Historic Artisan – Festival of Monsters: Clever Reflections Event Guide and Decklists
Bored of every deck rigidly being built around a handful of busted cards, the same old faces every time? Do you crave a wide-open format with myriad archetypes, where each game you get to go “Ooh, what’s that card?” for the first time in ages? Well, have I got news for you!
Welcome to the third and final Festival of Monsters event, where we get to pick up some showcase card styles for Ikoria’s creatures with Mutate. This is the second event featuring the Historic Artisan format this week succeeding the FNM At Home event, to tie into the release of Historic Anthology 3 (check out my set review!). The format uses commons and uncommons from every set in Arena, including every Anthology. Read on to find out how the event works and for a multitude of decklists you can use.
I’m not kidding, we’ve really gone all out this time! We have such a plethora of decks available, such a wealth of archetypes covered, that we’re hoping even the most particular among you with the most varied and interesting tastes will be able to find something you like. Yes, the tea with one sugar drinkers, those of you who like pizza without any sauce at all, our friends who actually prefer to sleep on the sofa, all of you wacky and wonderful people, this is your moment!
Historic Artisan is a fantastic format with an extremely wide range of decks spanning every archetype you’ve ever dreamt of, which feature a multitude of cards which many of you will never even have laid eyes on before! The format is largely unexplored, so it’s ripe for brewers and deck tweakers; we recommend you try out the decks we’ve provided then iterate and innovate on them. Really get into the spirit of this festival by making them a Clever Reflection of you!
Uncover the past and retell the tales of adventure, power, and victory once again in this week’s Festival of Monsters event. In this Historic, Artisan-style experience, pick up the pieces of that which was left behind and experience Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths in a new light!
This event is commons and uncommons only. The following cards are banned:
- Duration: May 22, 2020 at 12:00 AM PST – May 25, 2020 at 12:00 AM PST
- Format: Historic Artisan
- Entry Fee: 500 Gems or 2500 Gold
- Ends After: You can keep playing, but rewards do not go past five wins.
- Match Structure: Best-of-one matches (BO1)
- 1 Win: Necropanther Showcase Card Style
- 2 Wins: Lore Drakkis Showcase Card Style
- 3 Wins: Boneyard Lurker Showcase Card Style
- 4 Wins: Regal Leosaur Showcase Card Style
- 5 Wins: Trumpeting Gnarr Showcase Card Style
I’ve provided descriptions for all the decklists I brewed up, scroll down for those!
Alongside my decks, we have a bunch Terence updated from his December 2019 Historic Artisan guide; check that out and take a stroll down memory lane!
Overall, I’d recommend you look at each decklist, find some cards that you really like the look of, or a theme that you really want to play with and test out, and then go nuts! Many of you will have far too many common & uncommon wildcards anyway, and those people especially should just try as many decks as they can, get as much from this completely new and fresh format as possible!
There are a ton of ways to build Azorius Fliers in Artisan – you can have more countermagic, or be slower with more Arcanist’s Owls, or have Loyal Pegasi and more flier payoffs like Gust of Wind (this card almost made the final build, but being a sorcery hurts it a lot…), Favorable Winds, and more Empyrean Eagles instead of the Enchantments.. the list goes on. However, I felt like having Curious Obsession and Staggering Insight and being really low to the ground was the best way to go since, as anyone who played against the old Mono Blue decks last year knows, those cards are busted and make best use of the ton of 1 drop fliers that this deck wants to run anyway.
I eschewed cards like Alseid of Life’s Bounty and the 1 drop fliers in White, because double and triple-spelling with Blue cards is going to be so important here – White has been relegated to just a splash, in what is mostly a Mono Blue Fliers deck. I think it’s still worth it to have access to Staggering Insight and Empyrean Eagle, despite the cost of running two taplands (which is huge in this deck). I suspect there’ll be a lot of Mono Blue Tempo decks in Historic (see my version later!), and this will be a good way to go over the top of them while employing a similar strategy.
Enchantments aren’t all that easy to disrupt in this format, since there’s no Teferi, Time Raveler (thank god) and there are no really efficient maindeckable ways to do that. For this reason, and because Timely Reinforcements is a busted card (see my Historic Set Review) that absolutely destroys red-based aggressive strategies, I wanted to try out Azorius Control instead of the more common Dimir Control (which I’ll also have a list for later).
As with Dimir, the plan is to blank all their removal spells, expend your resources in stopping them from doing things, and then just wait. You’re far better at keeping yourself alive than Dimir, since it’s relying on Ill-Gotten Inheritance, which is incredibly slow, to catch back up on life while you have Birth of Meletis and Timely. The Inheritance also doubles up as a wincon in Dimir, but you have barely a need of such things – you run 2 Ominous Seas and 1 Clear the Mind, and that’s all you need! Ominous Seas being your wincon means you have the option of Cycling it when you’re looking for more answers, and most of your opponents will be conceding anyway. It’s possible that this deck wants a 2nd Honden, but I figured with 4 Thirst for Meaning 4 Omen of the Seas, you’d have enough draw and Honden would end up being a bit winmore.
You are going to want to try to counter Vine Mare, the main hexproof creature in the format, but Azorius Control is far less weak to it than Dimir – Timely Reinforcements can block it, and Birth tokens will buy you time to hopefully build up to an Ominous Seas 8/8 (which they probably can never beat). While I suspect Azorius Control is better than Dimir against the field, it may well have a tough time against Nightveil Predator in that matchup, which I wasn’t able to find a reasonable answer to, and you may have to try to race and outvalue – which should be reasonable sometimes with Timely + Ominous Seas; I suspect the field will be more creature-oriented anyway.
Dimir Control has been a staple Artisan deck since the format’s inception. Not much has changed, but I felt that Heartless Act was better than a couple of the other removal options, and having a couple of Mystical Dispute main seemed like a good idea; I think because you can cycle Neutralize away, it is worth running where Sinister Sabotage perhaps was not before.
As usual, the basic strategy is to blank all their removal spells, slowly burn them away with Ill-Gotten Inheritance, and leverage Nightveil Predator being ridiculously hard to kill in this format for some drawn-out but decisive victories.
I suspect this deck is a lot less powerful than it was in December (I heard it was the best deck by a good margin then) because every other deck has gained a ton in the last few sets, is making good use of the Historic Anthology cards etc, and this build of Dimir Control isn’t as much. That being said, I suspect it’ll still be a reasonable enough choice, though I’ll try to make clear which of the others I prefer.
Gruul Aggro with Ancient Ziggurat
This deck is the only one in the entire format with a Companion, and that Companion is Ancient Ziggurat! Gruul Aggro has long had all kinds of powerful haymakers available, and its main problem used to be the really awkward Artisan mana bases… but all Ancient Ziggurat, a newly released card in Historic Anthology 3, asks of you is to play a lot of creatures; something Gruul wants to do anyway! It is awkward that Ancient Ziggurat doesn’t actually tap for colourless mana so I’ve really limited the number of noncreatures in the deck and none of them cost more than 2, but I think it’s well worth it to be able to consistently cast that devastating top end. One natural advantage you gain from all this is being absurdly good against Spell Pierce and Negate, staple cards of the format.
I went for creatures that resisted removal, had haste, or disrupted your opponents wherever I could – I figure Vine Mare is going to be big enough to attack through Historic Artisan’s mostly small creatures, and that card will just crush Control decks, and I really wanted ways to prevent it being countered, since that is their best way to deal with it. I didn’t want Rhythm of the Wild with Ancient Ziggurat, so I chose to cut a couple of copies of Zhur-Taa Goblin for Destiny Spinner, which I’m not sure is right but is likely to be better than the Goblin against Control and possibly Mono Blue as well.
I suspect Gruul Aggro in one build or another is extremely powerful, and will be one of the best decks. UPDATE: I felt like the deck had too many 2 drops for 8 ramp sources, and have added a bit more high end, while shaving Vine Mare numbers a bit, since I felt I was mostly playing against creature decks and not Black control decks.
Goblins was one of my Historic Anthology 3 Theorycrafts, and I have even higher hopes for them here! Having great cantripping removal in Gempalm Incinerator, a neverending stream of card advantage in Goblin Ringleader, Matrons to tutor up the best Goblin for your situation, Skirk Prospector + Goblin Warchief to absolutely turbo all of this out… In a format like Historic Artisan which operates on a much lower power level than regular Historic, I suspect many decks won’t be able to keep up, and will get absolutely run over. Unlike the other small-creature decks in the format, you’re not even particularly vulnerable to Flame Sweep or Cry of the Carnarium – they’re annoying but that’s what Grumgully, the Generous is for, and with all this tutoring and mana generation, you’ll have him out by turn 3 a lot. Even if you do get wrathed, it’s very easy to recover with Goblin Ringleader, a card that will consistently draw between 2 and 4 cards here.
It’s possible that there should be more one-drops here, and I should have included Goblin Banneret or Tin-Street Dodger, but I wasn’t really all that excited about either here, and this is more of a Midrange than an Aggro deck anyway.
I would be surprised if Goblins isn’t both a great deck and one that people are likely to sleep on, and it’s not even all that easy to prepare for! It’ll also have a ton of play to it, and be intricate and skill-rewarding; this is the first deck I plan to try out personally.
Good mana without Ancient Ziggurat? Is such a thing even possible? Well, it turns out that tribal decks can make it happen! This deck is really powerful and consistent, since it is just creatures, anthems, and some light disruption in Kitesail Freebooter; turns out there’s a lot of crossover between Humans and Knights! Removal isn’t really necessary, since you can just use Lockdown to tap down their stuff, but we do have a couple of copies of Heartless Act since I felt it was efficient enough and I wasn’t that excited to have a couple more Skyknight Legionnaires; you can make that switch if you’d prefer.
Remember to name Humans, not Knights, with Territory – only most of your creatures are Knights!
Almost every Mono Blue Tempo deck is styled after the one Autumn Burchett took down a Pro Tour with at the start of 2019. I’ve built this one very much in that style, but the lack of a Tempest Djinn-style card to finish your weakened opponents off hurts. Still, later in 2019, a card was printed that is fantastic for this strategy, and the hallmark of all the Flash decks in Standard these days – Brineborn Cutthroat. To build around the Cutthroat, I trimmed a couple of of Wizard’s Retorts for Lookout’s Dispersal, a card that fills almost exactly the same role but works better with this deck’s newly enhanced Pirate count.
I suspect builds of this deck will be all over the place, but it won’t actually be as good as people think – at first I thought it would be good too, but the problem is that a ton of decks will be running lands like Ancient Ziggurat and Unclaimed Territory since those are necessary in order to have good mana this format, and those lands require you to have a ton of creatures, so Spell Pierce will be a really awkward card. We’ve just seen Mardu Knights, and I really have no idea how Mono Blue is going to keep up with that. Additionally, Flame Sweep is one of the best ways to fight this strategy (as is just having a lot of Shock effects) so watch out and don’t tap out into the obvious three mana open in Red, or into Cry of the Carnarium in Black.
Izzet Drakes was one of my favourite Standard decks of early 2019, and I’m happy to see that it looks potentially strong in Historic Artisan too! One important thing the deck is very good at doing is dismantling Mono Blue, which really can’t keep up with an army of bigger fliers plus tons of cheap disruption to fight its countermagic. A fantastic upgrade to Pteramander was Sprite Dragon from Ikoria, a self-contained win condition which quickly pulls out of the range of Shock effects, and interacts extremely well with Dive Down.
Izzet Drakes will be pretty poor against fast green midrange starts like Llanowar Elves -> creatures with more than 4 toughness, so you do need to be quick on your feet; I’ve included a copy of Maximise Velocity which the old Drakes decks sometimes ran, and seems to have good synergy with Sprite Dragon too.
It might seem like I’m milking this Ancient Ziggurat thing, but Historic Artisan’s mana bases are really bad if you don’t want to rely on a bunch of taplands! While Call of the Death-Dweller will sometimes be a bit hard to play here, it’s well worth being much more likely to land t2 Daxos and t3 Bloodthirsty Aerialist; oftentimes you want to play that card on turn 4 or 5 anyway.
Anyway Healer’s Hawk is banned but this is otherwise a pretty classic lifegain shell – you can’t play stuff like Heliod and Ajani, Strength of the Pride in Artisan so you have to make do by just putting as many creatures that benefit from lifegain and ways to recur those creatures as you can. I felt like I couldn’t justify Gideon’s Company in a higher power format like Historic, even if I did have it in my Standard Artisan version of this. Soul Warden is a huge pickup, the t1 Warden t2 Pridemate start being rough for most decks in the format to deal with.
In a format full of small creatures, Zagoth Mamba is pretty absurd. The main advantage this deck gains from Historic is one that every Green deck gains, in busted card Llanowar Elves, which pulls double duty in this deck in being a fine Mutate target as well. Ancient Ziggurat also lets you push the mana base a lot more without needing nearly as many taplands. This is another deck that completely blanks Spell Pierce and Negate!
I bet many of you weren’t expecting to see combo decks in Artisan! Terence wrote an article on this combo recently (I’ll let him explain how it works!), and I noticed that there were a bunch of ways to give Lifelink at uncommon, so I then found this great piece from MTG Jeff and updated his version. I’ll have one after this which is a Vampires deck with the combo as a secondary gameplan, but this one is completely All-in on the combo, and has a ton of ways to tutor up the pieces – there are essentially 7 copies of Wand, 8 of Paladin, and 9 Lifelink auras! I decided to eschew some weaker cards like Danitha to have some silver bullets with Heliod’s Pilgrim in Sky Tether and Starlit Mantle, which respectively buy you time and protect your Paladin. This is the perfect deck for the Johnies among you; go forth and burn some people for infinite damage!
I noticed that the Paladin Wand combo slots pretty easily into a regular Vampires deck, and the pieces had a lot of synergies to exploit in that archetype. In this deck, the Paladin is a reasonable beater that later on can combo off, Wand combines with Vampire of the Dire Moon to mow down your opponents’ creatures, and the Lifelink auras are pretty good on Adanto Vanguards, with Alseid covering the Vanguard’s vulnerability to Enchantment/exile removal while being a fantastic way to both untap the Paladin and protect the Combo. This deck has a lot of moving pieces which interact well together; a solid primary beatdown plan coupled with a way to just win the game out of nowhere while your opponents are forced to tap out to stop you killing them.
Another tribal deck abusing Ancient Zig/Unclaimed Territory lands to actually have good fixing, this build of Temur Elementals combines the potential for some truly vicious aggressive starts with a powerful late game of essentially hexproof tribal – Arboretum Elemental is the format’s Carnage Tyrant, and all it asks of you is that you have a few creatures before you slam it onto the board, which Scampering Scorcher is happy to provide.
I wanted to play Chandra, Novice Pyromancer but it’s terrible with Ancient Zig, and currently this is another deck that’s almost completely immune to Spell Pierce and Negate, which are staple cards this format (remember to try to leave 2 mana up when you cast Shock!).
As one of my pet cards that I’ve loved since forever, I didn’t feel complete until I’d brewed with Unburial Rites! The white splash is pretty free here, many of your creatures cycle, I felt like we wanted a lot of ramp to both make the Reanimation faster and more devastating, and to give us a better chance of hardcasting our threats (I’ve tried to choose mainly threats which can be hardcast or cycled). I considered having Roar of the Wurm but I felt it was just too bad a draw to justify without also having some looting.
This is the kind of deck that, on a good draw, will just steamroll decks like Gruul which don’t have much big creature removal.
Okay, let none accuse me of being unwilling to make sacrifices for the memes. This is 2 of each Honden plus a pile of Control tools to ensure you live long enough to deploy them. Timely Reinforcements is a messed up card, so cross your fingers and hope all this lifegain amounts to something! It’s worth devoting a few games and not all that many wildcards (if you bought the Anthology) to some truly hilarious jank. Let me know how it goes!
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