Phoenix 'Lizard Wizard'

The end of Kotei season is nearly upon us but with a new set rotating in for the last month of tournaments, it’s time to examine some new tools for existing decks. Phoenix non-humans has been, if not dominant, then at least one of the major powers in the tournament scene up until now—but despite its popularity, it is still one of the more misunderstood decks.  Let’s break down its matchups versus some of the decks you can expect to see and look at how those matchups change with Coils of Madness.

Lizard Wizard



For reference, here’s a list:


The Wall is Breached
Imperial Gift
Jurojin's Blessing
Ryoshun's Guidance
Benten's Blessing
Charter of the Legion of Two Thousand

3 Recruitment Officer
3 Ageless Shrine
3 Silver Mine
2 Temple of the Elements
1 Chugo Seido
1 Traveling Peddler
Temples of Gisei Toshi

3 Quelsa
2 Sleepless One
3 Shiba Sannesuke
3 Tess'kss
3 Natsumi
2 Isawa Shunsuko
2 Kunji
Kunji xp
The Dark Naga

3 Broken Cipher
3 Mara's Touch
3 Oblivious
3 Pearls and Spirits
2 Brave New World
2 Skipping the Puddle
3 Strength of the Tsunami
1 Dragon's Favor
2 The Earth's Hunger
2 Sundering Strike
2 Unstoppable Strike
1 Fury of a Mob
1 Effortless Counterattack
1 Yojimbo's Duty
Creating Order
A Game of Dice
Closing the Gap
Ring of Fire
Ring of Water
Pearl of Rage
Blades of the Black Dragon
The Sacred Rosary of the Constrictors
The Pearl Encrusted Staff of the Cobras
The Arcane Cloak of the Chameleons
The Emerald Armor

The deck has a lot of tricks, while still being fairly straightforward to play. You want to get a shugenja, preferably a naga, and protect him the whole game. Quelsa is usually the focus of the deck, and giving him arcane cloak or emerald armor can make an unkillable spell platform. Other redirects like Sannesuke and the celestials give you more options for protecting your shugenja platform before you have found one of the unique items. The action set is fairly kill heavy with a decent amount of utility effects and card draw.

Now that we’ve seen the deck, let’s look at some of the more common matchups:

Law of Darkness Dishonor
This matchup is usually very winnable but can also be very uncomfortable. Oblivious is obviously key, and you need to be able to buy all your bodies and gain a little bit of honor along the way. Sannesuke in multiples can shut down their dishonor tricks if used judiciously, and the emerald armor can end games if used carefully. While the matchup is favorable, it is also very easy to accidentally punt the game, as they can drop your honor extremely quickly if you aren’t careful.

How does the matchup change? The scorpion deck doesn’t really gain a ton from Coils of Madness: a few personalities, maybe a fate card or two, but nothing that really changes the match significantly from what it currently is. Most of the phoenix decks run little to no dishonor meta, so if the matchup becomes problematic expect to see an influx of formal apologies.

Kalani’s Landing Magistrates

This matchup is fairly straightforward…and also fairly easy. Both the Temple of Purity (ToP) version and the Library of Rebirth (LoR) version are able to fairly easily take and keep tempo for the entirety of the game. The key cards for the matchup are Quelsa and Mara’s Touch as they provide the easiest way to take early provinces with the least effort.  Oblivious isn’t as strong as it often is here since KL can mess with gold costs, but if you can stick Arcane Cloak or the Emerald Armor on a Naga the game ends very quickly.

How does the matchup change? The mantis deck actually gains quite a bit from Coils of Madness. At least five personalities are likely to go in, and the deck could change from the mega-economy, control-ish version that it is now to a quicker, more tempo oriented version that wants to leverage some early gold into a super strong midgame. If that happens, the decks will be directly clashing for tempo control, with the winner of that clash ultimately winning the game. 

Lion Paragons
This matchup is one of the more difficult matchups for the nonhuman deck. Going second is actually a pretty significant disadvantage: you don’t have the games that are essentially free wins (they usually go something like: turn two Quelsa/other things, turn 3 Mara’s Touch, take a province, buy two nonhumans, oblivious on their turn, turn 4 take two provinces), and you usually will be fighting with fewer personalities than they are…something the deck doesn’t do very well. The nonhuman deck defends reasonably well, but it really doesn’t WANT to be defending at all, and the lion deck is one of the few decks that can actually press strongly enough to force the phoenix deck to defend. The matchup is a little bit easier for ToP, but neither deck really likes this matchup.

How does the matchup change? Coils of Madness doesn’t actually add a ton to either deck. Yes, lion paragon gets a good ranged attack and a new superior strategist if they’re running tacticians too, but those don’t really significantly impact the matchup: they’re more worried about having enough actions rather than having the right ones. Nonhumans might run the two gold expendable naga which could give them enough early game numbers to fight through lion’s advantages. The matchup will probably still favor lion, but it will still be one that has a ton of play on both sides.

Obviously, the phoenix deck is extremely strong. It also has some very significant weaknesses: swarming the board and jumping on the deck early, while difficult to do, are the best routes to victory. If you can do both, the phoenix player will be extremely hard pressed. Coils of Madness doesn’t bring a ton of new options to most of the existing decks but as always new cards create new interactions that make new decks viable. I expect phoenix naga to continue to be a force for the remainder of Emperor edition, but as its weaknesses are exposed, people will adapt and play decks that are more and more capable of exploiting those weaknesses.