Izzet Phoenix in Pioneer
In the past, Blue has proven itself to be surprisingly competent as the main color in aggro/tempo decks, as we've seen with Delver and Merfolk in a variety of formats. Despite being significantly less aggressive when compared to colors like Red, Green, and even White, Blue can still manage to push through with its cheap creatures and spells. For this deck however, the Blue isn't there to keep us aggressive directly, instead it aids us by providing resources that allow our other color to stay on the front foot.
Our creature base here is fairly small, and (unfortunately) 100% Red. Monastery Swiftspear is a classic, swinging in right off the bat and hitting our opponent for 2-3 damage on later turns. Soul-Scar Mage turns our burn spells into a more potent form of removal, and can also swing in himself thanks to prowess. Arclight Phoenix can come out again and again, chipping away at our opponent in spite of their best efforts to stop it, which is a plan we saw flourish in Modern last year. Finally, Young Pyromancer represents a ton of value in small bodies that, if left unchecked, can easily go wide enough to get around our opponent's defenses and removal.
Our spells also do a lot of work, this is why there are 28 of them. They help keep the board clear, find the cards we need, and push damage through. Crash Through drives damage in the most direct way possible: giving all of our creatures trample. It isn't the most impactful effect, but given that it costs one mana and replaces itself, this can help us bring our Phoenix back, albeit without it getting trample. Lightning Axe lets us clear away the opponent's board, with five damage taking out almost anything our opponent might have early on. The discard is useful here too, allowing us to either drop an Arclight Phoenix into the graveyard or giving us extra fuel for Treasure Cruise. Opt replaces itself while giving us card selection, and Warlord's Fury gives us a cheap way to make sure we win even fights. Chart a Course is nice, cheap, card selection when we need it, and a very good rate on a draw two when we've attacked, which is hopefully most turns. Strategic Planning gives the deck a way to filter our draws, and Treasure Cruise gives us a big payoff for all of our milling and discarding in the form of our very own Ancestral Recall.
Our lands don't offer anything in the way of utility, with our only basics being Mountains due to our heavy red leaning, and 12 dual lands to make sure we have our colors.
In the sideboard, Alpine Moon helps to deal with any annoying utility lands our opponent might have, like Mutavault or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Chandra's Defeat can help against the mirror as well as various other Red aggro decks, and Rending Volley plays a similar role but against Blue and White. Abrade acts as multipurpose creature removal and artifact removal, taking out a variety of sideboard cards and any non-Darksteel Citadel threat an Ensoul deck might throw our way. Mystical Dispute gives us a nice sideboard plan for control decks and the tempo matchup, and The Royal Scions represent card selection, extra damage, and a huge overall boost with the ultimate; useful against decks where we might be dealing with creatures larger than our own.
- Soulscar Mage turns damage into -1/-1 counters, meaning that it can be used to save our own creatures. Soul-Scar Mage alone can defend against an Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath without dying if you have something like Lightning Axe or Rending Volley in hand, since it lowers its power, and then you can finish it off through combat. This ability can also be relevant against Indestructible threats.
- Keep in mind that the tokens from Young Pyromancer will get the keywords from Crash Through and Warlord's Fury, since the token is created before the spell resolves.
- If you've cast two spells during your turn, you can follow up with Chart a Course to drop an Arclight Phoenix in the graveyard, causing it to come back to the battlefield during combat.
- Ramunap Ruins can give you reach that you otherwise would be missing, and has a low opportunity cost to include it in the deck.
- Fabled Passage can find the colors you need if you're willing to throw in an Island or two, and also fuels Treasure Cruise. Keep in mind, however, that the land will come into play tapped early on, so limit the number of copies you're running.
- Curious Homunculus , Stormchaser Mage, and Abbot of Keral Keep all offer cheap prowess bodies while having their own unique benefits. Homunculus can help you cast your draw spells and has a bigger base body once you flip it, Stormchaser comes packed with flying and haste, and the Abbot offers a small bump of card advantage.
- Slip Through Space replaces itself while making one creature unblockable, allowing you to get through the final bit of damage you need.
Arclight Decks have popped up every now and again ever since the card was printed, in part because the strategies it enables are good, and in part because they're a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn't like casting three spells in a turn, drawing two cards, and then getting a free beater or two?
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