Approaching the New Historic Metagame

Chantelle Campbell Historic

Ding dong, the field is dead. Field of the Dead, that is! With Monday’s Historic announcement, the oppressive Field of the Dead strategies that had been zombifying the format will plague us no more. Historic has turned into a field of dreams, as strategies that Field was keeping down have become viable again, and I’m excited to explore them all. 

Control Strategies

Let’s start with the most obvious winner: control! Field of the Dead‘s land-based game plan was almost impossible for control strategies to deal with; they could grind and pressure control decks through cards in hand and lands on the battlefield, while Field of the Dead rendered board wipes essentially obsolete. With Approach of the Second Sun, Cast Out, cycling lands, Rest in Peace and Timely Reinforcements joining the format with Amonkhet Remastered, it’s finally time for Azorius Control to shine.

Azorius Control by Austin Yost – SCG Tour Online – Challenge #6 8/24/2020

Companion
1 Kaheera, the Orphanguard

Deck
4 Absorb
3 Baffling End
3 Cast Out
2 Castle Ardenvale
2 Castle Vantress
4 Censor
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Dovin’s Veto
1 Essence Scatter
2 Fabled Passage
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Irrigated Farmland
4 Plains
3 Narset, Parter of Veils
4 Island
2 Search for Azcanta
4 Shark Typhoon
4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
4 Wrath of God
1 Field of Ruin

Sideboard
1 Baffling End
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Dovin’s Veto
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Kaheera, the Orphanguard
4 Mystical Dispute
2 Rest in Peace
2 Timely Reinforcements

Azorius Control – Hooglandia Open 5 (4-2)

Deck
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Field of Ruin
2 Castle Vantress
4 Glacial Fortress
5 Plains
5 Island
3 Absorb
4 Thassa’s Intervention
4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
2 Approach of the Second Sun
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
4 Cast Out
3 Seal Away
2 Castle Ardenvale
4 Wrath of God
2 Dovin’s Veto
3 Censor
4 Shark Typhoon

Sideboard
4 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Baffling End
2 Dovin’s Veto
3 Dream Trawler
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Settle the Wreckage

If you’re looking for a more outside-the-box approach to Control, try Esper Yorion. This deck lets you take advantage of enchantments like Oath of Kaya, Omen of the Sun, Omen of the Sea, and new-to-Historic cards like Trial of Ambition. Black also gives you access to hand-disruption effects like Thoughtseize and Thought Erasure, as well as the Doom Foretold package that these decks have used in the past.

Esper Yorion by Gavin Bennett – SCG Tour Online – Challenge #6

Companion
1 Yorion, Sky Nomad

Deck
1 Arch of Orazca
1 Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
1 Castle Ardenvale
4 Doom Foretold
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Eliminate
1 Elspeth Conquers Death
4 Fabled Passage
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Heartless Act
2 Island
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Narset, Parter of Veils
4 Oath of Kaya
4 Omen of the Sea
2 Omen of the Sun
1 Plains
2 Swamp
2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
4 Thought Erasure
4 Thoughtseize
3 Trial of Ambition
4 Watery Grave
4 Wrath of God
3 Yorion, Sky Nomad

Sideboard
1 Ashiok, Dream Render
2 Dovin’s Veto
2 Elspeth Conquers Death
1 Fall of the Thran
1 Field of Ruin
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Mystical Dispute
2 Shatter the Sky
1 Yorion, Sky Nomad

Midrange Builds

Field of the Dead tended to out-midrange the other midrange decks in Historic, but these decks may finally get their day in the sun. More specifically, I believe there are a few BGx decks that deserve to be explored in the new Historic metagame. 

Let’s start with Jund Sacrifice. While Cauldron’s Familiar has been banned in Standard, sacrifice decks easily port over to Historic, and the power level is certainly high enough for the format. You also get some nice additions from Amonkhet Remastered: Blood Artist, which increases both your deck’s consistency and explosiveness, and Thoughtseize to protect your combo pieces and remove haymakers. 

Jund Midrange by Matias Leveratto – Hooglandia Open 5

Deck
4 Blood Artist
4 Blood Crypt
3 Bolas’s Citadel
2 Claim the Firstborn
4 Collected Company
2 Dragonskull Summit
4 Gilded Goose
4 Llanowar Elves
1 Fiend Artisan
4 Mayhem Devil
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Paradise Druid
2 Phyrexian Tower
4 Priest of Forgotten Gods
4 Stomping Ground
2 Thoughtseize
4 Woe Strider
2 Woodland Cemetery
2 Forest

Sideboard
2 Bonecrusher Giant
2 Claim the Firstborn
2 Klothys, God of Destiny
3 Reclamation Sage
4 Scavenging Ooze
2 Thoughtseize

I’ve also been exploring a more “combo-oriented” approach that combines Bolas’ Citadel with Wildgrowth Walker and explore creatures like Jadelight Ranger and Merfolk Branchwalker. These pieces enable you to go nearly infinite as you recoup the cost of casting cards with Bolas’s Citadel.

Sample Deck – Chantelle Campbell

Deck
4 Bolas’s Citadel
6 Swamp
2 Seekers’ Squire
4 Merfolk Branchwalker 
8 Forest 
4 Wildgrowth Walker 
2 Jadelight Ranger
4 Blood Artist
4 Gilded Goose
4 Llanowar Elves 
4 Priest of Forgotten Gods 
4 Woe Strider 
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Woodland Cemetery 
2 Phyrexian Tower 
2 Collected Company
4 Thoughtseize
2 Wilt
2 Command the Dreadhorde
2 Witch’s Vengeance
3 Scavenging Ooze
2 Elder Gargoth

Ramp strategies that no longer need to focus on Field of the Dead also hold some promise. Whether they’re going big with Ulamog, Nissa and Hydroid Krasis or leaning on Karn, the Great Creator, these decks are rising in popularity and putting up great results.

Mono-Green Planeswalkers by Kyle Norman – SCG Tour Online – Challenge #6 

Deck
4 Gilded Goose
21 Forest
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Mind Stone
3 Voracious Hydra
4 Explore
4 Llanowar Visionary
4 Karn, the Great Creator
4 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
2 Elder Gargaroth
2 Castle Garenbrig

Sideboard
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Shadowspear
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 God-Pharaoh’s Statue
1 Akroma’s Memorial
1 Platinum Angel
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
1 Stonecoil Serpent
1 Voracious Hydra
1 Questing Beast
1 Reclamation Sage
2 Elder Gargaroth

An Aggressive Slant

Toward the end of Field of the Dead’s reign in Historic, the format had begun to skew more aggressive, as players tried to get under the horde of zombies. While midrange and control strategies have tons of potential in the new metagame, they aren’t nearly as tuned as aggro strategies like Mono-Red and Azorius Lurrus. These decks are easy frontrunners for upcoming events, and any strategy you bring to the table (or Arena, more likely) will need to be able to go toe to toe with these heavy hitters. 

It makes sense to start where most aggro players start: Mono-Red. This hyper-aggressive deck gained some great additions from Amonkhet Remastered, including Hazoret the Fervent, Earthshaker Khenra and Ramunap Ruins (a card previously banned in Standard). This deck has been a mainstay in many Historic tournaments and I don’t expect it to go anywhere soon. 

Mono-Red Aggro by Elijah Woodbury – The Mythic Society | Weekly 

Deck
2 Bonecrusher Giant
4 Earthshaker Khenra
3 Embercleave
4 Ghitu Lavarunner
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
2 Hazoret the Fervent
4 Light Up the Stage
2 Lightning Strike
17 Mountain
4 Ramunap Ruins
2 Shock
4 Soul-Scar Mage
4 Viashino Pyromancer
4 Wizard’s Lightning

Sideboard
2 Bonecrusher Giant
2 Chandra’s Defeat
3 Experimental Frenzy
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Lava Coil
4 Rampaging Ferocidon

The other aggro strategy that has been tearing up the ladder is Azorius Lurrus. Like Bogles or Infect in Modern, Azorius Lurrus relies on casting cheap threats, then “suiting them up” with enchantments and attacking for lethal as quickly as possible. The deck also has plenty of ways to protect its threats, such as Selfless Savior, Alseid of Life’s Bounty, and Karametra’s Blessing. Since the release of Amonkhet Remastered, cards like Curiosity and Cartouche of Knowledge have also found their way into decklists. 

Azorius Lurrus by Simon Nielsen – SCG Tour Online – Challenge #6

Companion
1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Deck
4 All That Glitters
3 Alseid of Life’s Bounty
2 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Ornithopter
2 Adanto Vanguard
4 Kor Spiritdancer
8 Plains
4 Selfless Savior
2 Sentinel’s Eyes
2 Cartouche of Knowledge
4 Curious Obsession
3 Arcane Flight
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island
4 Staggering Insight
4 Cartouche of Solidarity

Sideboard
1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
3 Hushbringer
2 Dive Down
4 Baffling End
2 Spell Pierce
1 Aether Gust
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Aether Spellbomb

Conclusion

This Monday’s B&R announcement was truly a Historic occasion — there’s something for every type of competitor in this new format. The Field of the Dead ban opens the door to many strategies that had been pushed out of the format, and I for one am excited to try all of them as I prepare for the upcoming Mythic Invitational!