Article by BDC
A few months back, I began to collect all sorts of Phoenix cards in MTG. It was sort of an obsession for me, but, in the back of my mind, it was always going to become a deck of some sorts. And, although I had plenty of extras to work up a casual standard-like deck, I decided to begin with Commander.
Building this deck EDH was, at first look, daunting, to say the least. The Phoenix type card has a rather unique way about it and every one does what it does in a different way. So, the best thing I found to accentuate the phoenix as the main creature, was to build it with instants and sorcerys that do what red does best: Burn.
But, let’s start with the commander.
This was a hard choice and it took me a while to find even a handful that seemed proper. The first two obvious ones came from Theros Beyond Death. The demigod, Anax Hardened in the Forge, and the god himself, Purphoros Bronze Blooded jumped out automatically. Besides ramping to red, the only other thing Anax would do for you is drop some fodder tokens to attack with. He’s fine in the deck, but not as commander. Purphoros became the obvious choice for his invulnerability and his making all of your creatures come to the battlefield with haste. But to top all of that off, you can pay two and a mountain and play a creature from your hand straight to the battle field WITH haste; ready for battle. The downside is that you have to sacrifice that creature at your endstep. But seeing that we’re talking creatures that all have mechanics specifically to bring them from the graveyard to your hand, this isn’t as devastating.
Can’t keep a good Phoenix down
I haven’t checked to see if I have all of the phoenix’ MTG has printed (I kinda doubt it), but all but one of the Phoenix’ I have have some kind of mechanism to bring it from the graveyard. So, if I were hard pressed to remove a phoenix from the deck, it would be the screeching phoenix. This is because, although it can ramp the other creatures you control, it has no text on the card that allows it to be brought back. Of course, the Everquill Phoenix’ feather token can bring it back just like any other phoenix type creature.
Speaking of the Everquill, it leads the charge of Phoenix creatures that can be brought from the graveyard straight to the battlefield. This and the fact that its feather token specifically brings back ANY phoenix card from the graveyard to the battlefield. SO, if there’s a phoenix that would be better to bring straight out, you have an easy way to do that. The main problem is that you only get that once. To be sure, the Everquill Phoenix is much better in a standard, pioneer or any deck that you can play 4 of them in and, at it’s best, among other mutate cards.
The best phoenix for commander is the Skyfire Phoenix. It has built in haste and flying (as all phoenix’ do) and, if it does hit the graveyard, simply bringing out your commander will allow you to play it directly to the battlefield.
The other four phoenix’ I have that have a way to go from the graveyard straight to the battlefield is Flamewake Phoenix, Akum Firebird, Warcry Phoenux and Molten Firebird. Each comes with it’s own conditions and always comes with a price. THe Firewake needs a creature on your battlefield with power 4 or greater (not terribly hard with so many phoenix’ in your deck)The Akoum Firebird has to attack each turn and depends on landfall. The warcry phoenix relies on you attacking with three or more creatures and, even then, there’s a mana payment. The most costly of the four is Molten FIrebird. The good news is, that every time it goes to the graveyard from play, it automatically returns to the battlefield. It also basically takes away your next draw phase. Not a bad price.
The other phoenix’ I have all have a price to go from the graveyard to your hand. This could get pricey though. But, if you can keep Purphoros out, you can always play it from your hand for two and a mountain. Of course, this is a hit and run tactic that could get costly also. The best one is the Immortal Phoenix that lives up to its name. Simply, every time it dies, it returns automatically to your hand. Simple. The others, not so simple. The Flame-Wreathed Phoenix is a close second for when you play it, your opponent must pay tribute (TRIBUTE 2) or it also enters the battlefield with ‘When this creature dies, return it to its owner’s hand”. The Skarrgan Firebird and CHandra’ Phoenix both can be returned to your hand, but only after your opponent was dealt damage and the Firebird also costs. That’s why I decided to go burn with my instants and sorcerys,, thus guaranteeing damage to your opponent.
The support team
I also dropped a handful of support creatues that just so happen to not be phoenix’. I already mentioned Anax who ramps to red devotion. But another obvious choice for a burn type deck is Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. He is one of the cards in this deck that adds damage to every damage done. Not a phoenix, but I bet it’s daddy was: Lightning Shrieker is another hit and run type card that goes back to the libraary at every endstep after being played. Sorchwalker and Pyrewild Shaman both have Bloodrush. This mechanic makes them automatic power/toughness rampers. The Shaman also has a way to get back to your hand from the graveyard.
Planeswalkers bring the fire!
There are also some obvious choices for planeswalkers in this not-so-simple BURN deck. Jaya, Venerated Firemage, is the second card that adds damage to every damage done in this deck. The rest are (Surprise!) Chandra planeswalker cards. Chandra Nalaar, Chandra Ablaze and Chandra, Fire Artisan all give you opportunities to, not only deal more damage, but also gives you recourses with card draw and playing the top card of your library.Probably the best ability of the set is Chadra Ablaze’s -7 that allows you to play ‘any number of red instant and/or sorcery cards from your graveyard without paying their mana costs’. This is a great game ender.
Burn, Baby, Burn!
The rest of the cards are, of course, lands and a virtual who’s who of MTG cards with the word ‘DAMAGE’ in the text. This allows you to clear all opponent’s battlefield all the while dropping firebombs on the player.
But that’s the idea, right. Keeping your opponent busy while you build mana to light up those phoenix’ where the cheapest one is a three drop. You will want to build a strong mana base and, I believe I can do better here, but I decided to go simple with it and have plenty of mountains at my disposal. This is super important because you will want access to a lot of mana to, not only, play those phoenix cards, but to continually bring them out of the graveyard.
My last game with this deck made me a threat real quick. Of course, my opponents banded together to eradicate my deck, so, maybe, I should look into shoring it up a bit with some defense. Either that or find ways to make it faster. That’s the key, I think. I don’t have to tell you that RED is FAST. IT burns! A true BURN deck SHOULD put your opponents on alert and send them scrambling for answers.
Let’s hear from you!
Some of you have playing Magic the Gathering a WHOLE lot longer than I have. Check this deck out. We welcome your input in the comments or in any of our social media outlets that have links on the homepage. I look forward to hearing from you on how to make this deck faster and meaner!