Arclight Phoenix Art by Slawomir Maniak

Historic Izzet Phoenix Competitive Deck Guide: Historic’s Best Deck by a Mile

Love it or hate it, Phoenix is here to stay in Historic and you should know how it works. @DoggertQBones has been playing Phoenix for months to give you the best list, tips, and sideboarding information to take your Historic game to the next level!

Izzet (Blue / Red) Phoenix deck guide for the Historic format, fully updated for the April 2022 ranked season.


Hello everyone! Today we’re coming back to Historic and we have to go into it with my current favorite deck, Izzet Phoenix! This deck is obviously a known quantity at this point, but it hits every single note I like in my decks.

It can be fast, it can be grindy, it can be interactive, it plays a lot of powerful cards, and your decisions highly matter. These are the 5 metrics I generally look for when approaching a new deck so it’s certainly nice when a deck has all 5!

Before anything else, here’s the list I’ve been using for the past few months now. It’s been so good I really haven’t felt the need to change anything which is a great spot to be in.

(H) Izzet Phoenix
by DoggertQBones
Historic
Tempo
best of 3
7 mythic
20 rare
13 uncommon
20 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (16)
2
Sprite Dragon
$2.58
1
Brazen Borrower
$15.99
2
Crackling Drake
$0.50
4
Arclight Phoenix
$55.96
1
Ox of Agonas
$1.79
Instants (13)
4
Opt
$1.00
4
Unholy Heat
$1.00
4
Consider
$13.96
Sorceries (11)
2
Pillar of Flame
$0.50
Lands (20)
1
Island
$0.25
1
Mountain
$0.25
4
Spirebluff Canal
$91.96
4
Steam Vents
$87.96
60 Cards
$442.74
Sideboard
1
Brazen Borrower
$15.99
1
Negate
$0.25
2
Abrade
$0.50
1
By Force
$2.29
1
Pithing Needle
$1.49
15 Cards
$37.65

For those out of the loop, I’ll give a quick refresher. Izzet Phoenix is a deck that is ideally looking to put Arclight Phoenix in the graveyard and then recur it by casting 3 instants/sorceries in a turn. This is a very simple explanation, but is the heart and soul of this deck. What this deck often turns out to be is a puzzle each turn on how to balance card selection, threat deployment, and interaction against a similarly powerful deck and how to get the edge.

The thing about this deck is that it’s extremely skill intensive and will constantly test your knowledge of game plans and Historic. When I first tried Phoenix months ago, I didn’t think it was very good as I felt that I couldn’t win with it (and in fairness, there were a lot of Esper Sentinel around), but the deck is so dependent on the pilot I was just blind to the innumerable mistakes I’ve was making.

This isn’t to scare off anyone from trying the deck, far from it in fact. I’m also a big proponent of playing decks like these, no matter the skill level, as they can really help you get better at the game by understanding what you need to do to win. Furthermore, Historic doesn’t change often enough that Phoenix is randomly going to be a bad option so always having a Historic deck you’re good with is pretty valuable as well if you ever want to hop back into the format.

All in all, the best way to get better at Phoenix is playing the deck yourself and seeing how it works, but I’ll try to provide you with a plethora of tips along the way!

izzet phoenix
51.2% global win rate
16.25% metagame share
Powered by
best against
vs dimir rogues (lurrus)
100.0% win rate
5 tracked matches
vs esper pact
100.0% win rate
6 tracked matches
vs rakdos arcanist (lurrus)
85.7% win rate
7 tracked matches
worst against
vs grixis lurrus
20.0% win rate
5 tracked matches
vs jeskai creativity
18.2% win rate
11 tracked matches
vs mono-black aggro
14.3% win rate
7 tracked matches

MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARD GUIDE

Stormwing Entity Art by Caroline Gariba
Stormwing Entity Art by Caroline Gariba

Vs Izzet Phoenix

INOUT
+2 Svyelun of Sea and Sky-4 Dragon's Rage Channeler
+2 Flame-Blessed Bolt-2 Sprite Dragon
+2 Mystical Dispute-1 Brazen Borrower
+1 Tormod's Crypt-1 Spikefield Hazard
+1 Soul-Guide Lantern-2 Faithless Looting (if bringing in Abrade)
+2 Abrade (if they keep in their DRC and Sprite Dragon)

Despite how much I play the mirror, I’m still not completely positive this is how I like boarding. My theory approaching this matchup is that I want to be more controlling, so maximizing on cards that can generate value is paramount. Cards like Svyelun, Crackling Drake, and Stormwing Entity are your highest priority threats now as they can generate value and need a Delirious Unholy Heat to kill.

The reason I cut Dragon's Rage Channeler and Sprite Dragon to accomplish this is I believe they’re too good of targets for opposing removal in the early game. Furthermore, DRC is susceptible to graveyard hate making it super tenuous, but for Sprite Dragon, it can at least can be scary if unanswered or drawn later when the opponent still has a lot of gas.

If you like Sprite Dragon in the matchup, I would consider cutting all the Faithless Looting then or a few Opt to make room, but obviously I’m not a big fan of either of those options otherwise I would be doing that.

Vs Rakdos Arcanist

INOUT
+2 Svyelun of Sea and Sky-2 Sprite Dragon
+1 Tormod's Crypt-2 Pillar of Flame
+1 Soul-Guide Lantern

Both of these decks have relatively similar game plans in a sense, but while Arcanist has more disruption we have more powerful threats. Considering they don’t have too many ways to permanently keep a Phoenix down, we can generally grind them out pretty effectively in a longer game.

Vs Azorius Auras

INOUT
+1 Brazen Borrower-2 Sprite Dragon
+2 Flame-Blessed Bolt-2 Stormwing Entity
+2 Abrade-1 Ox of Agonas
+2 Mystical Dispute-2 Expressive Iteration

Unfortunately this matchup is both pretty hard and uninteresting. It’s going to revolve around whether you can draw more removal spells than they can threats which is a tough ask considering they have 15ish relevant creatures versus our 10 or so removal spells.

Don’t keep any hand without a few pieces of interaction unless you can dump multiple Phoenix into play extremely quickly, and even then it would still be risky.

Vs Golgari Food

INOUT
+2 Flame-Blessed Bolt-2 Sprite Dragon
+2 Abrade-1 Brazen Borrower
+1 Anger of the Gods-3 Opt
+1 Pithing Needle

Once again we have another very grindy matchup, but thankfully, I believe we have the edge here. They don’t have an excess of removal and our threats can generally kill faster than theirs can. Furthermore, Flying is a real pain for them as they only have Gilded Goode to block (and their sparse removal of course).

Vs Rakdos Anvil

INOUT
+2 Flame-Blessed Bolt-2 Sprite Dragon
+2 Abrade-1 Brazen Borrower
+1 By Force-3 Opt
+1 Pithing Needle

Similar to Golgari Food, this is another matchup that can go relatively long, but once again, I believe we’re favored. While Anvil can be scary in conjunction with Cat/Oven, we still have plenty of ways to battle in the air which they can still struggle against. Unlike Golgari,

Rakdos has more interaction and can actually kill Crackling Drake and Stormwing Entity consistently so it won’t be as easy to keep them on board. Keep the pressure up and break up their engines whenever possible.

Vs Azorius Control

INOUT
+1 Brazen Borrower-1 Spikefield Hazard
+2 Svyelun of Sea and Sky-2 Unholy Heat
+1 Negate-2 Pillar of Flame
+2 Mystical Dispute-2 Faithless Looting
+1 Pithing Needle

Azorius is a strange matchup as most of the time you’re going to be heavily favored, but there will be a subset of games where you feel like you can’t win. Most of that revolves around whether or not they find a Rest in Peace as if you can keep bringing back your Phoenixes, they have no real shot at winning.

Beyond RIP, a fast Lotus Field start can obviously be scary as well, but even that isn’t so bad. Plan for a long game and go for value plays whenever possible.

Vs Affinity

INOUT
+1 Brazen Borrower-4 Dragon's Rage Channeler
+2 Flame-Blessed Bolt-2 Sprite Dragon
+2 Abrade-1 Ox of Agonas
+1 By Force-1 Opt
+1 Anger of the Gods
+1 Pithing Needle

Affinity is a deck I only see sporadically, but it’s a big enough deck to warrant inclusion. Simply, you’re mostly just playing the Control deck looking to remove any of their relevant threats. You remove all your cheap creatures as you want to blank their Portable Hole and Glass Casket to further put the squeeze on their resources.


TIPS AND TRICKS

Crackling-Drake-Guilds-of-Ravnica-MtG-Art
Crackling Drake Art by Victor Adame Minguez
  • Above all else, this is a very difficult deck to pilot so give yourself ample time to learn the lines of it. It requires an extremely heavy use of game plans to pilot correctly. If you’re not sure what I mean by game plans, read this article.
  • Unless you know you specifically need spells to recur Phoenix quickly, I like using my Consider and Opt pretty liberally to help sculpt my hand. That said, I tend to be very conservative on when I use my Faithless Looting unless it’s to recur a Phoenix or to get a cheaper Stormwing Entity.
  • I’m very aggressive with stocking the graveyard with Dragon's Rage Channeler. Unless you definitely need the top card, I tend to put it in the graveyard. This applies doubly to lands as getting a land in yard will help you hit delirium much faster.
  • In the beginning I was more liberal with keeping lands off my draw spells, but as I’ve gotten more experience, I’ve learned that you have so much draw power you can generally find the lands you need in a reasonable time frame. That isn’t to say you should miss an early land drop over keeping a spell, but you may not need to procure land number 4 if it’s only your first few turns.
  • One of the harder decisions to make is when to take a cantrip off of a cantrip (you Consider and see an Opt on top). When approaching this decision, the major thing I consider is what does that draw spell afford me. If I have a Dragon's Rage Channeler, trying to recur a Phoenix, a Stormwing Entity that can be played/buffed, a Crackling Drake that can use more power, or I have time to sculpt my hand a bit more, you can keep it.

    This may seem like a lot of scenarios to keep, but realistically, I tend to not want the additional cantrip and just dig deeper in my deck. A big mistake I made when I picked up the deck was spinning my wheels too much as I figured the deck is all about card selection so it’s rarely bad to cast them. However, once you’re in the mid game, you really need to start applying pressure or the opponent is very likely to. In the early stages or late stages of the game, cantripping into cantrips can be a lot better.
  • Although getting Arclight Phoenix back from you graveyard for free is the ideal, never underestimate the power of just casting it normally. This applies mostly when you rather use Expressive Iteration on turn 3 rather than chain a lot of spells to get back Phoenix or against Control specifically.
  • If you’re really behind on board, the best course of action is generally digging towards a lot of free Arclight Phoenix or a big Crackling Drake. These can save you in spots that nothing else can.
  • Be mindful of Delirium when recurring Phoenix, you may lose it if they’re the only creature(s) in your graveyard.
  • I much rather hard cast an Ox of Agonas then put it in the graveyard and try to recur it later.
  • Be mindful of your land drops and what colors you need. It’s very easy to accidentally color screw yourself even with a lot of lands out.
  • Learn when to play fast and when to play slow. Recurring Phoenix ASAP is always enticing, but sometimes sculpting your hand early and/or trying to get back multiple Phoenix could be the better line. Think in terms of proactivity. If your opponent is doing something, you probably have to as well. If the opponent is sculpting, you can afford to do so as well. If they have nothing going on, then do what makes the most sense with your hand.
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DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on
Twitch and Discord.

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