MTG Arena Strixhaven Decks to Try in Historic Mode
MTG Arena’s Historic decks are likely going to be shaken up thanks to Strixhaven’s expansion. This is mostly thanks to the Mystical Archives, a set of classic MTG cards coming back for use in Historic. Not all of the physical Mystical Archives cards will appear in MTG Arena reportedly, but enough of them are. The original release added 18 Uncommon, 30 Rare, and 15 Mythic Rare cards. A few of these cards are even available in Standard, such as Duress – at least, until the next Standard Rotation. I’m very excited to see some of these cards come back. In particular, Faithless Looting, Gift of Estates, Blue Sun’s Zenith and Demonic Tutor.
Now, we aren’t going to be focusing on “Mystical Archives Decks” mind. Instead, I want to focus on fun, potentially competitive decks. Historic hasn’t felt as interesting as of late, thanks to the domination of just a few decks at the top. I’m hoping this new addition of cards, with Strixhaven plus the Mystical Archives, will offer some quality new MTG Arena decks. The one in particular that caught my eye was a return of a classic Modern Mono-Red archetype – Grapeshot! It’s not as fast as in Modern, but there’s a fun way to make it pop off now.
What historic decks are ready to go in MTG Arena thanks to the Strixhaven expansion? Let’s give it a look, shall we?
Grapeshot, like an RKO (Mono-Red Combo):
Storm is a fun mechanic that makes quite a few people mighty angry. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Grapeshot is a 2-cost Red Sorcery that deals 1 damage to any target. But it also has Storm. Storm triggers when you cast this spell. When you cast a spell with Storm, copy it for each spell cast before it this turn. You can choose new targets if you’d like.
So now we just need an infinite supply of mana to loop cast a spell over and over. Or we need a huge amount of mana and lots of cards. There are two ways to make it happen in this deck, but my personal preference takes a bit of setup. This won’t be the only Storm deck I cover, but I love this one as a classic I used to run for Modern. Well, I ran the faster setup.
We’re going to run a lot of low-cost spells, and a few cards that are key to making this go.
How’s It Work?
Grapeshot again deals 1 damage each time it’s copied. Since it’s 1 damage, we’ll need to storm it at least 19 times. Since this deck has an infinite combo, that’s very easy to do. It will require us to likely be on turn 5 to get this set up. To set up this infinite combo, we need the following cards in play: Birgi, God of Storytelling, Hazoret’s Monument, and Grinning Ignus. We could do it without Hazoret, but I think it makes the job much easier. Our goal is to copy Grapeshot as many times as necessary (or not necessary – I’m not your dad) and then cast them to defeat someone in one shot.
So what do these tools all do? Hazoret’s Monument costs 3 mana and makes Red Creatures we cast cost 1 colorless less. Whenever you cast a creature spell, you may discard a card. If you do, draw a card. This helps us find Grapeshot if you don’t have it. You can discard a card you don’t need, to draw a card. Since we’ll be looping a creature spell, we will have the capacity to keep searching for the card we need. That’s part 1 of this combo.
Part 2, we need Birgi, God of Storytelling. They add 1 red mana to our mana pool whenever we cast a spell. Until the end of the turn, that mana doesn’t disappear as steps and phases end. This helps us keep an infinite pool of mana to get this going. The creatures you control can also Boast twice, but we aren’t going to be taking advantage of that. We don’t need it, to be honest. The final part of this combo is the new card, Grinning Ignus. A 2/2 for 3, now it costs 2 mana, and we receive 1 red mana as a result of casting it.
We can pay 1 red to return this to our hand, and add 3 mana (1 red). We recast the creature again, getting the 1 red mana we need, bounce it back to our hand over and over, until we have a Storm counter that we need to win. It’s important for you to keep track of what your opponent has, life-wise, any potential life-gain they have or could get, et cetera. It’s better if your opponent doesn’t have the mana to counter.
We just keep repeating these steps until it’s time to win the game. If we don’t have Grapeshot in hand, we can use the Hazoret’s to keep discarding and drawing, until we have the proper card. From there, we cast Grapeshot for 1 instead of 2, and blast the other player! So what’s the rest of the deck do?
Faithless Looting and other cards exist to draw/discard to get the cards we need. Faithless Looting is one of the Mystical Archives cards and is a 1-cost Sorcery. We draw 2 cards, then discard 2 cards. It also has Flashback (3 mana) so we can cast it from the grave, then exile it. Crash Through and Warlord’s Fury both let us draw a card. Magmatic Channeler can let us discard a card to exile two cards, and choose one to play this turn. Runaway Steam-Kin is here to be annoying, and to also add 3 red mana in a pinch if it has 3 +1/+1 counters on it.
4 Birgi, God of Storytelling
4 Crash Through
4 Faithless Looting
4 Frost Bite
4 Grinning Ignus
4 Hazoret’s Monument
4 Magmatic Channeler
4 Runaway Steam-Kin
20 Snow-Covered Mountain
4 Warlord’s Fury
The only thing that stops this deck is a deck that is faster. If our opponent can’t run our life total out by the time this combo is set up. We can cast our card draw spells to make sure Magmatic Channeler is a threat since it gains +3/+1 (making it a 4/4) if we have at least four instants and/or sorceries in our graveyard. That’s pretty easy to do when most of our spells cost 1 mana. Between it and Runaway Steam-Kin, we may be able to hold out. As soon as this combo is set up, make sure your opponent can’t counter it and just seal the game up. It’s a ridiculous, frustrating deck, and I’m so glad Grapeshot is back.
Izzet Phoenixes – Now With 75% More Discard (Blue/Red Aggro):
Oh boy, Phoenix decks! It also has Sprite Dragon in it, because we cast so many Instants/Sorceries, that it feels like a requirement. As far as Strixhaven/Mystic Archive cards in this deck, there are so many Mystic Archive cards here! It felt like a quarter of this historic deck came from Strixhaven’s Mystic Archives. Ultimately we’re looking to drop our Arclight Phoenix cards into the grave as fast as possible, so we can bring them back and swing for 3-12 damage in one go.
Sprite Dragon will hold people off and could be a victory condition all on its own. Since it gains +1/+1 each time you cast a noncreature spell, it’s going to inflate wildly, especially if we drop one turn 2. It’s not our only damage either, but we’ve got plenty of stuff to distract people/win with if we never see a Phoenix. That’s been my luck in several Phoenix decks – just really bad draws. We can’t discard them if they never show up!
Thanks to the low-mana cost of most of this deck, it’s going to be easy to cast lots of spells that draw cards, discard cards, and set up our Stormwing Entity/Sprite Dragons so they hit as hard as humanly possible. Who knows? You might win before the Phoenix Force comes back!
How’s It Work?
Arclight Phoenix is so annoying to play against. It has Flying/Haste and is a 3/2 for 4 mana. That’s already decent, but at the beginning of combat, if you’ve cast 3 or more Instant and/or Sorcery spells this turn, return Arclight Phoenix into play from the graveyard. It’s incredibly easy to just keep playing them again and again, short of exiling your phoenix cards.
We’ve also got Sprite Dragon as I said, which is a 1/1 Flying/Haste for 2, and whenever you cast a noncreature, it gains a +1/+1 counter. That’s our early game threat to distract the other player while we set up the Phoenixes. Finally, we’ve got a 5-drop 3/3 Flying/Prowess Stormwing Entity. It costs 3 less (1 blue) if you’ve cast an Instant or Sorcery this turn too! So now it’s a 2-drop! Technically 3, if you factor in the cost of the Instant/Sorcery. It has Prowess, so whenever you cast a noncreature spell, it gains +1/+1 until end of turn.
As you can see, we have a ton of potential damage. So now we just need the spells to play to make this all happen. In particular, we need Draw/Discard engines. Our opponent isn’t likely going to make us discard a Phoenix, since that makes it easier on us. That leads us to ask: What are our major discard engines?
Faithless Looting is a card we’ve already discussed and is a 1-cost Sorcery. Draw two cards, discard two cards, and has Flashback (3 mana) if we want to do it a second time! Strategic Planning costs 2 mana and is another Mystic Archive card. It lets us look at the top three cards of our library and put one in our hand. The others go into the graveyard. Finally, we also have Thrill of Possibility, which requires a discard in order to cast the 2-cost Instant. It also lets us draw two cards. What can we discard? It depends on the situation! We can drop direct damage cards, or the Ox of Agonas, which is better when Escaped anyway (2 red, exile 8 cards from the grave). It escapes with a +1/+1 counter (making it a 5/3), and when it comes into play, you discard your hand and draw three cards.
Our strategy is to get that Sprite Dragon out as soon as possible (turn 2 ideally), so we have something big to threaten the other player. Then, we manage carefully our card draw/discard options. We also have a few direct damage spells. Oh, right! Lightning Axe is another discard engine. A 1-cost Instant, we can discard a card or pay an additional 5 colorless. So what will we do? Discard, of course! It deals 5 damage to a target creature.
The timing for this deck comes in how you balance your mana/spells cast. Once you have one or two Arclight Phoenixes in the grave (bonus if you get all four), you have to manage your mana so you can afford three spells in one turn. Luckily, most of our spells cost 1 mana! Then it’s a matter of swinging with them and any other big creatures. We also have Finale of Promise, just in case. It is a 2 Red+X spell. You can cast up to one target instant card and/or up to one target sorcery card from your graveyard each with a converted mana cost of X or less. If you cast them this way, exile them. If you pay 10 or more, copy each of these twice.
We probably won’t need that, but it can be fun to use with cards like Shock, Lightning Axe, Pillar of Flame, or Faithless Looting. It’s just a convenient way to trigger your Phoenix retrieval with one card. If you have a 1 or 2-cost Instant and Sorcery in the grave, you could summon your Phoenixes again for ¾ mana! You don’t have to spend a ton of mana since none of our spells are expensive.
1 Ox of Agonas
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Steam Vents
4 Stormwing Entity
2 Lightning Axe
1 Finale of Promise
4 Faithless Looting
4 Arclight Phoenix
4 Strategic Planning
4 Sprite Dragon
3 Pillar of Flame
2 Thrill of Possibility
2 Fabled Passage
Ugh, Phoenixes. They make me so mad, but I respect how good they are. We can probably put even more Phoenixes in the deck I believe, but I like these. This allows us a nice wide berth of creatures versus spells. It’s successful and fast, and typically by turn 4 or 5, people are pleading for mercy from their fiery bird gods. It’s fast-acting, and if nothing else, you can use your Sprite Dragons to swing people down. By the time it’s a 12/12 flyer, it’s too late. They also exist as great distractions for your opponent’s removal. Izzet Phoenix isn’t going anywhere, but into my rotation of decks, to be honest.
Tendrils of Bolas (Black/Green Combo Deck):
Told you there would be another Storm deck! I didn’t to wait. This deck is focused on the spells Weather the Storm and Tendrils of Agony. These are a pair of Storm spells that were added via Strixhaven in MTG Arena, so Historic decks could use them. It also focuses on one of the other deck archetypes I really liked in Historic/Standard: Green/Black Bolas’s Citadel! It’s such a ridiculous way to put cards into play – using your own life total! It’s all about mana ramp, putting cheap things into play, and making sure we can reach the three cards we need.
Technically, we only need two of them, but Weather the Storm is a back-up, just in case things go awry. It’s a fantastic way to get life back and resume Bolas’s Citadel. It’s another deck that frankly, has a very simple setup and a very easy way to play. It’s not a deck where we play very aggressively, but our way to search for cards allows our opponent to get things too. Land drops, mana dorks, and Tendrils of Agony! So how does this deck work?
How’s It Work?
Instead, we want to trigger 10+ spells in one turn. Our key spell to victory is Tendrils of Agony, which is a 4-cost spell and it makes a player lose 2 life and grants us 2 life. Of course, it has Storm, so we just need to trigger it ten times to normally win. Thanks to Bolas’s Citadel, we just have to cast stuff off the top of our deck! The only downside is our land base. It can make this backfire. We can also cast spells from our hand if we have them.
That could be Explore, which draws a card and lets us play an additional land. We also have Wishclaw Talisman and Scheming Symmetry in essence let us shuffle our deck and get another go at it. Scheming Symmetry has two players each search their library for a card, and put that card on top of our deck (after shuffling again). This is excellent for us because if we’re ready to win, we can just plop Tendrils on top of our deck.
Wishclaw Talisman is a 2-cost artifact, and it has three Wish counters on it. For 1 colorless and tapping this, you can remove a wish counter, and search your library for a card. Put it in your hand, shuffle, and an opponent now gains control of Wishclaw Talisman. You can only activate the ability on your turn, so they can’t immediately fetch a useful card. This lets us shuffle, but also find a useful card. If we keep casting spells on Bola’s Citadel but aren’t getting a Tendrils, we can also cast Weather the Storm. It will give us 3 life for each spell we cast this turn.
Suddenly now we have a possible reset of our life total. Now you can resume just casting from Citadel until you win. Of course, the downside to this deck is that you could keep getting lands on top, which slows down the process. It can backfire, but it doesn’t all that often. It’s a deck that is incredibly satisfying to play. Our creature base all produce mana, in Llanowar Elves, Gilded Goose, and Tangled Florahedron, which can also be played as a land instead if we wish. That’s the deck! Play lands, play mana producers, get Bolas’s Citadel ASAP, and get ready for a Tendrils win.
4 Tangled Florahedron
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Wishclaw Talisman
4 Weather the Storm
4 Tendrils of Agony
4 Scheming Symmetry
3 Phyrexian Tower
4 Paradise Druid
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Gilded Goose
4 Darkbore Pathway
4 Bolas’s Citadel
2 Soul-Guide Lantern
2 Noxious Grasp
3 Binding the Old Gods
I like this deck because it’s frankly incredibly easy to run. The hardest part is making sure you do the math for Tendrils and don’t get messed about by lands on top of your deck. If you have to use another Tendrils later, that’s fine! The more life you have, the easier time you have of sticking it out to make sure the circumstances for victory come around again. What stops this deck dead in its tracks is getting rid of the Citadel, primarily. That or a spell that simply ends a turn. That would end your Storm counter nonsense immediately. All in all, it’s a great deck, and very satisfying to watch pop off.
Clever Lumimancer Makes Boros Interesting (White/Red Aggro):
If your opponent has no creatures to block with, it suddenly becomes significantly easier to win games. Who would have thought? This historic deck is a hoot because of the new Clever Lumimancer from Strixhaven, which gains +2/+2 until the end of the turn, each time you cast or copy an instant/sorcery spell. Now, I do wish this deck had some trample options, and I imagine we could probably sneak something in. Instead, we just wipe the board with low-cost, high-value spells/creatures. You’re going to see a lot of remarkably familiar cards here.
Why? Because lord knows, I’ve talked about Ghitu Lavarunner a bunch of times. It, Light Up the Stage, Skewer the Critics, et cetera, they’re all here! We’re going to zap people down, hopefully, drop plenty of -1/-1 counters on creatures, and make it suddenly much easier to just sweep in and claim victory. It’s a classic deck, but I just wish there were some other things I could add. Finding a way to untap Grim Lavamancer every turn would be rad, but I can’t think of a strategy to, off the top of my head. It’s just there as another option to win with, instead of hitting an empty board with a 20/20 or something Clever Lumimancer.
How’s It Work?
Clever Lumimancer is one of the cards I figured would be utilized in Boros decks one way or another. As a 1-cost Human Wizard, it may be a 0/1, but it can grow out of control each turn, depending on how many cards you have. Clever Lumimancer buffs itself by +2/+2 for each spell cast as I said. Cast or copied by us anyway. Soul-Scar Mage, Ghitu Lavarunner, Grim Lavamancer, and Bomat Courier are the only other non-lands in the deck, so it’s going to be easier.
So, we need mana, and we need a lot of cards. Light Up The Stage will help, and so will Bomat Courier in its own way. Bomat Courier is a 1/1 Haste, that, when it attacks, exiles the top card of your library face down. You can also pay 1 red, discard your hand and sacrifice this to put those exiled cards from Bomat Courier into their owner’s hands. Provided you can keep him alive and keep 1 mana open, it’s going to be valuable. The idea is that you empty your hand by casting spells, build a load of cards under him, and then sacrifice him to get those cards.
Then if you want, Lurrus of the Dream-Den can bring him back! Or any of our other creatures! Bomat Courier is great in the early game with lots of damage spells in hand. Ideally, we get a swing in with him, letting us pay Light Up The Stage or Skewer the Critics for 1 mana, instead of 3. You might remember these. Skewer deals 3 damage to any target, and Light Up The Stage exiles the top two of our deck, and we can play these until the end of our next turn.
A card that synergizes excellently with Soul-Scar Mage. It’s a ½ with Prowess (Whenever you cast a spell, this gains +1/+1 until the end of turn). On top of that, whenever a source you control would deal noncombat damage to a creature an opponent controls, put that many -1/-1 counters on instead. So when those creatures hit 0 toughness, they die! Look at all the direct damage spells we have in this deck:
- Pillar of Flame x4
- Shock x2
- Lightning Strike x3
- Lightning Helix x4
- Skewer the Critics x4
- Wizard’s Lightning x4
Look at all of that damage! We also have Grim Lavamancer. It can be tapped (and exile two cards from the grave) to deal 2 damage to any target. We can do this to the enemy player to whittle them down, or we can use all this damage to hammer away at our opponent’s creatures. Judge what they have, and utilize your damage spells accordingly. You can swing with that 0/1, and a full load of mana. Before someone blocks it, and we drop like 5 or 6 spells to eradicate them, hit the other player, and suddenly hit the other player for 10 damage thanks to Clever Lumimancer!
The -1/-1 counters means the creatures will die, deal no counter damage, and then we win! You can throw these spells before you declare attack too (which is what I’d likely do instead, to be honest). You buff the creature again and again, so the damage is definitely on the way. What do we have to worry about? Spot removal (creature removal). Lurrus of the Dream-Den can bring them back, but it slows us down badly.
Worst case, we just use our direct damage to kill the other player anyway! We definitely have enough spell damage to just beat the other player. The creatures can be a distraction, while we pillage the other player’s life total in a bath of fire. Our direct damage spells are mostly very familiar. Wizard’s Lightning deals 3 damage to a target and costs 2 less (1 red) if we control a Wizard. Lightning Helix is a 2-cost, and deals 3 damage and restores 3 life. Pillar of Flame is fun because if it kills a creature (2 damage), exile it instead of putting it into the grave. Lightning Strike also deals 3 damage to any target for 2 mana.
We can deal lots of damage really fast. With clever use of these spells, we can bombard someone or their board, and swing lethal with just a Clever Lumimancer. But our other creatures also help dealing damage. I wish there was room for Steam-Kin in here though, for the free mana. Zap someone down, and swing heavy with Clever Lumimancer!
1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
4 Sacred Foundry
3 Ramunap Ruins
1 Grim Lavamancer
4 Skewer the Critics
3 Lightning Strike
3 Bomat Courier
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Pillar of Flame
1 Clifftop Retreat
4 Light Up the Stage
4 Ghitu Lavarunner
4 Wizard’s Lightning
4 Clever Lumimancer
4 Soul-Scar Mage
4 Lightning Helix
4 Needleverge Pathway
1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Not as fun as a Feather deck, but this historic deck for me tests my ability judge when/how to use a spell thanks to new cards from Strixhaven. I like to use decks like this as a learning experience. Each match is different, and you don’t always have to destroy every creature. Sometimes, there’s something important (to them) but doesn’t harm your ability to win. Buff your creature with direct damage on the player, and force them to block with it. They either block or they lose. Then you just win the next turn! The downside is when you run out of cards. If we had more reliable card draw, that would help, perhaps.
5-Color Fun (White/Blue/Red/Green/Black Combo):
Any deck with Omniscience immediately gets my attention. Look, I don’t make the rules. We use a hefty dose of Mythic Archives cards here, including some we’ve already talked about: Faithless Looting and Brainstorm. We’re also running Mizzix’s Mastery and of course, Time Warp. Ready for more extra-turn nonsense? We haven’t covered that in quite a while, but I missed it. So here we go! Mizzix’s Mastery can let us cast all the Instants and Sorceries in my graveyard without paying their mana costs, if we pay the Overload cost.
This is a deck filled with ways to search for cards, keep cards, and put them in the graveyard. Our victory won’t be quick, but it will be memorable. Our damage will come from Scholar of the Lost Trove, as a 5/5 flyer. I do want to point out that this is not an Infinite Turn deck, but it could easily give us enough turns to get a victory. We’re running both Time Warp and Alrund’s Epiphany, but not a playset of each. Just two of each. It’s sure to frustrate players, that’s for sure.
Just what I look for in a control/combo deck.
How’s It Work?
Our end-goal is to defeat the other player via damage. In particular, we have the Scholar of the Lost Trove, which also has us able to play an instant, sorcery, or artifact card from the grave without paying its cost. If it is an Instant/Sorcery, exile it instead of putting it in the graveyard. It costs 7 mana though! This is such an expensive deck it seems!
To cast much of our deck, we want to drop Omniscience if at all possible. A few of our cards let us cast from the grave, but not Enchantments, sadly. So we don’t want to drop Omniscience in the grave. It’s not our game-winner, and we only have one of them. It is amazing to find though. If your opponent lets you have it through Emergent Ultimatum or something, it’s going to be great! Our end-game is going to be either winning with 1/1 Birds or Scholar of the Lost Trove.
Our early game is going to be set around Faithless Looting and Brainstorm, to try and pitch Emergent Ultimatum, Alrund’s Epiphany, and Time Warp in the grave. That way, we can cast them for free later. Thrilling Discovery, a new card from Strixhaven will also be key. It gives us two life, and then we can discard two cards. If we do, draw 3! So we can use the first two cards to draw and discard, and then discard more to draw more.
If you need, you also have access to Cathartic Reunion, which also has us discard 2 to draw 3. We also want to put our Scholar of the Lost Trove in the grave too, if we have access to Unburial Rites, or have it in the grave too. Now that we’ve got an abundance of useful Instants/Sorceries in the grave, we want to get ready for Mizzix’s Mastery. If we have more than one, we can cast one for its base cost, and hold the other for the big bomb.
Here’s what it does. Exile target card that’s an Instant or Sorcery from your graveyard. For each card exiled this way, copy it, and you may cast the copy without paying its mana cost. Exile Mizzix’s Mastery. You do have to exile what you copy, but you have so many draw/discard effects, it ought to be just fine. Normally it costs 4 mana, but it also has an Overload cost (8 mana – 3 red). If you pay Overload cost, you can replace all instances of “target” with “each”.
Now you can play all the Instants and Sorceries in your grave for free, and while you exile them and it, consider how powerful that can be. You can play it for its normal cost early, if you want to get a quick Emergent Ultimatum or Unburial Rites (return target creature from your grave to the battlefield), you can do that. You don’t really need the Overload cost, to be honest. We can drop it for 4 mana instead to keep getting extra turns.
Consider this also: Emergent Ultimatum. It is a 7-cost spell (that we can cast for free in our grave), and it has us pick three monocolored cards in our deck with different names and exile them. Our opponent picks one to go back into our library, and the others can be cast without paying their mana costs. This is a much better way to use our Time Warp. That way we can cast it, get an extra turn, then cast it again later for another extra turn. In theory you could get 2 or 4 extra turns in a row, to set up even more extra turns.
Emergent Ultimatum is also a great way to get your Omniscience. Make your opponent figure out what the worst-case scenario is, and hopefully you get that. When you get Omniscience, you can cast all your spells for free, and then use your options to re-cast from the grave for free anyway! However, it’s important to note that Omniscience doesn’t let you cast “alternate” costs for zero mana. So the Overload cost would still be paid with mana. Hence why we don’t really want to do it. We can cast Time Warp for 0, get an extra turn, Mizzix’s Mastery it to get another turn after it also for 0 mana.
We also have a copy of Final Parting to search for with Emergent. It lets us search our library for two cards, and put one into your hand, and the other into the grave. We can use this to fetch lands out of our deck if we want, so bear that in mind. The key to this deck is juggling your extra turns. If you can get a few Scholars in play, hopefully, your foe has no flying creatures. This deck archetype always felt a little complicated to me. You don’t want to blow your load early and pop all your spells.
You want to wait until the perfect moment, and hopefully, through your card draw, you’ll have enough lands to never miss a land drop. If your opponent starts to pull ahead, you can start using some of your Time Warp shenanigans to take extra turns, and get more land drops. That way, when it’s time, we can start casting them from our grave, for more turns to set up a game-winning bomb.
2 Inspiring Vantage
3 Sacred Foundry
4 Unburial Rites
2 Time Warp
4 Thrilling Discovery
1 Sublime Epiphany
2 Spirebluff Canal
4 Scholar of the Lost Trove
3 Steam Vents
2 Cathartic Reunion
4 Mizzix’s Mastery
1 Glasspool Mimic
1 Final Parting
4 Faithless Looting
4 Fabled Passage
4 Emergent Ultimatum
2 Alrund’s Epiphany
4 Raugrin Triome
I worry that this deck won’t survive an aggressive meta, but I like the concept too much to not discuss it. You could likely slot in other game-winning cards into this deck if you wanted. You could add major, powerful creatures, or other game-winning cards. Personally, I’m considering putting in Ascend of the Second Sun, with all the card draw we’ve got. You could cast it for free from your grave, put it back into your deck, and draw through your deck to get it early! It’s a beautiful thing to see pop off. While it’s not infinite turns, you can get enough of them to really punish someone, and just attack until you win.
Professor Onyx’s Class is In Session (Blue/Black Control Deck):
One of the deck archetypes I love the most is control – that’s nothing new. In particular, I enjoy Dimir/Esper. So when I saw Professor Onyx (who is totally not Liliana, honest), I knew I had to look back at what she could do. If we combine her power with Thief of Sanity and some other discard/theft cards, we can make the most uncomfortable, not-fun experience for the other player as humanly possible. Technically, this is a Grixis (Red/Black/Blue) deck, because Valki, God of Lies’ flip side is Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter. We also have access to red mana in the deck.
He’s very expensive to cast though and it’s not even a guarantee we’ll be able to set him up. He’s a lot of fun for this kind of deck though. Oh wait, there’s a card that makes us able to cast Tibalt for free! Release to the Wind is going to be very useful in this deck. From re-playing Professor Onyx if need be, or re-casting Gonti, Lord of Luxury, there’s lots to do. But the biggest play will be Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter. We’ll get to that soon enough.
The goal of this deck is to wear someone down with Thief of Sanity plays and use Professor Onyx’s ultimate to close things out. It’s frustrating, but that’s exactly what I love about it. Thief of Sanity deck never quite go away, and it’s a testament to how powerful the card is.
How’s It Work?
Professor Onyx (not Liliana) is my favorite way to close decks like this out. Simply having her in the game is a threat. We have a wide array of ways to keep her alive too. But what does she do to help us win? With 5 loyalty and a 6 cost, she’ll be a while in coming out. Her passive is Magecraft: Whenever you cast or copy an instant/sorcery spell, each opponent loses 2 life and you gain 2 life. That’s already incredible.
Remove an enemy? They lose 2 life. Board wipe? Same thing. Counterspell? Also a 2 point life loss. It’s so great. Her +1 has you lose 1 life, but you look at the top three cards of your deck. One of those goes into your hand, and the rest goes into your graveyard. Her -3 has each opponent sacrifice a creature with the greatest power that they control. But her -8, that’s the sugar that I like. Each opponent may discard a card. If they don’t, they lose 3 life. Repeat this six more times.
The opponent will almost assuredly lose if they can’t/don’t do all of these discards. 21 damage if they choose not to discard. So keeping her on board is so important. Thief of Sanity works great with this deck too. He’s a 2/2 Flyer for 3, and whenever it deals combat damage to a player, look at the top 3 of their deck and exile one face down. For as long as it’s exiled, you can cast this spell with any mana.
That’s a trend in this deck: Exiling cards and casting them. Gonti, Lord of Luxury does the same thing when he enters play for 4 mana. A ⅔ Deathtouch Aetherborn Rogue, when it enters play, you look at the top four cards of an opponent’s library. Exile one face down and the rest on the bottom of that library. You can look at and cast this card for as long as it’s exiled, using any mana to do so.
This isn’t even the only way we can steal cards! To set up another of our combos, the 2-cost Valki, God of Lies exists. When Valki enters play, each opponent reveals their hand. We exile a creature card they revealed this way until Valki leaves the battlefield. We can pay X (the card’s mana value) and Valki becomes a copy of that card (if we want). However, we want to have 3 mana (1 blue), and cast Release to the Wind. Preferably on our opponent’s turn. That way we have open mana for the next turn.
The way Modal Dual-Faced Cards work is if we remove them from play/return them to our hand, we can choose which side we cast. Now, cards that have a land on the other side, you can only cast the creature/spell side. These kinds, that have two cards that can be cast, we can pick the one we use. Ergo, we cast Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor for 0 mana. Release to the Wind as I said, exiles a nonland permanent, and the owner of it can cast it without paying its mana cost.
What does Tibalt do though? When it comes into play, we get an Emblem that reads “You may play cards exiled with Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter, and you may spend mana as though it were mana of any color to cast these spells.” All of its abilities exile cards!
His +2 (Base Loyalty 5) exiles the top card of each player’s library. His -3 Exiles a target artifact or creature. His -8 exiles all cards from all graveyards and grants 3 red mana. What a fantastic way to stop decks that rely on their graveyard. Through these cards, we can use our opponent’s cards to win before Professor Onyx even happens! A turn-3 Tibalt is terrifying.
The rest of the deck is all about slowing down our opponent. Extinction Event is a popular card, exiling creatures that cost either Even or Odd amounts, and we’re also using another new card: Baleful Mastery. It normally costs 4 mana, but we can choose to pay 2 mana instead. If we do, our opponent draws a card. Its actual effect exiles a target creature or planeswalker. If you have Thoughtseize, you can then look at their hand and remove a card (maybe the card they drew)!
Once you know what the opponent’s hand looks like, you can cast Necromentia. You pick a card other than a land. You can then search your opponent’s graveyard, hand, and library for any cards with that name and exile them. For each card exiled from your opponent’s hand that way, create a 2/2 black Zombie creature token. You can also use this if you simply know what deck they have (getting rid of Muxus, for example). In some cases, it’s enough to use this to beat someone if you get rid of their game-winning card.
We use another new card though in Go Blank. It’s a better version of Mind Rot. A 3-cost Sorcery, you make a player discard two cards, and then exile all cards from that player’s graveyard. We take our time, remove threats, counterspells, and get that turn-3 Tibalt. Between it, Gonti, Onyx and Thief of Sanity, our opponent is going to be overwhelmed by threats.
3 Thriving Moor
4 Clearwater Pathway
3 Castle Locthwain
2 Professor Onyx
2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
4 Baleful Mastery
3 Extinction Event
2 Release to the Wind
2 Blightstep Pathway
4 Thief of Sanity
4 Valki, God of Lies
3 Test of Talents
2 Vampire of the Dire Moon
2 Temple of Epiphany
2 Go Blank
If I had to pick one deck off this list, it would be this one. I purposely wanted to find a way to use Professor Onyx, as Discard is not-so-secretly my favorite way to beat players. If Wizards would only reprint Burning Inquiry and Pyromancer’s Ascension. . . This is a deck that makes players angry the longer it goes on. Constantly stealing your opponent’s threats is maddening (if you’re the victim). It might be hard to survive against seriously fast aggro decks, but I believe in this deck.
Only I Can Have Fun (Mono White Control/Jank):
I wanted to add this deck because it’s frankly absurd. With the return of Teferi’s Protection, I had some thoughts. What if we use that to completely obliterate our opponent’s board, and then swing lethal afterward? This is a sort of control/slowdown deck, but unlike the Blue/Black deck, this one’s far funnier. We’re going to combine Strict Proctor and Wandering Archaic to slow down the spells played, while also giving us potential cards from our opponent. Then we look at the Mystic Archives, for Gift of Estates and Teferi’s Protection. We also offer up Reidane, God of the Worthy to also slow down our foes.
However, my big move here is to cast Fall of the Thran and Ondu Inversion on the same turn, and completely wiping my opponent’s board. If we combine these with Soul-Guide Lantern, our opponent won’t even have the luxury of getting lands back! It will require casting things in the right order, but it won’t be too complex or annoying – except for your opponent. You just have to get to the point where it all pops off. This is one of those moments where Settle the Wreckage is actually a detriment to your opponent. They get a ton of lands out of their deck (for aggro decks), only for us to snatch them away.
This is a deck that aims to make people as angry as possible. What’s our win condition? Completely annihilating the board of our foe and casually swinging for damage until they give in. This is something we can do over and over if we really want to. I don’t know that this is going to be a world-beater, but if you’re looking someone to be frustrated, look no further.
How’s It Look?
Oh, Strict Proctor. It doesn’t halt everything, but it sure can make some people quite upset. It’s a ⅓ Flyer, and whenever a permanent enters the battlefield, and it would cause a triggered ability to trigger, counter that ability unless its controller pays 2 colorless mana. This doesn’t stop Wandering Archaic’s ability, because that only affects Instants and Sorceries.
If your opponent is using a variety of permanents that causes abilities to trigger, they’ll have to really manage their mana better. Your opponent running mill? They’re going to have to cough up way more mana if they want to mill us! This stacks with other Strict Proctors too! We pair this with a 5-drop Wandering Archaic. Any time our opponent casts an Instant or Sorcery, we can copy it, if they don’t pay 2 colorless. Hopefully this will lead to us doing things like mana ramping.
However, if our opponent starts hitting more lands than us, we have Gift of Estates. If our opponent for any reason has more lands than us, we can search our library for up to 3 Plains cards, reveal them, and put them into our hands. This will help us catch up on land drops. Ideally, against Aggro decks, we’ll be using Settle the Wreckage to stop big damage coming in. We want our opponent to have lots of lands.
We also stay in the game through Heliod’s Intervention. More than likely we’ll use it to gain double X life. Reidane, God of the Worthy is also here to be the Fun Police. Snow-covered Lands of our opponents enter play tapped, and noncreature spells our opponents cast with a CMC 4 or greater cost 2 more to cast. Between this and Wandering Archaic, it’s going to be a really bad time. We also have a pair of Blast Zones to help wipe the board of creatures. At the end of the day, we want a few Lotus Fields in play. It has Hexproof and comes into play tapped. However, we have to sacrifice two lands for it. We can tap it for 3 mana of any one color.
Once we have access to roughly 15 mana and the following cards in hand, we’re ready to get going:
- Teferi’s Protection
- Soul-Guide Lantern (not necessary but amazing)
- Fall of the Thran
- Ondu Inversion
You’ll want to tap all your mana before you begin casting. Hopefully, your opponent has no ability to counter. First, cast Teferi’s Protection. Until your next turn, your life total cant’ change, and you gain protection from everything. Phase out all permanents you control (they do not exist) until your next turn. Exile this spell. Next, we cast Fall of Thran. This Saga destroys all lands as its part 1. For 6 mana, this puts us at 9 mana spent. Our opponent no longer has lands.
At this point, you can cast Soul-Guide Lantern for 1, and we can sacrifice it to exile each opponent’s graveyard. No more lands can come back from it. However, we also cast Ondu Inversion next, and that destroys all nonland permanents. Now our opponent has no board. They start the entire game over. At the beginning of our next turn, we get all our cards back. Now we are free to swing at our opponent until we win.
That’s it! From there you just swing until you win. This essentially puts your opponent at the start of the game with any life they presently had. I love the concept of this so much.
2 Heliod’s Intervention
4 Cascading Cataracts
2 Blast Zone
4 Mazemind Tome
2 Ondu Inversion
4 Settle the Wreckage
4 Wandering Archaic
3 Gift of Estates
3 Fall of the Thran
4 Lotus Field
4 Strict Proctor
3 Teferi’s Protection
4 Castle Ardenvale
4 Reidane, God of the Worthy
4 Soul-Guide Lantern
Now, I won’t promise you’ll climb to Mythic with it, but I’d love to see it. This is more of a Jank deck, so it’s not going to be in the meta. But it’s a really fun concept, and I know there are players who are less concerned with tier-1 domination, and more winning with obnoxious, infuriating ways. That way, at least I’m not the only player that likes this kind of deck. For example, I also saw a Mono-Blue Phoenix deck built by someone, and I was really tempted to talk about it. Perhaps in an update!
Simic Ascendancy + Body of Research = Ridiculous (Blue/Green Combo):
If you can get 20 or more counters on Simic Ascendancy, on the beginning of your upkeep, you win the game! Normally this requires an absolute mountain of mana. You use creatures that grant mana, creatures that increase that mana and spam the +1/+1 counter ability on offer by Simic Ascendancy. But what if we could do that with just one spell? Thankfully, that’s now a possibility in Strixhaven! As a deck with no creatures, it might seem like a weird concept, but I love it.
With so many 2-cost spells, we have lots of ramp, for our turn or the other players. With enough lands in the early game, we could get this going down and securing a very early victory. We want to have that Simic Ascendancy ready before Body of Research though. If we cast the higher-cost one first, it will ruin the combo. But with card draw, a little removal, and a two-card combo, it shouldn’t be too hard to get this going.
Providing our opponent doesn’t have Enchantment removal, we could catch them completely by surprise and win. It doesn’t matter if the creature we make stays! All that matters is that Simic Ascendancy has counters. So what are we getting up to here?
How’s It Work?
Now, this is a very simple deck. We have three mana ramp cards. Explore is a Sorcery that draws a card and lets us play an additional land this turn. Growth Spiral does the same thing for the same Mana Value (but with GU instead of 1G), and it’s also an Instant. That means we can play it on our opponent’s turn to ramp even faster. Cultivate is the third, and lets us find two basic lands and put one into play tapped and the other into our hand. The first two let us put lands into play untapped. The chances are that we could get a second ramp spell on turn 3.
Our goal is to get 3 green and 3 blue mana as fast as possible, and to have Simic Ascendancy out. It’s a two-cost enchantment, and you can tap 3 (1 green, 1 blue) to put a +1/+1 counter on a creature we control. On top of that, whenever one or more +1/+1 counters drop on a creature you control, put that many growth counters on Simic Ascendancy. If you have 20 or more growth counters on this card at the beginning of your upkeep, you win the game.
Our only real creature is a companion, Kaheera, the Orphanguard. If things are going bad, you can pull it from your sideboard since it’s our companion. We do have some solid control options that are again, fairly cheap. Mystic Subdual is a 2-cost Flash Enchant, that gives a creature -2/-0 and they lose all abilities. Very useful to stop early aggression.
For creatures and tokens alike, Into the Roil bounces a nonland permanent to its owner’s hand, and if we pay the Kicker (2 mana), we also draw a card. Probably not going to do that unless it’s on our opponent’s turn and we have the mana spare somehow. We want to use the three ramp cards to get as much card draw and land drop as humanly possible. We also have Narset, Parter of Veils to look for noncreature, nonland cards, and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales to also seek out Body of Research if necessary. It’s our key to victory.
So, let’s talk Body of Victory. For 3 green, 3 blue, we can create a 0/0 Green/Blue Fractal creature token. We then put X +1/+1 counters on it, where X is the number of cards in our library. It’s a concept I want to use in bigger decks (with more spell searching), but this is probably the fastest and easiest way to utilize it. We mana ramp, get Simic Ascendancy into play, cast Body of Research, and wait for our turn! It feels like a race against time too.
Against hyper-aggro decks it might feel frustrating, but the better we mana ramp, the fastest this can all kick-off. Ideally, I have a few lands in hand, some mana ramp (Explore/Growth Spiral), and we’ll pull into the other cards we need. If we can start with at least Simic Ascendancy or Body of Research in hand, that’d be dandy too. That’s not always going to happen, but boy is it a fun deck!
1 Kaheera, the Orphanguard
4 Into the Roil
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
4 Fabled Passage
4 Hinterland Harbor
4 Mystic Subdual
4 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
4 Growth Spiral
3 Simic Ascendancy
4 Breeding Pool
4 Barkchannel Pathway
3 Body of Research
1 Kaheera, the Orphanguard
I’m a sucker for weird decks like this, and as soon as I saw Body of Research, I began plotting. Sure, it’s great in a control deck if we can give it Haste, and have a gigantic library. We could use this in a lot of ways, but if it means we can just. . . win the game with it? Even better! The only downside is a deck with Enchantment removal or so much damage, we can’t even fight back. It’s going to happen. But if it’s a deck that’s the same speed (or slower), we’re more than likely just going to ramp and then win.