This past weekend marked the end of Season One of the SCG Tour, with the top three point-earners and the Invitational Champion all qualifying for the SCG Players Championship at the end of the year. Unfortunately for myself, I was dead for the top point earner slots, and my only hope for making the Players Championship this season involved winning the entire tournament.

Due to a poor showing in Modern, I ended up falling a couple matches short of the Top 8. But I feel like I had the best Standard deck in the tournament. At the end of the Swiss rounds, only two decks managed to achieve an undefeated record in Standard. Both were Izzet Phoenix-based strategies. One was piloted by Oliver Tomajko and the other by me.

The Deck

Here was my take on Izzet Phoenix for War of the Spark Standard at the SCG Invitational.

Brad Carpenter's Standard Izzet Phoenix

Creatures (12)
Arclight Phoenix
Augur of Bolas
Crackling Drake
God-Eternal Kefnet

Spells (23)
Chart a Course
Finale of Promise
Lava Coil
Lightning Strike
Lands (25)
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Tormenting Voice

Sideboard (15)
Beacon Bolt
Lava Coil
Legion Warboss
Narset, Parter of Veils
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Shivan Fire
Spell Pierce

Going into the weekend, I was pretty certain I would be playing Izzet Phoenix. I played it the weekend prior to the Invitational in an MCQ to a 4-2 record before dropping. I liked a lot of what was going on in the original list—it was very similar to Jean-Emmanuel Depraz list from the MPL. The main thing I learned was that I wanted two God-Eternal Kefnet in the maindeck. The card was phenomenal against Gruul, Mono-Red, and the mirror. Against the more grindy decks it’s basically unkillable, and between Opt and the other draw spells you can usually play it turn after turn.

The key changes that my pal Andrew Jessup made to this deck were cutting Goblin Electromancer, adding three Augur of Bolas, and maxing out on Finale of Promise.

Adding Augur of Bolas takes the Mono-Red matchup from even to favorable because it draws a card and either blocks or eats a burn spell. Removing Goblin Electromancer and going up to four Finale of Promise makes your deck way more consistent. In many games they kill your Goblin Electromancer without you getting any value out of it, so it ends up leaving you with a pretty clunky draw. Plus in the late game Electromancer ends up being a terrible top-deck. I’d much rather have my games involve me casting removal spells and card draw until turn four; then I can cast Finale of Promise, draw a couple cards, kill a creature or two, and bring back a few Arclight Phoenix without hoping that my Electromancer lives.

Izzet Phoenix is the best-positioned deck in the metagame right now, and likely the one I’ll be registering in the MCQ this upcoming weekend. While I’m pretty sad that I squandered an 8-0 Standard run with this deck, there is the upside that there won’t be much attention on it and other Standard decks might not have adapted as quickly as they normally would have.

Sideboard Guide

Below is a light sideboard guide for some of the matchups you might play against. I do want to stress that this is a guide and not gospel. In this current Standard format, the way you approach matchups depends  on specific cards that your opponent has in their deck—not necessarily their deck’s strategy. An example of this would be someone playing Thorn Lieutenant over Growth-Chamber Guardian in Gruul, which would make your Shocks overall pretty bad in the matchup. In that case you’d better off keeping in Augur of Bolas, whereas I’d normally cut them.


Out: -2 Tormenting Voice, -1 Finale of Promise, -1 Lava Coil

In: +3 Spell Pierce, +1 Shivan Fire

In this matchup, the most important cards are your four drops (God-Eternal Kefnet and Crackling Drake) and their four drops (Experimental Frenzy and Chandra, Fire Artisan). Ideally, you trade burn spells for their early drops and then drop a Kefnet or Drake to race a potential Frenzy. Spell Pierce ends up being great because it’s good at both protecting your four drops and countering theirs.

Esper Hero

Out: -1 Finale of Promise, -2 Tormenting Voice, -2 Shock, -3 Lava Coil, -1 God-Eternal Kefnet

In: +3 Legion Warboss, +2 Ral, Izzet Viceroy, +1 Beacon Bolt, +3 Spell Pierce

This is likely your hardest matchup, but it hasn’t felt too bad for me. You can use your burn spells and Augurs/Phoenixes to pressure Teferi and Narset, which are kind of a pain if left in play. Post-board the main way they kill you is by sticking Lyra Dawnbringer. Other than Lyra, they don’t have a lot of ways to stabilize the board and you can just grind them out.

Izzet Phoenix

Out: -4 Lightning Strike, -2 Shock, -1 Augur of Bolas

In: +2 Narset, Parter of Veils, +1 Beacon Bolt, +1 Lava Coil, +3 Spell Pierce

I haven’t played a lot of the mirror in the new format. Kefnet is obviously one of the best cards in the matchup, if not the best. Usually you have enough spot removal to stop a quick Arclight Phoenix draw from your opponent. Killing their Goblin Electromancers is high priority, since it’s pretty much the only way their deck can overpower yours.

Nissa Ramp (Mass Manipulation)

Out: -2 shock, -2 Lava Coil, -1 God-Eternal Kefnet

In: +3 Spell Pierce, +2 Negate, +1 Beacon Bolt

If they happen to be on Teferi and the White splash, I’d consider cutting a couple Finale of Promise and leaving in additional Shocks. Same concept applies to almost all of the Planeswalker strategies—don’t leave any in play if you can help it.

Sultai Dreadhorde

Out: -2 Shock, -2 Lightning Strike, -2 Tormenting Voice, -1 Finale of Promise

In: +3 Spell Pierce, +2 Negate, +1 Beacon Bolt, +1 Lava Coil

This matchup plays out like most Nissa strategies, except you have the additional task of trying to keep Wildgrowth Walker in check. Kill any Planeswalkers on sight and try not to lose to a big Hydroid Krasis or a Command the Dreadhorde for infinite value.


Out: -3 Augur of Bolas

In: +1 Lava Coil, +1 Shivan Fire, +1 Beacon Bolt

Augur doesn’t do much to stop the beatdown from Gruul, so I think you’re better off jamming a bunch of removal and killing everything they play. Nullhide Ferox is probably the scariest card from them, but a couple Arclight Phoenixes should be able to keep it at bay or team up and kill it with a double block.

Thanks for reading!

Brad Carpenter
@Bradborygmos on Twitter

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