Has Historic Anthology IV Shaken Up Historic?

With Historic the format for this weekend’s SCG Tour Online events, deck choice is vital. Four SCG creators say what they’d play.

Thraben Inspector
Thraben Inspector, illustrated by Matt Stewart

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the introduction of Historic Anthology IV, 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 (like an SCG Tour Online Satellite or Strixhaven Championship Qualifier) and be sure to vote for what deck you’d play at the end!

Dom Harvey — Abzan Blink (Yorion)

It’s hard to know what to prepare for in Historic right now. There have been no major tournaments since the banning of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath or release of Kaldheim, and Historic Anthology IV has sprinkled some new toys into the format. Most of the chatter I’ve seen has involved small creature decks of some kind and the format’s previous mainstays that did survive — Jund/Rakdos Sacrifice, Gruul Aggro, and Mono-Red Goblins — are in that camp too. Everyone else seems to be trying their best to make Death’s Shadow happen. With that in mind, a deck like Abzan Blink (Yorion) that preys on creature decks should be a great choice.

The archetype has gained useful upgrades since Sam Black dabbled in it a while ago. Elspeth Conquers Death was always somewhat awkward — a vital tool against other grindy decks but a weak link against aggro (especially when Lurrus of the Dream-Den is literally the only target in decks that use it). It’s comical how much better Binding the Old Gods, a four-drop uncommon rather than a five-drop rare, is here — a universal answer that satisfies your hunger for more mana and curves perfectly into Yorion, Sky Nomad. Thraben Inspector is easier to cast than Elvish Visionary or some equivalent in a deck with such a wonky mana curve and is better in combat when it counts.

Despite the deck’s contents, Doom Foretold itself may be a trap — there’s no shortage of good replacements at that slot on the curve if it is. This list is relatively weak to slower decks in Game 1 and has to focus on that in the sideboard — even more attention may be needed there.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Jund Sacrifice (Jegantha)

I sound like a bit of a broken record when talking about Historic, but the reality of the situation is that I haven’t seen any reason to give up Jund Sacrifice yet. Historic Anthologies IV is a remarkably weak set, and is unlikely to shake the format up very much; there are some new decks, but they’re all creature-based, and this is the type of deck that Jund traditionally preys on. Death’s Shadow and Thraben Inspector are the exact types of cards I want to face with my Claim the Firstborn and Mayhem Devil deck, not to mention the new Elves deck that has been popping up.

This isn’t to say that Jund Sacrifice is unbeatable or anything — clearly it isn’t — but the deck is a healthy mix of control elements with aggression, so if you try to hate it out too much you could just end up dying to one of their fast draws. I think at this point Jund Sacrifice hasn’t been dethroned as the deck to beat in Historic, and while I hope to find something I like more for the Kaldheim Championship in two weeks, if the tournament were tomorrow I’d simply play Jund Sacrifice again.

Shaheen Soorani — Azorius Control

Azorius Control is still the best control option in Historic.  Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is on a different tier of power level in the format, especially after the bannings kicked in.  Its abilities have you completely covered, freeing up other slots to combat specific threats of the metagame.  With this build of Azorius Control, the other cards in the deck play a completely reactive game to ensure that the shields are always up.

The weakness of Azorius Control is the same in Historic as it is in Standard — the two-mana removal category is woefully ill-prepared for aggressive strategies.  The deck is completely dependent on Baffling End, missing the better alternatives that exist in other formats like Path to Exile and Azorius Charm.  Therefore, I play four Censor, putting myself in the best position to handle a two-drop while keeping the late-game deck strength intact.  Surviving the early-game is the key, as the strong countermagic, win conditions, and card advantage options join forces to easily dominate the competition after Turn 5.

Bryan Gottlieb — Orzhov Death’s Shadow

You haven’t lived until you’ve played a deck where every single micro-decision has the potential to cost you a match. Didn’t immediately activate your Adanto Vanguard twice upon casting it to get access to a 1/1 Death’s Shadow? You lose. Used Ranger of Eos to find Death’s Shadow as opposed to the uber-powerful Faerie Guidemother? GG. Played your Agadeem, the Undercrypt tapped instead of untapped on Turn 1? You lose eight turns later.

And look, I’m not the type who wants to play a challenging deck just to show off how wrinkly-brained I am. In fact, I lean in the opposite direction and tend to insert a lot of “I win” buttons into my decks to make up for my crippling ineptitude. But when it comes to Orzhov Death’s Shadow, I truly think the juice is worth the squeeze. I’ve found game against basically every deck in the format, and I’ve been particularly pleased with how matches against control play out.

As far as exclusions, Skyclave Apparition is a casualty of the desire to play Castle Locthwain and a nod to the fact that you’d rather be closing games than looking for ways to extend them. I’d say the same for Ifnir Deadlands… there just isn’t space if you don’t want to get stymied by your Castle Locthwain entering the battlefield tapped.

That’s just a limitation for this particular build though, and I think there are plenty of ways to build Death’s Shadow decks in Historic. I plan to keep exploring, but this is the best version I’ve found thus far.