Anyone know what the plural of Phoenix is. Phoeni? Pheonixes? Phoeneces? Asking for a friend.
A friend who likes to put all the creatures into play as early as turn one or two, that is.
This deck won the Modern Challenge over the weekend in the hands of Magic Online grinder EDB. Sure, at first glance it looks a lot like a typical Hollow One deck, but you dig underneath the hood a little bit and you see just how much has changed to incorporate Phoenix.
And, to be clear up front, I don't think this was just done as a flash in the pan to test out a new card. The biggest problem that Hollow One decks have had previous has been the variance – sometimes you have a great start but other times all you can manage is a Gurmag Angler and maybe a Flamewake Phoenix. It's a fine start, to be sure, but in the broken-ness that is current Modern that doesn't always get it done. Essentially, half of the deck played fair and half didn't, making it really tricky to play.
Well, now the deck is all-in on being unfair, and through different axes. People loading up on spot removal for Hollow Ones get punished by recurring Phoenix, and people who lean on graveyard hate can get punished the tried-and-true Hollow One strategy. And the deck still has the reliable refill of Bedlam Reveler if the game drags on.
The nods to Arclight Phoenix aren't huge, but they are very impactful. The deck already ran Burning Inquiry, Faithless Looting and Goblin Lore, and those certainly don't get any worse with Phoenix – quite the opposite, in fact. But you still have to trigger the Phoenix to return it to play, and that's where Gut Shot and Maximize Velocity come in. Gut Shot especially is just a perfectly reasonable card, as it can pick off a surprisingly relevant number of creatures, and it's a free way to get that third spell to bring back Arclight, which means you can fairly easily return one or more Arclights to play on turn two, while still playing right into your main plan of casting free Hollow Ones.
Even better is that the deck is now essentially mono-red, with just a light green splash for Ancient Grudge. I don't know if this is strictly necessary, to be honest, but it does make the mana base less painful.
I don't think this list is finished quite yet. I never wanted to cast Maximize Velocity – I might take a Cathartic Reunion or two or even another Gut Shot over at least the second one, but they can certainly be very powerful. But going even wider than that, removing the need for black mana opens the deck up to incorporating another color. I don't think you can make Arclight Phoenix work alongside Vengevine, but everything is on the table with a handful of flex spots at that point, not to mention increased sideboard options.
The jury is still out on this one, but I would not be at all surprised to see it make its presence increasingly felt in the metagame. And after this run with the deck I can confirm it's a ton of fun to play!
Thanks for reading,