MTG Arena Core Set 2021 Historic Decks to Try
We’re about to get some ban and restriction announcements for MTG Arena after M21 dropped – for Historic at least! Standard is somehow safe from the banhammer, for now at any rate. However, a new set of cards means we’re going to have many new decks to play around with. That or old decks are suddenly far more powerful.
I’m going to avoid Core Set 2021 decks that I think are going to get ban/restriction announcements. No Wilderness Reclamation decks here! If I turn out to be wrong, then we’ll be revisiting those. I’m also going to avoid Bant Ugin because I feel Ugin, Spirit Dragon might get a ban. Instead, I want to look at cards/decks that I think could stick around. There’s some ridiculous stuff and some decks that are just vile and disrespectful.
There are always going to be decks that work well in Historic: These include things like Gruul Aggro and Red Deck Wins. Esper Control is also going to be a mainstay. Instead, I want to focus on Core Set 2021 Historic decks that are potentially way more interesting. They might not always be easy to pilot, but when they pop off? That’s what makes it all worthwhile.
Five-Color Fun: Oops! All Shrines! (Five-Color Control/Jank Shrines)
Fun fact: I run three different versions of this deck. The first one used Calix as a way to find enchantments, but it didn’t feel safe. Calix, not safe? Maybe “safe” is the wrong word. It didn’t feel consistent. Instead, I use this one far more. It’s 5-color Shrines still, but we use a few different options to secure card draw/enchantment findings. This is an Enchantress deck, of sorts.
We’re using Enchantress’s Presence to aid us in card draw. Any time we play an Enchantment, we draw a card. That and Sanctum of Calm Waters will help us do ridiculous things, as we should always have access to cards. However, you’ll notice in the decklist that we aren’t running four of any of the Shrines. We run 1-2 of each. This is to make sure we have room for other things to put the game into our favor.
Board wipe, Idyllic Tutor (to find enchantments), and Chromatic Lantern to make our mana tap for whatever we like, or Revitalize for life and card draw. This is a deck that when things are looking bleak, and I’m at 1 life against a RDW deck, I’ll get what I need. Then before they know it, I have Sanctum of Stone Fangs and start gaining life in piles.
When you get down to it, we’re going to stall until Sanctum of All shows up and gets put into play. But what do we do in the meantime? I’m glad you asked!
How Does It Work?
And you thought Shrines were annoying when they only had access to five of them! Now we have 10! We can do virtually anything we’d like with Shrines! They’re legendary, so we can only have one of each Shrine in play. The game will be over way before you get all 10 in play, which I can virtually promise.
Shrines are legendary enchantments that trigger abilities, typically at the beginning of your upkeep. One or two have an ability we can activate when we want (Sanctum of Tranquil Light, Sanctum of Shattered Heights). The rest of them trigger at the start, so you don’t even have to think about them! You just have to decide targets, and if you want to draw 10+ cards a turn. You may not always want to.
What’s our win condition? Sanctum of All. It requires one of each color to cast, but that’s no big deal with how varied our mana pool (and Chromatic Lantern). At the beginning of our upkeep, we can take a Shrine from our graveyard or library and put it into play. This will be before the other Shrines trigger their abilities.
If you have five Shrines in play before this and fetch a Honden of Infinite Rage, you will see the true power of Sanctum of All. If you have six or more Shrines in play with Sanctum of All out, each ability triggers an additional time. Honden of Infinite Rage, for example, deals damage to a creature or player equal to the number of Shrines you have. So you will hit something for 6 damage twice. So what Shrines are we running, and what do we do? Let’s cover that in brief, so you understand their power.
- Sanctum of Tranquil Light (1-Cost White): 1W 5 Colorless: Tap target creature. This costs 1 colorless less per Shrine you control.
- Sanctum of Stone Fangs (2-Cost Black): At the beginning of your pre-combat main phase, each opponent loses X life and you gain X life. X is equal to the number of Shrines you control.
- Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest (3-Cost Green): At the beginning of your pre-combat main phase, add X mana of any one color. X is equal to the number of Shrines you control.
- Honden of Infinite Rage (3-Cost Red): At the beginning of your upkeep, deal damage to target creature or player equal to the number of Shrines you control.
- Sanctum of Shattered Heights (3-Cost Red): Tap 1 colorless, Discard a Land or Shrine: It deals X damage to target creature or planeswalker, where X is the number of Shrines you control.
- Honden of Night’s Reach (4-Cost Black): At the beginning of your upkeep, target opponent discards a card for each Shrine you control.
- Honden of Cleansing Fire (4-Cost White): At the beginning of your upkeep, gain 2 life for each Shrine you control.
- Sanctum of Calm Waters (4-Cost Blue): At the beginning of your precombat main phase, you may draw X cards, where X is the number of Shrines you control.
- Honden of Life’s Web (5-Cost Green): At the beginning of your upkeep, put a 1/1 colorless Spirit creature token into play for each Shrine you control.
- Sanctum of All (5-Cost 5-Color): At the beginning of your upkeep, you may search your library and/or graveyard for a Shrine card and put it into play. If you have six or more Shrines, trigger each of their abilities an additional time.
Once you have Sanctum of All, you can pick whatever effect you’re lacking and put it into play. That’s why we aren’t running tons of each one of them. We’ll get them, eventually. Idyllic Tutor will help us get them too. Once we have a Chromatic Lantern, we just need five lands for a Sanctum. One of the hardest things is figuring out what you should have for a starting hand, though!
Having a cheap Sanctum at the start, and the land to cast it is a godsend. I like to have at least one board wipe/creature removal option in my starting hand, but more is better. Deafening Clarion is amazing for this, as it deals 3 damage to all creatures. Shatter the Sky is just as good, but it’s just “destroy all creatures.” Since I’m running into a lot of Scapeshift decks, I tend to hold a Shatter in hand until they decide to put all of their 50 zombie tokens in play. Then you detonate the board, and cackle when they lose everything.
The name of this deck’s game is to wait and play a Shrine whenever you can. Since they typically only trigger on the next turn, it can be very slow. Be patient. This is not a deck that goes quickly. Once you have five shrines out and have Honden of Cleansing Fire/Sanctum of Stone Fangs, you will come back. Each of the Shrines has a unique ability, and figure out what your opponent is doing and pick the right ones to stop them.
Are they slowly churning out creatures? Honden of Infinite Rage/Sanctum of Shattered Heights! Is it lots of creatures without trample? Honden of Life’s Web! Simply want to draw some cards and hold onto your board wipes/lands for Shattered Heights? Sanctum of Calm Waters! We win by letting the Shrines do all the work. Once you get a few on board, they may simply give up if they have no answers. I’ve had someone give up once I hit a turn 3 and had 3 Shrines out. They weren’t terribly powerful yet, but they were getting there.
That’s how we win. You unlock the power of the Shrines, and just let the other player wear down. That’s the beauty of this deck! When your Shrines are out, the game plays itself. You just have to pay attention to what’s in your hand, and stop their creatures with whatever tools you need.
Does it have enemies? Oh yes. If they wipe out all the Enchantments in play and don’t have another Sanctum of All, it’s pretty much over for you. Or if they constantly exile your board. But overall, it’s powerful and frustrating to deal with. My favorite way to play!
We’ve already talked about all the Shrines, so there’s no sense in going into them further. They’re incredibly powerful. Instead, Key Cards will focus on what helps us get to the point where we’re an unstoppable damage machine that gains more life than the other player can deal with. One of the downsides of this deck, though, is we’re running 43 rares. Every land in the deck, for example, is a rare card. If you already had them, it’s no big deal.
Chromatic Lantern (3-Cost Colorless Rare Artifact)
One of the downfalls to this deck is that we need all five colors. Far too often, I run into instances where I am desperate for one green mana, but all of my lands are Red, Black and White. Chromatic Lantern lets me tap all of my lands for any color, and it can also tap itself for any color. This solves any mana typing issues we have, as long as it’s out.
Idyllic Tutor (3-Cost White Rare Spell – Sorcery)
Need desperately one more Shrine? Do you have the mana to cast Sanctum of Stone Fangs, but they aren’t showing up? Idyllic Tutor lets you seek an enchantment from your deck and put it into your hand. This is amazing when you can cast it, and then immediately play the Shrine in question. If they have no counters, this is an instant threat generator.
Shatter the Sky (4-Cost Rare White Spell – Sorcery)
Yes, White has a lot of presence in this deck. It has so much powerful utility for any situation. In particular, Shatter the Sky is my “Oh God, they have so many creatures, why do they have so many creatures?” card. Destroy all creatures, and anyone who had a creature with power 4 or higher gets to draw a card. I try to hold this as long as I can until they have burned everything to win. Then. . . ZAP!
1 Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
2 Sunpetal Grove
2 Savai Triome
2 Clifftop Retreat
2 Temple Garden
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Steam Vents
1 Blood Crypt
1 Rootbound Crag
1 Breeding Pool
1 Ketria Triome
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Raugrin Triome
2 Indatha Triome
4 Enchantress’s Presence
2 Honden of Infinite Rage
1 Honden of Night’s Reach
2 Sanctum of All
2 Honden of Cleansing Fire
2 Sanctum of Tranquil Light
2 Sanctum of Shattered Heights
2 Sanctum of Calm Waters
1 Honden of Life’s Web
3 Chromatic Lantern
4 Shatter the Sky
2 Deafening Clarion
4 Idyllic Tutor
2 Sanctum of Stone Fangs
As long as you are getting Shrines put into play, even if you drop to 10 – 1 life, you can come back. The hardest part of the game is the first four-five turns. If you can outlast the other player, and outplay them, you can win. I can’t tell you which Shrines are most important because that’s very situational. My personal favorites are Sanctum of Stone Fangs, Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest, and Honden of Infinite Rage. That drains the other player, gives us extra mana to play with, and deals direct damage.
Watch out for hyper aggro, enchantment board wipe/exile, and hard counters. As long as you can get a Sanctum of All, as long as you can play cards from the grave, your Shrines will come back. This is one of the Core Set 2021 Historic decks that makes people mad the longer the game goes on. We don’t have a lot of tools in our kit, but as long as we can hold out until the next turn, it’s going to turn out okay for us. Probably. There are always going to be match-ups that feel impossible.
In particular, decks that can win within 4 turns are probably going just to obliterate us. But that’s okay! There’s always another match-up over the next hill, and they aren’t going to expect Oops! All Shrines!
Lazav, Titan of Death’s Hunger (Black/Blue/Red Combo)
This is a deck I discovered called “Titan Shift,” and boy howdy does it fit the bill! I already wanted to do Kroxa + Lazav, but now I know how to build this deck that doesn’t rely on that one combo alone. That’s when I discovered “Grixis Titan!”
We have a pair of options to win with this deck, but I won’t lie to you: The testing matches were ugly. It felt like I played against everything in the world that could hard counter it. Or somehow, a 200+ card deck that never missed a key card. That looks mighty shady. This is likely one of the safer decks for the MTG Arena Core Set 2021 Historic scene.
Our goal is to beat someone down with Kroxa-Lazav, or our 5/5 flying demons. We can also play Lurrus and always cast Kroxa from the grave, to force the player to discard constantly. If we can keep cards out of their hand, we’re free to beat them at our leisure.
We’re also running ol’ reliable in Black, Priest of Forgotten Gods. All this deck is missing is a more reliable life gain. That’s all we need to make this a true titan. For now, I can’t think of a way, but it’ll come up. In a perfect world, we’ll hammer through someone’s life points before they even know what’s happening to them. Once you drop that turn 1 Archfiend’s Vessel, it’s a threat. Unless it gets exiled, the other player will no doubt hesitate to let it die.
It’s one of the keys to our power, after all. Any deck that runs it has ample ways to bring it back. This is certainly one of those instances. It’s not always going to win, but it’s going to be wildly satisfying to see it pop off. It’s got a decent learning curve.
How Does It Work?
Against all odds, Lurrus of the Dream-Den is still around. A very frustrating creature that we don’t even have to wait on, thanks to Companions! We’re running one in the sideboard. His goal is to help us be annoying, and boy does he work out. Our big winning cards are Archfiend’s Vessel and Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Technically, Lazav, the Multifarious is also a key condition to winning because he can give us a turn 3 6/6.
One of the Core Set 2021 Historic decks I was fond of that didn’t work out for me was Mardu Kroxa. The strategy was to get Hushbringer, and then cast Kroxa. That way, we didn’t have to force a sacrifice when we cast him. That way, we get a 6/6 for 2 mana and no work. But it just wasn’t happening for me. I’ve seen other people use it to decent success, but not me! And that’s okay. I found another easier way.
One of the hardest parts about this deck is knowing when to mill. If you don’t have enough mana to make a play, but you have a few mill-creatures in hand, you may want to hold off a turn to see if you hit a land drop. If you’re like me, you’ll turn 1 mill yourself, and lose 3 land drops that you desperately needed.
I hate how often that happens. Plan carefully and figure out when to mill. It comes with practice, and each situation is different. That’s just the nature of card games. I suppose we should probably go over the general strategy.
Our key cards to win with are Archfiend’s Vessel and Kroxa. We have a few ways to use them. A turn-1 Archfiend is amazing. It’s a 1/1 with lifelink, and most players try not to let it die unless they can exile it. We want to bring it back from the graveyard so that we can exile it for a 5/5 flying demon in a few ways:
- Call of the Death-Dweller: You can get two Archfiends at once with this. You don’t get the perks of the deathtouch/menace tokens, sadly. If you run Ozolith though. . .
- Lurrus of the Dream-Den: With him in play, you can cast a creature from your graveyard. So just leave a point of black mana open, and cast him, exile him, and get a 5/5!
This deck is about more than just getting a 6/6 and 5/5 as fast as possible! We’re also running control in the form of Priest of Forgotten Gods! By mid-game, we’ll have enough mana just to keep harassing the other player, forcing them to sacrifice a creature. If it’s one of those popular “one massive creature” decks or “a few very useful creatures” decks, we can stop them.
Tokens, however, we have no answer for. Against tokens, we have to hope to batter them down before the other player can start swinging for big numbers. But when we sacrifice the Priest of Forgotten Gods targets, they go to the graveyard! Lurrus can only bring back one thing at a time! What the heck do we do?!
Calm down, neighbor! There’s a solution! Gutterbones! We sacrifice at least one (but hopefully two) of them. As a result, the other player loses 2 life, sacrifices a creature. We gain 2 black mana and we draw a card. If you have at least two more mana, you can use that 4 to pull Gutterbones back to your hand. 2 more, and you can play them! In a perfect world, you have another Priest of Forgotten Gods, sacrifice them again, and make the player suffer even more.
We also have Narcomoeba in the deck for when we mill them into our grave. When they’re milled into the grave, we can put them into play. That means we use them to attack if necessary or use them as sacrifice fodder. But how do we get Archfiend’s Vessel and Narcomoebas into the grave?
Gutterbones works in a mill situation too, but I’d rather hard cast them. Stitcher’s Supplier mills three when we cast it and when it dies! Next, we have Merfolk Secretkeeper’s Adventure Spell, Venture Deeper. Then we can cast it again to get a 0/4 creature. That is a great defender, or become a sacrifice fodder.
Finally, Mire Triton, which mills two cards and gives us 2 life when it enters the battlefield. It’s a 2/1 deathtouch, making it an immediate threat. We don’t mind if it dies. The more creatures in the graveyard, the better it is for Lazav, the Multifarious no less. Even if they kill Lurrus of the Dream-Den, we can tap 3, and turn Lazav into Lurrus! Then you can use him to bring that creature back from the grave. But what if I told you there are meaner things you can do with Lazav? You probably wouldn’t be shocked.
If you need to turn him into a Priest of Forgotten Gods for a sacrifice engine you can, then if you have the mana, you can change him again to make him Lurrus. He can only transform into creatures that are in your graveyard. If you want to be a super-jerk, consider our pal Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger.
Pay 2 mana, turn Lazav into Kroxa. He still retains the “Lazav, the Multifarious” name, but has the stats and abilities of Kroxa. So then we escape Kroxa, and get two copies of him! That way, we have two 6/6s that make the other player discard upon attack.
From there, just look out for opportunities to get Archfiend’s Vessel and turn them into 5/5 demons, and the game is yours! That’s the major strategy of this deck. We get these big creatures as fast as possible and start swinging for the fences.
This is only technically a Grixis (Red/Blue/Black) deck. We have one card that features Red in the color identity, outside of mana. It’s still Grixis though! This deck is so frustrating once it goes online. It doesn’t start very fast unless you Turn 1 mill, Turn 2 Lazav and turn 3 Kroxa. From there, just start playing Priests and whatever creatures you want, and start racking up wins.
Lazav, the Multifarious (2-Cost Black and Blue Mythic Rare Legendary Creature – Shapeshifter)
Lazav is the current Dimir Guildmaster on the plane of Ravnica. He’s a shapeshifter, and not a man to be trifled with. That said, he’s an incredible card, especially at 2 mana. Being a ⅓, it’s a little harder to take him out in the early game. He can also, if you have the mana, shift to a different creature to survive damage potentially. We can turn him into Kroxa or Priest of Forgotten Gods as the best picks for this deck.
Archfiend’s Vessel (1-Cost Uncommon Creature – Human Cleric)
What an amazing uncommon! As long as it goes to the grave and isn’t exiled, it’s going to come back as a 5/5 flying demon! Sadly, you have to exile this card when it comes back from the grave, but in return, you get a demon. As a little 1/1 with lifelink, it brings the threat of returning as a giant, angry demon. He’s #value.
Call of the Death-Dweller (3-Cost Black Uncommon Spell – Sorcery)
While we can cast this on any creature in this deck (well technically two in many cases), there are major targets: Lurrus if he dies, or if you can, a pair of Archfiend’s Vessels. That would give us 10 damage for 3 mana! Even better if you already have a Kroxa-clone setup.
1 Lurrus of the Dream Den
4 Archfiend’s Vessel
4 Steam Vents
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Mire Triton
4 Priest of Forgotten Gods
4 Call of the Death-Dweller
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Lazav, the Multifarious
4 Watery Grave
4 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
4 Blood Crypt
4 Stitcher’s Supplier
4 Merfolk Secretkeeper
1 Lurrus of the Dream Den
The absolute worst deck I have played against was Black/Green Saprolings in Historic. That was a hellish nightmare that will never be fun to play against. Grixis Superfriends is also very hard to manage. Most mid-range decks we can make suffer. If it’s a slow deck and we get that godlike first-three turns, it’s over. Board wipe is hard to deal with, but counterspells aren’t. We have enough answers to reach back into the grave.
The trick against counterplay is to bait out their spells with something you are less interested in, only to play the really good card later. This deck mangles solo-creature Mutate, as long as they don’t get a super early trample. If they don’t, we just wait them out and force them to sacrifice their huge, hulking jerk.
This is one of the Core Set 2021 Historic decks that takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s brutal and potentially very quick. Your ability to respond to pressure, and what to bring back when with Lurrus will determine victory or defeat.
See The Forest for the Trees (Mono-Green Aggro)
Initially I was going to put my 5-color Omniscience deck here, but that’ll come next week. Instead, I stumbled upon divine (natural) inspiration. We need a really solid, fun aggro deck in this blog! One that’s obscenely fast, really hard to deal with, and preferably mono-colored. Could I have picked Mono-Red? Yeah, but meh. Everyone knows RDW. Though there is a Goblin deck I’m working on right now.
Then I thought, “What about mono-white aggro? That’s fun!” but it isn’t quite hard-hitting enough right out of the gate. I figured we could do better. Then it hit me, like 12 damage to the face: GHALTA, PRIMAL HUNGER! Dinosaurs were the first deck I piloted to success in MTG Arena, after all, so why not go to a classic one for one of my Core Set 2021 Historic decks?
I’ve been torn on a few things for this deck. It’s not that I think they would make the deck better, but they would be hilarious and silly. I wanted to use Gilded Goose x2 to sneak an Embercleave. We don’t need it, but boy, would that be hilarious! The other thought I had was Carnage Tyrant. It’s an incredible card, that’s for sure. But we don’t need it. Nothing in this deck is higher than 4, other than Ghalta. Plus, Ghalta will almost always drop for 2-4 mana.
So while I love the ideas, it’s just not viable. Maybe if I put a Chromatic Lantern or Paradise Druids in the deck? I like it, but it would slow things down. This particular deck is one-color, high-octane, and a boatload of damage. I’ve dropped Ghalta, Primal Hunger on turn 4, but it took some serious doing. He can still drop ridiculously fast in many situations.
Without further ado, let’s head into the woods?
How Does It Work?
Ahh, Mono-Green. You’re always fun, reliable, and brutal. Our win condition is incredibly simple: We hit the other player with big numbers until they capitulate. Whether we use giants, dinosaurs, or elves, we’re going to hit them with an unrelenting assault. But what do we want in the early game? Llanowar Elves and Pelt Collector. Gilded Goose is another A-OK card to get on turn 1.
My only problem with the Goose is that it’s a dead card once we’ve used it for mana. We have to pump mana into it for another Food Token to use. Their purpose in the deck for me is to make sure that we can turn 2 one of our 3-drops in case mana is slow. Or turn 3 a 4-drop. Between Llanowar Elves, a Gilded Goose, and a Forest or two, we can turn 3 a Questing Beast, which is completely demoralizing.
Depending on what the other player is running, you may want to turn-2 Gemrazer your Llanowar Elves/Goose/Pelt Collector. That will turn them into a 4/4 with Reach/Trample. Whenever this creature mutates, you can destroy an artifact/enchantment your opponent controls. Did the other player turn-0 a Leyline? Make that thing disappear!
Do we have a particular way to win with this deck? Honestly, there’s no wrong way. We can use Pelt Collector, and slowly ramp up his strength, and make casting Ghalta a bit faster. We can turn 2-Yorvo and make him bigger and bigger and bigger still. Ultimately, we want Ghalta, Primal Hunger, as soon as possible, but that’s not always going to happen.
Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig is an amazing card to help you win too. When it’s in play, green creatures that enter the battlefield give him a +1/+1 counter. Then if that creature’s power is greater than Yorvo’s, he gets another +1/+1 counter. So even playing our mid-game Lovestruck Beast, Llanowar Elves, and Arboreal Grazers will make Yorvo stronger. Shame he doesn’t have Trample. Gemrazer can fix that!
Gemrazer is our “this card can win the game, let’s give it trample” card! It also gives reach, for those annoying flyers like Thief of Sanity. If we whittle someone’s life down but don’t have a way to win, there are some tricky shenanigans we can employ. Say, you play Ghalta for 2 mana, but can’t attack this turn. He’s still a 12/12. Tap 2, cast Ram Through! It makes a creature you control deal damage to a creature you don’t control.
If your creature has Trample, excess damage will go through! So you can point Ghalta at a 1/1, blast them for 12, and get 11 free damage on the other player. So if you have two of them, you win! But we can win way before we pull a Ghalta. Questing Beast, Steel Leaf Champion, Lovestruck Beast, all three of these are giant, world-beating machines. Steel Leaf can’t be blocked by creatures power 2 or less! So if they’re running zombies or some kind of cruddy tokens, he will ignore them.
Lovestruck Beast is a 5/5 that requires a 1/1 on your side to attack (easy enough, hello, Llanowar!). We all know about Questing Beast. 4/4, haste, vigilance, deathtouch! It was one of the absolute strongest creatures in its expansion. It also can’t be blocked by creatures with 2 or less power, and combat damage your creatures deal can’t be prevented!
If that wasn’t enough, if your opponent gets hit, that damage goes to one of their planeswalkers. Questing Beast is furiously powerful. Even if the other player board wipes, there’s a very high chance you’ll have creatures just sitting in your hand that you haven’t played. Ideally, we’ll have won by turn 4. By that point, most control decks have 4 lands, but they don’t have 4 untapped lands.
We’re just going to swing for damage every chance we get. I wouldn’t swing with your Llanowar unless you boost it with Gemrazer or have zero chance of responding. You need that mana in the early game after all.
Hit ’em hard, hit ’em fast, trample them down.
“My deck has no bad cards.” – Yugi Mutoh, probably.
That’s the beauty of this deck. Every single card is “Value”. Arboreal Grazers seem weak, but it’s 1: Mana Ramp and 2. A 0/3 with Reach! It can block early game flyers safely. Questing Beast? Well, it pretty much speaks for itself. Primal Might? Blast someone’s 1/1 with a now 19/19, that you can swing with after! Or cast Ram Through on it on top of that, to make sure you win. We have nothing bad in this deck. So let’s talk about the real MVPs.
Ghalta, Primal Hunger (12-Cost Green Mythic Rare Legendary Creature – Elder Dinosaur)
Good. Lord. This is my favorite dinosaur. It’s a 12-cost, which is brutal, and two of it must be green. But it costs X colorless to cast, where X is the total power of the creatures you control. We could turn ¾ this and win on the very next turn. Less if we’ve been hitting them, and have a spare Ram Through. Don’t be scared to use it on Ghalta and smash a 1/1 to absolute bits! He’s also got trample, so he’s a threat the instant he drops. If we could only give him Haste. . .
Gemrazer (4-Cost Green Rare Creature – Beast)
Or you could Mutate this onto another creature for 3 (2 green). I don’t foresee this being cast as a creature very often anyway. It’s much better to use it on other creatures. It’s a great way to make Gilded Goose a sudden very angry threat. Now it’s a 4/4 flying/reach/trample creature! He’s also our anti-Shrine card! Whenever this Mutates onto a card, it destroys an enchantment/artifact your opponent controls. You can do a lot to stop your opponent’s enchantment threats. There’s a lot of them.
Ram Through (2-Cost Green Common Spell – Instant)
What, a common is key to this deck’s success? Oh yes. What if your opponent has deathtouch? Or what if you simply want to be a spiteful jerk? Ram Through is here for you! For 2 mana, a creature of yours deals damage to a creature your opponent controls. This is better than “Fight”, because they don’t get to hit back. You backhand a creature in the mouth. If your creature has trample, excess damage goes through. So you buff something like Yorvo, or just target Ghalta, and pick something off while doing a ton of damage. It can also be a great way to make sure the other player doesn’t have enough blockers to win.
2 Arboreal Grazer (WAR) 149
2 Forest (SLD) 67
20 Forest (UND) 96
1 Gilded Goose (ELD) 160
1 Llanowar Elves (DAR) 168
3 Llanowar Elves (M19) 314
2 Pelt Collector (GRN) 141
3 Lovestruck Beast (ELD) 165
4 Steel Leaf Champion (DAR) 182
4 Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig (ELD) 185
4 Questing Beast (ELD) 171
3 Ghalta, Primal Hunger (RIX) 130
4 Ram Through (IKO) 170
4 Gemrazer (IKO) 155
1 Castle Garenbrig (ELD) 240
2 Primal Might (M21) 197
What stops this deck? A bad start, mostly. This is one of the Core Set 2021 Historic decks that win because you don’t have to stress about color typings. As long as you have mana, you can likely act. Dropping all your creatures and getting board wiped is a threat too. If you constantly get forced to sacrifice or put into bad trades, you may not come out on top. But for the most part, this is a very successful, aggressive deck. We have lots of damage, plenty of ways to make someone sweat, and even mana ramp!
What does the other player do when you’re hitting them for 8+ on turn 3? Weep, probably. Believe in the might of the forest. Ghalta is here to protect your life points from harm.
Journey into the Darkness (Mono-Black Control)
You know what tokens hate? Massacre Wurm, that’s what! I love the concept of this deck, but as a point of fact: It has Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in it. I know I said I wasn’t going to focus on that, but this is a deck with just one Ugin in it. It’s not our major win condition, but it can show up and is certainly a threat. But it’s not what we need to win.
Instead, we’re looking at locking people down with black spells and exile/control. Then we win with weird, frustrating cards that deal damage/gave us life. Of course, how could we forget the Phyrexian Obliterator? As long as they don’t directly destroy it, or make us sacrifice it, it’s the biggest threat on offer. If it is dealt damage, the controller of that damage has to start sacrificing.
This deck also uses one of my favorite cards added back to MTG Arena – Gary! That’s right, Gray Merchant of Asphodel is back, friends! We can exile cards, destroy them, and make the other player exile cards from their hand. We slow the state of the game down, draw extra cards a turn at the cost of life, then blast their key creature with Tendrils of Corruption for maximum salt. That’s what this deck is.
It’s maximum salt. Just peer down into the darkness, and embrace the strength that awaits.
How Does It Work?
We have so many ways to harm the other player and gain life for it, so don’t sweat Phyrexian Arena. Sure, you lose a point of life a turn per card and draw 1 card. Dread Presence, Tendrils of Corruption, Gray Merchant of Asphodel all give you life back in very nice quantities in the right circumstances.
Dread Presence just needs you to lay down a Swamp, and rewards you with either 2 damage/gain 2 life, or draw 1 card and lose 1 life. I just wish Tendrils of Corruption would work on players/planeswalkers, but that’s just how it is. The more swamps you have, the more damage it deals to a creature and gives you that much life back.
Not missing land drops is so important for stuff like this. We want at least 1 Phyrexian Arena and a few of our Yarok’s Fenlurkers. Devotion is key to victory, after all. Gray Merchant of Asphodel makes the other player lose X life, and you gain X life, where that X is the current Devotion to Black you have. So if we have a Phyrexian Arena, Yarok’s Fenlurker, and a Phyrexian Obliterator in play with the Merchant, that’s 10 life lost. It can get better!
You also have Murderous Rider (2 devotion) and Massacre Wurm (3 devotion). We also have to ask, “How do we control the early game? We have to get to those creatures/options!” and don’t worry, I have the answer!
Heartless Act destroys a creature with no counters or removes 3 counters from them, dealer’s choice. For 2 mana, it can destroy so many creatures. Also, consider the turn 2 Yarok’s Fenlurker. It’s only a 1/1, but it has 2 black in the casting cost. So if we cast them back to back, even better, they make the other player exile a card from their hand. You can buff it if you want, for 3 mana (1 black) – +1/+1 until end of turn. We seldom do that unless they stick around until later in the game. So we can exile cards from their hand, but they get to choose.
What about letting us pick what card they lose? Agonizing Remorse lets us remove a nonland from their hand or a card from their graveyard and exile. I’ve come across a few Journey to Eternity decks that pull a creature back each turn to make me discard/sacrifice. So we have to get rid of creatures in the grave instead. Agonizing Remorse does this, but you do lose 1 life. That’s negligible.
Tendrils of Corruption is a card we already discussed. It deals damage to a creature based on how many Swamps you have and gives it to you in the form of life. It can obliterate so many useful creatures, and keep you in the game for yet another turn. Extinction Event is a bit of a double-edged sword. It exiles all creatures that are either Even or Odd. This can (and usually does) hurt you unless you have no creatures out. But it can slow the other player down even further.
Heck, you can just ping their creatures (the weak ones) down with Dread Presence, just by playing a Swamp! That’s 2 damage to them and 2 life to you. Murderous Rider’s Adventure Spell (Swift End) destroys a creature or planeswalker, but you lose 2 life. But that’s yet another tool in our kit to kill things off. Finally, there’s the returning Massacre Wurm!
It gives all enemy creatures -2/-2 until end of turn. On top of that, anytime an opponent’s creature dies, they lose 2 life. In theory, you can kill someone in one turn with this. If they have a ton of weak creatures and think the game is over, just play Massacre Wurm and wipe the board! Well, their board, not yours.
We also have another way to get extra devotion, as well as mana. Altar of the Pantheon adds 1 to each devotion we have. If we have 9 devotion to black, now it’s 10. It also taps for 1 mana of any color. This stacks, though (and we have 3). It can be the difference between victory and defeat when you cast Gray Merchant!
Finally, yes, there’s Ugin. He can do a lot of really annoying things, but I’ve never once drawn him with this deck. I may simply remove him for another black card.
Mono-Black is always fun, whether it’s Core Set 2021 Historic decks or in Standard for MTG Arena. It’s always got a new way to be disrespectful, and this is no exception. This deck has taken me to being at 8 life to suddenly being at 30, and the other player is magically at 2 or less. You just have to make sure you have what you need in hand. We even have ways to stop those annoying graveyard decks!
Bojuka Bog (Common Land – Black)
What? A common land being key to success? Oh yes. So, many decks utilize their graveyard. Whether it’s Uro, Kroxa, or Journey to Eternity, they need those cards in the grave to succeed. Or heck, cycling decks! We play Bojuka Bog and that exiles all cards from a player’s graveyard. I’m considering swapping this to 4 of them instead of 4 Barren Moors. I think it might be more useful in the long run. But this is very much an anti-graveyard card. As long as it’s in the meta, we need these.
Phyrexian Arena (3-Cost Black Rare Enchantment)
Oh yes, Phyrexian Arena! It synergizes with Gray Merchant as well as just general gameplay! 1 extra card per turn at the cost of 1 life? That’s more than reasonable. It’s even better if you’ve buffered your life with some Tendrils, or an early Gray Merchant. If my life lead is ahead, I make a point to try and cast two of these. It will make our win condition all the sweeter. Plus, more cards mean we thin our deck, and it helps us get our win conditions.
Phyrexian Obliterator (4-Cost Black Mythic Rare Creature – Horror)
The best part about this creature? If we don’t miss a land drop, he hits the field on turn 4! A 5/5 with Trample that makes the other player respond to him. You have to, or you constantly take 5 damage. Anytime he takes damage, the owner of that damage sacrifices that many permanents. So you exile/board wipe him, or he’s a threat. Obliterator forces the other player to respond with something that they may have been holding for later.
3 Phyrexian Arena
2 Field of Ruin
3 Massacre Wurm
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Tendrils of Corruption
3 Phyrexian Obliterator
2 Extinction Event
3 Dread Presence
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
3 Altar of the Pantheon
3 Yarok’s Fenlurker
2 Heartless Act
3 Agonizing Remorse
2 Castle Locthwain
2 Bojuka Bog
4 Barren Moor
3 Murderous Rider
Building this deck gave me an idea for yet another deck that I might cover next week. It looks very similar to this. But this is a powerful deck with minimal downside. The only real hard part is keeping enough black permanents out to trigger Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Players are going to start playing aggressively when they figure out what you’re doing, hoping that you block with creatures you don’t want to get rid of. Heavy control is always a threat, but you can turn the game around with a single creature if things work out. If you keep Ugin, you can, in theory, pop his ultimate, and place 7 swamps in play. Then, with Dread Presence, you can deal 14 damage with that alone!
You have plenty of tools in the toolkit; the key is using them efficiently, and not panicking at the first sign of danger. Life points are a resource – use them.
Spaceballs: The Deck (⅘-Color Omniscience Combo)
I waffled on whether I wanted to cover this deck or not. Why, though? It’s powerful, and gets amazing, satisfying wins. Many of them come out of absolutely nowhere. More often than not, we can win the whole game off of one cast of Genesis Ultimatum. If it leads to Omniscience, it’s probably game over for whoever we’re playing.
Provided we have a hand of cards that are useful, mind. I love the deck though, because it’s fun, it’s powerful, and really throws people for a loop. Even Core Set 2021 Historic decks that exile our graveyards can’t stop us if we get things going at the last second. For context, I was two turns from the end of the game (I was about to lose). The turn before I cast Omniscience, and had Double Vision in play. This made my next spell cast double. I drew my entire deck (10 cards), and had enough there to win the game. As long as I didn’t draw a card, beyond that, I was safe.
. . . And we won. We snatched victory away from a really obnoxious mill/exile deck and probably didn’t deserve it. This is a combo deck that relies very heavily on the early-game ramp. We don’t have a lot of it, but we need access to it, and/or our Chromatic Lantern to make the best use of every card in the deck.
This is because we don’t run any white lands. Only one of our spells uses it, so there’s no sense in adding white lands. We need Paradise Druid and Chromatic Lantern to cast it if we have no choice but to hard-cast it in the mid-game. But as long as we have the necessary mana, we can get by and throw players for a very serious loop.
This is a control deck, but without all the counters and board wipe you normally expect. We have one potential board wipe in the deck, with Storm’s Wrath and that’s it. Unless we go to our sideboard, that is. The name of this game is maximum over-salt. We’re looking to hit the proverbial RKO out of nowhere with Spaceballs: The Deck.
How Does It Work?
I cannot stress how important an early-game mana base is. You can win without ramping, but by God, it’s incredibly hard to do. You better hope the other player has a worse time starting than you. Our best and easiest way to win is to get Omniscience as quickly as possible. The fastest we can get it would probably be turn 5 or 6. Maybe faster? Not by a whole lot.
I wouldn’t count on that kind of dominating speed. But we aren’t trying to hard-cast Omniscience. It’s a 10-cost blue spell, after all. Omniscience lets us cast all of our spells for free, so it unlocks Ultimate Power (™). What’s the path of least resistance? Genesis Ultimatum. It’s a 7-cast, so it’s again, very slow. This just highlights how important mana ramp is to us. Genesis Ultimatum also lets us take 5 cards off the top of our deck. Any of the permanents there can immediately be put into play.
If we can scry and see that Omniscience is coming, more’s the better. Otherwise, we just have to hope that we get what we’re after. The best tool we have for scrying is expensive, with Castle Vantress (tap 4, scry 2). If we get that turn 5 Omniscience and have cards in hand to win, well, we’ll cover what happens. First, let’s talk about our ramp.
Mana Ramp: The most likely things to see are Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Paradise Druid. Uro lets us draw a card, put an extra land into play, and gives us 3 life. Paradise Druid, on the other hand, let’s us tap for 1 of any color. This is one of our ways to play Ruinous Ultimatum without the right lands to do so (since we have no white lands). Next up on the Important Cards (™) list is Chromatic Lantern. Not only does it count as 1 of any color, but it also makes our lands tap for any color. Getting a turn 3 Chromatic Lantern can turn almost any game around.
That way we just need to have enough land to cast a spell, not specific lands. There’s also a card I really want to highlight that’s technically not a ramp spell. Mythos of Illuna. For 4 mana, you can copy any permanent on the board. If you use red/green mana in it, it can also fight an enemy creature. Sure, it can be satisfying to use this to make a copy of a creature and then kill the enemy’s version with it.
But Mythos of Illuna can be used on any permanent. Copy one of your lands, or one of the other player’s lands! You can suddenly have a Fields of the Dead deck if you want! I more often than not try to turn 4 this if possible, just to get another land. I’m willing to cast them back to back to get even more mana. You can also use it on your Chromatic Lantern, or even better, the enemy’s 3-cost Teferi. That way, now they can’t counter your spells.
Do not underestimate the power of Mythos of Illuna. It’s a very sneaky ramp card. You can use it on ramp creatures, lands themselves, enchantments that give more mana, whatever you feel like. So we want as much land as possible. Be aware though: Quite a few lands of ours come into play tapped, so try not to start with too many of those, if you can help it. Unless you have one or two Uros to put them into play with.
The Combo: Now that you know where your ramp options are, let’s talk about the actual deck. It feels complicated, but once you’ve done it, it’s not. The key is to not over-extend. There’s a term in Magic known as Storm. It’s a way to duplicate spells you’ve cast for free. This deck uses Thousand-Year Storm as our Storm engine. When it’s in play, each instant/sorcery we cast casts again, for each instant/sorcery we’ve played this turn. So 0x extra casts for the first spell, 1 extra time for the next spell, and so on.
This stacks with other copies of Thousand-Year Storm in play. We also have Double Vision, which doubles the first instant/sorcery we play each turn. On top of that, we have Ral, Storm Conduit, which can do the same with his -3. You can see where this is going, I think.
A bit of math can go into this deck. You can very easily accidentally deck yourself out via card draw (Inspiring Ultimatum), so be careful. The storm stacks can get wildly out of control, so be aware of everything you cast as you get the combo going.
We want to cast Genesis Ultimatum as soon as possible, so hopefully around turn 5. Ideally, we want to see Omniscience among the top 5 cards. Anything we can’t put into play (non-permanents) goes into our hands as well. So if you get three lands and more Ultimatums, it can still work out nicely. Our deck is built around popping copy after copy of our Ultimatums for free, but the big damage comes from Inescapable Blaze. It’s a spell that can’t be countered and deals 6 damage to a target.
- Ruinous Ultimatum: Destroy all non-land permanents your opponent controls.
- Genesis Ultimatum: Look at your top 5 cards. Put whichever permanents you want into play, others go into your hand.
- Inspired Ultimatum: Target player takes 5 damage, target player gains 5 life. You draw 5 cards.
- Eerie Ultimatum (Sideboard): Return any permanents from your graveyard with different names to the battlefield.
The idea is to get our storm stacks as high as we possibly need (or even higher, just in case), and clone Inescapable Blaze as many times as possible. The highest I’ve hit without decking out is 18 casts for 6 damage a pop. As long as you have a Thousand-Year Storm in play alongside Omniscience, you can keep stacking storm counters for a turn and blow someone to pieces.
Ultimately, we need to get mana ramp in the early game, cast Genesis Ultimatums to get an Omniscience, and then do some math with a Thousand-Year Storm in play. Bear in mind though, the Storm stacks reset at the end of turn. If you’re going to make a game-winning play, it has to be during the course of one turn. Keep an eye on what you cast, and how many possible cards you have to play. We keep a spare Inescapable Blaze in the sideboard just in case too, so don’t be afraid to fetch that one with your Fae of Wishes.
What makes this deck go? We’ve discussed many of these cards before and what makes them great. We know about Chromatic Lantern, Uro, Storm’s Wrath. We know why they’re amazing. Let’s look at some of the other cards that really make it all come together.
Inescapable Blaze (6-cost Uncommon Red Spell – Instant)
A damage spell that can’t be countered? That right there makes it worth it. You can cast one early for a planeswalker or a creature that’s giving you trouble, but make sure there are others waiting for you. This is our game-winning card. Or at least, it’s the easiest one. We cast this at the end of our storm chain when we know it will duplicate enough times to win. The more Thousand-Year Storms we have, the faster this will go. It’s a storm of fire, raining from the heavens.
Thousand-Year Storm (6-Cost Mythic Rare Blue and Red Enchantment)
Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery, you copy it for each other sorcery and/or instants we’ve cast this turn so far. You can also choose new targets. So if you have two copies of this out thanks to Mythos/Genesis Ultimatum, you can make torrents of damage go flying. After we’ve cast a spell or two, a great follow-up with this is to cast Fae of Wishes as a spell, so we can pull as many cards from the sideboard as possible. With Omniscience, that’s likely going to be the end of the game.
Migration Path (4-Cost Uncommon Green Spell – Sorcery)
With this, we can either cycle for 2 to draw a new card, or cast it for 4 to put two basic lands into play! We definitely want to see this in the first couple of turns, to make sure we can afford Genesis Ultimatum as fast as possible. In the late game, when we’re out of Basic Lands, we can just cycle it for another shot at a broken, game-winning card. It’s a win-win!
2 Island (SLD) 64
2 Inspired Ultimatum (IKO) 191
4 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (THB) 229
3 Chromatic Lantern (GRN) 233
3 Inescapable Blaze (GRN) 107
3 Thousand-Year Storm (GRN) 207
3 Storm’s Wrath (THB) 157
3 Forest (SLD) 67
4 Genesis Ultimatum (IKO) 189
2 Fae of Wishes (ELD) 44
2 Migration Path (IKO) 164
1 Ral, Storm Conduit (WAR) 211
1 Ruinous Ultimatum (IKO) 204
3 Omniscience (M19) 65
2 Mythos of Illuna (IKO) 58
3 Ketria Triome (IKO) 250
3 Breeding Pool (RNA) 246
2 Temple of Mystery (M20) 255
1 Steam Vents (GRN) 257
1 Temple of Epiphany (M20) 253
1 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259
2 Temple of Abandon (THB) 244
3 Castle Vantress (ELD) 242
2 Mountain (SLD) 66
3 Paradise Druid (WAR) 171
1 Double Vision (M21) 142
1 Casualties of War (WAR) 187
1 Planewide Celebration (WAR) 172
1 Eerie Ultimatum (IKO) 184
1 Captive Audience (RNA) 160
1 Mirari’s Wake (JUD) 139
1 Inescapable Blaze (GRN) 107
1 Clear the Mind (RNA) 34
1 Unmoored Ego (GRN) 212
1 Ruinous Ultimatum (IKO) 204
1 Kaya’s Wrath (RNA) 187
1 Mass Manipulation (RNA) 42
1 Inspired Ultimatum (IKO) 191
1 Migration Path (IKO) 164
1 Deafening Clarion (GRN) 165
This might feel like a very complicated deck. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that. It’s hard to get the hang of, I think, but it’s worthwhile. It suffers against Core Set 2021 Historic decks that hard counter most of our spells in the mid-game since we have no way to stop counterspells. Ultra-Aggro decks can beat us before we go online unless we Storm’s Wrath their board (and hope for the best). But I have more wins than losses with the deck and am very satisfied with how it performs. You can, of course, adjust the sideboard for cards you think are important to punish the other player. But I think we covered all of our bases rather nicely.
With this deck, you have to keep a very close eye on how much mana you can produce until you get Omniscience in play. After that, you have to consider how many cards are left in your deck. Genesis Ultimatum doesn’t “draw,” but Inspiring Ultimatum does. Be aware that you might accidentally draw too many cards and lose. If you don’t, and you get that storm going, you can obliterate someone for hundreds of damage, and no matter how much life they gain, it won’t be enough.
Azorius Infinite Damage (Aggro/Combo)
Full Disclosure: When I saw someone play a turn 2 Famished Paladin against my 5-Color Omniscience deck the other, I laughed. I mean a fully-belly chortle. Then, on turn 3, they dropped Squire’s Devotion, to give him Lifelink. The nervousness began to build up. At that point, he’s only a 4/4 lifelink. I can deal with that if I land a Storm’s Wrath, right?
Then turn 4 happened. That was the last turn of the game. This is such a rude deck, and it in a way, feels like jank. It feels frustrating, and out of nowhere, it can begin an infinite damage combo as soon as turn 4 drops. If it had mana ramp somehow, it would be even faster. This is a deck basically built around three cards, and everything else is here just to make sure you get to three cards.
Card draw, board wipe, card draw, exile, life gain, board wipe, destruction, deck searching. We can do it all! But it all comes down to getting that darn Famished Paladin equipped for battle. Once he’s there, and he has exactly two cards attached to him, it’s Game Over for any player. The only way to stop it is to destroy him or gain Hexproof somehow.
The deck just pings away at a player and their planeswalkers until they give up, or victory is attained. Playing this does not make me happy, but it does get wins. It’s often unexpected and has just enough tools to stave off another player from getting a win. It makes my blood boil, but you know what makes me happy, no matter what? Winning matches.
You have all the tools in your toolbox that you need to make someone saltier than they’ve ever been before. Let’s talk about it.
How Does It Work?
Just talking about this deck makes me angry, I won’t front. But it’s so good, and it’s so powerful. It has a pretty strong win percentage as far as I’ve seen, and to boot, it’s wildly easy to put together! It only runs 9 Rares in the mainboard. 6 in the sideboard, and one Mythic Rare in the sideboard. You can adjust the sideboard to meet your needs, but do build it: you’re going to need it for Fae of Wishes.
Fae of Wishes is a “just in case” measure. If you’re lacking a card to go on Famished Paladin, or another one of the enchantments/counters, or even a board wipe/planeswalker. Take the time to build out the sideboard, or at least, a sideboard that works for you.
A lot of changes have gone into this deck, and I’m still not 100% on it. I might put a Shadowspear in. It could be a much cheaper lifelink option. We also slotted in some Splendor Mare in for something spicy. One of the downsides of this combo is that it can be a little slow. It’s 3 mana to equip the Sorcerer’s Wand after all. We need to hopefully turn 1 wand, turn 2 paladin, turn 3 equip. But then what? We need as many lifelink options as possible.
Let’s talk about what this combo actually does. As long as we have the pieces of the puzzle to fit together, we can win even at 1 life. As long as our turn comes around, this can still go our way. An artifact that I once thought was useless was Sorcerer’s Wand. It’s a 1-drop but requires 3 colorless to equip. The creature gains “Tap: Deal 1 damage to target player or planeswalker. If this creature is a Wizard, it deals 2 damage instead”. But we aren’t going to equip it to a Wizard.
Instead, we want to be able to use this power as many times as possible. But how many creatures do we know that can easily untap? There are a few artifact creatures, sure, but that doesn’t create the kind of infinite we’re after. Enter another card I once thought to be pretty bad: Famished Paladin. This is a vampire that untaps whenever you gain life. Sounds interesting so far, right?
The combo goes: give him lifelink, equip the wand, and tap him to deal 1 to a player. Then he untaps, and you do it again and again until they’ve been defeated. Sounds easy, right? The hard part is getting it all to come together. Famished Paladin does not have lifelink, so we have to find a way to give it to him. There are several options that we’re running:
- Staggering Insight: A blue/white enchant, it gives the creature +1/+1 and lifelink. Whenever it deals combat damage to a player, we draw a card.
- Squire’s Devotion: A 3-cost white enchant, gives the creature +1/+1 and lifelink. It also creates a 1/1 Vampire Soldier Token with lifelink.
- Shadowspear: 1-cost legendary artifact that gives lifelink and trample.
- Splendor Mare: The creature itself isn’t relevant. Cycling it gives a creature we control lifelink until end of turn.
The point is, we’ve got options. We’ve also got a few ways to slow the other player down while we get set up. That comes in the form of Unsubstantiate, Banishing Light, and Settle the Wreckage. I seldom actually use the Settle the Wreckage though. Unsubstantiate returns a creature or enchantment the other player controls back to their hand. This is amazing when the other player has just one early-game jerk to deal with.
Banishing Light is our exile option, and Settle the Wreckage exiles all attacking creatures, and gives them a basic land for each attacker. When they have an empty hand because they blew their load summoning a bunch of fast, haste creatures? Send them all to the Shadow Realm. The beauty of this combo is how easy it is to put together. The best turn-4 victory will go just like this:
- Turn 1: Land for turn, play Sorcerer’s Wand
- Turn 2: Land for turn, play Famished Paladin
- Turn 3: Cast Staggering Insight on Famished Paladin
- Turn 4: Equip Sorcerer’s Wand, begin infinite combo
Now, all games won’t go this easy. The hardest match-up, for my money is Blue Control. Any flavor of blue control, especially in Historic like this. They always seem to have a way to bounce your Famished Paladin out of play at the worst times. That’s what you have to be aware of the most. If something is countered, at least you can (in theory) get it back. But once you have your combo set up and the other player completely denies you with a bounce back to your hand, the other parts of the combo go to the grave.
From there, you have to start all over. It’s not impossible, but boy is it going to be hard. So, how do we get cards for the combo, when we don’t have them in hand already? Thankfully, there are options. We’re running one of the very best in Blue cards of all, in Opt. Scry the top card of your deck, and decide to keep it or put it on the bottom. Then you draw a card. This is a bit less targeted though. How about something more direct?
Forerunner of the Legion might be more your speed. He lets you go to your deck, find a vampire, and put it on top of your deck. Try to only do this when you have the other cards you need, or you can just Opt/Cycle him into your hand. It’s slow if you have to draw into him (Famished Paladin) and have nothing to do for the turn beyond that.
We also have an Idyllic Tutor to seek out an enchantment and put it into your hand. Finally, there’s the powerful Fae of Wishes. This beautiful Fae lets us pick a noncreature from the sideboard. So anything at all we need, we can snatch up and put into our hand. We have a spare Staggering Insight and Sorcerer’s Wand in there, just so you know.
The strategy is to get Famished Paladin into play, equip him with lifelink in one of those above ways, and equip the Sorcerer’s Wand. The other thing we have to worry about is the sudden destruction of the creature (Paladin). Selfless Savior is our way to keep him around. We can sacrifice the Very Good Boy to protect him.
2 Fae of Wishes (ELD) 44
1 Idyllic Tutor (THB) 24
2 Unsubstantiate (M21) 82
2 Banishing Light (THB) 4
3 Stern Dismissal (THB) 68
3 Lonely Sandbar (ONS) 320
11 Plains (UND) 87
3 Selfless Savior (M21) 36
4 Famished Paladin (RIX) 8
2 Squire’s Devotion (RIX) 25
3 Sorcerer’s Wand (DAR) 231
3 Staggering Insight (THB) 228
7 Island (UND) 89
3 Opt (XLN) 65
3 Splendor Mare (IKO) 32
3 Forerunner of the Legion (RIX) 9
3 Glacial Fortress (XLN) 255
1 Settle the Wreckage (XLN) 34
1 Shadowspear (THB) 236
1 Staggering Insight (THB) 228
1 Sorcerer’s Wand (DAR) 231
2 Karametra’s Blessing (THB) 26
2 Light of Hope (IKO) 20
1 Nine Lives (M21) 28
1 Ajani, Strength of the Pride (M20) 2
1 Time Wipe (WAR) 223
1 Planar Cleansing (M20) 33
1 Fight as One (IKO) 12
1 Sublime Epiphany (M21) 74
1 Disenchant (M20) 14
1 Tragic Poet (DAR) 37
1 Negate (M20) 69
This deck is so frustrating to play against. Just seeing it once made me want to build my own. Shoutout to Red for helping me make the pieces fit together better. The only real struggle it has is not getting the pieces of the combo versus hyper aggro, or of course, heavy counters. That’s always going to be a struggle for virtually every deck though. But I’ve had a very high rate of success with this deck. More often than not, when you have the Paladin and the Wand in play, people quit if they don’t have an answer.
One of the keys to success in MTG Arena is not only winning but winning efficiently. Having your matches go short bursts of time gives you more time to get wins. This is a deck that typically pops off on turn 4 on average, and people who recognize the deck may give up before you even get it all set up. I’ve seen it get wins when I have nothing in hand, but I play the wand and set up the appearance of the Famished Paladin. Don’t give up! Even if you’re down to 1 life, you could get it all going. Just be aware that if you equip the Famished Paladin with the Wand, if he has summoning sickness, you can’t tap him for it. So, I tend to put him out and then equip him the next turn.
I’ve done a little something different this time. Instead of putting a “key cards” section together, I tied it into the “How Does It Work?” section. I think I might keep doing it this way. We’ll have to see what the other Core Set 2021 Historic decks need. But this deck really is incredible. It’s not a “meta” deck, so it often comes right out of nowhere.
Lazav, the Multifarious (Black/Blue/Green Combo/MidrangeAggro)
This is one of the Core Set 2021 Historic decks that I was going to feature today. But it needs a bit of re-tinkering so that one has to wait. Instead today, we’re going to discuss an aggressive, fun deck that comes in the flavor of BUG (Blue/Black/Green, Sultai, if you prefer). This deck actually comes in two flavors: Blue/Black/Green, and Blue/Black/Red. It depends on if you favor Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath or Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. It’s literally the same deck either way, with the lands/legendary swapped around. We’re going to talk about Uro though because he’s brilliant (and safe).
Personally, I prefer the Uro deck, because it gives me card draw and life gain, whereas Kroxa gives discard to the other player and potential life loss. I’ll include both Core Set 2021 Historic decks, but it really depends on your playstyle. Either deck is a lot of fun. Our ultimate goal is to hammer people out of nowhere with kind of a lot of damage, without having to pay Uro/Kroxa’s escape cost. Normally, to keep them in play, you need Hushbringer, or to escape them onto the battlefield – at the cost of 4 mana and 5 exiled cards.
But what if we don’t want to do that? I mean, it sounds kind of crappy, right? You have to cast him initially, trigger his ability, then cast him again later! Well we can, but we don’t have to make it as difficult as that sounds. This deck rewards us for putting our creatures/cards in the graveyard, and lets us dole out quite a lot of damage. Typically, out of nowhere.
Lazav, the Multifarious is such an amazing, possibly underrated card/character. He’s the guild master of Dimir, the black/blue sneaky guild of Ravnica. He’s not to be trifled with, but I feel like I’ve said that before. This deck plays around a lot with putting cards in the graveyard, so beware of Tormod’s Crypt or anything that exiles cards out of your grave. It won’t be a fun match-up.
How Does It Work?
Lazav, the Multifarious is one of the most important cards in this Core Set 2021 Historic deck. He can become any creature in your graveyard, legendary or otherwise. We can use this for all sorts of purposes, but in this deck, we have one real point in mind: Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. Instead of waiting until we have 5 cards+ in the grave, we can pop him to life as soon as turn 3!
But in order to do that, we have to get kind of lucky, I’m afraid. We need to have a Uro in the grave before we put Lazav into play, but after is also good. That’s just the most ideal way to get it done. We have a wealth of cards that mill ourselves too, so it’s not like it’s hard to do. On turn 1, we have two cards (and a playset of each) that can mill us a few cards at least.
Merfolk Secretkeeper’s adventure spell, Venture Deeper is one blue, and we can put the top four cards of a deck into the grave (targeting ourselves of course). Conversely, Stitcher’s Supplier puts the top three of our deck into the grave, when it enters the battlefield or dies. That’s a potential total of six cards. If we fail in that, we also have Chart a Course, which allows us to draw 2, but then discard a card unless we attack this turn. If we have Uro in hand, but for some reason don’t wish to cast him (or can’t), we can just discard him. I’d honestly rather cast Uro though, even if it slows the deck down (if we have him in hand, at least). Casting him gives us a card to draw, 3 life, and extra land to put into play. Then, the next turn, we begin our shenanigans.
Lazav can tap X mana, and turn into a creature in our grave that is X casting cost or lower. We tap 3, turn into Uro, and swing with him. That gives us the Uro proc again. But what if 6 damage on turn 4 isn’t enough? Next turn, try giving Lazav Demonic Embrace! This gives him +3/+1, flying, and makes him a Demon in addition to other typing.
We want to keep milling ourselves though. Creeping Chill, when milled out, still triggers, and deals 3 damage to each opponent, and gives us 3 life. We can also mill ourselves with Tymaret Calls the Dead. This is a saga that mills the top 3 of our library for two turns. Then we can exile a creature or enchantment from our grave. If we do, we gain a 2/2 black Zombie token. On the third turn, we gain X life and Scry X, where X is the number of zombies we control.
This means if we can somehow get our Silversmote Ghoul and Stitcher’s Supplier into play, we can Scry just a bit farther. Speaking of Silversmote Ghoul, it’s another way we can win this game. It’s a 3/1, that, if at the beginning of our end step, have gained 3 or more life, put it back into play from the graveyard tapped. You can also tap 2 (1 black) to sacrifice it and draw a card. If you can constantly gain 3 life, from Uro, Tymaret, or Creeping Chill, we can keep doing this over and over.
Ideally, we want a lot of our deck in the grave though. Why? Because we can have Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath in play at the same time as Lazav, the Multifarious. We’ve done this before in other Core Set 2021 Historic decks, but it’s even easier here I think. We have another discard engine in this deck that is nice and new. Liliana, Waker of the Dead! We can use her to discard a card (and the other player must as well). If the opponent can’t, they lose 3 life.
We can also use her to weaken/destroy creatures, but I like her ultimate more. “You get an emblem with ‘At the beginning of combat on your turn, puta target creature card from a graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. It gains haste”. Once we have plenty of cards in the grave, we can use Merfolk Secretkeeper to mill the other person instead! That’s up to you though.
Our typical damage loop is going to be mill into Creeping Chill, Silversmote Ghoul, and finding Demonic Embraces. The best part about Demonic Embrace is that you can keep casting it from the grave! Just pay 3 life, and discard a card, in addition to its normal casting cost. I’ve cast it on any number of creatures in this deck, but the main targets are Lazav, Silversmote Ghoul, and Uro. If you can get Lazav and Uro out in play at the same time, both with Demonic Embrace, the game is practically over. Unless they get some serious ammo, this is the end.
Even if the other player boardwipes your creatures, Uro can come back as long as you have cards in the grave. Not to mention, Liliana can give you creatures from your grave, or the other player’s! So just keep in mind that you have answers. Of course, if you want to play the Kroxa deck, it’s virtually the same. But you have to keep a better eye on your life because Kroxa does not heal you the way Uro does. That’s why I prefer this version of the deck.
Creeping Chill (4-Cost Uncommon Black Spell – Sorcery)
Creeping Chill is a hallmark of many self-mill decks because we don’t actually want to cast it. We don’t want to draw it, either. Ideally, it gets sent to the graveyard from our library, so the spell casts for free! The other player doesn’t really have a lot of options to respond to it either. It’s not really a spell cast, it’s a trigger. They’d have to force the turn to end to stop it. Plus it’s 3 damage to the opponent and 3 life for us, so it triggers Silversmote Ghouls in the graveyard.
Demonic Embrace (3-Cost Rare Black Enchantment – Aura)
Anything that can come back from the grave is amazing in this deck. Especially when we don’t have to pay escape costs! Instead it’s 3 life, discard a card, pay 3 mana. So if we gain 3 life from Creeping Chill or Uro, and have the open mana, we can just slap this bad boy back down on a Silversmote (but he’ll be tapped). Instead, we can target our other more reliable face-beaters. It’s such a powerful enchantment, giving +3/+1, flying, and makes the target also a demon. If you play this on Lazav as Uro, he still becomes a 9/7 flyer. The game is practically over at that point.
Liliana, Waker of the Dead (4-Cost Mythic Rare Black Legendary Planeswalker – Liliana)
Why is she so key? Because with her, we can put Uro into play every single turn, and even though he goes back to the graveyard, that’s 3 life a turn, a card, and a land, every single turn guaranteed. Even if she dies after, that Emblem remains. That means our Silversmote Ghouls will come back every turn, so they are going to be a threat forever. If all four Ghouls are in the grave, we can get them back every single turn if a board wipe/bad blocking situation happens. Liliana is our Ace in the Hole.
2 Liliana, Waker of the Dead
4 Breeding Pool
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Hinterland Harbor
4 Tymaret Calls the Dead
4 Merfolk Secretkeeper
4 Lazav, the Multifarious
2 Demonic Embrace
4 Creeping Chill
4 Stitcher’s Supplier
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Silversmote Ghoul
4 Watery Grave
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
4 Chart a Course
When my other combo Core Set 2021 Historic decks were starting to let me down, this picked up where they left off. It’s nice, simple, and easy to understand. It’s not “death by math,” you don’t have to stress about “What do I do when I cast Treasure Hunt, get Thassa’s Oracle, and still have 20 darn cards left in the deck?”
This is a deck that runs on graveyard power. I’ve seen a lot of other grave decks lately, so if we can get/keep Liliana, we’ll be richly rewarded. I love this deck though because there’s a lot of slow-medium speed ramp right now. In a perfect hand, where we turn 1 drop Uro, turn 2 cast Lazav, turn 3 transform Lazav, we can start setting up a turn 5 or so Lazav/Uro swing combo. We don’t have to do it that way though. Creeping Chill pings, threats with Silversmote/Demonic Embrace, we have lots of different ways to do damage, so don’t stress about that. Just take your time. The downside is that this deck has virtually no removal.
We go hard, all day all night. We’re just proud southern people who be ready to fight. Say yeah? Wait, no, that’s The Revival’s theme. Regardless, it’s a deck that goes aggressive and goes quickly. We want that Lazav on board as fast as possible, and to transform him into Uro/Kroxa. As long as we keep dumping cards into our grave and gaining life, we can keep bringing back the Sivlersmote Ghoul. Uro can do that all on his own, and so can a Lazav-Uro. As a baseline 3/1 (that becomes a flying 6/2 with Embrace), we can force the other player onto the defensive simply by taking our turn.
Destruction Rains from the Heavens! (Temur Land Destruction)
“Ayla’s word! La means ‘fire’. Vos means ‘big’.” – Chrono Trigger, Forward to the Past.
This is a deck I’ve actually wanted to build for a few weeks now. Now that I finally have the Mythic Rares I was missing, we’re going to make people as salty as humanly possible. Land Destruction is an amazing concept, but it tends to be slow and hard to put together. All of the good land destruction cards are terribly expensive, mana-wise. We aren’t running any of the 4-drop sorceries though! Instead, we’re doing this in a much more enjoyable way.
We’re going to be playing as many of these spells as possible without paying mana. As long as we pick up early game mana ramp, this is going to be absolutely bonkers! We even slide an Ugin in, because why not?! I know I said we won’t be focusing on Ugin, and we aren’t! He’s another “one-of,” just in case. Frankly, I considered putting in Ulamog in his stead, and I still may.
We’re running so much mana ramp that it’s very possible. This is a deck with a variety of ways to win with this deck, but my personal favorite is making the game so unwinnable that they simply give up. That way I don’t have to search through my sideboard to find a win condition or to ping someone down with Uro until they give up. I also made another change to this deck: Brash Taunter! If you cast Star of Extinction and he’s on the field, your opponent takes 20 damage because Brash Taunter took that damage.
Why a Yorion deck though? Because sometimes, we simply have to do things again and again. In particular, Haphazard Bombardment. We want to be able to keep demolishing the other player’s field ad nauseam! If the other player has no land, no creatures, they have no fighting chance. That’s perhaps, the greatest reward of all.
The biggest downside to this deck is how many rares/mythic rares it runs. There are 48 rares and 9 mythic rares in the mainboard. That’s not even counting the sideboard (8/4 respectively). So this is a deck that you run when you either:
- Have a ton of spare wild cards and spend a lot of time in Historic/Standard.
- You already have most of these cards.
If you already played a lot of Ixalan, you’ll possibly have the Star of Extinction and Sunbird’s Invocation. Many of these cards were used in other popular decks, like Uro, Storm’s Wrath, and Fae of Wishes. So it’s not like you’ll have to make (in theory) a ton of card.
But what are we doing here?
How Does It Work?
At first glance, your opponent might just think this is another Simic mana ramp deck. We’ll be using cards like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Growth Spiral liberally, to make sure we have as much land as possible. But we’re also casting Wolfwillow Haven as often as possible. Honestly, I’d rather put this on our red lands though. That’s when people will see something is amiss.
Don’t forget, we also have Cultivate for more land ramp. If you can cast Cultivate, and then immediately follow up with Uro, we can get a ton of land into play. Our first land for turn, Cultivate pulls two lands (1 in play, 1 in hand). Then we play Uro, play another land, draw another card, gain 3 life. That could give us yet another land too.
Now it’s not Simic, but Temur! They might think it’s Wilderness Reclamation, but they’d be wrong. The reason I suggest Wolfwillow Haven on red lands is simple: Whenever we tap that land for mana, we get additional green mana from it. We tap it for 1 red and also get 1 green. Sure it’s fine on the others, but it’s most useful on red lands, I think.
Our two big-time cards to set this up as efficiently as possible are Sunbird’s Invocation and Double Vision. We’ve talked about Double Vision before. It lets us cast our first instant/sorcery we use each turn again for free, and pick new targets if we wish. This can be used to thin our deck out with Cultivate, or simply to look at the top 10 cards of your deck, thanks to a double-cast Genesis Ultimatum.
Let’s talk about Sunbird’s Invocation. It rewards us for casting spells from our hand. With as much mana as we crank out with this deck, it’s going to make ramping into bigger spells much easier. Whenever we cast a spell from our hand, we reveal the top X cards of our deck, and X is the spells’ CMC (converted mana cost). I can then cast a card this way without paying its mana cost. The rest go on the bottom of our deck.
So, let’s say we cast Star of Extinction (7-cost red spell), and Double Vision procs. We destroy two of their lands, deal 40 damage to all creatures/planeswalkers, and then we look at the top 7 cards of our deck. We can then cast a spell that costs 7 or less without paying for it. Ideally, we’ll find Haphazard Bombardment.
While I love Star of Extinction, because it destroys a land (and obliterates creatures/planeswalkers), Haphazard Bombardment synergizes with our Yorion. Haphazard Bombardment lets us choose four non-enchantment permanents the other player controls. Each of those gets an “Aim Counter”. Then, during our end step, if two or more permanents I don’t control have an Aim Counter, we destroy one of those at random. So if we can get a couple of these into play, through Genesis Ultimatum and Sunbird’s Invocation, we can cover almost their entire field.
Once the counters start running low, we cast Yorion. Bounce Haphazard Bombardments out of the game and put them back in, to add even more aim counters to the other player’s field. If you need one more, because why not, consider using your Fae of Wishes to steal a Mirrormade from the sideboard. By now, the other player has probably simply given up out of frustration. But if you want to make sure a win is had, and have plenty of mana, use your Banefire from the sideboard. We have so many options.
But that’s why I put Brash Taunter in my sideboard. Star of Extinction will deal damage to the other play through him, because any damage the indestructible Goblin takes, the other player takes too. Consider this though: If you pull Fae of Wishes through Genesis Ultimatum, you don’t have to put them into play. Cards you don’t put into play go to your hand, so you can hard-cast them to search for a card in your sideboard.
Our win condition is a nice, simple one. We continually blow up all the things they love, until they are left with nothing. Now I’ll grant you, we can’t target enchantments with Haphazard Bombardment. That’s a disappointment for sure. But we can destroy anything that isn’t indestructible. Gods get away free. But if the other player has nothing else with devotion, that God can’t become a creature.
We’ve discussed how we mana ramp already. What do we do while we wait? Hopefully, there is no wait time for this deck. Hopefully by turn 4 or so we’re ready to drop Sunbird, drop a Star of Extinction, or whatever we need to do. Should we need to though, Storm’s Wrath is our primary board wipe for the early game. It’s even better in the mid-game if we have Double Vision in play. It hits both creatures and planeswalkers, and we only run one planeswalker (technically two): we have an Ugin in the mainboard (Ugin, the Spirit Dragon) and in the sideboard (Ugin, the Ineffable).
If somehow, your opponent gets a leg up on you and creates a force to be reckoned with, well, we have solutions to that too. We can River’s Rebuke and push all their nonland permanents back to their hand (thus, destroying a token army). We can win with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, but it’s more likely that we’re going to go fishing for a Banefire, or the other player will give up. If we keep them from ever having land, they won’t have an answer. As a result, we can nickel-and-dime them down, or have the time to summon a Brash Taunter, and Star of Extinction until we win.
Few decks are more annoying with this one. Save your Yorion until you really want to reset your Haphazard Bombardments. If they leave play, the cards that have Aim Counters do not lose them. Oh no! They stay in play, so you can set even more cards with them. That’s the beauty of this deck. There’s almost no escape from the level of control we have. If you really have to, you can sideboard in that Chandra, and ping someone down with 1+more damage every turn until you win.
You have so many answers. Use the right ones, and deny the other player the right to play cards. That is something only you are permitted to do.
1 Yorion, Sky Nomad (IKO) 232
3 Breeding Pool (RNA) 246
4 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259
4 Rootbound Crag (XLN) 256
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon (M21) 1
4 Hinterland Harbor (DAR) 240
4 Steam Vents (GRN) 257
4 Haphazard Bombardment (DAR) 131
2 Forest (SLD) 67
2 Forest (UND) 96
4 Genesis Ultimatum (IKO) 189
2 Mountain (SLD) 66
1 Mountain (UND) 94
2 Island (SLD) 64
2 Island (UND) 90
2 Double Vision (M21) 142
4 Sulfur Falls (DAR) 247
4 Sunbird’s Invocation (XLN) 165
4 Cultivate (M21) 177
4 Storm’s Wrath (THB) 157
4 Star of Extinction (XLN) 161
4 Growth Spiral (RNA) 178
3 Fae of Wishes (ELD) 44
4 Wolfwillow Haven (THB) 205
4 Ketria Triome (IKO) 250
4 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (THB) 229
1 Yorion, Sky Nomad (IKO) 232
1 Mirrormade (ELD) 55
1 Tormod’s Crypt (M21) 241
1 Mass Manipulation (RNA) 42
1 Finale of Revelation (WAR) 51
1 River’s Rebuke (XLN) 71
1 Banefire (M19) 130
1 The Immortal Sun (RIX) 180
1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno (M20) 127
1 Life Goes On (M21) 192
1 Brash Taunter (M21) 133
1 Return to Nature (M21) 200
1 Omniscience (M19) 65
1 Rampage of the Clans (RNA) 134
1 Ugin, the Ineffable (WAR) 2
The only real bad thing about this deck is how prohibitive the cost is. This would be a frightfully expensive deck to build in person. Right now, to physically build this deck, it would cost about 600 dollars and about 272 tickets for MTG Online. It’s not cheap, that’s for sure. But once you understand the need for ramp, and what the right targets are for Haphazard Bombardment are, you’ll see victory over and over.
The only time I’ve been bested using this is when I have no mana ramp in the first couple of turns. That’s the real learning curve for me – finding a good starting hand. If I can get at least one of my combo cards (Sunbird’s, Genesis), and a couple of ramp cards, I’m willing to risk it. We can really come back from a lot of situations.
Try to Storm’s Wrath to blow away token creatures before you start using Haphazard though. Ramp as hard as you can, get your Sunbird’s Invocation into play, and laugh as the game wildly spirals out of control. The hardest part of the deck is making sure you can ramp to get what you need. It takes a little practice, but it’s not the hardest the deck I’ve played. It’s incredibly satisfying and feels very powerful when the combo starts triggering.
Let the Destruction Rain from the Heavens, and make certain the future refuses to change.