As discussed in our previous article, variants of Izzet Drakes have been among the best MTG standard decks since the major rotation last year. Several deck lists that make use of Drakes synergy have made it to the Top 8 in a variety of tournaments, some even splashing into Temur colors for Hydroid Krasis. The value of Arclight Phoenix in this archetype, however, is still debated, as the inclusion of the card fell out of favor, only to re-appear in a recent SCG Classic. In this article we address both the costs and benefits to this exceptional card, helping you decide whether Arclight Phoenix is right for your next Standard Showdown deck or MTG Arena grind.
Pro- Undeniable Power
To begin the discussion, it is important to keep in mind that, other considerations aside, Arclight Phoenix is an incredibly powerful card. With 3 power, haste, evasion, recursion, and an alternate casting condition, this creature exceeds the expectations of an excellent aggro spell, and in a vacuum seems almost unhealthy for the format. The raw kill potential of this card is certainly high, and that may be sufficient to include it in your deck.
Con- Four or Nothing
Arclight Phoenix is a card that is exponentially more powerful in multiples, as resolving three spells in the turn will trigger any number of Phoenix to return to the battlefield from the graveyard. Furthermore, other aspects of the deck need to be tuned to enable the consistent resolution of multiple spells in a turn, such as the presence of Goblin Electromancer, which would be a waste of valuable card slots without the full playset of Phoenix for pay-off. Having four Phoenix can constrain the other creatures in the deck, even forcing the elimination of Enigma Drake entirely in the most recent iteration of Izzet Drakes.
Pro- Resilient to Most Removal
Because many of the best MTG standard decks, such as Mono-Blue Aggro and Azorious Aggro, get their advantage from manipulating the battlefield through inexpensive creatures, many decks have opted to forgo powerful, single-target removal such as Vraska’s Contempt for the more economical Cast Down, the more versatile Mortify, and the more killing power found in Kaya’s Wrath. None of these cards effectively deal with Phoenix, and, given the current unpopularity of Settle the Wreckage, Arclight Phoenix dodges virtually all the removal in the format, including counter-spells.
Con- Goblin Electromancer is not Resilient to Most Removal
Although Arclight Phoenix may have no problems arising from the ashes of the graveyard to play, Goblin Electromancer will have no such luck, and is a card that is quite susceptible to the very removal that has come to dominate the format. Playing this fragile 2/2 with the hopes that your opponent kept a hand without so much as a Shock seems greedy, but at least it doesn’t die to Chainwhirler.
Con- Sticker Shock
Despite its utility, Arclight Phoenix is an expensive card, and this prohibitively high price tag is a real world consideration when deciding where to dedicate your limited resources. Fortunately, acquiring a playset on Arena costs the same resources as any other Mythic, making Arclight significantly less costly when put into some of the best MTG Arena decks.
Pro- Lasting Value
Even as one of the most expensive cards in Magic: The Gathering standard, Arclight Phoenix will likely hold its value for the foreseeable future. Not only was Phoenix printed in Guilds of Ravnica, one of the newest sets that will be standard legal for years, but it also sees play in one of the best MTG modern decks, stabilizing its price even after it eventually rotates out of standard.
Overall, Arclight Phoenix seems to have more benefits than costs in the current meta, but there are definitely some deal-breakers that may affect your individual situation or playstyle. Phoenix is, for the most part, a card that requires a build-around, and if a player isn’t willing to commit substantial deck space and resources to enabling this line of play, and practice successful execution of this strategy, then they may want to reconsider.