Honestly Historic has not exactly been my favorite format so far. I don’t want to say it’s bad necessarily. It just has a lot of aspects that I don’t personally like. It has a lot of short games and decks that are just trying to do their own thing faster than the other player. It also has plenty of games decided by which creatures are hit off of 《Collected Company》 or 《Muxus, Goblin Grandee》.
This leads to a lot of high variance games with the feeling that you don’t have much control over the outcome. But maybe that’s the sort of gameplay that Arena wants. After all you may have been absolutely destroyed on the draw in a game where you could do nothing to stop it. But you can just immediately play another game where maybe this time it’s you who gets to absolutely demolish your opponent.
Historic is like a Modern
Historic reminds of Modern at the times where it was most proactive. To go along with this comparison 《Field of the Dead》 felt a lot like the Historic version of Tron. They both had nearly insurmountable late games but they could both easily lose to a fast draw from the opponent. They also both preyed on slow control or midrange strategies like Jund.
This sort of pushed those strategies out of Historic for the most part. I felt this a lot when trying to brew control decks for Historic. When trying to build a Bant or Sultai control deck to take advantage of 《Growth Spiral》 and 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 I would think why not add 《Field of the Dead》 since you were already likely to meet the requirements.
And then why not add 《Hour of Promise》 because that’s just too good with 《Field of the Dead》 to not play. Then you would quickly end up with a deck more concerned with making large numbers of zombies and less concerned with actually interacting with what your opponent was doing.
When trying to build an Esper/Azorius/Dimir control deck it felt like an uphill battle to try to beat a deck that could just win by playing lands. They potentially have access to the same sort of counter spells and discard spells. Also in control mirrors having more lands in play than your opponent is a pretty big advantage anyway.
You could play sideboard cards like 《Virulent Plague》 but a three mana enchantment is a pretty big cost for something that doesn’t actually advance your game plan at all. And it makes it very easy to lose to 《Thoughtseize》 into 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 or something similar.
It’s Time to Use Control Deck
Now with 《Field of the Dead》 out of the picture it feels like a control strategy has the potential to be good in Historic. There is definitely still an uphill battle. Of the cards added to Historic most of them still seem to promote proactive gameplay.
Even what is possibly the most powerful reactive card in the format, 《Thoughtseize》, is more suited to midrange strategies than full on control strategies. Also there are still some holes in control in Historic such as a lack of powerful counter spells and particularly a lack of good white spot removal.
Though it’s not all bad. 《Innocent Blood》 is a pretty nifty removal spell and there are some powerful durdly cards from Standard like 《Narset, Parter of Veils》, 《Shark Typhoon》, and 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》.
The first reasonable contender is a deck that has been ported over from Pioneer. I think big Esper Yorion is a reasonable deck in Pioneer and most of the same cards are legal in Historic minus 《Teferi, Time Raveler》.
4 《Fabled Passage》
4 《Godless Shrine》
4 《Hallowed Fountain》
4 《Watery Grave》
4 《Drowned Catacomb》
4 《Glacial Fortress》
4 《Isolated Chapel》
1 《Castle Ardenvale》
-Land (35)- 3 《Yorion, Sky Nomad》
4 《Innocent Blood》
3 《Thought Erasure》
3 《Wrath of God》
1 《Extinction Event》
4 《Omen of the Sea》
4 《Trial of Ambition》
1 《Search for Azcanta》
4 《Oath of Kaya》
3 《Omen of the Sun》
2 《Elspeth Conquers Death》
4 《Narset, Parter of Veils》
1 《Teferi, Master of Time》
3 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》
I think this deck has some good removal and a reasonably powerful late game with 《Yorion, Sky Nomad》 and 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》. There is a reasonable amount of stuff to blink that only accumulates providing a reasonably insurmountable late game. You can blink 《Oath of Kaya》 and 《Omen of the Sun》 to gain life so you don’t get burned out. You can also blink 《Omen of the Sea》 to draw more cards and keep the engine going.
《Pact of Negation》 seems like a reasonable card in a tap out control deck. I’m imagining that casting a big 《Yorion, Sky Nomad》 and then pacting your opponent’s play could be really sweet, especially if you drew it off of a blinked Omen. But also I think 《Pact of Negation》 is a bit expensive to pay for and not super powerful overall so you probably couldn’t play too many.
《Grafdigger’s Cage》 is a good answer to 《Collected Company》, 《Bolas’s Citadel》, and 《Muxus, Goblin Grandee》. Those cards all seem relatively powerful especially since this deck doesn’t really interact with spells on the stack much. It could potentially be a necessary main deck card depending on how prevalent those cards are. It also stops 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 from being Escaped but at least 《Narset, Parter of Veils》 is pretty reasonable against 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 so you’ve got a plan I suppose.
The next deck is ported over from Standard. My understanding is Sultai Control is the deck to play in Standard right now and all of those cards are legal in Historic plus a few extra good ones like 《Thoughtseize》 and 《Growth Spiral》.
4 《Zagoth Triome》
4 《Watery Grave》
3 《Breeding Pool》
2 《Overgrown Tomb》
4 《Drowned Catacomb》
3 《Hinterland Harbor》
2 《Woodland Cemetery》
1 《Field of Ruin》
-Land (28)- 3 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》
1 《The Scarab God》
4 《Growth Spiral》
1 《Aether Gust》
1 《Cry of the Carnarium》
1 《Sinister Sabotage》
1 《Vraska’s Contempt》
1 《Search for Azcanta》
3 《Shark Typhoon》
3 《Narset, Parter of Veils》
There are a lot of powerful spells in this color combination so I threw in a bunch of nice one ofs. I wanted a deck with more instants so you would be able to counter potentially game ending cards like 《Muxus, Goblin Grandee》 and 《Bolas’s Citadel》. Also 《Thoughtseize》 and 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 are a powerful combination so Sultai seems like a good place to be.
《Scavenging Ooze》 is pretty reasonable against various graveyard strategies and gains life against Burn. It is nice that it is a reasonable card on its own so you don’t have to feel bad boarding it in against decks that don’t rely on the graveyard too heavily. 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 is a better answer for certain things but it also conflicts with 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 which is a pretty hefty cost.
In general this deck has a lot of powerful cards and a lot of room to adapt to what is going on in the format. So, I think it likely that some sort of durdly Sultai deck will be reasonably good in Historic going forward.
Control Deck, Be Strong!
In the future it would be nice to see some more reactive cards added into Historic since they seem willing to add cards as they see fit. I would like something like 《Path to Exile》 to help make Azorius Control more playable though I’m not sure if it would really be that good since a lot of the Historic decks have reasonably high curves and they could probably use the extra mana.
Also I seem to remember 《Counterspell》 being an Amonket Invocation so why didn’t they toss that one in? I hope they would try putting stronger counter spells in this format!
Gregory Orange (Twitter)