This past week, Brainstorm was suspended in Historic. I saw a range of reactions from “lol, obviously” to “well, it didn’t even win that much.”
Usually I can understand or play devil’s advocate for the opposite side of my own personal beliefs, but this time I think Brainstorm had to go. Lee Sharpe made the point that its win percentage wasn’t obscenely high, and Pros tended to bias themselves towards Brainstorm decks. While both may be true, that’s not a good enough argument to keep the card legal. The problem is that the format has warped around the card. The amount of non-Brainstorm decks could hang with decks like Izzet Phoenix and Jeskai Control but were still worse decks even against the field.
In fact, Brainstorm was still an overpowered card before fetch lands, like Polluted Delta, were even printed. It was a four-of in almost all blue decks to combo with cards like Thawing Glaciers, and to protect important cards from Duress.
Brainstorm is a free-to-include card with incredible upsides. For one mana, it cycles so you hit land drops more often in the early turns but also provides protection from some of the best-rate cards in Historic Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. Brainstorm also provides synergy with Phoenix in the format. With all else equal, Pros are going to steer towards the consistency that the best card in the format provides.
One unintended effect of Brainstorm in the format is pushing out cards like Thoughtseize and Inquisition, and with the amount of powerful cards and combos in Historic, it pushed people into playing decks that interact with the stack. If you can’t play Thoughtseize, Inquisition, or Duress reliably, you’re going to end up playing blue, something very fast and linear, or something blue, fast, and linear like Auras. Auras has a plan that often needs to defend itself from a variety of opposing interactions. In the past you’d mulligan to two lands, a two-mana creature, an aura, and a one-mana discard. Now, that plan is off the table because Brainstorm can just set the important cards right on top of the deck for a single mana.
Historic will be a healthier format without Brainstorm, and it should have been on the pre-banned list. While it can be difficult to evaluate games that Brainstorm impacted, we can see how it homogenized the format and understand that, while it may not be the only problem in the format, it’s the starting point to a format with high potential.
So what should we play in Historic now that Brainstorm is gone? With the announcement of Jumpstart: Historic Horizons the format will likely change a lot. However, for the next couple of weeks, there are three decks I’d be interested in trying.
Decks like Jeskai Opus often didn’t play Brainstorm and have a powerful game plan.
Jeskai Opus by Arne Huschenbeth – Insight Esports Open, Fourth Place
This list from Arne Huschenbeth is a great starting point. This deck has the late game of a deck like Jeskai Creativity, but instead of a proactive early combo, it supplements with early interaction and plays to the board until it takes over with its powerful end game.
Orzhov Auras was the winner of the Insight Esports Historic Open in the hands of Santi Delgado with the following list.
Orzhov Auras by Santi Delgado – Insight Esports Open, First place
With Brainstorm gone, Thoughtseize and Inquisition are back on the menu, and this is the best Thoughtseize deck in the format. You can use discard to slow down the opponent’s plan and quickly create an overwhelming board position.
Lastly and leastly, we have Dragonstorm. I’m skeptical of this deck, but it’s been doing well and is powerful. I first remember Ken Yukehiro piloting this, and Ken is one of my favorite deck builders, so I like to take his decks for a spin when they seem solid.
Izzet Dragonstorm by Chase Masters – 3-1 finish in an Insight Esports Invitational Qualifier
This deck takes advantage of the best cards in the format in Mizzix’s Mastery and Expressive Iteration. Memory Lapse isn’t too bad either. It’s weak to graveyard hate, but it does have a back-up plan of turning to Brazen Borrowers and Shark Typhoons if needed. Anything with this strong core of cards and a powerful combo finish is a reasonable follow-up to decks like Jeskai Creativity that played out similarly. If nothing was changing, I’d probably start playing Historic here to find out if this deck was good or a meme, then move on to more-proven decks.
Lastly, while I’m waiting to fully digest Jumpstart: Historic Horizons before I write about the mechanics and the cards, I want to mention that the player base is divided on adding digital-only cards, but I sit in the middle. I don’t care that they do it, but the product isn’t for me. It confuses me why they’d want to lock into having this format lost in the digital world when it’s possible they may someday want to turn it into a viable paper format and have more reasons tTo create more sets. hat said, it doesn’t surprise me that Wizards is making another short-sighted decision to sell more product now while the irons are hot.
While I enjoy Arena as a quick way to play a few matches, I’m not going to spend a ton of money to keep up with Constructed and will likely only use it for Limited, so I’ll understand it for what it is and not worry about it. If you’re the type of person who wants to have every card on Arena and keep up with every Constructed deck, then be aware that it might get pricey to do so with new sets coming out at this pace.
We’ll stop here for now, and next week I’ll look to brainstorm for new mechanics and what they may mean for Historic and the future of MTG Arena moving forward.