Izzet Creativity: Where Did It Come From? How Does It Work?
Darren explains how Izzet Creativity went from bouncing around in the lowest tiers of the Pioneer metagame to putting two results in the Top 8 at the Pro Tour
Is It Creativity?
Izzet Creativity was certainly the talk of the town at Pro Tour Philly, with a six percent metashare on day one and putting two copies into the Top 8 in the hands of Reid Duke and Gabe Nassif. So what is this deck, how does it work, and why did it give such a stellar performance on Pioneer’s biggest stage?
Being the deck of choice for Team CFB, Creativity has seen relatively few innovations or competitive success in recent months, shifting in and out of our D Tier on our Tier List as a small handful of pilots would have a good weekend with the deck. For those that haven’t seen the deck played before, it is, in essence, a Blue/Red Combo-Control deck. While not necessarily on the same power level as Splinter Twin (the previous pro favorite that has been known to take down a Pro Tour or two), Creativity focuses on disrupting the opponent’s board development and protecting its combo pieces while lining up a lethal blow.
The combo in the deck involves its namesake, Indomitable Creativity, targeting two tokens in order to find Worldspine Wurm and Xenagos, God of Revels, being the only two creatures in the deck. With these two in play, Xenagos will double the Wurm’s power and give it haste, allowing it to attack for 30 trample damage – usually enough to close out a game on the spot.
Xenagos, God of Revels
Secrets of the Key
Dig Through Time
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
Hall of Storm Giants
Otawara, Soaring City
Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
The deck spends the first handful of turns playing disruptive spells like Fiery Impulse, Spikefield Hazard, and Make Disappear to buy some time, while also developing its own board with incidental tokens from various effects. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker shines here as an excellent value card that can generate a lot of tokens on its own, while cards like Shark Typhoon and Big Score offer effects that the control side of the deck is generally after anyway in combination with those token enablers.
One of the keys to this deck’s success is its two-pronged attack play style, wherein by focusing solely on beating one aspect of the deck, you’re essentially guaranteed to lose to the other. Eliminating tokens might be a simple task for a deck like Rakdos or Phoenix, but the counterspells and removal will keep the reactive opponent’s threats at bay to make that interaction irrelevant. Likewise, trying to stymie the Creativity player’s development by trading your resources with theirs will result in a relatively quick combo kill, because there’s always another way to make the requisite token. Shark Typhoon does a lot of work here, providing an offensive or defensive measure in the set-up turns, an impossible clock when left unchecked (as we saw with Nassif’s brazen hard-cast in his Win-and-In round), and overall acting as a tool that fills every role that the deck demands from a card.
Editor’s note: check out our brand new Izzet Creativity Sideboard Guide here!
How Did It Get Here?
When asked why they picked this deck, members of the CFB team made mention of the Phoenix deck – a list that at several points in Pioneer’s timeline has dominated the format with its mix of interaction and resilient threats. They found the comparison fair, as with the Phoenix deck, the idea is to trade off a bunch of interaction in the early turns, filter through the deck, and at the end of the day attack in with a three-power flier or two. Well, instead of doing that and mucking around for an extra three or four turns, they decided that it was better to run that same opening game plan, and then just kill the opponent. Obviously, they saw a line that we (as the Pioneer community at large) didn’t, because it seems to have worked well for them.
Creativity’s position in the overall metagame has been lackluster because a lot of the interaction that the deck demands is subpar in a vacuum. Cards like Fire Prophecy (for shuffling the creatures back into the deck), Big Score and Secrets of the Key (Token producers), and Impulse (digs for Creativity) are just not as appealing as the likes of Consider, Lightning Axe, and Pieces of the Puzzle when it comes to the times when you’re not “doing the thing”. However, this left the deck with a tactical advantage, as it met a few crucial criteria:
The Rogue Element
When a deck isn’t seeing a lot of play in the overall metagame, it isn’t as prepared for by the majority of players. When asking the typical Rakdos or Azorius pilot what they’re packing for Creativity, they will often point to their one or two catch-all answers to combo strategies, and likely be very dry on impactful inclusions. On top of this, most players just don’t get enough practice against the lower-tier decks because they aren’t as common. This under-preparedness was surely the downfall of many players this weekend.
Streamlined, Linear-Adjacent Play
Creativity is a deck that knows what it wants to do and executes its plans well. In the hands of an experienced pilot, the deck is just as powerful as any other competitor on the scene. When the go-to option is to “disrupt them just enough so that we don’t die, and then they die immediately with little recourse”, this spells a simple and straightforward game a fair percentage of the time. Unlike a deck like Rakdos or Azorius, which just plan on winning the game eventually thanks to any number of generic “good stuff” in their lists, Creativity has a proactive game plan and something that it’s actively pursuing from turn one.
While it’s no surprise that good players are scoring top finishes this weekend, Creativity is not the first deck that anyone would have chosen as their favorite to Top 8, so the fact that two copies made it speaks volumes both to the deck’s capability and the team’s preparedness. We’re looking forward to Sunday’s performances, and seeing a lot more of this deck in the coming weeks and months!