Innovations In Historic From SCG Tour Online $5K AFR Championship Qualifier #4

Bryan Gottlieb searched the SCG Tour Online results for hot MTG Historic decks and tech. What did he discover in the top slots and just beyond?

Ravenous Squirrel, illustrated by Dan Scott

After months of trudging through a stale Standard and begging for any competitive Historic to show off Jumpstart: Historic Horizons, this week brought me an absolute bounty of riches. And while I’ll be focusing on the return of the SCG Tour Online and our first look at this new Historic metagame, rest assured that I’ll be back soon with the many, many, many, many decks I’ve been building for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard. If you just can’t wait for a sneak peek, cruise over to my Twitter account (@BryanGo) and take a look at what I’ve got for you. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Also not disappointing was the spread of archetypes represented across this week’s nine SCG Tour Online events. Of course, we’ve got to kick things off with a check in on an old friend.

No stranger to SCG Tour success, cftsoc is back again, this time with a deck which treads a little closer to the beaten path than their last breakthough (Naya Fury in Standard), but still showcasing a healthy understanding of the metagame and a willingness to give new cards a shot. Three Ravenous Squirrels and a one-of Warlock Class are the standout additions to the maindeck, and I appreciate that cftsoc’s reaction to the format powering up was to move their deck closer to an average mana value of one. More proactive starts are where I want to be right now, and dismissing Ravenous Squirrel’s potential to get very large, very quickly would be a huge mistake.

In the sideboard, Shifting Ceratops is kicking it like it’s War of the Spark Standard, and looking to punish the heavily represented Jeskai Control decks. There isn’t much more for me to say about Jund Food (Jegantha) other than to congratulate cftsoc on another strong performance, and again insist that Historic should not be asked to bear the burden of Jund Food for the rest of its existence. Finicky play patterns and an anti-creature bent would have led me to send this deck to the bench a long time ago, but like I always say, play it until they take it away from you.

The first versions of Mono-White Humans after the printing of Thalia’s Lieutenant struck me like a deck I would build. Good, solid proof of concept, but they didn’t push things quite as far as they needed to go for the deck to keep pace. Enter Marco Cammilluzi and his addition of not one, but two colors that added effects small in number, but huge in impact, especially given the expected metagame.

General Kudro of Drannith is not only accelerating the clock, but also giving the deck some additional answers to the extremely problematic start of discarding Magma Opus into Mizzix’s Mastery or Torrential Gearhulk. On the green side of things, Collected Company moves the deck to instant speed and gives you a chance to punish those same Jeskai decks every time they use their mana. In the sideboard, we’re shoring up another nightmare matchup in Jund Food with the big pig itself, Yasharn, Implacable Earth. Given that the cost for all of this is more pain from your manabase in a format that isn’t too aggressive, I’m in on this evolution of the archetype.

Here’s the thing about the SCG Tour Online. You can bring the best, most-hyped deck to a Satellite and expect to do well if you’re a strong player. By the time you get to Sunday though, the metagame will adjust. William Bingham farmed Jeskai Control for the vast majority of the day with his take on Mono-Blue Spirits before finally falling to the bad guy in the Round of 12. Archmage’s Charm plus Faceless Haven and Ascendant Spirit really do make a good argument for playing this streamlined version into a clearly identified adversary. I’m hesitant to say this is the face of Spirits going forward, but maybe the addition of Spectral Adversary means this won’t just be a flash in the pan.

When I wrote about the Vesperlark / Davriel’s Withering combo a few weeks ago, I may have been blinded a bit by my desire to make that particular interaction work. That’s okay. I think we’ll get to take another look at that combo with the printing of The Meathook Massacre. However, the real story coming out of Jumpstart: Historic Horizons should have been Scurry Oak plus Heliod, Sun-Crowned.

Like I said weeks ago, this combo is the dawning of the age of infinite creature combo in Historic. If you’ve followed Modern, you know these strategies have their ups and downs, but they never fully fade away. I’m expecting much of the same from Scurry Oak and Heliod.

One card suspiciously absent from top tables in Sunday’s main event was Dragon’s Rage Channeler. I don’t expect this trend to continue. People are still figuring out the best way to maximize this powerhouse, and I’m sure DRC will not be disappointed to catch a little backup from its good buddy Delver of Secrets.

For now, I really like Skyler Yanchick’s efforts to bring a real burn deck to Historic. I’m a little hesitant to believe the archetype is ready for primetime while it’s forced to carry four maindeck Roiling Vortex, but I do love the reach to the Arena-exclusive Static Discharge to find another burn spell worth playing. I think the power is there on this card, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see more of it in the future.

Gustavo Garcia obviously agreed, and the take on an Izzet Aggro deck presented here is an innovative one. The creature count floats a little high for my tastes, but the spell quality is definitely there with this build, and it feels people are finally finding the wildcards to craft those Seasoned Pyromancers.

I’m less sold on Samsoni1’s midrange approach, and I see a lot of the problems here in far too many Dragon’s Rage Channeler decks. With too many expensive spells, you’re never going to max out DRC’s potential. DRC frees you from having to play nonsense like Goblin Dark-Dwellers, and it lets you play a style that more closely resembles Legacy. Don’t pass on this because you got drawn in by Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and think you can actually run your opponents out of cards. It just doesn’t work that way in Historic.

Izzet Phoenix is also out there and felt underplayed for just how good of a deck it is. I’m not sure if the Brainstorm ban shook folks off the archetype, but I promise it’s time to get back on board with Consider getting in the mix next week.

I heard some rumors of Mardu Reanimator in the middle of the week, but it really didn’t manifest to any large degree in this weekend’s tournaments. While the package of potential targets is growing wide, and the enablers are there, I don’t think we’ve found the knock out reanimation target we’ve been looking for yet. I know folks have been high on Serra’s Emissary, particularly in the Indomitable Creativity decks (also largely absent this weekend), but I feel like I never actually lose to the card. It’s a speed bump for almost every deck in the format, not a knockout punch, and Reanimator excels when it has a KO.

I associate Eliott Boussaud with unique control builds, so it was a bit of a shock to see them turn up with Mono-Black Zombies. I did some shambling with the Zombie hordes a few weeks ago, and found myself impressed with how solid Diregraf Colossus and Undead Augur were, but I never thought we’d be going all the way up to Liliana’s Mastery. The Phyrexian Towers here certainly make that seem realistic though.

I sent this to noted Zombie aficionado Gerry Thompson, and he cursed me for further monopolizing his wildcards, so don’t be shocked to hear more from him about this archetype in the future.

John Lafferty, you are my hero for the week. I have no idea if this is viable, but the sheer audacity to build an Azorius Control deck with Benalish Partisan as your chief win condition deserves a shout-out. This feels Caw-Blade adjacent in terms of gameplan, and I’d try leaning into that side of things and away from the big planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Maybe this setup can bring back Gideon of the Trials and Pact of Negation?

I’m intrigued, and you have successfully stolen my wildcards John. Now I know how it feels to be on the losing side of these exchanges.

Heavily supported in Jumpstart: Historic Horizons, the Enchantress theme seemed destined for some play this weekend. However, it does feel like something is missing here. The obvious answer is a lock piece like Solitary Confinement, but is that really the only way forward for such a powerful draw engine? Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes for the time being. We do have a very cheap pseudo-prison piece in Curse of Silence arriving with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, but I’m not convinced that will do much to move the needle. Going forward, every enchantment should have us considering this engine, but I’m okay with shelving this deck until more help arrives.

As evidenced throughout this article, there are even more shakeups for Historic in the immediate future. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is providing mostly support cards to a very powerful format, but sometimes a support card is enough to turn the metagame on its ear. It’s possible the biggest gainer will be Izzet Phoenix due to the arrival of Consider. If this comes to pass, don’t be surprised to find Izzet Phoenix on top of the metagame next time we gather for this column.