Maintaining the Frost: Adjusting Iyslander

by Steven Young 27th April 2022 4 : 39

The new banned and restricted announcement just dropped, bringing a lot of changes – some expected and some not. Cards like Awakening and Bloodsheath Skeleta had been on the ban radar for some time- especially the latter, as it had contributed majorly to the Blitz format being, until recently, a turn 2 OTK-fest. However, very few people saw the other bans coming.

Stir the Aetherwinds and Snapback, two Wizard staples ever since their respective releases, were removed from Blitz as part of the announcement. This was largely done to tackle Kano, as he has had similar success to Viserai in terms of killing his opponents on turn 2, and both cards had a role in that. But he isn’t the only Wizard in Blitz, so where does that leave our beloved Iyslander?

Arcane Iyslander

Iyslander, especially in the very popular arcane variants of the deck, had made liberal use of both Stir the Aetherwinds and Snapback, with Stir being a powerful enabler and finisher and Snapback being one of the most consistent ways to threaten arcane damage on her opponent’s turn. Without those two tools- especially woven together with an Aether Wildfire or Forked Lightning- I initially thought the pure arcane variant would fizzle out entirely. But the arcane Iyslander playerbase are as loyal as they are resilient.

Enter: blue Reverberate.

Without Snapback to activate their go-wide turns, the arcane Iyslander pioneer known as Picklesword on discord has restructured their kill combo to play a Wildfire from hand with Storm Striders, use Iyslander’s ability to play a blue Reverberate from arsenal and, being buffed by wildfire, finish with a red Zap from hand. The reach with this combo is identical to the previous one involving Snapback- with the one additional caveat that the Oldhim matchup has become more difficult without the extra push over the top that Stir had provided. Still, the arcane Iyslander deck is just as potent as ever,

One of the defining features of this kind of arcane build is that it runs next to no Ice cards or disruption, relying instead on the natural block power of its cards to survive and its extremely consistent chip damage to set up lethal lines with Aether Wildfire. Being able to play from arsenal- instead of from the top of deck like Kano- is one of the biggest boons of this deck archetype; and while it plays very differently, you’ll never find yourself missing a chip of damage. With the right timing, it can happily trade blow for blow with aggressive decks before stealing the win at instant speed.

Hybrid Iyslander

Personally, I don’t think there’s a good replacement for what those cards enabled… I’m looking at taking a different approach entirely. -Kori Valentine

The next question is: how do the bans impact the hybrid playstyles of Iyslander? In my personal OTK build, Stir the Aetherwinds is a critical card to closing out games alongside Forked Lightning, and the blue copies of the card were used in a range of decks as an activator for powerful cards like Emeritus Scolding from hand. Luckily, this question has already been answered for us.

Despite not being as represented as her Wizard counterpart Kano, Iyslander still pulled some respectable results at the Calling Krakow- but none more so than Kevin Zänker, who made the Top 4. Conveniently, the only card in his list that got hit by the bans was blue Stir the Aetherwinds; the rest was completely untouched.

Ultimately, the core of Zänker’s variant is Firebreathing, a surprisingly impactful card that puts your opponent in a lose-lose situation. Against a Wizard, they can’t afford to be taking damage, so they have to block; but they can’t commit cards from hand, because it will leave them vulnerable. When Firebreathing is on the chain, there is no correct answer. If they don’t block, you pump it with a full hand of resources and heavily punish their life total, getting them into kill range with an Emeritus Scolding. If they block with one or more cards, you get a free swing of Kraken’s Aethervein, either soaking another card from their hand or dealing damage and drawing a card that can still buff Firebreathing. In a format where every point of life matters, this quickly becomes the most impactful card in the deck.

Not many changes need to be made to Zänker’s calling deck to make it legal in the new meta prior to Uprising. Just shuffle the blues to fit your personal preference. This deck plays slow, using its extensive blue Ice package to play and maintain a Channel Lake Frigid to completely freeze your opponent, along with disruptive cards like Pry and Winter’s Bite to really hurt the output of aggro or combo decks. Firebreathing allows for extremely potent tempo plays and lethal setups, even against hyper-control decks like some builds of Oldhim, and then finishing with an Absorb in Aether buffing an Emeritus Scolding or a Voltic Bolt.

This is far and away my preferred way to play Iyslander: as a tanky freeze mage that your opponent’s simply can’t get around. Through its defence reactions and unmatched disruption, I fully expect Iyslander will become one of the premier control decks of the format.

What the Future Holds

Even without the tools coming in Uprising, Iyslander is a force to be reckoned with in Blitz- an impressive feat for a hero released in a set with zero cards directly supporting her! And things will only get better from here. With the few Ice Wizard support cards we’ve seen, Iyslander will be growing into a full-fledged Wizard with incredible ways to lock down opponents and slowly build up her afflictions, finishing with a lethal burst of frostbites. 

When Uprising finally comes in June, it’s certain that all the styles of play she currently has will be thrown out the window and entirely new kinds of builds will emerge. These builds I’ve described are ways to fill the gap between the bans and the release- but if you ask me, they’re some of the most potent and most fun builds in Blitz to date, and are an easy pick for the post-ban micro-meta before we see fully what is in store for our favourite frost witch of the Bleak Expanse.

Special thanks to Kori Valentine and Picklesword for their inputs, and to the loyal wizards on the Discord.

Steven Young

Steven Young (@WizardofAlf) has been playing Flesh and Blood from November of 2019, and has been casually growing his collection ever since. He is an avid Wizard main, having played the class since before the release of Crucible of War, and is an advocate for its viability in the Classic Constructed format. He loves picking people's brains for opinions and new ways to think about the game, and is an active community member on both the community Discord and Facebook pages.

Discussion (2)

11 months ago

Nice article. It kind of stinks to lose Stir/SnapBack. But it’s a really cool hero and looking forward to adult/CC version!

11 months ago

Fantastic article. Hybrid Isylander has become one of my favorite decks to play and the nerfs hurt a bit. This article is exactly what I was looking for.

Want to get involved in the discussion? Come join us in the article thread on the Discusson board.