Bird Science 2

Bird Science

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For the past week, my life has been consumed with trying to figure out the best way to kill people with Arclight Phoenix in matches of Standard. I have yet to find the ideal way to do this - so much so that I am not even sure if the bird is the word anymore.

A quick aside to keep with the times: I have moved all my Standard testing to Arena, and I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to play online to prepare for paper tournaments. You may not be able to use Arena to qualify for the pro tour directly, but it truly is the luxury testing process by comparison.


All of this work started where Yuuya Watanabe left off:  
4 Arclight Phoenix

4 Chart a Course

3 Crackling Drake

4 Discovery/Dispersal

4 Enigma Drake

4 Goblin Electromancer

7 Island

1 Izzet Guildgate

3 Lava Coil

1 Maximize Velocity

5 Mountain

4 Opt

4 Radical Idea

4 Shock

4 Steam Vents

4 Sulfur Falls



1 Beacon Bolt

2 Disdainful Stroke

3 Entrancing Melody

3 Firemind's Research

1 Murmuring Mystic

2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

2 Ral, Izzet Viceroy

1 Spell Pierce

After talking to some friends, and playing about a dozen matches with the deck, I had identified a few things I wanted to change:
-Mixing two copies of Tormenting Voice into the suite of draw spells made for a much easier time when trying to cast three spells in a turn.
-Maximize Velocity is this deck's Settle the Wreckage: a powerful card that has lost its luster as adversaries have become used to playing and building with it in mind. Dive Down stops all those adaptations cold.
-15 creatures is the absolute high end of what I want to play in a deck like this. Hands with two creatures are often bad, and more than that is almost always a mulligan.

But how to solve these problems? I spent several Arena events trying different iterations of the deck, which all led to one key realization: Every piece of these decks must fit together and be part of the overall plan.



Maindeck Niv-Mizzet is appealing, but what do you do once you untap with it? This becomes even more important in postboard games as you start to bring in more reactive cards. One of the reasons I have preferred Search for Azcanta over Firemind’s Research in most of my decks is simply because Search provides spells while Research requires them. What do you do when you cast two cantrips and then you are looking at a hand of lands, creatures, and enchantments? I find myself wanting to board out Enigma Drake in some games for this reason, but at that point what does the deck you are presenting actually do?

While we are on the subject, is Phoenix the problem? After all, most of the heavy lifting gets done by it that crackles, right?


4 Opt

4 Shock

4 Warlord's Fury

4 Crash Through

3 Dive Down

1 Search for Azcanta

4 Chart a Course

3 Lava Coil

1 Beacon Bolt



4 Enigma Drake

4 Crackling Drake

3 Niv-Mizzet, Parun



4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
1 Izzet Guildgate

6 Island
6 Mountain

Sideboard

2 Murmuring Mystic

3 Fiery Cannonade

2 Disdainful Stroke

2 Negate

1 Beacon Bolt

1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy

2 Deep Freeze

2 Entrancing Melody

This draft was based on a deck I saw local PPTQ virtuoso Paul Blake playing, with the objective being to clean up on Jeskai Control and opposing Drakes decks. It gives up a lot of ground against Golgari to do this - perhaps more than I am comfortable with - but it was (and could be again) an excellent metagame call for the weekend. 11 creatures total with one enchantment and 21 lands means 27 spells, which more than makes up for so many of them being Warlord’s Fury and Crash Through. Dive Down reads “win the game” almost every time in this list because the creatures are all just that powerful. I liked most of what was going on here, but I still longed to find some middle ground.


2 Goblin Electromancer

4 Enigma Drake

2 Arclight Phoenix

4 Crackling Drake

1 Niv-Mizzet, Parun



3 Dive Down

4 Opt

4 Shock

4 Warlord's Fury

4 Chart a Course

3 Lava Coil

2 Tormenting Voice

2 Discovery//Dispersal

1 Beacon Bolt



4 Steam Vents

4 Sulfur Falls

6 Island
6 Plains



Sideboard

2 Disdainful Stroke

2 Negate

2 Deep Freeze

1 Search For Azcanta

3 Fiery Cannonade

1 Murmuring Mystic

2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

2 Entrancing Melody


This is where I have arrived for the moment, though it certainly isn’t the end of the conversation. The number of draw spells in this deck lets it do an impressive job of finding the singleton Niv-Mizzet when needed, and the pair of Phoenixes help the deck recover against Vivien Reid without clogging the deck with creatures. It is possible that this approach is spreading itself too thin to try and beat everything, but I have always been partial to that approach in decks with so much card selection.


A few quick notes that apply to all of these decks:


-Use your mana! Even with Phoenix in your deck, it is almost always right to fire off a draw spell if you have the spare lands for it.
-Cast Arclight Phoenix! Block with Arclight Phoenix! I see players all the time that are so concerned about getting value with their Arclight Phoenixes that they will hold them in their hand, turn after turn instead of just casting Phoenix and attacking. These decks require you to be flexible and often to use your cards in ways that aren’t normal or obvious, and Phoenix does an excellent job of picking off creatures in the declare blockers step.

-If you haven’t had the pleasure of having Niv-Mizzet, Parun in play, remember that the draw trigger and the damage trigger are separate, which means you get to see your new card before choosing a target for the damage.
-When both players control Niv-Mizzet, keep in mind that the player whose turn it is puts their triggers on the stack first - meaning they resolve last. Keep this in mind as it is likely advantageous to act on your opponent’s turn if possible.



Harrison SmithComment