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Seldom do aggressive decks in Magic contain both redundancy and raw card advantage, yet Mono Red Phoenix contains both in spades. While somewhat reminiscent of its Izzet sister, the versatility and board control of the Izzet version is replaced by pure aggression. If success in Modern has taught us anything, it’s that having a linear, focused game plan is consistent with strong finishes, and Mono Red Phoenix does not disappoint in this regard. Recently supplanting Izzet Phoenix as the spell based deck of choice, this Hogvine killer is here to stay — thanks to a series of powerful additions.

I’ll be giving a brief overview into the card choices, as well as general sideboarding advice and minor deckbuilding additions.

Note: This deck contains many of the same cards as Gruul Scale Up, which you can check out here.

The Threats

Monastery Swiftspear | A premier one drop since its printing in Khans of Tarkir, having Haste and Prowess turns it into a 2/3 at minimum. In many cases Swiftspear is another Lava Spike, giving the deck access to more explosives turns. Four copies is necessary, as having a low curve and redundant copies is the reason to play Mono Red Phoenix over the more popular Izzet version.

Soul-Scar Mage | While the rules of Magic unfortunately prohibit running more than four copies of a card, Monastery Swiftspear is the exception. We just ask that you kindly don’t attack with it right away. Joking aside, extra prowess threats are a must for Mono Red Phoenix, and as a 1/2 Soul-Scar Mage is the next best option. Its ability to shrink opposing creatures is relevant when racing against Tarmogoyfs, and is relevant text to keep in mind.

Arclight Phoenix | While not the first threat that comes to mind when paired with Prowess threats, Arclight Phoenix has made waves in Modern alongside it’s cold-shouldered brother Thing in the Ice. With a few different ways to get Arclight Phoenix into the graveyard, Mono Red Phoenix uses it as another twist on a Prowess threat, while fully unlocking Faithless Looting’s potential.

Blistercoil Weird | An unorthodox addition to the traditional Mono Red Phoenix threat base, Blistercoil Weird is a supplemental threat that effectively has prowess. Why effectively? Well, it doesn’t trigger off casting Aria of Flame or Blood Moon — a small drawback for an otherwise 1/1 Prowess threat with pseudo-vigilance. Only a couple copies are in the main deck, as it does not have haste.

Bedlam Reveler | A defining payoff for both free spells and Faithless Looting, Bedlam Reveler has been an archetypal mainstay for years. While in a bit of a decline in the last few months, it’s time for a resurgence due to both Reckless Charge and Lava Dart. As with Blistercoil Weird, only a couple copies make the main deck, as it is clunky in multiples. Still, the ability to quickly poor through an unrelenting stream of spells makes Bedlam Reveler a powerful addition to the Mono Red suite.

The Burn

Lightning Bolt | As iconic as most spells get, Lightning Bolt is both the most efficient and the most flexible Burn spell available. Play four, and then play four copies of cards that are worse than Bolt.

Lava Spike | The first of aforementioned worse than bolt Burn Spells, Lava Spike is an additional high impact spell. While lacking the flexibility of Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike notably dodges Duress. Like Lightning Bolt, play four Lava Spikes and don’t look back.

Gut Shot | While worse than Lightning Bolt in terms of damage output, Gut Shot has one significant advantage over the Burn icon — it is free. Being free gives Gut Shot a similar damage to mana ratio as Lightning Bolt, while allowing for explosive Arclight Phoenix turns. Sometimes you can power out an early Bedlam Reveler or an instant Aria of Flame kill by casting two or more Gut Shots. With the number of Gut Shot remaining inconsistent, due to the printing of Lava Dart, the decision boils down to a preference for early game plays (Gut Shot) or explosive Turn 3/4 cards (Finale of Promise). At the moment I am leaning towards early game plays, due to the speed of the format.

Lava Dart | A controversial addition initially, game play has shown Lava Dart to largely act as a superior Gut Shot. While not free on the front side, Lava Dart replaced the often myopic Forked Bolt, while allowing for even more free spells. Still, it is not without its drawbacks. Lava Dart’s flashback requires sacrificing a Mountain,  an unusable aspect in the early turns. Ultimately, I’ve opted for a split of Gut Shot and Lava Dart, favoring early game speed over late game power, a decision that may prove to be wrong as players adapt to the Hogaak menace.

Support Spells

Faithless Looting | One of the iconic spells of Modern, Faithless Looting serves as card selection and Arclight Enabler. While rarely putting Arclight into the graveyard when compared to Izzet versions, Faithless still enables carzy prowess turns and can filter through land clumps. Play four copies as long as you’re playing Arclight, and trim some if needed.

Manamorphose | A likewise iconic spell, Manamorphose has largely supplanted Gitaxian Probe as the free spell of choice. From enabling crazy Storm turns to flipping Thing in the Ice, Manamorphose is a crucial piece of any Spells deck. In Mono Red Phoenix, it’s simply another free spell, though it does require more of an upfront cost than others. Play four at all times.

Light Up the Stage | An explosive piece of the archetype made legal earlier this year, Light Up the Stage gives access to both card advantage and redundancy. By serving to smooth out early game draws or provide crucial reach in the late game, Light Up the Stage is the perfect card for this Burn/Arclight hybrid archetype. Playing four copies of this is just a smart decision.

Reckless Charge | A new addition from Modern Horizons, Reckless Charge serves as late game staying power and early game damage. While not as effective in board stalls as Lava Spike, Reckless Charge turns many of the slower threats into immediate point swings. I’m playing one copy as a flex slot, though you can add or remove to taste. I would play more in versions cutting Arclight.

The Sideboard

Rending Volley | Largely coming to prominence following Humans’ victory at varying events throughout the year, Rending Volley is a pivotal sideboard piece. While it does little to stop Auriok Champion, it hits most threats in their deck, while doubling as an effective answer against Thing in the Ice — by far the most important threat against Izzet Phoenix. A couple copies go a long way in a format filled with Humans.

Surgical Extraction | Serving as both graveyard hate and free spell, Surgical Extraction enables Phoenix lists to keep a high density of interactive spells without losing out on enablers. While many other decks play Surgical, this is mostly due to the free nature of the spell. This aspect enables nearly any deck to slow down graveyard decks, or remove specific key cards. Both Mill and Azorius Control utilize this role of Surgical, as they are mostly focused with removing the most important cards in the opponent’s deck.

Abrade | The primary Artifact destruction spell of choice, Abrade doubles as both creature removal and artifact hoser. Unlike most anti-artifact sideboard cards, Abrade lacks any sort of 2-for-1 nature, instead opting for versatility against creatures. While often a staple of most Red sideboards, Abrade primarily goes up in power relative to the amount of Aether Vial decks. In those matchups, Abrade serves as an effective answer to the powerful artifact while giving access to redundant kill spells.

Shenanigans | Like many others before it, Shenanigans is a recent addition from Modern Horizons. By utilizing Dredge on a Red card for the first time, Shenanigans gives most decks access to a repeatable high impact sideboard card. While different than most sideboard staples due to its low initial impact, Shenanigans creatures a puzzle for all artifact decks to solve — Can you beat a removal spell every turn? In many situations, the answer is no, justifying the inclusion of just a single copy. Additionally, Shenanigans is another relevant answer to Grafdigger’s Cage, while being an easy discard to Faithless Looting.

Aria of Flame | One of the newest Modern Horizons additions, Aria of Flame is a powerful finishes that dodges conventional graveyard hate. Additionally, Aria threatens to end the game quickly when combined with Lava Dart or Light up the Stage. While often compared to the board impact that a prowess threat would bring, Aria allows Mono Red Phoenix to go bigger than nearly any opponent. Play a couple of Aria of Flame for metagames filled with removal spells. It should be noted that, unlike many grindier cards available to the archetype, Aria of Flame does leave you vulnerable to racing. Keep that in mind as you make sideboard decisions.

Blood Moon | A disruptive enchantment making waves in most formats, Blood Moon serves as an answer to both Tron and Amulet Titan. While these matchups are by no means bad, having access to powerful disruptive spells while doubling as a threat in some matchups is Mono Red Phoenix’s strength. A couple of copies make the sideboard, and while some versions opt for Alpine Moon, the ceiling is higher on Blood Moon. One of the drawbacks you make when you decide to play Mono Red is that you lack the traditional haymaker sideboard cards most Modern decks have access too. Blood Moon gives you one such card.

Ravenous Trap | With the rise of Hogaak driven Bridgevine (or Hogvine as the kids call it), the need for graveyard hate has blossomed. While worse than leyline in terms of overall impact, with both Light up the Stage and Faithless Looting, the ability to find Ravenous Trap gives it an edge. While not enough on its own, Ravenous Trap is a crucial supplement to Surgical Extraction.

Sideboard Tips & Tricks

  1. Don’t be afraid to board out Arclight | Arclight Phoenix and Faithless Looting improve the ceiling of the archetype, but can be inconsistent and are vulnerable. Boarding out Arclight Phoenix allows you to stay aggressive.
  2. Don’t overload on 3 drops | Much of the power of Mono Red Phoenix is in trading staying power for explosive early game turns. Being cognizant of your curve goes a long way.
  3. Do not board out prowess creatures | With an aggressive game plan, trimming the primary means of damage is a risky proposition. While there is merit to trimming some copies against creature heavy matchups, the amount of removal mitigates the effectiveness of blockers.