One of my favorite cards of all time will be legal in Historic soon. Surely, I should be overjoyed to have a format where I can cast Faithless Looting, yet I’m still on the fence. There’s no Lingering Souls to discard for value. You aren’t building toward Bedlam Reveler. There isn’t even Fiery Temper!
What is Faithless Looting even good for?
For starters, there’s Arclight Phoenix. Plus, if history has shown us anything, it’s that Faithless Looting will find a way. Even if it doesn’t quite hit as hard as people think it will, there will eventually be a graveyard-adjacent card printed that could put Looting over the top.
Until then, we have to work with what we’ve got.
Paulo already walked us through Brainstorm in Historic, so I won’t dwell on the card itself. Together, Faithless Looting and Brainstorm allow Izzet Phoenix to sculpt its hand as much as it could possibly want. The lack of strong one-mana cantrips contributed to Izzet Phoenix’s mediocre performance in Historic but it wasn’t the only thing holding it back.
For the most part, Izzet wasn’t able to compete with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath; Nissa, Who Shakes the World; and Collected Company. Aside from the proactive burn spells, Izzet isn’t able to play disruption maindeck without diluting its Arclight Phoenixes. That means Izzet needs to be able to race those strategies, which it couldn’t do consistently without the lower mana curve and the ability to discard Phoenixes cheaply.
Izzet will still have issues when no copies of Arclight Phoenix show up in the top half of the deck. There are several secondary threats the deck is capable of playing but none particularly strong, which is why you rarely see players able to agree on which threats to play. Faithless Looting makes the deck more explosive, so one of the problems is solved, but Izzet still has an uphill battle.
You’re going to see many copies of Ox of Agonas throughout my decklists, so get used to it. As I mentioned, you want cards to discard for value and Ox very much fits that criteria. Not only that, but Faithless Looting is very good at filling your graveyard, which makes escaping Ox easier than ever. It may seem like anti-synergy to have Ox of Agonas alongside Arclight Phoenix and Finale of Promise but eventually you’ll get to a point where your graveyard is stocked enough that you can utilize them all. If not, simply pick and choose the route you want to go down.
The other obvious place for Faithless Looting is in Rakdos Arcanist. I’m sure this will come as a surprise to many, but I’m not ecstatic about Faithless Looting in Rakdos Arcanist. There are no Lingering Souls to discard for value and you don’t need to sculpt your hand and graveyard to enable Bedlam Reveler. Stitcher’s Supplier fuels your graveyard similarly to how Faithless Looting can, except that Supplier provides another body for Village Rites.
Unless you’re leaning hard on Ox of Agonas, Faithless Looting doesn’t accomplish much that Stitcher’s Supplier doesn’t. In a perfect world, I’d love to have Ox of Agonas as my top-end rather than Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Sadly for Faithless Looting, Kroxa and Lurrus of the Dream-Den are much stronger win conditions. If we had Lingering Souls, Smiting Helix, or something along those lines, I’d be all-in on Looting.
Another potentially messed-up card in the Mystical Archive is Mizzix’s Mastery. It’s effectively reanimation for a spell and Historic has no shortage of expensive and powerful ones. There’s already a fringe Unburial Rites deck in Historic that relies on casting its namesake on Scholar of the Lost Trove, usually targeting something like Rise of the Dark Realms or Emergent Ultimatum. Mizzix’s Mastery could allow you to build a deck where you cut out the middleman.
Martin Juza highlighted a similar version of this deck, whose innovations certainly made massive improvements to previous versions that were reliant on Rise of the Dark Realms. Faithless Looting and Thrilling Discovery do wonders for the consistency of the deck.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a flowchart for the various ways to proceed once you’ve used Scholar of the Lost Trove to flashback Emergent Ultimatum. If you start with Gravebreaker Lamia, Sublime Epiphany, and Scholar of the Trove, you’ll be able to cast another Emergent Ultimatum no matter what. Eventually, you can Ultimatum into Time Warp, Alrund’s Epiphany, and Mizzix’s Mastery to win the game.
If you can’t assemble Unburial Rites and Scholar, you have the backup plan of using Mizzix’s Mastery to cast Emergent Ultimatum. I still haven’t figured out what the best Emergent Ultimatum pile is when you don’t have anything else left in your graveyard or on the battlefield, but I’m certain there’s a way to turn it into a virtual win.
You could get some redundancy by using Unburial Rites on Torrential Gearhulk or Velomachus Lorehold as another means of chaining spells together. However, neither is as powerful or versatile as Scholar of the Lost Trove.
What if we wanted to use Faithless Looting to facilitate an Unburial Rites in a fairer deck? Solar Flare fans, this is your time!
Old Solar Flare decks used cards like Compulsive Research to set up Zombify on a card like Skeletal Vampire. Their threats were castable in case the reanimation stuff never came together. In the face of graveyard hate, you can transition away from Unburial Rites and focus on winning with something else. Adding the Unburial Rites engine to a midrange deck gave it some extra power and also made sideboarding difficult for your opponent, which sounds like it could easily work in Historic.
Unfortunately, Faithless Looting puts you down a resource, which makes playing a fair game more difficult. We really need a strong card to discard for value, such as Lingering Souls. Escape cards are solid and maybe Frantic Inventory could be doable. Unburial Rites alone doesn’t make me want to play four copies of Looting, even with the miser’s Ox.
Torrential Gearhulk is the fair Unburial Rites target of choice because of how well it interacts with Sublime Epiphany, Commit, and Magma Opus. Sun Titan would be ideal for returning Narset, Parset of Veils from the graveyard, which would set you up for a devastating Memory on the following turn. You could also have a build with a bunch of Time Warps and Velomachus Lorehold. That combination is very powerful but Torrential Gearhulk is often better to cast naturally.
- 4 Skirk Prospector
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Combat Celebrant
- 4 Wily Goblin
- 2 Fanatical Firebrand
- 2 Cavalier of Flame
- 1 Bonecrusher Giant
- 2 Stonecoil Serpent
- 2 Ox of Agonas
- 4 Magmatic Channeler
Mono-Black God-Pharaoh’s Gift is able to exist because of Stitcher’s Supplier and Cryptbreaker. Mono-Red was close to making a similar setup work but was missing a cheap way to fill their graveyard quickly. Faithless Looting fulfills that role for Mono-Red and then some, although the deck itself may still fall short.
One of the ways to make it stronger could be merging it with Hollow One. That would allow you to win more games where your graveyard is under attack and would make you less reliant on Gate to the Afterlife in general. You’re already doing a lot of drawing and discarding, so Hollow One should slot in without too much investment.
Here we have some early aggression from Hollow One with an Underworld Breach end-game. Runaway Steam-Kin and Birgi, God of Storytelling generate mana; Ox of Agonas provides the extra cards; and you’ll eventually find a Grapeshot to win the game.
This is exactly the sort of deck where you can see Faithless Looting breaking. Although Historic has been curated seemingly at random, there are very few impactful zero-mana spells, which has to be on purpose. Hollow One is one of the few remaining cards in the format that allows you to cheat on mana and its best enabler happens to be Faithless Looting.
Of these strategies, Izzet Phoenix seems like the big winner. Rakdos Arcanist will continue to be a fine deck and the various Unburial Rites decks could show up from time to time. The wild card is Hollow One but it could take time before we see real results. Overall, Faithless Looting appears to be a fine addition to Historic and one I look forward to playing with.