So, for a card that’s seen little Standard play outside of an occasional Red/Green Energy deck, what’s so special about Wildfire Eternal? First of all, Wildfire Eternal has a very interesting conglomeration of creature types: Zombie Jackal Cleric. There aren’t a lot of Red Zombies running around, so he has that going for him. Second of all, he has the Afflict mechanic. This allows him to pair well with a Legendary Creature from Hour of Devastation, Neheb, the Eternal.
Wildfire Eternal's Afflict 4 means that if he is blocked, that defending player loses 4 life. That’s pretty powerful. The fact that Wildfire Eternal only has 1 power isn’t really that big of a deal, since he has 4 power. He also has a very powerful second effect.
While it’s hardly a unique ability, being able to cast an instant or sorcery card for free from your hand is very powerful. This can happen whenever Wildfire Eternal attacks and isn’t blocked. There are plenty of good cards that you can threaten using this ability. It makes an opponent have to decide between losing 4 life and potentially having you cast a powerful card. All this for 4 mana is not a bad deal at all.
This is a far more powerful creature than the last one that had a similar ability, Oracle of Bones. That Minotaur had this ability when it entered the battlefield if its Tribute wasn’t paid. What’s a Tribute, you ask? In this case, it meant that the Tribute ability didn’t activate if an opponent decided to let the Oracle gain two +1/+1 counters.
The Oracle was a fragile 3/1 without the Tribute, so making it into a 5/3 was a fair trade-off most of the time. While the Oracle of Bones did see some play in Standard, it didn’t really make many waves as it was a vanilla 5/3 most of the time - although it did have haste.
While Wildfire Eternal doesn’t have haste, you can potentially get a lot of value from his attacks. But his lack of being able to immediately attack is probably why he saw little Standard play. This by no means makes him a bad card overall.
Was There a Deck in Standard for Wildfire Eternal?
There was a deck for Wildfire Eternal in Standard, however. It’s a variation on some of the Approach of the Second Sun combo decks which enjoyed some success. Here’s one variation of it on Deckstats called Second Eternal Sun:
3 Aether Hub
1 Blighted Cataract
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Approach of the Second Sun
2 Essence Scatter
3 Glimmer of Genius
2 Harnessed Lightning
3 Hieroglyphic Illumination
2 Reason // Believe
3 Saheeli Rai
4 Slip Through Space
4 Wildfire Eternal
2 Commit // Memory
1 Essence Scatter
3 Fevered Visions
2 Hour of Devastation
2 Sphinx of the Final Word
2 Sweltering Suns
3 The Locust God
This is a pretty cool deck that Wildfire Eternal plays a big role in. Approach of the Second Sun is a pretty cool win condition if you can happen to cast two copies in the same turn. Wildfire Eternal allows you to potentially cast at least one copy for free. Slip Through Space, in particular, is a cute way to get him through without being blocked. Saheeli Rai is a great way to copy your Eternal and give that token haste so that you can get instant value from him. Reason / Believe is a great way to dig through your deck in its first half, and Believe can help you cheat a Wildfire Eternal into play.
Is this Wildfire Eternal & Approach of the Second Sun combo deck any good? It has the pieces to be good, certainly. We’ll see how it actually performs in the long run.
Wildfire Eternal in EDH
Of course, if Wildfire Eternal is not going to see much play in Standard or Modern, why not EDH? After all, casting an instant or sorcery for free in EDH is a big deal. Unsurprisingly, he’s been included in a few Neheb, the Eternal decks so far. But he hasn’t been an auto-include in any EDH deck yet. Still, there are some very powerful cards that he can allow you to cast for free.
In the early going, Wildfire Eternal saw play in some Nicol Bolas and Nekusar, the Mindrazer decks in order to cheat in some very useful spells. He'd later find a home in Neheb, the Eternal EDH decks, as well as Jodah, Archmage Eternal and Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge decks.
In Nicol Bolas, casting Dark Intimations, a five-mana spell with three colors in its casting cost, for free, is very strong. Slave of Bolas is a fun card to cheat in, as well - stealing a creature, giving it haste, then sacrificing it. Dropping Cruel Ultimatum, a seven-mana spell with lots of color requirements, is even better. While nowhere as exciting in Nekusar, dropping a Past in Flames or Reforge the Soul for free is certainly useful.
While you won’t see him in a competitive Modern deck any time soon, and probably much in Standard, either, Wildfire Eternal is a useful card nonetheless. Its foil price is around $3, which is not a high number for a useful rare. It could rise over time if it finds more permanent homes, but clearly it already has some demand.
Whenever you have a free card attached to another card, it’s going to see play somewhere. If it’s a casual hit, you should be sure to hold onto it. Wildfire Eternal is definitely a keeper.