Historic has been on the top of my mind as MTG League Weekend approaches. Strixhaven hasn’t changed Standard much, but Historic has become a completely new format. Decks like Auras and Jund Food were solidly Tier 1 but now occupy little space in the metagame.
So what’s changed? In my opinion, the card that will shape the format most is Tainted Pact.
Tainted Pact Combo, while very beatable, is extremely punishing to decks that either don’t interact with the stack or provide a fast clock with hand disruption. The combo is too fast to try and beat without some disruption.
GRIXIS PACT by ZAN SYED, Hooglandia Open – 1st Place
The format will begin to revolve around this deck, much like old formats revolved around Jund Sac and Jund Food, and it will be a “beat ‘em or join ‘em” scenario.
There’s built-in redundancy with various tutor effects, despite the need to play singleton Magic, so trying to beat this deck with non-disruptive creature decks is a fool’s errand.
The Arena interface interacts unsteadily with the deck, but other than that, Rogues are the deck’s natural predators.
ROGUES by YUTA TAKAHASHI, Insight Esports Historic 5k – 1st Place
Rogues provides a fast clock with excellent disruption on both the stack and in the hand with discard. Additionally it can mill out the Pact deck or run it out of actual win conditions if it mills the right cards. Since it’s a mostly singleton deck, a few lucky mills will remove the necessary pieces.
Rogues takes advantage of Memory Lapse and allows you to mill the card if too problematic. It also takes advantage of Brainstorm as it can function off a low land count. If you happen to draw Fabled Passage, you can seamlessly shuffle away your 5th land drops without much hesitation.
However, milling your opponent in Historic is problematic since decks can utilize the graveyard far better than in Standard. Keep an eye on cards like Torrential Gearhulk, Cauldron Familiar, and Rakdos Arcanist.
IZZET PHOENIX by TONI MARTOS, Insight Esports Historic 5k – 1st Place
I didn’t expect this to live up to its hype in spoiler season, but it’s a solid choice right now.
Phoenix wrecks Rogues as the Phoenix itself lines up well against Rogues’ creature sizing, and Rogues isn’t doing itself many favors by milling the Phoenixes regularly. Rogues can’t reliably play graveyard hate as Surgical Extraction isn’t legal and exiling the whole graveyard would make too many of the cards not function properly.
Occasionally Opts and Brainstorms may not find Phoenixes or cards that you could win with aren’t put together, but Phoenix is a powerful deck that has tools and draws that can beat most anything. Phoenix is a blue deck that can play countermagic and provide a clock to compete with Pact Combo but not as well as other blue decks in the format.
AZORIUS CONTROL by ARNE HUSCHENBETH
I’ll preface my chosen list with U/X Control. Could be straight Azorius, Jeskai with Helix, or Gearhulk with Opus. All of these decks have some upsides to their builds. I’m fond of Opus and Gearhulk, but it may not be the best time to put this combo together since the format is currently too fast for Opus.
Clunky cards make this deck lower than the others. Brainstorm performs worse than in other blue decks because the card isn’t as effective in decks with higher curves. This deck can be customized to attack any metagame that isn’t wide open. It might be a great choice for MTG League Weekend if tuned properly, but the best list for a 5k might look completely different.
I won’t be surprised to see this deck overperform this weekend.
SELESNYA COMPANY by BRAD NELSON, Insight Esports 5k
Despite this deck not feeling that powerful, I won more often than I thought I would, and I became a believer. This is the aggro-Company deck with the most legs. It has a semi-powerful endgame with The Great Henge but also has disruptive creatures to find with Company, such as Scavenging Ooze, Elite Spellbinder, Skyclave Apparition, and Archon of Emeria.
The deck can string together wins by breaking up just enough of what your opponent is doing while presenting a fast clock. If you want to try an aggro deck, I’d suggest this deck over something like Gruul or even Jund Company, which haven’t changed recently despite the format becoming more powerful.
The best decks are going to be blue-based in this format: Blue has a lot going on with the addition of Brainstorm for consistency and as a countermeasure for Thoughtseize, as well as the importance of interacting with the stack due to Pact.
I won’t be surprised if the majority of the Historic decks registered for MTG League Weekend have blue cards, which is far from “Jund vs Abzan” or Jund vs B/W Auras just a few weeks ago. Strixhaven is a rare set that had little impact on Standard, yet completely shook Historic up.
I can’t wait to see what happens this weekend. Now I have to choose my decks wisely. Wish me luck!