Welcome to Into the Arena, a new series of articles where I, Dawson Reynolds, will be diving into various aspects of Magic. I will be focusing on Standard, Historic, and Limited, and aiming to explore competitive play and Magic: The Gathering Arena. When I’m not writing articles you can find me on twitter @dreynolds2727, or on my new Twitch stream. Now, without further ado, let’s get Into the Arena!

With Magic: The Gathering Arena, online tournaments such as the SCG Tour, and maybe (hopefully!) some in-store play, this summer is going to be chock-full of Magic. The hottest formats these days are Standard and Historic, so below I’ll be diving into two decks from each format that I recommend for whenever and wherever you end up playing. I’ve been playing and testing these decks on the ranked ladder in Arena, and each has done very well for me. I’ve chosen them based on how powerful they are and how well they fit into the current metagame. We’ll start with two of my favourite Historic decks in this article, and stay tuned for my picks in Standard next!


Izzet Phoenix 

by Dawson Reynolds

MTG Arena decklist
Deck 4 Riverglide Pathway 4 Sulfur Falls 4 Faithless Looting 2 Island 4 Opt 3 Pillar of Flame 4 Expressive Iteration 1 Fabled Passage 1 Fabled Passage 2 Crackling Drake 4 Sprite Dragon 1 Mystical Dispute 4 Brainstorm 3 Stormwing Entity 4 Arclight Phoenix 4 Steam Vents 2 Magma Spray 2 Lightning Axe 1 Finale of Promise 1 Glorybringer 2 Frostboil Snarl 3 Mountain Sideboard 1 Scorching Dragonfire 2 Soul-Guide Lantern 2 Negate 2 Aether Gust 2 Fry 1 Anger of the Gods 1 Brazen Borrower 2 Mystical Dispute 1 Beacon Bolt 1 Prismari Command

The deck currently sitting atop the Historic metagame is Izzet Phoenix, an aggressive deck using cheap spells to power out creatures that include the namesake Arclight Phoenix. This deck was a big deal in Modern before the banning of Faithless Looting, and when Looting was added to Historic people immediately started building Phoenix decks. The deck has taken a while to earn the respect of players who initially found it less powerful and consistent without access to Modern cards such as Manamorphose and Gut Shot. Historic players have tried various versions of the deck, using a variety of threats alongside Arclight Phoenix. Temur builds with Dragonsguard Elite and Abundant Harvest have seen play, as have Mono-Red and Grixis versions. However, it appears that the current consensus is that fine-tuned, classic Izzet Phoenix decks are the way to go. They have certainly gained the respect of pro players, as over 30 percent of competitors brought Izzet Phoenix to this past weekend’s Strixhaven Championship.

Since Strixhaven and the rise of Izzet Phoenix decks, players have been debating whether to play Sprite Dragon, Stormwing Entity, or Crackling Drake alongside Arclight Phoenix. It seems that the common solution is to play a combination of all three. My preferred version of the deck plays four Sprite Dragons and a smaller proportion of Stormwings and Drakes. This offers the highest degree of speed and explosiveness, and allows the Phoenixes themselves to be the focus of longer games, where an initial Sprite Dragon or two may have been on the receiving end of an opponent’s removal.

Izzet Phoenix is a powerful deck with many ways to build it, and it takes advantage of a number of cards competitive players love: Brainstorm, Faithless Looting, and Arclight Phoenix. Moving forward, it is sure to be a contender all summer.


Abzan Humans

by Dawson Reynolds

MTG Arena decklist
Deck 3 General Kudro of Drannith 2 Rally the Ranks 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 4 Luminarch Aspirant 4 Collected Company 1 Woodland Cemetery 4 Skyclave Apparition 4 Elite Spellbinder 3 Silverquill Silencer 4 Kitesail Freebooter 4 Dauntless Bodyguard 3 Thraben Inspector 4 Unclaimed Territory 1 Temple Garden 4 Branchloft Pathway 2 Indatha Triome 3 Isolated Chapel 4 Godless Shrine 4 Darkbore Pathway Sideboard 2 Gideon Blackblade 1 Mangara, the Diplomat 3 Crippling Fear 1 Fatal Push 2 Mythos of Nethroi 3 Thoughtseize 1 Fatal Push 2 Rest in Peace

With the recent Historic metagame very focused on Brainstorm and Steam Vents, creature decks aren’t having their fair share of the spotlight. Jund Food has been putting up decent results, but Collected Company decks such as Selesnya Company have been falling in popularity. I recently started experimenting with Humans to see if the disruptive tribe has the tools to work in Historic. I started by playing an Esper list that mimicked Modern Humans by playing Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Meddling Mage, and Kitesail Freebooter. The deck felt alright but often ran out of gas after the first few turns. As well, the blue cards Meddling Mage and Deputy of Detention underperformed. This led me in the direction of playing green for Collected Company, and I have not looked back. 

The main payoff for playing a Human-focused deck is General Kudro of Drannith. The three-mana lord pumps up your whole team, while also providing incidental graveyard hate and the ability to destroy large creatures, which are both powerful effects in this metagame. The other payoff for playing Humans, rather than a random collection of powerful creatures, is Rally the Ranks. The two-drop enchantment is difficult to interact with and can have a very strong effect over the course of the game. The creatures that benefit most from these lord effects are the one-drops and Kitesail Freebooters, which become much more relevant bodies when pumped up. Thraben Inspector and Dauntless Bodyguard are not extremely powerful, but they are the best we have access to in Historic at the moment, and fill a necessary role.

As long as spell-based decks such as Phoenix, Jeskai Control, and Velomachus Combo are at the top of the metagame, I believe Humans has the ability to do well in Historic.



Historic is in a good place right now, with plenty of viable strategies and good gameplay as well. I’m excited for Magic this summer, especially with in-person play on the horizon. If there are any decks you’re excited to try out, let me know! Next article, I’ll be running down two Standard decks that will be great for playing this summer on Arena or in person.


Find me on twitter: @dreynolds2727

Check out the stream: twitch.tv/dawsonreynolds

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