This week on Arena Boys, Toffel, Jamin, and I played an Arclight Phoenix deck of a different kind—this one was an evolution of the self-mill deck I wrote about a few weeks ago. The list posted there was a rough diamond, and since then we’ve shaped and polished the deck until it was positively sparkling.
Drowned Secrets is a very potent engine card indeed. There’s no debate about its power as an enabler—the only real question is whether the payoffs are actually worth it. Arclight Phoenix scarcely needs justification, as by now it’s respected as a Standard all-star, but cards like Narcomoeba and Crippling Chill aren’t really the most powerful things you can be doing in the format.
At one stage in the video, we start joking about how the deck would be better if we cut the Narcomoebas and the Creeping Chills to play Crackling Drakes and Goblin Electromancer instead, and it’s true—the deck would be better. That’s not the point, however, and as I discussed in this article, it’s okay to play a “bad” deck if you want to. With that said, here is this week’s “bad” deck!
Once again, you can refer to the article I mentioned previously for much of the general advice needed to pilot this deck successfully, although some of that is obviously outdated now that the list has undergone some upgrades. Cards such as Mission Briefing and Drowned Secrets are still performing the same roles they were in the previous build, while other new cards are bolstering the deck in different ways.
The most important addition is, of course, access to red mana. This means that Arclight Phoenix is now actually castable. This is not something you’re ever hoping to have to do, but it’s nice to have the option. Additionally, it allows you to upgrade questionable mono-blue “removal” like Blink of an Eye into actual hard removal like Beacon Bolt. Beacon Bolt is the perfect addition to the deck. Not only is it blue to trigger Drowned Secrets, if you mill over it you can still jump-start it. Nice!
Wand of Vertebrae got the chop since it’s a little too slow and non-interactive. Once a Drowned Secrets is online, you rarely need much more, anyway. Chart a Course is a more surgical graveyard enabler, and Search for Azcanta is another excellent payoff card that is trivially easy to flip in this list.
Desecrated Tomb is more of a fun-of than anything, and could probably get the axe for a “real” card, but again, that kind of misses the point. Bat beatdown is tragically lacking from Standard, so playing this card enables you to buck that trend.
As you might expect, Drowned Secrets is the most important card in the deck and you should strongly consider keeping any marginally playable hand that contains it, as the rest of the deck is full of cantrips and tends to be quite consistent. Mulliganing to Drowned Secrets can be risky, but any mediocre seven is beaten out by six with the enchantment.
Look to unload huge amounts of damage very quickly. As evidenced by the ridiculous intro to this week’s video, the deck is capable of massive burst damage even through removal spells, more so than traditional Izzet decks thanks to the presence of Creeping Chill. Maximize Altitude is also a weird way to poke through more damage with any spare mana you have lying around. It’s not unusual to take an opponent from 14 or 15 to zero in one turn after a big Drowned Secrets plus cantrips turn.
Milling out slower decks is, as always, a good option, and best done with multiple copies of Drowned Secrets. Faster decks tend to be more of a problem, however, as this list doesn’t deal with early aggression particularly efficiently. Free Narcomoebas block x/1s very well indeed, but ultimately you shouldn’t be afraid to trade off your Phoenixes aggressively. You’ll be able to bring them back later anyway.
Against more midrange-oriented decks, a lot of matches will come down to how many exile effects they have for your Phoenixes, and how good they are at drawing Carnage Tyrant. Remember that two Phoenixes can trade with Carny T. Often, however, it’s better to use your life total as a resource. Race them in the air, and hope for some fortunate Creeping Chills.
Much of the sideboard is tooled to beat aggressive decks. Shivan Fire and Murmuring Mystic are the key cards in that regard, the former helping you to weather the early turns while the latter locks up the late game. Bring in the Island to support your game-changing 4-drop and to help cast Beacon Bolt on time.
Control matchups are generally pretty good, providing you can pressure their planeswalkers with your Phoenixes and sandbag Beacon Bolt to remove Niv-Mizzet. Don’t rush to close out games, and be ready to switch gears and win via milling. Given they draw so many extra cards themselves, burning through their library is much easier. Bring in Negates, the third Beacon Bolt, the Island, The Mirari Conjecture, and Sorcerous Spyglass, and take out low-impact cards like Narcomoeba and Maximize Altitude.
Playing against midrange decks, as I mentioned, can be anything from simple to nightmarish, depending on their removal suite and how nicely your Drowned Secrets treat you. You’ll really notice the impact of Creeping Chill in these matchups, as it will swing races in your favor a lot of the time. Chemister’s Insight is a great way to get on the grind, but again, look for ways to burst them down from a relatively high life total.
Arena Boys will be back next week with a spicy Boros number, and a deck guide will, of course, follow from there. See you then!