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What Is The Historic Format?

September 01, 2020
Corbin Hosler

The 2020 Mythic Invitational, taking place September 10-13, is bringing MTG Arena's Historic format to a Twitch stream near you. Its premiere at the highest levels of Magic features 161 competitors prepared to put the format through its paces over 14 rounds of Swiss play and a Top 8. There's a $250,000 prize pool to be earned, plus the top 16 finishers will qualify for the 2020 Season Grand Finals.

That's a lot on the line. With one of the most wide-open fields in Magic tournament history—Historic has been shifting constantly since its introduction last year, and was just upended with both Jumpstart and Amonkhet Remastered joining the mix—it's more important than ever for players to get a jump on the competition before play even begins.

Those who can best adapt to the evolving metagame will have a big leg up on the competition when the tournament begins.

At the Mythic Invitational, you're going to see a ton of different strategies, from slow control decks looping Approach of the Second Sun for victory, to the all-out aggro of Goblins and the combo side of the field, with everything and a Phyrexian Obliterator in between. As Historic is available anytime for Ranked Play on MTG Arena, players can now choose to battle in the Historic queues and can queue for special events by finishing in the Top 1,200 of Mythic rankings for the season just as they could playing Standard or Limited.

With more attention being paid to Historic by streamers and tournament organizers alike, there's no better time to catch up just in time for the Mythic Invitational (and the Historic Challenge next week). Let's dive into the format, and we'll look at a few of the most popular decks along the way.

What Is Historic?

Unlike Magic's other formats you might be familiar with, such as Standard or Modern, Historic is an MTG Arena-first format. That means that the format-legal cards come from a variety of different sets, not exclusive recent Magic sets or a collection of years of releases.

Search for Azcanta Liliana, Dreadhorde General Muxus, Goblin Grandee

There are three major ways cards enter the Historic format:

  • By appearing in a Standard set. Any card that enters Standard will begin legal in Historic.
  • By being added via Historic Anthologies. These are collections of 15-20 cards added together to MTG Arena that add support for different strategies and themes. Some cards added this way include Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger; Gempalm Polluter; and Enchantress's Presence.
  • By appearing in a supplemental set released on MTG Arena. Both Jumpstart and Amonkhet Remastered are sets outside of current Standard releases added.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger Gempalm Polluter Enchantress's Presence

The current sets legal for Historic are: Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, Core Set, 2019, Core Set 2020, Core Set 2021, Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark, Throne of Eldraine, Theros: Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, Jumpstart, Amonkhet Remastered and Historic Anthologies 1-3.

The result is a format all its own. If you liked some of your previous Standard cards and want to play with them a bit longer, Historic is perfect. And if you like mixing something new that you never thought possible, Historic has something to try.

You can cast all the copies of Explore, Thoughtseize, and Collected Company you want.

Explore Thoughtseize Collected Company

It's an exciting time to bring Historic to Magic Esports. Not only is the first professional-level event of a format sure to pack a few surprises, even if it's seen wide play already, but with the recent additions of hundreds of new cards from Jumpstart and Amonkhet Remastered—enough new cards to add up to a year of cards new Standard cards all at once—there's no telling what's awaiting us on the other side of the Mythic Invitational.

What's Banned?

Historic is slightly different when it comes to maintaining balance in the format. In addition to outright banning cards, they can also be "suspended" from play—removed from the pool, like being banned, but may return soon from the suspended list after seeing how the format develops without it. (Of course, suspended cards can move to the banned list as well.)

There are currently three cards on the suspended list, which means you won't see them at the Mythic Invitational:

  • Burning-Tree Emissary
  • Teferi, Time Raveler
  • Wilderness Reclamation
Burning-Tree Emissary Teferi, Time Raveler Wilderness Reclamation

Similarly, the following cards are banned in Historic:

  • Agent of Treachery
  • Field of the Dead (added with the recent Banned and Restricted update)
  • Fires of Invention
  • Nexus of Fate
  • Oko, Thief of Crowns
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Veil of Summer
  • Winota, Joiner of Forces
Field of the Dead Oko, Thief of Crowns Winota, Joiner of Forces

One of the features of Historic as non-rotating format (one that doesn't rotate whole sets out, like Standard) is that it introduces interactions that weren't available in Standard. For instance, pairing Kor Spiritdancer and Ornithopter with All That Glitters and Curious Obsession, or Wrath of God and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

Many of the cards you've seen in Standard are present, but Historic's singular structure also allows the creation of decks that don't exist in any other format. The best example may be Goblins, which has leapt to the front of the aggressive strategies thanks to the recent additions of Muxus, Goblin Grandee and Goblin Chieftain from Jumpstart pairing with other Goblins like Wily Goblin. Add in Skirk Prospector and you have a resilient aggro deck that can sometimes "combo off" by using the Prospector to ramp into Muxus.

Goblins is played in many formats, but the Historic version is truly unique.

What to Expect

Historic grew to more than just a way to take a break from Standard or Draft on MTG Arena. It's quietly developed its own identity as a format that throws wildly disparate decks at one another in a way that we rarely see. Historic, young as a format, has undergone such upheaval as new cards are added only increases its appeal.

Even with so many recent Standard cards, we also see a host of cards that you may have forgotten about that languished in other formats but shine in Historic—like Phyrexian Obliterator.

That really is Gray Merchant of Asphodel winning games in Historic alongside Phyrexian Obliterator. With the newest black creatures joining forces with some of its most iconic, Mono-Black Devotion is a new twist on the classic archetype. Mono-Black isn't the only deck represented; you'll still find Mono-Red Burn and Blue-White Control.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel Lightning Strike Wrath of God

Meanwhile, there is a new-to-Historic archetype to watch quite closely over the next few weekends: Collected Company brews. The card has risen to fame over the years as it earned its place in formats like Modern. Just arriving on MTG Arena with Amonkhet Remastered, the time could be right for Collected Company to carry green creature decks back to the forefront.

There are many different creature decks where you'll see "CoCo" pop up, including another tribal favorite.

There's far more under the hood of Historic than what we shared, but the sample we've looked at today gives you an idea of the breadth of decks available.

Tempest Djinn Approach of the Second Sun Collected Company

From Ghitu Lavarunner to Ajani's Pridemate to Tempest Djinn to Approach of the Second Sun to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Collected Company, we've seen strategies of every flavor find success in Historic: the format is sure to surprise with the entire world following.

Watch Historic action at the 2020 Mythic Invitational, September 10-13 live at twitch.tv/magic.

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