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 point.
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.
After chat demanded Fiery Temper 300 times, here they are, I'm 3-0 with it.— Daniela Daz (@h0lydiva) October 6, 2018
I found out vs interactive decks it's probably better to side out the Steam-Kins and bury them in Revelers, Phoenixes, Shrines, Burn and Risk Factors. pic.twitter.com/8lI4tGHt2h
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.
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 efficient.
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:
- 19 Mountain
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 though?
Here are some other cards that could make the cut:
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 #SCGDFW 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.