Strixhaven: School of Mages preview season is in full swing. And on top of the usual excitement for preview season, players are also looking forward to the new Mystical Archive. Mystical Archive is a set list of instants and sorceries with alternate art that fill a land slot in each Strixhaven booster pack. It includes powerful and iconic spells from throughout Magic history, and the most exciting part is that they will be featured on Arena as well as in paper. You heard that correctly — these cards will be legal in Historic!
Well, all but seven of them. Natural Order, Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, Demonic Tutor, Channel, Dark Ritual, and Counterspell are all preemptively banned on Arena. But the other 56 cards that will be coming to Historic should have a major impact on the format. Some archetypes will be significantly strengthened with these cards, while other archetypes will rise from the ground up with these new cards.
Today, I’m going to talk about the most impactful Mystical Archive cards entering Historic and how to get the most out of them.
There’s a Storm Coming…
A hot topic in the Mystical Archive discussion has been the inclusion of cards with the storm mechanic. If cards like Lightning Bolt, Counterspell, and Swords to Plowshares are banned, why not ban the storm cards, too? While there aren’t many ways to produce extra mana in Historic currently, there will definitely be a handful of Storm decks joining the format with the addition of Mind’s Desire, Tendrils of Agony, and Grapeshot.
Great minds of Modern and Legacy Storm have been busy brewing Storm decks for Historic, using everything from Bolas’s Citadel and Aetherflux Reservoir. While Bolas’s Citadel Storm isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse, it sounds like it has the potential to shoot to the top of the meta because it can make great use of Brainstorm and Solve the Equation. This is an archetype worth keeping an eye on as people keep brewing with the new Historic cards.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Historic decks that had the potential to be powerful with the addition of Historic Anthology IV. At the time, I was excited about Mono-Blue Storm, but the deck didn’t perform as well as I expected it to. But with Mind’s Desire entering Historic, I’m extremely hopeful about this archetype again. Previously, this deck struggled to keep comboing, but if you switch to a Paradox Engine shell with Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy, Mystic Forge, and Mind’s Desire, the deck can combo quickly and consistently.
With this deck, the idea is to ramp into Paradox Engine as quickly as possible. Once you have Paradox Engine in play, you can make large amounts of mana, infinitely untap Emry, Lurker of the Loch, and dig through your deck with Chromatic Sphere, Mind Stone, or Mystic Forge until you find Aetherflux Reservoir to win the game. This deck can also utilize Weather the Storm in the sideboard when facing aggressive strategies, which combo decks like this have struggled against at times.
Return of Izzet Phoenix
The two cards that everyone is talking about from Mystical Archives are Faithless Looting and Brainstorm. That’s right, Faithless Looting and Brainstorm are both going to be legal in Historic! This puts Izzet Phoenix at the forefront of many players’ minds. In the past, you would have to play cards with prohibitively high mana values or rely on Goblin Electromancer to reduce the cost of these spells. Now, you’ll have access to two of the most powerful one-mana cards of all time.
Here’s a rough draft of what this deck could look like. I anticipate that Izzet Phoenix is going to be very popular in the early weeks, hence the inclusion of Pillar of Flame for the mirror. This deck goes hard on the Arclight Phoenix plan, but you still have Magmatic Channeler and Stormwing Entity as additional threats when facing graveyard hate.
While Izzet Phoenix might be the Faithless Looting deck getting the most buzz, the card also has the potential to push Hollow One into the Historic metagame. We recently got Flameblade Adept for the archetype in Historic Anthology IV, and now Faithless Looting will allow you to cast Hollow One as early as turn two.
Old Decks, New Tricks
While new archetypes are popping up all over Historic, there are many Mystical Archive cards that enhance existing Historic archetypes. As always, Azorius Control has more options to slot into their deck, whether that’s Tezzeret’s Gambit, Mana Tithe, Brainstorm, Teferi’s Protection, Day of Judgment, or Time Warp. I would personally start with Brainstorm and Teferi’s Protection for Azorius Control as must-haves in the archetype going forward. After that, how you want to build your deck is largely up to preference.
Yorion, Sky Nomad decks get access to Ephemerate for additional blink effects. Ephemerate is a card that many players are excited for, including me. I love enter-the-battlefield abilities and have been a fan of Yorion decks for a while because of this. Ephemerate has the potential to push Yorion decks over the edge by allowing you to blink Yorion for even more triggers, which translates into even more card advantage and an even stronger board presence. There will also likely be new Ephemerate decks in Historic that utilize previously underplayed cards such as Thragtusk, Gonti, and even Hornet Queen.
While there are many more decks and cards I could touch on here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Inquisition of Kozilek. Inquisition of Kozilek is going to be just as impactful in Historic as Thoughtseize was when it was added to the format. Most Historic staples have a mana value of three or less, which makes Inquisition of Kozilek just as powerful as Thoughtseize in a handful of scenarios (and you don’t even lose two life!). I envision midrange decks playing a mix of both Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize to have additional discard sources in their deck. Rakdos Arcanist lists might even play the full eight copies of these discard spells. Inquisition of Kozilek has the potential to speed up Historic because more decks will have access to a powerful play on the first turn of the game. Discard spells like this often shape the early turns of the game as well and can put you significantly ahead of your opponent right away.
Taking More Turns
Finally, my favorite archetype has returned: Nexus of Fate — er, I mean, Taking Turns. While Nexus of Fate and Wilderness Reclamation are unfortunately still banned, I’m looking forward to recreating Simic Nexus with new cards from Mystical Archive. Brainstorm, Time Warp, and Regrowth all add to Taking Turns in Historic and have the potential to rejuvenate my favorite archetype.
This deck uses Growth Spiral and Explore to ramp as quickly as possible and start taking extra turns with Time Warp. The rest of the deck is set up to try to find your Time Warps or return them to your hand from the graveyard. Additionally, with Commit//Memory, you can shuffle all your Time Warps back into your library and start again. (Bonus points if you have Narset, Parter of Veils in play to prevent your opponent from drawing cards!) While you’re waiting to combo, you can set up with Search for Azcanta, Brainstorm, and Narset, or even use Haze of Pollen to buy time against aggressive decks. Your easiest win conditions in this deck are Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Shark Typhoon.
Strixhaven preview cards keep coming, and we may see additional cards in the set that slot into some of the archetypes I talked about today. For now, these are some of the decks I expect to see when Strixhaven and Mystical Archive make their way onto Arena.
Of course, there are still plenty of powerful cards I didn’t have time to cover today. Honorable mentions from this set go to Tainted Pact, Lightning Helix, Harmonize, and Stone Rain. I expect all of these cards to be impactful in Historic as well.
Check back next week for our breakdown of the best Strixhaven cards for Historic!