Since returning to Magic, I’ve set myself a challenge to step out of my comfort zone, playing decks and cards in Standard that previously I wouldn’t have given a second glance.
After a little flirtation with a five-colour Gates* deck, I settled on learning to master Izzet Phoenix.
Arclight Phoenix, the creature the deck is built around, is a type of a card that I would have previously dismissed as ‘gimmicky’.
I’ve never be a fan of decks built around one-trick pony strategy that need to hit certain triggers or conditions to be effective, often comparing such cards to be as terrible as Norin the Wary. However, since I branched out into games such as Hearthstone, I’ve grown to find cards like this more interesting. So I decided to give Izzet Phoenix a go.
I started with a straight up carbon copy of LSV’s list from the recent inaugural Mythic Championship.
His take on the deck was really explosive and able to pull out wins from nowhere, however there were times when the deck lacked any early-game pressure for my opponents, especially against control. I also remained unconvinced by single copies of Entrancing Melody and Ral, Izzet Viceroy in the main-deck either, since I’m not a fan of silver bullets.
Overall I wasn’t sold on LSV’s list.
It just seemed to lack something, but what that was eluded me.
I looked at a few different versions of the deck, but found nothing suitable. Knowing Arclight Phoenix had also become very popular in Modern I scoured a few more lists. It was there that I noticed that most of these used Pteramander, which left me baffled as to why no-one was running it in Izzet Phoenix in Standard. I knew that Pteramander was used in Izzet Drakes and was really good in the deck so made a few adjustments the Phoenix deck until I ended up with the following:
4 Arclight Phoenix
3 Crackling Drake
3 Goblin Electromancer
1 Beacon Bolt
4 Chart a Course
4 Lava Coil
4 Radical Idea
2 Tormenting Voice
1 Blood Crypt
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
1 Beacon Bolt
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Entrancing Melody
2 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
1 Shivan Fire
2 Spell Pierce
The Pteramander’s have so far turned out to be amazing. I consistently Adapt to 5/5’s on turn 4, which provides a huge clock. It’s also a backup win condition if I can’t find a Phoenix, which inevitably happens from time to time.
To make way for the Pteramander, I’ve cut one of each main deck Goblin Electromancer and Crackling Drake. I’d found there were times when these cards sat in my hand doing nothing. Now, these two creatures tend to linger a bit longer when cast, since my opponents usually target the Pteramanders with their removal. This gives these creatures enough time to do their thing and often win the match a turn or so later.
My deck is strong against most aggro and mid-range decks due so much creature removal, however because of this you often start on the back foot against Nexus and Esper Control decks.
The sideboard is heavily skewed towards beating those decks, but it’s sometimes worth keeping a little removal in or putting Entrancing Melody in the deck since your opponent’s will often sideboard in creatures such as Thief of Sanity and Hydroid Krasis (they will expect you to take out all of your Lava Coil’s and Shocks). Stealing them with the Melody and turning them back on your opponent always feels so sweet!
I intend to keep playing Izzet Phoenix until the next rotation. I’ve made Mythic in constructed two months running, and hope to hit a third.
The deck has certainly broadened my horizons and I hope to try a few more like this in the near future.
As Theo Southgate says in their summary of the top Ravnica Allegiance cards: ‘More Gate support from War of the Spark could make this deck shine’! Check out the full article. For more inspiration, check out our top 8 lists for Standard and Modern.
Tell us in the whether you’ll be trying out Jag’s suggestions.
P.S. 2019 Challenger decks release today – pick up your own Izzet staples in Arcane Tempo, or try out mono red, mono-white or Golgari, whilst stocks last!