A New Perspective on Historic
Hello everyone. My name is Sam Snyder, but you may know me as archmage521 from other Magic-related communities. I have been playing Magic for a long time (being almost exclusively a Modern player until recently), and a lot of my interest is in deck building. With the release of Jumpstart, Historic has quickly become one of my favorite formats to play.
Amonkhet Remastered promises to shake up the Historic format again, and I could not be more excited! New cards being added to the format is a brewer’s paradise!
Today I’d like to discuss the play patterns of one of my favorite combo decks that will be available in Historic with Amonkhet Remastered: New Perspectives.
During its time in Standard and for a brief moment in Pioneer, New Perspectives Cycling combo was tried and quickly cast aside, which is a shame because the combo is pretty cool to execute. With the release of Amonkhet Remastered, I believe that the deck now has the tools to be playable in Historic.
New Perspectives – the namesake of the deck, New Perspectives is a 6 mana enchantment, so it better be winning the game when it hits the board. For Starters, New Perspectives refills your hand when it enters the battlefield, which helps enable its second ability. As long as you have 7 cards in your hand, New Perspectives allows you to pay 0 for cycling costs.
Shadow of the Grave – Though New Perspectives is the main combo piece, Shadow of the Grave lets the deck rebuy every card that was cycled (hopefully for free with New Perspectives) the turn it is cast.
With a full grip of cards, New Perspectives and Shadow of the Grave allow you to churn through your deck as long as it is filled mostly with cards that also cycle. The main task with the deck after resolving a New Perspectives and beginning the cycle chain is to continue it (obviously). In order to cast Shadow of the Grave, we need to be able to generate mana while we are drawing cards. Enter the two most important cyclers in the deck:
Vizier of Tumbling Sands – Vizier allows us to untap a land when it is cycled for free, effectively generating 1 mana for free. With lands that produce more than 1 mana, Vizier becomes useful in helping to power out an early New Perspectives as well.
Shefet Monitor – The lizard does so much work in this deck. For starters, before you begin comboing off, Monitor can replace itself with a card and help us get ahead on mana by searching for a basic land/desert. The land enters the battlefield untapped, which means that during a combo turn with New Perspectives, Shefet Monitor not only removes a dead draw from the deck, it also generates mana to help us cast Shadow of the Grave to continue comboing.
What’s changed for New Perspectives?
All the parts of the main engine are from Amonkhet Remastered, so it is important to ask why the deck failed as a Standard combo deck. There are 3 main issues that caused the deck to struggle in previous formats. I will explain each one and address what has changed in Historic to allow the deck to be viable:
- The lack of cyclers. Amonkhet has 2 cycles of lands with cycling, but only one of them fixes mana. One of the advantages the New Perspectives deck would like to have is a high density of land cards that cycle to ensure that the deck does not run out of cards during the turn you combo off.
- The “cycling matters” win conditions in Amonkhet were bad. Decks would play Faith of the Devoted, which requires extra mana every time you cycle a card, or Stir the Sands, which could generate a horde of zombies, but could not provide an immediate kill on your big combo turn.
- Amonkhet and Pioneer both lacked ways to ramp effectively, while also maintaining a high number of cards in hand. New Perspectives requires you to have 7 cards to begin comboing and draws 3 cards, so when you cast it, you need to have 6 mana (most likely from lands) and 4 other cards in your hand. In order to compete with faster decks, there needs to be some way for the deck to get ahead on mana.
The first 2 issues were largely solved with the release of Ikoria in April. Ikoria also had a cycling focus, and brought us some much needed lands in the form of the triomes. Not only do the Triomes cycle, but they are also excellent ways to fix mana for the deck. Historic Anthology II brought us lands that cycle for 1 colored mana, which also help the deck increase its density of cycling lands.
Ikoria and Theros Beyond Death introduced powerful new win conditions that will allow the deck to win more easily. Zenith Flare, Drannith Stinger, and Thassa’s Oracle are all viable win conditions with different uses.
Zenith Flare – Flare is damage based, an instant and doesn’t require you to go through your entire deck, meaning it is a very practical win condition in terms of minimizing the number of game actions needed to kill your opponent.
Drannith Stinger – Stinger only requires a 2 mana investment. It also has cycling itself so it can be cycled while you are comboing. Stinger does not target, so your opponent gaining hexproof will not prevent it from winning the game. Stinger is the most vulnerable of all 3 win conditions, in that it can easily be destroyed by most removal, potentially leaving the deck with no avenues to victory. Stinger also only deals damage in increments of one.
An important note when using Drannith Stinger as a wincon: if you don’t have enough cards in your deck to cycle through and deal 20 damage, you can still win by letting the Stinger trigger resolve, and cycling another card before the cycling trigger resolves. This, of course, requires full control mode on Arena, which is a turn-off in itself.
One downside to both of the previous win conditions is that they require you to have more available sources of red and white mana. We can get around this by choosing the last win condition:
Thassa’s Oracle – Since its release, Thassa’s Oracle has been replacing a lot of previous combo finishes and enabling new ones. Oracle is not a damage based win condition, only requires 2 blue mana, which is easily obtainable mid-combo by the deck, and has a trigger separate from the card itself, so killing oracle in response to its trigger will not stop you from winning the game if you have 0 cards in your library.
The third issue is solved by some cards you may already be familiar, with if you have played with or against Field of the Dead strategies. Explore and Growth Spiral allow the deck to ramp while also replacing themselves, which makes it easier to ensure that you maintain the required number of cards in hand to begin comboing off. Explore and Growth Spiral also have the advantage of not being dead draws during the combo turn – if you can produce enough mana to cast them, you can use the extra land drops to continue casting more spells/drawing cards.
Another card that helps with ensuring the deck maintains a high hand count is Boon of the Wish-Giver. Even if you can’t cast New Perspectives the turn you have 6 mana, Boon lets you ensure that you will have enough cards in your hand to start comboing off. The deck used to and probably still will run Hieroglyphic Illumination, but 4 cards is a lot more than 2 when you need to have 7 overall. Boon and Illumination also add to the cycling count of the deck.
Before we get into decklists, there are a few non-cycling lands that can provide significant utility to the combo.
Lotus Field – the centerpiece of an entire pioneer archetype (still alive and well even after the banning of underworld breach), Lotus Field Synergizes very well with Vizier of the Tumbling Sands. If you have a Lotus Field in play while you are comboing, it will be harder to have the combo fail because it single-handedly casts Shadow of the Grave. This deck makes a lot of land drops, and curving Explore or Growth Spiral into Lotus Field on turn 2 can lead to the decks most explosive starts. It is also worth noting that cycling Vizier to untap Lotus Field yields 1 extra mana, even if you don’t have New Perspectives out, meaning you can use it to power out New Perspectives earlier.
Mystic Sanctuary – another card that was not available when Amonkhet was in Standard, Mystic Santuary can be useful during the turn you are comboing off. Between Explore and Growth Spiral, it is possible to put a Mystic Sanctuary into play mid-combo. The deck only has 4 copies of Shadow of the Grave, but Mystic Sanctuary can recycle a copy if you control 3 other islands. Being able to cast a 5th Shadow of the Grave in a game can easily be the difference between fizzling the combo and killing your opponent. If you run Zenith Flare as your win condition, Sanctuary can recycle that as well.
It is noteworthy that the hardest part of constructing this deck is the manabase, since there is a certain amount of tension between Lotus Field and Mystic Sanctuary. You need to have 3 Islands in play and the Field forces you to sacrifice them. Cycling lands enter the battlefield tapped, and it is important to be able to cast Explore or Growth Spiral on turn 2, so balancing the correct number of cycling lands and untapped U/G sources is a squeeze as well.
This list is by no means perfect, but I think the spells are pretty close to what they should be. I chose Thassa’s Oracle as the win condition for this version because it is the easiest to cast while comboing.
The main deck has 32 cards with cycling, which should be reasonable for ensuring the combo continues. There are 16 other Islands to support the single copy of Mystic Sanctuary. I am only starting out with 3 Lotus Field, but I can definitely see 4 being the correct number. Doing the math to perfect this deck would be a feat in itself.
For our Sideboard, we want cards that are effective answers, but also useful while we are comboing. This will ensure that we can maintain the proper density of cards with cycling, while still being able to answer the problem cards for the deck.
Discard effects – While discarding a single card from the hand isn’t the end of the world, it is still a setback for us because we need to have 7 cards in hand at the time of comboing. Nabbing a New Perspectives or Shadow of the Grave is also very good disruption, but ultimately it is possible to cycle/draw into other copies over the course of the game. Counterspells like Negate are effective at protecting our hand.
Leyline of the Void and other graveyard Hate – Leyline is the most effective solution to the deck because without Shadow of the Grave, the deck will not be able to cycle through the entire deck. It also shuts down Zenith Flare as a win condition. Grafdigger’s Cage is not an effective sideboard card because we don’t cast cards either the library or graveyard, but cards like Soul-Guide Lantern and Tormod’s Crypt are effective disruption mid-combo. It might still be possible to continue comboing through a single Lantern or Crypt activation, but Leyline must be answered before we can combo off. Wilt is an effective answer to all these cards and it has cycling to boot! Wilt also answers other problematic cards like Damping Sphere, should that become a common sideboard card.
Kor Spiritdancer and other aggressive strategies – without Lotus Field/Vizier of the Tumbling Sands, it is difficult for the deck to start comboing before turn 4. This leaves it vulnerable to some of the aggressive strategies that might kill before then. Goblins and Auras are great examples of this kind of archetype. Easy Prey is a sideboard card that can help answer a relevant threat from the aggro decks in the early game (it is also particularly effective against auras because it does not care about power/toughness). It also cycles, making it useful while comboing.
Narset, Parter of Veils – This card gets its own special mention because its static ability prevents us from even attempting to function as a strategy. Narset must be answered. Our sideboard has 3 copies of Eliminate coupled with counterspells to answer Narset.
The other cards in the sideboard are alternative win conditions.
Zenith Flare – just in case you need another win condition. If you feel like you won’t be able to cycle through your entire deck in a matchup, Flare is also useful. In a pinch it can also buffer your life total, but only do this if you have a way to recycle it or another win condition left in your deck.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun – A trick stolen from pioneer Lotus Field decks, Niv-Mizzet works well with a deck full of cyclers, effectively functioning as a large Drannith Stinger. Niv is uncounterable, which makes him a potent finisher against control strategies. Casting Niv-Mizzet basically requires a Lotus Field in play based on the current decklist, but the manabase could change to support it.
Realistically, I could see another version of the deck that stretches the mana a bit more to play Idyllic Tutor, which would serve as redundant copies of New Perspectives. My only issue with Idyllic Tutor is that it does not contribute to the deck mid-combo. You could remedy this issue with cycling enchantments, which would make Idyllic Tutor help effectively cycle for 2W. Cast Out comes to mind as the most effective card to do this due to its utility as a castable spell, but if you want a colorless cycler Footfall Crater is also available.
Some tips for playing the deck
- When sequencing your cyclers during a combo turn, start with Shefet Monitors. This way you can have the lowest chance of drawing a basic land while cycling, which makes future Monitor cycles worse.
- Be aware of the mana in your mana pool. Lotus Field can only produce 3 mana of a single color, so managing your black mana for Shadow of the Grave while also having green and blue mana for Explore, Growth Spiral, and Thassa’s Oracle will be one of the things you need to keep track of while cycling through your entire deck.
- Save Shadow of the Grave until you have exhausted every possible way of drawing cards. The exception to this of course is if you only have 2 mana, you cannot redraw with Explore/Growth Spiral before casting Shadow of the Grave.
- Be aware of the “front halves” of your cycling cards. If your opponent has boarded out their removal, it might be reasonable to cast a Vizier of the Tumbling Sands early in the game to help get the engine going. Shefet Monitor can be a very mopy win condition when all other hope is lost. Boon of the Wish-Giver and Hieroglyphic Illuminations are acceptable card draw spells when you cast them.
- It is important to note that there are some execution issues with the deck that require practice given the Arena client. Cycling a card on Arena requires dragging the card into play and choosing the cycle ability. Cycling a card with New Perspectives (based on the beta) adds a third option to Cycle with New Perspectives for 0. Make sure you select this one! Another issue with the arena interface is when you have a large number of cards in your hand, it can be unwieldy to see all the cards in your hand. When you cast a Shadow of the Grave for a large number of cyclers, it may become difficult to navigate your hand and re-cycling those cards. I imagine it will be manageable with enough repetition. Learning this deck will likely be a significant undertaking, but if you like comboing, it will be worth it.
That’s all I have on New Perspectives. Hopefully you find the deck as interesting/fun as I do; let me know your thoughts in the comments and send me some sick screenshots of the deck comboing off! Good luck chaining your cyclers!