General Phoenix Tribal


“There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over, but we’ve got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did." --Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


Long time no see, RipLab! I've made maybe a dozen-ish posts since mid-2020, but I'm finally revising my Cube now that I'm letting other people enter my home again. I'm doing well! To get past the small talk and into this topic, here's what I've been up to lately: worked as a contact tracer for ~16 months, currently job searching and writing a novel. Things are good with me! I JUST THIS WEEK got a cat and therefore expect to spend a lot less time gaming and a lot more time Posting. Also I'm an Elden Lord. That was great, my first experience with the genre. Not playing any other card games at present but still enjoying Arena.


One of my greatest bugbears in the decade I've been thinking about Cube has been a general dissatisfaction with the monotony of Red's flavour. A few years ago my attempt to resolve this was dragons-matter. I still like the dragons-matter experience but am currently trying to shift my Cube's curve down a half-step and include more Legacy style gameplay, so cutting the number of Baneslayers at the higher end of the curve has been part of my 2022 revisions. Without dragons as 'Red's iconic creature', I have more space for a different red tribe that lines up more smoothly with a Legacy style curve: phoenices.
(pronounced as "penises" / "venus's" with a ph. I could write it as "phoenixes", but that's not as fun or pedantic.)


What is a phoenix? It's usually:
-a flier
-with haste
-that can be recurred from the graveyard
--> (sometimes for free if a condition is met)

These are very appealing abilities on a card. Hasty fliers mean answers to Villain's upticking planeswalker, as well as some additional reach. Recursive graveyard threats - well, those are great, obviously, but they interact so elegantly with self-mill, dredge, looting, rummaging, and just the general playing of cards over the course of a competitive game that a phoenix isn't just "a creature"; it's more than the sum of its parts; it's basically a mechanical identity for certain threats in certain kinds of gameplay AND a way for those decks to close out a game.


A monk once asked Master Joshu,
What is the secret to Cube design?

Joshu: Have you drafted?
The monk replies: Enough.
Joshu: Redesign your list.

Mumon's commentary:
It is too clear and so it is hard to see.
A dunce once searched for a fire with a lighted lantern.
Had he known what fire was,
He could have cooked his rice much sooner.

Simply act in differentiation to arrive at clarity;
Searching makes one’s intuition delayed;
The beginner understood the lamp is fire;
The listless list is a gateless gate.


Syrix got me very excited. Syrix turns any Phoenix-condition into the Phoenix-nature (puts it on the battlefield), and pays you off with a piece of removal to make up for the resources you spent on generating the phoenix-condition. Syrix also pays off in this Bolt-y way with its own rez ability, a light push for our drafters towards 'phoenix tribal' as a mechanical deck identity (red, graveyard-y, hasty recursive threats). Sure, you need the phoenix on board, and Syrix in the yard. That is, unless:
-you're sacrificing a phoenix after combat
-you have a cubeable changeling that dies
-you milled two phoenices into the yard, and can meet the other condition.
Let's say Syrix and an Arclight Phoenix. In a sense, Syrix is your 'second Arclight Phoenix'. She's also your second Managorger Phoenix, and does 3 in the air to recur your Lightning Phoenix. We can see from this that Syrix is both an enabler AND a payoff for Phoenix Tribal. Also, the ability overrides normal timing restrictions (per a Reddit thread - no Gatherer rulings online yet), so if you leave up mana, and meet the condition, you can cast Syrix on Villain's end-step, letting you start the Phoenix Chain all over again every time you meet a Phoenix Condition or draw a new bird. I think probably this is a strong thing to do in a game of Magic and worth drafting around.


There are some ~32 phoenices in magic. All but one are mono-red. Here are the ones that I'm thinking about, as well as a few 'honorary phoenices' and support pieces:


Change or die, bitch.
love you xoxo

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Ecstatic Orb
Welcome back safra :D Syrix is the wrong colors for my cube, but it does look fun. For a cube that's making a conscious push to lower its curve, I wish Syrix's last ability didn't require you to pay its full cost though.

Jason Waddell

Staff member
I run a lot of these cards as some intersection between graveyard and aristocrat mechanics, but other than Syrix I don't really see cards that contribute to 'phoenixes matter'.

In a way I suppose Syrix can swap in pretty cleanly for Falkenrath. I wonder, practically, how many card slots you would need to dedicate to this mechanic to implement it properly.
I feel like this is the kind of "archetype" where you'd be better off picking 2-3 cards and breaking singleton on each. The problem is that most Phoenixes were designed to be curve-toppers or synergy pieces for different archetypes. While you could build a deck that, for example, runs Flamewake Phoenix, Kuldotha Phoenix, and Spellpyre Phoenix... I'm not sure you could reliably draft a deck that gets them to work together.
I run a compact red recursive critter suite of:

I like this package as Ash and Ox can both trigger Ferocious on Flamewake and only require cards in the graveyard to recur.

To keep the graveyard full I run a host of red looting spells:

and run these as additional payoffs:

I’ve really enjoyed this package…it’s fun and plays well with the other colors in my cube. Red looting/recursion alongside the burgeoning artifact theme in red has pretty much solved the color for my cube.


Good write-up. My preferred solution to Red has been Kird Ape (in other words, deviating from the assumption that red-based decks need be monocolor), but this is another interesting take. I also admit some of it went over my head... only because I'm still trying to decode the rhyming section headings to figure out if I missed a pop culture reference
me irl: :mp:
Welcome back! I simply must see pictures of this cat
How could i NOT , my friends:

he is my everything