Historic’s Winners And Losers After The Uro, Titan Of Nature’s Wrath Banning

With Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath banned in Historic, what is the format’s next big deck? PVDDR rates winners, losers, and heirs to Uro’s crown.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, illustrated by Vincent Proce
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, illustrated by Vincent Proce

Ever since the inception of Historic as a format, Uro, TItan of Nature’s Wrath has been at the forefront of it. The newly announced ban basically kills what was arguably the most popular deck in the format, so the metagame is bound to change even outside of the decks that were directly affected – even if no new decks are created, most decks are getting a little better or a little worse by not having to play against Sultai, and there will undoubtedly be some shuffling in the top tiers of the format.

This article covers what I believe will be the biggest winners and losers from the ban in the short- to medium-term. The decklists throughout the article are mostly illustrative so you know what I am talking about – they are not necessarily the ones I’d recommend for a post-Uro world – but at the end I will show updated lists for what I believe are the two best decks moving forward. 

Loser: Sultai Midrange

Let’s start with the obvious loser in the format – Sultai Midrange. Sometimes decks can survive the banning of an important piece, but not this one. The way I see it, this was a deck with a core of three distinct cards – Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath; Thoughtseize; and Nissa, Who Shakes the World. The reason it was such a good Thoughtseize deck was that Uro broke parity so easily – you welcomed all the one-for-ones because you had this card that just won you the game if no one had anything. Now, without Uro to fall back to, the entire concept of the deck falls apart. 

Winner: Jund Sacrifice 

Jund Sacrifice was already arguably the best deck in the format, and it wasn’t impacted by the changes, which by itself would already be good news. The best news, however, is that the deck I believed to be Jund Sacrifice’s greatest predator (Four-Color Midrange) no longer exists. Yasharn, Implacable Earth is still legal, but where are you going to play it? I always felt like playing Jund Sacrifice included a gamble that your opponents were not going to prepare for it, and now this gamble is gone because there is no good way to prepare for it.

Yasharn, Implacable Earth

There are also two other reasons why Jund Sacrifice got potentially better. First, there are some decks that were being kept a little at bay by Sultai Midrange that might resurface, such as Azorius Auras, and these decks are all abysmal versus Jund Sacrifice. Second, the removal of Uro from the format should decrease the amount of maindeck Grafdigger’s Cages in other decks.

 A deck like Azorius Control, for example, could afford to play maindeck Cage because it had uses against its most common opponent (Sultai Midrange). Now that Sultai Midrange is no longer a thing and part of its metagame share is going to go to various control decks that do not care about Grafdigger’s Cage (or that do not care as much), can Azorius Control still afford to play it? Probably not in the maindeck.

I believe that, once the metagame settles, Jund Sacrifice is going to be the best deck in Historic. It’s extremely powerful versus any creature strategy and it has a quick enough goldfish to at least have a fighting chance versus everything else. It would not surprise me if a card from this deck has to be banned in the near future. 

Loser: Simic Paradox Engine Combo 

Simic Paradox Engine combo was already in a frail state, but it had its upsides – the goldfish could be quite quick if you weren’t being disrupted, and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath provided a powerful plan to fall back to against the aggressive decks.

Now that Uro is no longer here, I believe this deck is just too vulnerable – its saving grace was the strength of its Plan B and now that Plan B is gone. It’s possible a Paradox Engine combo deck will exist again, but I don’t think it will be similar to the Simic versions we’re used to seeing. 

Winner: Orzhov/Azorius Auras 

Orzhov and Azorius Auras were two decks that were, as a whole, bad versus black cards, namely the cheap ones like Thoughtseize and Fatal Push. With Uro gone, there are fewer decks that are able to play Thoughtseize to begin with, and now that the most popular deck doesn’t have free lifegain, we might see an increase in the aggressive decks that Auras builds prey upon.

The biggest hurdle that Auras decks will have to overcome is, of course, the Sacrifice decks. Both Jund Sacrifice and Rakdos Sacrifice are legitimately horrible matchups, to a degree that I believe doesn’t currently exist in Kaldheim Standard, for example – it’s very hard to beat them and there’s not much you can do to change that. 

The final outcome is that Auras is now in a weird spot – of the two decks I consider best, one is a very good matchup and one a very bad one. I think Sacrifice decks will be the most popular deck in the format moving forward, so I would be wary of playing Auras, but it’s a deck to keep in mind if the format develops differently than I expect.

Loser: Rakdos Arcanist

Ever since Historic was released, I thought Rakdos Arcanist was a bad deck. It was awful against any and all graveyard hate, and not good enough against a lack of hate to justify how badly it got beaten by a Grafdigger’s Cage, Leyline of the Void, or simply Scavenging Ooze. The deck only had one saving grace, and that was a favorable Sultai matchup. Now that Sultai is no longer a thing, I’m not sure what the advantages of Rakdos Arcanist are over Rakdos Sacrifice or Jund Sacrifice. 

The point about there being fewer maindeck Cages still applies, so that’s a good thing for the deck, but overall I think the deck loses more from there being no Sultai to fight against than it gains from a lack of Grafdigger’s Cages.

Winner: Azorius Control

Azorius Control is a winner in three different aspects – which is a good thing, because now you can use your brand-new Secret Lair Teferi, Hero of Dominaria without feeling like you’re giving up wins!

The first (and most important) reason the deck was improved is that it’s no longer simply a “worse something else.” I understand that Brad Barclay won the Zendikar Rising Championship with the deck, beating a lot of Sultai players on his way to the top, but I’ve never been able to justify playing Azorius over Sultai. Thoughtseize and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath were just too powerful and Nissa, Who Shakes the World is a better planeswalker than Teferi, Hero of Dominaria – if anything, it certainly wins the heads-up. It always felt to me like whoever was playing Azorius would simply be better-served by playing Sultai, but now this is not a choice you are able to make.

The second reason is that Sultai was such a prevalent force in the metagame that it informed everyone’s deckbuilding decisions in ways that overlapped as being good against you for the most part. Cards like Negate; Tale’s End; Herald’s Horn; Narset, Parter of Veils; and Shark Typhoon often saw play because of how good they were against Sultai specifically, and now that it is not a deck, we might see fewer of them (though a lot of them mainly saw play in Sultai itself). 

There were also some cards that did not see play specifically because Sultai was such a big part of the field, and for the most part they are bad versus Azorius. The fact that Sultai existed in such big numbers meant that players had to be conscious of the number of Fatal Pushes that they played, for example – now, if Gruul and Sacrifice decks become dominant, we might see more copies of those cards being incorporated, which is good for Azorius Control. Decks full of removal (such as Esper Yorion) were not competitive because of how bad they were against Sultai, and now they might be. This is all good news for other control decks.

The third reason is that you yourself don’t need to tweak your deck to beat Sultai anymore – you can dedicate fully to beating the other side of the spectrum. It’s possible, for example, that you don’t want to play maindeck Narset, Parter of Veils anymore, and instead you can play another anti-aggro measure. By narrowing the spectrum of decks you expect to play against, the ban automatically makes an answer-based deck like Azorius Control better. 

Slight Loser: Gruul Aggro

Before the bans, I thought Gruul Aggro was, alongside Jund and Sultai, the best deck in the format. The bans themselves don’t change Gruul in any way, but the direction the metagame goes might be negative for it. It’s weird that the removal of a card that was actually quite threatening for Gruul would make the deck worse, but I think that’s the overall effect it’ll have.

First of all, you remove from the field two decks that were good matchups for Gruul – Sultai Midrange and Paradox Engine combo. Uro was the best card in these decks against you, but they were overall good matchups even with Uro, and it’s not like anyone is going to be playing Uro-less Sultai, so the overall effect is negative unless people adopt decks that are also good matchups for you to replace them. Second, the removal of Sultai might bring about the emergence of the Auras decks, which are your worst matchups. Because of this, I think Gruul is a slight loser, even if the deck remains very powerful.

Winner: Mono-Red Burn

Burn decks were always a thing in Historic, but they were never very good because Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath was too big a hurdle to overcome. Now with Uro gone it will be much harder for other decks to find lifegain, and especially the combination of lifegain and a fast clock that Uro provided, so Burn decks might finally have their chance to shine.

One version I thought was quite interesting that I haven’t had a chance to play yet was Boros Burn, by Lexi Steyer (aka Sorquixe). This deck is splashing for Showdown of the Skalds, which is quite a combo with Runaway Steam-Kin on top of being a powerful card on its own. Unlike for the Standard builds, the mana in Historic is actually good enough to splash a card, so I’m looking forward to trying it out:

Loser: Goblins

Goblins has felt like a 48% deck for a while, and that included the fact that many of the Sultai decks were just not built to beat you. You had a bad matchup versus a prepared Sultai opponent, but quite a good matchup versus an unprepared one, and the unprepared ones outnumbered the prepared ones since preparation versus Goblins can get quite specific and the deck just hasn’t been that popular. The Uro ban removes this good matchup from you while potentially increasing the popularity of some of your bad matchups (such as Sacrifice decks and Auras).

What’s Next for Historic?

I can see the Historic metagame evolving one of two ways. 

Possibility 1: No new decks emerge. The Sultai players spread out relatively evenly towards the other decks that currently exist and there’s some shuffling between Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3, but no new metagame-altering decks that were being held back by Uro show up.

This is, in my opinion, what is likely to happen. Some decks will get slightly better, some will get slightly worse, but the format is going to remain relatively similar. My bets for most-improved decks are Azorius Control and Burn, but they should still not break through to Tier 1.

If this does happen, then I believe Jund Sacrifice will be the best deck, as it doesn’t have any bad matchups that I can see. Some matchups are close (I believe the match versus Gruul is even, for example), but you make up for those with extremely good matchups versus most of the creature decks. This is the list I’d recommend:

The sideboard is changed to accommodate the fact that it’s probably unnecessary to kill Yasharn right now, which is why the Noxious Grasps became extra Abrades – I expect an uptick in mirror matches. It’s possible you can have some extra removal that’s better versus Gruul though, such as Fatal Push.

Possibility 2: The metagame manages to adapt more strongly to Jund Sacrifice – new decks emerge that play Yasharn, Implacable Earth or players manage to slot it in existing decks more easily to the point where Jund Sacrifice is no longer the best deck. 

If this happens, then I believe which deck will be best is going to depend on how much Jund Sacrifice is pushed out. If Jund Sacrifice is pushed out just a little bit (meaning it’s still a Tier 1 deck, but just not the best deck), then I think Gruul will be a pretty strong contender, as I think it’s currently only a little worse than Jund:

I’ve removed the Ahn-Crop Crashers and lowered the number of Collected Companies because they were mostly against Sultai, and that deck no longer exists. Instead we get some extra pieces for the mirror in the form of The Akroan War and Elder Gargaroth. I expect decks like Azorius to grow in popularity a little, so I still have two Collected Company for them, but it’s possible there’s something better to play in this slot.

If Jund Sacrifice is pushed out entirely (if there’s a super-strong Yasharn deck or if some piece of it is banned), then I think the Auras deck might become popular enough that Gruul is no longer the best alternative. At this point it will be hard to predict what’s going to happen, since there are many hypotheticals in place, but I assume the best decks will be either Auras or some control build.

For now, though, I would still stick with Jund Sacrifice and Gruul being the two best decks, and I believe the format will generally move towards being more aggressive, so cheap removal spells will become more prevalent.