Modern and Izzet Phoenix After the Ban

Javier Dominguez

Javier Dominguez

Introduction: My thoughts on the New Changes


Once again, the Modern landscape is about to drastically change thanks to the following modifications on the banned and restricted list:

Let’s go step by step.

《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Hogaak was the new kid on the block from Modern Horizons set. A 0 mana 8/8 trample on turn 2 is too good for Modern. A lot has been said about this Golgari legend, but my personal opinion is that Hogaak decks just were even stronger than older threats like the Eldrazi, so this was one of the easiest bans to predict in the history of the Modern format.

《Faithless Looting》

Faithless Looting

《Faithless Looting》 has also been banned. That was relatively unexpected but it doesn’t change the fact that the card has probably been too good for too long. In fact, it is so good that most archetypes that played the card will have to rebuild themselves. Except Dredge. We always think Dredge is dead and then eventually someone breaks it again.

Those two bans like this would clearly be enough to completely change the Modern metagame, since there were also many decks that were not played because of their Hogaak matchup.

However, that’s not all:

《Stoneforge Mystic》

Stoneforge Mystic

The new elephant in the room: 《Stoneforge Mystic》 has been unbanned.

I like this unban. Simply, I don’t think Stoneforge is that good. It is indeed one of the best creatures in our favorite game, but so are cards like 《Snapcaster Mage》, 《Tarmogoyf》. I don’t think Stoneforge good enough to be a must play, at least not without 《Umezawa’s Jitte》, which is still banned and is one of the main reasons for 《Stoneforge Mystic》 being strong in Legacy.

《Stoneforge Mystic》 is, however, good enough to see play and there’s a few thing that it does well.

White Decks with 《Aether Vial》 and/or 《Collected Company》

The first thing and the only job that it is guaranteed to do well is make midrange white decks considerably better. Decks that have been traditionally weak on the metagame like 《Aether Vial》/《Leonin Arbiter》/《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》/《Flickerwisp》 midrange disruptive decks will love having an effect like this. You can also play some 《Stoneforge Mystic》 on G/W midrange decks and you will still maintain a respectable 《Collected Company》 count hit. Basically, if it’s a white-based, relatively slow fair deck, it will be playing 《Stoneforge Mystic》.

AEther VialCollected Company

Blue Cards Especially 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》 as an Old Standard

《Stoneforge Mystic》 could also go hand in hand with its old friend 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》 like it does in Legacy.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

I am not sure if Mystic has what it takes to be a maindeck card in decks like Azorius or Jeskai Control, but at the very least provides a very good proactive package out of the sideboard that looks better to me than stuff like 《Lyra Dawnbringer》. Also, once you factor in cards like 《Snapcaster Mage》 and 《Cryptic Command》, 《Sword of Feast and Famine》 becomes a very good target to go along with 《Batterskull》.

Snapcaster MageSword of Feast and FamineCryptic Command

Equipment Combo Deck like Urza Thopter-Swords

Stoneforge could, in addition, be a tutor piece that fetches 《Cranial Plating》 or 《Sword of the Meek》 (for the Sword + 《Thopter Foundry》 combo) in addition of being a fine value card that finds 《Batterskull》. That’s how it works in Cephalid Breakfast, my Legacy petdeck!

Urza Thopter-Sword was already one of the best decks in the metagame, and if 《Stoneforge Mystic》 ends being very good there I could easily see it becoming the next deck to beat.

Urza, Lord High ArtificerThopter FoundrySword of the MeekStoneforge Mystic

As always, most of the questions around 《Stoneforge Mystic》 will be easily answered after a few weeks, but I will be surprised if the card ends being too good for a 2-mana creature.

Izzet Phoenix

Before the announcement I was planning to write about how Izzet Phoenix would advance into a post-Hogaak metagame. Things have obviously changed.

Is Izzet Phoenix dead? Probably, but it could evolve. I don’t think 《Arclight Phoenix》 is playable in this deck without 《Faithless Looting》, so in terms of adapting the archetype it almost feels as if they had banned both cards.

Phoenix has never been the most important threat of the deck – 《Thing in the Ice》 was, in my opinion, the most important creature. On the other hand, losing 《Faithless Looting》 is a hit to the deck’s consistency, and that might indeed make it unplayable.

Arclight PhoenixFaithless Looting

I’ve been advocating for already some months for 《Pyromancer Ascension》 and it’s the card I happily decided to play on the last Mythic Championship in Barcelona. If the archetype survives, it will be based on the two threats that are enchantments: 《Pyromancer Ascension》 and 《Aria of Flame》.

Pyromancer AscensionAria of Flame

I think both cards can potentially play very well with 《Noxious Revival》. An active 《Pyromancer Ascension》 with two Revivals and two 《Manamorphose》 will result into going sort of infinite. Each 《Noxious Revival》 returns the other 《Noxious Revival》 and one of the 《Manamorphose》, so we can do it again and again.

Noxious Revival

Revival can also stack up a lot of Aria counters pretty fast since it is a free spell that guarantees drawing a spell on the next draw, so I think it makes sense to try to maximize those effects.

Once we are down that road, 《Lava Dart》 seems appropriate since it lets us kill faster with 《Aria of Flame》 out. 《Lava Dart》 is the card I’m less sure about, and its playability will depend on how many X/1s are around.

Lava Dart

This is where I would start:

I think once we maxed out on red enchantments it makes sense to be creatureless to blank our opponent’s removal spells like 《Path to Exile》, since 《Thing in the Ice》 would be the only target. It is probably the best card in our sideboard, though.


《Remand》 could be really good. I’ve never been a huge fan of the effect but with 8 enchantments that play reasonably well with them I could see this counterspell having a spot in the deck. There’s a chance they are just too slow and we would rather play something like 《Burst Lightning》 and become just more aggressive with the life totals.

Izzet Charm

《Izzet Charm》 is there to protect us against combo decks and to have extra removals against cards like 《Devoted Druid》 where our plan is just to disrupt our opponent’s deck for long enough so we can kill them with 《Pyromancer Ascension》.

Fatal PushLightning BoltPath to Exile

A deck like this looks remarkably similar to a Storm deck and it is uncertain to me which one is better. Storm is faster, but having 0 targets for opposing removal could be a huge boost for a strategy like this, especially if 《Fatal Push》 becomes commonly played thanks to 《Stoneforge Mystic》.


That’s it for today. I don’t have any Modern tournaments coming soon but I’d love hear about the new Modern format and learn the new decks, since I’m sure it will be a very fun format to play.

Thanks for reading!

Javier (Twitter / Twitch)

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Javier Dominguez

Javier Dominguez He is the representative player of Spain. Grand Prix Top 8 is six times, including won the Grand Prix Paris 2014 and Grand Prix Rotterdam 2016 winning victories. At the Pro Tour level, he has brilliant achievement such as winning the 9th place in Pro Tour Battle of Zendikar and Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, and finally top8 in Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. Read more articles by Javier Dominguez