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A Historic Year—Then and Now

November 25, 2020
Mani Davoudi

November 21, 2020 marked the one-year anniversary of Historic's launch on MTG Arena. It was a year that saw multiple product releases, several suspensions and bans, plus the format's debut at pro-level play. Today I'm going to delve into a brief history of the format and how it evolved to its current state, followed by looking at what Kaladesh Remastered brings to the table and what it could mean for Historic at the upcoming Zendikar Rising Championship.

The Early Days

In the beginning, Historic was what many people expected it to be—a "Standard Plus" format that looked much like the Standard that just rotated away before Throne of Eldraine. The plan to build a new format and give it a unique identity involved rolling out supplemental products and remastered versions of old sets, beginning with Historic Anthology 1 that launched alongside the format. While some cards from this initial batch, such as Burning-Tree Emissary and Mind Stone, immediately found homes in existing decks it was not enough to influence the competitive metagame in a meaningful way.

Burning-Tree Emissary Mind Stone

Freshly rotated Standard decks like Azorius and Esper Control, Gruul Aggro, Nexus of Fate Combo, and Kethis, the Hidden Hand Combo quickly rose to the top of the Ranked Historic Queue alongside Throne of Eldraine newcomer Jund Food, which evolved similarly into Jund Sacrifice. Despite the familiar faces, the first Ranked Historic season was a success; between providing a second ranked Constructed queue option and culminating in the high stakes Historic Challenge, there was a lot to love for players.

Unfortunately, January 2020 brought the release of Theros Beyond Death and an "offseason" of sorts for Historic: no ranked queue and no tournaments for two months meant many competitive players set the format aside at the time.

When Historic returned to play options in March 2020, it was to more of the same. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath made quite an entrance by making its presence felt in both the Nexus of Fate and Kethis Combo decks, and Historic Anthology 2 provided new tools to the control decks, but the competitive metagame had not changed overall. The return of Field of the Dead after a brief stint on the Suspended list—a temporary ban on cards to see how Historic changes without the card before truly banning a card—was uneventful as the overall speed of the format was too fast for Field decks to play a significant role.

Players continued to love Historic, but once again rotated out of play options when Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths arrived. Competitive Historic was settling into on-off cycle centered around new set releases, and each iteration left players asking for more. Fortunately, they did not have to wait long.

In May, the Historic Ranked Queue returned as a permanent play choice on MTG Arena. This news came alongside the announcement that the format for the upcoming 2020 Mythic Invitational would be Historic. The combination of these two things ignited Historic's rise to mainstream popularity in what would be a three-act summer.

The Summer of Historic

Post-Ikoria Historic was a close reflection of Standard at the time, with Yorion, Sky Nomad-meets-Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast and Fires of Invention plus Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks dominating the format for a brief period, alongside an extremely powerful Winota, Joiner of Forces deck.

Yorion, Sky Nomad Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast Fires of Invention Lurrus of the Dream-Den Winota, Joiner of Forces

In June, the first act of the summer arrived in the form of the companion mechanic rules change—weakening, but not eliminating those strategies—alongside suspensions for Agent of Treachery, Fires of Invention, and Winota, Joiner of Forces. This returned the metagame to a more stable form as Historic Anthology 3 introducing new decks like Simic Ramp using Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as a win condition and Mono-Black Aggro with Phyrexian Obliterator to the mix.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger Phyrexian Obliterator

The second act began in mid-July, kicked off with the banning of Nexus of Fate and suspension of Burning-Tree Emissary, the first suspension of a card released exclusively for Historic. These changes were in preparation for the release of Jumpstart, a huge influx of new cards to the format, and the announcement of the Historic Arena Open–the first opportunity for every player to win cash prizes by playing Historic.

Historic in the wake of this second act was entirely different. Jumpstart created new archetypes such as Mono-Red Goblins, Azorius Auras, Mono-Green Elves, and Burn, while Phyrexian Tower was a massive spike in power for the existing sacrifice strategies. However, despite the Muxus, Goblin Grandee-powered Goblins being the early contention, the "new" deck that emerged on top was a more powerful take on Standard powerhouse Temur Wilderness Reclamation. Featuring various builds both with and without Field of the Dead, Historic Temur Reclamation took advantage of the absence of the cards previously keeping it in check (Nexus of Fate/Burning-Tree Emissary) alongside new tools like Explore and Magmaquake to rise to the top of both the Ranked Ladder and the Arena Open.

Wilderness Reclamation Field of the Dead Explore Magmaquake

The third act began the day after August's Arena Open with the suspension of Wilderness Reclamation and Teferi, Time Raveler. This paved the way for the release of Amonkhet Remastered, and with it the card Hour of Promise. Field of the Dead had been relatively quiet since it was reintroduced to Historic in March, and while many builds of Temur Reclamation had used it as an alternate win condition it was not an essential part of that game plan.

That changed with Amonkhet Remastered, and it took one week of Hour of Promise being legal to prove Field of the Dead was once again going to be a problem for the format. A quick and well-earned ban put an end to the Zombie creature token apocalypse, the final curtain call on an eventful summer saw Historic finish its transition from "Standard-Plus" to its own unique format, setting the stage for its professional play debut.

The Mythic Invitational and the Grand Finals

In September, Historic made its way to the biggest stage in four incredible days of competitive Magic. The 2020 Mythic Invitational field was an accurate representation of the metagame at the time, with Goblins leading the way followed closely by Sultai Midrange and Jund Sacrifice. Amonkhet Remastered made its presence known with the addition of Thoughtseize and Collected Company to the format, and even enabled new archetypes like Mono-Black God Pharaoh's Gift and Rakdos Arcanist. Historic was in a good place and the games were fun, both to watch and to play.

Thoughtseize Collected Company God-Pharaoh's Gift Collected Company Dreadhorde Arcanist

The format continued to evolve with the release of Zendikar Rising, seen at the 2020 Season Grand Finals. The dream team of Omnath, Locus of Creation and Lotus Cobra took over the format with Four-Color Omnath Ramp decks, which also featuring newcomer Yasharn, Implacable Earth. The new legendary creature was a powerful tool against both Goblins and Jund Sacrifice, justifying a splash for it even in the previously Sultai Midrange decks. Zendikar Rising also introduced a new combo deck to the format in Neostorm, using the power of Sea Gate Stormcaller alongside Neoform.

Omnath, Locus of Creation Lotus Cobra Yasharn, Implacable Earth Sea Gate Stormcaller Neoform

The event made one thing clear: Omnath was too good to ignore. In the final ban announcement before the Zendikar Rising Championship, Omnath was suspended and Burning-Tree Emissary returned from the list to the format.

Now: Kaladesh Remastered

Historic's evolution through the year brought us to today and the release of Kaladesh Remastered. Combining two of the most iconic and powerful expansions of the last five years promises to have a lasting effect, with upgrades to existing archetypes and the creation of new ones. Looking ahead, these are the new cards and decks we can expect to find a home in Historic:

Sram, Senior Edificer

Sram, Senior Edificer is a big addition to the existing Auras archetypes. Giving the deck a secondary engine card to reduce its dependence on Kor Spiritdancer goes a long way towards increasing its consistency and win rate. Sram already made an appearance in decks like Orzhov Auras:


Refurbish was a missing piece of the puzzle that enabled the God-Pharaoh's Gift archetype when it was a deck in Standard. Now Historic has a way to cheat out the powerful seven-mana artifact without Gate to the Afterlife, meaning the deck can forgo playing too many small creatures and instead focus on draw spells that fuel your graveyard. Here is an early build:

Torrential Gearhulk

The powerhouse control finisher Torrential Gearhulk is already creating buzz in for Historic. An instant-speed threat that interacts with your opponent is great, but it's the combo with Commit // Memory and Narset, Parter of Veils that really pushes the potential of Torrential Gearhulk over the top.

Torrential Gearhulk Commit // Memory Narset, Parter of Veils

Narset prevents opponents from drawing extra cards. Torrential Gearhulk can target Commit // Memory in your graveyard since Commit is eligible. The rules, however, allow you to choose casting the Memory side which, with Narset out, leads to emptying your opponent's hand as you refill to a full seven cards—exactly the scenario a control deck wants to be in.

Check out a sample list of Dimir Control from Grzegorz Kowalski:

Fatal Push

Fatal Push is one of the most efficient removal spells of all time, allowing black-based decks to keep decks with small creatures in check at instant speed while developing their normal game plan. The presence of Fatal Push must be taken into consideration for Historic deckbuilding going forward.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a powerful card for any red strategy, giving you card advantage, ramp, and even removal when you need it as well as an ultimate ability that will quickly end the game. I expect Chandra to start seeing play in Goblins and decks like Gruul Aggro, Jund Sacrifice, and may inspire the return of a Jeskai or Grixis Control deck.

Winding Constrictor

Similar to Sram for Auras, Winding Constrictor gives +1/+1 counter strategies access to four "additional"
copies of Conclave Mentor. The added consistency from having twice as many copies of cards that enable your best starts goes a long way towards making the deck viable. Andrea Mengucci's build of Abzan Counters is one approach to building the deck:

Aetherworks Marvel

When Aetherworks Marvel arrived it broke Standard. An effect this powerful is one that must not be taken lightly, and the ability to quickly cast cards like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is exciting. That said, Historic is already a very powerful format and it's possible Marvel will not be able to find a viable home here.

Bomat Courier

Aggressive red decks are always looking for good one drops, and Bomat Courier is an excellent one. The ability to quickly empty your hand—if you even have any cards left—and refill it using your first-turn play goes a long way in giving decks like Burn the reach they need to close out games. Take a look at Grzegorz Kowalski's build of Mono-Red Wizards:

Scrapheap Scrounger

A two-mana 3/2 is fine rate for a creature, and the cheap instant speed recursion on Scrapheap Scrounger makes it a great threat for aggressive Black decks. It's not flashy, but it does its job well. One shell for Scrapheap Scrounger is Andrea Mengucci's build of Mono-Black Aggro:

The Zendikar Rising Championship

Players have only just started exploring the new options that Kaladesh Remastered offers Historic, and I can't wait to see how the format shapes up at the Zendikar Rising Championship.

Join me—and the rest of the broadcast team—as we watch how Historic evolves again at the Zendikar Rising Championship, December 4-6 beginning at 9 a.m. PST each day at!

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