What Has Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive Done To Shake Up Historic?

Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive broke Historic wide open. World Champion PVDDR and five more SCG creators say what they’d play.

Brainstorm, illustrated by Justin and Alexis Hernandez

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the arrival of Strixhaven, 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!

Todd Anderson — Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)

Holy moly the Mystical Archive cards have completely changed the landscape in Historic. With so many staples entering the fray, you could play just about anything. Right now, I have my eye on a sweet little number from Japanese legend Yuta Takahashi. Dimir Rogues (Lurrus) has been a major player in Standard for a while now, but the Historic version reminds me a lot of Faeries. It’s no wonder that a deck so similar to Faeries is completely absurd in the hands of someone who mastered that archetype over a decade ago.

The instant-speed nature of the archetype means you dictate the pace of play. Your cheap removal and interaction allow for some clean navigation, walking your opponent into various traps or just preventing them from getting their plan online. Dimir Rogues usually has trouble against aggressive decks, since their onslaught of cheap creatures can overwhelm your defenses. With the addition of Mystical Archive cards, people seem to be a lot more interested in casting Brainstorm, which is great news for us.

Decks like Dimir Rogues thrive when given time. If you’re the smallest deck in the field, cleaning up against control or combo should be a breeze. Inquisition of Kozilek is an outrageous addition to the strategy but Memory Lapse is also unbelievable at times. Did I mention that many of your cards can mill the opponent, often making Memory Lapse a little more like Counterspell?

This build took down the Insights Esports Historic Open this past weekend, and there’s not a lot else to say about it. Every card looks phenomenal, and this is exactly the type of strategy that can put those cheap, powerful staples from the Mystical Archive to good use. It’s unreal how much the format has changed with Strixhaven, but injecting twenty years of powerful cards can do that to a budding format. I have so many Faithless Looting decks I want to try, but I fell in love with this monster the moment I saw it.

Yuta Takahashi is back and Dimir Rogues looks disgusting.

Dom Harvey — Dimir Pact (Lutri)

Or rather, this is what I’d like to play at the time of writing. Tainted Pact is effectively unplayable on MTG Arena without a flawless internet connection and keyboard reflexes that would get you a successful career in an actual esport. Forcing players to speedrun the resolution of their own spell to avoid timing out is a great way to expose the limits of the rope system but may not be what they had in mind… 

That’s a real shame, because this deck is delightful. Sam Black highlighted how perfectly Lutri works with Tainted Pact, giving you the same unique deckbuilding incentive and working together to make Pact a one-card combo given enough time and mana — this list uses his as a starting point. Normally, that would mean shaving a copy of a card here and adding two copies of another there – in this deck, you ask if you want the fifth-best removal spell or some marginal counterspell instead. Historic has a deep enough card pool that you can live with most of these answers.

The reward is substantial: a compact, self-contained combo in a solid control deck that can make good use of its companion in a fair game and is well-positioned against the other combo-control decks making waves in Historic right now. I assume that these decks will push the aggro decks down in the short-term and the choice of interaction reflects this — if that changes, cards like Tyrant’s Scorn or more sweepers can hop into the maindeck.

Ari Lax — Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)

Listen, I don’t know if I’m right this week, but if I’m wrong I’m okay going down with the ship. Yuta Takahashi is playing flash spells and discard, and if he’s winning with it I’m going to follow his lead. It also isn’t some insane outlier where Yuta is battling Faeries against Grixis Death’s Shadow, because Christian Hauck also Top 8’ed this same event with Dimir Rogues (Lurrus).

It also seems good to position yourself as the Dimir Rogues deck against the other successful deck of this event: Jeskai Control featuring Torrential Gearhulk plus Magma Opus. To add another name to the Top 8 pile, Kaldheim Champion Arne Huschenbeth lost in the quarterfinals with that deck and wasn’t the only person playing it, and cheap instants and discard tends to be great against six-mana blue spells. I do have some slight concerns with the Izzet Phoenix matchup, the other deck that did well this weekend but just not in this event, but in a world of blue spells as far as the eye can see, I’m happy showing up with what is clearly the best Mystical Dispute deck and getting scrappy.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Boros Wizards (Lurrus)

With the release of Strixhaven, the landscape of Historic as we know it is going to change. This isn’t only because of some Strixhaven cards themselves but also because of the cards from the Mystical Archive. Some of the best cards in the history of Magic have just been introduced to the format, so all bets are off on what it’s going to look like once it’s settled.

Right now, it’s not even close to settled. People are still experimenting with a variety of sweet things (Emergent Ultimatum, Arclight Phoenix, Mizzix’s Mastery, Mind’s Desire, and so on). This makes this the perfect time to just burn people out. Mono-Red Burn was already on the cusp of playability, and now it’s gotten another great one-drop in Clever Lumimancer and the best burn spell in the format in Lightning Helix. On top of that, having access to Rest in Peace in the sideboard when Faithless Looting has been making so many waves is a big bonus.

The biggest question I have with this deck right now is whether it should play Lurrus of the Dream-Den or not. Lurrus is undoubtedly strong, especially alongside cards like Viashino Pyromancer, but you do give up some things to be able to play it — for example, I think if I didn’t have Lurrus, I would rather play Bonecrusher Giant than Lightning Strike in my deck. For the moment I’ve been liking Lurrus, but I’m still experimenting to see if it’s actually better than just playing some more expensive permanents (Showdown of the Skalds, Rampaging Ferocidon, and Goblin Chainwhirler are all potential options as well, either in the maindeck or in the sideboard). The one clash I do have is Experimental Frenzy, which I think is pretty important versus decks full of removal (though ironically that’s where Lurrus shines the most). 

Flamescroll Celebrant is another new addition to the sideboard, and it might not be good enough once the metagame becomes more established, but so far it’s justified its slot against Cycling and Emergent Ultimatum decks.

Shaheen Soorani — Jeskai Control

With the first couple Historic events with Strixhaven in the books, seeing this list immediately brightened my day!  Jeskai Control in Historic is the clear evolution Azorius Control had to go through, with the addition of Lightning Helix.  The glaring deficit that Azorius Control had was its two-mana interaction, not having the ability to tango with creatures at instant speed.  Not only does it have one of the best removal spells for that mana now, but it also added Memory Lapse and Magma Opus to that formerly vacant mana-curve slot.

Memory Lapse is an obvious great choice, but Magma Opus was a surprise addition.  I really liked the card when it was first previewed, since it has the pitch option that ramps you early on and does not force you to wait for an eight-mana spell.  This still seems weak for Historic, until you add four Torrential Gearhulk in the mix.  Gearhulk is a blowout on Turn 5 when ramped from the Treasure, and puts Jeskai Control on the competitive map. 

Azorius Control has needed a little boost in Historic, and these two red cards from Strixhaven have finally provided just that.

Michael Majors — Rakdos Arcanist (Lurrus)

I’ve been a proponent of Rakdos Arcanist for a long time now, and most recently touched on some of the changes yesterday when discussing how strong Cling to Dust is if the format gets progressively more linear and graveyard-focused. While Rakdos Arcanist is a great Cling to Dust deck, the real pickup from Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive is Inquisition of Kozilek.

Rakdos Arcanist’s strongest draws are and were a sequence involving Thoughtseize into Dreadhorde Arcanist into Young Pyromancer, cast a spell, and then flash one back with Dreadhorde Arcanist.  This typically leaves you miles ahead on the battlefield and your opponent with a draw that has a giant hole in it.  From there games can easily snowball.

Previously it was difficult to justify four copies of Young Pyromancer due to how difficult it was to cast spells proactively in a wide range of matchups.  The redundancy of disruption in Inquisition is a huge boon to Pyromancer and the deck generally.  It’s true that we’re playing considerably less creature removal, and this is something to keep an eye on as the format evolves, but just trading off cards and generating elemental tokens is still a great way to handle creature matchups.

The Mystical Archive cards featured in the sideboard, Stone Rain and Sign in Blood, are still works in progress, but I’ve been pleased with the latter, both when you’re loading up on removal and generally against control strategies, while Stone Rain has some hilariously powerful potential with Dreadhorde Arcanist + Fame. 

Rakdos Arcanist still has weaknesses and vulnerabilities to a variety of hate cards, but these drastic improvements to its consistency and proactive gameplan only continue to keep Rakdos Arcanist poised as one of the strongest decks in Historic, and still a blast to play if you’re looking for Legacy-style flurries of spells with tricky but rewarding sequencing.