When I see a card like Goblin Electromancer, I think of it doing degenerate things like storming off to Grapeshot your opponent for lethal, or casting lots of spells in one turn to return Arclight Phoenixes to the battlefield. However, that's not exactly my style. What if instead we used Goblin Electromancer for something a bit more dastardly, a bit more devious, a bit more durdly? What if instead of this frivolous garbage others are doing like winning the game or dealing obscene amounts of damage to your opponent with Goblin Electromancer, we decided to do something far more powerful?
What if we abused Goblin Electromancer by casting lots of spells in one turn to...amass marginal amounts of card advantage. Ohhhhh yeaaaaaaaaahhhh. Now you're talking my language. Now you've got my attention.
I had the idea for an Izzet spell-based deck last week when I first built a budget version on MTG Arena. On Arena, since I haven't invested much money into it or spent my rare or mythic wildcards yet, I've just been playing with budget decks and improving them when I could with prize rewards or by drafting the cards I need. I had a Boros aggro deck and a Golgari Midrange deck, but neither deck was performing well against the decks I was playing against, which was mostly Mono-Red and Jeskai Control.
I wanted to build a deck with the removal necessary to defeat the red decks, but with the kind of card advantage that would compete with control, so I turned to building an Izzet spells deck based around the power of Goblin Electromancer. It would basically be like the Arclight Phoenix deck, but instead of putting a lot of work into returning Arclight Phoenix, I would simply draw a bunch of cards and win by more traditional means, like attacking for two damage with Goblin Electromancer.
The first version of the deck I built on Arena consisted of only four rares, a Sulfur Falls that I believe I got in an intro deck they gave me and then an Ionize and two Niv-Mizzets I drafted a few weeks ago. Everything else was common or uncommon. I immediately earned seven wins with the deck in a constructed event, and then started 3-0 in another one, which I haven't finished yet due to Pro Tour testing eating up my time instead.
The deck seemed awesome, and after a lot of my other ideas dried up for Pro Tour testing, I decided that I wanted to see if I could make a fully powered version of this Izzet style deck work for Standard.
This was my initial thrown-together list.
Surprisingly enough, the deck actually performed pretty well. The Drakes were often not very large, especially early in the game, but this deck didn't need to win games super-fast, as it could be content to play a longer slower game and use 2/4 or 3/4 Drakes to hold down the fort while you drew cards and built up card advantage to set up for one lethal swing.
Niv-Mizzet was unbelievably disgusting in the deck, especially paired with Goblin Electromancer. In the deck's finest moment, Niv-Mizzet personally dealt over 20 damage via his ability alone to an opponent in a single turn, thanks to Chemister's Insights, Divinations, and Chart a Course paired with two Electromancers. It was mystical, magical, some would even say spiritual.
The list changed dramatically over time as many wild and different versions were tested. One Breakthrough in the deck came via some very inauspicious means. My team enjoyed making fun of me for putting a large number of Izzet Guildgates in the deck from the start. Let's just say that at one point the deck had four Izzet Guildgates AND a Highland Lake.
At one moment in deckbuilding history, to my eternal shame, I was searching my Magic Online collection for the word "Izzet" because I was going to add yet another Izzet Guildgate to the deck, hoping my teammates would not notice. Corey Baumeister happened to be walking by at that moment and as I added the Izzet Guildgate, he noticed that Ral, Izzet Viceroy popped up in the search and was like "Hey, why don't we add Ral to the deck?" I had completely forgotten that card even existed, we added it to the deck, and it was immediately an all-star. We have Izzet Guildgate to thank for that.
To show how much things changed, this was one of the later versions of the deck, which looked wildly different than my initial idea.
This decklist probably looks super weird and the reason we went extremely far out of our way to add Goblin Chainwhirler to the deck is that we were struggling with Boros or mono-white aggro decks pretty hard and Goblin Chainwhirler helped enormously with that. Adanto Vanguard was almost entirely the reason Boros was a problem. We relied pretty heavily on Crackling Drake to block Adanto Vanguard, and if they just had a Conclave Tribunal we would eventually die to Adanto Vanguard, even if we had two or three removal spells in hand. Chainwhirler made them spend four life immediately on Adanto Vanguard, killed numerous other creatures, blocked everything else in the deck and you could actually pressure them with it, which made them unable to pay life as often with Adanto Vanguard.
Adanto Vanguard is also the reason that Deep Freeze was in the sideboard, although it ended up proving to be a fairly ineffectual answer, as a Conclave Tribunal could just free the Vanguard again and sometimes you didn't have the luxury to pay three mana for a card that couldn't get reduced in cost by Goblin Electromancer. Deep Freeze also answered Niv-Mizzet, but that card was less problematic, as Ral, Fight with Fire, and Beacon Bolt, which was in some of our lists, could kill it easily.
The other huge problem besides Adanto Vanguard was Carnage Tyrant. Believe it or not, Goblin Chainwhirler was actually a pretty decent answer for Carnage Tyrant for a few reasons. It keeps your initial life total higher because it holds off Jadelight Rangers and the like if your opponent doesn't just Ravenous Chupacabra it immediately. That can sometimes buy you time to find Crackling Drakes and protect them from removal with Disdainful Stroke and then trade the Drake for Carnage Tyrant. Two copies of Chainwhirler can also first strike down a Carnage Tyrant and while that seems like a stretch to assemble, it actually was not that difficult because you draw an absurd number of cards in this deck if you have a Goblin Electromancer.
I'll just say this much. You've not lived your best life until you've cast a one-mana Divination with two Electromancers in play. Divination draws you two cards, which makes up for the 2 cards you've wasted...err...invested in 2/2s for two. Marginal card advantage, let's go! Let's not even talk about the dream that is casting a one-mana Chemister's Insight with the vaunted triple Goblin Electromancer or the joy that is kicking Fight with Fire for 6-7 mana.
Star of Extinction is a necessity in the sideboard to kill Carnage Tyrant as well as sweep up the random other creatures they have in play as well as any Vivien Reid type permanents that might have snuck through Disdainful Strokes. Star of Extinction is so good against Golgari because it not only kills Carnage Tyrant and Vivien Reid but it sometimes also renders them unable to do anything the next turn, as they lose all their mana creatures like Llanowar Elves or Druid of the Cowl and they go down a land, making it so they might not even be able to cast other Carnage Tyrants for multiple turns.
Ultimately, I did not like the Goblin Chainwhirler build very much. The mana was way worse, forcing you play a lot of red sources in a deck that sometimes wants to cast Chart a Course twice in the same turn for one-mana each. The deck also had less spells than other versions, making Crackling Drakes, Goblin Electromancers, and the all-powerful Nivical Mizzet a lot worse.
Shahar suggested a card that ended up being just a better way to attack the Boros decks, which was Guilds of Ravnica Limited all-star Murmuring Mystic. Murmuring Mystic was the perfect size, at 1/5, allowing it to block Adanto Vanguard even with a Heroic Reinforcement being cast or a Benalish Marshal in play, and the tokens were perfect for blocking all the one-toughness creatures the white aggro decks like to put into play.
Another card that we didn't think of as a way to answer Adanto Vanguard was Entrancing Melody. It wasn't until we saw Kenji Tsumura 5-0'd a list with a very similar deck playing Entrancing Melody in the sideboard that we realized how perfect of an answer it was for Adanto Vanguard.
One card that Kenji didn't play that I am fairly certain is great is Divination. Divination is a fairly generic draw spell that hasn't seen a lot of Constructed play over the many times it has been legal, but I feel pretty confident that it is quite good right now, especially with Goblin Electromancer. For what it's worth, I think it's better in this deck than Chemister's Insight, even though Insight is an instant and has Jump-Start. The cheaper mana cost and play patterns like turn two Electromancer and turn three Electromancer plus Divination or Divination plus Lava Coil is just so powerful.
This is my current list.
I believe that Syncopate and Disdainful Stroke are the best Counterspells to main deck. While Ionize counters everything, it is less effective if you don't have a Goblin Electromancer in play and have to hold up three mana for it. Syncopate and Disdainful Stroke are also amazing with Goblin Electromancer, in that they are oftentimes one-mana Counterspells for huge effects like 4-5 mana planeswalkers.
Fight with Fire is a card that I went from loving to hating to feeling like exactly one copy is the right amount. I like that Fight with Fire kills things like Lyra and Niv-Mizzet, and it is surprisingly easy to get to enough mana to kick the card in this deck, but the problem with having too many cards like Fight with Fire in the deck is that they are mana inefficient without Goblin Electromancer. There are a lot of games where you don't see enough blue draw spells, which are needed to let you keep hitting land drops and interact with your opponent up the curve to kick Fight with Fire. Without a lot of Divinations or raided Chart a Courses, it can be tough to make it.
Beacon Bolt I also went from loving to hating to still hating, but I think one copy in the sideboard is fine as another way to kill big, problematic creatures. Beacon Bolt is also good against discard since you don't have to worry about it getting stripped out of your hand, making it an ideal removal spell against things like Nicol Bolas or Thief of Sanity.
Expansion // Explosion is a card that should probably be in the list as a one-of, but I haven't liked it that much. The upside with Goblin Electromancer is enormous, but it also often is very weak or a dead card until turn 6 or later. Still, it's likely an oversight to not have one copy because there are situations or games where it is the best card you could have.
I'm not sure which is better between Shock and Shivan Fire. I like that Shock can finish off planeswalkers and can pair up with Niv-Mizzet or Crackling Drake to provide lethal attacks. I think Shock is generally better, although Shivan Fire being able to kill bigger creatures sometimes is also very relevant. Right now I'm playing a 3/1 split, but I'm not positive on the correct numbers exactly, even though I lean toward Shock being better.
I actually don't like Fiery Cannonade that much, even though it is supposed to be great against Boros or other white aggro decks. Benalish Marshal or Venerated Loxodon can push History of Benalia tokens out of range of Fiery Cannonade, and it also kills your own Goblin Electromancers or tokens made from Murmuring Mystic. I think having a few copies as a Safeguard is worth it, but ultimately I am not that impressed with it, and I think it's possible that Shake the Foundations is a better effect.
I really loved Enigma Drake or Legion Warboss in the sideboard of this deck to come in for various matchups, but ultimately I didn't have space for them or believe them to be essential to beating the decks that they would come in against. Perhaps in a future build, I will incorporate those cards again.
One thing I try not to do very much is cut too many of the draw spells. Opt can be trimmed in some matchups, but I would not cut Divination, Chart a Course, or Chemister's Insight in high numbers because the deck is pretty good at keeping pace with the opponent in the early turns with Shocks and Lava Coils and Goblin Electromancer, but even the aggressive decks like Mono-Red and white aggro decks can grind you out or just overpower you over time if you don't play enough draw spells, since you can just flood out and die. For the same reason, I don't like ever boarding out Niv-Mizzet, even against hyper-aggro decks because if you get to untap with Niv-Mizzet it feels almost impossible to lose the game.
Ultimately, I am not playing this deck at the Pro Tour this weekend. I wanted to, but I couldn't get the deck to be as good as I wanted it to be to justify playing it. However, I felt like this deck was the most fun deck I've played in Standard in a very long time and I desperately wanted to play it. I am considering booking a flight to Grand Prix Milwaukee just to be able to play this sweet deck there.
My strength as a player is identifying cards that are good and cards that are bad. I think Chart a Course and Divination are both really good cards in Standard right now and Niv-Mizzet is utterly broken. However, I'm not a great deckbuilder. I don't know how to put the things I've learned together to make perfectly tuned lists of 75 cards. I don't know the right numbers or how to construct the sideboard perfectly or what my plans should be in every matchup.
I think if I was better at deckbuilding, there is a real chance I could have gotten this list to a place that I would feel comfortable playing it at the Pro Tour, and I'm hoping that over the next week I'll be able to tune, update and improve the deck enough to justify flying out to GP Milwaukee and hopefully putting up a strong performance there.
At any rate, this deck is fun, extremely powerful when Goblin Electromancer doesn't die, and can be built to be competitive even for players on a budget, as nearly all the cards in the deck are commons and uncommons. More expensive mythics like Ral, Izzet Viceroy are completely non-essential cards. If you're looking for a cheap deck to play on MTG Arena or for a cheap deck to get into Standard with, you could do a lot worse than this. The only rare you must have is two copies of Niv-Mizzet, because that card is insane and essential to the strategy.