(Literally) Everything I Know About Historic Heading Into The Kaldheim Championship

On the eve of the Kaldheim Championship, Brad Nelson lays out the premises of Historic and follows up with eight hot takes. The last one is a doozy…

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, illustrated by Chris Rallis

Historic had quite the shake-up recently, and because of this every Kaldheim Championship player was scrambling this past week trying to make sense of it all, as we had to register our decks Sunday night. The stress of it all was only amplified thanks to the SCG Tour Online running nine Historic tournaments this past weekend, which made for some last-minute judgment calls. 

That’s why today’s article title couldn’t be more true. I’m going to go over every single thought I have (and had this week) about this format. Some might be correct, most will probably be wrong, but that’s what’s so fun about crammed testing. I only had a short window to figure out what to play, and because of that I might be wildly incorrect about the format. I could’ve also nailed it, who knows. So yeah — today I’m just going to put it all on the table and let you decide if you think I’ve got a good grasp on Historic or not!

The Overview

Articles like this can go sideways rather quickly if we don’t start them off with a little contextual foundation to build upon. That’s why I think we should talk about the SCG Tour Online results a bit before we get into any of the ‘hot takes.’

My team was working on Jund Food (Jegantha) even before Miguel used it in SCG Tour Online Satellite #1 to a 6-0 finish. It just made sense for the deck to be good again, since one of its worst matchups, Sultai Midrange, was no longer in the picture. I was honestly pretty disappointed when I saw it gaining popularity throughout the weekend, but I wasn’t surprised. It just meant that we’d have to work even harder if we wanted to try to get an edge in this weekend’s Kaldheim Championship. 

Now while Jund Food was gaining popularity, so was Yasharn, Implacable Earth. Again, it makes sense why this would be the case, but to see it that quickly in the second Satellite shows just how quickly the SCG Tour Online players react to metagames. Yasharn wasn’t only popping up in Bant Control either — it was in decks like Selesnya Company, Selesnya Angels, and even Four-Color Control (Kaheera) that sprouted up at the end of Friday. 

Things were moving quickly, but even through all the hate that was showing up, Jund Food continued to dominate. In fact, it won the $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier on Sunday!

Hot Take #1: Jund Food will be the most-played deck.

That gets us to my first ‘hot take,’ and I know it’s pretty obvious, but we should just get some of the low-hanging fruit out of the way before this article goes off the rails. While I think the Jund Sacrifice matchup is closer than I previously expected, Jund Food is still the deck I expect most people to show up with since it’s much stronger against the normalized hate against Sacrifice strategies. 

Boom, did it! 

(Brad Notes: The metagame breakdown for the Kaldheim Championship was released in between the writing and release of this section. Still, I decided to leave this in because I want the world to know just how dedicated I am to a joke that no one will laugh at. Some might not even think this was a joke due to how unfunny it is. I’m also aware of how foolish this is given that this note is now longer than the section itself.)

Hot Take #2: Angel decks are bad.

Okay, fine, I wanted to be correct about at least two things! That’s honestly all I really have to say about this archetype. It seemed like a lot of people had to try it out for themselves this past weekend, but without any great finishes, I expect this to fade into the distance.

Hot Take #3: Death’s Shadow is a trap.

Speaking of fading into the distance, Death’s Shadow is just not good in Historic. It’s not really shocking to me though, as I expected this one to fail. Death’s Shadow just needs too many things to happen before it’s good. For starters, you need to get below thirteen life, which takes a couple of turns minimum. After that you need to cast the card, and then wait a whole turn cycle to attack with it. That’s pretty slow if you ask me.

Death's Shadow

Look, a lot of people want this to be good, but don’t let them trick you into believing in it. If the card was powerful enough for this format, we’d had seen it do more this past weekend. There’s no magic combination that’s going to unlock this card either. Maybe there’s a list that has a better win percentage than our current Death’s Shadow decks, but it won’t be high enough to make waves in the format. 

Hot Take #4: Control players have to stop being afraid of the mirror.

I’m going to put this as simply as I can for you control players out there — stop worrying about winning Game 1 in the mirror! Seriously, every time I look at a control deck, it has Search for Azcanta, four Shark Typhoons, way too many counters, and even some card draw to go with the six card advantage planeswalkers. This is such a big recipe for failure and it happens over and over and over again. 

Think back to Sultai Ramp (Yorion) last month. It started showing up, but everyone said it couldn’t beat the aggressive decks. That’s because it was playing far too many cards for the mirrors in the maindeck. My February Kaldheim League Weekend team took a lot of those cards out, and replaced them with anti-creature spells. Guess what — our matchups against creature decks improved and now that version of the deck is the commonly used template.

This is what Azorius Control has to now do in Historic to survive. Just pummel the Mayhem Devil, Goblins, and Collected Company decks (and Gruul Aggro in Game 1), and then worry about winning the control matchups after sideboard. You can still lose mirror-matches in Game 1 if you draw too many removal spells, but you’re always going to lose against creature decks if you don’t even have enough of them to draw in the first place!

Azorius Control has a very good chance of being a great deck in Historic. You just have to stop this ridiculous arms race to do it!

I think the same is true for these new Bant and Four-Color Control decks that play Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Now I honestly don’t think decks like this are even good, but what makes them worse is how much they focus on Game 1 for the mirror. There are just so many copies of Shark Typhoon and Hydroid Krasis in the maindeck!

I understand these are ramp decks, but when I played them I lost too many games to the creature decks because I was just spinning my wheels. I’d cast Explore, then Growth Spiral, then Growth Spiral, and then cycle a Shark Typhoon and hope I was in a position to win the game. Most of the time that wasn’t the case. 

Hot Take #5: Mono-Green Elves is almost there.

I spent too much time trying to make Mono-Green Elves good. Well, it was probably worth the time since bringing a new (broken) deck to an important event can be career-changing. Eventually I was starting to realize I couldn’t answer the problems that were being presented so I did what Snoop Dogg’s been telling me to do for years, and dropped it like it was hot. 

Hot enough to write about, anyway. (CEDitor’s Note: Brad, please stop…)

So many cards people are playing are just bad. Elvish Clancaller, for example, sucks. Sure, it makes your small creatures bigger, but not that big, and assuredly not big enough to justify its inclusion. Allosaurus Shepherd and Elvish Warmaster know that you need to get big if you’re going to win Historic games, and that’s why their activated abilities do work. Elvish Clancaller is just a waste of space and also gets much worse after sideboard when players have better interaction for your little green army. 

Shapers’ Sanctuary Realmwalker

Shapers’ Sanctuary and Realmwalker are bad cards too. Shapers’ Sanctuary sounds like it would be great against Mayhem Devil combos, but their combos don’t cost mana. Casting creatures to die and then triggering Shapers’ Sanctuary does. If you can’t interact with the Mayhem Devils, you really aren’t going to get that far against Jund decks with this card. 

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship Kogla, the Titan Ape

Why not just kill Mayhem Devil? This plan has some downsides, like not drawing enough lands to cast these haymakers, but it’s still a much better plan than trying to draw half your deck before losing. 

Realmwalker sounds great against sweepers but it’s too reactionary. You develop your battlefield, wait for a sweeper, and then try to get card advantage through it. No thank you! I’d much rather just slam an uncounterable squirrely card advantage engine and smash. It’s also going to live through that Wrath of God, because why wouldn’t it. 

Toski, Bearer of Secrets

“This card is nutty!” – Brad Nelson, now former content creator at Star City Games after this terrible joke.

I found some success with these plans, but they weren’t fleshed out enough for me to pull the trigger. I still think there’s a 75 out there that makes this deck worthy of competitive play in Historic. I just didn’t have enough time to figure it out. I will put more work into this deck before the next League Weekend.

Hot Take #6: Gruul Aggro will be a great choice for this weekend.

I thought there was a good chance that I was registering this deck (or something similar) on Sunday morning. Gruul Aggro historically had a bad Mayhem Devil matchup, but that was when it was focused on the beatdown deck. That’s not the case right now, which helps Gruul Aggro in the matchup. It also helps that Jund Food has slightly weaker draws against Gruul Aggro than Jund Company does. 

In the end though, Seth Manfield and I couldn’t really agree on numbers, which is never a great sign. Usually the two of us click on card selection, or at the very least could get behind the other after discussions. This time around, we really just couldn’t see eye-to-eye, and that spooked me. There was another deck with promise that the team was working on, so we decided to spend Sunday working on that and never looked back. Honestly, I’m very happy with my deck choice, but I still think Gruul Aggro is going to surprise people this weekend. 

Hot Take #7: Orzhov Auras will overperform thanks to a great metagame for it.

This deck gets a lot better when people switch from Jund Company over to Jund Food. Before Orzhov Auras was simply a dog in the Mayhem Devil matchup, but that’s really not the case anymore now that most people are playing more copies of Trail of Crumbs and way fewer copies of Priest of Forgotten Gods. 

Kaya’s Ghostform Demonic Vigor

This deck also has a good control matchup thanks to Kaya’s Gostform and Demonic Vigor. These cards are extremely annoying to play against when you’re trying to react, and on top of that, there are still four copies of Thoughtseize! 

This is the deck I suggest you try out if you’re just getting into Historic or don’t know what to play. I don’t even have suggestions on the list, but this deck is fantastic and especially so with what the metagame is turning out to look like. 

Hot Take #8: I won’t live down my deck choice.

I’ve made a mistake. Not because I picked a bad deck; I think our deck choice and decklist is fantastic. No, the mistake was not playing a worse choice to save face. You see, I registered Azorius Control. Yes, I know. I’ve perennially called Azorius Control a bad deck and here I am playing it. I’ll never live this down. 

I can’t give you our decklists just yet given that some of my team is also playing it, but it’s a banger. I’m so sorry Shaheen for everything I’ve ever said about control. Okay, fine, that’s a lie — control sucks 99% of the time (whenever I’m not playing it).