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The Monster Manual II (1982) phoenix can, in fact, die normally from, for instance, attacks by +3 or better magic weapons or, instead, can suicide in "a double-strength (40th level) combination of fire storm (2" high × 5" wide × 8" deep) and incendiary cloud.... This destroys the phoenix but leaves a gem-like egg behind from which a new phoenix will arise ...
Defeating doesn't have to mean killing (even though it often ends up that way). If you can defeat a monster in a non-lethal way, then you still get XP for it.
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