The first deck I ever constructed in Magic: the Gathering was blue/red, or “purple” as I referred to it back then. I can clearly remember picking up a copy of Inquest magazine as an older player goaded me into reading it, and coming across an article about the fun and trickiness of this particular color combination.
Before Tempest block, back when I began playing, these colors were infrequently allied and even less frequently played. But just like today, the unpopularity of a particular strategy never pushed me away from it. If anything, it drew me into its chaotic, exciting realm.
With over a decade of experience constructing, drafting, and toying with blue/red decks of every sort, I was determined to make Cloudburst, one of the three new DLC decks of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, work. Of course, looking at the leaked DOTP2012 deck lists, I wasn’t thrilled. There was no mana fetching/fixing, a large number of disposable creatures, and no obviously potent win conditions. This could be a problem.
My initial suspicions appeared to be correct. Everyone on GameFAQs and the Wizards DOTP board were bemoaning the weak, ineffective card combinations and constant mana/color screw. Cloudburst was constantly derided as either too slow, too quick-burning, or both. My first forays into playing the deck yielded similar results. A lesser mage would have given up, but an Izzet mage? Not fucking likely.
I unlocked all the deck’s cards in single player and began my experiments. My goal was to weed out the worst cards, then look at which ones were best, determine why they were good, and reinsert anything that made them work better. First to go were things like Ball Lightning and Skizzik, which were essentially no worth trying to cast in a two-color deck (at least, not early enough to be worth it). Also gone were the overcosted fliers with mediocre abilities, spells that didn’t generate card advantage/equality, etc.
With the chaff gone, I surveyed what remained. Powerful cards that were fueled by constant burn, such as Gelectrode, Wee Dragonauts, and Murder of Crows. Of course, the burn itself was powerful – Shock, Lightning Bolt… the standard stuff. A few late game fliers, including the Murder of Crows but also Spellbound Dragon and Niv Mizzet, the Firemind, would all be major threats if allowed to stay on the board.
But something was missing – the mid game. I had the early board locked down with removal spells, weenies, and utility creatures. The win conditions were also there… but how would I stay alive through it all? My initial thought was shit-tons of praying, but that’s something left to the practitioners of white magic. I needed something less reliable, more insane, and more infuriating to my opponent.
Enter Elixir of Immortality. While dismissed by many as “just another lifegain card,” I found it served three purposes that brought the deck together.
- Since many of the best cards in the game are early-game single use burn and bounce, Elixirs granted these cards a second chance at fucking things up for my adversaries
- With so much uncontrolled self-milling provided by Cloudburst’s late game fliers, Elixirs guaranteed I wouldn’t deck myself anytime soon
- Finally, the five point lifegain would help offset any midgame damage that got through, with a massive influx of whatever the hell is in that delicious bottle
Soon, my decklist was coming together. While I still had a few creatures that were a tad sub-par, that’s pretty typical for Duels of the Planeswalkers. Thanks to the Skirsdag Cultists, I could turn any of them, including the disposable creatures, into instant damage. Alternatively, they could be sent on suicide missions for Murder of Crow’s effect, or simply kept in hand to fuel Spellbound Dragon. In other words, the deck was starting to achieve synergy. My final touches (not that I’m conclusively finished with my tweaks) were to swap blue and red creatures in and out of the deck to achieve relative color parity, ensuring the odds of drawing a hand of blue cards and only mountains (or the contrary) was relatively low.
I went back online, and the results were astounding. Out of about 30 games, I handily won 25. Of the other five, three were quite close and in only two did I get overwhelmed. While some of the video I captured (in 720p!) was corrupted, I did manage to get the following games recorded. As you’ll see, timing and card advantage, as well as tempo advantage, are everything.
So, what was my magical decklist? Here’s where it currently stands. Since this article is getting fairly long, I’ll reserve a per-card analysis for the next iteration of this strategy guide… but don’t hesitate to ask any questions if you have them! All things considered, this is working out quite well, though I’m always looking for further improvements or alternative builds, as there is certainly more than one ideal construction for Cloudburst.
WiNGSPANTT’s Cloudburst Decklist
- 2x Elixir of Immortality
- 2x Lightning Bolt
- 1x Lightning Serpent
- 3x Shock
- 3x Into the Roil
- 1x Reverberate
- 2x Sparkmage Apprentice
- 2x Storm Crow
- 2x Thunder Strike
- 2x Aether Tradewinds
- 2x Gelectrode
- 2x Wee Dragonauts
- 4x Wind Drake
- 2x Skirsdag Cultist
- 2x Murder of Crows
- 1x Prophetic Bolt
- 1x Spellbound Dragon
- 1x Niv-Mizzet, the motherfucking Firemind
If you need more information on any of these cards, I highly recommend Wizards of the Coast’s Gatherer search engine.