Historically Accurate - Arena Open Historic
Hello all! Welcome to this week’s edition of Historically Accurate. This week I was intending on writing about Amonkhet Remastered and some predictions for what makes it into the set, as well as some awesome deck lists to be on the lookout for, but with the lack of time to make the deck lists, and the Historic Open happening this weekend, I figured talking through preparing for the event and the different deck styles and whether or not they would be good for Day 1 of the event is a more relevant topic. This is going to be a long one, so strap in and let’s get into it!
Let’s talk about the Arena open to start off. The dates for the event are August 1st and 2nd. The Arena Open is a 2-day tournament that is held in the Arena Client. The format varies, with this upcoming one being Historic. Day 1 is Best of 1 Constructed, and Day 2 is Best of 3 Constructed. For Day 1, which is what we’ll be talking about today, you can enter as many times as you like, costs either 20,000 gold or 4000 gems. The name of the game for Day 1 is to get 7 wins in 9 matches total. If you get 3 loses, you’re out and you have to start over again. If you get your 7 wins, You’ll qualify for Day 2, in which you need to get 7 wins out of 8 matches, as 2 loses means you’re done. There’s no re-entering for Day 2 so you’ll need to bring your best deck to compete.
For Day 1 Prize Support, if you qualify for Day 2, you get half of your gems back (2000 Gems), and the amount goes down from there. Where the Big support comes in is on Day 2, Where you get 7 wins, you make a cool $2000 and are eligible to participate in the Zendikar Rising Qualifier Weekend. For 6 wins, you get $1000, and Zendikar Rising Qualifier Eligibility. For 5 Wins, you get 20,000 Gems ($100), and Zendikar Rising Qualifier Eligibility. Going down from there you get gems in decreasing amounts. To break even on the event, you need to make Day 2 and get 2 wins, anything past that is profit.
With that general info out of the way, let’s talk about the deck types that exist in magic. I’m not talking about specific archetypes, like Mono Red, or Jeskai Control. When I say Deck Types, I mean Aggro, Midrange, Control, and Combo. Each of these deck types has their own strengths and weaknesses, but each deck has certain benefits to being played in an event like the Arena Open, for Day 1 at least. We’ll go over each of the deck types, whether or not they are worth playing in the Best of 1 portion of the open, and a deck list for each type.
Let’s start with everyone’s “favorite” deck style, Aggro. The goal is to go fast, and deal damage before your opponent has much chance to do anything. Usually these decks are light on interaction, as they want to commit to the board mostly, and the only removal or interaction that they have is enough to deal with small blockers to push their threats through. As for whether this is a deck type you want to consider for the Open, I would highly recommend it. Generally, in Best of 1, you want something that can get a lot of games in very quickly and with a high degree of consistency. Good Aggro lists are generally tuned to be exactly that, and so in a tournament structure like this where you need to accrue 7 wins in 9 matches, this is a great way to go. A couple of aggro decks that you could consider to play would be Mono Red, or Deathwhirler.
Here's a sample Mono Red List. While this has a Sideboard, this is a solid shell for the archetype.
Here's a list for Deathwhirler as well, and not the Goblins version. This is also Aggro, but has some nice tools to deal with different types of decks. This is a list from @RUD_MTG on Twitter, who has been piloting this list on the Best of 1 Ranked ladder and has a killer win rate with it!
Looking at the list here, you'll see some similarities, but definitely a good amount of differences. The deck is meant to get some early threats on the board and start beating in, but also packs some interesting tools that allow for us to combat a lot of other Best of 1 Meta decks. The "Death" in Deathwhirler comes from the combo of Call of the Death-Dweller, and Goblin Chainwhirler. If you reanimate the Chainwhirler with Call, you wipe your opponent's board, due to the AoE being all deathtouch damage. I've been testing out this deck on the ladder, and while it's a little more involved that the regular mono red, it's still really solid and super fun to play. A few other lists that are worth looking at, but we won't have lists for here are Gruul Aggro, Mono White and Mono Blue Tempo. Mono Blue does break the mold a bit, but they're a creature deck that's using flash to stick threats and counter magic to protect those threats. Mono White has been a deck that's been very popular, as it has a great match up against Temur Reclamation, which has become a real contender in the Best of 3 meta.
Next up on the list we have Midrange Decks. The goal here is to stick some threats on turns 3-6, and use the value of those cards, whether it be a great ETB effect, or an above the curve stat line, to push yourself into an advantageous position. For the purposes of this, I'll lump Ramp strategies into this segment, and I think that if you're looking to do something midrange, ramp is going to be the way to go. The premier Midrange deck at the moment is going to be Bant Field.
The deck looks to ramp and abuse Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, and Field of the Dead to generate an absurd amount of zombies on the board, and quickly casts an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. This list also has a sideboard, but I don't think you'd change anything in the main for Best of 1. I've also been testing this out, and the deck feels incredible. I'm a bit biased because I love Golos and Field, but the deck has some insane draws, and can hold its own against a wide aggro strategy. For the Open, I think that this is a better Day 2 deck. There are a LOT of lands in this deck, and it can very quickly get ran over on even some solid draws.
The other deck that I'd put in here, and I think is also VERY strong is Rakdos Sacrifice. It's a very consistent and can grind out a lot of decks. It does take some skill to pilot, and if you've played the standard version of the deck to success, I'd highly recommend this deck as you can translate this both to day 1 and day 2.
Our third deck type is Control. The game plan is to use a lot of removal and counter magic to control the ebb and flow of the game, and stick your late game threats to the board when your opponent is out of gas. Right now there aren't many control decks floating around in the Historic Meta that have put up some results in events. The ones that have are accounting for Best of 3 so they do make some concessions in the main deck for Game 1. A couple of lists that come to mind that have done well are Jeskai Control, and Chromatic Black.
I've been testing out the Jeskai Control deck listed here, and I've loved it. I'm also biased towards Jeskai control, but with the removal suite that you get in Jeskai, it's hard to go wrong. The deck can deal with the aggressive match up reasonably well, with 4 Deafening Clarion, 3 Shatter the Sky and 2 Settle the Wreckage in the Main. Dream Trawler is a great way to stabilize life, and the abundance of planeswalkers generates you so much value. There's not much to dislike here. I did see a version of Jeskai that was playing Karn, the Great Creator, and an artifact wish board that was tailored for Best of 1, but I cannot find it currently. If I do find it this week, I'll update the article with the list, so make sure to check back.
As for Chromatic Black, this deck is the really strange hodge podge of removal spells, and looks to try to play Chromatic Lantern or Chromatic Orrery, and then use Mastermind's Acquisition to get some silver bullets out of its wish board, or cash in and cast Ugin. I've played this deck a bit, and I personally haven't had much success with it, but this archetype has done well in the past and has done well in couple of Historic events. As for the Open, I think that I'd play this style over Midrange personally, and this can transition very well to Day 2. Combo
Lastly, we have Combo. Combo is one of these deck archetypes that can catch you off guard if you're not ready for it, and it encompasses the 2 of the 3 previous styles, as was as being its own style. There are decks currently for each of those subtypes, so we'll cover what you'll see in the open.
This is just as it sounds, this is a combo deck that can play the aggro game, and also combo kill you. The combo here is Muxus, Goblin Grandee, Krenko, Mob Boss and any haste enabler. Muxus on her own is actually insane, putting a bunch of goblins in play for free, but when you combo that with Krenko, and a haste enabler, you generate a LOT of power very quickly. Not to mention you have potential to hit a lot Ringleader or Matron, and along with Skirk Prospector, you can play more and more goblins. The list has been fairly consistent as of late so here's that list.
This is a very resilient list as well, as I mentioned, it can play the aggro game very well too. Depending on the match up, it does take a little bit more restraint to not over commit to the board and play into a sweeper, because you're just dead from that point, but the deck can play through some pieces of hate, such as Grafdigger's Cage, just by not playing Muxus. I'd say that this is a high tier pick for the Open, as it can steal games very easily, and since it's Best of 1, your opponent will not know exactly what to mulligan for, so you have a good chance of sneaking out a win. This deck is very popular at the moment, so you may face some main deck hate from some random fringe control deck. The other deck that may show up here is Elves. It does a very similar thing, build a board of elves, and eventually resolve a Finale of Devastaion to get a Craterhoof Behemoth and end the game. The deck hasn't gotten its legs in the format, as there's better decks out there, and the deck being all creatures, and no real way to cheat out as bunch into play makes it very frail. I wouldn't advise playing Elves, as there's also a better Craterhoof Deck, which we'll talk about shortly.
As it sounds, this is a combo deck that looks to control the game state, and combo off when you have little to no resources. The premier deck of choice here is Temur Reclamation.. Surprise surprise. The list changes very little from the Standard version, with the biggest changes being the addition of Explore and Magmaquake as a really nice way of dealing with creatures and planeswalkers. The mana also gets better. This is being heralded as one of the best decks in the format, and it will be a strong contender here. Here's the list that went 6-0 in the MTG Arena Zone Historic Open a few days ago.
This deck is set to control the game through counter magic and removal, while ramping to enough mana to abuse Wilderness Reclamation, and cast a big Expansion // Explosion and kill you in 1 shot. They have great amounts of consistency as well with cards like Uro, and Castle Vantress. If you can pilot this deck, I'd say this is probably the deck to play. Combo Combo
This is a deck where the entire deck is build around a combo of cards, and generally will win the game in 1 turn. There are a couple of decks out there that fit this mold. First off we have Kethis Combo, which abuses Kethis, the Hidden Hand, Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Diligent Excavator to loop Mox Amber and mill your deck over, ultimately winning the game with Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.
This deck does require some skill to be able to loop this properly, but its not too bad. It's very consistent and takes 1 big turn with very low chances to fizzle out. There is another deck that's very similar to this is Underworld Breach combo, which was a very powerful deck in Historic a little while ago. The lines are very similar here, but you need 2 excavators, to loop this combo, but you win with the same condition
This version i think is a bit more fragile but is also if you can assemble the combo, you cannot fizzle, as 2 excavators mills over more cards than you need to escape Mox Amber with Underworld Breach. This deck does unfortunately fold to graveyard removal, so cards like Bojuka Bog, Soul-Guide Lantern or Leyline of the Void, and also Grafdigger's Cage.
The last deck that fits here (but also could be considered Aggro Combo) is one that I talked about in my previous article, Week 1 Jumpstart Historic - Lukka's Return. This is the Boros Lukka Tokens deck that looks to make some tokens, and use Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast or Transmogrify to turn one of those tokens into a Cratherhoof Behemoth, and end the game on the spot most likely. This list is VERY powerful, and while it can play aggro, you're ideally looking to combo off and get the game over quickly. You can view a couple versions of that deck in the article.
There has been another deck very similar to this one that was made since, and it goes into Gruul instead of Boros. This is a deck found on MTG Goldfish for their Much Abrew Series for this week. The deck operates in a similar fashion to the Boros deck, in that it makes tokens and uses Lukka or Transmogrify to turn one into a Hoof and win. The benefits to being in green is that you get Saporling Migration, and can also Cast Cratherhoof from your hand if you need to. Its not probable to happen, but you could do it. The Biggest benefit comes out of the sideboard, in Wilt, which is a nice way to deal with Grafdigger's Cage, which hoses this deck, and can cycle to get new cards it it's not relevant at the time. You can find that list on their article and accompanying video part.
As for the Open, I really like where combo is at in the format. The ability to end the game very quickly and in 1 shot can allow you to get those wins in.
Whew, that was a long one. If you've made it here through the read, Thank you so much for reading everything, and I hope that it was helpful. If you skipped to the end here's the TLDR for each of the deck types for the Open for Day 1.
Aggro: Highly Recommended
Midrange: Sac is the best deck to play in this style
Control: Would recommend Jeskai Control, potentially with Karn the Great Creator
Combo: Goblins is the Aggro Combo deck of choice, but may be hated. For Control Combo, Temur Rec is insane still and would highly recommend if you're confident in piloting the deck. As for the Straight up Combo decks, I think that the Lukka decks are the way to go, while Kethis is VERY good, I think that the Lukka decks can play a different game without their combo, while the Kethis decks get completely shut out by graveyard removal.
As for what I'll be playing for Day 1, I'm thinking about playing RUD's Mono Red deck, Lukka tokens (unsure which version yet), or potentially making one of those random fringe esper control decks that looks to abuse the faster meta. I had some success with Esper control in the last for the open when Winota and Rakdos Sac were the meta for standard, with main deck Leyline of the Void, Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, Ashiok, Dream Render, Grafdigger's Cage, and a suite of early game removal. It may be time for that deck to make a return.
Anyways, thanks for reading! Be sure to stay tuned for more articles this week, and Episode 2 of the Tin Street Journal Podcast this Sunday on your Youtube Channel!