In recent months, Historic has emerged as one of Magic: The Gathering’s fastest-growing formats. The Arena-exclusive format has seen new converts in the age of social distancing, and it’s becoming a viable option for competitive play. Independent tournament circuits have already adopted Historic, and it’ll be the focus of the MTG Arena Open on August 1st, with more events likely to come.
If you’ve been thinking of diving into Historic yourself, here’s a quick guide to get you started.
What is Historic?
Historic is a non-rotating Constructed format that consists of all the available cards on MTG Arena. Cards from every set on the platform are legal in the format, including cards from supplementary sets like Jumpstart.
Wizards also seeds cards into Historic via small card sets called Historic Anthologies. Historic Anthologies consist of reprints from throughout Magic’s history and have included powerful cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Players can purchase entire Anthologies in the MTG Arena store or craft cards individually.
The gameplay rules for Historic are just like those for Standard on Arena. Players use 60-card decks and fifteen-card sideboards and can play either best-of-one or “Traditional” best-of-three matches. Historic is also an option for Constructed ranked play, so if you’re climbing the ladder but need a break from Standard, it may be a good option for you.
Banned & Suspended Cards
Historic has its own banned list, which consists of the following cards:
- Agent of Treachery
- Field of the Dead
- Fires of Invention
- Nexus of Fate
- Oko, Thief of Crowns
- Once Upon a Time
- Teferi, Time Raveler
- Veil of Summer
- Wilderness Reclamation
- Winota, Joiner of Forces
Additionally, Historic has what’s called a suspended list. The suspended list is effectively a separate banned list that changes more frequently as Wizards gauges cards’ impact on the format. (Suspended cards are not legal in Historic.) Since Historic’s introduction in 2019, we’ve seen cards return to play from the suspended list or move onto the more permanent banned list.
Historic’s suspended list currently includes:
Like many non-rotating formats, Historic’s metagame is broad and ever-changing. But as our own Tom Anderson points out, there are several macro-archetypes jockeying for the top spot in the format: midrange, ramp, tribal, and tempo.
The most popular creature-based midrange decks in the format center around Bolas’s Citadel: a powerful artifact that allows you to pay life to play cards from the top of your library. These decks use creatures like Woe Strider to filter through the top of their library and win with a flurry of Blood Artist triggers.
While Jumpstart added a variety of tribal cards to Historic, the Goblins have proven to be the strongest. These decks can use Skirk Prospector to power out an early Muxus, Goblin Grandee or go wide with a more traditional “tokens and lords” plan.
Aside from tribal strategies, tempo decks are the premier aggressors in Historic. Decks like Mono-Blue Tempo that performed well in previous Standard seasons are easily portable over to Historic.
Why Play Historic?
If you aren’t preparing for a Historic tournament, there are still plenty of great reasons to play the format. If you’re a competitive Standard player, you may want another format to pick up when you had a break. Historic also offers opportunities to repurpose older cards in your Arena collection that are no longer legal in Standard and Brawl.
But most importantly, if you’re ever nostalgic for cards from Standard’s past, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to play them in Historic. As we look for new ways to engage with Magic while social distancing, a format that allows you to play your favorite cards from the comfort of home may be just what you need.
Looking to get started with Historic? Visit our partner MTGGoldfish for the latest Historic decklists.