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Arclight Phoenix & Crackling Drake – My Favorite Fall Fling

Written by Mike Keknee on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Arclight Phoenix & Crackling Drake – My Favorite Fall Fling

Mike Keknee

Mike Keknee is a Magic grinder from the Columbus area. He has managed to put together a solid resume with four StarCityGames Open top 8s, including a win, as well as a Pro Tour appearance. He is also a co-host of the At Your End Step podcast available on iTunes and MTGCast.

Another autumn has arrived, and with it rotation has come. I, like many others, waved an empathetic farewell to Kaladesh and Amonkhet. Good riddance Walking Ballista and The Scarab God. I was ready for a new standard format. I sat with my eyes pressed against the old timey toy store display window watching all of the fresh new toys roll off the Wizards of the Coast assembly line. Many cards excited me, some scared me, but one of them stuck out. That card was Crackling Drake. Sure, I liked Arclight Phoenix too, but it didn’t strike me like that dazzling x/4 did.

I watched as the rest of the Izzet League was spoiled and dejectedly shrugged my shoulders. I knew that I wanted to play my electric friend, but I wasn’t sure how the pieces fit together. I sleeved up Abzan for the SCG Columbus Open and knew that I was leaving fun on the table. As the new Standard format slowly came into focus, I grew worried, much like many others. The red deck was once again, very good. Teferi, unsurprisingly, remained good. Was there room for the Izzet Nicol Bolas (Check the Stats!)? My questions were answered when a friend shipped me this list.

Look at this beautiful deck. It begins with a healthy dose of cantrips. What player doesn’t love drawing cards? The goal of course is to begin churning through the deck to eventually overwhelm with Arclight Phoenix. This is supported by the beatdown plan with big beautiful drakes. The real spice comes in the form of Maximize Velocity. A Crackling Drake is a thing of beauty that is only slightly trumped by a Crackling Drake with haste. Maximize Velocity allows the deck finish on an unsuspecting opponent from out of nowhere.

I really must give credit to Wizards of the Coast here for subtly crafting an Izzet archetype that is more playable than almost anyone gave it credit for. Specifically, there was some criticism that Jump-start was essentially a lazy version of flashback. When these cards are combined, however, Jump-start, Arclight Phoenix, and Crackling Drake are really quite the team. Discarding an Arclight Phoenix to a Jump-start spell feels on par with Modern in power level.

This list is exciting because it can switch gameplans on the fly. It can be be the tempo deck that hits hard with both Enigma Drake and Crackling Drake, or it can go long by continuing to rebuy Arclight Phoenix over and over again. There are some other takes on Izzet spells that, sadly, forgo the drakes. Notably Scott Alter finished in 12th at the SCG Standard Classic in Dallas, Texas with this list:

Comparatively, I am less high on these kinds of lists. The lack of win conditions makes me wary that aggressive decks like mono-red will have too much time to claw back into games. That being said, the proof of concept is here. Cards like Mission Briefing really shine in a deck like this as well. I like that there seems to be multiple ways to build these kinds of decks. This one loses points for its lack of Crackling Drake though.

Arclight Phoenix and Crackling Drake aren’t just relegated to Standard though. By now you have probably heard the good word. Armed with the efficiency of Faithless Looting, Arclight Phoenix is all over the place in Modern. Take a look at this list from the SCG Modern Open in Dallas.

This looks like an absolute blast to play. Bedlam Reveler and Fiery Temper! What is this, Shadows over Innistrad Standard? This takes the same concept as the Standard deck, but adds in the powerful filtering available in Modern. This deck can be explosive, firing off draws with multiple Arclight Phoenixes. This deck is synergistic and capable of winning out of nowhere, so I am definitely a fan.

Now you may be asking, where are the Crackling Drakes? Well don’t worry, they’ve invaded Modern too.

This deck looks a bit all over the place, but it is important to remember that Crackling Drake also checks for instant and sorceries that are exiled. This is a bit of unique take on the classic Blue Moon gameplan. Crackling Drake really does seem well positioned in Modern right now. Fatal Push is seeing less and less play, and Lightning Bolt is once again the removal spell of choice. Four toughness and the guarantee of at being up a card is pretty enticing at the moment.

What is great about this strategy, regardless of format, is that it just requires you to play good spells that many decks would already want. We are pretty lucky that there is an actual cantrip in Standard when Wizards of the Coast shied away from them for so long. Between Opt and Chart a Course, the Standard Izzet spells decks can really do a pretty good impression of a Modern deck. Whether or not these decks stand strong in either format, for the long term, is yet to be seen. However, both versions of the deck can take advantage of the power of Arclight Phoenix and Crackling Drake.

I know that I am going to be following this pairing throughout the fall and winter. I hope they can make it last.

Thanks for Reading

-Mike Keknee



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