Where To Go Now That Brainstorm Is Banned In Historic

With Brainstorm banned from Historic in all but name, where does the MTG Arena metagame go from here? Brad Nelson shares his breakdown.

Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, illustrated by Wisnu Tan

As you probably already know, Brainstorm is now banned in Historic. Well technically it’s suspended, but we all know what that actually means. This all happened this past Wednesday in an emergency ban announcement by Wizards of the Coast (WotC) that went into effect yesterday. Today I’ll discuss how this announcement might affect all the decks in the metagame, including those that were casting Brainstorm.

I’ll be littering the page with seemingly random thoughts. Then, once you know all of my opinions, I’ll make a Top 10 list so you really know just how good I think some decks are. I mean, the Top 10 list is almost useless after you’ve read everything else I’ve said, but a lot of people like lists. 

86’ed Archetypes

Dimir Control

Let’s kick things off with the ever-so-obvious Dimir Control deck Team CFB popularized during the July Strixhaven League Weekend. For starters, Dimir Control is already a Brainstorm deck, which hurts it quite a bit. To make matters worse, it was heavily designed to prey on other blue decks, which all collectively took a hit from the ban. We can just call it a ban, right?

Temur Indomitable Creativity

Next up is the deck I piloted during July Strixhaven League Weekend. Indomitable Creativity decks already took a big hit when Time Warp paid for Brainstorm’s sins last month. Still, replacing Velomachus Lorehold with Koma, Cosmos Serpent really wasn’t as big of a hit to the archetype as most anticipated. The deck was still capable of some really strong sequences, and was one I personally liked playing more after the ban of Time Warp. 

That’s going to change though as this deck really enjoyed having Brainstorm around to sculpt its draws. This is just not the sort of deck that needs redundancy, so drawing extra copies of any one card could be super-detrimental without Brainstorm around to smooth things out.

Mono-Black Aggro❄

Much like Dimir Control, Mono-Black Aggro❄ really was only around the prey on blue decks, which it sadly was much worse at doing. Now that Brainstorm will significantly reduce the number of blue decks in the metagame, creature decks should become more popular again. This is exactly why Mono-Black Aggro❄ will be saying bye-bye to the metagame as it’s really not the archetype you want to be playing in a sea of Mayhem Devil and Collected Company strategies.

Gruul Aggro

Gruul Aggro, what are you doing here? Couldn’t one argue that you’d get much better now that Brainstorm is gone? No? Is it because you’ve always been bad ever since Uro was banned?

That’s right, Gruul Aggro is not going to be dominant. It wasn’t even that good before the Mystical Archive, and that release made things a whole lot worse for it. Now I know this archetype garners a ton of support, so if you don’t believe me, then by all means incinerate your ladder rank. 

Oddly enough, I think Mono-Green Aggro❄ is just a better green beatdown deck than Gruul Aggro is. This is strictly because the mana is better and allows Mono-Green Aggro❄ to support such amazing two-drops like Werewolf Pack Leader. Embercleave is a house, obviously, but I just don’t think the juice is worth the squeeze in most matchups.

Down, But Not Out

Izzet Phoenix

I really should err on the side of caution with this one, but I honestly think the suspension of Brainstorm might actually be a boon for Izzet Phoenix. Not in the sense that it will dominate the format for an extended period of time or anything, but it should still be viable. That’s because Izzet Phoenix is best when putting it up against creature matchups. Its actual biggest holes in Historic have come from control and combo, two archetypes that should get significantly weaker without Brainstorm. 

Obviously Izzet Phoenix will be a worse deck in a vacuum without access to Brainstorm. It’s just that the dip in blue-based opponents gives the archetype the wiggle room needed to play more anti-creature cards like Aether Gust and Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor. These will be especially important in helping the deck defeat opposing Korvold, Fae-Cursed Kings (which have really given the deck a difficult time during the Brainstorm era.) 

Torrential Gearhulk Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Jeskai Control will also take a hit from the announcement, but it most likely won’t be the deck’s death sentence. I think this will depend on how many angles of attack the format has. If Jund Food, Gruul Aggro, Bant Ramp, and some combo deck we don’t know about yet are the top decks, Jeskai Control probably stands a very little chance as there are too many problems to solve.

Another issue for Jeskai Control may be the return of hand disruption that we’ll get more into later. Control decks need a certain amount of velocity to push past cards like Thoughtseize. Expressive Iteration is still around, but it might get a bit risky for control to go all in with Magma Opus, Mizzix’s Mastery, and Torrential Gearhulk without Brainstorm to smooth things out.

Bant Ramp (Kaheera)❄

Speaking of velocity, Bant Ramp does have the ability to push through hand disruption. Sadly though that doesn’t mean it won’t continue to stink. Maybe there’s room for it in the metagame, but it’s getting harder and harder for a 3/3 land to get work done these days. Nissa, Who Shakes the World is obviously the reason to play a deck like this, but I just can’t really see the benefits of picking this over other options right off the bat. 

Don’t get me wrong — the first thing I’ll do is try to make this deck work, but that’s really saying something more about me than the deck. It’ll be tough if Aura strategies are Tier 1, which I think they will be, as those are some of the most difficult matchups. Past that, you do have a pretty decent chance to beat Mayhem Devil strategies thanks to Yasharn, and Gruul Aggro if you have the correct sideboard for it (which I currently don’t have listed here).

In the end we might just see Azorius Control utilizing the power of Memory Lapse come back. I’m not the most confident this will actually be a reality since Memory Lapse only sounds great if Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is on the battlefield, but we will see. Control in some form will still exist, because it’s always existed in Historic. It just may take some time for us to find its next form. 

Let Me See What You’re Working With

Orzhov Auras (Lurrus)

Thoughtseize Inquisition of Kozilek

Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek should get a significant boost in stock with the suspension of Brainstorm. I’m sure you’ve responded to a Thoughtseize with Brainstorm before, but if not, let me tell you that it’s a beating and a half. This duo of destruction was poised to wreak havoc on Historic with the release of Strixhaven, but we all quickly realized how badly they both got beat by Brainstorm. 

I think the most impactful shift will be that from Azorius Auras back to Orhzov Auras now that Brainstorm has left the building. After all, Auras switched from black to blue when Brainstorm decks started picking up in popularity. Thoughtseize got worse and Spell Pierce got better, so it’s pretty reasonable to believe the opposite will now be true once creatures and planeswalkers start to become more prevalent in the new landscape of Historic.

Rakdos Arcanist (Lurrus)

Another Thoughtseize deck poised for a return is Rakdos Arcanist (Lurrus). Now I’ve never really been that big of a fan of this deck, as I always think there’s something better I could be doing. Still though, it’s a deck that I know many people love, so it’s worth mentioning.

Five-Color Niv-Mizzet

Five-Color Niv-Mizzet is a difficult deck to predict what will happen to it. Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive really gave this deck a shot in the arm with the printing of Lightning Helix, but it’s spent the last two months preying on Izzet Phoenix. So yeah, I think the removal for this deck is superb now, but it’s also just clunky enough of the time to lose games you could have won if you drew slightly better.

This was a great deck against Azorius Auras as well, but things might be trickier when that archetype moves back to black. Yeah, I’m just not really sure about this one, but if I had to guess, it would continue to be a role-player in the background.

Those Who Could Hang With Blue

Jund Food (Jegantha)

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m pretty sure the next deck that will need a ban will be Jund Sacrifice variants. Look, I get how ridiculous it is to bring up even more potential bans in a post-ban article. It’s just that Jund Food, Jund Company, Jund “whatever you want to call it” has been a real contender through the past eighteen months. It’s just a fantastic archetype that checks every box. 

Jund Food and/or Jund Company will most likely be the best deck(s) right out of the gates. They just have such a deep arsenal that they can adapt to pretty much everything the metagame throws at them. If creatures come back, we will see an uptick in Priest of Forgotten Gods. If midrange and control are dominant, Trail of Crumbs and Binding the Old Gods are there to compete.

Selesnya Company

Selesnya Company may not be as robust as the Jund strategies, yet it still had enough tools to compete in the Brainstorm-era of Historic. Moving forward, there’s still a deep enough pool of green and white creatures to keep this deck in the metagame. That is, if there’s a build that keeps up with the Jund strategies. Claim the Firstborn is a hell of a card after all.

From First to Worst

  1. Jund Food (Jegantha)
  2. Orzhov Auras (Lurrus)
  3. Izzet Phoenix
  4. Selesnya Company
  5. Five-Color Niv-Mizzet
  6. Mono-Green Aggro❄
  7. Bant Ramp (Kaheera)❄
  8. Jund Company (Jegantha)
  9. Some Azorius or Jeskai Control Deck
  10. Gruul Aggro

In the end, this list doesn’t mean much as there’s no easy way to predict what’s going to happen. Mono-Red Goblins could show up and take a middle spot; the format reacts to it, and it drops off again.

I guess the best way to approach Historic right now is to decide if you want to brew or you want to bash. If you’re looking to win matches, please play either Jund Food or Orzhov Auras, as these two decks will be very good this weekend. 

If you’re looking to brew, Izzet Phoenix and Jeskai Control really need your help. Both of these decks have enough tools to continue chugging along; they’re just in serious need of a tune-up. I would love to lump Bant Ramp in with them, but I can’t in good conscience since that deck’s going to frustrate anyone who works on it.

In the end, I’m very glad this ban happened. Historic is quickly becoming my favorite format on Arena even though I’ve wanted to hate it from the beginning. Part of me always knew we’d eventually get back to tabletop tournaments, and with that, all my Historic knowledge would be useless. It wasn’t until the past couple of months that I just found I enjoyed playing the format casually, and then Brainstorm ruined that for me.

Good luck out there and you’ll soon be finding me on Twitch putting in the Historic work myself. See you then!