Field Of The Dead Lives In Historic!

Missing Field of the Dead in Standard and Pioneer? Historic on MTG Arena gives you another chance to play it! GerryT tells all!

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, illustrated by Joseph Meehan

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I enjoy playing powerful strategies and I especially like playing decks that grant me a form of inevitability over my opponents. With Field of the Dead unbanned in Historic (and me spending plenty of time at home), it was finally time to dive into the format. 

If you played either of the Standard versions, you’ll understand how this deck operates. However, you get the added benefit of being able to play cards from Core Set 2019, Throne of Eldraine, and Theros Beyond Death, which provides some small but significant upgrades. 

Granted, you also have to face off against cards added to Historic, such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben; Ghost Quarter; Meddling Mage; and Knight of the Reliquary. Overall, it’s a solid trade-off.

So, where do we start? 

We could just copy an old list and make some changes but I don’t recommend it. As with any new format, I’d recommend figuring out what you want your deck to accomplish and going from there. With Field of the Dead, we want to ramp, ideally into Golos, Tireless Pilgrim in order to find Field of the Dead, and then continue making Zombie tokens. 

Sometimes Zombies aren’t good enough and you need to go a little bigger. You could also use some card advantage to overcome playing so many mana sources. Hydroid Krasis is the easy option but we have a few others, including Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath.

Here’s what I’ve been playing:

The Acceleration Package

With cards like Arboreal Grazer, Growth Spiral, and Uro, you want a high land count. Once Upon a Time isn’t legal to help smooth things over. Adventurous Impulse is a possibility but you don’t always have spare green mana, especially in the early turns. Digging three deep isn’t exceptional and has a reasonably high chance of missing, especially in sideboard games. None of these things necessarily disqualifies Adventurous Impulse but it’s not something I’m excited to play.

It’s safe to say that Arboreal Grazer, Growth Spiral, and Elvish Rejuvenator are the best ramp options available. If you didn’t care about getting to seven lands, you could add Wolfwillow Haven to that group. Circuitous Route is one of the few cards that provides extra resources for a single card. 

Having to play Guildgates makes your deck clunkier but it gives you a good reason to have black and red mana for activating Golos. I’d love to cut Circuitous Route because of how clunky it is but the card advantage, incredible ramping potential, and activating Golos are too integral. 

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath isn’t easy to escape in this deck. If you cared, you could play more cards like Fabled Passage, Adventurous Impulse, and Tranquil Thicket to enable it. In small numbers, I think the amount of support is fine as is. I don’t plan on returning Uro multiple times per game but the option is nice to have it. 

Another three-mana ramp spell is wanted and Uro is arguably the best among them. The risk of drawing all mana sources and not enough gas is high, so having something that doubles as both is an excellent inclusion. 

The Defensive Package

For the most part, Zombies are a good enough defensive tool on their own. Sadly, some opponents try to kill you with flying creatures, burn spells, or planeswalkers, so you’re going to need to slightly diversify your answers. Teferi, Time Raveler answers many difficult problems, as does Shatter the Sky

There’s also some incidental lifegain from Uro, Hydroid Krasis, and Plaza of Harmony. With several sets at our disposal, we have plenty of different ways to defend ourselves from aggression.

Realistically, Hydroid Krasis could be mixed with a different top-end, like Kenrith, the Returned King; Dream Trawler; or Nexus of Fate. Going forward, I’ll be experimenting with the various options more than I have already. I expect Kenrith to be medium at best. Dream Trawler maindeck depends on the metagame. Nexus of Fate is similar to Dream Trawler but it is something powerful that can win games you wouldn’t be able to win otherwise.

The Manabase

Obviously we have a lot of options. If we wanted to, we could play a fully singleton manabase in order to make our Field of the Deads as good as they possibly could be. That would involve playing a lot of lands that enter the battlefield tapped, which isn’t acceptable. Some sacrifices have to be made and that means playing multiple copies of some of our best lands, in this case, the shocklands. 

They enable the checklands and Castles (if you want to play them), and allow you to cast your spells on time, albeit at a cost. Some Temples are fine but the Guildgates and Field of the Dead occupy much of the space for lands that enter the battlefield tapped. 

Most people played five Guildgates in their Circuitous Route builds but I never liked that. Naturally drawing a Guildgate or two can be nice in corner cases involving Plaza of Harmony but that’s about it. I want to draw as few of them as possible!

Simic Guildgate isn’t necessary. If you’re casting Circuitous Route, you already have green mana and rarely need multiples. You can find your blue source with Dimir Guildgate if you actually need one. Searching for Simic Guildgate never comes up and I mean never. It’s also not a card you want to naturally draw. 

Since many of our cards are Azorius, we’d prefer to have our blue and white symbols on different lands. Azorius Guildgate might mean you have blue and white mana but it won’t cast Teferi, Time Raveler on its own.

Cards I’m Not Playing

Given previous versions of Golos Field, there are many different ways to build the deck. Fires of Invention with Kenrith, the Returned King and Fae of Wishes is an option but not one that makes sense in a faster, disruptive format like Historic. You’d prefer to have that package as a way to break midrange mirrors. 

Similarly, you could try to assemble a massive amount of Risen Reefs with Finale of Devastation, as well as having a powerful finisher. Again, the format doesn’t call for it. Finale of Devastation on its own is solid but Risen Reef isn’t consistent enough compared to the true ramp spells. 

There’s no shortage of options for sweepers. As of now, I want the cheapest one, which means Shatter the Sky. For the most part, you don’t care if your opponent gets to draw a card because you’re using it to buy time. You can win games by grinding your opponent’s resources down to nothing, but more often than not your sweepers will function like a tempo tool.

Knight of the Reliquary could be interesting, both because it can find your Field of the Deads and effectively accelerate you to five mana. 

Tranquil Thicket should be good in theory but likely isn’t. In a deck that could potentially flood out, having lands that could cash in for something new is appealing. However, this isn’t exactly a deck that ever minds having some extra lands. There would be very, very few scenarios where you’d actually cycle a land. Still, it’s a Forest with a different name and is therefore worthy of consideration in small numbers. 

I haven’t been a fan of utility lands in this deck unless they provide something truly meaningful. Blast Zone can handle a horde of creatures or a Teferi, Time Raveler and Field of Ruin is good against Search for Azcanta and mirrors. Everything else you can afford to leave. If you’re activating Castle Vantress or Castle Ardenvale, it’s probably because you’re losing. 

The Sideboard Plans

There are basically two plans, one for aggression and one for midrange and control.

When you bring in more controlling cards, you can cut Arboreal Grazer. It’s very unlikely that a matchup is predicated on you having acceleration and disruption. In games where you do cut Arboreal Grazer and have cheap interaction, you can cut a land or two. You’ll be playing more of a normal game of Magic than in the pre-sideboard games and will need to function as such. 

I’m not playing Agent of Treachery anymore because I haven’t seen a ton of mirror matches. My old plan of Agent plus Deputy of Detention is still the best plan, though. 

One of the things I like most about this deck in Historic is having the ability to sideboard into Dream Trawlers against opponents with Meddling Mage; Knight of the Reliquary; and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Most creature decks won’t be able to beat it and it doesn’t die to something like Collision like Lyra Dawnbringer would. 

Aether Gust covers most of your bases, but for everything else, there are Deputy of Detention, Baffling End, and Settle the Wreckage. Since I’m scared of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, I have some Baffling Ends where the rest of the Aether Gusts could be. 

So far, I’ve been having a blast attacking people with Zombies, especially with new toys like Uro and Mystical Dispute. If you wanted to play Golos Field in best-of-one, that’s a fine choice. I’d expect slightly more aggro decks in that field so you might want to add a Settle the Wreckage or some Baffling Ends. No matter which queue you’re playing in, you’ll be able to put up a solid win-rate with Golos Field. 

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