Field Of The Dead Is Banned In Historic. Now What?

With the Magic: The Gathering Mythic Invitational looming, Historic deck choice has never mattered more. Seven SCG creators say what they’d play.

God-Pharaoh's Gift
God-Pharaoh’s Gift, illustrated by Titus Lunter

Welcome to What We’d Play! With Field of the Dead banned, many are unsure what they’d play in Historic. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Historic event! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!

Corey Baumeister — Mono-Green Ramp

With a format that is so new due to the shakeup of Field of the Dead being banned, I wanted to pick a deck that’s both proactive and powerful. Mono-Green Ramp is all about getting tough to deal with planeswalkers down as fast as humanly possible. Getting a Karn or a Vivien down as early as Turn 2 or a Nissa down on Turn 3 is too much for most decks to deal with.

If that was the only angle of attack, this deck would not be as powerful as it is, but we have a very strong backup plan. Leyline of Abundance combos so well with our creatures that you don’t always have to have a planeswalker to bully your way across the finish line. Just deploying three or four creatures and adding counters to them makes for a very quick clock.

On top of all that, you get to utilize your sideboard to search up silver bullets for whatever matchup you’re playing against; Grafdigger’s Cage against Rakdos Sacrifice or Platinum Angel against Azorious Auras is game over 99% of the time. With such a wide variety of one ofs in the sideboard you always have a card that’ll be back-breaking for your opponent.

Michael Majors — Dimir God-Pharaoh’s Gift

This deck is just such a ridiculous amount of fun and has the raw power to back it up.

This is essentially a cross between a self-mill God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck and a Sacrifice strategy, and all the pieces blend together beautifully.  Having Gift online by Turn 3 and 4 is certainly not out of the question, and even outside of your namesake, your ability to grind and play deep games on the battlefield is extremely strong.

I’m still working out some of the kinks in the sideboard, but Grafdigger’s Cage is highly beatable, and while Rest in Peace is a little more annoying, Bolas’s Citadel has the ability to sidestep it to some degree.  Emry, Lurker of the Loch working as a hate card engine after sideboarding is another attractive aspect of this strategy.

If you’re tired of playing traditional Sacrifice decks but enjoy the playstyle, then this is a perfect deck to pick up.

Carmen Handy — Mono-Green Ramp

Originally posted by Guillaume Bordes, this deck has a lot to like.  When a format is shaken up by banning a card that had previously warped the entire thing, you want to be two things: proactive and powerful.  This does both of those splendidly.  In an effort to maximize the one-three-five curve to Nissa, this deck is loaded up on Llanowar Elves and Gilded Goose, while also emphasizing its two-drop ramp to make sure that Goose can be used for Nissa on Turn 3.  From there, it has access to a host of silver bullets for Karn, the Great Creator and Vivien, Arkbow Ranger to grab.

Having access to an entire menagerie of haymakers and sideboard hammers means that this deck can play in a way that pressures the opponent while also having access to a wide array of silver bullets that can blank cards from just about anything that can be thrown at the deck.

Karn, the Great Creator

Nissa is naturally going to take center stage in games, but Karn’s role in particular cannot be understated.  Up to this point, Historic has been a format known for its juiced threats and its slightly underpowered answers.  Having access to virtual maindeck copies of Grafdigger’s Cage for Goblins and Bolas’s Citadel, Akroma’s Memorial for black decks, or Platinum Angel against non-interactive creature decks is unbelievable right now.

Whether or not this deck stands the test of time, it’s a heuristically sound place to plant yourself if you’re looking to be successful in Historic right now.

Ryan Overturf — Mono-Red Goblins

I think the Field of the Dead decks were generally favorable matchups for Goblins, but I still won most of the matches I’ve played this week in the post-Field format. I still feel like most opponents don’t have a great plan for how they approach this matchup, which undoubtedly pads my win percentage. 

Grafdigger’s Cage is something of a problem, but playing four Krenko, Mob Boss allows you to just cast spells from your hand and win more often. This is especially true if your opponent mulliganed for the Cage. The Abrades in the sideboard are actually mostly used as Incinerates for Mayhem Devils and Rampaging Ferocidons, and I wouldn’t bother bringing them in just because you expect Cage. I had a Goblin Trashmaster in the sideboard for a bit and I just wasn’t convinced that it contributed anything of value. 

Shaheen Soorani — Azorius Approach

The obvious banning has occurred and Field of the Dead is no more.  Even before the announcement of the announcement, fans of Historic all knew that the ramp decks had to get taken down for the format to have a chance.  Aggro and control decks were both unplayable; control fell to the inevitability of Field of the Dead, while the aggressive decks could not match the battlefield full of Zombies with the lifegain of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

The next uncomfortable conversation for most is the length of time Uro will be legal, but that is for some future content.  In the meantime, the format has opened and control is poised for dominance.

Some mages are fuming about the amount of Azorius Control cluttering the Magic: The Gathering Arena (Arena) ladder, but I think it’s fantastic.  Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the clear victor from the banning, leading folks back to Azorius Control for competitive play.  I have altered my Azorius Approach deck to accommodate the new metagame, pulling back on Field of the Dead hate and cranking up the countermagic.  It’s still built to beat the aggro decks of the format; however, it will change if control starts to overwhelm the metagame.  At this point, Azorius Approach can tango with the best decks in its current form.

Dom Harvey — Mono-Black God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Do you ever see a picture of a deck and fall in love instantly?

Fan favourite God-Pharaoh’s Gift is at once a demanding and flexible payoff, appearing in shells as diverse as Mono-Red Goblins with Skirk Prospector and artifact-centric self-mill decks with Emry, Lurker at the Loch. This Mono-Black list, courtesy of Daan de Pruijt, is a close relative of the Golgari Sacrifice and Jund Sacrifice decks, building around Collected Company and Bolas’s Citadel, that seemed like the default best deck after Field of the Dead was banned.

Mono-Black God-Pharaoh’s Gift has a much cleaner and less painful manabase that gets to use Phyrexian Tower to its full potential. Cryptbreaker, Fiend Artisan, Priest of Forgotten Gods, and Woe Strider are all cheap, versatile engine cards that allow the deck to fire on all cylinders without being too reliant on God-Pharaoh’s Gift.

Where Bolas’s Citadel can often be stranded in your hand if you have to operate with few resources, Gate to the Afterlife has a lower cost that can be split across turns and helps you rather than hinders you when your life total is under pressure. Gate is a strong enough engine card to demand artifact removal by itself, forcing the opponent to have more to answer God-Pharaoh’s Gift. Crucially, this engine gets around Grafdigger’s Cage, the most popular and broadly effective sideboard card in Historic and one that nullifies both Collected Company and Bolas’s Citadel.

I’ve been reluctant to commit completely to Magic Arena for a variety of reasons but just the sight of this deck is enough to make me want to dive in.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Golgari Citadel

After the Field of the Dead ban, Historic became a wide-open format. When you’re unsure what people are going to play, it’s usually best to play a proactive strategy with its own powerful cards and gameplan. Of the proactive decks, my favorite right now is Golgari Citadel.

You might have seen people playing Jund Citadel decks, or even Abzan Citadel, but I think the Golgari version is superior. The deck simply doesn’t have room for many colored sources of your splash color, so the splash card gets stranded in your hand more than I find acceptable. Besides that, you’re a Bolas’s Citadel deck, so taking damage from your lands can end up being really harmful. 

The downside of not splashing red is that you’re much weaker in the mirror. As a combo deck, there’s no room for interaction in Game 1, and Mayhem Devil is almost unbeatable, so that matchup becomes really bad. Still, I’d rather be better versus the rest of the field than versus the mirror. If I expect enough Bolas’s Citadel decks to the point where I’d want to maindeck Mayhem Devil for that matchup alone, then I assume other people will expect the same and tune their decks to beat it, at which point I’d rather just play a different deck. Still, for right now, this is what I’d play.