Cycling Historic Deck Guide: The Most Underrated Deck in Historic
Hello everyone! Like the title says, I’m going to be talking about what I consider the most underrated deck in all of Historic, Cycling. Now a mainstay in Standard, with Historic Anthology 4 coming out with Flameblade Adept, I thought it was time to try out some cycling shenanigans for the novelty of it. Surprisingly, after going 5-1 in the top 50 of Mythic, I realized I may have accidentally struck gold. Let’s take a look at my first iteration of the list.
As I said before, the first version of the list felt surprisingly powerful off the bat. It was fast, synergistic, and even had nice disruptive elements with the main deck Cast Out and sideboard interaction. I knew I had to keep tuning this to make it a real player for Historic in the long term. With my practice I’ve discovered that although this will unlikely be the best deck, I wouldn’t be surprised if this eventually found its way into the top tiers of Historic. Let’s take a look at my improved list.
From the original list I made 3 main improvements. The first, although minor, was to go up to all 8 cycling lands. Unlike the Standard version, with more 1 mana cyclers in Historic we could afford a lower untapped land count. The huge benefit though, is that the cycling lands are also just that, lands. It’s obscenely hard to get mana screwed with this deck as we still play 24 lands and a lot of ways to cycle into them.
The second improvement is the cutting of Flameblade Adept. Although Flameblade could be good game 1, I quickly realized that I was cutting it in functionally every post board game in every matchup. It’s not even that the card wasn’t good enough, but the deck needs a critical mass of cyclers to work and Flameblade never really felt better than another cycling card.
The last improvement was just exchanging Hushbringer for Reidane, God of the Worthy in the sideboard. Hushbringer was there mostly as Angels insurance, but the matchup was not as popular nor as bad as I initially believed. Reidane, on the other hand, has applications against UW Control which can be a tough matchup, and Sacrifice as the Valkmira half of the card completely negates Mayhem Devil.
Beyond the changes, the deck functions very similarly from before and more or less similarly to the Standard iteration of the deck. You’re still going to be cycling a bunch of cards every turn (ideally with a creature out) and working towards a Zenith Flare so the play patterns of the deck are still roughly the same, but what you prioritize in the deck are quite different. I’ll go more into sequencing at the end of the article and go into the most common matchups you’ll be facing.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
JUND SACRIFICE (EVEN TO SLIGHTLY FAVORED)
|+3 Reidane, God of the Worthy||-4 Valiant Rescuer|
|+3 Grafdigger’s Cage||-2 Footfall Craters|
Jund doesn’t interact particularly well against Cycling so going with our normal game plan is very good. We lose to their insane starts, but if they have a medium hand, it’s very easy to outpace their gameplan with ours. In the boarded games, we get heavy hitters in Reidane and Cage to significantly slow down their game plan while only minorly impacting ours.
If you’re facing the Food variant of Sacrifice, don’t bring in Reidane as they focus a lot less on Mayhem Devil and more on Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. With that, you want to be faster to race huge swings from Korvold.
AURAS (SLIGHTLY UNFAVORABLE TO MODERATELY UNFAVORABLE)
|+4 Baffling End||-4 Footfall Craters|
Unfortunately, Auras is good at smashing most creature strategies, and we’re no different. If they don’t have Kor Spiritdancer it’s much more reasonable to race them, but it’s really hard when they have it. Fortunately, we do have interaction in Go for Blood and Cast Out game 1 and Baffling End in the post board games. Go as fast as possible and interact when you have the ability to.
ARCANIST (SLIGHTLY FAVORABLE TO MODERATELY FAVORABLE)
|+4 Baffling End||-3 Drannith Healer|
|+3 Grafdigger’s Cage||-4 Footfall Craters|
Although Arcanist has a lot of interaction, it doesn’t line up super well against our Zenith Flare. When you’re getting close to lethal Zenith Flare range, try to cycle only on the opponent’s end step to avoid discard. In the post board games, Cage and Baffling End both do a great job to Arcanist down enough to mess them up pretty badly.
UW CONTROL (EVEN)
|+3 Reidane, God of the Worthy||-4 Go for Blood|
|+4 Forsake the Worldly||-3 Footfall Craters|
This matchup is always interesting as it’s a balancing act between pressuring the board and working towards Zenith Flare. Ideally, you want to keep pressure on the board so they can’t ignore it and just sit back on counterspells for Zenith Flare. A big mistake I saw a lot of Cycling pilots make is that they were way too patient with Zenith Flare as they wanted to wait until the UW player would tap out. Unsurprisingly, UW players very rarely tap out so waiting for it is generally not worth it. In the post board games, work more towards the board than cycling as you don’t want all your cycling progress undone by one Rest in Peace.
|+4 Baffling End||-2 Drannith Healer|
|+2 Forsake the Worldly||-4 Footfall Craters|
Angels can be a rough matchup if they have a strong hand as they can gain so much life and have a really strong board presence quite quickly. However, we are also relatively fast so we can generally race them if they have just a decent draw rather than a strong curve into Collected Company. We get some more interaction in the board games with Baffling End which can help slow them down significantly.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Like Standard, we still want to play our threats first for the most part. Flourishing Fox and Valiant Rescuer are still the best threats to play first while Drannith Stinger gets better while you have more mana.
- Drannith Healer, like Standard, still kind of sucks so don’t feel bad if you have to cycle this away. Unlike Standard, instead of playing this out as a threat, I would just cycle it almost all the time. It’s nice if you need to block something or gain some life, but don’t be afraid to pitch it.
- Generally you want to cycle as much as you can each turn when allowed, however when you have Hollow One, you can sandbag some of your cyclers in order to cast it during a later turn.
- Unlike Standard, your Go for Blood and Footfall Craters are more helpful than you’d expect. Both are really good with Hollow One overall, but you would still cycle them more often than not. For example, I would cycle Drannith Healer or ever Flourishing Fox (if it’s later in the game) over a Go for Blood or Footfall Craters.
- Although Cast Out is really tempting to use, cycling it is generally better. Cast Out is great because we can keep it, but generally you want to keep cycling through your deck.
- Don’t forget you’re allowed to cycle Hollow One as well, but obviously we’d prefer not to.
- You don’t need Zenith Flare to be lethal to cast it, but I would still wait as long as possible.
- If you are low on lands, feel free to play out the cycle lands. Ideally we want to cycle them, but we play so many so you don’t have to feel bad playing them.
- There’s a real chance that we rather have an extra sideboard slot over Jegantha as I rarely get it over cycling more cards. With that, I only get Jegantha when I have functionally nothing else to do or I have 3 mana up and only 1 cycling card.
- Your creatures are much worse later in the game compared to the Standard version so it’s generally better to cycle your threats later than play them out. Obviously this is different if you need to add to the board for whatever reason.
- In matchups you want Forsake the Worldly, you don’t have to hold on to them forever waiting for a target. Don’t be afraid to cycle them.
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