By Jason Parker
February 14, 2020
MTG Arena is bringing back Historic soon, and we want you to be as ready as possible! So this week’s blog is focused around MTG Arena Historic decks, and what we think will be fun. If not fun, then successful. The best decks aren’t always fun, but you know what is fun? Winning is!
But what is Historic? Historic is a meta exclusive to MTG Arena, which will be bringing back a handful of old cards. Most of them are new to MTG Arena just in general. It’s a non-rotating format, much like Modern/Legacy in physical Magic.
Historic is coming back to MTG Arena, when we get closer to Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths (April 16th, 2020). I imagine we will see it back this month, or in early April. Some of these MTG Arena Historic decks may change, once we see Ikoria spoilers and new Historic cards.
So, the strategy now is to talk about MTG Arena Historic decks that could be potentially used in Historic Brawls or other events. Then, when Ikoria cards come out, we’ll start revising and adding new decks to this blog to make sure we’re as up to date on what will bring the heat. These decks don’t always use Theros Beyond Death cards, but you can always tune these and add whatever you like.
So, let’s get started with the best MTG Arena Historic decks!
One of my favorite decks in MTG Arena in total was my stompy dino deck, so we’re going to look at it first, in Historic. My very first successful deck in MTGA was Gruul Stompy, featuring a ton of ridiculous, angry dinos.
It let me play them much cheaper and put creatures like Carnage Tyrant on the board a few turns early. Once Carnage Tyrant was in play, that was the end usually. Sadly, Carnage Tyrant isn’t featured in this deck, but if I can find room, I will. But this deck runs pretty much all the now-cycled out legendary dinosaurs: Ghalta, Gishath, Zetalpa, Etali.
Everything else leads to making those happen, especially Gishath. Gishath is what makes this deck infuriating because you can use him to play a ton of dinos for free! Gishath and Etali are great for making sure you get cards you probably shouldn’t have access to, into play expediently.
So, I’m torn in this deck. We have Mana Geodes for Scry and an additional mana source, but I’m tempted to instead put in Otepec Huntmaster in yet another way to make Dinos come cheaper. The reason we’re using Knight of the Stampede instead (which costs more), is it gives -2 to Dinosaur costs, and it’s a 2/4 instead of a ½. It’s much harder to kill.
So, what’s our gameplay? This is a deck without a whole lot of guile. We aren’t using any sneaky tricks, other than Savage Stomp to smash annoying creatures. No planeswalkers, no control spells. Our plan is to make dinosaurs as cheap as possible. Kinjalli’s Caller and Knight of the Stampede are here to do just that. Kinjalli’s Caller is a 1-drop (white), and Knight of the Stampede is a 4-drop (green). Kinjalli’s Caller reduces the cost by 1 but is a 1-cast, which makes it an incredible turn-1 move.
You also want to slow your opponents down, especially if they’re running aggro. What’s the play there? Kinjalli’s Sunwing makes your opponents creatures come into play tapped! So, if they want to try and swing, or even block, that’s going to be improbable at best. Chromatic Lantern will give you the ability to tap your lands for any color, so you can play these various dinos much easier.
You also have a potential dinosaur factory, with Raptor Hatchling. When it takes damage, you gain a 3/3 green Dinosaur with trample. Your goal is to get these colossal dinosaurs into play faster. Ghalta has his own engine for that – his cast costs X less, where X is the total power of creatures you control. With enough creatures in play, the 12-drop (2-green) Legendary can come out for 2! This is not hard to do in this deck at all.
Regisaur Alpha will give your dinosaurs haste, and Zetalpa is easily one of the best wincons you could ask for if you don’t get Gishath. Zetalpa is 4/8 Flying, Double Strike, Vigilance, Trample, Indestructible. Do you see that list of keywords? Short of exiling it, you can’t stop that beast from hammering home damage.
If you want to prevent creatures from blocking, swing with Territorial Hammerskull. Etali, Primal Storm lets you peek at the top card of your deck and your opponent’s deck and play both spells without paying their mana cost (non-lands only). But who is the chief? The undisputed king of the monsters?
Yes, I know the answer is typically “Godzilla,” but here, it’s Gishath. Gishath is a 7/6 trample, vigilance haste for 8-mana. But you can make that cost a bit less with other creatures in play. But here’s the best part. When Gishath, Sun’s Avatar deals combat damage to a player, reveal that many cards from the top of your library.
Any number of dinosaurs featured there can be put into play for free, and the rest go on the bottom of your deck. Oh boy! Sure, you don’t need Gishath to swing to get your wincon, but boy does it make life easier.
I’m still very torn, as of this writing, on Mana Geode versus Otepec Huntmaster. It’s cheaper and makes all dinosaurs cheaper. I feel like it could be a strong showing in this deck. This whole deck is built around dinosaurs and doing lots of unreasonable damage in a quick fashion. Make sure you can hold the line until the big boys show up. Raptor Hatchling, Kinjalli’s Sunwing, and Savage Stomp can slow the game down until you’re in a better position.
Mythic Rares: 4
Imperial Aerosaur (White Creature – Dinosaur – 4-cost): Why is Imperial Aerosaur a key component of this deck? We haven’t discussed what it does, and it’s certainly a game-winner. This 4-drop dinosaur can be your game-winner, with enough mana free. It’s a 3/3 flyer, and when it drops onto the battlefield, target creature you control gains +1/+1 and flying. So, you are already set up with Haste (Regisaur Alpha). You play Ghalta for 2 mana, play Imperial Aerosaur, and give him +1/+1. Now he’s a 13/13 Flying Trample. He is getting through, and he is going to win the game for you.
Savage Stomp (Green Instant, 3-cost): Savage Stomp costs 2 colorless less if it targets a Dinosaur you control; so, it’s almost always going to be a 1-cost. You put a +1/+1 counter on a creature you control, then that creature fights a target creature you don’t control. So, you make the dino just that much bigger, and batter down a creature you don’t want to be on the board. It’s your only real control option in this deck too, so it’s incredibly important to be able to use it. Even if you use it on a giant dino to make it slightly bigger, it’s great always of the game.
Etali, Primal Storm (Red Creature – Legendary Dinosaur – 6-cost): This 6/6 is an absolute beast! It’s easily one of my favorites in the whole deck. It’s even better if you’ve already been able to scry (Mana Geode) and know what’s coming. The 6/6 lacks trample or any of those cool features, but its passive is monstrous. What does it do? When Etali, Primal Storm attacks, you exile the top card of both player’s decks. You can cast those if they’re nonlands, without paying the mana cost. Did you see a Gishath, Sun’s Avatar on the top of your deck? Did your opponent scry their deck and keep a key card on top? Swing, and play them both! It’s unreasonably strong. It can be chump blocked, but they can’t stop that power from proccing.
4 Raptor Hatchling (XLN) 155
3 Kinjalli’s Sunwing (XLN) 19
2 Relentless Raptor (RIX) 169
4 Raptor Companion (RIX) 19
2 Chromatic Lantern (GRN) 233
4 Knight of the Stampede (RIX) 138
1 Sunpetal Grove (XLN) 257
2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger (RIX) 130
4 Etali, Primal Storm (RIX) 100
4 Mana Geode (WAR) 241
3 Charging Monstrosaur (XLN) 138
4 Savage Stomp (XLN) 205
3 Zetalpa, Primal Dawn (RIX) 30
1 Clifftop Retreat (DAR) 239
4 Territorial Hammerskull (XLN) 41
1 Rootbound Crag (XLN) 256
4 Kinjalli’s Caller (XLN) 18
2 Regisaur Alpha (XLN) 227
8 Forest (RIX) 196
8 Mountain (RIX) 195
8 Plains (RIX) 192
4 Gishath, Sun’s Avatar (XLN) 222
2 Imperial Aerosaur (XLN) 14
Let out your battle roar! Show that you are the true king of the monsters! The only real downside is you lack the control that Jund has. If you aren’t getting your “Reduce Cost” creatures onto the field quickly, it can spell your doom. So, if you don’t see a Kinjalli’s Caller, you may want to consider a mulligan. This is a deck that can spiral out of control quickly if you get moving.
In Historic MTG Arena though, your opponents decks will also have access to some ridiculous board wipe and control, so keep aware of what your opponent can do. The only other major downside, other than slow movement, is a lack of trample. You have a few trample creatures, but the early game seriously lacks it. It’s all about keeping things going to the late game, get Gishath/Ghalta/Etali/Zetalpa in some form on the field. If you can keep your momentum, you decimate enemies with ease.
What do you get when you combine Soul Warden, Impassioned Orator, Daxos and Heliod? Any creature you want can become a beefy, gigantic titan! Mono-White has so many ways to build life, and so many creatures that take advantage of that.
There are, as always, creatures I want to put in this deck, but don’t see the space for them just yet. Linden, the Steadfast Queen. Her “Gain 1 life for each attacking creature” can spell absolute disaster for anyone, when you have Heliod in play already. So, I’m considering her as an addition to the deck, at least 1 or 2 of her.
This deck is absolutely infuriating if you are constantly gaining life. You have Serra Ascendant that can become a 6/6 Flyer/Lifelink, and of course, there’s Ajani, Strength of the Pride. Try to avoid using him to build up Cats, because you want to build life instead. He can exile your opponent’s creatures and artifacts, which can completely wipe some boards (except lands).
Soul Warden and Impassioned Orator are your best friends, alongside Daxos, Blessed by the Sun. Each of these gives you 1 life, every time you play a creature. Combine that with Ajani’s Welcome, and that’s one more point of life per creature. But Soul Warden is better because she gives you life whenever any creature enters the battlefield.
So, if you have Heliod, Sun-Crowned, Soul Warden, and any of those other boosters on the field, you can give a creature of your choice (or enchantment) +1/+1 without even having to do any work. This is a deck that has very few high-cost creatures. You have Gideon’s Company, which gets 2 +1/+1 counters anytime you gain life, and given how many ways you have to gain life, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see how out of control it’s going to get.
Of course, you’re also running Ajani’s Pridemate, and Dawn of Hope for card draw off these life gain triggers. Originally, we ran 4 Twinblade Paladins, but I had a much better idea. This deck desperately needs a form of trample. Enter Shadowspear! It’s the only easy solution we have at this moment. I only have 2 Shadowspears in my collection, so I am running 2, and 2 Twinblade Paladins. It’s a strong creature for sure since it gains +1/+1 whenever you gain life as well and gains Double Strike if you have over 25 life.
Can you be aggressive and actively swing out with this deck? You sure can! But should you? Not always. The key is in finding the right balance. You want to gain life as much as possible, so when Serra Ascendant and Twinblade are here, they can get you results. Then Ajani, Strength of the Pride for when you want to board wipe your opponent.
Here are your easy lifegain options: Ajani’s Welcome, Soul Warden, Impassioned Orator, Heliod, Sun-Crowned (Lifelink for 2 mana), Daxos, Blessed by Sun. You also have Ajani, Strength of the Pride. Most of your creatures are weak, so your job is to keep buffing and gaining life to outlast whatever your opponent tries to do to you. The more of those life gain triggers you have, the more terrifying Heliod, Sun-Crowned can be. Outlast, outlive.
One of the best parts about this deck is the lack of ultra-rare, expensive cards. Most of the cards are common to uncommon, and the rares/mythic rares in question are all new. That means they’re nice and easy to get ahold of. Lots of low-cost, easy ways to gain life and make your opponent frustrated. The more life you gain, the more attacks you can simply let go through until you’re ready to make 10/10+s.
Mythic Rares: 5
Gideon’s Company (White Uncommon Creature – Human Soldier – 4-cost): I was tired of seeing Gideon’s Company when it was in the meta. Too many life-gain decks that abused how strong this creature is. For 4-mana (1W), anytime you gain life, you put 2 +1/+1 counters on Gideon’s Company. If that’s not annoying enough, you can give him Shadowspear, and/or use Heliod’s special ability to give your creatures lifelink. If all the “creatures coming into play” or Ajani giving life based on how many creatures are in play, it’s a near-endless source of powering up. He may as well be Goku at this rate. Gideon’s Company just keeps getting bigger and bigger. We won’t ever use his special ability though since Gideon’s not in the deck. You can give him a loyalty counter on a Gideon planeswalker. You can slot one in somewhere if you’d like. But I didn’t.
Heliod, Sun-Crowned (White Mythic Rare Legendary Enchantment Creature – God – 3-cost): It’s so easy to make Heliod a creature in this deck. You have 4 1-cost enchantments, 8 1-cost creatures, and as many 2-cost creatures. All you need is 5 devotion to white (so 5 white mana symbols). He’s a 5/5 Indestructible, and whenever you gain life, you receive a +1/+1 counter on target creature or enchantment you control. For 2 mana (1W), you can give a creature lifelink too! It’s easy to see how many +1/+1 tokens you can acquire. Play a creature? Gain +1/+1 (at least 1) from Daxos, Ajani’s Welcome, and Soul Warden. Heck, with Soul Warden in play, you gain +1/+1 when your opponent plays creatures! It’s a non-stop growth-festival, and you’re invited. No matter what you do it seems, you can’t stop gaining life and +1/+1 tokens.
Soul Warden (White Common Creature – Human Cleric – 1-cost): We’ve talked about this card before, I’m sure, but let’s do it again. Soul Warden is a 1/1 for 1 that is an immediate threat simply by it being on the board. Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, you gain 1 life. That means any creature, from any player. Are they running Goblins where they make tokens every turn? Make your defenders bigger and bigger. Easy-peasy. She can also be a distraction, to draw the ire of your opponents shocks and disfigures. Because it’s a card that must be answered, or it’s going to be the end of the game before too long. Some people may see that 1 life as not a big deal, but they will when Daxos, Heliod, and Impassioned Orator hit the field, they’ll see different.
4 Ajani’s Welcome (M19) 6
4 Serra Ascendant (M11) 28
4 Soul Warden (M10) 34
4 Ajani’s Pridemate (M19) 5
2 Dawn of Hope (GRN) 8
3 Daxos, Blessed by the Sun (THB) 9
4 Impassioned Orator (RNA) 12
3 Heliod, Sun-Crowned (THB) 18
2 Ajani, Strength of the Pride (M20) 2
4 Gideon’s Company (WAR) 268
2 Twinblade Paladin (M20) 285
22 Plains (ELD) 253
2 Shadowspear (THB) 236
Shadowspear is a great addition to this deck. One of the downsides to having all these colossal creatures is that none of them have trample. Your opponent can keep putting 1/1s in your way to defend with, while you build bigger and bigger. Eventually, they may get some board wipe to solve this creature problem. That’s what Shadowspear is for. It gives Lifelink and Trample and can stop Indestructible. MTG Arena Historic decks that have early answers to creatures are a problem though. Most of your early game creatures are 1/1s, so they’re incredibly easy to kill.
If said opponent keeps that creature removal up, you will have a very hard time building up a life total to be a threat. This is a deck that’s incredibly reliant on dominating the early game. You must build up a force fast. You don’t necessarily have to attack constantly, but you do need to put some pressure on, and that can be hard to balance. But if you can weather your opponent’s aggressive plays, then you will sit high on the hog, with a massive life lead. It may be necessary to let damage through initially, so you can make the big gains later.
Don’t be afraid to give huge creatures lifelink and swing. That lifegain can really put you ahead and set you up for success with Ajani. His “exile artifacts and creatures of your opponent” power is a +0, so you can do it as soon as you cast him. Just some food for thought. I’m glad to continue to discuss the greatness of life gain in MTG Arena Historic decks.
This deck was originally a Blue/Black deck, because of Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive. But I switched it up because I had a much better idea. I’ll include that deck too as a bonus, though. Instead, I removed the blue mana, got rid of Tetsuko, and added some life gain to the deck. It desperately needs it, and with the power of Swamps, we can do some serious damage. I also put Dread Presence in, to punish people for when I play Swamps.
Rat Colony decks I don’t think will ever stop being fun though. I built one, just for casual laughs, that was nothing but Rats and Swamps. This one is slightly more advanced, with some fun tech from the Historic collection.
We’re also using some new cards for sacrifice and removal engines, like Erebos, Bleak-Hearted. There’s also Eldraine’s Piper of the Swarm here to make these rats even more aggravating. If your opponent only has a few creatures (thanks to us), suddenly they must double block these 9/1 rats. You want those rats to eventually die though. We have ways to make them come back and serve again. Or you can constantly make and sacrifice rats to steal your opponent’s creatures. Then, sacrifice them to Erebos. This deck is hilarious and frustrating in equal measures. You even have card draw! but you have to be careful: that card draw has a major cost.
“Rats!” not my words, the words of Tom Campbell, if he were quoting Charlie Brown. That’s what this deck is all about. Rats! It’s a very aggressive deck, where you want to batter someone with rats as quickly as you possibly can.
Sadly, Rat Colony is a baseline 2/1, and they gain +1/+0 for however many Rat Colony cards you have in play. That means they’re awful fragile, but that’s what Piper of the Swarm is for. Giving them Menace is a serious benefit. But they aren’t your only source of damage. If you can get Dread Presence out early, he is a great threat. With him in play, you play a Swamp and can either draw a card and lose 1 life, or do 2 damage to a target, and gain 2 life.
That’s the big part of this deck. You combine those with Piper of the Swarm, so all your Rats now have Menace. They must be blocked by at least two creatures. Which is great, because they’re going to die, but they will likely take something with them. But what do you do when your opponent starts to overwhelm you?
Chittering Witch and Erebos, Bleak-Hearted are the real players. Chittering Witch gives you a Rat token, and you can tap 2 (1B) and sacrifice a creature, to give an opponent’s creature -2/-2 until end of turn. Erebos has the same cost (2 mana and sacrifice) to give a creature -2/-1 until end of turn. The difference is that Erebos can also give card draw at the cost of 2 life and is indestructible. This can be a great way to get rid of annoying creatures that are pestering you.
But what happens when you have a bunch of mana, and you’re running low on rats? They’re in the grave and need to come back. Say you already have Vanquisher’s Banner out, to give them +1/+1. Finale of Eternity is the answer! You tap 10 mana for it and destroy 3 creatures with toughness X or less. They lose their major powers, but you also get all your creatures back! Return all your creatures back to the battlefield.
The other real star of this deck is Piper of the Swarm. Like I said, it gives your Rats Menace. He can make 1/1 rats for you to attack with (when combined with Tetsuko, are unblockable). You can also tap mana and sacrifice three rats (and tap him), to steal control of creatures. He’s a megastar in this deck, especially when you have a Finale of Eternity waiting to go on the next turn. You can do so much damage with this deck, but it needs card draw options.
We have three options there. Vanquisher’s Banner gives you a card draw anytime you cast a creature of a specified type (Rats). That’s a lot of card draw. You also have guaranteed card draw, with the Historic card Phyrexian Arena. You lose 1 life a turn and draw a card during your upkeep. However, you must start hitting hard, fast. Because you have no life gain options in this deck.
Finally, we have a last-ditch card draw option. Erebos, Bleak-Hearted gives you the option to pay 2 life and draw a card whenever a creature you control dies. You can use it when you steal creatures and sacrifice them later, or if you lose creatures in combat. You want as many cards in hand, so you can keep playing rats. You want as many of them on board as possible, and you have 12 Rat Colonies in the deck, after all.
You play Rats, and you hit with Rats. But what happens from all that loss of life you’re doing, thanks to card draw? That’s where another Historic card comes into play: One of my favorites too! Tendrils of Corruption is a 4-cost that deals X damage to a creature and gives you X life, where X is equal to the number of Swamps you have in play. With all our mana but 2 being Swamps, that’s easy life gain.
I’ll include the Blue/Black version as a fun bonus here at the end of the decklist, so you can see the differences. Personally, I prefer this one, since it’s got life gain, and is just as aggressive. I don’t feel like Umezawa is useful in a deck where most of the creatures can get very big.
Mythic Rares: 5
Piper of the Swarm (Black Rare Creature – Human Warlock – 2-cost): This is one of two non-Rats in the deck, followed by Dread Shade. Piper of the Swarm makes your Rats an instant threat since they must be blocked by two creatures. This can create unblockable scenarios, which is amazing with giant Rats. Plus, he can make rats, and you can sacrifice rats to steal creatures of your opponents. Piper of the Swarm is a creature from Throne of Eldraine that I direly wanted to find use for. Sure, you can make Standard Rat decks, but it’s not as strong, as it would be here, I think. Piper of the Swarm can be a real bully and an immediate target that must be resolved.
Finale of Eternity (Black Mythic Rare Sorcery – 2 Black Mana Minimum): Finale of Eternity is your “I need to get those Rats back and win the game” card. You tap 2 black mana and X; preferably 10+. When you do, you destroy up to 3 target creatures of your opponents, that have a toughness of X or lower. Then, if you paid that 10+ mana for X, all your creatures in your graveyard come back. Their triggers proc again (like the Burglar Rats). They don’t have haste though, so make sure you’re in a safe position when you do this. You bombard 3 creatures you don’t want to deal with, and then flood the board with all those rats you played earlier. This is great if there were plenty of Rat Colony cards in the grave. Even if they don’t attack, if you have a few of the others that can, there’s a good chance you can swing lethal. Doubly great, if you delete all their potential blockers (or leave 1, so they can’t block at all).
Vanquisher’s Banner (Rare Artifact – 5-cost): Oh, I love this card! For Clan decks, this is a hoot. When it comes into play, you name a creature type – in this case, Rats. Whenever you cast a rat creature, you draw a card. Plus, all Rats come into play with +1/+1. You have 2 in the deck, which can be +2/+2 to every rat. One of the most important parts of a good deck is card draw, and this gives you plenty, without having to lose life to do so. The only downside is that it’s a 5-cost, so you probably won’t do anything else when the Banner is played. But it can really ramp up your land drops by giving you card draw, and make sure you have more and more rats.
2 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241
2 Vanquisher’s Banner (XLN) 251
2 Erebos, Bleak-Hearted (THB) 93
2 Dread Presence (M20) 96
3 Phyrexian Arena (8ED) 152
4 Tendrils of Corruption (M10) 114
2 Chittering Witch (ELD) 319
12 Rat Colony (DAR) 101
4 Piper of the Swarm (ELD) 100
20 Swamp (THB) 283
4 Burglar Rat (GRN) 64
3 Finale of Eternity (WAR) 91
Optional Dimir Version
2 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241
2 Vanquisher’s Banner (XLN) 251
2 Erebos, Bleak-Hearted (THB) 93
4 Watery Grave (GRN) 259
4 Drowned Catacomb (XLN) 253
4 Island (THB) 281
4 Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive (DAR) 69
2 Chittering Witch (ELD) 319
12 Rat Colony (DAR) 101
4 Piper of the Swarm (ELD) 100
10 Swamp (THB) 283
4 Burglar Rat (GRN) 64
3 Finale of Eternity (WAR) 91
This deck originally started as a gag deck I made called “New York City Sewers,” and this is what it blossomed into. Something powerful, something aggravating. I only wish that Tendrils of Corruption had a chance to target players too. But that would likely be too strong. It’s a deck that has a serious downside, but it’s still incredibly fun.
But what’s the downside? Most of your creatures have 1 toughness! It’s overwhelmingly easy to kill them with even the slightest touch. You must be careful and not be too aggressive. But if your opponent can do 1 damage to everything, you lose your rats, unless you have Vanquisher’s Banner in play. We need a Rat Lord, that’s what we need.
It’s not such a big deal to deal with counterspells, because you have so many creatures that they’re going to get through eventually. Even if they get countered, you still have Finale of Eternity to fall back on. This is the deck I’ve had the most fun playing with, except maybe the Dinos. Dinos are always a fun time. But this can be something that spirals out of control with a few creatures being dropped into play. If your opponent’s deck doesn’t have enough creatures to answer the Rat threat, the game can quickly become over.
If you thought for a minute I wouldn’t include the most aggravating thing in the entire world, you’d be sorely mistaken. Historic Red has some mean, nasty, no good options, and that’s what we’re here for! Are you looking to win with minimal effort, and maximum efficiency? Do you want your opponent to swear, and flip their table, even if it’s their work desk?
Red Deck Wins is the option for you! Kiln Fiend is back, and he’s got some stupid, stupid, stupid options to include to maximize how great he is. There are more 1-cost instants in this deck than you can shake a stick at. Not all of them buff him directly, though! But dropping Shock on an enemy creature (or the player) still gives him that sweet +3/+0 until end of turn!
All we need to do is find ways to let him batter enemies and not die. Luckily, this deck has everyone’s favorite red equip too: Embercleave! I bet there are a lot of players that can’t wait until Embercleave cycles out. It’ll happen, but it’s not going to be anytime soon. So, if you want to avoid worrying about multiple kinds of land types, complicated planeswalkers, and convoluted combos, this is where you want to be.
Let’s, as a man used to say, Burn It Down!
Oh Kiln Fiend, I missed you so. Perhaps the best part of this deck though is the mana curve. You have 24 1-cost spells, 12 2-drops, 4 3-drops, and 1 6-drop (Embercleave). This deck is so easy to do damage with. Plus, with Dreadhorde Arcanist, those 1-cost spells don’t really go away when you cast them. That’s one of the things I really love. Sure, he’s a ⅓, but when he attacks, you can cast an instant or sorcery with a converted mana cost less than or equal to his power without paying its mana cost (from the graveyard). If you do, it gets exiled though, so make it count.
So, say you have Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Kiln Fiend out. Cast Barge In, to give Kiln Fiend +5/+0 total this attack. Swing with Arcanist also, and re-cast Barge in. That will give Kiln Fiend an additional +5/+0 (+3 from passive, +2 from Barge In), or you can give it to Arcanist, to make sure his damage his relevant.
That’s enough to win a lot of matches right there. Ideally, you want a Kiln Fiend in the starting hand, or in the first couple of draws. You have plenty of damage and damage options. You surprisingly aren’t running a lot of direct damage in this one though. You have Shock, Shivan Fire, and that’s it. Why? Because we’re looking for combat damage!
What spells are we running that improve combat abilities in some way or another?
These give either +X/+X, trample, first strike, or something else like it. Plus, you have a sneaky little Embercleave just in case. If you want to be a jerk, you can use Claim the Firstborn to steal a creature, attack with it, buff it, and kill them with their own creature, but the real star here is Kiln Fiend.
A ½ for 2? That’s no big deal until you realize that every instant or sorcery you cast gives it +3/+0 until end of turn. How much of your deck is either instant or sorcery speed? 27 out of 60 cards! We don’t rely on a ton of creatures, because it’s all about making the ones we have matter. Ghitu Lavarunner is our early game damage, and then we pump up the Kiln Fiend and go for the kill.
There’s also Light Up the Stage (more like Light Up the Night, in my opinion) for extra card options. It lets you exile the top two cards of your deck and cast them until the end of your next turn. This can be a great way to get that damage out there.
You know what I might put in this deck somewhere? Torbran. He’s a ton of fun in decks like this. But you may be asking why we aren’t running Lightning Strikes in the mainboard. Because it’s a 2-drop instead of a 3-drop! We have it in the sideboard though, in case you start running into creatures that Shock can’t deal with.
Most of our sideboard is answers to problems. Lava Coil for when we need 4 damage, Lightning Strike for 3 damage. Chandra, Fire Artisan for more card exile/play and damage. Tibalt, for Lifegain decks. Embereth Shieldbreaker and Deface to blow up artifacts nice and cheap (1 red).
Yes, Kiln Fiend is our big, game-winning card. I’ll probably talk about it again by the time this article is done, so I’ll focus on other key cards. Cards that help Kiln Fiend get bigger and meaner. What makes that poor little fire elemental tick? What makes him go? Why, everything in this deck, of course! One of the other great things about this deck is that it is unreasonably easy to build! One mythic rare in the whole mainboard!
Mythic Rares: 1
Run Amok (Uncommon Red Instant, 2-cost): One of the few uncommons in the deck, let’s say hello to Run Amok! For 2 mana, you can give an attacking creature +3/+3 and Trample until the end of turn! So, for Kiln Fiend, that’s +6/+3. This is one of the best cards in the deck for that reason. Kiln Fiend starts its life as a ½, so you can really make it a beefy survivor. Combine that with Warlord’s Fury, and it gets First Strike too. That way the creature blasts through the defender without taking any damage (in almost all situations). If you have Dreadhorde Arcanist, you can consider playing this on him in the main phase, and re-cast it again, this time on your Kiln Fiend when you declare an attack. That way they both come out swinging with a fury.
Crash Through/Barge In (Common Red Instants, 1-cost each): I was torn, so I picked both other Trample options. That’s one weakness Kiln Fiend has, its inability to trample through defenders. So, for 1 mana, you can give him Trample (and a further +3/+0). Crash Through gives all your creatures Trample, and lets you draw a card. Those are the good points for Crash Through. Barge In, however, gives one creature +2/+2 and then gives non-human attackers trample (which is all attackers in this deck). It all depends on which one you have, and which you need the most. Personally, I prefer Crash Through to win the game, and Barge In, if I think I’ll need one more turn. Between it and Light Up the Stage, we should get enough Instants to speed through an opponent’s life points.
Rimrock Knight (Boulder Rush) (Common Red Creature – Dwarf Knight – 2-cost): A 3/1 Knight that can’t block? That doesn’t sound so great in this deck! I mean, it’s neat, but is it really what we need to make this deck kick it into overdrive? Of course, it is! Rimrock Knight has an awesome Instant Adventure – Boulder Rush! It gives a creature +2/+0 until end of turn! So, you cast that, buffing Dreadhorde Arcanist or Kiln Fiend, cast the Dwarf itself, and swing, dropping an instant from the grave to buff further. Maybe an Infuriate! Or Crash Through to give him Trample. You have so many options for this deck. Your opponent almost must block Rimrock Knight, even though he’s a 3/1. They’ll never know when you opt to buff him instead of Kiln Fiend until it’s too late. Maybe with Warlord’s Fury, to give him First Strike instead.
3 Shock (M19) 156
1 Castle Embereth (ELD) 239
2 Barge In (ELD) 112
3 Run Amok (DAR) 140
2 Shivan Fire (DAR) 142
2 Warlord’s Fury (DAR) 151
1 Shock (M20) 160
1 Embercleave (ELD) 120
4 Light Up the Stage (RNA) 107
3 Rimrock Knight (ELD) 137
4 Kiln Fiend (ROE) 153
2 Dreadhorde Arcanist (WAR) 125
2 Claim the Firstborn (ELD) 118
4 Crash Through (M19) 133
4 Infuriate (M20) 145
4 Ghitu Lavarunner (DAR) 127
18 Mountain (THB) 253
4 Lightning Strike (XLN) 149
3 Lava Coil (GRN) 108
1 Embereth Shieldbreaker (ELD) 122
1 Deface (RNA) 98
3 Chandra, Fire Artisan (WAR) 119
3 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator (WAR) 146
This deck is so darn aggravating. Oh, my lanta. Does it have weaknesses? Why I thought you’d never ask! It only runs a handful of creatures and direct damage options, and no AOE damage at all. So, if you don’t pull your creatures and/or take a bad hand, you’re gonna have a bad time. If you have a hand full of buffs, and no creatures to put them on, you’re not going to be a happy camper.
Kiln Fiend is going to be harassed frequently, I imagine. At least a few of your buffs also give +X toughness, so it can survive damage spells (maybe). But we have no Hexproof and/or Indestructible moves in this deck. So, you really must hope you can combo someone down without any impediments. This deck is very reliant on you getting to those heavy damage combo creatures fast, and failing to do that will probably mean you’re going to take the L. It’s important to know what to keep and what to mulligan. Having a few lands, a decent starting creature, and an instant or two can’t hurt.
I’m not saying, “Don’t keep a starting hand unless you get Kiln Fiend”, but he’s going to be amazing to see as early in-game as possible.
I took a day away from writing about these MTG Arena Historic decks, so I could figure out exactly what it was missing. I was torn between my favorite control decks. It was this, and White/Black enchantments. That deck uses creatures and enchantments to shrink your opponents army down to nothing. But this? This is something far more sinister. Something far more frustrating.
Merfolk! Not just any Merfolk, though. Merfolk Pirates, and Merfolk Wizards! That gives us access to two cheaper counterspells, while we wait for the end to come. Remember those Blue and Green/Blue decks with Brineborn Cutthroat? Those infuriating decks where the Merfolk slowly get bigger and bigger, until they are wildly out of control?
That’s right, they’re back! They can’t do it alone though, so he brought some other fun Merfolk pals with him, including one of my all-time favorites. Merfolk Trickster is back, friends! Shame he can’t be used in Standard, yeah? So, this MTG Arena historic deck is a little different from the rest so far, because it’s control! While it is controlled, things could end fast. Your opponent might not want to deal with constantly being stopped.
Historic in MTG Arena means Mono-Blue has a whole host of annoying options at their disposal, and this deck is no exception. Remember Spell Pierce? It’s back! Lookout’s Dispersal? Oh yeah, that’s back too. But perhaps best of all, what makes Brineborn Cutthroat just the worst Merfolk on the block: Dive Down!
Oh yes, Dive Down was the bane of my existence anytime I ran an aggro deck when it was in the meta. If your blue opponent had one mana untapped (and they always seemed to), their defender would get +0/+3 and Hexproof, right when they needed it the most. Oh, my lanta, it was annoying. So, what are we doing in this deck?
We have a few big damage options in it, with Brineborn Cutthroat, and Pteramander. They are who we are looking to get our numbers up with and batter down someone’s hatches. But that doesn’t mean it’s all we have. If our opponent doesn’t have flying, we can simply nickel and dime them down with Spectral Sailor and Siren Stormtamer.
Our goal is to counter every single move our opponent makes and beat them down, turn by turn. We have Curious Obsession for card draw and +1/+1, but it requires that creature to attack every turn, or lose the privilege. That’s okay though, just put it on someone that won’t be missed or can’t be stopped. Spectral Sailor and Pteramander are great picks.
In the mid-game, don’t be shy about putting it on the Brineborn Cutthroat. But our star player is still Brineborn Cutthroat. It has flash, and so can be played on your opponent’s turn. Whenever you cast spells on your opponent’s turn, it gains +1/+1, so the more you counter, the bigger he gets.
You don’t even have to use counterspells, either! You have Opt to Scry/Draw, and Merfolk Trickster to tap attackers, and remove all their abilities. But we said our other major player is Pteramander. What does it do? For 1 mana, it’s a 1/1 flyer with Adapt 4. Adapt is a feature that’s still lurking in the standard meta. It costs 8 here to give Pteramander 4 +1/+1 counter, but that goes down by 1 colorless, for each instant and sorcery in your grave.
So, ideally, we wait until it’s a 1-cost to activate, but that’s not always the case. It’s most fun when you can play one, and immediately Adapt it. We have 13 cards to counter within this deck: 9 spells, and 4 creatures. That’s right don’t forget about Siren Stormtamer! You can tap 1 with it, and sac it to counter a spell or ability that targets you or a creature you control.
Take your time, stop their most important cards, and then ultimately, take their heart and will to play. The key is to figure out what they need the most to win and halt it. That means playing patiently, and not burning cards for no reason. It’s fun to deny every single action, but that can leave you out at a key moment in the game.
This deck is perhaps better in best-of-3 Historic matches. Why? Because our sideboard is loaded with even more counters! Sometimes, it’s best to sandbag, figure out what they need, and pull the right counters to stall them. That’s where Aether Gust, Sorcerous Spyglass, and Essence Capture are for. But the main deck has more than enough on its own.
One more important point about this deck: It is unreasonably cheap to build! No Rares, no Mythic Rares, not a one in sight! You don’t need them in a deck like this. It’s not quite pauper though. You have uncommons, after all.
Lookout’s Dispersal (Blue Uncommon Instant – 3-cost): Lookout’s Dispersal is a weird counterspell. It’s a 3-cost (1U), but it costs 1 colorless less if you have a Pirate under your command. That’s what made it used less, in my estimation. Unless you were running lots of pirates, it was hard to get that 2-drop counter. But it’s a great one. You counter a spell unless your opponent pays 4 colorless, which they’re likely to not have in the early game. Even in the late game, Lookout’s Dispersal can play dividends. At that point in the game, you play it when the other player goes for their biggest moves they must tap out for. Luckily, most of your creatures have “Pirate” in their creature typing. Brineborn Cutthroat, Siren Stormtamer, Spectral Sailor, they’re all pirates!
Spell Pierce (Blue Common Instant – 1-cost): Oh, Spell Pierce. I missed you so. It’s only great in the early game, but it can be valuable late game again if your opponent brazenly taps out. Spell Pierce is how you stop non-creature early game aggression. It counters a noncreature spell unless the opponent pays 2 colorless. And for 1 blue mana? That’s serious value. Did your opponent get set up for an Explosion, thinking they are going to blow you out of the water with it? Not if you have 1 blue mana left, they won’t!
Brineborn Cutthroat (Blue Uncommon Creature – Merfolk Pirate – 2-cost): A 2/1 with Flash, that grows whenever you cast spells during an opponent’s turn? Oh, it’s too good to be true. But it is true! So, if you have the mana, you can cast a second Brineborn, and make the first one already a 3/2! Or you can simply hold your Opts to boost your defenders. Everything you do on the other player’s turn is another buff for the Cutthroats. So how many cards in our deck can be played during their turn? 28! Curious Obsession, Pteramander, Siren Stormtamer, and your lands are the only ones. That means you will virtually always have a way to make those Cutthroats just a shred bigger.
4 Spectral Sailor (M20) 76
1 Opt (XLN) 65
4 Wizard’s Retort (DAR) 75
3 Spell Pierce (XLN) 81
4 Pteramander (RNA) 47
3 Opt (ELD) 59
4 Merfolk Trickster (DAR) 56
2 Lookout’s Dispersal (XLN) 62
20 Island (THB) 251
3 Dive Down (XLN) 53
4 Curious Obsession (RIX) 35
4 Brineborn Cutthroat (M20) 50
4 Siren Stormtamer (XLN) 79
2 Mystical Dispute (ELD) 58
2 Essence Capture (RNA) 37
1 Dive Down (XLN) 53
2 Cerulean Drake (M20) 53
4 Aether Gust (M20) 42
2 Negate (M20) 69
2 Sorcerous Spyglass (ELD) 233
Oh, this Historic Deck is so fun in MTG Arena, that’s the truth. It can really backfire on you though. If you play too aggressive or too passive, you can find yourself sunk. The key is to have a nice blend of early game counter-aggression, and just enough islands to do it with. You know a card I’m surprised I left out of this though? Tempest Djinn! He was a staple in this deck back in the day.
I’m mentioning it because you might decide he belongs in here. If that’s the case, I’m honestly not sure what I’d remove. Maybe a Pteramander, a Wizard’s Retort, something like that. Figure out what you aren’t getting frequently enough and consider slotting in one or two Djinn. He’s just an annoying beatstick, that gains attack for every Island you have in play. But I love this deck, I genuinely do. The super-strong creature with trample are a threat, and so are decks that gain more life than you can deal.
The other major downer, is you know Brineborn Cutthroat is going to be a target. It’s hard to build one or two back up after you’ve lost them all. If you hold a Dive Down in hand in case of emergencies, it might not be so bad, but bear in mind that won’t stop board wipe. It can stop exile and can give them just enough health to survive attacks though. Keep your beat sticks alive and play the patient game.
Just remember these wise words: No pasa nada! Not my words, the words of El Toro Blanco, Rush! Nothing happens, unless you say it happens.
This one feels a little on the janky side because you don’t really run a playset of anything other than perhaps lands. This deck looks, on the outside at least, to be a scattered collection of nonsense. It’s a deck that can do virtually anything. Do you need your opponent to discard? We have a ton of options for that. Want to play stuff out of your price range? That’s easy, too.
This deck is an assortment of options so that no matter what comes up, you can make someone angry. Stealing permanents, incredible draw potential, discard, tapping creatures, casting the other player’s spells, switching ownership of permanents! Hexproof! Tokens! Surveil! Life gain! MORE CARD DRAW! WHAT CAN THIS DECK NOT DO?! In theory, nothing.
It even runs Muldrotha, the Gravetide, so you can play cards from your graveyard! This might be the most infuriating, RNG-heavy deck I’ve ever seen. And I love it. It has an assortment of ways to stay in the game, or simply decide you’ve had enough and want to win.
This is the kind of nonsense I live and breathe in MTG Arena for, and it’s back in Historic with this deck. However, Theros Beyond Death did not really add anything to the deck, but that’s the great thing about this deck. You can slot in all sorts of cards.
The thing I see the most in this deck is Discard. You want your opponents to have zero options, while you get set up. Dark Inquiry, Mind Rot, Duress, Disinformation Campaign, and Urgoros, the Empty One all make your opponent discard. Fell Specter’s here to help you deal damage, whenever your opponent discards, on top of that.
But we also have a ton of options to use our opponent’s creatures/permanents. Thief of Sanity, Switcheroo, Captivating Crew, and In Bolas’s Clutches are beautiful when you want to make your opponent lose to their own creations. Oh, and Chaos Wand! You can use that to play an opponent’s instants and sorceries! But what makes this thing go, go, go? Why the Djinn of Wishes of course! He’s in the name!
You don’t need to have him on the field, but he sure as heck helps. The Djinn of Wishes comes into play with 3 wish counters on it. You can remove them (with 4 mana, 2 blue), and reveal the top card of your library. You can play that card without paying its cost. If you don’t, you exile it. So, you play the spell, put it in your graveyard, and with Muldrotha out, you can do it again. Though if it’s a creature, it goes into play.
You only get 3 Wish Counters though! What’s a planeswalker to do when you run out? Selective Snare is a great choice for that. You can also use Phyrexian Scriptures in a combo move. You give Muldrotha +1/+1 and turn it into an artifact. Then you kill all the non-artifact creatures. From there, simply cast Djinn of Wishes from the grave, and go right back to wishing! The downside here though is you could run into Banefire. If you cast it without paying its mana cost, it deals 0 damage.
So you want to have as much Surveil/Scry as possible. Being able to see what comes next, that is so important. In fact, that’s what House Guildmage is for! It can Surveil 2 for 3 mana (1B). Combine that with the Disinformation Campaign, and you have a steady flow of card draw and sicard for your opponent. That’s another fun combo!
You also have Niv-Mizzet, Parun for card draw and constant damage, with Azor, the Lawbringer to give card draw and lifegain. Hostage Taker lets you steal an artifact or creature from your opponents hand and cast it!
Do you see the uses for Djinn of Wishes? There is an endless number of combos you can use in this deck. But while your creatures are mighty, and do tons of damage, the big game-winner for me is Banefire. You put them into a position where they have nothing left and cast an uncounterable Banefire for huge numbers. Heck, you can even mill your opponent with Psychic Corrosion! The best thing about this deck is that it’s very hard to figure out what can possibly come up next.
It takes practice and work to get right, but it’s so beautiful. For the best-of-3 matches, the sideboard is riddled with even more frustrating answers. Nezahal, Thousand-Year Storm, Voltaic Artifact, you name it. It’s easy to find a solution to any problem you face with this deck. You can also Banefire your Djinn, and Muldrotha him back onto the field if such is your wish. But, try to have a League Guildmage on the field for that. If you do, he can copy that Banefire, and still murder something else with it.
Axis of Mortality (White Mythic Rare Enchantment – 6-cast): This is an enchantment I never used when it was in the standard meta. But here? It has some pretty fun functionality. At the beginning of your upkeep, you can have two players exchange life totals. This can be used to simply keep you in the game, or hypothetically, it can be your game-winner. Here’s the skinny: Rite of Belzenlok creates a 6/6 demon, that requires its controller to sacrifice a creature. If they can’t, the creature deals 6 damage to them. So, you give it to your opponent, via Switcheroo, and get rid of their only creature. Their turn rolls around, they can’t sacrifice to it, so they take 6. If you were at a low enough life, this can be a game-winner. There’s a lot of fun uses for this card, but this is my favorite.
Muldrotha, the Gravetide (Black/Green/Blue Mythic Rare Legendary Creature – Elemental Avatar – 6-cast): Now this is a creature I used a lot. During each of your turns, you can play up to one permanent of each type from your graveyard (provided you have the mana). So, land, enchantment, artifact, creature, planeswalker. If it’s in the grave, you can use it again. What is dead may never die, after all. You can do this every turn, too! So, if you get rid of your Djinn, or he dies, you benefit by casting him this way. He gets those Wish Counters back, after all. You can’t use instants or sorceries this way though, only permanents.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun (Red/Blue Rare Legendary Creature – Dragon Wizard – 6-cost): Niv-Mizzet, in general, is incredible, but in decks where you do a ludicrous amount of card drawing? He can win the game in no time. So many cards in this deck combo together, but let’s look at another one. Axis of Mortality (Swap low life total for high life total). Azor, the Lawbringer declares attack, pay X (draw cards, gain life). Niv-Mizzet’s passive triggers.
When Niv-Mizzet is in play, whenever an opponent casts an instant or sorcery, you draw a card. Whenever you draw a card, you deal 1 damage to any target. So, you can draw out just enough to deal lethal to your opponent! With enough mana and board control, you can set up some ugly set-ups with this combo. With Reliquary tower also potentially on board, you have no maximum hand size.
1 Muldrotha, the Gravetide (DAR) 199
1 Urgoros, the Empty One (DAR) 109
1 Disinformation Campaign (GRN) 167
1 Fell Specter (M19) 96
1 Mind Rot (M19) 109
1 Dark Inquiry (RIX) 65
1 Duress (M19) 94
1 Duress (XLN) 105
1 Departed Deckhand (M19) 49
1 Dimir Informant (GRN) 36
1 House Guildmage (GRN) 177
1 Azor, the Lawbringer (RIX) 154
1 League Guildmage (GRN) 185
1 Niv-Mizzet, Parun (GRN) 192
1 Warkite Marauder (RIX) 60
1 Unclaimed Territory (XLN) 258
1 Izzet Guildgate (GRN) 252
1 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer (WAR) 234
1 Captivating Crew (XLN) 137
1 Psychic Corrosion (M19) 68
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty (DAR) 35
6 Island (THB) 251
1 Reliquary Tower (M19) 254
1 Zhalfirin Void (DAR) 249
1 Gateway Plaza (GRN) 247
1 Rupture Spire (M19) 255
1 Unknown Shores (XLN) 259
1 Switcheroo (M19) 78
1 In Bolas’s Clutches (DAR) 54
1 Djinn of Wishes (M19) 52
2 Banefire (M19) 130
1 Sulfur Falls (DAR) 247
1 Icy Manipulator (DAR) 219
1 Memorial to Folly (DAR) 242
1 Phyrexian Scriptures (DAR) 100
1 Axis of Mortality (XLN) 3
1 Rite of Belzenlok (DAR) 102
1 Selective Snare (GRN) 53
1 Chaos Wand (M19) 228
1 River’s Rebuke (XLN) 71
1 Woodland Stream (RIX) 191
1 Hostage Taker (XLN) 223
1 Thief of Sanity (GRN) 205
1 Nightveil Predator (GRN) 191
4 Swamp (THB) 252
1 Meandering River (M19) 253
1 Submerged Boneyard (M19) 257
1 Drowned Catacomb (XLN) 253
1 Gilded Lotus (DAR) 215
1 Storm the Vault (RIX) 173
1 Siren Stormtamer (XLN) 79
1 Rite of Belzenlok (DAR) 102
1 Icy Manipulator (DAR) 219
1 Unwind (DAR) 72
1 Cancel (XLN) 47
1 Act of Treason (M19) 127
1 Thousand-Year Storm (GRN) 207
1 Departed Deckhand (M19) 49
2 Voltaic Servant (DAR) 236
1 Viashino Pyromancer (M19) 166
1 Soul of the Rapids (RIX) 56
1 Expansion // Explosion (GRN) 224
1 Siren Stormtamer (XLN) 79
1 Whisper Agent (GRN) 220
1 Nezahal, Primal Tide (RIX) 45
This is a very complicated deck. I could honestly write a blog post just about this deck on its own. The key is to figure out what you have, and what you can do with it. Personally, having lots of early game discard is incredibly strong. But that’s what I love about this deck. There’s no one right answer because there are so many combos. You can use Rite of Belzenok’s Demon to sacrifice Djinn of Wishes, recast him, and use his wishes every single turn if you want! You can cast anything you want from the top of your deck, and with careful surveilling, you can make certain whatever you want is there.
However, combo decks this complicated are foiled by incredible, high-speed aggro. If they get going before you can set up your combos, it’s the end for you, my friend. But you have Shalai to help protect your creatures, Icy Manipulator to tap permanents, and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer to always have annoying things to attack, defend, or sacrifice. Worst case, you can wait it out, and drop a 15-20-point Banefire and just win that way.
The point is, friends, you have options. Lots of them.