Speaking Casually: Solar Flare (with Modern upgrades)

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Strictly Average. As I mentioned on Monday when I talked about Modern Burn I would be back on Thursday to bring to you another edition, and for the first time here on Strictly Average, of Speaking Casually.

For those of you new to my writings the Speaking Casually series is one where I take a look back at former Standard decks, and recently I have also added Modern upgrades to the decks. The brainchild for this came from a Sam Stoddard article a little over two years ago called “Modern Musings“. In the article he discusses what the intent for cards in Standard impacting Modern is from a design standpoint, and how things should grow organically as Standard strategies become tuned, and then rotate out into Modern. Here are some excerpts that I think we all should keep in mind.

“The goal for Modern is that it will continue to shift and change with the release of Standard sets, albeit at a slower rate than Standard changes. We want Modern to exist as a format that allows people to take their Standard decks when they rotate and play them in Modern, with the requisite changes to improve them for Modern.”

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He then goes on to mention a few decks, and provide some examples, as well as mentioning that some decks “from Standard two years ago, will likely not be as competitive, but is still at a power level that you can compete at the FNM level, assuming you aren’t expecting to win every week.” To be honest over the last several years there have been cards that were printed in Standard that are also being played in Modern, and if we can keep the focus at an FNM level we should find a fun, yet playable option to play. With a little luck we may even stumble onto something to take to a bigger event.

With all of that said let’s get to the real reason we’re here, and that’s to talk about a classic deck from Standard’s past: Solar Flare.

This deck has had couple of iterations. It’s earliest beginnings take us all the way back to Ravnica: City of Guilds which was released in the fall of 2005! That’s a long, long time ago in a Standard far, far, away. While Ravnica block was in Standard the deck existed picking up pieces from Time Spiral block after Kamigawa block left, and was one of the best decks of it’s time.

Fast forward to the release of both Magic: 2012, and Innistrad we received the three key cards (one a reprint) that would power the deck for the next year: Sun Titan, Phantasmal Image, and Liliana of the Veil. It was a glorious time (especially for me), and the deck proved to provide a powerful option in Esper colors after a summer that gave us Caw-Blade mirrors non-stop.

Let’s take a look at an example of Solar Flare from that era in Standard.

Solar Flare (Scars of Mirrodin through Magic 2013)

Creatures
3 Sun Titan
3 Phantasmal Image
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

Planeswalkers
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Gideon Jura

Spells
4 Lingering Souls
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Ponder
3 Day of Judgment
3 Mana Leak
2 Unburial Rites
2 Pristine Talisman
1 Dead Weight

Lands
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Plains
3 Evolving Wilds
3 Swamp
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Island
2 Seachrome Coast
1 Drowned Catacomb
1 Glacial Fortress

Sideboard
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Timely Reinforcements
2 Dissipate
2 Revoke Existence
1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Grave Titan
1 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Celestial Purge
1 Doom Blade
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Nihil Spellbomb

How the deck works

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to land a Sun Titan which gets any permanent (with CMC 3 or less) back from your graveyard directly into play. Do not pass “Go!”, and do not collect $200 in fake money. Thanks Parker Brothers. Remember this even counts lands as they do not have a converted mana cost (which technically is different from having a converted mana cost of 0, but I digress).

Phantasmal Image really pushed this strategy to the top as not only does it have a converted mana cost of 2, but when it enters play it can become a copy of Sun Titan (as long as Sun Titan is still on the battlefield when the trigger resolves). This can allow you to chain multiple cards from the graveyard into play when you attack with them both, which can really push you ahead.

Liliana of the Veil is a card that not only puts the opponent in top deck mode with her first ability, but fuels future Sun Titan tricks. Once you get a Liliana in play, and have one in the graveyard, you can lock your opponent out of playing creatures as you can kill one a turn, and playing a 3rd from your hand allows you to kill 2 opposing creatures a turn with those Titan triggers. 6 damage is a ton, and wraps up the game quickly.

However those are not the only shenanigans you have. Being able to discard a Lingering Souls allows you to flash it back while leaving countermagic open on turn 4 or later. Did you not play anything on turn 3? Excellent. You can play Forbidden Alchemy at the end of your opponent’s turn to set up a solid turn 4. Also don’t discount Pristine Talisman. Even though it only provides 1 extra life when tapped that extra life can matter over the course of several turns in the game.

Your sideboard cards matter a lot here by either fighting against other graveyard based decks, fighting against graveyard hate cards, solid removal cards, lifegain, and difficult to remove threats. It’s pretty balanced.

However that was then…so what do we do now?

Modern Upgrades

There’s a lot that can be done with the deck. Let’s take a look at a possible version of this deck upgraded to Modern.

Creatures
3 Sun Titan
3 Wall of Omens
3 Phantasmal Image
1 Snapcaster Mage

Planeswalkers
3 Liliana of the Veil

Spells
4 Path to Exile
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Lingering Souls
2 Supreme Verdict
2 Negate
2 Collective Brutality
2 Fatal Push
2 Thoughtseize
1 Unburial Rites

Lands
4 Flooded Strand
3 Darkslick Shores
3 Polluted Delta
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Concealed Courtyard
2 Field of Ruin
2 Plains
2 Watery Grave
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
1 Godless Shrine
1 Marsh Flats
1 Swamp

Sideboard
4 Spreading Seas
3 Bottle Gnomes
2 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Damping Sphere
1 Detention Sphere
1 Celestial Purge
1 Disenchant
1 Snapcaster Mage

Let’s take a look at some of the different cards from the Standard format version.

You’re not a Control deck. You’re more Midrange so you want to interact with your opponent. Inquisition of Kozilek, as well as Thoughtseize are auto includes in that department. You have plenty of ways to have black mana on turn 1, and can cast these cards to strip your opponent of either early plays, answers to your cards, or giant threats hard to answer.

Collective Brutality is an interesting include here as you want things in your graveyard so you could use all 3 modes very often. Supreme Verdict is a strict upgrade over Day of Judgment.

Modern is a very fast format. Wall of Omens helps to keep you alive, draws you a card, and can come back with Sun Titan. This along with Snapcaster Mage gives your Phantasmal Image new targets as well.

Fatal Push works in concert with Path to Exile to provide early cheap removal. Cavern of Souls will always name Giant, because you may need to cast your Sun Titan for it’s full mana cost.

From the sideboard you can get Spreading Seas to deal with Tron lands, or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. It’s good in matchups where Wall of Omens is bad. Geist of Saint Traft can get in early to close out a game as well as come back later via Sun Titan. Speaking of getting things back with the Titan we have Bottle Gnomes. Yes. THOSE Gnomes. Unlike Pristine Talisman from the Standard deck the Gnomes gain you 3 life for the 3 mana investment. That’s efficient! Also being a 1/3 is not irrelevant as it can block 2/2s and survive.

With this deck in Modern you have some solid plays for your local FNM, and a deck that’s off the beaten path while still maintaining it’s original feel from Standard, which is how WotC want’s to grow Modern through Standard.

I hope you enjoyed this study into Solar Flare, and some ideas to take it to Modern. What cards would you play in Modern for this deck? Please let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook as well as Twitter.

Until next time…

TAP MORE MANA!!!

Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.

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