior. Negate basically is the same as Dive Down at protecting your threats when you have a Goblin Electromancer in play, anyway, with Golgari as an exception, since Dive Down is nice vs. Chupacabra and Carnage Tyrant. Having Negate maindeck would allow for more Legion Warboss in the sideboard, which would improve the deck against decks like Disinformation Campaign and Jeskai Control, which are all over Magic Online and can be sometimes tough matchups.

Personally, I love this deck and have a blast playing it, even though it might not actually be that great. Still, this is something of a pet deck of mine and I will probably continue to work on it and update it as the Standard format progresses.

My favorite moment with this deck was when my opponent on MTG Arena had a Carnage Tyrant in play with me at 4 life. I had a Niv-Mizzet. They tap out for Vivien Reid and say "Good Game" to me and then -3 Vivien on my vulnerable copy of The Nivical Mizzet. Unfortunately for them, I had access to a single blue mana and was able to Dive Down the Niv, protecting it from Vivien, drawing a card, dealing them a damage, and giving it 8 toughness to block Carnage Tyrant.

Good game, indeed. They died the next turn. They always do, if you untap with Niv-Mizzet, Parun.