Hey everyone! I’m Alth, an MTG Arena grinder that’s always looking to bring new and interesting ideas to the format and push them as high on the ladder as I can. You can also follow me on Twitter and YouTube if you’re interested in keeping up with my decklists and guides.
Today I’m going to be covering my RB Anvil sacrifice deck in Historic which is my pick for the best way to play the sacrifice archetype right now thanks to some new additions to the format from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. This is a very synergy-based sacrifice deck that usually wins by either draining the opponent out with a bunch of chip damage throughout the course of the game or attacking with a really big Ravenous Squirrel.
On top of that, it also has access to a bunch of really efficient removal against the creature decks and discard spells against control which makes it a super versatile option. As of writing this, I’m currently #1 on the Arena constructed ladder and I also finished last season in the top 25 using this list so it’s felt really strong so far! I’ve put a video up on my YouTube channel if you’re interested in seeing the deck in action.
Oni-Cult Anvil: This is one of the two new cards from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and is a great reason to be playing red as your second colour. You can use the Anvil to sacrifice artifacts you have lying around like treasures off Deadly Dispute, Food from Witch's Oven etc in order to drain the opponent for 1 and create a 1/1 artifact token. Even if you don’t have anything else going on, you can sacrifice the 1/1 token to Anvil every turn which provides you with a free attack and pings the opponent every turn.
The really strong thing about this card though is that you get the 1/1 token when any artifact you control leaves the battlefield (on your turn) so you don’t need to activate the Anvil in order to get a token every turn. This deck will be regularly sacrificing artifacts as part of it’s game plan anyway eg. sacrificing food to bring back Cauldron Familiar or gain life, sacrificing Experimental Synthesizer to get an extra card, sacrificing Blood tokens off Voldaren Epicure to loot or sacrificing treasure tokens for mana or with Deadly Dispute so this essentially works as a Bitterblossom that drains for 1 instead of losing a life each turn.
The 1/1 tokens can be used as sacrifice fodder, as attackers against the slower decks and as chump blockers against the aggro decks so you’ll always have a use for them. This deck mainly wins through dealing a bunch of chip damage throughout the course of the game so the ability to drain for 1 each turn plays perfectly into the deck’s game plan.
Experimental Synthesizer: This is the second new card from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and is one of my favourites for sure. For a start, this combos insanely well with the Oni-Cult Anvil as you can play this for one mana to get an extra card for the turn and then you can sacrifice it to the Anvil to drain for 1, make a 1/1 and then trigger the Synthesizer again. This gets out of control when you pair it with Lurrus of the Dream-Den as you can recast Synthesizer from the graveyard every turn which means you’ll essentially be drawing 2 extra cards, draining the opponent for 1 and creating a 1/1 every turn for the low cost of 1 mana!
Outside of Anvil, you can also sacrifice the Synthesizer to both Deadly Dispute and Ravenous Squirrel in order to double up the value you get, or you can sacrifice it to it’s own ability in order to get a 2/2 which can be reasonable in certain spots. The very low curve of the deck plays perfectly with Synthesizer as there are only 10 cards in the deck that aren’t castable if you play Synthesizer on turn 2 and you can play everything in the deck if you play Synthesizer on turn 3 (apart from Go Blank if you’ve boarded that in.)
Cauldron Familiar: As with most sacrifice decks running the cat, this is mainly here to combo with Witch's Oven allowing you to drain for 1 and get a free attacker or chump blocker every turn as well as triggering both Oni-Cult Anvil and Ravenous Squirrel.
The fact you have both the Cat/Oven and Anvil engines in the deck means you can drain the opponent out really quickly without ever needing to connect in combat. Outside of Witch's Oven, Familiar also provides a body that you can sacrifice to both Deadly Dispute and Ravenous Squirrel and is a nice target to discard to Blood tokens so you can set up to bring it back later in the game once you draw a Witch's Oven.
Witch's Oven: Obviously this is mainly here for Cauldron Familiar, but sacrificing other creatures in response to removal to get a Food is really nice for gaining life against decks that can punish you for stabilizing at a low life total like other Cat/Oven decks, Izzet Phoenix, Burn etc.
It’s also useful at triggering the 1/1 ability on Oni-Cult Anvil even if you don’t have Cauldron Familiar, you can kind of build your own Cat/Oven by sacrificing the 1/1 to Oven during your opponent’s turn which allows you to chump block with it, then you can sacrifice the Food token to Anvil during your turn creating another 1/1.
Voldaren Epicure: You have cards that care about sacrificing creatures (Witch’s Oven), artifacts (Oni-Cult Anvil) and both (Ravenous Squirrel and Deadly Dispute) so the fact that you get one of each for 1 mana as well as pinging the opponent for 1 is such great value and plays perfectly into our game plan. The Blood token is also nice at helping you to dig for lands or particular cards and triggers the 1/1 ability on Anvil.
Ravenous Squirrel: This is the single biggest threat in the deck as it can get huge incredibly quickly – you’re regularly going to be sacrificing a bunch of permanents so the +1/+1 counters pile up fast. This is great at both dealing huge amounts of damage against decks that are slow to commit to the battlefield as well as making it very difficult for aggro decks to attack.
The activated ability on Squirrel is really nice at ensuring you don’t run out of gas while also enabling a lot of your other synergies (eg. Oni-Cult Anvil and Experimental Synthesizer.) I’m running both Blooming Marsh and Stomping Ground to produce green mana so we can use Squirrel’s ability – you can also use treasures off Deadly Dispute to produce green mana for Squirrel’s ability in a pinch.
Deadly Dispute: This card is great at both keeping the cards flowing as well as triggering basically all of your sacrifice synergies and providing some ramping ability too. It triggers Oni-Cult Anvil if you sacrifice an artifact, is great to sacrifice Experimental Synthesizer with, triggers Ravenous Squirrel and then also leaves behind a Treasure that you can use to either ramp, trigger revolt at instant-speed for Fatal Push, or sacrifice to your artifact sac outlets like Oni-Cult Anvil, Ravenous Squirrel and other Deadly Dispute.
The Meathook Massacre: This is really good at picking apart wide boards against the smaller creature decks while also helping you deal chip damage. Having this on the battlefield alongside Cat/Oven, Oni-Cult Anvil, or both will increase your clock and burn the opponent out really fast.
I’m only running 2 copies because it’s not a card you want to draw in multiples in most matchups and since you’re not running other treasure producers like Shambling Ghast, it can be hard to have enough mana for this to act as a full board-wipe in the early game. Additionally, we need to keep the artifact count relatively high in order to consistently enable Oni-Cult Anvil which is another reason not to max out on The Meathook Massacre.
Fatal Push: Great efficient removal and it’s really easy to turn on revolt because of all the instant speed sacrifice outlets we have. Broad, single-target removal is especially important right now at being able to kill creatures that run away with the game like Greasefang, Okiba Boss, Crackling Drake, Dreadhorde Arcanist, Sythis, Harvest's Hand etc. I also prefer this over the red, damage-based removal because of the prevalence of small creatures that outscale the red removal like the Auras’ 2-drops, Territorial Kavu, Trelasarra, Moon Dancer, Voice of the Blessed and opposing Ravenous Squirrel.
Thoughtseize: Potentially the best card in the format and is just a generically good card against almost every deck. Having 4 Thoughtseize in the main deck really improves the matchup against control game 1 which can otherwise be rough, especially in the face of Divine Purge.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den: Lurrus as a companion works so well in this deck and basically every permanent is a good target to rebuy. Bringing back Oni-Cult Anvil, Witch's Oven or Ravenous Squirrel after they’ve been killed helps set up your engines again and bringing back Voldaren Epicure and particularly Experimental Synthesizer provides a lot of repeatable value too.
Mana Base: 22 lands has felt like a good amount to me, you have a lot of ways to dig for lands in the early game and a lot of things to do with your mana once we have it so screw/ flood is rarely an issue. I’m running all of the good black/red dual lands apart from Dragonskull Summit which would enter play tapped too often to be worth running. I’m only running 2 creaturelands because I think having access to green mana off Blooming Marsh and Stomping Ground to be able to use Ravenous Squirrel’s ability is so important. Finally one basic land is mandatory because of cards like Field of Ruin and Assassin's Trophy.
Voltage Surge: This is another really efficient single-target removal spell you can bring in alongside Fatal Push against the creature decks. The fact it also acts as an artifact sacrifice outlet is really nice but like I said, the reason I’m running Fatal Push in the main and this in the side is because of the prevalence of small creatures that outscale these sorts of red damage-based removal.
Soul-Guide Lantern: Graveyard hate is particularly important in Historic right now because of the prominence of both Izzet Phoenix and the Greasefang Parhelion decks which both require graveyard hate before turn 3. Lantern is great because you can exile the opponent’s graveyard without needing to hold mana up, it plays well with our synergies around sacrificing artifacts and it can be replayed off Lurrus.
Additionally it’s a card you can run 4 copies of which is great – you want to see the first copy as often as possible but can cycle any additional copies you draw away unlike Tormod's Crypt.
Duress: Additional discard against the control decks works really well at keeping them off key cards and with the amount of ways you have to dig through your deck, you can regularly find multiple discard spells in the first few turns which helps clear the way for you to set up your engines.
Go Blank: This is really nice as it’s very effective against both control and graveyard-centric decks. I’m only running 2 copies because it’s not a card you want to draw in multiples and I also don’t think you want to be running too many 3-drops as it makes your early Experimental Synthesizers more likely to brick.
Aggro/Creature decks that don’t use the graveyard
Pretty simple sideboarding here against creature decks that don’t use the graveyard, bringing in additional single-target removal and cutting Thoughtseize. Thoughtseize tends to lose a bit of its value in these matchups and the 2 damage can be actively bad against the faster aggressive decks.
Izzet Phoenix & Mardu Greasefang Combo
|+2 Go Blank||-4 Thoughtseize|
|+4 Soul-Guide Lantern||-4 Voldaren Epicure|
|+4 Voltage Surge||-2 The Meathook Massacre|
Graveyard hate and extra removal shuts off almost all the avenues of attack that Phoenix has. This plan also works very nicely against the creature-based Mardu variants of the Greasefang combo deck – if they’re playing a more controlling variant which is usually Esper then I would go +2 Go Blank +4 Soul-Guide Lantern -4 Voldaren Epicure -2 The Meathook Massacre instead so you can keep in Thoughtseize.
|+4 Voltage Surge going second||-4 Thoughtseize going second|
|No changes going first||No changes going first|
If you’re going first, Thoughtseize has great value as it can strip both Witch's Oven and Trail of Crumbs from the opponent’s hand turn 1. Going second, we lose the ability to hit Witch's Oven and so additional removal to keep them off important creatures early like Gilded Goose or Ravenous Squirrel is more appealing.
Unfortunately the graveyard hate we have access to isn’t very effective in this matchup – Soul-Guide Lantern very rarely shuts off the Cat/Oven loop as it’s so easy for them to make additional food and play around it. If you’re playing against non-green sacrifice variants like the mirror or WB Abiding Grace builds then I would go +4 Lantern -4 Thoughtseize instead as you can use Lantern to shut off the Cat/Oven loop much more effectively and can shut off Abiding Grace vs Orzhov too.
If we can shut off their graveyard synergies then our engines will be able to easily out grind theirs in most situations. Make sure you have a game plan for situations they play a Planeswalker though as that is a potential way they can steal games if you’re unprepared.
Pretty simple sideboarding against control – we cut our removal spells and bring in additional discard.
5 Colour Niv
Trimming The Meathook Massacre and Fatal Push for additional discard spells helps us strip their answers for our engine pieces and important creatures so we can set up in the early game. It’s important to keep some number of Fatal Push in in order to deal with Territorial Kavu though.
Bringing in extra discard here can help keep them off the Nine Lives/Solemnity lock in the early game as well as keeping them off important cards like Enchantress's Presence and Rest in Peace. Fatal Push is important to keep in here to kill
Best of 1
The only change I would make to the main deck for Best of 1 is to swap 4 Voldaren Epicure for 4 Soul-Guide Lantern. Combo is typically a rough matchup for sacrifice decks and there are a number of very linear all-in combo decks in Bo1 like Dragonstorm, Greasefang Parhelion, and Reanimator which are all very reliant on the graveyard. Main decking 4 Lanterns really helps in these matchups and also synergizes with the rest of the game plan of the deck even in matchups where we don’t need graveyard hate eg. sacrificing it to draw a card will trigger Oni-Cult Anvil and Ravenous Squirrel.
Tips & Tricks
- Don’t forget to play Experimental Synthesizer before your land for the turn as you may hit a land off it and also be wary of the mana cost of potentially important cards in your deck eg. if you’re in a matchup where Go Blank is important and you have other good turn 3 plays then it may be worth waiting until turn 4 to play Synthesizer in case you hit Go Blank.
- This deck can’t make additional food tokens as easily as the GB deck can so always think twice before bringing Cauldron Familiar back from the graveyard during the end of your opponent’s turn to attack as they can easily break the Cat/Oven loop with instant speed removal and you’ll have to sacrifice another creature to Witch's Oven to set the loop up again.
- Archmage's Charm stealing a big Ravenous Squirrel can be very annoying in the control matchups so try leaving up a sacrifice outlet whenever possible (don’t forget you can sacrifice Ravenous Squirrel to it’s own ability).
- Even though you can trigger the Anvil to get a 1/1 without activating it’s ability, it can often be correct to sac your tokens to drain for 1 at the end of your opponent’s turn anyway if you’re not able to attack with them or you don’t need the tokens to chump block. The drain ability on Anvil is only once per turn so you don’t want to be left in a scenario where you have an army of 1/1s that can’t do much and you would have been able to kill the opponent if you’d been draining for 1 each turn instead.
- Don’t be afraid to cast The Meathook Massacre for X=0 especially if you hit it off Experimental Synthesizer in the early game. The additional drain it provides can often significantly increase your clock.
- Be aware that neither Serra's Emissary or Nine Lives/Solemnity lock can stop Cauldron Familiar + Witch's Oven from draining so you can still win through both of these locks with Cat/Oven.
- You can use both Fatal Push and Voltage Surge to kill Greasefang, Okiba Boss before it gets a vehicle back from the graveyard so make sure you always keep up a way to trigger revolt at instant speed or an artifact to sacrifice to Voltage Surge in these matchups if you don’t have graveyard hate.
- You can beat the GW Heliod combo if they combo off with only one creature life gain enabler using The Meathook Massacre to kill all of the tokens and the life gain enabler itself so don’t concede straight away as you do have an out!
This list has felt great to me and in my opinion is the best way to play sacrifice in Historic right now, so if that’s the sort of play style you’re into I highly recommend giving it a try – thanks a lot for reading!