“Rise from the ashes like a phoenix.”
That’s how it’s going to feel after you cast Sunbird’s Invocation. It doesn’t affect the board immediately, it can’t block, and it can’t attack. When your opponent, with a smile on their face, swings with their team, leaving you at a low life total, they’ll wonder to themselves how you could possibly play this card. It looks like something you’d find on the bottom of a $1 per rare pile from a GP vendor or in my casual-playing friend’s Commander deck.
Boom. Approach of the Second Sun. Look at the top 7 cards of my library. Found another one—game over.
Your opponent looks stunned. Their smirk has turned into a dogged expression and they wonder to themselves, “What happened? What went wrong? How could I lose to such a terrible Magic card?”
Unless you’ve seen it already, Sunbird’s Invocation’s combo with Approach of the Second Sun is shock inducing. Instead of having to look for another one, you can find one with the trigger from Sunbird’s Invocation to win immediately.
U/W/R Pheonix Combo
With Sunbird’s Invocation, the chance to win immediately with Approach of the Second Sun goes up significantly, and it puts your opponent on a real clock. With the loss of Immolating Glare, as well as Blessed Alliance, branching out to red for Abrade and Harnessed Lightning feels natural to begin with. The mana sure gets a bit worse. The issue isn’t that you don’t have enough sources of each color, but rather than later in the game when you want to rip a land for Sunbird’s Invocation or Approach of the Second Sun, having seven more enters-the-battlefield tapped lands can hurt. But with Sunbird’s Invocation, I believe it’s worth it.
One thing about Sunbird’s Invocation that excites me isn’t only that it combos with Approach of the Second Sun—it’s that if you don’t have the combo, the card is quite powerful on its own. Say that you cast another one on top of the first—then you get to look at 6 cards to find a Fumigate! Casting a Glimmer of Genius can be insane—find a removal or counterspell in the top 4 cards and then find more gas to cast in the same turn with the actual Glimmer of Genius. My biggest concern with the early iterations of U/R Control is that they don’t have enough good ways to close the game, and Torrential Gearhulk isn’t enough. The game drags on and eventually, the other deck grinds it out. Sunbird’s Invocation, with the help of Approach of the Second Sun, should overwhelm the game with ease.
If you are looking at the sideboard, you can find some of the regulars. With Ramunap Red still tier 1, you’re giving it a lot of respect with Regal Caracal and Authority of the Consuls. Negate comes in against control, as well as Torrential Gearhulk in almost every matchup where your opponent boards out their removal. There are, however, two new and interesting cards I would like to talk about.
Search for Azcanta comes in for any grindy matchup. Effectively scrying 1 every turn is a fine card on its own. It helps you hit land drops early and finds business later. The flipped version, Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, is close to unbeatable in any grindy game. You are already happy to pay 3 mana for the same effect from Supreme Will, but Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin can do that for the same cost every turn (since the land you’re tapping is free). An easy way to win a control mirror is by playing something early that puts pressure on your opponent and forces them to break serve first, and with Search for Azcanta only costing 2 mana, you get to dodge most counterspells—it’s fantastic. The only reason why there’s only one of them in the sideboard is because it’s legendary. It also leaves space for the second interesting card in the sideboard.
Thaumatic Compass is bonkers in the Approach mirror. When I tested Approach of the Second Sun in the current Standard, the matchup was only about playing your Approach of the Second Sun first. If you do that, regardless of whether it resolves, your second one wins the game. But that means that your opponent could never tap out to do the same for fear of losing on the spot. Because of that, you could always put pressure on them by casting spells at the end of their turn, because if they respected those too much, you could untap and win with counterspell backup because your opponent was constrained on mana over your two untap steps. Thaumatic Compass is the best way to get there, because it lets you hit all of your land drops until that point. Not only does it do that, but when it transforms, it actually serves a purpose against creatures that your opponent might have boarded in to pressure you. For example, their own Torrential Gearhulk.