Phoenix Elves

Phoenix Elves is a defensive counter striking faction. With its symbols of Fire represented as fragile, high damage tools and Divine as protective cards, working together as a sword and shield.
The deck's goal is to set up scenarios where it hits hard, destroys the immediate threat, and then be left in a position where it is very hard for the opponent to counterattack / punish.
With Queen Maldaria herself as the pillar of this strategy, she has a high attack and rewards you with the ability to teleport a unit next to her for protection when she has attacked.

Phoenix Elves slowly build an economic advantage through favorable trades, by hitting hard and then protecting its assets, like a boxer that enters the opponent's zone, does a few shots and quickly retreats into a defensive / safe position, wearing down their opponent until they can’t take it anymore.

The deck is mostly composed of high damage tools to destroy any threat quickly, along with defensive events that protect Maldaria and her units from the inevitable counter-strike.
The core of Phoenix Elves' strategy is Queen Maldaria herself. Attacking with her is very valuable, while her damage is high it is not necessarily spectacular, but her ability is.
Maldaria and a common unit can get out, attack whatever target is needed and then protect each other. You can send the common in what would be an otherwise suicide mission just to be placed next to Maldaria at end of turn, pulled back from danger and protecting your summoner all at the same time.
What’s even better is that if the opponent attacks this unit next turn, this generally can only be done by exposing a unit to Maldaria's attack. So Maldaria can once again attack and repeat the process creating a loop. 
If Maldaria can keep this loop going, Phoenix Elves will inevitably win the game.

Opponents will answer in two ways though that Maldaria needs to prepare to navigate through:

First they will try to avoid being in range of Maldaria's attacks, the best way will be using range. Phoenix Elves' range game is not that strong outside of their summoner, which means Maldaria needs to pressure herself to deal with the toughest enemy ranged units.

Second your opponent will try to find ways to get through Maldaria's defenses and punish her for her exposure, and with only 9 life to spare, that is generally a sound strategy. Phoenix Elves do not have particularly efficient units at blocking Maldaria, so often the opponent can just get rid of the blocker and poke Maldaria, and not many of those pokes are needed to seal the game.
How to deal with this issue is just too specific to each different match-up to be able to give a general guideline.

So with Maldaria, positioning is key in her plans, knowing when to expose her and how much, as well as enabling the defensive tools that she has in Blinding Flare and Divine Retribution are the toughest decisions you will have to make.

In order to threaten the areas where Phoenix Elves need the threat, Maldaria will often need to enter mid-field or even the opponent’s side of the field and use Fire Beasts, gates, Holleas and Fire Drake to keep the support going.
Queen Maldaria
As stated, Maldaria is the star of the deck, and winning or losing will usually depend on how involved she can be. Often she doesn’t need to even attack to get value, just to threaten some spaces indirectly, protecting your units or forcing the hand of your opponent into moving away from certain areas.

Sometimes you will be able to attack with no need to use Call Protection, and that’s great, every boost on Maldaria is very powerful, so be happy and aware if you can store an extra boost on her to use in turns where you can’t attack a unit with her.
Royal Guardian
The utility unit of Phoenix Elves, and likewise the core common. Its main role is to shove units into Maldaria’s range, effectively increasing her threat range. One of the most powerful moves in Phoenix Elves' arsenal is summoning a Royal Guardian, shoving an opponent unit into Maldaria’s range, killing that unit and then calling the Royal Guardian next to Maldaria.

Engage has some marginal uses in control space, but the problem is that your opponent will have no trouble focusing their attack on Royal Guardians. At just 4 life for a 2 cost common, it’s not very efficient at soaking up damage, and your opponent will be happy to focus their effort in destroying it.

So understand this is a utility unit that should be mostly summoned for its utility role. However, in a pinch if Maldaria needs some cover, it’s still okay since one of Phoenix Elves' weaknesses is having overall low efficiency units when it comes to soaking up damage.
Ember Beast
Ember Beast is the sword, or more like the massive hammer of the Phoenix Elves. It is the most damaging tool in the deck's arsenal as it can dish a high amount of damage for its cost. The problem is that it needs the board state to be just right.  Wildfire needs to trigger at least on one unit to make its cost worth it. If it triggers on more than one, then it can become devastating.
Born of Fire can help increase the spots where a Wildfire can trigger, but still is limited. 
Trying to force the opponent moves into ending their turns with units one space away of a gate or an Ember unit is a big part of the Phoenix Elves' play, and sometimes it is as simple as leaving any common next to a gate, then if a melee unit kills it, it will be the spot open to a Wildfire.
Against factions with a stronger range game, Ember Beast effectiveness becomes harder to implement, and probably relies on Holleas or Ember Mages to make such matchups work best.
Ember Archer
While Ember Beasts can be more efficient than Ember Archers, Phoenix Elves need a more reliable form of damage, and one that is ranged.  Enter the Ember Archer. 
Ember Archer's damage is fine for its cost. The standard ranged unit at this cost is a 3/2. 
Ember Archers in reality do more than 3 ranged strength worth of damage. While 3 ranged attacks are 2 average damage, Ember Archers deal 2.32 average damage. However if that is all they do, it still would be a poor ability, as other units have abilities in addition to such stats. However Ember Archers are more than that.
The assured damage can be done to a different target, often splitting the damage in a perfect way, especially because the first damage is assured. It can even open spots to walk in for your units. The extra attack not requiring an attack but rather a movement also gives you a "4th virtual attack".  Moving Ember Archers for Quick Shot and then Maldaria in front for a 5.5 total ranged attack strength, is a highly favorable strategy.
Quick Shot has many tricks, especially combined with Phoenix Elves' Epic Event, Spirit of the Phoenix.
In addition to its many tricks, Ember Archers work well with Spirit of the Phoenix, Holleas and Ember Beasts, thus having great synergy with the deck.
In a pinch, Ember Archers can be just a decent damage unit, but on the right occasion, they can be a high value unit.
Ember Archers however are not generally great to engage in ranged wars, as they will lose to high life ranged units with 4+ life, unless they have the support of Spirit of the Phoenix.
In these ranged wars you need to reduce the opponent's space by pressuring them or use Ember Archers backed up by events to boost them, protect them, or bring in the threat of Maldaria herself.
Ember Mage
Ember Mage is the least favorable unit of the Phoenix Elves, with little damage potential and not so much life to make up for it.  Its efficiency is questionable, but it still has some roles.
Against high-damage enemy units (3 or more melee strength and 4 or more ranged), Ember Mages are the most effective damage-soaker of the deck (as long as direct damage is not involved). In a deck as fragile as Phoenix Elves, this is very valuable.  At 1 cost they are affordable when magic is tight, and when her attack is not needed, they are the best summoning spots for Ember Beast using Born of Fire. 
In general you should avoid summoning this unit, but you can find spots where they are the right call, which to summarize are mainly 3:
1) Extend Ember Beast range.
2) Protect Maldaria from high attack value threats.
3) Block spots, like places adjacent to gates, from high attack value threats.
Spirit of the Phoenix
The Epic Event of the Phoenix Elves is not particularly powerful most of the time, but when it can trigger for synergy with a lot of their other abilities it can add up quite quickly.
Wildfire is the primary synergy target, often a double Wildfire + Spirit of the Phoenix can be game changing.
But also Royal Guardians and Ember Archers become quite scary, and Divine Retribution becomes oppressive for opponents. It also synergizes with Fire Drake and Fanessa, though those tend to be minor bonuses.
Often the major way Phoenix Elves punish an overextended /aggressive enemy is with a Spirit of the Phoenix turn, where their commons clean up the board and a simultaneous Divine Retribution makes a counter-strike feel terrible for the opponent.
However, if you are not careful, Spirit of the Phoenix can clog your hand as you are waiting for that perfect opportunity. Remember if you can trigger 2 abilities to synergize with this event, it’s often enough to pay for itself, so don’t be afraid to use it if hand space is getting tight.
Blinding Flare
A lot of Phoenix Elves' value is setting up board situations where the opponent can’t find value, and Blinding Flare is the maximum representation of that strategy. It’s not cheap, and it is very hard to set up (though Call Protection helps).  But when you do get a quality Blinding Flare it can really make your opponent almost skip their attack phase altogether.
In addition to that it can allow Maldaria to push safely that turn, knowing it’s going to be very hard to be punished, gaining control of some specific area and hopefully setting up a forward gate, pressuring the opponent. 
Setting up key Blinding Flares is part of Maldaria's strategy, and this is especially true when Maldaria needs to go onto the offensive.
Divine Retribution
Divine Retribution is, in a way, another version of Blinding Flare, making it harder for the opponent to attack you, especially with units that are not life to attack strength efficient. Unlike Blinding Flare, it is a lot cheaper and a lot easier to set up.
While playing this card just "in a vacuum" is not very valuable, it’s never terrible either.
This becomes a massive event when you have Spirit of the Phoenix also active. Other good uses are when the opponent has a 1 life unit to attack you or your opponent has units that can attack twice (like Border Archer or Enrage the Horde). Even when the opponent's units have 2 life, Divine Retribution is still pretty good, as it can make the units have only 1 life left the next turn, when you can then easily clean up with Ember Archers and Ember Beasts' Wildfire.
Burn
Burn is a pretty simple event really, allowing Maldaria to do some cleanup faster than the opponent expects, but is also a “trick” event, since it’s playable in the move phase, so it can allow the Phoenix Elves to attack targets the opponent doesn’t expect, or get into spots the opponent didn’t expect (or want) you to get in. For example you can use this to take the front of a gate that has a 2 life unit next to it.
Despite its short range, Burn is a very powerful and versatile event, because 2 damage on a whim for a single card is very efficient, and so it is generally worth it to just throw it on most units that are not super life-efficient, so at worst it’s a very efficient event, and at best it can be a swingy trick that wins the game.
Holleas
Holleas is the Phoenix Elves' champion with the highest ceiling of potential game impact and arguably their best champion. Her ability to support the Ember units is very powerful, becoming a walking gate that increases the Ember units' damage markedly. You will have problems to justify not summoning Holleas during a game as she is cheap, hard to deal with, her power ceiling is through the roof and she shores up many of Phoenix Elves' weaknesses.
Not great at ranged games? Ember Mages and Ember Archers + Holleas can fight anyone at the ranged game and come out on top.
Have troubles pushing in? What is better than a walking gate that increases your units' attack strength?
Can’t destroy enemy gates? Well, Ember Beasts hitting with 4 AV are pretty good at it.
Maldaria can’t expose herself and needs a backup plan? Holleas IS the backup plan onto herself, becoming the queen of Ember units and carrying the team by herself if Maldaria needs to be off-duty.
The two weaknesses of Holleas are that positioning the Ember units around her to get the attack increase may require too much movement, which Phoenix Elves do not have to spare, and also sometimes you will find Holleas late in the game where she is more lacking in impact typically then.
Fanessa
Often a favorite champion of the Phoenix Elves because she's just so versatile.  In theory she should only be good versus melee units with low attack strength. But in reality against those units she is just devastating, and against the rest still performs quite well. Her decent attack and high life allow her to move forward very carelessly, often cornering ranged units into melee combat where they lose value.
Fanessa is an extremely efficient damage soaker, something Phoenix Elves desperately need.

She is not as good versus high-attack champions and a few specific commons (like Tundra Orcs' Smasher), but she still never disappoints, making her a very safe bet to summon in all matchups.
However, she does need to be able to close the gap, if the game is moving in a “wide game flow” where units can just poke her at range and she can’t close in, she will under-perform, but again, never really be terrible.
Fire Drake
Fire Drake is a niche card. Unlike Holleas and Fanessa you can’t blindly summon Fire Drake with confidence you'll get good value. Not only does it need a lot of magic, which means less magic for other powerful stuff, but Fire Drake is very fragile for its cost. If you are not careful, a lot of your magic can fade away and with it, your chances of winning.
Its abilities are also of marginal, niche use, but in the right situation can be just what you need.

Fire Drake's Protector ability can be useful when Maldaria dives deep into enemy territory, being able to bring 8 magic worth of power to the front lines is definitely an asset. More importantly, if Maldaria is pressuring the game, its Fire Breath ability can come in handy to restrict seriously where the opponent summoner can be and how they can line up their units. Fire Drake in general wants to work in tight games where space is limited, be that either Maldaria on the complete offensive, or Maldaria on the complete defensive.
Remember that you can shoot through your own units, and while that may not seem ideal, it can allow you to use Fire Drake without exposing it and also to do a lot of damage through a single flank.

In general if you can get to its very high summoning cost, Fire Drake is worth summoning, but be careful because a simple misstep and your drake can explode into an opponent combo, and then it’s game over.
So that’s the Phoenix Elves. A very summoner-centric faction that relies on using Maldaria to threaten the opponent's units. Where other decks have the summoner support the team, here without a doubt the team is there to support Maldaria, each common and event are part of the sword and shield in a deck about swinging hard and quickly raising the shield to protect from the counterattack.
A tricky part of playing her is that Phoenix Elves have a less than stellar ranged game, so often she needs to take an active offensive role if she wants to be the star she needs to be, something not easy to do with just 9 life. This is especially true if she gets some wounds early on. If the worst happens and she gets hit early on a few times, don’t give up.  Especially Holleas, but also Fanessa and Fire Drake can take the mantle of the star of the show and try to carry the army themselves.  But it is true that most games the Phoenix Elves will win will be because Maldaria manages to attack opponent units, set perfect Blinding Flares and use Burns. And she needs to be and stay involved in the action for those things to happen.
Hopefully by the time she gets seriously wounded, she did enough damage and produced enough value that her champions can come in and seal the game.
Copyrights for the Summoner Wars logo and art belong to Plaid Hat Games, used herein with their express permission.
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