Finding The Best Dragon’s Rage Channeler Deck In Historic

Dragon’s Rage Channeler is coming to Historic with the release of Jumpstart: Historic Horizons on MTG Arena. But what’s the best use for the one-drop? GerryT surveys the field.

Dragon’s Rage Channeler, illustrated by Martina Fackova

With Jumpstart: Historic Horizons about to juice up Historic, how much will the format change? Given the early previews, I imagined we were in for a dramatic shift, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Thankfully, the additions are mostly on the fair end of the spectrum. Regardless of where Historic ends up, one thing is for certain — Dragon’s Rage Channeler will be one of the premier build-arounds in the format. 

Dragon’s Rage Channeler

Most decks will have easy access to instant, sorcery, creature, and land. However, getting the correct mix of those in your graveyard, especially in the early-game, is no trivial task. Modern has things like Mishra’s Bauble to provide a sort of wild card for delirium. If you can’t find a sorcery, Mishra’s Bauble can cover the gap. For that reason, it’s important to be able to play a fifth or sixth card type if you can afford it, just for consistency’s sake. 

Unfortunately, Historic is lacking an analogue. Without Mishra’s Bauble, you’ll probably be hitting delirium a turn or two later than you would in Modern, unless there’s an alternative solution. 

Chromatic Sphere Soul-Guide Lantern Bomat Courier

Scrapheap Scrounger Heart of Kiran Hollow One

If you want to get delirium early, decks have to be built somewhat differently from in Modern. You wouldn’t normally include the above cards because they’re below rate or not a card you’d particularly want in your deck, but they’ll still show up in some of my decklists in order to help fuel delirium. 

Search for Azcanta Arguel’s Blood Fast Narset, Parter of Veils

These are slightly more farfetched. Decks built around Channeler aren’t necessarily looking to play longer games, so these raw card advantage tools might not make sense. Still, there’s room to include those cards in your sideboard for attrition-based matchups. 

Prismari Command Grisly Salvage Faithless Looting

Seasoned Pyromancer Chart a Course

Some of my decks are going to be very, very good at tearing through my library. At that point, you’ll hit delirium easily enough to warrant playing only the cards I want to. 

Of course, Dragon’s Rage Channeler isn’t the only standout from Historic Horizons. 

Unholy Heat

We’ve seen how Unholy Heat can warp Modern and I expect the same to happen in Historic. Unless the reach matters, Unholy Heat is typically a stronger removal spell than Lightning Bolt, assuming achieving delirium in a timely manner is possible. Of course, pairing with Channeler certainly helps. 

If it were just Dragon’s Rage Channeler, I’d be happy. With both, I’m ecstatic.

Let’s start with the obvious.

Honestly, what would you rather have in Izzet Phoenix: Dragon’s Rage Channeler or Brainstorm? For me, it’s Channeler all the way. As if I needed another reason to keep playing Izzet Phoenix…

Izzet Phoenix always struggled finding the optimal configuration of creatures and we have a clear answer now. Channeler is perfect for the deck, and nobody can argue that in good faith. It fills the graveyard for Arclight Phoenix, also keys off instants and sorceries, and is another flying threat for your arsenal. 

Expressive Iteration is one of my favorite cards in recent memory. It tends to fuel my favorite type of decks and Izzet Phoenix falls under that category. That said, I typically want my Phoenixes to come back on Turn 3 and that’s impossible if you’re casting Iteration on Turn 3. It’s possible that I’ll return to Chart a Course, despite Iteration being the stronger card in a vacuum. You can cast Chart on Turn 2 to set up for your big Turn 3, which you can’t do with Expressive Iteration.

Expressive Iteration Chart a Course

The upside to playing Iteration instead of Chart is that your deck becomes better at going long. My versions of Phoenix didn’t need that because I leaned on Finale of Promise, which I’m still doing here. Adding Channeler to the mix doesn’t necessarily change my evaluation on Finale, nor does it make me want Iteration more than I did in previous versions. 

My list presented here is closer toward how I think others will build the deck rather than what I believe will actually be correct. Realistically, you can’t go wrong. All the cards are great, and your deck will still perform well regardless. 

If we’re talking about setting up with Turn 3 Arclight Phoenix, fewer cards do the job better than Faithless Salvaging. It’s quite good at setting up Demilich too if that’s your thing. I’ll be trying Salvaging immediately because it wouldn’t surprise me if it were better than Chart a Course. 

I could easily see some copies of Seasoned Pyromancer here. Izzet Phoenix can shrug off graveyard hate, such as Soul-Guide Lantern or Cling to Dust, but it can struggle against Rest in Peace. Pyromancer, despite having a graveyard clause, tends to be strong against Rest in Peace. That said, it’s weaker than playing cards like Crackling Drake or Narset, Parter of Veils. Unfortunate for Seasoned Pyromancer lovers such as myself, but true. 

Even if you’re not an Arclight Phoenix fan, I’ve still got you covered. 

Even though it’ll be difficult to get away from Arclight Phoenix, I could easily see playing something like this. 

Until Strixhaven, black seemed to have spells that were far and away the best options in the format, like Thoughtseize and Fatal Push. That didn’t necessarily lead to having the strongest decks because they were still lacking in other departments. Despite Brainstorm’s recent departure, that power imbalance has massively shifted toward blue, especially if you add red into the mix.

Memory Lapse, Expressive Iteration, and even Opt are incredible early-game tools. Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Unholy Heat lead me to believe that I shouldn’t ever be playing any other type of strategy. Maybe it’s always going to be Arclight Phoenix, but I doubt it. 

Sadly, there isn’t much to flashback with Dreadhorde Arcanist without black in the deck. The same goes for Sea Gate Stormcaller. We can fix that though.

Although it would be easy enough to slot Channeler (and Unholy Heat) into the Rakdos Arcanist decks, I can’t help this nagging feeling that Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Stitcher’s Supplier shouldn’t necessarily be in the same deck. One is aggressive and the other isn’t, so that doesn’t exactly line up. Supplier can fuel the Channeler, which is nice, but Channeler can do that on its own. Perhaps the real takeaway is that Dragon’s Rage Channeler can replace Stitcher’s Supplier as the main way to fill the graveyard in Rakdos. 

Stitcher’s Supplier allows you to play Village Rites but that isn’t necessarily an upside. You could jump through hoops to make Village Rites a palatable choice or you could play cards that are powerful on their own. Young Pyromancer has slowly crept down in numbers and Unholy Heat means you’re less reliant on cards like Claim the Firstborn and Spark Harvest to remove larger threats. All told, I’m happy cutting that entire package and seeing where it leaves me.

Bomat Courier already showed up in some of these decks, so it’s not the worst addition. We have plenty of removal and disruption to clear the way. Plus, our mana curve is low, so we can empty our hand quickly. 

Overall, the deck looks solid, even if it came up short of a full 60 that I was happy to register. However, this next one looks very, very good.

This will be one of the first decks I try. 

Previous iterations on Death’s Shadow fell short because of numerous reasons, one of which was the lack of threats that could complement your Shadows. Scourge of the Skyclaves is a similar card but it needs help. You need an early creature that can deal damage because it’s difficult to cast otherwise. 

Adding Channeler to the mix does wonders for your threat density and Unholy Heat gives you a clean catch-all. You couldn’t really ask for more. That said, I’m still open to exploring other options.

I’ve appreciated decks like these in the past, but with things like Expressive Iteration and Faithless Looting, it’s hard to imagine playing Knight of the Ebon Legion unless you’re really committing to it. Playing fair, even with aggressive decks, doesn’t seem worth it. 

It’s worth noting that I used to have to play three- and four-mana threats in my Heart of Kiran decks to have enough creatures to crew. Dragon’s Rage Channeler gives you an excellent threat that crews Heart and keeps the mana curve low enough that you can use Lurrus of the Dream-Den as your companion. 

Maybe we can do an aggressive strategy that still qualifies as unfair. 

I’m not going to get my hopes up with Hollow One, even if we did pick up a handful of new tools. The cycling version of the deck is solid and tends to have more believers than versions attempting to replicate the Modern version for good reason. We don’t have Burning Inquiry, Goblin Lore, or Street Wraith, so Hollow One itself is very slow unless you’re able to triple-cycle on Turn 3 consistently. It also lacks a backup plan, so turning to Zenith Flare makes sense.

In this version, I’m attempting to supplement some early aggression by treating Hollow One like an Arrogant Wurm. In Historic, Hollow One adds to the clock but isn’t the focal point. Insolent Neonate assists Faithless Looting in enabling Turn 2 Hollow One but it’s not enough to convince me that Hollow One can be the premier threat of the deck. 

Thankfully, Dragon’s Rage Channeler can team up with Flameblade Adept to put pressure on opponents early. Fiery Temper, Blazing Rootwalla, and Ox of Agonas help take advantage of having to discard cards. 

It should all make sense. We technically have all the tools we need but they probably aren’t enough to push the deck into Tier 1. 

Finally, we can simplify. 

If I ranked the decks I wanted to try in order, it would be Rakdos Death’s Shadow, then Izzet Phoenix, and Mono-Red Phoenixes wouldn’t be far behind. I’d have to truly believe in it to spend rare wild cards on Managorger Phoenix since it’s not like I’ll be able to play it anywhere else. We’ll see what happens when the set releases. 

Arclight Phoenix doesn’t need blue cards. With Brainstorm out of the picture, the red cantrips aren’t much worse than playing Opt anyway. Sure, Sprite Dragon and Expressive Iteration are great, but there are perfectly reasonable options in other colors. 

Even though Mono-Red Phoenixes makes great use of the eight Faithless cards, its strength will be determined by how relevant Managorger Phoenix actually is. Since it doesn’t have haste and can’t block, I’m not convinced. However, many of the games you play against control decks hinge on whether or not you can find an early recursive threat. Those issues would be a thing of the past. Plus, it can get really big and that has to count for something.

Overall, Dragon’s Rage Channeler will define Historic, and this is just scratching the surface. For example, I’m sure there’s something that could make use of Abundant Harvest, but there wasn’t anything I felt strongly enough to print. Channeler and Unholy Heat are by far the cards I’m excited the most about. They’re incredible, format-defining cards, and thankfully, they aren’t rares. There’s no excuse to not build decks around them.