MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Historic Decks to Try
Now that Historic Rising is here for Zendikar, we’ve spent a little time looking at the cards. We wrote about Standard recently, but that’s about to change. It’s not going to be a titanic change, but with Uro banned, Omnath ramp decks will look for a tool to replace him. The deck isn’t just going to go away. I’m fairly convinced Uro might see a Historic ban in the next week or so. With that in mind, we’re going to look at MTG Arena Historic decks for Zendikar Rising to try that don’t include Uro if we can help it.
Previous cards that felt useless or niche are suddenly going to come to the forefront; I can feel it. There are so many useful, powerful cards in MTG Arena’s Zendikar Rising expansion after all. Popular decks in the meta will get some great cards that they didn’t have access to before. High Alert, for example, has a ferocious new crab (Charix), so we’re 100% going to talk about that.
Sure, Omnath is powerful. We aren’t disputing that. But there are so many other faster, deadlier decks to deal with in MTG Arena when we’re talking Historic. The meta decks for Standard seldom are quite the same in Historic. Some of those decks stand out as worthwhile, but others fall to the wayside. We’ve got some ridiculous nonsense going here this week. We hope you find some inspiration for your decks here!
We will add more MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Historic decks to this list because we need to test some of them or do some research first. I’m 100% convinced that Uro will see a ban, so I want to wait a couple of weeks and see if that happens. If not, I’ll be glad to add whatever the most disgusting, overpowered, broken deck we can cook up.
Just because we have one mono-red deck (RDW) doesn’t mean we won’t have another! I’m seeing a few ideas that will work for a powerful Leyline Tyrant deck, for example. I want to be happy with what I pick, so it has to wait. For those of you new to these articles, as the days go on, I try to add a deck here and there over a couple of weeks, so make sure you check back often!
As always, these are not end-all-be-all deckbuilds. What works for me won’t 100% of the time work for you. Tweak what you need, but remember the spirit of the concept! I believe in you – you’ll hit Mythic in no time. If you already have, you’ll get there again! Now let’s climb!
Colossus Hammer on Turn 2? (WR Aggro Equipment)
This is just a really silly concept that can win in short order. This is one of the MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Historic decks built with Colossus Hammer in mind. which is a 1-drop artifact that grants +10/+10 and makes the creature lose flying. Why? Because it’s a hammer that weighs something like four trucks in weight! It’s huge! The catch for this card is that it costs 8 mana to equip. That’s normally a deal-breaker because we want to have won by the time a mana cost like that has happened.
But what if we could do it faster? What if we could equip it on turn 2?! How would you like to turn 2 swing for 11, with a creature that, should it die, deals its power to any target? That’s 11 free damage if the other player decides to nuke our little Fireblade Charger. He’s not the only possible target here.
It’s not even our only awesome piece of equipment in the deck. Since we’re running Kor Blademaster and Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients, we want as many of our creatures to have cool pieces of equipment as possible. The only thing I feel this deck is lacking is Embercleave. I’m not 100% sure it fits this deck build anyway. I like Colossus Hammer and Maul of the Skyclaves more anyway. This is a deck that’s going to come out of nowhere, hammer (literally) some poor dork with more damage than is necessary in the turn 3-4 range. We can very easily just take someone out before all their silly ramps, gates, or Shrines come into play.
How Does It Work?
I knew there would be some fancy new Equipment tech as soon as I saw “Kor” creatures were coming back. Kor are infamous for being involved with powerful armor and weapons. Kor Blademaster, in particular, makes any equipped Warrior you have now gain Double Strike. All of our attackers are Warriors – whether they’re Kor, Goblin, Human or Jackal, they’re all going to share the “Warrior” typing.
We can make this start popping off on turn 2, and that’s the best part about it. Our ideal hand is going to have the following cards to make this go fast:
- A couple of lands (A White and Red land preferably)
- Fireblade Charger
- Resolute Strike
- Colossus Hammer
Anything else after that is just bacon bits for our proverbial salad. Can this be stopped? Of course, it can be stopped, this is MTG! There’s always going to be a counter. Here’s how this is going to go down for us though. It’s a very simple, easy to pilot deck. Turn 1, we want our Fireblade Charger or Colossus Hammer. Quite frankly, either order will do. Maybe the hammer first, because then we equip it, and give the Charger haste. So yes, Turn 1 Hammer, Turn 2 Charger.
Turn 2 rolls around. We drop our Fireblade Charger after Colossus Hammer is already laying there. From there, we need Resolute Strike. We target a creature we control and give it +2/+2 until the end of turn. If this creature is a Warrior (he is), we can attach an Equipment we control to it. Now, this can be done on the other player’s turn as it’s an instant. We wait for them to be aggressive, and respond by equipping the Hammer and blocking with an 11/11.
The best part about this creature is that it deals its power to any target if it dies. So now we have an 11/11 with Haste. So we can now swing with impunity. As turns go on, we can hopefully immediately follow with a Kor Blademaster cast. That would also give him Double Strike.
That’s the most ideal way to win. We can swing in a turn or two, and the game is over. But if it stretches out, we’ve got other creatures and ways to win. A few turns in, for example, we can, during our combat in response to a spell, cast Chance for Glory. It gives our creatures indestructible, and we get an extra turn. But at the beginning of the next turn, we lose.
We only cast that when it’s time to win and the other player can’t do a single thing about it. It’s a great turn 3 cast if we know the other player has nothing. That way we get 22 damage out right away. Then the game’s over! But what else can we do?
Other Creatures and Equipment:
For example, we can also use Champion of the Flame, who comes with Trample. As a two-cost, it doesn’t even slow us down. It’s a 1/1 for 2, and for each Aura and Enchantment on it, it gains +2/+2. That would make the Hammer give +13/+13 alone. But we also have Earthshaker Khenra, which has Haste! A 2/1 with Haste, when it enters the battlefield, a target creature with less than or equal to his power can’t block this turn. In response to that triggering, we cast Resolute Strike, which gives him +2/+2 and the hammer. Now anything the other player has can’t block, because it’s very unlikely they’ll have a 14/14 just lying about. That’s free damage likely, at that point.
Akiri, Fearless Warrior isn’t an attacker, but they can be 3/3 for 3. Whenever we attack with one or more equipped creatures, we draw a card, which’s their value. We can also pay 1 white mana to unequip a piece of equipment from a creature. If we do, tap them, and they gain indestructible until end of turn. Why’s that useful? You give a creature two pieces, like say, Maul or Shadowbringer. Even if they tap, they still do damage when attacking. They’re already tapped, after all!
It’s a great way to unequip something cheap like Shadowspear. It only costs 2 mana to re-equip, after all. It’s fantastic as it prevents destruction (but not exile, sadly). We also have Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients, if we need to find stuff in our deck or lose creatures.
Her +1 creates a 1/1 Kor Warrior token, and you can attach an equipment piece to it right away. Her -2 looks at the top six of your deck, and you can put a Warrior or Equipment from among them into your hand. Her -3 deals damage to a creature or planeswalker based on twice the number of Equipment cards you control. They don’t have to be equipped. You just have to have them out. Nahiri is a very useful insurance policy or an extra way to get stuff going for your deck.
Ultimately, our strategy is to start with a weapon and a creature and start hammering the other player with it. The faster this goes, the better it is for us. We don’t have a whole ton of backup strategies, other than getting another weapon and creature in play. If we can get several, great, but be aware of AOE. We might get board-wiped without a backup plan. Bear that in mind! In more cases than not, this deck will obliterate someone’s life total way before that happens. At the very least, that’s what happened to me!
4 Champion of the Flame
4 Earthshaker Khenra
4 Fireblade Charger
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Resolute Strike
1 Akiri, Fearless Voyager
4 Needleverge Pathway
2 Chance for Glory
3 Maul of the Skyclaves
4 Colossus Hammer
4 Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients
4 Kor Blademaster
What a great way to start! A fast, hard-hitting RW deck! Here’s another fun tip: Apply the Colossus Hammer before Maul of the Skyclaves. A fun interaction, this is. The Hammer removes Flying while giving +10/+10. However, if we equip Maul of the Skyclaves second, that “remove” effect has already passed us by. Now, we have +12/+12 in stats, First Strike and Flying, ahead of whatever else the creature already had. So it’s a great way to win if the other player has no Flyers. If Kor Blademaster is in play, that’s almost a guaranteed win. Be aware of spot removal. Exile is a very serious threat for Fireblade Charger since that doesn’t count as dying. We won’t get our free damage out of him that way. Other than that, it’s fast, easy to use, and very fun. Give it a shot!
CRAB BATTLE (UW Aggro High Alert)
I’ve talked about this deck before, I know. But with every new expansion to the game means we have new tools to utilize. Zendikar Rising brought something for all sorts of Historic decks in MTG Arena, including Blue/White High Alert. I’m talking about Charix, the Raging Isle. It’s the only new card in the deck, but it’s a powerful force to be reckoned with. Most people in Standard would use this in Mono-Blue because it can shift its Attack/Life around based on the number of Islands you control.
But what if you didn’t have to do that? What if you could just slam the other player for 17 damage? This one will probably be fairly brief because it’s not a complex deck style. We did some changing, so it’s no longer a three-color High Alert deck. That means Arcades Sabbath, the Strategist is no longer in play. That’s okay. We have a much easier card to play in his stead.
Another positive to Crab Battle is it is reasonably inexpensive to build. Several of the Rares are likely to already be sitting in a long-time player’s toolbox – Glacial Fortress and Leyline of Sanctity. We’re only running 16 Rares, the rest being Common/Uncommon. So it’s not hard to sort out what you want to do here.
I wanted to start this blog off with a few easy-to-understand MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Historic decks. They’re powerful, generally very fast, and can be destructive. We talked about this last when Jumpstart launched, but we’re back because some new tech goes over.
How Does It Work?
This deck is built around a pretty old concept. Back in the Ancient Times (™), there was a type of creature called Treefolk. Most of the Treefolk were stylized as having little-to-no Attack and tons of Toughness. Lots of 0/5s, that kind of thing. Along came a legendary Treefolk that let you deal damage with toughness instead of Attack. That’s what we’re doing here.
High Alert is an evolution of that card type. Each creature we control deals combat damage equal to their toughness rather than its power. It also lets our Defenders attack as though they didn’t have it. If you want, you can also tap some mana (4 – 1 blue, 1 white) to untap a creature. So we can be aggressive and pull back something to block with.
The interesting thing is that it doesn’t say it’s only on your turn. Any combat damage we deal is dealt with this way. The other player has to work very carefully to get past those 0/5s we drop for 1 mana. Suddenly, it’s not just a crappy little Turtle or Crab. Now it’s a monstrosity—a titan of damage.
We pair this with Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive. Our creatures that have 1 or less power or toughness can’t be blocked. Our creatures functionally still have 0 power, so they can’t be blocked. That’s why we don’t have to drop any seriously expensive or powerful creatures. Most of the deck’s creatures cost 1-2 mana, with 4 mana topping it out for Charix, the Raging Isle. Surge Mare will be especially fun with as much green as we see right now since green creatures can’t block it. We can’t get moving without one of two cards. We need High Alert or Huatli, the Sun’s Heart. Huatli is the easiest one to cast because it requires 1 color (white). Both are three mana, and neither should be a chore to use. It’s worth a few Mulligans to get one of these.
High Alert only affects one of our creatures, Wall of Runes. As a Defender, it can’t attack unless High Alert is in play. What does Huatli do? She’s a planeswalker, whose passive ability lets our creatures deal damage with their Toughness instead of Power. She also has a fascinating power that can keep us in the game if Charix is out. Her -3 (7 default Loyalty) gives us life equal to the highest toughness among our creatures. Charix having a base toughness of 17 means that’s 17 life! We don’t want to use this unless we’re in a bind, because she’s one of our keys to the kingdom.
Unless you can just re-cast her, then I guess it’s fine. Just be careful that you don’t leave yourself without an avenue to attack. Since every creature in this deck is 0/4, 0/5, or 0/17, we’re going to be hitting hard, and we’re going to be doing it fast. Our first few turns are going to be spent dropping those high toughness creatures.
Ideally, we’ll drop one of our combo cards (High Alert/Huatli) on turn three, and immediately start swinging. It’s not likely many MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Historic decks will have an answer to that kind of damage. Worst case, we turn 4 Charix, and that’s going to be frustrating to see. Sure, we can’t answer against board wipe easily (or at all).
But we do have a great turn 0 card, in Leyline of Sanctity. If it’s in our starting hand, we can put it right into play. Sanctity gives the player (us) Hexproof, so we can’t be the target of any spell or effect. So no forced discard for us, unless it’s AOE! We also run a pair of Banishing Light cards to exile threats at turn 3, but we should already be set up to win by then.
Having Tetsuko in play is great, but it’s not a requirement. If we’re the stronger attacker, we just bulldoze the other player down. The hardest thing to get past are MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Historic decks with tons of chump blockers like Tokens. We lack Trample in the deck, so we can’t get past those (unless we have a Surge Mare against green).
At that point, we just have to chip away at them. It becomes a game of attrition. But it shouldn’t be a struggle. This is a deck that should be immediately hitting the other player for 10-15 damage at turn 3, turn 4 at the latest. That’s what makes it so strong. We don’t have to worry about low-toughness creatures. Another downside is we’re able to be chumped out by Questing Beast in many cases. Creatures with power 2 or less can’t block it, so we would have to have Charix and use it’s 3 colorless mana ability. This gives him +X/-X, where X is equal to our Islands. We have 14 Islands in the deck at most (thanks to Hallowed Fountain), so it won’t kill him. Just be aware of what damage range it could be putting Charix in (or that Deathtouch would still kill him).
Keep more creatures in hand if you have to repopulate, and swing with as much violence as you can. It’s such a fun, satisfying deck. But what do we do?
Ultimately, this is still Red Deck Wins. But it’s taken in a different direction, thanks to ColFrogfoot, who had the idea for this deck. It’s also the first deck they took to Mythic, so congrats there! It’s a very simple deck that ran Jegantha instead of Obosh, but I don’t agree with Jegantha in it either. Obosh is a 5-cost, which is slower than I’d like, but it’s a great way to finish off a game where you’ve worn the other player down with little shots here and there.
We can just bombard the other player with tons of damage with enough mana or simply just swing lethal. What makes Obosh, the Preypiercer such a useful creature is that any time we deal damage with an odd-costing creature (1, 3, 5, 7 CMC etc.), we deal double damage instead. Shock? Now it’s 4 damage. Did Wayward Guide-Beast get through? Slap an Infuriate on it, to deal 10 damage. I was able to drop someone down to 10 life in no time thanks to mostly Wayward Guide-Beast and Soul-Scar Mage.
4 Shorecomber Crab
4 Aegis Turtle
4 High Alert
3 Huatli, the Sun’s Heart
2 Banishing Light
4 Surge Mare
4 Leyline of Sanctity
4 Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
4 Wall of Runes
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Charix, the Raging Isle
I have a soft spot in my heart for this deck. It’s one I’m very familiar with and can get out of control before a lot of MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Historic decks can do anything about it. Decks that require several turns of mana ramp to get off the ground aren’t going to do anything but get hit in the face. Decks that run one powerful Mutate creature can still be overrun easily. Our creatures aren’t expensive, so we can just keep putting them out. The idea that we can’t be blocked is amazing. Hexproof on the player can’t be beaten. It’s so fun to drop those 0/4 and 0/5s on turn 1, and laugh as Red Deck Wins haplessly batters their 1/1s against them.
Death & Taxes (Mono-White Aggro)
Death & Taxes is a classic Mono-White deck archetype that we also covered back in a previous blog. This one originally debuted in Historic Anthology 3 here on Esports Talk. Originally, Death & Takes decks have you slow the game down as much as humanly possible. You prevent the other player from playing spells, dropping lands, all kinds of things. Then you defeat them when you have so much more in play than they do.
Death & Taxes has some new tools in the chest, too! Archon of Emeria is amazing, and only mildly slows you down. Each player can only cast one spell each turn, but your opponent’s nonbasic lands come into play tapped no matter what. This doesn’t happen to us, at least.
While most Death & Taxes decks are slower, this is an aggro deck in disguise. It pairs Mono-White control with Mono-White. It’s a beautiful marriage in heaven. We slow down searching through decks, completely halt revival decks, and slow down how useful nonbasic lands are.
There are so many fast decks in the Historic meta right now. Omnath is a thing (until Uro inevitably gets banned there), but it will still have tons of mana ramp anyway. Rakdos/Jund are fast, so is Mono-Green, and Red Deck Wins. The ability to make these players only be able to cast one spell a turn is very important.
We aren’t going to be hitting the other player with tons of huge numbers, but slowing them down and taking advantage of our not having the same speed. Most decks run primarily nonbasic lands. We can put the kibosh on that too, thanks to a small stack of fancy lands (Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin).
How Does It Work?
The idea here is, over the first few turns we drop our important, “slow-down” creatures. That amounts to about half of our deck. They kind of slow us down too, but we don’t need to spam the field. It helps, but it won’t harm us in the long-turn.
Most of our deck doesn’t start popping off until turn 2 or 3. That’s the major downside: We only have two turn-one creatures: Selfless Savior and Law-Rune Enforcer. Both are fantastic at any stage of the game. Law-Rune Enforcer can tap a creature that costs 2 or more converted mana. So what we do here is keep that 1 colorless mana open, set a pause during the other player’s main phase, and tap whatever they were going to use to attack.
This is especially potent against singular creature/low-creature count decks. They need that one creature to attack to start triggering abilities or simply hitting us too hard. Selfless Savior exists to sacrifice because he’s a Good Boy, Yes He Is. We can sacrifice our dog to make a creature indestructible until the end of turn. Whether we use it in combat or prevent board wipe from defeating Thalia or Archon of Emeria, that’s up to you. There are multiple situations when we can sacrifice those dogs for maximum benefit.
The question then becomes, what are we going to use to actually fight the other player? None of our creatures are especially beefy. We have Basri’s Lieutenant to buff a few of our creatures though, which we’d probably put on something like Archon of Emeria or our other favorite win condition in this deck, Crawling Barrens. Crawling Barrens is one of the strongest cards in all of Zendikar Rising, for my money. It might not seem like it. But it’s a land that’s going to keep getting bigger and stop being a creature at end of turn.
Crawling Barrens is the closest we’re going to get to the classic land Mutavault, and that’s okay. It’s still amazing and a solid win condition for us. Then we can just equip it with Maul of the Skyclaves to give it +2/+2, First Strike, and Flying when the other player can’t afford to put flyers out to stop it. From there, we can one-shot the other player, after several turns of inflating him. We also have Luminarch Aspirant here, which gives a creature of ours +1/+1 each of our combat steps. We can make something strong enough.
That’s ideally how we’re going to win, but even if it winds up dying to removal, we have other creatures to nickel and dime the other player down. After all, they’re going to be too slow to do anything to stop us. How can we make that a reality?
Death, Taxes, and The Undertaker’s Streak:
Well, until Brock Lesnar, I guess. Anyway! We have a lot of cards to slow the pace down until it suits us. First up is a new card, Archon of Emeria! For 3 mana, you get a ⅔ Flyer that makes each player unable to cast more than one spell a turn. In addition, as we said, nonbasic lands your opponents control come into play tapped! We don’t need multiple spells a turn. One is typically enough.
Aven Mindcensor came back in Amonkhet Remastered and puts the kibosh on all those decks that sift through their deck for something: lands, creatures, spells, whatever. We don’t want them doing that. Instead, if an opponent would search a library, instead they only search the top four cards of their library. Sure, they still get to peek, but it’s seriously going to hamper their options for power cards at a premium.
Tired of annoying decks that summon creatures without paying for them? Containment Priest tells those revival/graveyard decks to politely sit down and shut up. This creature has Flash, and if a nontoken creature would enter the battlefield, and it wasn’t cast, you exile it instead. Reanimator can get lost! The way it reads is that Escape creatures aren’t paying their mana costs, so it would likely cover those as well.
Law-Rune Enforcer‘s role is a simple one. Use it to tap strong creatures so the other player can’t use them in combat (for attack or defense, whichever is more appropriate). We can also exile via Skyclave Apparition. It lets us exile a nonland, nontoken permanent that costs 4 or less, that we don’t control. However, when it leaves the battlefield, that card’s owner creates an X/X blue Illusion token, with X being the mana cost of the exiled card. So be careful about that part, at least. We also have Tithe Taker, which makes spells your opponents cast during your turn cost 1 colorless more, as well as abilities that they activate, unless they are mana abilities. They also have Afterlife 1, so when the 2/1 creature dies, it creates a 1/1 white/black flying Spirit creature token.
Finally, this pairs with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben nicely. Thalia makes all noncreature spells cost 1 more to cast, and has First Strike as a 2/1. Since we only have one non-creature spell in our deck, Maul of the Skyclaves, this will not impede us in the slightest. We can slow people down plenty with these creatures.
Ultimately, this all leads to us using Luminarch Aspirant and the activated ability of Crawling Barrens to make a couple of really beastly creatures that can take someone down in one turn. If they have no flying creatures, just slap Maul of the Skyclaves on someone, and swing lethal in one go. The Aspirant can also help make our normal, slow-down creatures into big tough defenders, so the other player can’t get past our defenses.
3 Archon of Emeria
4 Aven Mindcensor
2 Basri’s Lieutenant
1 Castle Ardenvale
4 Containment Priest
2 Crawling Barrens
2 Field of Ruin
4 Ghost Quarter
4 Law-Rune Enforcer
4 Luminarch Aspirant
2 Maul of the Skyclaves
4 Selfless Savior
3 Shefet Dunes
4 Skyclave Apparition
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Tithe Taker
4 Devout Decree
2 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
2 Rest in Peace
1 Settle the Wreckage
2 Tithe Taker
4 Vryn Wingmare
This isn’t going to knock every deck out of the park right now, but it’s in a very decent position. Depending on what you come up against, Linvala, Keeper of Silence could go into mainboard to prevent enemy abilities from activating. We also could slap a Settle the Wreckage in, if things get too fierce. But the idea that we can slow down the game to a crawl, and also slowly buff our creatures until we can win in one swing?
I love it. It’s such a fun, disrespectful way to defeat the other player. You might enjoy this one! MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Historic decks that move faster than you can are going to be frustrating, but if you can get your creatures out and stall? Oh, it’s a beaut. In particular, I think it does wonders against the sacrifice decks, control, and can even beat Goblins. We’ve got the tools to make them weep about how long the match is going on.
The Eldrazi are Eternal (Colorless Jank)
You had to know that with all these powerful new Colorless cards for MTG Arena thanks to Zendikar Rising, we’d do some Historic decks themed around them. The one that stands out the most to me is a deck built around, of course, Forsaken Monument. We have a literal mountain of colorless mana generators, and one huge, unstoppable force of nature in Historic – Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. As a Jank deck, it’s not going to be Tier 1, but we’ll be covering some of those soon enough. This is the deck that comes out of nowhere, stuns an opponent, and then they throw their proverbial controller when they’re obliterated.
Everything in this deck leads to one ultimate goal: Ulamog. Sure, we can win with Forsaken Monument/Ugin, the Ineffable. That makes our 2/2 Spirits into 4/4s. We can go to our sideboard, and then also give them Akroma’s Memorial – all our creatures now have Flying, First Strike, Vigilance, Trample, Haste, Prot Red/Black. That’s another move. We could summon Ulamog, and then slap Helm of the Host on him, to make copies of Ulamog every single turn, because why not? Not even Yorion decks can withstand that.
Is the other player playing a ton of 0-cost tokens? We can search our sideboard for Ratchet Bomb, and put those to rest immediately. WIth mana generators, card draw, more card draw, chump blockers, more mana generators, more card draw, and a handful of really frustrating planeswalkers, this deck has whatever you need for any situation. However, we’re not running any colored lands. So if you want to turn this into, say, a white deck for some board wipe, it’s certainly possible.
I don’t know that I’d want to do it though. I think it’s pretty great and annoying as is. What can we do with an army of colorless cards? Anything we want, my friends. Anything we want.
How Does It Work?
Ultimately, we want to get Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger out, because he’s our easiest win-condition. We have a lot of alternate win conditions in our sideboard too. Those can all be accessed thanks to Karn, the Great Creator. He will let us pick a card from our sideboard and put it into your hand. With all the colorless lands and mana generation we have, whatever we decide on is going to be easy-peasy to put out.
Forsaken Monument makes everything we do so much easier. Adding extra colorless mana to anything we tap for it is going to be busted. Everything we tap for mana is colorless, after all. It also makes our colorless creatures gain +2/+2. So our Guardian Idol becomes a 4/4, Ugin’s spirit tokens are 4/4s, and Ulamog is now a 12/12. We can do a host of disrespectful things with that much mana. We can pull a Meteor Golem from our sideboard, give it Helm of the Host, and destroy a nonland permanent your opponent controls every single turn.
Or we can use that mana, get a Mystic Forge, and play artifacts/colorless cards from the top of our deck instead of waiting to draw them. But at the end of the day, the fastest way to win is to draw into/summon Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. It’s indestructible, a 10/10, exiles two permanents your opponent controls when it is cast, and when we attack, the defending player exiles the top 20 of their deck.
That’s why we aren’t scared of Yorion. We can give it Helm of the Host and laugh as we mill 40, then 60, then 80, in just a few turns. Is that likely to happen? Depends on how much of a jerk you are to the other player, I guess. We want to use Forsaken Monument as fast as possible, and mana ramp into everything we need in the sideboard. We don’t have to go to the sideboard, but it would sure be handy. But we need mana to make all of our dreams happen.
This deck wins off of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon simply pummeling the other player, or making us draw 7 and put 7 permanents into play, flooding the board with Spirit Tokens and beating the other player, or simply abusing the power of our sideboard. Heck, we can play Platinum Angel so we can’t lose the game!
This deck runs Ugin, the Spirit Dragon (8-cost), Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (10-cost), and Karn/Ugin (4/6 mana respectively). So we need lots of colorless mana. Let’s talk about some math.
Let’s assume we have Forsaken Monument in play, so we have 1 extra colorless mana for everything we tap. What sorts of mana options do we have? Mind Stone can be sacrificed for a card draw, or we can tap it for 1 colorless mana. That’s 2 mana for 2 colorless mana. Hedron Archive costs 4 mana and can be tapped to generate 2 colorless mana (then 3 with Monument). It can also be sacrificed for 2 mana to draw two cards if you tap it. So you can’t do both.
Powerstone Shards are way better, the more you get of them. For 3 mana, it generates 1 colorless mana for each Powerstone Shard you control. So that gives 2 mana per Powerstone Shard. 8 mana a card if you get all four? Whew. Even our Guardian Idol can be tapped for 1 colorless mana, and can also become a 2/2 Golem Artifact creature. All 24 of our lands tap for colorless mana also! So that’s 2 mana per land (24 total)!
We also have the Treasure Map that helps us create Treasure Tokens that can be sacrificed for mana. Or we could use them wisely, and instead wait until the Treasure Map transforms, and use those to draw cards instead. That’s why Forsaken Monument is so key to our success. Now that we can generate tons of mana, let’s talk about what options Karn, the Great Creator gives us.
The Sideboard of Victory:
Literally speaking, we have everything we need here. Does other deck need their graveyard? Tormod’s Crypt and Grafdigger’s Cage will stop them for a whopping 1 mana. Grafdigger’s prevents creatures in graveyards/libraries from coming into play, and players can’t cast spells from those spots either. Sure, that means we can’t take advantage of Mystic Forge, but that’s okay. We can stop MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Historic decks with one win-con using Sorcerous Spyglass and Ratchet Bomb blows up nonland permanents with a certain casting cost. If you’re worried about getting your creature through, Shadowspear gives +1/+1, Trample, and Lifelink. Personally, though, my favorite combo in the sideboard is Helm of the Host + Meteor Golem/Platinum Angel. Making a constant army of Angels that prevent you from losing the game is disrespectful. But creating a new Golem every turn that destroys a nonland?
That’s priceless. Helm of the Host is a legendary artifact that you equip for 5 colorless (and cast for 4). At the start of combat, you make a copy of the creature it’s attached to, except the new creature isn’t legendary, and gains Haste. The possibilities are endless. We can use it on Golos, Tireless Pilgrim to constantly pull lands from our deck if we want. If we’re going the route of “Tons of Spirits (™)”, we play Akroma’s Memorial to give them all the abilities we listed above (Flying, First Strike, Vigilance, Trample, Haste, Prot Red/Black).
If you prefer to slow the other player down (and honestly, this should be the first artifact you pull because you want it) try God-Pharoah’s Statue. If you want to be a jerk and make the other player wait, you can use that, with Platinum Angel, who prevents the other player from winning, and you from losing. The Statue makes all spells your opponent casts cost 2 colorless more and makes them lose1 life at the beginning of your end step. The whole deck is built to give us enough mana and card draw to make the most out of these cards. We can win without them, but where’s the fun in that?
4 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
4 Zhalfirin Void
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Treasure Map
4 Arch of Orazca
4 Blast Zone
2 Buried Ruin
1 Cascading Cataracts
3 Crawling Barrens
1 Cryptic Caves
2 Ugin, the Ineffable
4 Forsaken Monument
4 Hedron Archive
4 Karn, the Great Creator
1 Labyrinth of Skophos
4 Mind Stone
4 Powerstone Shard
4 Radiant Fountain
4 Guardian Idol
1 Akroma’s Memorial
1 God-Pharaoh’s Statue
1 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Helm of the Host
1 Mazemind Tome
1 Mystic Forge
1 Navigator’s Compass
1 Platinum Angel
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Meteor Golem
1 Stonecoil Serpent
1 Tormod’s Crypt
I love colorless decks. They’re always creative and interesting. Plus anytime I can use Ulamog without having to resort to Simic Ramp makes me overjoyed. It’s a deck that trolls people and feels like it has a counter for every situation. Did you drop a Ratchet Bomb, but wish you could do it again? Buried Ruin lets you sacrifice it to return an artifact from your grave to your hand! You can do almost anything here. It’s going to get really annoying really fast. Just make sure you start ramping early with your artifacts that generate colorless mana. Once you’ve done that, the world is your oyster, provided they don’t start aggroing you down/destroying your artifacts. So is it Tier 1? Nah. Is it hilariously fun and disrespectful? You betcha! Finally, don’t forget that we have Crawling Barrens. We can pump that up every turn, even faster with our extra mana!
The Void is All.
One Land? No Problem! (Mono-Red Aggro)
Magic players all know this feeling: You draw your opening hand and only see one land. Everything else in hand is almost playable. Almost. Do you keep the hand and risk losing in four turns, or do you mulligan? So you take the mulligan. ANOTHER hand with only one land in it. Now not only do you have one mana, but you have to put a card back too. Do you risk it again? Many people probably would. This is a deck where if you see just one land, it’s not the end of the world.
Why? Everything on the mainboard is going only to cost one mana! The only exceptions are Light Up The Stage, Skewer the Critics and Wizards Lightning. Even those can become a one-cost! The only other non-one mana card is Obosh, the Preypiercer, our commander. We don’t need that to win, but if we get five mana and put that bad boy in? It’s going to be a difficult time for the other player. But we can win way before that, especially if we play first.
This is a very stable, powerful deck that uses a card that many have viewed as unplayable – Wayward Guide Beast. It’s a card that has been called a “Worse Goblin Guide.” While you get a 2/2 Trample/Haste for one red mana, it puts a land of yours back into the hand when it deals combat damage to another player. So you play it for 1, swing 2, put that land back in your hand. That sounds awful until you consider everything in this deck, costing one mana. You don’t have to swing with it every turn. You can keep it as a defender while you set up further damage avenues.
Or if it’s a slow deck that doesn’t have creatures that can fight back, you wait a turn, get two lands into play, and start doing sick shenanigans. It’s not even our best turn-1 move, though!
How Does It Work?
Everything in this deck is at an excellent, cheap value. I mean that in a mana-cost way, and the rarity of the cards. We’re only running 12 rares, after all. That’s cheap for Historic (and for Magic in general if you ask me.” With every card in the deck being able to drop for one mana, we don’t need a vast expensive mana base. We’re only running 14 lands! You could probably add one or two more (maybe by dropping a Rigging Runner or something), but I like it like this.
We seldom huge loaded land hands. We can also bait people into underestimating the deck since we rarely have lands to drop for turn. Perhaps the most decisive turn 1-2 for me is turn 1: land, Wayward Guide-Beast, don’t swing. Then on turn, two, cast another, swing with both for four, and put your land back in hand. From there, you can put a fresh land into play, and play another threat, like Soul-Scar Mage. It’s one of my favorite cards in the deck.
First off, it has Prowess, so anytime we cast a noncreature, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn. On top of that, if a source we control does damage to a creature the other player controls, we deal them -1/-1 counters instead of damage. We can just make their creatures ineffectual. If they have something indestructible (looking at you WR Equipment), we can just outright kill something that can’t be killed. If that creature has 0 toughness, it dies, end of the story. The idea behind this deck is that we’re going just to play low-cost threats over and over before the other player can get off the ground. Are they going to play it safe and block our 2/2, or the ½? Throw an Infuriate on top of it to give it +3/+2! Wayward-Guide already has trample, so it’s going just to be better.
We also have Wizards to go with our Wizards Lightning. The ever-popular Ghitu Lavarunner and Grim Lavamancer play vital roles in this deck. As our creatures die and spells get cast, Grim Lavamancer gives them life a second time. We can tap it and exile two cards from the grave to deal 2 damage to any target (also 1 red mana is tapped). That’s another card that, with Obosh, becomes quite lethal.
But what about our cards that don’t cost 1 mana? What do we do to fix that little problem?
We’re Problem Solvers Here:
Ghitu Lavarunner is familiar to many RDW decks already. It’s a ½ for 1 and if you have at least two or more instant/sorcery cards in the grave, it gets +1/+0 and haste. All these Wizards also enable us to cast Wizard’s Lightning for 1 mana instead of a 3. 1 mana for 3 damage? That’s so great with Scar-Mage (giving a creature -3/-3), Obosh (turning it into 6 damage), or simply zapping something you don’t want to deal with.
We’ve got another pair of very familiar cards for Red. I’d go so far as to say they’re staples of RDW and almost any hard-hitting red deck in Historic. Light Up the Stage and Skewer the Critics. Normally, they cost 3 mana (1 red), but if we can deal one damage to any opponent, we can pay the Spectacle Cost (1 red mana) instead.
It’s no controversial statement to say these cards are amazing. Light Up the Stage lets us exile the top two cards of our deck. We can play them from there until the end of next turn. So it’s a great way to play lands, or simply to have more noncreature spells for our Soul-Scar Mage. Or we can just play more creatures! Either works! Skewer the Critics in this case is another Wizard’s Lightning. It’s 3 damage for 1 mana, and that cannot be a bad thing.
The Little Things:
We want Obosh in play, because it’s just so powerful. We can certainly get by without it, though. What we do in the deck is ping away at the other player with threats big and small. Dropping that turn 2 or 3 Scorch Spitter, and a few more after is really scary. Even if they die in combat, they still do a minimum 1 damage, thanks to their passive ability. Whenever it attacks, that player or planeswalker takes 1 damage. The more of them we swing with, the better. Obosh turns it into 2!
It’s also an excellent trigger for our Spectacle Spells (Light Up the Stage/Skewer the Critics), because that damage is almost guaranteed. Fanatical Firebrand is here for the same reason. It’s a 1/1 with Haste we can either swing with or use it to defeat a creature with 1 toughness/ping someone for 1 to trigger abilities. We have one more fun 1-cost creature, and that’s Rigging Runner. It comes in with a +1/+1 counter if you attacked this turn, so it’s imperative to drop it on your second Main Phase. A 2/2 for 1? Can’t beat that at all. It’s not a deck that recovers quickly from board wipe or huge creatures though, so it’s not invincible. But we can whittle those down with Soul-Scar Mage since it gives creatures -1/-1 counters instead of damage. Ultimately, that’s much better. You can’t regenerate those -1/-1 counters, and any damage we dole out causes them.
1 Obosh, the Preypiercer
4 Fanatical Firebrand
4 Ghitu Lavarunner
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Light Up the Stage
4 Rigging Runner
4 Scorch Spitter
4 Skewer the Critics
4 Soul-Scar Mage
4 Wayward Guide-Beast
4 Wizard’s Lightning
1 Obosh, the Preypiercer
This is a basic deck, but it can do a lot to get quick, efficient wins. What beats it out though? Faster decks with bigger creatures, first off. Clerics can beat us down, as can Mono-White lifegain because they can easily get their lifegain out of control. Board wipe hurts us if we don’t have creatures waiting in the wings/enough mana to drop them. But so far, I’ve dominated almost every player I’ve used this deck on. It’s so satisfying to watch someone who kept a sorry hand gets hit three turns in a row with Wayward Guide. They see I’m not scared to play with just one land, and they give up and move on to another match. We don’t need to hit 8 or 9 land drops in this deck to win. 2 or 3 at the most is fine. Five if you want your Obosh.
That’s what makes this deck so scary though – only hit two land drops? That’s not an issue for us, my friends. We’ll get them, and we’ll roast them over the open flames of Obosh, the Preypiercer. We let them be overconfident and trap them in the Preypiercer’s sinister web. It’s one of the most satisfying Historic decks I’ve played in MTG Arena for a while, and it’s all thanks to Wayward Beast-Guide and Zendikar Rising.
Winners Don’t Use Cards (Mono-Blue Mill/Jank)
Who doesn’t love Mill? Most of the MTG community. But you know who does love a good Mill deck? Me, that’s who! This one’s a little on the janky side, but I love it. It’s simple, it plays just one color, and stars one of my favorite cards: Ruin Crab! We have plenty of control/slow down, and of course, almost every card in the deck is focused on milling the other player. Heck, we can even bounce our Merfolk Secretkeeper and Wall of Lost Thoughts back to our hand, to cast them again for a measly four mana (Whelming Wave)!
What a wonderful deck this is! In case you were wondering, yes, this is something I’ve had to deal with in the MTG Arena ladders, inspiring to look into my own. We also even have a land that lets us mill! Because, why not, right? It’s very straight forward and easy to understand. You could also make this a self-mill deck, if you wanted, thanks to Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. But I think that would be trying to burn the candle at both ends. Some of your cards only mill opponents, some let you pick “Target Player.”
Jace is in the deck because he also lets you mill a player, and if you should have no cards in your deck, you win the game. This is handy for the mirror match, or if some other deck makes the game drag on far too long. Ashiok, Dream Render is in the deck for a similar reason. It can mill the other player, but you don’t want to run it down to 0. Why? Because it prevents the other player from searching their library via spells or abilities. No more fetching for them! It also exiles your opponents’ graveyard when you use the -1. Brilliant card, Ashiok is.
How Does It Work?
The idea is that the other player never gets any of their excellent cards. They’re always going to hit the graveyard. It’s even better if you can get an early Ashiok. Why? Players are running graveyard retrieval right now! This is a deck that can feel like it’s going to backfire, thanks to Uro/Kroxa. Their ability to come back via the “Escape” mechanic can be made more accessible with our mill.
That’s why we want that Ashiok the second we see either of those jerky Titans. Over overall strategy is a simple one: Mill at every opportunity. The faster we can get Drowned Secrets and Teferi’s Tutelage in play, the better. They’re both excellent and offer up mill opportunities for their own reasons. Teferi’s Tutelage has our opponent mill two cards anytime we draw a card. Drowned Secrets, on the other hand, has a player mill two cards anytime we cast a blue spell.
So, in theory, with one or two Teferi’s Tutelage in play, Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, becomes a win condition. He comes into play with 4 Loyalty and has a +1 and a -8. His -8 is the win-con though: “Draw seven cards. If your library has no cards in it, you win the game”. So either you have no more cards in the deck or make your opponent mill a minimum of 14 cards! Each Teferi’s Tutelage stacks, mind.
Is it going to be hard to get the other player into killing range? Of course not! Our creatures mill, our counterspell mills, and our Sorceries, in their own way, mill a player! Sometimes it’s a bit roundabout, but it all works together. So we want as many copies of those two enchantments in play (Drowned/Teferi’s), provided the other player isn’t running enchantment wipe. If it’s safe, run multiples out at once. Otherwise, one of each is fine. If the other player desperately needs their graveyard, Ashiok will see its demise, for the low, low cost of 1 loyalty point.
So we know what we need to make our combos start popping off. What about the actual mill cards? How exciting and annoying are they, anyway? Glad you asked, friend!
Daughters of (Maddening) Cacophony:
In the early game, we want to drop that Ruin Crab as soon as possible. Turn 1, if at all possible. That makes every land drop a three-card mill. I’d probably put two into play to see if the other player has creature removal. All of our creatures influence mill potential in some shape or form. Wall of Lost Thoughts, for two mana, makes a player mill four cards when it comes into play. Merfolk Secretkeeper, for one blue, has a Sorcery version (Adventure) called Venture Deeper. This is another four-card mill. Then we cast it as a creature later, to make sure we can bounce it back to our hand!
We want to bounce those second two back with a few options. This is just to make sure Drowned Secrets gets another trigger or two, and we get those mill options again and again. It comes from our sorcery, Whelming Wave. Whelming Wave returns all creatures to their owner’s hands, except Krakens, Leviathans, Octopuses, and Serpents. We’ll put our creatures back in our hands and do it again.
That’s another eight cards milled at least. Consider that this is also a great way to punish token decks! Those tokens don’t go to the hand, they go out of the game! If your opponent cheated creatures out into play and can’t do it a second time, it will slow them down to a snail’s pace. Inscription of Insight also lets us choose an ability that will bounce up to two creatures to their owner’s hands. You don’t really need to kick this one (4 mana base, kicker of another 4). But if you do, you get all of the following:
- Return up to two target creatures to their owners’ hands.
- Scry 2, then draw two cards
- Target player creates an X/X blue Illusion creature token, where X is the number of cards in their hand.
Sure, it could be an amazing mid-late game bomb if you need it, but don’t stress otherwise. Just use it to Scry or Bounce creatures (preferably our mill creatures). You may need to use it on opponent’s creatures though, and that’s fine. It’s a very aggressive meta right now.
Our early game is packed with stuff like that. Getting a turn-2 Drowned Secrets is also key to our success. Even better if we follow up with a turn-3 Teferi’s Tutelage. Heck, even our counterspell has mill on it! Didn’t Say Please counters a spell for 3 mana, and its controller puts the top 3 of their deck into the grave. We do have an amazing mid-game bomb for this deck though, which this section is titled after Maddening Cacophony! Maddening Cacophony mills eight cards of the opponent’s deck for two mana (1 blue). But if you pay the Kicker (totaling to 6 mana after that), you mill half of their deck, rounding up. Partner this with Ashiok, Dream Render to make all of their dreams turn into nightmares. Milling half of someone’s deck, and then making it all go exiled out of the game?
I’ve watched people just give up the ghost after that. There’s no sense continuing on when all of your game-winning cards have disappeared into the nether. From there we want to keep triggering our Ruin Crab by playing lands, and making sure Drowned Secrets/Teferi’s Tutelage stay on board. That makes every spell of ours potentially lethal. If we just keep casting our 1-drops, and the other player has to mill as a response? Well, I think that’s just beautiful.
4 Teferi’s Tutelage
3 Whelming Wave
2 Inscription of Insight
2 Scavenger Grounds
1 Desert of the Mindful
3 Ashiok, Dream Render
2 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
4 Fabled Passage
4 Wall of Lost Thoughts
4 Maddening Cacophony
4 Drowned Secrets
4 Ruin Crab
4 Ipnu Rivulet
4 Merfolk Secretkeeper
4 Didn’t Say Please
The hardest match-up is any ultra-fast aggro deck. Our only option to throw creatures back takes us four mana, so it may be too late by then. But we have a ton of mill options, and our biggest hope is to get rid of their speed right off the bat. We even have lands to sacrifice to mill, in the form of Deserts – Ipnu Rivulet lets us sacrifice a Desert to make a player mill 4. Don’t forget: Scavenger Grounds can also be sacrificed (a Desert, rather) to make both players exile their graveyards. We have options, is what I’m saying. Our creatures aren’t powerful, but they’re all decently challenging, ranging from 3-4 toughness. They can’t stand up to overwhelming numbers, but the early game chumps? They can be blocked pretty safely.
It’s honestly a fun, annoying deck. When you see the other player’s deck get smaller and smaller, it’s just a feeling that can’t be beaten. You can just hook that right up to my veins.
Scapeshift Emancipation (Temur Combo)
My favorite win conditions don’t involve the other player in any way. Instead, we set up a condition where we inevitably win and they can’t do a whole lot about it. If you don’t have enchantment removal, you aren’t going to stop a Fiery Emancipation combo. The downside to the card is that it’s a 6-drop and requires 3 red mana. That makes it less-than-ideal for Mono-Red decks. However, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath hasn’t been banned yet amazingly in Historic.
We’re going to include a singular deck that features him. This deck doesn’t have him as the star, but Uro definitely helps us get going. Our goal here is to mana ramp as hard as we can. We’re looking to have Valakut Exploration and Fiery Emancipation as soon as possible. Honestly, not pulling Emancipation isn’t the worst, it just makes things faster. After all, dealing triple damage just makes life easier.
Scapeshift is such a fascinating card, too. With Field of the Dead, it became a must-use. You suddenly have 30-60 zombies (if not more), and the game at that point is over. If the other player can’t board wipe you, they’re going to get run down by an overwhelming number of zombie tokens.
In this deck, Scapeshift has a different purpose. Yes, it’s still to sacrifice almost all of our lands and pull fresh ones, but to what end? What do we gain from replacing our lands with other ones? What if I told you it leads to an OTK, hopefully around turn 5? Well, it’s definitely possible, and without a whole lot of shenanigans.
How Does It Work?
Valakut Exploration is a wonderful Landfall card, that only costs 3 mana (1 red). This enchantment gives us the following anytime we play a land on our turn: Exile the top card of your library. You may play that card for as long as it remains exiled. At the beginning of your end step, if there are cards exiled with Valakut Exploration, put them in their owner’s graveyard, then Valakut Exploration deals that much damage to each opponent. Would it be hard to get 20 damage off in one go like that?
Of course, it would! We’re only running 28 lands, after all! However, we have Azusa, Lost but Seeking in the deck and Ancient Greenwarden. Ancient Greenwarden will make it significantly easier to win in one turn, and Azusa lets us play two additional lands a turn. Couple that with Ancient Greenwarden, who lets us play lands from the graveyard, and we can easily turn this into a OTK. Ancient Greenwarden also makes our landfall triggers proc a second time. So we say, sacrifice 10 lands. With Growth Spiral, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, and perhaps an Escape to the Wilds, we can make that happen fast enough.
Uro also helps by letting us play an additional land. So let’s do some quick math:
- Turn 1: Land for Turn
- Turn 2: Land for Turn, Growth Spiral, additional land
- Turn 3: Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Land for Turn, 2x More Lands in an ideal setting.
- Turn 4: Valakut Exploration, Uro, Land for Turn, Extra Land.
- Turn 5: ANcient Greenwarden, Land for Turn
- Turn 6: Land for Turn, Land from Graveyard (Fabled Passage) as many times as possible. Scapeshift. Win.
Alternatively, Turn 2 can also be Lotus Cobra, which gives us extra mana whenever we play lands. That would make this combo pop off much faster.
Eleven or so lands on turn 5-6 is very plausible. Sure, you have to get lucky, but it’s doable. With 28 lands in the deck, it’s not as hard as it might sound. With Valakut, we’ll be exiling 10-11 cards from our deck, after we cast Scapeshift. This gives us another 10-11 lands from our deck, all coming into play at once. If we have Fabled Passage in there, we can trigger yet another land or two. Instead of only exiling 10 cards, we exile 20! From there, all we have to do is end the turn! The only way this doesn’t obliterate the other player is counterspell use or life gain. Casting any of those spells will reduce your damage though. Bear that in mind!
That’s what Fiery Emancipation is in the deck for. If we manage to get that into play, suddenly, all of our damage sources now do triple damage. Did your opponent get up to 30-40 life? We aren’t scared, since that 20 damage now turns into 60! You can’t escape our ridiculous nonsense. All we need is a bunch of land, a few cards, and to just end a turn. Since it doesn’t matter what cards get exiled, it’s going to be enough to win in many cases.
Now, if you don’t get Scapeshift right away, and you keep exiling lands that go away, fear not. Ancient Greenwarden will let you play those from the grave, which means more exiled cards. Azusa will let us keep playing extra lands (2x a turn), which means if we can keep bouncing Fabled Passage, we can keep bouncing it and sacrificing it. We don’t even have to fetch a land for it! We can just sacrifice it, choose nothing, and play it again for another Landfall trigger.
The most important thing is the mana ramp though. We don’t have to beat someone in one turn either. Not getting Scapeshift, but getting Fiery Redemption means we can nickel and dime ‘em down. Tripling the damage Valakut does is very terrifying. Every card is 3 damage. If we manage to put Uro back into play and start swinging with him, he deals 18 damage thanks to Fiery Emancipation; 18 from a creature! Don’t forget we have one more amazing way to get more lands and get access to cards: Escape to the Wilds! It will exile 5 cards that we have access to for another turn. However, it does not synergize with Valakut Exploration. That card species cards “exiled with Valakut Exploration.”
But it’s an extra land that turn, and should hopefully give us access to plenty of good cards. If it just puts a bunch of lands in the grave, Ancient Greenwarden will help with that. Oh, and he will swing for 15 in this instance too.
Sometimes, we’re just going to get a pile of lands in our Escape to the Wilds cards. Is there a solution for that? Yes, yes there is! Nahiri’s Lithoforming is our solution! For 2 mana+x, you can sacrifice X lands. For each land sacrificed, you draw a card. Then you can play X additional lands this turn! Lands that come into play this turn come in tapped. If you have four lands in that second part of your hand, you can just drop them all. It’s not a replacement for Scapeshift though. Nahiri’s Lithoforming only works if you’re drawing into lands, or already have them in your hand. If you are in that situation, great! Otherwise, it is definitely not a replacement for Scapeshift.
3 Island (ANB) 113
4 Steam Vents (GRN) 257
4 Fabled Passage (M21) 246
4 Breeding Pool (RNA) 246
1 Sulfur Falls (DAR) 247
3 Mountain (ANB) 114
2 Fiery Emancipation (M21) 143
3 Escape to the Wilds (ELD) 189
4 Scapeshift (M19) 201
3 Azusa, Lost but Seeking (M21) 173
3 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (THB) 229
4 Valakut Exploration (ZNR) 175
3 Nahiri’s Lithoforming (ZNR) 151
4 Growth Spiral (RNA) 178
4 Lotus Cobra (ZNR) 193
5 Forest (ANB) 112
2 Ancient Greenwarden (ZNR) 178
4 Rootbound Crag (XLN) 256
I’m glad to see a Scapeshift deck that doesn’t rely on Field of the Dead! I really hate that card. This is a fun, fast deck if you get the ideal start. You want your Lotus Cobra, lands, Azusa, and your cards like Valakut Exploration. The idea behind the deck is that we suddenly get rid of our lands, replace them, and then explode someone’s life points. If you don’t need Fiery Emancipation, don’t sweat it. It’s amazing and makes it easier to win, but it’s not a necessity. It does make our one-turn-kill very simple. It’s hard to deal with heavy counterplay or to deal with extremely fast decks, but that’s always the fate of a combo deck. If the other player figures out what you’re up to and stops it, we’re going to resort to waiting (and waiting) for another shot at this combo. But if we sacrifice all of our lands, and Scapeshift gets countered? May as well just wrap up the match.
That said, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s wildly satisfying to see trigger! If you can get Valakut/FIery/Ancient out, and follow up with a massive Scapeshift? The end of the game is going to come out of nowhere, and it’s going to be spectacular. I do love playing against decks that have no creatures though. Since we lack real control options in this deck, that’s not very likely.
But if you can play against someone with no creatures and they don’t counter you, it’s going to be wildly satisfying to hit them with Uro/Ancient Greenwarden again and again. We have all the tools in our box to get our deck going by turn 3 or 4, but it’s not always going to work that way, so bear that in mind. This is a deck that would probably still work even if Uro got banned. We’d just replace Uro with another card like maybe Explore or Cultivate. Perhaps even a control option like any of the various Fog cards (Prevent combat damage) so we can hold out just a bit longer.
Other cards to consider for this deck are a card like Storm’s Wrath once your creatures are no longer needed, but the other player is starting to build up a head of steam. Just some food for thought, but I like it how it is!
The Rock (Black/Green Midrange/Control)
“The Rock” in this case isn’t a wrestler. It’s not a particular synergy card combo. Instead, The Rock is an archetype of deck that’s incredibly powerful without relying on any one combo. Instead, when we talk about The Rock, it’s a deck that relies on the most powerful cards in its color-coding to slow the game pace and control the board. Then, it wins with typically, a single very powerful creature. Most combo decks have their own special win condition, but ours varies. This is also a Best-of-Three deck, as I don’t know that The Rock would be that great in BO1. It could, but I typically don’t run it that way. This way, we have an extra 15 cards to swap around in our sideboard to cover threats.
The Rock as a deck is more of a long-con. We want to stretch the game out, eliminating threats, and setting up whatever win condition we’ve chosen for ourselves. In this case, it’s going to be Scavenging Ooze or possibly Questing Beast against weaker creature decks. Thankfully, we have another win condition if needed, in the form of Nighthawk Scavenger. We have a few options, so whatever the situation calls for, we’re ready.
This is a deck with a whole host of various control options. Discard? Got it. Creature removal? No worries. Exile? You better believe it. Need card draw? We can do that. I’ve seen versions of this in BO1 Historic, where the other player simply won with Chevill, Bane of Monsters, and a lot of control, but this is going to be far more successful.
However, The Rock is a deck that requires close attention to detail and the state of the game. We don’t have a reliable combo just sitting around. The Rock instead uses cards that are powerful on their own merit and putting them together.
Thankfully, Zendikar Rising touched a lot of MTG Arena decks, and this Historic one is included! Hagra Mauling, Bloodchief’s Thirst, and Inscription of Ruin all feature here. We’ve also got Bala Ged Recovery to round out the new cards. Our sideboard is filled with threat removal too, so whatever you come across, you’ll be ready. You can easily make this for BO1, but slotting in the removal you think you need the most. I think as is, this could very well dominate ill-prepared players in BO1.
How Does It Work?
Rock decks are also known as “Junk” due to its lack of anything holding the cards together. But everything in the deck has a purpose and reason. All the cards are selected because they’re powerful, and fulfill a very specific role in the deck. For example, Questing Beast is in the deck, because it lets us attack our opponent while also deleting planeswalkers. That’s its job. Can it win the game for us? In certain situations, of course.
This is a deck that is expected to stretch the game out. We’re going to do a lot of life gain, card draw, and removal. This is a meta heavily revolving around the graveyard, so that’s where Scavenging Ooze comes in. It also let us gain life, and have a late-game board bomb. Vraska, Golgari Queen is here in case we pull her early and max her out. Her ultimate let us win the game simply by dealing combat damage once. Hopefully, we’ve put enough threat into the game where we can get one creature through. Originally, I was going to lower the Questing Beast amount and put more Phyrexian Arenas into the deck.
That card draw is very important. Then I figured we’ll get plenty of potential card draw without loss of life through Chevill, Bane of Monsters. We want to constantly have answers to our opponent’s moves. That’s what makes this deck go. Our ultimate goal is to find a way to get a threat through and win the game, after disrupting every attempt the other player has made to secure the game. With that in mind, let’s talk about how we slow the other player.
But who’s buying? Thanks, Megadeth. So, we’ve got so much control over the board in this deck. My favorite way to stall someone out is by discard! It’s so fun. We’ve got a little of it here, thanks to Inscription of Ruin and Liliana, Waker of the Dead. In particular, Liliana, Waker of the Dead’s ultimate also feeds into Scavenging Ooze. Her Discard power does too! We probably won’t pay the kicker for Inscription often though (4 mana, 2 black). It would let us choose three effects instead of just picking one. We are likely going to use it to make the other player discard two cards. You can use it as removal (destroy target creature with CMC 3 or less), but Discard is more likely.
Do whichever is necessary though! Liliana’s +1 makes all players Discard a card, and if an opponent can’t, they lose 3 life. In theory, that could be enough to win the game if we slow it down long enough. Her -3 gives a creature -X/-X, where X is the number of cards in our graveyard. Finally, her Ultimate, -7, gives us an emblem: At the beginning of combat on your turn, put target creature card from a graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. It gains haste.
We can use this to steal our opponent’s creatures, swing with them, and when they die, feed them to our Scavenging Ooze! We also have creature removal! So much of it in fact! Bloodchief’s Thirst is very flexible, for example. In the early game, you can spend 1 black mana and destroy a creature or planeswalker that costs 2 or less. You can also pay the Kicker (3 mana, 1 black). If you do, it’s any creature or planeswalker. We also have the one-mana Thoughtseize, to reveal an opponent’s hand, choose a nonland from it, and they discard it. Sure we lose 2 life, but who cares? They lose that shiny Omnath!
Murderous Rider doubles as creature/planeswalker removal, thanks to having an Adventure Spell option. So that’s another very flexible card. On top of that, we have a copy of Assassin’s Trophy, which destroys any permanent. That player can then go search for a basic land to put in play. What about more wide-ranging removal? Is your opponent flooding the board with just one kind of token, like Scute Mob? Maelstrom Pulse destroys a target nonland permanent, and all other permanents that share the same name. Tokens, cloned cards, all of those things can be obliterated in one shot.
Finally, Extinction Event is of course back. It exiles all creatures with either an even or odd CMC. Want to do it again though? Just cast Bala Ged Recovery, and put a target card back into your hand. You can use it for a variety of cards, but I mostly use it on my removal. We actually have one more removal card, but it’s pricey. Hagra Mauling costs 4 mana (2 black), to destroy target creature. It costs 1 colorless less if the other player has no basic lands, so it’s kind of restrictive. However, if you can drop this on turn 3, when the other play may have no basic lands? It’s a stellar bomb. Otherwise, just use it as a land!
Creatures and Card Draw:
We need cards and creatures too, though. Chevill, Bane of Monsters on turn three can start providing both. On our upkeep, we can put a bounty counter on a creature or planeswalker, if our opponents control no permanents with one. So we tag a creature or planeswalker this way. Then, whenever a permanent the other player controls dies and it has a bounty counter, we gain 3 life and draw a card. That’s where the early game control comes in. We gain life, draw a card, and put the other player back a few steps.
Questing Beast is a simple, useful creature. It can’t be blocked by creatures power 2 or less, has Haste, Deathtouch, and Vigilance, and if it deals combat damage to a player, that damage also goes to a target planeswalker they control. So it’s double the pleasure, double the fun. Nighthawk Scavenger is here as a Tarmagoyf-lite. It is a baseline ⅓ but gains +X to its attack based on how many card types the other player has in the grave. We use this with Vraska if the other player has no flyers to easily secure a win with her ultimate. It also has Flying/Deathtouch/Lifelink, so it’s always going to be a threat.
Now you have all the knowledge you need!
4 Bloodchief’s Thirst
4 Scavenging Ooze
1 Assassin’s Trophy
3 Chevill, Bane of Monsters
2 Inscription of Ruin
2 Murderous Rider
3 Nighthawk Scavenger
1 Phyrexian Arena
3 Bala Ged Recovery
3 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Extinction Event
3 Liliana, Waker of the Dead
3 Questing Beast
1 Vraska, Golgari Queen
3 Castle Locthwain
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Temple of Malady
4 Woodland Cemetery
1 Hagra Mauling
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Cry of the Carnarium
2 Ashiok, Dream Render
1 Kaervek, the Spiteful
1 Elder Gargaroth
1 Erebos’s Intervention
1 Eat to Extinction
1 Extinction Event
2 Rankle, Master of Pranks
I’ve always thought Rock was a thinking person’s deck. You have to really wait for the perfect time to do things. You have the best cards in your colors, and it’s up to you to use them properly. Every match is going to require different responses. Personally, I was tempted to get rid of Questing Beast in favor of more Phyrexian Arenas, but I’m not sold. I love the idea of having targeted player and planeswalker damage. In best-of-three, you have a very solid deck that has answers for all problems. When this deck pops off, and you have control of the game, it’s almost like a drug. It feels so powerful. You then ask yourself “Who builds decks for combo synergy? Just play the best cards and win!” and that’s what you do here.
Play the best cards, lock down the board with discard/creature removal, pump your Ooze. Get those Planeswalker ultimates, and laugh as the other player crumbles. You can also add additional card draw with Castle Locthwain or Vraska, Golgari Queen. She’s more here to remove threats, but with careful, safe play, she can be both.
How to Gain Mana and Influence Victories (Mono Red Combo/Aggro)
Leyline Tyrant is one of my favorite cards to come out of Zendikar Rising. It’s absolutely bonkers and is 100% a threat as soon as it hits the table. However, if we can keep it out for just a few turns, it becomes a liability. The longer it stays in the game, the more terrifying it is, and not because it’s strong. In fact, it’s only a 4/4 flyer for 4 mana. But it does something special, and suddenly, players don’t want to kill it. Exile, yes. But kill? That means that we can potentially one-shot another player with it! It’s much easier than you’d think, and honestly doesn’t require attacking. We can attack with this deck, like most of them.
But we sure don’t have to! It’s an Aggro deck, but in its own little ways, it’s also control! We’ve got Goblin Chainwhirler to slow down tokens/small creatures, Torbran to enhance all of our Red damage and Glorybringer for extra damage to non-Dragons. But most importantly, this is the most interesting style of Fling deck I can think of. A bit of backstory: Fling decks require you to play a huge creature. Instead of attacking with it, you sacrifice the creature to Fling, which deals that creature’s power to the other player.
It’s a very fun way to get a cheap, out-of-nowhere victory. With Kazuul’s Fury, we can do just that. It’s just another way to get it done. Frankly, we can just keep attacking with Leyline Tyrant when it’s time until the other player has no choice but to block. However, that leaves us open to exile cards upon tapping. So it’s great to have a back-up plan, like Kazuul’s Fury. We can also throw him away to defend against a stronger creature (but most players won’t do that).
How Does It Work?
We want as much Red Mana as we can put together, and as much Red Devotion on top of that. It will all come together nicely. Leyline Tyrant prevents red mana that we don’t use from leaving the mana pool between phases and turns. If this sounds familiar to older MTG players, it’s because the original Omnath did just that, but for green. Omnath, Locus of Mana gained +1/+1 for each point of green mana in the pool, and it didn’t leave between turns. This is the polar opposite of Omnath. Instead of breathing life into himself, Leyline Tyrant exhales destruction onto something.
When the Leyline Tyrant dies, we can expend as much red mana as we have access to. When we do, it deals that much damage to any target. So if we say, have 20 floating mana, and then also have access to say, 10 more, that’s 30 damage to any target. That’s why Leyline Tyrant is an immediate, must-eliminate threat. But if you kill it too late, it’s going to be a nuclear bomb for the other player, provided they can’t grant themselves Protection vs. Red/Hexproof.
We can get the win in this deck a couple of very easy ways. The only real stopping point for us is getting board wiped. It will slow us down, but in theory, we can come back from it. The first, easiest way to get the win is to get Leyline Tyrant in play and start tapping our mana like crazy. Use the Wily Goblin’s treasure tokens for more red mana on top of our lands. Then we just wing until Tyrant dies, or we can kill him ourselves. Shatterskull Smashing can be a land, or we can use that wellspring of red mana to destroy our own creature. A tiny bit of math is involved though. We need 6 mana to cast Shatterskull Smashing so that it kills Leyline Tyrant. So you need whatever the other player’s health is, +6. Now, if we have lands/artifacts to expend outside of our mana pool, it should be fine.
We can also cast Kazuul’s Fury, which is a part of both ways to win this deck. Kazuul’s Fury is a card we’ve talked about before here. We sacrifice the Leyline Tyrant to deal 4 damage to a target, and when he dies, we tap our mana to trigger at-death ability for Leyline Tyrant. More damage comes flooding in, and we win!
The alternate way to win is to get a ton of Red Mana permanents into play, and follow-up with Anax, Hardened in the Forge. His Power is equal to our Devotion to Red. So we want to drop those Omen of the Forge cards, Goblin Chainwhirlers, and whatever else we can grab. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell helps too. If we can get Anax’s power into killing range, we can just use Kazuul’s Fury again to sacrifice him and deal that damage to the other player.
Devotion, Mana, Control:
In fact, Torbran makes this easier just in general. He’s 3 Red Devotion, for Anax, and he adds +2 to all of our red damage sources. That makes things a trifle easier to put another player into killing range. Speaking of Red Devotion, Goblin Chainwhirler is one of the most important cards in this deck for Anax. 3 red mana to cast, and he deals 1 damage to all each opponent, and all of their creatures/planeswalkers.
This is handy for token decks, but if we put a Soul-Scar Mage into play, it gives each enemy creature a -1/-1 counter instead! We permanently weaken our opponents by playing these Chainwhirlers. If we can get Torbran out before we play Omen of the Forge, that turns 2 damage for 2 mana into 4 damage for 2 mana, and it adds to Devotion on top of that.
On the topic of Soul-Scar Mage! Soul-Scar Mage helps us deal with indestructible threats, or simply weaken creatures to the point where they can’t fight us any longer. Enter cards like Bonecrusher Giant and its 2-damage instant. We also have Glorybringer who can be Exerted (doesn’t untap next turn), on top of flying/haste. That 4/4, when exerted, deals 4 to a non-dragon an opponent controls. So with Glorybringer, that 6/6 Uro is now a 2/2, and significantly less of a threat.
See where that’s all going? We have Valakut Awakening and Shatterskull Smashing to also play as lands, to tap for even more mana. But it’s important to note the final piece of this puzzle. That’s Nyx Lotus. It comes into play tapped, and it synergizes with all that Red Devotion we’ve been setting up. When we tap it, we pick a color and gain mana equal to our Devotion to it. When Tyrant is in play, you see where it’s going, I bet. Say, we have 4 Goblin Chainwhirlers in play somehow. Each time we tap Nyx Lotus, we gain 12 mana, minimum that doesn’t go away.
This is a fast-paced deck though. We aren’t attacking very quickly, but we’re setting up the board state so we win quickly. Since it’s all one color, we don’t care if a creature has two or three mana symbols in it. In fact, we want that.
We want Leyline Tyrant to stay on the board as long as humanly possible. Dropping him on Turn 4 is the best, but we could in theory cheat him out on turn 3, thanks to Wily Goblin and their Treasure Token. The moment they’re in play, we want to start stacking mana in our mana pool as fast as possible. It won’t go away, so don’t be shy. However, you have to wait a turn, since you dumped it all on turn ¾ to play the Tyrant in the first place.
Why should you just tap all your mana every turn? Because the mana remains in your pool. You don’t have to worry about it. You can still expend mana from your pool at any point you normally would (depending on the card you’re playing). From here, we build a huge mana pool, and when it’s time, let the Leyline Tyrant die, or simply kill him yourself. A world-shattering blast awaits your opponent.
4 Bonecrusher Giant
4 Shatterskull Smashing
2 Forgotten Cave
2 Valakut Awakening
2 Castle Embereth
2 Kazuul’s Fury
4 Wily Goblin
2 Soul-Scar Mage
2 Anax, Hardened in the Forge
4 Omen of the Forge
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
3 Nyx Lotus
4 Leyline Tyrant
3 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
This deck is so disrespectful. It’s fast, with most of the deck being 1-3 mana costs. We have some big guns, but they all synergize well with our win conditions. You’ll probably want to keep those Omen of the Forges in play, without sacrificing them. That way, we have even more Red Devotion for Nyx Lotus and Anax, Hardened in the Forge. Since Kazuu’s Fury is an Instant, as long as you have the 3 mana open, you can be pretty reckless with Anax, Leyline Tyrant, and Glorybringer. If you decide you want to fling Anax as he’s blocked, you can absolutely do that. I thought about slapping an Embercleave in the deck for that exact purpose, but I have yet to do so. Maybe in the place of a Shatterskull Smashing or two? Regardless, it’s an awesome, high-octane deck that’s going to leave people incredibly salty.