There are two types of decks that I think every Arena player should have in their arsenal. The first is a deck I’ve written about a few times, a grinding deck. A grinding deck is a deck you can fall back on if you aren’t at a rank you aren’t happy with. Since I have to try a lot of decks, my rank naturally plummets when I hit a string of mediocre creations which makes having a grinding deck extremely important for me.
The second type of deck though is something I don’t talk about as often, but can be just as important: the fast deck. What’s the fast deck? It’s a deck that can easily crank out wins, simple right? We’re all busy people, but Arena’s economy can be relatively punishing IF you don’t play daily. As I recognized from when I wrote my account maximizing guide back in the day, getting to 4 wins daily is really important to remaining free-to-play so having a deck that may not necessarily be the most consistent, but gets wins quickly, can be good for when you have a busy day. If you’re interested in reading more about making the most of your Arena account and how I’ve continued to remain f2p despite being a content creator, you can click the link below.
Generally speaking, those two decks are not only different, but at complete odds with each other. One deck has a super high win percentage as that’s what you need and one ends games super quickly, usually at the expense of consistency. Could you play a deck that’s both? You better believe it! Back in the December 2021 Season, I was extremely far from my top 1200 goal, 92% to be exact. Over the course of a few hours, I was able to grind up to rank 200. You may think this isn’t pertinent since it was so long ago, but I assure you that Auras is just as good as it’s always been and still one of my go to decks for grinding.
Auras is far from an unknown archetype, but it’s an extremely underappreciated one. Despite it consistently being one of the most powerful strategies in Historic, it is unbelievably misunderstood and underestimated. Many people think that it’s a brainless, inconsistent strategy and while there are times it can feel that way, it’s very far from the truth. In reality, it’s this weird kind of aggressive deck that has an amazing ability to grind, but requires extremely precise sequencing to maximize your cards.
Nearly every creature in the deck has the same exact purpose (Selfless Savior as the exception), draw cards. Esper Sentinel does it more passively as it’s contingent on your opponent casting spells, but it’s still quite consistent. The other 3 all get to draw when you cast an Aura spell (for Drake, the Aura needs to be cast on it for the draw) which allows you to churn through your deck while quickly growing your board. If you manage to get multiple down, then each Aura will net you cards easily spiraling the game out of control!
Beyond the creatures, the second half of the deck is the namesake, the Auras. I won’t go too much into detail, but will point out the important ones. To contrast Orzhov, Azorius gets a huge advantage in their Aura suite, they get card advantage and reach. Curious Obsession and Staggering Insight are both excellent and terrifying cards for the opponent. They will replace themselves 99% of the time and will much more often net at least one card and threaten more.
Second, we have both Arcane Flight and Aether Tunnel as a means to circumvent blockers and have some reach. An issue with Auras is that you can brick wall them with enough creatures or something like a A-Cauldron Familiar / Witch's Oven loop, but with these enchantments, it’s substantially harder to do so as long as you play them at proper times. The rest of the Auras are the usual offenders most are familiar with that provide a reasonable effect for a cheap price!
Best of One
The deck is already quite optimized for Bo1 play as it’s a relatively linear strategy. The only real change I make going into it is nixing the Spell Pierce for two copies of Hushbringer. Spell Pierce loses a lot of stock in Bo1, as most situational cards do, so I cut it just to avoid situations where it’s dead.
Hushbringer, on the other hand, is another situational card that can still flourish in normal circumstances. In some matchups it’ll just be a lifelink flier, but in others, it may shut off an opponent’s entire game plan. Against Collected Company decks like Heliod Combo or Selesnya Humans, this can be a god send. In older lists, I played 4 main deck, and if you wanted to do the same, you can shave some Esper Sentinel and/or Stormchaser Drake to make room.
Unlike many other Historic decks, Auras is quite reasonable as a budget option. This is about as budget as you can get it, but if you’re willing to spend a few more wildcards to get Sram, you’ll more or less have the most important pieces of the deck.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
Phoenix used to be one of Auras better matchups as they could never race nor grind through our game plan, however, Ledger Shredder has now made it much harder. Cerulean Drake is no longer the killer it used to be against Phoenix and us doing our thing makes their Shredder really good, so games that they have an early Shredder are going to be tough. However, if they don’t find a quick Shredder and don’t have a boat load of removal, you are still in prime position to take over the game and win pretty handily.
Now that Cauldron Familiar can’t infinitely chump your ground attackers, this matchup is even rougher for Jund. You stretch their removal incredibly thin as they don’t play much of it and it’s pretty easy getting multiple bodies on board that can dodge The Meathook Massacre. As long as you don’t keep greedy hands, it’s pretty easy to come out ahead.
The Control matchup tends to be a toss up as it’s so determined not necessarily by how each player draws (although important), but how Control built their list. Some lists are going to be wildly favorable for you as they don’t have that much creature interaction while others are going to be extremely tough between Divine Purge and Farewell. Nevertheless, your best bet is to keep cycling your Auras when possible and play around board wipes as much as possible.
I won’t mince words, the mirror is awful. It really comes down to who can land a Kor Spiritdancer first as that player will normally run away with the game. Either have a really powerful hand or a hand that does things and has a piece of interaction or two.
Arcanist is another hit or miss matchup as it’s going to be extremely draw dependent. If they have interaction into Dreadhorde Arcanist, it’s going to be very tough to win, but otherwise, you can generally out grind their interaction if you play smart. Don’t leave yourself open to getting 2 for 1d when possible and do your best to navigate around their interaction. This is a lot more practice and intuition so it’s hard for me to give you guide lines on when to hold back and when to jam, so surmising what the opponent may have in hand is key.
This is going to be a generally good matchup as your game plan lines up really well against theirs. They can definitely win if they hit enough removal, but Hushbringer turns off a vast majority of their deck, including most of their removal, so it’s by far your best card. You don’t have to mulligan to Hushbringer, but I would keep more suspect hands with it as it’s that good in the matchup.
Affinity is definitely one of the tougher matchups as they have a large amount of cheap exile effects, generally the full 8 between Portable Hole and Glass Casket. You’ll have to hope that you can grind through it as it’s going to be raining down from the heavens, but if you can, they don’t have any real means of stopping you. Don’t commit too many auras to any one creature due to the aforementioned exile effects and you should have a reasonable shot at winning the game.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- “Although the deck seems easy, it can be really unintuitive to play. Sometimes you’ll want to play out a spiritdancer just for it to die if you think they can’t cast a removal spell and another card in the same turn. Sometimes you’ll want to hold off because you could be afraid they can spend their mana too efficiently if you run it out.” It’s all contextual and the only way to get better at it is to play Auras more and really try to envision what’s in the opponent’s hand from how they play. This tip was from my friend Tristan who perfectly encapsulated what playing Auras is like.
- Generally speaking you mulligan to one of your Aura creatures, but that’s not as necessary in Azorius. If you have a hand of a few lands, Selfless Savior,
Esper Snetinel, and a draw Aura like Staggering Insight or Curious Obsession, that’s more than good enough. Just always make sure you have a plan with your opener, if you don’t see a plan, don’t keep it.
- In general, if you believe your opponent may have removal, waiting until you can deploy an Aura creature and an Aura will net you some value immediately and play around removal a bit better.
- Sentinel's Eyes is one of the best Auras as it’s the only one you can naturally rebuy. If you feel like you need the ability to recast it down the line and the Vigilance doesn’t particularly matter, putting it on a creature that’s likely to die can give you plays in the future. Furthermore, when recasting it you want prioritize exiling duplicates of cards first if possible. If you’re unsure what to exile, try to gauge it on when you can reasonably get your Lurrus down and what you would want to recast on the same turn and avoid exiling that.
- Hushbringer stops all creature ETBs and death triggers. Many players are aware of the first clause, but not the second so play with that in mind.
- I tend to aggressively bring Lurrus to hand if the opponent is holding up mana on my turn and I feel that they have removal. Even if they don’t have removal and are holding up something like a counter spell, you can make them waste their turn and get a great resource!
- If you need to put cards in the graveyard for whatever reason, playing out another Sram when you have one out is a great way to do that. This is particularly important when you have a Lurrus out or you’re trying to rebuy Sentinel's Eyes.
- Try to save Arcane Flight for as long as possible as that can be the final push of damage you’ll need at some point. By the same token, I wouldn’t not spend a mana and lose out on a card/damage if you have it in hand and can’t use the mana for anything else.
- It’s on the card, but don’t play Curious Obsession out without attacking as you’ll lose it at the end step. However, if you need cards to rebuy Sentinel's Eyes or the cycle is more important than the enchantment, definitely consider it as a line.
Thank you for reading!