Innovations In Historic From SCG Tour Online $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier #3

What can challenge the dominance of Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven in Historic? Bryan Gottlieb found some gems in the SCG Tour Online results.

Cauldron Familiar, illustrated by Milivoj Ćeran

Welcome to this week’s look at the finest technology to come out of the SCG Tour $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier and its corresponding satellites. After a run of Standard tournaments that never failed to bring the spice, there was a lot of pressure on the Historic format to put up a good showing in its first big post-ban event. For the most part, I think it succeeded.

If I had a gripe, it’d be that I’m not sure Cauldron Familiar / Witch’s Oven can remain legal until the end of time. Jund Sacrifice variants featuring either Korvold, Fae-Cursed King or Collected Company were by far the most-played archetype over the weekend, and the win percentages were absolutely outstanding as well. That alone wouldn’t have me bemoaning the “Cat Oven” combo, but it does feel like a big check on the format that’s both finicky to operate on Magic Arena and decidedly unfun to play against. I don’t even think it’s a dramatic outlier; I just think everyone participating could have a lot more fun without Cat Oven around.

While it’s present though, it demands an incredible amount of respect from deckbuilders. When the Kaldheim Championship rolls around, I would expect the deck’s numbers to fall to the range of “very good” as opposed to dominant, and only because it will garner a huge amount of dedicated sideboard and even maindeck hate. As the format adds more cards, the squeeze that Cat Oven places on viable strategies and sideboard slots may just become too much to bear.

Enough doom and gloom though. Players found plenty of new archetypes to be excited about this week, and we’ll start with one that looks pretty darn familiar if you’ve been playing any Standard.

It’s shocking how closely this take on Sultai Ramp (Yorion) mimics its Standard counterpart. The biggest changes come in the form of an upgraded manabase, a little bit more and better ramp, and a couple of new Emergent Ultimatum targets. It seems like that should leave this deck lacking the power required to compete in Historic, but I think this deck gets a lot of points for how it conceptually lines up against the other best options. Shadows’ Verdict is just fantastic when every creature deck is leaning on Collected Company, and the Emergent Ultimatum end-game does a great job at making Jund Sacrifice into the smaller midrange deck.

This deck really needs countermagic to stay out of the format if it’s going to stay viable. It plays a lot more like traditional ramp than most decks we’ve seen in the post-Nissa, Who Shakes the World / Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath era. You need to resolve that one big spell or your deck starts to get a little bit airy. I suppose that makes the rise of this next deck a potential pressure point.

I’ve messed with various Mono-Blue lists a lot in Historic, and the creature quality was always a huge sticking point. With the printing Ascendant Spirit and Faceless Haven, this deck has finally picked up some significant standalone threats and has been able to shift to a tribal build focused on Spirits.

The addition of Supreme Phantom is putting a little bit of toughness on the battlefield, and I can’t tell you how critical that is when Jund Sacrifice is the deck to beat. I doubt this deck is happy to play against Jund yet, but at least you’re not just scooping these days, especially after you go to the sideboard for Kira, Great Glass-Spinner.

I would like to see future versions of this deck slant even more against the Sacrifice matchup, but maybe I’m not giving Mono-Blue enough credit. It only really showed up this week in Satellite #8, and it absolutely dominated that event with a 74% win-rate, though over a very small sample size and one mostly devoid of the Jund Sacrifice matchup. Regardless, the deck can carve out a very respectable niche targeting the decks that are targeting Jund Sacrifice, such as the aforementioned Sultai Ramp (Yorion).

I’m really struggling to find something to say about this deck, because I can’t figure out if I’m supposed to be dismissive, awed, or just owning up to not getting it. I’d be concerned about this deck’s power level if it were a Standard deck. It doesn’t get particularly wide for Toski, Bearer of Secrets. It doesn’t beat down all that well. The disruption feels speculative at best. But I can’t deny this deck showed up in a big way this weekend.

The most important thing to note about Antonio’s performance on Sunday is a sterling 4-0 record against Jund decks. In a field comprised of 27.7% Jund variants — that’s a big-time stat. With the death of Four-Color Midrange, Yasharn, Implacable Earth was desperate for a new home, and here’s a super-clean one.

This deck reminds me of the old Selesnya Megamorph decks from Khans of Tarkir-era Standard. On paper, they always looked underwhelming. In reality, those decks always had just enough disruption, aggression, and longevity to hang with everyone. I wouldn’t say I’m convinced that this archetype is a long-term player, but I’m at least intrigued.

Love to see Chris Barone stepping up to the plate with a deck that looks remarkably similar to the Pioneer Mono-Black Aggro deck that previously earned him the title of Invitational Champion at SCG CON Winter in 2019. I played this deck a lot in recent weeks, and it’s shocking how many gameplans it executes well.

I really like Chris’s decision to play Vicious Conquistador over the more commonly seen Vampire of the Dire Moon. With Mayhem Devils everywhere, that extra point of toughness can be critical, and Chris’s list only sees its very disposable Silversmote Ghouls picked off with a single ping.

I get writing this deck off as “4 Thoughtseize; 4 Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord; and 52 blank pieces of cardboard.” I don’t even think this assessment is all that wrong. It just so happens that a combination like that is completely acceptable against a large percentage of the format.

You can get some small points for customizing for your expected field with things like Dusk Legion Zealot, Vampire of the Dire Moon, and certain spot removal spells, but really we’re just here to play our absurdly powerful planeswalker on Turn 3 and draw a few cards. Easy game.

I’ve gone on record a few times noting that I think there is real potential in a control list that takes advantage of Valakut Awakening to play some more situational cards. What I’ve thought about far less is the potential of the card in combo-control decks.

Here, our goal is to Indomitable Creativity with X=2. This allows us to go get The Locust God and Sage of the Falls and make as many 1/1s and draw as many cards as we need. All the while, Valakut Awakening is both finding key combo pieces and making sure that The Locust God and Sage of the Falls stay in our deck.

There’s also a completely acceptable Plan B here of just killing and countering our opponent’s stuff and winning with The Locust God or Shark Typhoon. I don’t know if this is the best deck I saw this weekend, but it was 100% the coolest, and this archetype has real potential to grow with more prints entering the format.

In 1993 Richard Garfield unleashed Magic: The Gathering upon the world. Now, some 28 years later, Jonathan Hulst (and anyone who might have inspired him) has come along and built the first perfect Magic deck. I don’t know if the Smithsonian is currently taking deckbuilding submissions, but clearly Jonathan’s Orzhov Death’s Shadow list is a cultural artifact on par with the Spirit of St. Louis or Indiana Jones’s whip and hat. I’d call him the Picasso of deckbuilding, but why would I underplay Jonathan’s artistic accomplishment by comparing him to some dusty French dude who had to do his art with a bunch of abstraction because he couldn’t figure out photo-realism? [Copy Editor’s Note: Picasso was Spanish, and he did the realist thing as a literal teenager, but the preceding sentence was way too much fun to change.]

The curve. The light Ranger of Eos package. The brilliant inclusion of sideboard Arguel’s Blood Fast. It’s all just breathtaking, and with a single snap of his fingers, Jonathan (or whoever inspired him) has placed himself in the deckbuilding pantheon alongside the all-time greats. Bravo sir. Bravo.


While next week’s column and SCG Tour Online events have us scheduled to return to the diverse land of Kaldheim Standard, Historic remains a side dish on the menu for at least the next week or so as the best in the world get ready to take on the format at the Kaldheim Championship. The biggest questions there will revolve around Jund Sacrifice and how these fresh contenders to the throne line up against the format’s boogeyman.

I know from my own efforts to break fresh ground in the format that overcoming Cat Oven is no easy task. I think many of the decks we looked at today are still playing the matchup way too soft.

Will we see more copies Yasharn, Implacable Earth and Leyline of the Void when next week rolls around? Does it even matter all that much? I expect next week’s win rates to dictate a lot about the future of Historic, and I’ll be paying close attention to how things break.