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On Monday, the banned and restricted announcement impacted both the Standard and Historic formats, alongside changing the way the companion mechanic works (You pay 3 generic mana to put your companion into your hand from exile). The bans themselves did not change as much in Historic as it did in Standard – the only deck that disappeared completely was Jeskai Lukka – whereas the change to Companion is going to have a pretty big impact on the metagame. In this article, I’ll be going over what I think the top 5 Historic decks will be going forward, and why.
5. Rakdos Lurrus
RB Lurrus is a deck that Crokeyz created and reached #1 mythic with. If you like Aristocrats decks, then this is the deck for you – it’s extremely grindy and also has very explosive starts with Priest of the Forgotten Gods, so it’s good at any stage of the game. RB lurrus thrives when the meta consists of creature decks, as it can utilize Claim the Firstborn and a sacrifice outlet to kill creatures while pushing through damage. It is a bit weaker against control, but still has a good shot at winning the game. Even with the 3 mana tax, Lurrus is still very powerful against control because you are almost never casting it early in the game anyways. Before the bans, this deck was a contender for the #1 deck in Historic. Post-bans, however, this deck becomes a lot weaker due to the companion changes. When you would normally pay 3 for a Lurrus, you now have to pay 3 twice before you get any benefit – this makes it impossible to play Lurrus + 1-drop on turn 4, which was something that the deck did often.
The reason that this deck is still on the list, despite losing a lot, it is still extremely explosive at times. For example, Priest of the Forgotten Gods + a Claim the Firstborn kills 2 of your opponent’s creatures while also dealing them damage and drawing cards. It retains its great matchup against creature decks and its grind potential against Control. There is definitely an argument for removing the Lurrus and adding Mayhem Devil, but the Devil usually feels too slow, it does not impact the board upon entry, and is 3 mana. Lurrus also provides the reach that the deck needs against control, while Mayhem Devil is a bit clunky. The situation where Mayhem Devil is very good is when there are lots of sacrifice decks in the meta or other decks with plenty of x/1s, and less control. If the meta shifts in that direction, I think that Mayhem Devil is a great consideration. Overall, I think that this deck will continue to be very strong while the meta still consists of creature decks – once the meta becomes more control-heavy, this deck becomes a lot weaker.
4. Simic Nexus
Simic Nexus has long been one of the best decks, and that won’t change now.. It uses Nexus of Fate and Wilderness Reclamation to take extra turns, while having Search for Azcanta and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales to dig for those cards and make this as consistent a game plan as possible. Meanwhile, it utilises fog effects as a great catch-all answer to buy turns against aggro decks.
The reason the deck has always been so strong, is that it has no terrible matchups. It has a good matchup against aggro (due to the fogs and bounce spells), and a good matchup against control (all the removal in their deck becomes useless). I would not recommend this deck to someone looking to play a quick easy match, because this deck will take a really long time to win, and involves some very complex lines. Simic Nexus was a strong deck before the changes, and not much has changed for it. You are usually using your Kaheera as a win condition, so the extra 3 mana doesn’t really impact things too much. The fact that this deck lost practically nothing, and most decks lost a lot, is an extremely big upside. Nexus decks thrive when Teferi, Time Raveler isn’t seeing much play, and Jeskai Lukka, one of the main Teferi decks, just became unplayable thanks to the bans. The deck also becomes a bit better against Winota, as they do not have those couple copies of Agent of Treachery; that card was a big problem for the nexus deck because you could fog all you want, but they would eventually steal some of your permanents. All of these reasons combined means that this deck has improved, and now has a good matchup against almost every deck.
3. Naya Winota
Naya Winota is an aggro deck built around Winota, Joiner of Forces, allowing you to cheat an Angrath’s Mauraders into play and kill your opponent in one turn. Its ability to win on turn 4 many times had most people thinking that it is (and was) the best deck in Historic, but, in my opinion, the bans have impacted this deck a lot. The changes to Umori now prevent you from curving out with it as a powerful 4-drop play, making the deck substantially weaker. A smaller change that the deck faced was the loss of Agent of Treachery as, although only played in small numbers, Agent of Treachery was one of the only ways to beat Nexus through a fog. Many were surprised that Winota wasn’t banned in Historic, as it was dominating the format up until this point. There is not much to be said about this deck as it has always been good, and will continue to be good. I know that a lot of people think that Winota should be #1 on this list, but the combination of Control having become more popular, and Umori having become worse, together make me think that this deck has lost its seat on the throne. That being said, the deck is still very competitive, and will definitely be one of the most played decks early into this new Historic format.
2. Mono Red Aggro
Mono Red is a strong deck in any format it is played in because of its extreme consistency and ability to end games extremely fast, due to its powerful early-game creatures, and potential to close games with burn spells even long after your opponents have stabilised. Another reason that this deck is rated so highly is that it has a good matchup against Winota, as you are able to kill most of their creatures post-board. In Historic, the deck gains access to Goblin Chainwhirler (which can kill 1 toughness creatures) and Burning-Tree Emissary (which allows for extremely explosive starts). The deck also gets to run many of the great cards from the standard versions, such as Embercleave (which will net you free wins a lot of the time), and Anax (which makes the deck very resilient against control). This version didn’t lose anything with the changes, and is now better than the Mono Red Obosh list because of that. I think that this is one of the best decks to play right now, because people are still figuring out the format; it’s usually a good idea to play an aggro deck in an unknown format, because of their consistency and ability to prey upon untuned slower decks.
1. Esper Kaheera Walkers
Esper Kaheera Walkers is a pretty normal version of an Esper Control deck, though with more planeswalkers than usual as win conditions, alongside running Kaheera because the deck is creatureless so it’s completely free to include. The deck’s best matchup is aggro, as you can board wipe them many times, while also having ways to stall the board. The deck gains access to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as a powerful threat that can deal with a wide variety of problem permanents. This deck was barely impacted by the changes because you almost never want to cast Kaheera on-curve anyway; there are so many good 3-drop plays the deck can make and, usually, Kaheera isn’t one of the better ones. The deck also gains access to Timely Reinforcements post-board, which is an incredible hoser against aggro decks. The reason why I have Esper as #1 on this list, is because most of the meta is aggro, and those matchups tend to be great. With access to board wipes and life gain (such as timely reinforcements and Kaya’s wrath), you should have no trouble beating all of the aggro decks that I had on this list.
You may have noticed a pattern during this article: The decks that have risen to the top are the ones that benefited most from the bannings. Esper, for example, lost close to nothing, while many other decks were hampered so its position improved dramatically. I think that all 5 of these decks are good enough to do well with, and that they will remain at the top for some time. If you have any ideas of Historic decks you like that you think should be on this list, feel free to post them in the comment section of this article.
Thanks for reading, now go crush some Historic queues!