Modern: Jeskai Phoenix's Faithful return

Magic: the Gathering

Competitive

Modern: Jeskai Phoenix's Faithful return

A new addition from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt might bring Arclight Phoenix back into the competitive Modern!

By Gabriel, 09/25/21, translated by Romeu, with help from our readers

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Innistrad: Midnight Hunt has barely arrived and in no time has impacted our beloved format! In one of the first Challenges upon the new set release,on 19/09, Aspiringspike achieved a solid position in the top 8 with a reworking of the classic Phoenix. With an extra color and two new cards, the deck had a great performance, and we are going to talk about it today!

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Decklist

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Looking at the deck, we can see that it is not new that it is receiving an occasional support, both Faithless Salvaging and Demilich are recent cards that also mark their presence and support the list, but the big news here are the new two cards that came with the new Innistrad: Consider and Faithful Mending. Also, the list goes very straight to the point with its super cheap card package and freespells, to greatly optimize the use of beaters while its engine runs. An important point is that thanks to the white splash, the deck gains access to one of the best disruptions of the format, the valuable Prismatic Ending, which even though it is not the most synergistic card with the rest of the deck, is a very versatile answer to just about everything, especially sideboard permanents that usually hinders our strategy, like Rest in Peace and Sanctifier en-Vec. But I believe that analyzing the main additions in an individual way will be more beneficial to understanding what the deck has become, so let's go!

New, but not so new

As I said, some additions to the deck came in other recent releases, more precisely Modern Horizons II and Adventures in The Forgotten Realms, and they are also valid and important points for this deck's attempt to rise from the ashes.
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Starting with an engine card, Faithless Salvaging is one of the deck's attempts to cover the gap that Faithless Looting's banning caused. Even though the card costs twice as much and doesn't do half of what looting did, the rebound is extremely useful to keep the deck fluid, since the spell is "recast" on the next turn, which helps a lot to reach the number of spells necessary to take advantage of our friendly creatures. Speaking of creatures, now our phoenixes have company in both the graveyard and the field. Demilich is one of the new beaters on the deck and is here to stay. It can even be cast for free, either from the graveyard or from the hand. It would already be a great card at this point. To top it off, he even brings more gas and resources to the deck by casting spells from the graveyard when attacking, which is great for more proactive decks like this one.

The brand-new cards

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This time starting with the more โ€œsimpleโ€ addition, Consider is a cantrip that completely impacted Modern and has been mentioned since it was spoiled (it was even one of the first spoilers). Being an improved Opt for anyone using the graveyard anyway (which is almost every Modern deck that runs blue), the card was an easy slot in several decks such as Izzet Tempo, which takes advantage of the graveyard for Murktide Regent and Dragon's Rage Channeler. Here it's also an easy choice, as we often want to throw our Phoenixes into the graveyard to reanimate them in combat, or even play another spell that we don't want at the moment, but will serve as food for our Demilichs. And finally, let's talk about the real replacement for Faithless Looting, here we have Faithful Mending! Yes, it also costs double the original spell and yes, two life isn't exactly the effect we wanted for an extra mana, but it's still the closest we get to Modern, and we'll have to work with that, similar to what we do with Serum Visions because we don't have access to Preordain. Faithful Mending is still a powerful card looting effect and works very well here, both as an enabler, discarding the cards we want in the graveyard, and as a recursion, for its flashback effect (which is the same flashback cost than its older sister). It is also worth noting that Phoenix was not the only deck that this card impacted, we have the Esper Reanimator as an example, an archetype that was made possible with Modern Horizons II.

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And so, we have the support that redesigned the deck and made it, at least initially, viable for the metagame.

Is it enough?

But it's important to remember that we are at the beginning of a new season and that the deck is trying to be reborn now. A lot of adaptation and refinement is coming and only time will tell if the deck will remain solid in format, but we can already imagine what is present in the metagame today and could be obstacles for our phoenixes to return from the graveyard.
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Yes, the first thing that comes to everyone's mind is "graveyard hate". Modern is a format that increasingly uses graveyard and, on the other hand, has more and more pieces that deal well with them. If the old Phoenix had to deal with Rest in Peace, today it has to deal with Sanctifier en-Vec, which besides having protection from red removals, is a creature that generates a clock and can't even be blocked by the red birds. Also, there are several lighter sideboard pieces, but they are also problematic, like Soul-Guide Lantern (which can still have a huge recursion with Lurrus of the Dream-Den). Preventing multiple spells from resolving can also be problematic for our deck, and as we can see from Spike's list, it's a deck with a low curve and well focused on turn 1, which makes the deck a perfect target for Chalice of the Void, which when played, renders most of our instants or sorceries useless, which will make it much harder to keep up the gas to revive our beaters.
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But, I didn't come here to be a pessimist! And if, on the one hand, UR Phoenix previously dealt with these cards by being ultra-fast (a lot due to looting), on the other hand, our Jeskai Phoenix compensates with versatility, being here one of the advantages of using white, which gives us access to answers against permanents that the deck had difficulty with before. This versatility, combined with greater redundancy thanks to Demilich, can make the deck a new alternative for the contemporary Modern.

Card Alternatives

Even more so because it's a relatively new list, a lot can change here, so based on other lists that also did results in this week's leagues, in addition to the deck's history, I brought up some cards that could be beneficial to the archetype.
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Two cards that do the same job, but in a slightly different way, Thing in The Ice and Smoldering Egg are options for players who want to ease the need and use of graveyards. The classic TiTI (I love this nickname for the Thing) is easier to flip in this deck, as the deck is more efficient at playing many low-cost spells, but otherwise the dragon doesn't interfere with your board when it flips, has evasion and has strong ability. I still prefer Thing in the Ice, but I admit the dragon might be worth a try.

Conclusion

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt brought cards that are impacting different formats, and Modern couldn't be different. With these new weapons in its arsenal, the deck that is loved by many might even regain its rightful place in the current metagame. See you next time!
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Gabriel

Escritor para a Cards Realm, Streamer e Jogador de MTG Online.

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