This weekend is my Rivals Split and the Arena Championship Qualifier for Kaldheim. Luckily for Historic fans, we get to put Standard away for a bit to focus on our favorite format. Whether this is your first Arena “PTQ” or your tenth, you might be wondering what are your best options for this weekend. While it’s obvious where I stand on the choice (cough cough, Rakdos Sacrifice), I also think there are a couple other decks you could submit this weekend to successfully qualify for the Kaldheim Championship.
My first article here at Card Kingdom focused on Rakdos Sacrifice — including the merits of playing the deck, along with some tips and tricks. Since last week, I have worked on the decklist some more and taken ideas from other respected Magic players to update the list for this weekend.
This weekend, I expect to see a lot of Sultai, Sacrifice, and Goblins. Sacrifice typically has a good match-up against Goblins, and Rakdos is more favored against Sultai than Jund is. The positive Sultai match-up is what swings the decision over to Rakdos Sacrifice for me.
The only downside of selecting Rakdos over Jund is specifically in that head-to-head. Collected Company makes it hard for you to keep pace with your Jund opponent in this mirror, but that does not mean the match-up is unwinnable. Like all Sacrifice mirrors, there are a lot of opportunities to outplay your opponent with superior deck knowledge or more experience in the mirror match.
Looking at the specific card choices, the main deck is pretty similar to what I recommended last week. I tried Fatal Push over Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and generally thought it was good. However, at the end of the day, Chandra is more applicable and powerful in a variety of matches where Fatal Push is less impactful. The upside of Fatal Push is that it allows you to play Jegantha as your companion, so it’s a bit of a judgment call based on what you expect from the meta.
Most of the changes I made over the past week are in the sideboard. I started with a sideboard from Kristof Prinz and made some adjustments after extensive testing. The most notable change to the sideboard is the addition of Angrath, the Flame-Chained. This card has over-performed in every match I have sided it in. While Angrath is meant for Sultai and Azorius Control, it can completely take over the game in most scenarios where it goes unanswered. Kari Zev’s Expertise is another new card that performs well in the deck. However, if you’re playing Jegantha as your companion, you should switch this spot to Act of Treason.
Rakdos Sacrifice is quite simply the best deck in Historic. You are able to adjust your gameplay to tackle anything you might face, and you have a diverse sideboard to out-maneuver your opponents in the post-board games. You have a great match-up against most of the decks in the format, even the tier two and tier three strategies. If you are a good technical player or already play this deck well, I cannot recommend it enough for this upcoming weekend.
So, you don’t want to play Rakdos Sacrifice. What now? Sultai Midrange has stood the test of time at the top of the Historic metagame on the backbone of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. Uro is likely the best single card in Historic right now, and you can’t really go wrong playing some of the best cards in a format. The appeal to Sultai Midrange is similar to the appeal to Rakdos Sacrifice for me — you can build your deck in many different ways based on what you expect to see in a given weekend and what you want to beat.
Sultai starts with a predictable shell: cheap, interactive cards, card-draw spells, and ramp spells that let you cast an early Nissa, Who Shakes the World. These cheap cards like Growth Spiral, Eliminate, and Thoughtseize fill up your graveyard quickly so you can escape Uro. The powerful combination of Uro and Nissa make it really difficult for a lot of opponents to turn the corner or make a comeback; you’re usually drawing multiple cards each turn while pressuring your opponent’s life total.
These cards are especially powerful in Historic because there aren’t many reliable answers in the format. Uro fights through spot removal, and there isn’t a great way to attack Nissa when she immediately makes a blocker while potentially holding up and Eliminate or an Aether Gust. Claim the Firstborn is often the best answer to these cards, making the Sacrifice match-ups worse lately. However, this might just mean you should craft your Sultai deck to skew towards beating Sacrifice decks by including more copies of Aether Gust or Extinction Event in the main deck.
Sultai rewards good technical play, but you can also rebound from mistakes or misplays easily because of the raw power level of your cards. It’s highly customizable and consistent, and you have a lot of favored or even match-ups.
If you’re more of an aggressive player, Gruul Aggro is making another rise in the metagame this week. Why? Rampaging Ferocidon. It’s great against Goblins and Sacrifice, and it can help you push across the last few points of damage against Sultai Midrange.
Gruul is an explosive strategy that has resurfaced in the metagame because of the Burning-Tree Emissary un-suspension. You can enable quick, turn three Embercleaves or play the long game with Collected Company.
I would recommend playing Gruul if you are a fan of aggressive decks, or if you’re new to Historic and want something easier to pick up and play immediately.
What Not to Play
There are a couple of other popular strategies in Historic, but I would stay away from the following decks for this weekend.
Four-Color Midrange was a deck designed to metagame a tournament of 32 of the best players in the world, gunning against Jund Sacrifice. Its existence after the tournament on the ladder always confused me because the deck underperformed in the mirror because of the extra color. I think this deck is only good against Sacrifice decks, and even then, I’ve designed all of my Sacrifice decks to be able to deal with Yasharn, Implacable Earth. If you’re looking for a midrange deck to play this weekend, I would recommend just playing Sultai.
Muxus, Goblin Grandee is likely the most broken card in Historic, but the Goblins archetype as a whole struggles without Muxus or when the meta is prepared for Goblins. All the decks I’ve recommended either have a good Goblins match-up already or can adjust to beat Goblins if they want to.
I don’t see much of Azorius Auras anymore, but every time Goblins is popular in the meta, this archetype becomes more popular. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you hate this deck as much as I do), this deck is only good against Goblins and Aggro decks. With how much Sacrifice and Sultai Midrange I expect this weekend, I would only recommend this deck if you don’t have another deck to play.
In my Rivals Split this weekend, I’ll be playing the Rakdos Sacrifice decklist above. Rakdos Sacrifice is the best deck coming into this weekend, and I plan on capitalizing on my experience and knowledge of the deck. And at the end of the day, while I’d recommend some decks over others this weekend, there’s still something to say about your level of comfort with the deck you’ll be playing. If you’re most comfortable with Goblins, you get an extra edge playing that deck instead of learning a new deck. Rakdos Sacrifice might always be my first recommendation, but if the deck isn’t for you, there are still various options that will bring you success. Good luck, and have fun!