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Much Abrew: 68-Card Lamplight Phoenix Combo (Modern)


Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Much Abrew About Nothing! Lamplight Phoenix is a pretty forgettable rare. We have a bunch of recursive Phoenixes in Magic, and Lamplight Phoenix isn't an especially powerful one. But recently, Modern player cftsoc3 realized that this bulk rare might actually be a sneaky Modern combo piece that actually works a lot like (a slower) Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. The idea is surprisingly simple, although the math behind it is wild. All we need to do to win the game with Lamplight Phoenix is to get it on the battlefield alongside Altar of Dementia with at least four mana value of evidence to collect from our graveyard. This will allow us to sac Lamplight Phoenix to Altar of Dementia in order to mill ourselves for three and then return Lamplight Phoenix to play by collecting evidence. Because our deck's average mana value is absurdly high, we can keep doing this until we mill our entire deck, and then, once our graveyard is full of evidence, mill our opponent's entire deck to win the game, all as early as Turn 3! Is Lamplight Phoenix really Modern playable? Does the combo actually work? Let's get to the video and find out!

Much Abrew: 68-Card Lamplight Phoenix Combo

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Discussion

  • Record-wise, we ended up 2-4 with Lamplight Phoenix Combo, although honestly, we easily could have won at least one and probably two more matches with a bit more luck (or maybe better play?). While the overall record isn't great, I think the deck is a bit better than it suggests.
  • I already talked through the combo in the intro—play Altar of Dementia, play Lamplight Phoenix, use Altar to sac Phoenix to mill ourselves for three, collect evidence to return Lamplight Phoenix to play, and do this again and again until we mill our entire deck and then our opponent's entire deck to win by milling our opponent out—so there isn't much of a point to digging into it again. Instead, I want to talk for a minute about the beautiful math of the deck.
  • First, we are playing 68 cards, which is obviously more than you should play, but oddly, this is actually necessary to make our combo work. If you look closely at our deck, you'll see that our average mana value is 2.3—a super-high number that's achieved by running just 20 lands, a ton of expensive land cyclers, and expensive removal like Solitude or Leyline Binding
  • This means that every time we mill ourselves with Altar of Dementia and Lamplight Phoenix, we'll mill just under seven mana value of cards, while we only need to exile four mana value as evidence to bring Phoenix back into play to repeat the process.
  • In total, we have 155 mana value in our deck, although if we are comboing, we'll have at least five mana value (from Altar of Dementia and Lamplight Phoenix) on the battlefield to work with.
  • The fastest we can theoretically combo is on Turn 3, meaning we'll have just under 60 cards in our deck. This means we'll need to sacrifice Lamplight Phoenix to Altar of Dementia 20 times to mill our entire deck, which means we'll need to exile a total of 80 mana value from our graveyard, leaving us with 70 left over.
  • On Turn 3, our opponent's deck should have right around 50 cards, meaning we need to go through the loop 17 times to mill our opponent's entire deck, costing us 68 more evidence. This means our deck has almost exactly the right amount of total mana value for our combo to work.
  • This is also why our deck needs to play 68 cards (although I'd argue that 69 is even more correct, for meme value). If we only played 60 cards, we'd run out of mana value to exile as evidence one or two loops before milling our opponent's entire deck. 
  • The fact that someone not only figured out a way to combo with Lamplight Phoenix in Modern but also mathed out the entire mana value so precisely is incredibly impressive. While the deck itself is probably more medium than broken (the combo is disrupted by graveyard hate, which is a problem), the brewing that went into making the combo work is amazing!
  • So, should you play 68-Card Lamplight Phoenix Combo in Modern? Honestly, I'm still not sure. Our record wasn't great, but I feel like the deck was better than the record suggests. (The first loss to our opponent drawing a Counterspell after we got them empty-handed was brutal.) On the other hand, I think part of the reason the deck works is because people simply don't understand how to fight it. Once people start bringing in graveyard hate, it's going to get a lot tougher, and our backup plan isn't great (basically beating down with evoke Elementals). Basically, 68-Card Lamplight Combo is amazing as the solving of a weird math problem, but as a Magic deck, it might just be another off-the-wall, janky combo deck in Modern.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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