Hello everyone! Just like how I went over Standard yesterday, I want to do the same with Historic today! Historic’s been the format I’ve been following a bit more closely as the Strixhaven Mythic Qualifier Weekend is right around the corner, and I’m excited to talk about what I think is going to happen in the format as a whole until Strixhaven and the Mystical Archive releases!
If you want to gain insight into what may happen in the MIQ or you just want a leg up on ladder, this is the article for you. For the data I’m referencing, I’m using the graphs made by the amazing team at MTG Data to help form my opinions!
JUNDS DOMINANCE WILL CONTINUE
I know Jund wasn’t exactly the breakout deck of the tournament, but despite everyone more or less being ready for the matchup, it still put up rather good results. Jund Food was a little sad at a slightly sub 50% win rate at the Championship, but Company put up a respectable 55%, putting it at the 5th highest win rate at the tournament.
So, with seemingly ok results, why do I think Jund will still be great moving forward? This is a small tournament field versus an open metagame. From those who I spoke to that were qualified for Kaldheim Championship, functionally all of them said that they expected Jund to hold the largest metagame share. With knowledge like that, you can get advantages by gearing your deck, or at a minimum some sideboard slots, to improving just that matchup without running the risk of making yourself bad against a less common strategy. Some even went as far to play an entire archetype (Abzan Yorion, more on this later) as it had such a good Jund matchup overall.
Although this level of teching can reward you in a small field, as is the case with Shahar Shenhar, this generally doesn’t fly in an open metagame. In something like the MIQ, even if you expect Jund to be the biggest deck, you can’t reasonably expect to face it more than a few times every 10-20 matches. With that, people will have to prepare their decks for more matchups if they want to find long term success, and if decks can’t hard tech against Jund, it can very easily be one of, if not, the best decks for long term success.
With all that out of the way, a big question on most people’s minds is what version is better: Food or Company? Personally, I don’t think one is necessarily better, they’re really just different decks looking to attack different metagames. Jund Food I would say is the more metagame specific of the two strategies. It’s excellent against the low to the ground strategies in Historic and is much harder to hate out with cards like
The issue with Food, though, is that it can really struggle against decks that are going over it like Sultai Ultimatum or any combo deck. Jund Company, on the other hand, is the deck that’s better against the open field. It has the capabilities to beat anything as it has a faster clock and can still host good matchups against the creature decks. The main issue though, is that it can still struggle against the go big decks (though not as badly as Food does) and it’s much softer to hate targeting it.
So to summarize, for an open field, I would be more comfortable submitting Jund Company as it has less polarized matchups, and Food if I felt confident in my metagame read. Furthermore, I would expect Company is going to be the much more popular version of Sacrifice moving forward as a reflection of Food’s middling performance at the Championship and that it’s the significantly harder of the two to play correctly.
AURAS MAY BE THE BEST DECK, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED
Despite the prevalence of Sacrifice strategies, Auras came by in pretty large numbers and put on an absolute clinic in the Championship. The second most played deck and a 60% win rate is pretty obscene in a tournament field, and if it’s doing well when 30% of the field was Sacrifice, what do you think will happen in an open metagame? Auras only bad matchups right now are Arcanist (which has been pushed out by Sacrifice) and combo decks (which don’t really exist right now), making it one of the best positioned decks in Historic currently.
The innovation to cut Selfless Savior was a huge upgrade to the archetype as I would frequently get “creature flooded” and not have enough Auras to actually do anything meaningful. Not only is hard removal at an all time low, removal like Claim the Firstborn or exile based removal is significantly more common, making Doggo rather inefficient overall. That being said, if you were to take the winning Orzhov list, I would say you should shave some removal from the main deck as that choice was predominately made with a smaller metagame in mind.
If you’re not looking to play Auras, make sure you aren’t playing a deck that just folds to it as I expect to see it everywhere very soon (looking at you Gruul). For those who don’t fold to it, make sure you have a reasonable plan to beat it that involves a lot of disruption or a very fast clock of your own.
I WOULDN’T PLAY CONTROL, BUT IF YOU WANT TO, ADD GREEN
I think it’s time for Azorius players to take a page out of the Sultai handbook. If you’re struggling with your Sacrifice matchup and want it to be better, just add a color and play Yasharn, Implacable Earth. Despite seeing a large amount of play both in the Kaldheim Championship and other tournaments for the past week, UW can’t seem to crack an above 50% win rate overall. Jund Food and Auras both being difficult matchups definitely doesn’t bode well for the long term viability of the archetype either.
However, there may be hope yet for Control players as Bant put up very promising results with a 59.3% win rate at the Championship, but only a 48.1% win rate in other aggregated tournaments. So why the disparity between the Championship and other tournaments? Once again, how open the metagame was. Bant was designed to target Sacrifice, a mission it more or less accomplished as between both graphs it never went below 50% in either matchup.
The issue I still have though, is that even adding a color to play a hate card only produced decent results, not amazing results as one would hope when changing their entire deck for one matchup. Personally, I would avoid decks that are this tailored for a specific metagame and I would avoid UW as it just hasn’t been putting up results, but if you’re an aficionado with Control and can’t put it down, I’d recommend Bant as the way to go.
DON’T EXPECT ABZAN TO PERFORM AS WELL AS IT DID IN THE TOURNAMENT
To the surprise of nearly everyone, Abzan came out of nowhere and absolutely dominated the tournament with an incredible 63.4% win rate across the 8 pilots. It was a great metacall to make and put one of the players, Shahar Shenhar, into the top 8 as well. However, if you’re thinking you can just play this deck to crush the next tournament, you may end up being sorely disappointed.
There were two factors that mainly contributed to its success, and I bet you can guess one of them easily as I keep saying it throughout the article. That’s right! Abzan was designed to beat Sacrifice and won’t perform as well in an open metagame. However, there’s a vastly underappreciated second reason Abzan performed so well, the pilots. All 8 pilots are some of the best players in the game, and when a deck is in the hands of few, but extremely skilled players, that will always heavily skew matchup data both because of the small sample size and they play better than anyone else.
I mentioned I don’t like bringing metagamed tournament decks to an open field already, but that goes triply so for Abzan. Your matchups are so polarizing that even if you play the deck perfectly, you’re leaving a lot of your wins to matchup variance, which is not a place you really want to be most of the time. Sure you’ll beat Sacrifice most of the time, but being a complete dog to any deck looking to go bigger than you is not ideal.
CYCLING IS REAL, DON’T UNDERESTIMATE IT
I don’t want to tell everyone that I told you so, but just look at the title of the Cycling guide I wrote last week, don’t worry, I’ll wait here. Cycling was a surprisingly powerful archetype and I’m not surprised that it saw strong results at the Championship. With that, it shares one key similarity to Abzan Midrange and one key difference. The similarity is that like Abzan, this was piloted by very few, but highly skilled players. As I said before, that can definitely skew results towards a higher win rate.
The key difference though, is that although I would consider Cycling a good metagame call, it’s not a metagamed deck. What’s the difference? Abzan needs a particular metagame to flourish as it’s built to beat certain decks, Cycling wants to see a certain metagame, but doesn’t need it to win. Cycling is fast, very hard to disrupt, has amazing sideboard options, and has a better late game than most other decks in the format. If you want to take advantage of the surprisingly low hype surrounding Cycling, I’d say now’s the time. The deck is very real and is capable of winning a lot of games.
Unlike Standard, I consider Historic to be significantly more open as a whole. Mainstream archetypes like Sacrifice and Auras will remain excellent choices moving forward while more niche archetypes like Cycling can also perform how you like as well. Right now, I would avoid anything that can’t beat Sacrifice or Auras as those will easily be the most represented decks, so something like Gruul would be out of the question for me.
Also remember, just because a deck wasn’t represented in this tournament doesn’t mean the deck isn’t a good choice. My personal favorite, Selesnya Company, has performed really well over the past week, though it was mostly absent from the Championship, and can be a great choice for ladder and a tournament field as well.
Thank you for reading! If you like my content and want to see more of it, you can check me out on Twitch! Have a great day!