The Izzet Drakes deck has been around in the format for a while now, but just recently it has started to adapt to shifts in the metagame. Some of the lists have cut the Arclight Phoenixes and added Niv-Mizzet, Parun, moving them closer to the Jeskai Control decks that are running Crackling Drake. This allows the Izzet decks to play the long control game that the phoenix version struggles with game 1. I’m going to be going over all the card choices available to Drakes, and try to explain why some are better in one build than others.
Dive Down acts as protection for your drakes and Niv-Mizzets. This card is especially powerful with Niv-Mizzet, Parun as you not only get a draw out of it, but also off their removal spell, allowing you to net 2 cards and 2 damage from the interaction for only one mana.
One mana cantrips are great when you need a lot of spells in your grave or need to be able to play multiple spells in a turn. It works great with both Phoenix and Niv-Mizzet, making it a staple in these kinds of decks.
Shock is a removal spell that also helps with your aggressive gameplan, and is another fantastic card in this deck.
Shivan Fire is usually a sideboard card against aggressive decks, where you need the extra cheap removal spells.
Electromancer is really good in the Arclight Phoenix versions of the deck. Reducing the cost of all your 2 mana cantrips to 1 mana helps bring back a phoenix on turn 3, which is otherwise somewhat difficult.
Chart a Course is probably the best card in these decks, especially the versions with Arclight Phoenix. Being able to discard phoenixes in the early game and draw 2 for 2 mana in the late game is great.
Lava Coil is possibly the best red removal spell in Standard, as it handles opposing drakes perfectly while also exiling opposing phoenixes and dealing with most of the threats in Golgari.
I usually only see Search for Azcanta played in the more controlling builds without the phoenixes.
Discovery is the only half of the card that is actually played in these Izzet decks, because it is a great way to mill phoenixes while continuing to filter your draws.
A 2 mana cycler with Jump-Start is fantastic for bringing back phoenixes, epecially with an Electromancer in play. Jump-Start acts as an additional discard outlet for phoenixes as well, which pushes this card from playable to good.
Tormenting Voice is another discard outlet for phoenix, but it isn’t played outside the phoenix versions because it is significantly worse to discard before drawing. This card is regularly on the chopping block in the Izzet decks that don’t play phoenixes
Stroke is a generic counterspell that is great for the sideboard, but pretty much never worth playing in the main deck.
Against control and Golgari, Treasure Map is great. It allows you to both filter your draws in the early and mid-game, and it’s card advantage in the late game. The fact that it can ramp you into Niv-Mizzet early makes it quite effective in games where you need to land a Niv-Mizzet early to have a chance.
Negate is another generic counterspell for the sideboard.
Raptor Hatchling is a somewhat recent addition to the sideboard for Izzet. It really shines against mono red decks, where it can hold back Fanatical Firebrands, and leave a body after a Chainwhirler trigger.
Enigma Drake is one of the signature threats of the deck, despite being cut in a lot of the Phoenix versions of the deck. This drake as it is slightly worse than Crackling Drake because it relies on your spells remaining in the graveyard, whereas Crackling Drake accounts for both Jump-Start cards and opposing graveyard hate by checking the exile zone too.
Cannonade is the best sideboard hate for tokens and other aggressive decks (although it is weak to Pirates). You should usually play this card in your sideboard.
Fight with Fire is another sideboard card. It act similar to Beacon Bolt as it can kill cards like Lyra Dawnbringer, but it is also good at killing your opponent if you get flooded, which can happen in the late game.
Sarkhan is used as a way to ramp into Niv-Mizzet, Parun on turn 4, but that is usually more “cute” than good, as you’d rather wait until you have mana up to protect Niv most of the time, and it doesn’t work with any other cards in the deck.
Crackling Drake is one of your primary win conditions in this archetype. Unlike Enigma Drake, this one counts exiled cards as well, making cards with Jump-Start substantially better, and even if your opponent has removal for it, you still got to draw a card out of it.
Phoenix is the card that allows players to differentiate between the two common builds of this drakes deck. Versions playing Arclight Phoenix are more aggressive and are focused on casting 3 or more spells in a turn in order to bring it back as fast as possible whereas the other build is controlling the game until they can land a threat with protection.
Murmuring Mystic is a sideboard card that allows you to go very wide very quickly. You can easily make 3+ tokens per turn.
This card has started to see a ton of play in all URx decks. It very rarely one-for-ones, which give you a ton of advantage. Most often, your opponent has to let you draw some number of cards in order to deal with it. If that weren’t enoguh, it also closes out games very quickly, dealing a minimum of 1 extra damage per turn from your draw step. Plus, all of your spells cycle for damage as well. In a deck with a ton of cycle already, an unchecked Niv-Mizzet can kill your opponent on the spot.
Star of Extinction is a great sideboard card against the Golgari decks. Planeswalkers like Vivien Reid can be a huge problem for this deck—being one of the few ways to beat Niv without letting you draw a card. Sometimes they don’t even need the Vivien, and can just run you over with cheap, efficient creatures. The last way the usually beat you is by recurring threats with Memorial to Folly when you are both in topdeck mode. Star of Extinction lets you clear out all of their creatures and planeswalkers, while shutting down a Memorial to Folly. That’s a huge deal for just one card.
Entrancing Melody is a great sideboard card for the RW matchup, which has some problematic creatures like Adanto Vanguard. It also is great in the mirror, where you can steal their drakes and swing a game very quickly.
Izzet Drakes is a high power deck with a lot of versatility to it. Whether you skew for a more combo oriented kill with Arclight Phoenix, or a controlling build with Niv-Mizzet, Drakes is a great way to enjoy Magic to a fuller extent. There are a lot of ins and outs that you have to make in order to have the best chance at victory each game, and you won’t get it right every time. Still, if you’re an Izzet mage at heart, this is the deck for you.