How Arclight Phoenix Changes Modern

It happened fast, but it happened. Modern changed almost overnight, and SCG Dallas is going to feel it. GerryT explains the latest great archetype in Modern and why a huge metagame shift may be happening!

Mardu Pyromancer has been disappointing lately. The most popular decks in
Modern have shifted again, and while it’s not the worst matchup spread
Mardu has ever seen, there’s no reason to register old school Mardu at this

Bant Spirits is a much worse matchup than Humans, Azorius Control is
difficult, Tron is on the rise again, and Dredge is about as bad of a
matchup as you can get. Assassin’s Trophy heralding the return of Jund is
about the best news you’re going to get.

Guilds of Ravnica
contained several cards that could see play in Modern. Among those,
Arclight Phoenix caught my eye as a recursive, flying beater that could
attack alongside Lingering Souls. Mardu has wanted another value card to
discard to Faithless Looting, so I was fairly excited.

Then I started building decks around Runaway Steam-Kin and quickly saw the
appeal of playing it alongside Faithless Looting and Bedlam Reveler. With
Bant Spirits becoming the default creature deck, Young Pyromancer isn’t
accomplishing much these days, so it was time to experiment without the
namesake card.

My exploration of Arclight Phoenix started when I streamed something along
these lines.

The black cards obviously didn’t play well with Runaway Steam-Kin, but it
didn’t seem like it should be an issue. There were times when my Steam-Kins
weren’t very impressive, but getting them to four power wasn’t difficult.
My opponents were very good at removing them, which speaks to the power
level of the card, but it meant I rarely got to “go off” with it.

Kolaghan’s Command, the main way to grind, didn’t work very well against
Azorius Control and their Path to Exiles and Terminuses. Zero white sources
with Lingering Souls was completely fine because of four Manamorphose.
Graveyard hate was annoying, but Bomat Courier out of the sideboard helped.

After the stream, I could tell my deck needed work, but knew that work
could be done. I vowed to work on it leading up to Grand Prix Atlanta,
which would be my first Modern tournament in a while.

Then h0lydiva posted this list,
which changed everything.

From there, things moved quickly and many other people picked up the deck
and immediately started winning with it. A few days later, I put the deck
together myself and was very impressed with the results. Many of the things
people were trying didn’t seem to make any sense.

Risk Factor? Lava Spike? Insult? A bunch of rituals?

Was this a burn deck, an all-in red deck, a new Mardu Pyromancer, or
something else?

Arclight Phoenix deals chip damage and sometimes goes unanswered. You’re
already playing Lightning Bolt, so you have the capability of burning your
opponents out. Once you move into Risk Factor (and especially Fiery Temper
to fuel it), the deck becomes very dangerous.

You can still play a Mardu-ish game, removing their threats and drawing
cards, eventually burying them. However, it’s far more likely you get a
window to kill your opponent outright before that happens. For those trying
to play a nice, long game of Magic, I’m sorry. This deck isn’t for you.

This is, in fact, a Burn deck. At least, a Burn deck that’s hyper

As Burn is capped on mana it can produce each turn, and therefore, the
amount of things they can do in the early game, this deck will often have
far more explosive openings. There’s more potential for Turn 3 kills, and
you’ll create a lot of virtual Turn 3 kills, similarly to Hollow One or
Vengevine. Most of the time you’ll be dealing lethal damage later than Burn
will though.

This deck doesn’t necessarily start putting pressure on immediately, but
it’s incredible at creating swing turns that will put your opponent on the
backfoot. Having massive amounts of burn spells help close the game, and
Bedlam Reveler allows you to refuel as necessary.

Given the amount of pressure this deck can produce, Risk Factor is
incredibly potent. Adding Risk Factor to the already powerful Faithless
Looting / Bedlam Reveler engine means it will be nearly impossible to run
out of things to do with your mana. Each card drawing spell tends to chain
into another, allowing you to grind for a massive amount of time.

While there are pros and cons to playing Burn over Mono-Red Reveler, I
would happily choose the deck capable of doing broken things.

Recently, Edgar Magalhaes picked up the deck, tuned it, and was quickly
rewarded with a trophy.

This Izzet version is pretty exciting too.

Chart a Course adds an additional way to discard Arclight Phoenix, which is
huge, but Goblin Electromancer is the real addition from blue. Izzet Charm
was a card I considered for a splash, but apparently I wasn’t thinking in
broken enough terms. With a Goblin Electromancer on the battlefield, your
Chart a Courses, Risk Factors, and especially Manamorphoses become
incredible. That 2/2 body isn’t impressing anyone, but it’s like a
different sort of Runaway Steam-Kin.

With all the various card drawers in this version, you don’t even need to
play Bedlam Reveler! If you need some help in grindy matchups, The Flame of
Keld out of the sideboard will help.

Between all the various Magic Online grinders working on the decklist plus
my own results, I finally arrived at a place where I’m happy. This is what
I’d play:

In the past, I’ve been too focused on my Modern decks having disruption,
either in the format of discard, counterspells, or something like Thalia,
Guardian of Thraben. “Being fast” is a viable option that I don’t explore
nearly enough.

In the interest of finding another clock (and ideally one that dodges
graveyard hate), I’ve adopted two copies of Monastery Swiftspear. Prowess
can get out of control with this, but drawing multiple copies never felt
great. Given that the deck wanted more things to do on Turn 1 in general,
some number of Swiftspears is correct. Drawing multiples is weak because
most of your creatures require spells to be good, but a couple copies is
completely fine.

Doesn’t Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void completely decimate this deck?
Well, sort of. Those cards take your best cards offline, but with Runaway
Steam-Kin, burn spells, and sideboarded Shrine of Burning Rages, you can
easily beat graveyard hate. Having access to Monastery Swiftspear is a
massive help against graveyard hate as well.

My sideboards aren’t typically so narrow, but there’s not a lot to be done
in this case. You don’t need help in many matchups, but the bad matchups
are so polarizing that you need specific tools to fight them.

I like Molten Rain better than Blood Moon. The chip damage matters, it’s
arguably better against Tron because they’ll reflexively sideboard in
Nature’s Claims, and it’s a stronger tool against Azorius Control. The
combo with Surgical Extraction against Tron can be huge, but this deck is
fast enough that you shouldn’t have to pull off that combo to beat them.
Honestly, the Molten Rains might be able to completely go.

Since Dredge is such a difficult matchup, Tormod’s Crypt is the best
graveyard hate I can think of. Each of the other options are symmetrical
(Grafdigger’s Cage, Relic of Progenitus) or needs to be in your opening
hand. Having a graveyard hate card you can find with Faithless Looting or
Tormenting Voice is huge.

At least one copy of Dragon’s Claw could go, depending on how prevalent you
think Burn (or the mirror) will be. There aren’t many cards I’d like to add
that would have a large impact though. I’m short on cards for creature
matchups in general, plus Tarmogoyf has been an issue. Abrade has been a
card people are playing, but it doesn’t solve all the problems. Past that
(and the aforementioned Burn and Dredge matchups), I really like this deck.

Warren Smith
, another player who isn’t afraid to try new things (like Grafted Wargear
in Hollow One), has been playing Hazoret the Fervent over Shrine of Burning
Rage and Madcap Experiment / Platinum Emperion in the sideboard. Hazoret is
sweet and looks quite good to me, although Shrine of Burning Rage has been
incredible. The Madcap Experiment package is probably only good for a game
or so before your opponent alters their sideboarding strategy, so I can’t
recommend it. Maybe the same could be said for Shrine of Burning Rage

Here are some other cards that could make the cut:

Claim Needle Drop Burning Inquiry Desperate Ravings Bomat Courier Gut Shot Flame Jab Shattering Spree Abrade Reforge the Soul Pyretic Ritual Simian Spirit Guide

Bomat Courier has been tried by many people and generally felt pretty good.
Having another reload option is nice, but it requires setup, isn’t red, and
isn’t a spell for Arclight Phoenix. Overall, it’s a bit too awkward, but
it’s also a potentially strong sideboard option if you want more threats
and/or ways to beat graveyard hate.

The random discard spells aren’t something I like when I’m trying to set up
Bedlam Revelers, but realistically, you won’t mind putting a bunch of cards
in your graveyard. You could build a deck with those that might more
closely resemble Hollow One.

What artifacts do you need to kill? Affinity is on the decline, and
although Hardened Scales is on the rise, they’re just as weak to spot
removal as artifact removal. Chalice of the Void can be annoying, but it’s
beatable and not many decks are capable of playing it.

Claim could do some cool stuff if you wanted to splash. Currently, most
versions aren’t splashing because there isn’t a clear reason to, but the
final version will almost certainly contain another color. Returning a
Steam-Kin or giving a Bedlam Reveler haste sounds powerful, but it’s not a
good reason to splash in the first place.

Needle Drop is the card I still haven’t tried, but absolutely should.
Having more spells that cost zero or one mana would be great, which is sort
of how the Lava Spikes ended up in the deck. A singleton Flame Jab could be
great because of its low opportunity cost and how it potentially adds a lot
to the deck. It would help prevent flooding (which honestly doesn’t happen
very much), can pick off smaller creatures, and will be the best Arclight
Phoenix enabler you could possibly have.


Much respect to h0lydiva for constantly brewing sweet Modern decks and
occasionally breaking it. This deck is excellent. Maybe you won’t see it
crush at


this weekend, but it will absolutely make its presence known at Grand Prix
Atlanta. This is one of the few times I would consider buying a last-minute
flight to a tournament, but unfortunately I’m all booked up this weekend.

This deck is incredible.