Amonkhet Remastered viable in Historic?
Historic is quickly becoming a premier format on MTG: Arena, and for good reason. Wizards of the Coast continues to use MTGA as formats for their Arena Opens and even will use it as a format for PTs in the future; this is coupled with the idea of MTG: Arena being an Esports platform and the client of the future for Magic: the Gathering. With the addition of historic, and more formats and additions coming, I have gone all in on Arena and Magic as a whole.
Speaking of which, who am I you ask? My name is John Ramos III, and JohnRamosMTG on twitter (@Azraelthegreat1) and twitch (/johnramosmtg). I have been playing Magic off and on since The Dark, and Arena has brought me back. I primarily play Standard, but Historic has quickly become my favorite format, and in my opinion also the best format currently today.
This article focuses on historic but specifically the new set releasing Thursday 13 August 2020: Amonkhet Remastered. Remastered sets started on Magic: The Gathering Online (MTGO) to get format staple cards into the online client to have a replication of those formats from people to the client. We are now seeing this same process being used on Arena. You can read about how the set is allocated and much more here.
We are going to discuss the cards we know are good, the cards that are traps, and sleepers that might make an impact given the right metagame; all with lists coming with them to start, because why not right? First up, is what cards we all know are good from Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation. (Note: the spoiler has not officially been shown, but the staples are obvious so we will work with those specifics. Here is what are in both sets: Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation).
Cards that We All Know are Good.
1) I am going to cheat on the first part of the list because in Amonkhet standard, all of these cards were basically good and that is the red cards: Hazoret The Fervent, Soul-Scar Mage, Earthshaker Khenra, and Ramunap Ruins. The reason I feel these red cards will probably have the biggest impact on historic is given how powerful they were in the standard before, and Ramunap Ruins was banned due to how much reach it gave the red decks for free. Now throw those cards in with Embercleave, Lightning Strike, the other powerful red cards and you have probably a tier 1 historic deck with flexible options given a meta. Note: Abrade also, but since this does not hit any target, Abrade is probably relegated to the sideboard. For a sample Hazoret Red list, check it out here.
2) Dread Wanderer/Lord of the Accursed – Zombies was an archetype and even placed and won some major events during its time in standard. With the Historic format’s bigger card pool, there are more zombies that we can use. The major problem with this archetype in historic specifically (which were also issues in standard) is not having a decent 2 drop outside of Graveyard Marshall, plus the 3-drop spot is really clogged. Even so, being able to have recursive threats that are also cheap and efficient always see high level play, zombies look to be a staple in the historic format.
3) Hour of Promise/Approach of the Second Sun – With all the good ramp cards like Growth Spiral, Explore, and Uro/Golos, ramp gets another staple in Hour of Promise and Approach. I keep grouping cards because they go so well together. Hour of Promise allows for you to get any 2 lands, which you mostly get any land and Field of the Dead. Your end game is two-fold, you use Field to gain board control and use Approach to end the game (also gaining enough life to stay alive, but most decks have enough reach to make this negligible). The ramp decks essentially get another tool and end game piece to become more efficient. Note, if Golos, Tireless Pilgrim is in your deck you also get access to Cascading Cataracts and you do not have to stretch your mana base to accommodate Golos.
4) The Scarab God – Also known as The Scoop God in Standard, The Scarab God was the ultimate midrange and control finisher. Reanimating into 4/4 zombie creatures from any graveyard was a big reason why The Scarab God was so good; not to mention being a recursive threat unless exiled was another big reason. The Scarab God can be way to fight against Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath as well, by reanimating it from the opponent, gain some life, play a land, but more importantly Uro gets exiled from the opponent’s graveyard and therefore cannot be used anymore. The reason I put The Scarab God on the lowest part of the list is because The Scarab God does not do much when he enters the battlefield. Much like other mythic 5CMC permanents that do nothing when the enter the battlefield in an older format is a big deal. Not very many decks can afford to take a turn off on turn 4 or 5 to play a creature that does virtually nothing until your next turn. Time will tell if The Scarab God is good enough by sheer power alone to do anything in the Historic format.
Cards that are Traps
1) God-Pharaoh’s Gift (GPG) – This card is listed first as those who remember GPG in Standard was a real staple. However, this was because of the card Refurbish which reanimated GPG from the graveyard. Refurbish is not in Historic yet, so while Gate to the Afterlife is in the format, there is no way to cheat GPG onto the battlefield. Players will try to use anyway possible to play GPG but given the format that GPG is coming into one is going to have to way on Refurbish to enter the format before GPG makes any significant impact.
2) As Foretold – Everyone who plays in older formats knows how powerful As Foretold is and what it does. However, there are no powerful spells at zero like there is in the Modern format like Ancestral Vision, Restore Balance, and Crashing Footfalls. As Foretold, though powerful, you would have to take multiple turns off to gain any sort of value and this is just not possible in Historic.
3) Cycle Lands – I am cheating, yet again, in grouping cards (though I did it in the top section mostly) together, but I feel the cycle lands are not as good as most people feel. The biggest weakness, like the triomes, on the cycle lands is they enter the battlefield tapped, which is a big deal. They are a trap more for them entering the battlefield tapped, as they would more likely replace the Temples than any other land. While the cycle lands pair well with the check lands from Dominaria and M20, you are only going to supplement your land count with the cycle lands to add incidental land types for the check lands, than say jam all 4 copies in your deck.
Cards that are Sleepers
1) New Perspectives – This card is interesting to think about given the addition card pool available with the Ikoria set adding more cards that cycle into the format. New Perspectives was a combo deck using cyclers, Shadow of the Grave, and Approach of the Second Sun to cycle through your entire deck for zero with New Perspectives then cast Approach multiple times in one turn. The way you generated enough mana was to use Vizier of Tumbling Sands to untap a land enchanted by Gift of Paradise and cast Shadow of the Grave to keep refilling your hand with cyclers to generate more mana with Vizier and finding Approach after casting it. Look for New Perspectives to be tried in the Historic format
2) Torment of Hailfire – Torment was not really a big force in standard for the most part, and most would ask well why is this on the list? Most of the cards that were in a deck where it was playable: Mastermind’s Acquisition, The Mirari conjecture, and many other pieces. Ali Aintrazi was a big proponent of creating and making the deck popular (the standard list is here). The one notable omission which may cause a problem is Fatal Push. One of the reasons black based decks, especially control decks, are not played a lot more is because of Fatal Push not being in the format. However, the power of Torment of Hailfire and other cards already in the format might push it to the top, we will have to wait and see.
3) Hollow One – I put this card on my list because of one card: Cathartic Reunion. In standard, Hollow One did not do much. However, with a bigger card pool with cyclers, more ways to discard, and better mana it is possible to have some form of a Hollow One deck floating around. One idea I had was pairing it with Arclight Phoenix, Cathartic Reunion, and Tormenting Voice to give us a Mono Red Phoenix type build. Not having Burning Inquiry or a Faithless Looting type card might relegate this type of deck to the coffers until we get more cards into the format.
What do you think are some cards that could make an impact? What card(s) did I miss? If you have any suggestions, leave a comment below and tell us what you feel might make a significant impact on Historic!