Today, we will look at the Red/Blue Challenger Deck, Arcane Tempo. Ahead of the 2019 Challenger Decks release, Arcane Tempo was the most valuable of the four decks due to the presence of one copy of the multi-format All-Star Arclight Phoenix. The deck also contains two of the powerful Legendary Creature, Niv-Mizzet, Parun.
Here is the Arcane Tempo Deck List:
4 Goblin Electromancer
4 Crackling Drake
2 Murmuring Mystic
1 Arclight Phoenix
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
4 Chart a Course
4 Lava Coil
1 Beacon Bolt
4 Radical Idea
2 Dive Down
1 Blink of an Eye
1 The Mirari Conjecture
3 Sulfur Falls
4 Izzet Guildgate
1 The Mirari Conjecture
1 Beacon Bolt
3 Entrancing Melody
3 Fiery Cannonade
2 Shivan Fire
2 Disdainful Stroke
This Arcane Tempo deck was inspired by the Izzet Drakes deck piloted by Pascal Vieren at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica. Of course, the winning deck played four Arclight Phoenix, but they aren’t really that hard to acquire, as purchasing four copies of this deck would not only net you the playset of Phoenix, but additional playsets of many useful cards.
How Do You Play the Arcane Tempo Challenger Deck?
The Arcane Tempo deck does what its name suggests - it allows you to stay ahead on the tempo of the game. Goblin Electromancer makes your instants and sorceries cost less, allowing you to play them more quickly. Chart a Course and Lava Coil become far more powerful at a single mana and your other two-drop and three-drop spells become far more powerful, as well.
Crackling Drake is one of the best creatures in the deck. Not only does he draw you a card when he enters, but for each instant or sorcery card in your graveyard and in exile, he becomes more powerful. Plus, Crackling Drake obviously flies. With four toughness, he’s very difficult to block or remove and can win you games on his own.
Murmuring Mystic is a fairly unassuming four-mana creature with one power, but with five toughness. Five toughness makes it extremely difficult to kill him with burn spells and what he does is powerful. Each time you cast an instant or sorcery spell, you get to put a 1/1 flying illusion creature token into play. These tokens can get out of control very quickly and play a role on both offense and defense. Plus the Mystic can block effectively on the ground, too.
Arclight Phoenix is by far the most powerful card in the deck. Not only is it one of the best creatures in Standard, but in Modern, too. It’s even seen play in Legacy! This 4-mana 3/2 with flying and haste is a nice enough creature. But the true power of the Phoenix lies in its resurrection ability. If the Phoenix is in your graveyard and you cast three or more instant or sorcery spells in a turn, you can bring the Phoenix back to the battlefield at the beginning of combat on your turn. Of course, this means you must consistently get the Phoenix into your graveyard - which is a bit tricky to do with this deck the way it’s currently constructed. As a one-of, though, it’s powerful enough in this shell.
The last creature is Niv-Mizzet, Parun. This six-mana Legendary Creature has quite the mana cost requirement (3 Blue, 3 Red) but he is powerful. First off, Niv-Mizzet, Parun can’t be countered. He’s also a 5/5 flyer with two other abilities. Whenever you draw a card, he deals one damage to any target. Then, whenever a player casts an instant or sorcery spell, you draw a card. This is powerful because this ability counts your opponent’s spells, too.
The noncreature spells are pretty straightforward. Two copies of Dive Down help protect one of your key creatures by giving them hexproof and an additional +0/+3. Four copies of Opt let you Scry 1 (look at the top card and put it on the top or bottom of the deck) and draw a card at instant speed. Four copies of Shock give you two easy burn damage at a single mana. Blink of an Eye lets you bounce a problem nonland permanent to its owner’s hand, while also giving you the optional Kicker ability to draw a card.
Chart a Course is a Standard draw staple that draws you two cards. But you have to discard a card unless you’ve attacked with a creature that turn. Discarding cards in this deck isn’t really a huge issue in this deck, however, as instant and sorcery spells in your graveyard are fuel for your Crackling Drakes. It also gives you a way to pitch your Arclight Phoenix into the yard.
Lava Coil is a burn spell that deals 4 damage to a target creature. If that creature would die, you exile it rather than put it in the graveyard. This is the key way to deal with creatures like Crackling Drake and even Arclight Phoenix. It’s a Standard staple because it deals with most problem creatures around.
Radical Idea and Beacon Bolt are interesting cards in that they have Jump-Start. Radical Idea is an instant that draws a card for two mana (1 Colorless, 1 Blue) and Beacon Bolt deals damage to a target creature equal to the number of instant and sorcery cards in your graveyard. With Jump-Start, you can discard a card and pay the cards mana cost to cast them again, but then you have to exile the Jump-Started card. Exiling these isn’t a problem for Crackling Drake, because the Drake still counts them in his power total. Plus, with Goblin Electromancer on the board, Radical Idea costs a single Blue mana, and Beacon Bolt costs only a Red and a Blue.
The final nonland card is The Mirari Conjecture, a Saga Enchantment from Dominaria. This card has seen some success in Standard. It costs 5 mana, but it does something good for three straight turns. When it first enters the battlefield, you add an instant card from your graveyard to your hand. On the second turn, you get a sorcery card instead. On the third turn, you sacrifice the Saga and until end of turn, you get to choose additional targets for each instant or sorcery spell you cast.
The sideboard gives you additional tools to combat certain matchups. Another copy The Mirari Conjecture is useful in slower control matchups. Another copy of Beacon Bolt, plus three copies of Fiery Cannonade and two copies of Shivan Fire help you deal with heavier creature matchups. Entrancing Melody is strong in stealing your opponent’s best creatures. Then, Disdainful Stroke and Negate give you additional weapons against control.
Is Arcane Tempo Close a Pro Tour Competitive Standard Deck?
As was explained by Donald Smith in the Challenger Decks 2019 reveal on the Magic flagship site, the more controlling build with Murmuring Mystic and Niv-Mizzet, Parun was chosen on purpose. Murmuring Mystic is a solid card, and having two copies of him and Niv-Mizzet actually works just fine. In fact, the only other difference with the Challenger deck and the Izzet Drakes deck is the four copies of Tormenting Voice in the Pro Tour deck.
All it would take to turn this deck into the Pro Tour contending deck is this:
- 1 Murmuring Mystic
- 2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
- 1 Goblin Electromancer
- 1 Crackling Drake
- 2 Blink of an Eye
- 3 Izzet Guildgate
- 2 Island
- 1 Mountain
+ 3 Arclight Phoenix
+ 4 Tormenting Voice
+ 4 Steam Vents
Interestingly enough, Pascal’s sideboard includes 2 Niv-Mizzet and the extra Mystic and Drake. Arclight Phoenix is easily acquired by purchasing multiple copies of Arcane Tempo and Tormenting Voice is an easily acquired common from a variety of sets. The only “difficult” card to acquire is Steam Vents - which you want to have anyway. Wizards did extremely well in making this deck easy to upgrade.
Of course, you can also go the less expensive route of working in Pteramander, Enigma Drake, and Spell Pierce, much as the Challenger Deck reveal article suggested. Pteramander is also a powerful card in Modern that you will want to have in your collection. The Enigma Drake route does work, as we’ve seen in this 1st place Star City Games Invitational Izzet Drakes deck by Andrew Jessup. Pteramander is a key card in Mono-Blue Tempo and the Modern version of Izzet Phoenix. So, you don’t even have to acquire all four Phoenix to make this deck work out well for you competitively.
How Valuable is the Arcane Tempo Challenge Deck?
What makes Arcane Tempo so valuable is that most of these cards see play in other decks and in Modern. Arclight Phoenix (of course), Crackling Drake, Goblin Electromancer, Opt, and Sulfur Falls all see Modern play. Chart a Course and Lava Coil are Standard staples - with Chart a Course popping up in Modern occasionally. As of the first week in April 2019, the cards in the deck had a retail value of nearly $100! Arclight Phoenix led the way at $25.
For reference, here’s the financial breakdown:
- 1x Arclight Phoenix = $25
- 3x Sulfur Falls = $24
- 3x Entrancing Melody = $10.50
- 2x Niv-Mizzet, Parun = $8.50
- 4x Chart a Course = $9
- 4x Lava Coil = $7.40
- 4x Crackling Drake = $3.50
The beauty of this deck is that if you bought multiple copies to get the full playset of Arclight Phoenix, you end up with a lot of trade fodder. Of course, as these decks get opened, these prices will crash considerably. Still, pieces like Arclight Phoenix and Sulfur Falls - which always see play in other formats - will recover.
At $30 a deck, $120 is a steal for a playset of Phoenix, three playsets of Sulfur Falls, and lots of other good cards. Of course, vendors are pricing the Arcane Tempo deck higher than the other three because of this deck being “worth” so much more than the other three. By July 2019, it was hard to find the deck below $35 - with some retailers kicking up the price to $45 or more.
However, because so many of these decks entered the wild, many of these cards saw substantial hits to their values. Here at the values of those same cards come mid-July 2019.
- 1x Arclight Phoenix = $20
- 3x Sulfur Falls = $9
- 3x Entrancing Melody = $1
- 2x Niv-Mizzet, Parun = $2
- 4x Chart a Course = $1
- 4x Lava Coil = $1.50
- 4x Crackling Drake = $1
That's quite the fall in prices. The funny thing is that even with those greatly depressed prices - especially with the October 2019 Standard rotation of a few of these cards looming - the deck is STILL worth $35! It's probably break-even at the $40 price point, but this is still a great value.
In any case, the Arcane Tempo Challenger Deck is a playable Standard deck that could be improved very easily and quickly. The Wizards design team did a great job putting it together. What do you think of the Challenger decks?
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