More content is coming to Historic, a format that refuses to stay still for more than a couple of weeks.
Thassa’s Oracle has been banned in Historic, so the Tainted Pact menace as we knew it is gone. While it’s true that, with Tainted Pact remaining legal, the combination still exists with Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, I have a lot more faith in Pact simply remaining a viable option rather than being an oppressive point of the metagame. Being able to open more realistic interaction points, a significantly more costly amount of mana to execute (or requiring two turns) alongside planeswalker removal, bounce, etc. is a big deal and will make the games more dynamic and more fun to play from both sides.
Anywho, let’s talk Historic Anthology 5 and what I’ll be brewing with today:
Spoiler alert: there’s a lot of sweet stuff here.
Atarka’s Command and Grisly Salvage
I’ll be brief when it comes to Atarka’s Command and Grisly Salvage for obvious reasons. Still, I do want to touch on them.
Atarka’s Command is certainly the more straightforward of the two. Ross did a good job covering the card. The burn in Historic isn’t exactly weak, but the lack of density has always necessitated that lists are very creature-heavy and often need to lean on Embercleave for closing speed. This isn’t exactly a problem but makes your best draws more susceptible to pinpoint removal, and as Ross noted moves the needle on incentives to go taller with a more Gruul-focused strategy.
Atarka’s Command flips the script, giving red decks a ton of goldfish power and closing speed. At the same time, it’s a better topdeck and a better redundant draw than the ‘Cleave.
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 4 Ghitu Lavarunner
- 4 Viashino Pyromancer
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 1 Wayward Guide-Beast
Ross’s decklist looks really nice. It’s a good place to start for anyone interested in the card or just the archetype in general.
Gerry’s takes on Grisly Salvage are in a similar vein to my first instincts as well. I’ve toyed with Jund Arcanist strategies since the reveal of the Mystical Archive due to the power of Abundant Harvest. Naturally I was interested in reliving the glory days of the card with its natural pairing of Unburial Rites.
Here’s where my mind first went after reading his piece:
- 2 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 2 Paradise Druid
- 3 Mayhem Devil
- 4 Gilded Goose
- 3 Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
- 4 Cauldron Familiar
- 1 Klothys, God of Destiny
- 3 Woe Strider
One of the primary strengths of Abzan Rites back in the day was that it was a midrange deck first that had a solid gameplan of “just cast some strong stuff and maybe mana screw my opponent with Acidic Slime or generate value with Thragtusk” in addition to the over-the-top potential of Grisly Salvage + Unburial Rites.
I believe Jund Sacrifice best fits the bill for a generically good gameplan where the package can fit in effortlessly. Salvage digging deep to deposit Cauldron Familiars and Woe Striders in the graveyard is some welcome additional synergy to the deck, and even reanimating Mayhem Devil is no slouch in this strategy. You lose Trail of Crumbs going this route, and there’s no way my first crack at the mana is optimal, but gaining the ability to just kill people with Craterhoof Behemoth replaces some of your inevitability with just raw power.
It’s possible that Behemoth could be Massacre Wurm; Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or a wide range of other supporting cast, but I like going for the raw goldfish approach for the first draft.
Dromoka’s Command is such an innocuous card. It had a heavy pedigree in Standard, but I still don’t think most folks truly appreciate how strong it is — and this can really be applied to most of the Commands.
I’ve been trying to make counters happen for a while in Historic. Between Conclave Mentor and Winding Constrictor, it just feels like there’s enough density for a powerful deck here somewhere, even with Walking Ballista notably missing from the format.
Dromoka’s Command as your primary piece of interaction for a deck like this is huge for generating dominant battlefields quickly. The strength of a deck like this is to quickly claim control of the battlefield and end the game before an opponent can ever get their feet under them.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 4 Pelt Collector
- 4 Conclave Mentor
- 4 Luminarch Aspirant
Before one would have to play something like Fatal Push, which is hit-or-miss depending on the matchup and the state of the battlefield. Dromoka’s Command is just head and shoulders above Push for furthering your gameplan and putting your opponent in extremely difficult squeezes.
Trash for Treasure
Don’t sleep on this one. Any reanimation at such an efficient rate is something people should be paying attention to.
I admit, this is one of those decks where you probably learn things very quickly after just a few games, so I’m really not married to any of the components here.
It makes sense to me that having Bolas’s Citadel on the battlefield on Turn 3 can lead to some messed-up things. You’re probably not likely to win unless you run super-hot and immediately chain Reservoir and dodge a bunch of lands, but odds are good you’ll be up enough material to pretty effortlessly win the following turn.
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer is a nice complement to this strategy, buying you time, giving you easy fodder for Trash, and being a pseudo-alternate win condition (either directly or just generating enough permanents to activate Citadel).
I think I’m pretty comfortable not being able to cast Citadel in most games, but Phyrexian Tower does a nice job bridging you most of the way there, and we should have ample extra bodies. Further, Prismari Command is just so perfect with Trash, essentially completing both the “quests” of the card while also letting you play an interactive piece that beats Grafdigger’s Cage.
So, yeah, super-unrefined, but there’s something powerful to discover with Trash for Treasure. I guarantee it.
Into the North
Into the North has a lot of strange potential. Baseline Rampant Growth is really strong and is a unique addition to Historic, despite somewhat comparable effects like Growth Spiral and Explore already being evergreen components.
The difference is that Rampant Growth by default does not ask you to play 27+ lands. You can get away with significantly lower, and this changes the dynamic of these strategies substantially. Further, it’s a shuffle effect for Brainstorm.
It’s difficult to make these Flash-style decks work traditionally. Nightpack Ambusher on Turn 3 is extremely strong and one of the best plays you can make in Historic, as it often neutralizes an attacker and then easily goes on to win the game if backed up by any substantial support. However, as I mentioned, playing Growth Spiral requires you to play a ton of lands, and your deck will often be prone to flooding when you really want to be lean and aggressive with these types of decks.
Into the North helps bridge that gap significantly. We’re only playing 25 lands instead of 28, and Into the North even generates a threat with Faceless Haven (which is a Wolf, heh) when we’re all set up later in the game! A significantly lower land count is huge with Brainstorm too. And like I said, we’re up to the full eight shuffle effects, which is remarkably close to “not embarrassing.”
I’ve been trying to get Nightpack Ambusher to work reliably for a while now. Into the North seems like a good avenue to make that happen on top of its many other applications.
Just for the sake of extremity, what would going super-heavy snow look like?
I don’t think it’s actually that difficult to turn on Marit Lage’s Slumber. Further, the amount of card selection it’s able to generate is highly useful when it comes to a deck like Turbo Fog. You really are just looking to assemble a very specific string of cards depending on the matchup. The upside of Slumber is that once you’ve done your thing, it kills them!
I love Kolaghan’s Command. It’s been a mainstay in every mopey value deck I’ve ever wanted to play. It’s extremely strong and flexible. The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is Grixis.
Often the power of discard is in its redundancy. Making your opponent discard a card here and there is usually ineffective, as they simply just discard their worst card. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager has always been on the cusp of being a powerhouse, but it too frequently gets swatted away and the game continues.
Kolaghan’s Command dramatically powers up the squeeze that Bolas can place on an opponent. If they kill it, suddenly they’re down another card and Bolas is on his way to remove yet another. This effect and Valki, God of Lies are particularly strong with Kolaghan’s Command due to their relevance both early and late in the game. Now you can simply cast them, they’ll get removed, and you can pick them up again when it’s time to close the game out.
This list is pretty simple and is trying to stay focused. Just trade all your cards for your opponents and eventually beat them with something power that costs seven mana, by either transforming Nicol Bolas or casting Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor.
Grixis has been missing a super-powerful card for a while now in Historic and Kolaghan’s Command definitely fits the bill.
Ojutai’s Command has been paired with powerful control finishers that can scale into the late-game easily (cards like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Soulfire Grand Master). Given that Historic is lacking any clear analogue to these cards, it made the most sense to me to look to pair it with a proactive Lurrus strategy.
- 3 Spell Pierce
- 3 Ojutai's Command
- 4 Cartouche of Solidarity
- 4 All That Glitters
- 2 Staggering Insight
- 4 Sentinel's Eyes
- 4 Heliod's Punishment
While I’m excited for Ojutai’s Command, I’m not sure it will have nearly the same impact it had in Standard. If it will, then it makes sense to me in a strategy like Auras. Auras can often have polarized games where it runs away with things or its threats die and its left flopping around trying to find a way to get into the game. This more aggressive take on Auras makes sense to me when Ojutai’s Command is additional insurance to make sure that your deck is functional.
Speaker of the Heavens has always struck me as a card that was potentially underplayed in Auras to begin with, and even here maybe I’m not giving it the proper respect by only playing two copies. Needless to say, Ojutai’s Command also pairs very nicely with this card. Returning on your end step and gaining four life can often lead to you activating it on your own turn and setting up an insurmountable snowball that can operate even without your powerful Aura engine creatures.
Needless to say, I’m amped for the possibilities of Historic Anthology 5. There’s going to be a lot to explore and there’s a good combination of both role players and build arounds that I’m excited to slot into existing decks and take cracks at new ones. Hopefully you’re inspired to do the same!