Is Rakdos Arcanist The Deck To Beat In Historic?

What’s the deck to play in Historic? World Champion PVDDR and six more SCG creators say what they’d play.

Dreadhorde Arcanist, illustrated by G-host Lee

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the recent introduction of Zendikar Rising, 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 Pioneer event! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!

Michael Majors — Rakdos Arcanist (Lurrus)

Zendikar Rising has given two big upgrades to Rakdos Arcanist — modal double-faced cards (DFCs) and Feed the Swarm.  Rakdos Arcanist’s primary weakness was cards like Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace after sideboard and now it has an effective way to cover those problem permanents in addition to trying to sidestep them with threats like Hazoret the Fervent.

The DFCs do good work as just being generic strong cards that take up slots you were always interested in being interactive, but Rakdos is subtly mana-hungry and a psuedo-increase in land count is appreciated when Agadeem’s Awakening is a huge power boost to this deck, giving additional inevitability and heavily increasing the impact Lurrus can have in long contests.

Rakdos Arcanist was already a strong deck and Zendikar Rising has both given it raw power and filled in many of its weaknesses.  The exact right configuration is still to be seen of course, but this is a front-runner for the best deck in Historic.

Gerry Thompson — Four-Color Ramp

In the age-old tradition of playing broken Standard decks in older formats, we’re going to be playing Omnath, Locus of Creation in Historic. For the most part, this deck is similar to the Zendikar Rising Standard version, albeit with some Historic upgrades. I’ve played several different versions and this has been by far the strongest.

Risen Reef is a small card advantage and ramp engine that demands an immediate answer. It certainly helps that Omnath is an Elemental itself. With a Genesis Ultimatum, you can draw a sizable portion of your deck; make tokens with Felidar Retreat; and give your creatures haste with Kenrith, the Returned King

Explore (over Growth Spiral for mana considerations), Oracle of Mul Daya, and an improved manabase all lead to Omnath being strong in Historic. There are some difficult matchups in Historic for this deck but that will be the case for any deck. There’s nothing else I’d rather play right now. 

Corey Baumeister — Rakdos Arcanist (Lurrus)

The top three decks in Historic continue to be Sultai Midrange, Mono-Red Goblins, and Jund Sacrifice. All three of these decks are powerful, proactive, and most importantly have great targets for Claim the Firstborn — the biggest factor for Rakdos Arcanist being a great deck choice. The reason that’s true is because Rakdos doesn’t pressure your opponent very aggressively. so it really is up to the creatures you can steal to do the bulk of the pressuring. 

The thing I love the most about Rakdos Arcanist is it really does have game against anything. Thoughtseize paired with Dreadhorde Arcanist is just about the most unfair start you can have against any deck. You start by picking apart the only way to kill the powerful two-drop and then you just start making every turn awkward for your opponent until you get to escape a Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and finish the game.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Mono-Black God-Pharaoh’s Gift

At first, I was worried that Temur Neoform would explode in popularity, which would spell bad news for Mono-Black God-Pharaoh’s Gift as they’re just too consistent and too fast for you to beat without any disruption, and this deck only plays creature disruption (which doesn’t stop their combo). I even considered swapping the Leyline of the Voids in the sideboard for Grafdigger’s Cages for that matchup alone — Cage is annoying for you but you can certainly win through it, whereas they really can’t.

However, my worries seem to have been a bit unfounded. There are no copies of Temur Neoform (or any Neoform deck) in the most recent Magic Arena deck dumps and I haven’t queued against it once in my limited Historic laddering. I’m sure someone somewhere is playing it, and it might actually be quite good (I guess we’ll find out soon at the Grand Finals next week), but it’s certainly not ubiquitous enough that it would change my choice of deck.

Because of this, I’d play Mono-Black God-Pharaoh’s Gift again, as I think it’s powerful, it’s not commonly hated (Leyline of the Void is the best card versus it, but the rest of the format really pushes you towards playing Cage instead, so that’s what most people have), and I feel comfortable piloting it versus most decks. I’m also happy with my change to four Agadeem’s Awakening, as it fits the deck quite well.

Carmen Handy — Colorless Ramp

Okay, so I know this looks like a meme deck, but it’s the real deal.

Though it suffers against a lot of the aggro decks in the format, those aggressive strategies are kept in check by Goblins, Sultai, Sacrifice variants, and Mono-Black God-Pharaoh’s Gift.  So, if I were to be playing in a tournament this weekend, I’d want a deck that wants a great matchup against those decks and would be willing to sacrifice points in other places.

Karn, the Great Creator has been the backbone of a few archetypes now that were almost there, and this feels like the next shell worth exploring with Karn.  Most of the decks in the format are trying to abuse a specific axis or interaction, which is incredibly exploitable by having a virtual four (or more) copies of effective hate cards in your deck.

Forsaken Monument almost does a Fires of Invention impression in this archetype, where it frequently isn’t horrifying the turn it is cast, but getting to untap with it is game-ending.  Every land being turned into City of Traitors means that the spell-lands in the deck are undercosted, and there’s a sort of virtual card advantage in the fact that so many of the deck’s lands get to play as spells in the later phases of the game.

There’s still some tinkering to be done with the lineup of lands and sideboard slots in the deck, but the shell itself is rock solid.  I imagine it has another week or two before people start really respecting it, so I’d recommend anyone reading this to get in while the gettin’s good.

Autumn Burchett — Mono-Red Goblins

With the Grand Finals coming up in a week’s time, I have my eyes on Historic as I try to find the perfect deck for the tournament. I’ve been trying out Omnath decks mainly but haven’t got any of them to the point where I’m happy with them, so if I had to choose a deck right now it would likely still be Mono-Red Goblins.

My list is very similar to the one presented last week, though I’ve trimmed the numbers on Herald’s Horn a little. The card is extremely good at what it does, but it has some pretty sharp diminishing returns that makes every copy you draw after the first not very exciting; if you have two Horns on the battlefield and one sees a land on top, the other Horn isn’t able to draw you anything either that turn. It also conflicts awkwardly with Conspicuous Snoop too via similar reasoning, but the cost reduction that the Horn provides is so huge for recovering from sweepers that I still like it quite a bit.

I considered adding Leyline of the Void to my sideboard in light of the rise of Rakdos Arcanist and how impressive Mono-Black God-Pharaoh’s Gift looked at the Mythic Invitational too, but the printing of Feed the Swarm makes me pretty unexcited about putting Leylines in the sideboard of this deck, as making my Muxus, Goblin Grandees less consistent when I sideboard Leylines in, only to have the Leyline answered so easily, sounds quite unappealing.

Shaheen Soorani — Temur Neoform

I have been waiting patiently for Pact of Negation to push a combo deck over the edge.  For a brief period, I was obsessed with Song of Creation in Historic, a combo that was as fragile as they come.  Narset, Parter of Veils; a simple counterspell; or generic hand disruption destroyed me left and right, prompting me to shelve the deck until a significant defense upgrade was available.  That never happened, but another janky combo deck came across my desk recently.

The Temur Neoform combo made a huge splash in Modern, giving users a Turn 1 or Turn 2 kill more often than it should.  The drawback was the same: disruption was punishing enough to not only stop the combo, but also prevent it from occurring again.  In Historic, the combo is even more fragile, but Pact of Negation is a much more potent defense with so few sets being legal.  It’s a counterspell from the old days that probably should not be around with a bunch of recently exited Standard sets.  While it’s here, quick combo decks will continue to pop up to take full advantage of it. 

If you’re into glass cannon strategies that have a little less glass and a little more cannon with Pact of Negation, this is the deck for you!