Standard has been fairly stable these past few weeks, so we’ll be focusing on Historic in this week’s Arena Ladder Tier List.
Historic has been in a relatively healthy spot since the most recent unbannings. With no major tournaments to put pressure on the format, many players accepted that Sacrifice decks are the decks to beat, while some others have tried to innovate and beat those decks.
Now, with the upcoming SCG weekend and the Kaldheim Season Championship on the horizon, Historic is back in the spotlight. The new metagame will finally get hammered out in the next two weeks — but what if you want to start playing today? That’s what today’s article is all about.
Before we dive into the list, here’s a quick refresher on the tier list grading criteria:
S Tier: Decks that are above the rest. This is normally the default “best deck in the format” and the deck(s) you should have in mind when building or picking your deck.
A Tier: Decks that are great. These decks are knocking on the door of S Tier, but they may have a small weakness that keeps them out of the upper echelon.
B Tier: Good, solid decks. You wouldn’t be surprised if a B Tier deck takes down an event, but they have bigger weaknesses or liabilities than the decks in A Tier.
C Tier: Decks that are totally fine, but not notable. These decks aren’t exactly tearing up the tournament or ladder scene, but you should expect to face them every now and then.
D Tier: Decks with strong elements, but that generally aren’t great choices compared to the rest of the format.
Without further ado, here’s the list!
Historic players are always debating which Sacrifice build is the best. Truth be told, the answer depends on the metagame, but I’ve landed on the side of Rakdos Sacrifice more often than not. While Jund does have Collected Company as a way to go over the other decks and refuel, the deck can have mana issues, and the high noncreature spell count can make your CoCos worse. Both decks are very good, but Rakdos wins out by being more consistent and proactive.
Sacrifice decks can play both the beatdown or the control role, so there are no match-ups where this deck is at a disadvantage. You can quickly curve out versus people trying to go over the top of you with cards like Dreadhorde Butcher, while also controlling your opponents’ board with Mayhem Devil. People will play hate cards like Grafdigger’s Cage, Rest in Peace and Yasharn — all of which are hard-to-answer threats — but the deck has the sideboard to answer all of them. This deck is thriving in Historic, especially in open decklist environments, so it takes the crown as the lone S-tier deck this week.
A lot of what I’ve said about Rakdos Sacrifice is also true of Jund Sacrifice, except you give up some constancy in the mana department to have access to Collected Company. Jund is a very solid choice, but one that I would make sure is worth the slight hits over the Rakdos builds.
This deck has been a solid player throughout its time in Historic. Your goal is to play highly efficient, cheap spells and overpower your opponent with a flurry of spells. The only real drawback to this deck is how much it leans on the graveyard to help maximize its cards. Rakdos Arcanist is much less resilient to hate than Rakdos Sacrifice, but if you find a more spell-based gameplan appealing, this is the deck for you.
Players have been dumping creatures onto the board and Embercleaving their opponents since Historic’s inception, and Gruul is still smashing through the metagame today. This deck’s plan is to quickly put the opponent on the back foot, then finish them off. Efficient creatures + Embercleave is still a strong gameplan, but it’s not as strong as it once was. As a result, Gruul has recently added Collected Company to the deck, allowing for more powerful draws and an ability to refuel. If you prefer to get the game over quickly, pick up Gruul this weekend.
Blue-White Control has seen some success in a Historic format that is almost entirely about playing to the board. Recent builds of the deck load up on spells like Cast Out, Baffling End, and Authority of the Consuls in addition to board wipes to maintain a board advantage. However, the deck’s biggest flaw is that it lacks win conditions of its own, which makes surviving long enough to ultimate Teferi that much harder. This is the control deck of choice in Historic, so give it a try, if this style of play appeals to you; just be prepared for some mid-game slogs against aggressive decks.
This deck may look a little silly, but trust me — it plays very well. You basically start making angels or powering up your other creatures consistently and just beat down. The combination of flying and lifelink on many of your creatures makes this deck especially good at racing, but a lack of card draw means it can run out of steam. This deck may be a great choice for a weekend, but you will need to hit the right match-ups, like gruul and other tribal decks.
Despite all the hype it gets, Goblins continues to be a fine, B-tier deck in Historic. The deck does its thing, but it has a hard time against most of the decks above it on this list. While Muxus is an “I win” button some of the time, sometimes it’s simply a high-value play that your opponent must (and can) battle through. Goblins is neither unbeatable nor terrible, but it is often overhyped.
Vampires took the Historic ladder by storm a few weeks back. Popularized by Twitch streamer Ashlizzlle, it’s an aggressive black deck that has late-game staying power. Your perfect draws look something like “one-drop, two-drop, Sorin, put a big vampire into play.” These sort of draws don’t seem very powerful on paper, but once you’ve played against it, you understand why more players have been picking up this deck. Like the last two decks on this list, it does have the ability to be picked apart and it can have some incohesive draws, but Vampires’ ability to go long while still having blistering fast starts is impressive.
Auras has been a staple of Historic since Kor Spiritdancer joined the format. The deck has changed slightly and in supporting colors over the year, but Blue-White has become the build of choice again, thanks to the evasion Arcane Flight and Aether Tunnel provide.
The only real thing stopping this deck is a horrific Sacrifice match-up is actually horrific. Claim the Firstborn which will often undo all your work on a creature, and Priest of Forgotten Gods gets around your protection spells.
This deck is a fair choice if you think other decks can hate out the Sacrifice builds, but that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.
You’ve probably seen this deck on the Historic ladder from time to time. The player has some Nicol Bolas cards, some kill spells, and a dream. Their hope is to answer everything and have Bolas take over, but it rarely plays out in practice. As a result, this deck has become a perennial punching bag in Historic, but its plans finally seem to be coming together.
Valki, God of Lies has entered the arena, and it’s the best thing these Grixis decks have going for this. Valki isn’t just a totally reasonable early play in this deck — it’s another powerful late-game threat that can take over if Nicol Bolas himself can’t get the job done. There’s also a bit of a combo going on here: If you cast Release to the Wind targeting Valki, you can cast the Tibalt side for free. Turn three Tibalt?! Now that’s a surefire way to drown your opponent in card advantage.
This mini-combo brings a lot to the deck, and the more you play with Release to the Wind, the more alternate uses for it outside of the combo. While Grixis may not be the best deck on this list, it has finally clawed its way out of D-tier, and that’s a good start.
This is a deck I really wanted to rank higher on the list. While Selesnya Company has some useful lock pieces and speed bumps, it still seems a little underpowered for Historic right now. That said, it seems like it’s just a few tools or a metagame shift away from moving up the tier list, but for now, curving out just isn’t going to do it. If you want to play a beatdown deck this weekend, try Gruul.
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.