Yes, the blog that was founded on “not caring about Standard” now cares about Standard rotation. (Blame Magic Arena.)
Truly, the end times are here … but not for Izzet Phoenix. Read on to see how I think my favorite Standard deck will survive rotation into Throne of Eldraine season Standard.
Despite the fact that it did not put up any results during the back end of Core Set 2020 Standard, Izzet Phoenix remained my favorite deck to play on Magic Arena. It contained enough removal to stop the myriad of Knight, Vampire, and Mono-White Aggro decks that clogged up Core 2020 Ranked queues, but also applied enough pressure (via the ever-returning Arclight Phoenix) to beat Control decks, even in long games.
As a result, I’m in no hurry to switch decks now that Throne of Eldraine has released. Instead, I’m hoping I can replace the key cards that rotated out of my previous Izzet Phoenix shell, and continue iterating from there.
Charting a Course Toward Discovery (and Dispersal)
Chart a Course is the card that made previous versions of Izzet Phoenix hum. The spell allowed you to both smooth out your early draws (while pitching Arclight Phoenixes into the graveyard), and draw extra cards while attacking in the late game.
No Throne of Eldraine season card performs both those functions like Chart a Course did – but Discovery // Dispersal comes the closest. Discovery allows you to fix your early draws while throwing any Phoenixes you find on the top of your deck into the graveyard. That same filtering effect allows you to dig for cards you need in the late game, which is not the same as drawing two cards, but can help find specific cards in specific situations.
(P.S. – Bad news though, everyone – you can’t realistically cast Discovery // Dispersal off Finale of Promise! Which makes it quite bad, I think. See the next paragraph for some backup ideas.)
While I think Discovery is the best replacement for Chart a Course, I may also experiment with a split between Discovery, Radical Idea, and/or a copy of Winged Words. Radical Idea was serviceable in my previous Izzet Phoenix shell, and Winged Words could be used to provide the late game card draw that Chart provided last season. This slot’s not fixed, but I’m definitely planning to start with four Discovery – and discover what happens.
From Torment to Possibility
While there’s no clear replacement for Chart a Course, Tormenting Voice actually got an upgrade in Throne of Eldraine.
I never actually fit all four copies of Voice into my Izzet Phoenix deck (I started playing with two Radical Ideas because I didn’t have enough common wildcards … and then I just kept them for some reason). You can rest assured that I’ll be playing all four Thrills of Possibility, as the ability to cast Thrill with an opposing Narset on the stack is big game.
Thrill is also the only card, currently, that will allow me to dump Arclight Phoenixes from my hand into my graveyard. If I find that Phoenixes are continually stuck in my hand, I’ll begin looking into playing some number of Radical Ideas over Discovery // Dispersal. But hopefully, four Thrills will provide the discard outlets that Throne of Eldraine Phoenix needs.
Lightning Strike, Meet Dragonfire
I’ve won more games than you might think off the back of casting Finale of Promise for X = 10, targeting a Lightning Strike from my graveyard, and burning an opponent out. That said, I might actually be most disheartened by having to swap Lightning Strike for Scorching Dragonfire come Throne of Eldraine.
For Izzet Phoenix, there is no better “new Lightning Strike” than Scorching Dragonfire. One of Izzet Phoenix’s biggest weaknesses is that it does not apply a lot of early pressure, which allows opposing turn three Planeswalkers to run away with the game if not answered via a timely burn spell. Scorching Dragonfire is the only easy-to-use, three damage burn spell that hits both creatures and Planeswalkers come Throne of Eldraine – but the fact that you can’t also use it to kill opponents is a strict downgrade.
Still, not every card can be Lightning Strike (and not even Lightning Strike can be Lightning Bolt). I’m hopeful that we’ll see Lightning Strike again when we return to Theros, as that’s where the spell originated from. In the meantime, I’ll deal with casting Scorching Dragonfire.
But What About the Mana?
Mana bases are set to get much slower and/or more inconsistent overall in Throne of Eldraine Standard – and Izzet Phoenix is no exception. On the surface, Temple of Epiphany seems like the best replacement for the now-rotated Sulfur Falls, but I think there’s also an argument to be made for adding in Fabled Passage and one each of Throne‘s new check lands instead.
Castle Vantress and Castle Embereth provide strong late-game effects that could make up for Izzet Phoenix’s slower starts (and mitigate the loss of Chart a Course). I would not play more than one of each Castle (and I’m not sure why they aren’t Legendary), but I think it’s worth experimenting with one of each throughout the course of this season.
What Else Might Be Worth Trying in Throne of Eldraine Standard?
After testing out the replacements above, I’m excited to start experimenting with some “fun-ofs” that I think could end up making their way into Izzet Phoenix before the end of the Throne of Eldraine season. Those cards include:
- The Royal Scions (which could serve as a good discard outlet, Crackling Drake power booster, and finisher in its own right).
- Irencrag Pyromancer (which feels like it’s a bit too slow for game ones, to me, but is also definitely worth trying).
- Improbable Alliance (which again, might be too slow, but could create an army with time).
- Merchant of the Vale (which could maybe be the new Chart a Course, but might push the deck toward playing too many Instants for Finale of Promise).
Do you think I missed an obvious include in Throne of Eldraine Izzet Phoenix? Please let me know (in the comments below)! I love the Phoenix deck and plan to keep piloting it into Throne season and beyond … and I’d love your help in making the deck the best it can be.