This weekend will feature two Standard Grand Prix, and they will be the first big events of this Standard format. I still hate that the Pro Tour will occur two weeks after those GPs (as did PT Dominaria), since it makes the Pro Tour way less exciting as it happens weeks and weeks after release. The Magic Online metagame plays a huge role, between two online PTQs and countless Leagues.
B/G Midrange and Jeskai Control are the two most popular decks, and Mono-Red and G/W Tokens are also highly played. Those four decks are widely known at this point.
Lately though, while playing Magic Online Leagues, I encountered a deck based on Arclight Phoenix. I tried it once last week, and dismissed it as a combo deck that relied too much on drawing the namesake card.
But as I played more Leagues, I started to realize that the deck was very real, and very strong when left unchecked.
U/R Arclight Phoenix
Bob125281, 5-0 in an MTGO Competitive League
You may find some variations of this list include Enigma Drake, Search for Azcanta, Pirate’s Pillage, or Tormenting Voice, but this is usually the stock version. The deck is all about putting Arclight Phoenix in the graveyard through Chart a Course and the jump-start mechanic to then play three spells in one turn and start attacking as early as turn 4. That is not unreasonable at all if your turn-2 Goblin Electromancer survives.
This deck is similar to U/R Storm in Modern. You can’t let them untap with Goblin Electromancer, or they’ll gain so much tempo advantage that you can’t come back. Cards like Vraska, Golgari Queen or Dead Weight might seem like bad cards against them, but Goblin Electromancer is such a threat that you need to keep respecting it.
I was battling through MTGO Leagues with B/G Midrange and I found myself in huge trouble against this deck. I didn’t know how to fight it.
Autumnlily, Top 8 in an Online PTQ
Do I need to gain a lot of life to outrace the Phoenixes and board in Wildgrowth Walker? Do I need to board in Duress to fight their cantrips or counters? Do I need to keep in expensive planeswalkers to kill their Crackling Drakes and maybe Niv-Mizzet, Parun?
I had many questions, and after some matches, I discovered that Wildgrowth Walker and Duress are good, whereas Vivien Reid and Vraska, Relic Seeker can be cut—you just can’t protect them from the Phoenixes and killing a Crackling Drake isn’t enough.
But the card that really shines in this matchup is Deathgorge Scavenger. While it is often a one-shot “exile target card” because it dies so easily to Shock, the fact that you can bring it back with Find // Finality, Memorial to Folly, and Golgari Findbroker means that you can repeatedly snipe their Arclight Phoenix or jump-start spells to slow them down.
On the other hand, U/R Phoenix should play accordingly and not discard their Phoenix on early turns, but discard it the same turn they’re about to reanimate it.
Against control decks, U/R Phoenix shines even more! I was testing Jeskai Control in a bunch of Leagues and I couldn’t win a single game against U/R Phoenix.
TheRefrigerator, Top 8 in a PTQ Online
I had zero ways to exile an Arclight Phoenix once it touched the battlefield. I could only hope that my Syncopate and Sinister Sabotage were enough to stop my opponent from “going-off.” They of course weren’t, and I always died easily to their Arclight Phoenix.
I tried to build a white-oriented version of the deck with Settle the Wreckage and Seal Away, but those cards were awful against B/G Midrange—especially the enchantments—and I had to drop Jeskai Control, since it just wasn’t able to beat the deck.
My next step is to try U/R Phoenix, but if you aren’t ready to, make sure to increase the number of Deathgorge Scavenger and Vraska’s Contempt in your B/G Midrange lists, and make sure to play some games against the deck. It’s tricky to play against, as you often find yourself in a race with ground creatures versus flyers that is very hard to win.