A Pioneer in Pioneer: Izzet Phoenix

For my entire Magic career, I have been a Standard player. All I have ever known and loved has revolved around a constantly rotating format where Wizards bullies me out of my lunch money every couple of months for cards that become unplayable every couple of years. My excuse for never getting into Modern or Legacy was the price of entry. I have been playing magic for almost twenty years, but I have had large breaks in which I never bought cards. I almost dipped my toe into Modern when Izzet phoenix was playable. Having acquired all the cards except for Scalding Tarn and then they banned one of the engines of the deck Faithless Looting. After this I gave up on the older formats, they may not rotate, but cards can be banned making decks not competitive.

This changed when Wizards introduced pioneer. Pioneer is Magic’s newest nonrotating format that spans from Return to Ravnica forward. It sparked my interest because I had been playing consistently for over 2 years and that is about roughly half of the card pool. This means my cost to entry would be relatively low. I also wanted to wait out the weekly ban storm Wizards was unleashing before I bought too heavily in good cards I did not have yet.

To be honest I probably would have not dipped my toes into this new water if it were not for two things, the other members of the LandSayGo team getting pumped about the format and a pioneer tournament on New Year’s Day from one of our favorite local game stores, Spanky’s in Kansas City. So, I joined the other members of the LandSayGo team on December 11, 2019 at Spanky’s to test for the aforementioned tournament. Below is the deck that I took.

Izzet Phoenix

One of my favorite Standard decks to play in the past year has been Izzet Phoenix. It is a very decision-based deck where you are drawing a ton of cards and playing creatures for free. I also had most of the deck already since my kind of foray into Modern. Phoenix has been getting good results in MTGO leagues but there were many different versions of the deck doing different things so I could not find a list I was in love with. This is not an issue I love brewing and refining decks, but I was hoping for something a little more concrete since I was playing a format I had never played before. The most controversial card I have in the deck in my opinion is a card I wanted to try for myself, Bedlam Reveler. I had seen this spot filled with Glorybringer, but it seemed a little too slow for me. We are seldom going to get to 5 mana and if we are, we need to be cycling and bringing back Phoenix not playing a 4/4 with haste. I decided to go with the reveler because I though it synergized quite well with the Crash Through and it is most likely being played for 2 red mana. It is a little bit of a nonbo with Treasure Cruise but I thought that would not be an issue since our graveyard fills up so quickly. I admit that the sideboard is all over the place, but I did not really know what to expect. I borrowed from other sideboards I had seen except for Young Pyromancer and Sweltering Suns. I felt that Young Pyromancer helps us against graveyard hate, control and aggro matchups. I liked Sweltering Suns over something like Anger of the Gods because if we need to cast it while our Phoenix is out, we can bring it back and it also cycles for a card if we draw it and don’t need it. Enough with the deck lets get to the matches.

Round 1 Blue Black Control

I was surprised right out of the gate when my opponent drew 8 cards. They counted them ou

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 and then I paused. “Aren’t you just supposed to draw 7,” I asked. He laughed and apologized for the mistake. I do not think he was trying to cheat just an honest and funny mistake. He does the typical control thing, countering and killing my threats. The only threat I see on their side game one is The Scarab God and I am able to kill it with Lightning Axe before it can do any real damage. My creatures are very resilient to removal, so I was able to take the series 2-1 and I am off to a good start. My sideboard plan was to bring in my counters and Young Pyromancer and both saved me in game 3.

Round 2 Izzet Ensoul

I heard about the Izzet Ensoul deck but had never really seen it in action. Let me tell you it can get off to a blazing start. My opponent goes Hope of Ghirapur into Ensoul Artifact and I am taking 5 damage on turn 2. They follow it up with a couple Ghostfire Blade and the game is over almost as fast as it started. I take game 2 by being able to control their creatures with removal and Thing in the Ice. Game 3 I make a pretty big mistake by not playing my Crash Through precombat and forcing bad blocks. My though was they might not block everything and then I could storm off during my postcombat phase and find the burn necessary to win. This did not happen. I lose and brings my record to 1-1.

Round 3 Bant Bogles

Yes, you see that correctly Bant Bogles in 2019 and in Pioneer. What deviant could play such a deck? Do you even have to ask? Yes, our very own Dboe brought this monstrosity to a tournament where you must pay an entire $5 to enter. Well spoiler alert folks he wiped the floor with me. Game 1 was not much of a match, if I don’t draw Thing in the Ice I can’t win. I did not draw it, so I lost. Game 2 I get Thing in the Ice, so I win. Game 3 bucks the trend I get 2 Thing in the Ice and I make a mistake so horrendous that I consider uninstalling the Magic client in real life. I play both Things and then they get Declaration in Stone. This show how big of a noob I am in this format. I knew that card was in his deck, I suggested it, I guess that is the irony in it all. I did not know however that it exiled all cards with the same name, trust me I will not forget again. I fall to 1-2

Round 4 Mono Black Aggro

This round I played a youngster who was more interested in watching his dad play next to him than the match we were playing. It was extremely cute, and he was very knowledgeable about what the cards did and their interactions, so it did not bother me at. I did not learn much form that match however and quickly took the round 2-0 bringing my overall record to 2-2.

Not my best showing at a tournament but not too bad either considering I had never played the format before. I believe my list needs a lot of tweaking especially in the sideboard. I believe I need to go a little heavier into the counters and move some of the damage into the main deck itself or just cut completely. I am also not sold on The Royal Scions or Bedlam Reveler. I do not believe the Scions belong in the main board and Reveler is better served as a Crackling Drake or maybe the Young Pyromancer. Even though I did not play my best I learned and that is one of the big reasons I play Magic. I plan on going back again this week and tuning the deck some. Hopefully I keep learning so that way I have my best chance for the tournament on New Year’s. If you have any suggestions for me about my deck or Pioneer in general make sure to tell me in the comments below.

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