This week's banned and restricted announcement of "no changes" means Arclight Phoenix will fly onwards in Modern. Magic Online has been swarmed with Arclight Phoenix, and league results show that players have been getting very creative with ways for beating the bird. Players are finding ways to play maindeck hosers against Izzet Phoenix, and they are doing so in some unique decks. Today I'll cover some new decklists that are clearly designed with beating Arclight Phoenix in mind.
One of the very best cards against Arclight Phoenix decks is Chalice of the Void, which is very hard to beat if resolved on turn two. It's one of the biggest reasons why the Whir Prison deck has been on such a meteoric rise. The deck's foremost expert Michael Coyle used the deck to win the Modern Challenge last weekend, and it's the first place I'd look if I wanted a top-tier deck that can beat Izzet Phoenix consistently.
Another key prison element for beating Izzet Phoenix is Ensnaring Bridge, which efficiently stops any number of Arclight Phoenix, along with Thing in the Ice and Pteramander. This package forms of the core of most prison decks in Modern, another version of which is Mono-Red.
Using a red base for a prison deck provides the powerful Blood Moon as another lock piece, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance as a great win condition. A new variation of that deck that dips into black has recently appeared, and with multiple 5-0 league finishes it might be a legitimate strategy.
Black adds Liliana of the Veil, a great hand and creature hoser, one that is especially adept at picking off Thing in the Ice on curve. The hand-and-creature-hoser role is also filled by a playset of Collective Brutality, which can help beat the Lightning Bolt burn element of Arclight Phoenix decks. It's most valuable against Burn itself, which has been on the rise and is typically one of the tougher opponents for prison decks. Bedevil adds a versatile removal element best for killing planeswalkers, and Kolaghan's Command is a source of value, along with being another maindeck way to destroy artifacts.
An aggressive approach to Chalice of the Void is Eldrazi, which has quietly been having some success online.
This deck makes the most of Chalice of the Void with Serum Powder to help find it, and Gemstone Caverns to help accelerate it into play. A piece of tech in the deck I don't remember seeing before is Zhalfirin Void, which adds a bit of extra consistency. The biggest challenge facing clunky creatures like Eldrazi is Thing in the Ice, which is why this deck packs a full set of Dismember, along with a Warping Wail to pick off the 0-power creature.
Another version of Eldrazi plays white, which opens up Thalia, Guardian of Thraben as another hoser against Izzet Phoenix's spell-based strategy.
For a more controlling route, one Chalice of the Void deck that has been proving itself lately is Mono-White Control.
The deck backs up its 13 planeswalkers with seven Wrath of God effects, making this something of a nightmare for creature opponents. Settle the Wreckage is particularly useful for exiling Arclight Phoenix I'm excited by the eight Wasteland effects, which puts pressure on land decks like Tron and Amulet Titan.
The most successful Mono-White deck in Modern's history has been Mono-White Martyr of Sands. In recent years the deck has taken on an aggressive slant, but recently a more controlling version with a blue splash put up a league 5-0.
This deck has prison elements of its own, like Ghostly Prison itself, which can help slow down Arclight Phoenix. Even better for that job is Runed Halo which shuts all of them down entirely. Nevermore adds a different lock element, one that is useful against Izzet Phoenix but best of all in combo matchups where it can shut down a key part of the opponent's plan. The blue splash helps support the deck's disruption and prison strategy by adding Detention Sphere as a catch-all removal spell. Meddling Mage in the sideboard supports Nevermore and allows the deck to really lock out opponents.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben has become better than usual against Izzet Phoenix since players have been trimming Gut Shot in favor of maindeck Surgical Extraction. Recently there's been an uptick in Humans, the classic Thalia deck, but it plays a part in other aggressive white decks. There's a new Abzan Aggro deck that looks very promising.
The deck combines Thalia, Guardian of Thraben with Dryad Militant, a surprisingly effective hoser against Izzet Phoenix. Beyond shutting down Snapcaster Mage and Pyromancer Ascension, it makes sure Faithless Looting won't be cast from the graveyard. The little hatebear is at its best against the other bogeyman of the format, Dredge, where it also shuts down Conflagrate and Life from the Loam. Surprisingly I can't find a definitive ruling on this anywhere online, but I'm also pretty confident that it should stop Creeping Chill, which would make it a huge play in the matchup.
This Abzan Hatebear-style deck goes further down the graveyard hoser rabbit hole with three Anafenza, the Foremost, which directly stops Arclight Phoenix in a way few other cards can. It shuts down the creature element of Dredge, without which they have a very difficult time winning, an impossible one with Dryad Militant helping. Thalia, Heretic Cathar helps in its own way by ensuring Arclight Phoenix enters play tapped and out of the way for a turn.
The deck comes complete with hosers against other strategies too, with Gaddock Teeg hosing many of the bigger plays in the format. Knight of Autumn adds a maindeck Naturalize effect, and along with Siege Rhino gives the deck plenty of lifegain to fight back against Burn.
Wilt-Leaf Liege is a hoser in its own right against discard, but it's really useful for its anthem effect, which turns the cast of gold creatures in this deck into real threats. Gavony Township helps do the same thing, and it helps pack more value into the deck, as do Horizon Canopy and Stirring Wildwood.
Everything comes together in a convincing-looking deck, especially when backed by a great sideboard of hosers and disruption. The deck has multiple finishes and looks to be building a following, so maybe it's only a matter of time before the deck breaks out.
Another strong hoser against Arclight Phoenix is Scavenging Ooze, which beyond stopping the graveyard gains life and becomes a large threat outside the range of burn. A full set joins Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in this Renegade Rallier-driver hatebear deck.
Another home for Scavenging Ooze is in this Simic Tempo deck, a classic Magic strategy but one rarely seen in Modern in such a raw form.
This decklist even includes Psionic Blast, which is about as classic as it comes, and in fact a card I fondly remember using the last time I can recall playing such a deck, in Time Spiral Block Constructed. It joins the new Frilled Mystic, which stands above Mystic Snake in a deck with solid mana like this one, with Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise. Tarmogoyf, Tireless Tracker, and Kitchen Finks add some solid battlefield presence, but the deck is defined by its blue spells. It's headlined by a set of Cryptic Command, along with a cast of cheaper countermagic. There's been some theorizing that Counterspell could be reprinted in Modern Horizons, and this deck and those like it would surely be beneficiaries.
Beyond Dismember, Vedalken Shackles is the primary creature removal, and it's capable of single handedly beating an unprepared creature deck. Chalice of the Void can be found in the sideboard, where it will surely catch opponents by surprise and will steal games against decks like Izzet Phoenix, Storm, and Burn, among others.
Scavenging Ooze also plays a role in the new Gruul Hatebear deck, which I first identified and shared a few weeks ago. A new version splashes into white too for Wild Nacatl to give the deck a more aggressive Zoo-like feel.
The key hoser here is Eidolon of the Great Revel, which is a nightmare from the Arclight Phoenix perspective because it deals damage even if it's destroyed, but is very hard to beat if it's not.
Another strong hoser against Arclight Phoenix is Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. It doesn't stop Arclight Phoenix from being reanimated, but it does allow them to be destroyed permanently. It's also big enough to survive Lightning Bolt, and after a round of +1/+1 counters will survive Lightning Axe, at which point it will take over the game as a lifelink threat. The card is showing up in a variety of decks, most often Rock decks of all sorts, but also this Faeries deck.
A cool piece of tech for beating Arclight Phoenix is Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, which is an effective graveyard hoser and also a nice source of lifegain. That alone doesn't make it worth playing in a format like Modern, unless you're a deck that can take advantage of its ability to exile, like this Wasteland Strangler deck.
One way to fight back against Arclight Phoenix is to try to go over the top of it with something more powerful. An example is this reanimator deck, which fuses the Electrodominance and Living End combo into a Goryo's Vengeance Reanimator deck.
To get more mileage from Goryo's Vengeance than Griselbrand, the deck also includes Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to combo with Deceiver Exarch. There's a lot going on, but it fuses together into a convincing-looking deck, which includes Jace, Vryn's Prodigy as another good target for Goryo's Vengeance. The real glue is of course Faithless Looting, which can discard both combo pieces to set up a lethal Living End.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, as they say, which means that one way to beat Arclight Phoenix is to fight fire with fire and use Arclight Phoenix yourself. One player is doing so with one of the cooler Modern decks I've seen recently—in a Nivmagus Elemental Storm shell.
Arclight Phoenix and the spells that support it play well with Storm, specifically Grapeshot as a big removal spell and finisher. Instead of Soul-Scar Mage, this deck goes for a combo finish with Nivmagus Elemental, which can remove Storm copies. Ground Rift adds more fuel, and might actually help Nivmagus Elemental and Monastery Swiftspear get in damage past blockers. Whether or not the deck is better than the traditional mono-red version isn't clear, but the old version has fallen out of favor, so this could be the innovation the deck needs to survive.