Historic Anthology 2 Card Review: Theorycrafting the Big Hits
Hi everyone! Today I’ll be going over the four most exciting cards in Historic Anthology 2, giving my thoughts on them and some sample decks and ideas to give you some examples of where they should slot into.
Since the new cards aren’t even on Arena yet, these sample decks are completely untested and very rough; they’re to give you a taste of where the new cards will fit/what cards they’ll go with. I’m not saying you should necessarily go out and purchase the bundle right away or spend all your Wildcards on them Day 1! Decks may be unfinished; a lot of deckbuilding is building towards the meta, and the Historic meta has been stagnant given the combination of the removal of its queue and there being so few tournaments, so TBD!
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
This is the most hyped card, and for good reason. If you know much about Modern or Legacy, you’ll have heard of the queen of Death and Taxes before; you might even know of that cold sweat one gets as a Combo or Control player when you’re on the draw against a turn 2 Thalia. Thalia’s power comes from the combination of the devastating mana tax she puts on your opponents, holding buffs well, and a solid body which stops aggro in its tracks. It might look symmetrical, but really it’s anything but – you get to decide what you put in your deck alongside Thalia and your opponent doesn’t. If you’re just curving out with creatures, Thalia won’t hurt you at all but it will make your opponents’ removal extremely expensive, their Wraths uncastable until far too late, and combo decks that involve playing a bunch of spells often just won’t be able to win while she’s in play. Making your opponents unable to use their mana and have to just pass the turn on t2 can be absolutely devastating because on turn 3, you’ll add another creature and now they’ll have two threats to deal with, they can only kill one at a time because their spells are so expensive, and so they fall further and further behind. Against decks with a lot of noncreature spells, until Thalia dies, it’s as though your 2 drop has destroyed one of their lands – that’s how far behind they are.
Thalia is primarily an aggressive card; she’s really strong in decks with 1 drops and your job will be to overrun your opponents before they can recover from the mana advantage you gain from having her. Every white-based aggro deck in Historic will try her, probably as a 4-of – she may be Legendary, but you want to draw her every game. She’ll make 1 mana removal like Shock more important, perhaps even more so than Bonecrusher Giant if decks with her really take off. Thalia has also seen sideboard play in Midrange decks in the past, when combo is a big concern.
Thalia is weak to Goblin Chainwhirler and isn’t that impactful against decks with lots of creatures; as such, I could see Gruul decks adapting to include the card (since Mono Red isn’t naturally good against White Weenie, but Gruul is) to hate her out. She also doesn’t synergise well with cards like History of Benalia and Gideon Blackblade, and its possible without those a Selesnya shell is better for her, so you have access to more good creatures. Make no mistake though, the Guardian of Thraben is going to make her mark once again.
Ranger of Eos
Ranger of Eos is a ton of value in a can; it’s been used in decks like Soul Sisters in Modern to tutor up your enablers at a fantastic rate, and I suspect its use in Historic will be no different. Ranger is at its base case a draw two, but to really abuse it, you need quite a lot of 1 drops, minimum 6-7, (so your second or third Ranger still has things to pick up) and you need some of them to be really important to your gameplan/scale well into the midgame. It’s worth noting that I don’t think Ranger is so powerful that you should go around putting millions of 1 drops in your deck to support him; he’s great but that is a truly gigantic cost, your deck needs to be entirely built around them.
I’ll be going over a large variety of shells that meet those requirements, but for a full list of every creature Ranger can tutor up, see here.
There’s a Historic 1 drop creature Ranger can get that shines above the rest; if you noticed it in the Thalia list above, well done, you’re very astute! While Ranger doesn’t directly synergise with Edgewall Inkeeper, it tutors two of them for your other Adventures and buffs, for an absurd amount of value and resiliency. In the list above, it can also nab Giant Killer and Faerie Guidemother, so you never run out of targets and have access to removal/reach, whichever you need at the time. Ranger is also really powerful with Venerated Loxodon and Unbreakable Formation, creating a massive board right out of the gate.
Remember Soul Warden was introduced in the first Historic Anthology, so we could also see new Mono White/Selesnya Soul Sisters lists looking to abuse Ajani’s Pridemate and Heliod that feature Ranger to net the Warden and other enablers like Alseid, Healer’s Hawk, etc. With the printing of Thalia, every deck of this nature has become a bit better already, so don’t be afraid to jam!
Ranger is a bit slow to get going, but the decks he fits best into tend to be weak to sweepers, so having access to him even in the Sideboard will be a massive deal; there’s no way better way to reload than with a threat that draws two units immediately!
- Decks looking to abuse Curious Obsession and Staggering Insight may well want Ranger; they’re playing a ton of 1 drops so he gives them a ton of resiliency and sweeper protection, and access to protection effects in Siren Stormtamer and Alseid of Life’s Bounty.
- In an Mardu Aristocrats shell, Ranger can be used to tutor up Cauldron Familiar so you can drain them with Oven, and have some easy sacrifice fodder, along with netting you Knight of the Ebon Legion, which remains a big threat in the later game.
- Vampire decks may well want Ranger; they have plenty of 1 drops including the Knight to search up, some that can still do things late like Vampire of the Dire Moon and good ways of making use of the ones that don’t with Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Champion of Dusk. It’s worth noting he doesn’t play well with Legion’s Landing, but you probably have enough other 1 drops anyway.
- In Zombie decks, Cryptbreaker is another solid target, netting you cards and flood protection in the late game.
- In Boros Aggro, Ranger of Eos can net you two Fervent Champions for a huge immediate attack when combined with Heroic Reinforcements or Embercleave. You can also wait until you have two Rangers, tutor up the full four, and that’ll slaughter them by itself in one turn.
- In Azorius Fliers, Ranger can tutor up Faerie Miscreants and Pteramanders for immediate value and a threatening board with all your flier payoffs like Empyrean Eagle and Sephara.
- Ranger can also be used to tutor up silver bullet threats you don’t want too many of like Rhys the Redeemed, which will win you the occasional game but isn’t integral to your gameplan!
- Ranger can tutor up Stitcher’s Supplier and Merfolk Secretkeeper to fuel your Self-Mill/Escape.
- Abusing Ranger with flicker effects like Charming Prince and Thassa is cool, though it’s unclear that decks doing that will want to run enough 1 drops to support him (especially since you need even more in those decks, so that your repeated flickers do something).
Ranger will be highly playable, and tested in a huge variety of different shells, including the ones I gave above. Whether one of them is amazing or not remains to be seen, but I have high hopes since even in the future, every powerful 1 drop printed will threaten to drag Ranger back into the spotlight, if he wasn’t there already.
Knight of the Reliquary
Let me preface this by saying Knight of the Reliquary is one of my favourite cards of all time. I’ve tried her in all manner of homes from 4C Loam to strange Modern Gifts Ungiven decks in 2013 to Collected Company decks, and had a blast every time. She combines great value with sweet toolbox gameplay, fixing and ramp (you can play a 5 drop the turn after you play KOTR), and the raw power of a 3 mana 6/6 through giving herself +2/+2 each turn with fetchlands and growing from just having them in your deck naturally. Llanowar Elves can power a turn 2 Knight, and allow decks to start ramping and growing her rapidly. In terms of raw power level, KOTR is incredibly strong and there will be many midrange homes for her.
All that being said, the card pool isn’t amazing for KOTR right now. There aren’t as many powerful utility lands to tutor up in Historic, especially now that Field of the Dead is banned, there’s no Sejiri Steppe to protect it from removal at instant speed (or god forbid, Life from the Loam), and the only fetchland is Fabled Passage so she won’t be massive naturally very often. However, Anthology 2 has been kind enough to help it along, and there are a few good ones out there:
Bojuka Bog gives KOTR an instant speed way to exile graveyards; the two have been used in tandem for years to great effect. This is extremely useful against Kethis combo, for example – you force them to kill KOTR before they can go off, and you get to take out their graveyard if they try.
Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin are both great utility inclusions with KOTR for hating on other utility lands and punishing greedy mana bases. Additionally, Crucible of Worlds is legal in Historic – you can use Crucible + these lands to run them out of basics, at which point you’re just destroying one of their lands each turn (or two with Dryad of Ilysian Grove, Wayward Swordtooth or The Gitrog Monster!). Each has their own advantages for this plan: Field of Ruin will let you search up your own basics and ramp (though you might not have room for many…), while Ghost Quarter is cheaper and can run them completely out of lands since it can destroy their basics. Probably with KOTR, you would want one of each to avoid harming your mana base too much, since KOTR will just tutor them up for you.
You can find other nonbasics legal in Historic here. Interesting options include the Castle cycle (though remember you need to run lots of Forests and Plains so you probably only want Castle Ardenvale/Castle Garenbrig), the Memorial cycle (Memorial of Folly to recur KOTR if they kill it is cute), Blast Zone as a solid tutorable removal option, Labyrinth of Skophos, Mobilized District and Karn’s Bastion.
Secluded Steppe and Tranquil Thicket have been added in Historic Anthology 2, and can help grow the Knight at a cheap cost. Additionally, just tutoring up Scrylands can be some pretty solid value anyway as you grow your massive creature.
KOTR has a cute combo with Terravore, one of the cards being added in the Anthology, in that she fills up your graveyard to make Terravore bigger, but honestly that sounds really slow and I don’t see Terravore as a playable card in Historic.
I see KOTR overall as slotting into a lot of midrange shells, but I’ve brewed up an Abzan one here that tries to use KOTR + The Gitrog Monster to draw a bunch of cards and destroy all your opponents’ lands!
Other cards to consider:
- Elvish Reclaimer
- Lotus Field
- Tranquil Thicket
I plan to hash out this brew properly, and may do an article on it once I’ve had some time to playtest it after Anthology 2 comes out!
Maelstrom Pulse used to see a ton of Modern play back in the day, ever a mainstay in Jund, but has fallen off as the format got faster and faster. Historic is nowhere near as fast, and I suspect Maelstrom Pulse will be back in force; it’s an incredibly versatile and reasonably efficient answer to whatever you need – literally whatever is annoying you, as long as it’s not a land and it doesn’t have some weird and annoying ability like hexproof/indestructible. Don’t sleep on the last part of that sentence either; it can mop the entire board of tokens, it punishes overcommitting and woe betide anyone trying to copy things!
Maelstrom Pulse is a shoe-in to be a format mainstay.
None. I suspect literally every midrange or control deck that plays these two colours will want a couple of Maelstrom Pulses if they have room, so go nuts!
Join me next week where I’ll go over the “second tier” of cards from Historic Anthology 2, including some interesting build-arounds, value cards, and sideboard mainstays! There may or may not be some Sigils of the Empty Throne in your Future…
Thanks for reading, you can find my other articles here as always! I would highly recommend my last one on Heuristics, as just knowing what they are and how to apply them can really improve your magic game.