Hello everyone! Deck guides are an amazing tool to get an understanding for a deck and learn how to navigate matchups, but with any major change in the metagame, they can become less competitively sound as it hasn’t kept up with meta trends. How does this one differ from a normal deck guide? Predominately it’s going to be about relevancy.
This Competitive Deck Guide, as part of our usual rotation, what we’re hoping to accomplish is that if we have more condensed selection of guides, we’ll be able to update them liberally within the sphere so you know that, even if it’s an article that was published some time ago, it is the most up to date version. This is a bit ambitious but a project I’m more than happy to tackle! Without further ado, let’s get into the guide! Updated for Historic Anthology 6, Explorer Anthology 1, and the August 2022 Ranked Season.
In a format as unbending as Historic, you rarely hear of a brew making any sort of headway into the format, much less taking the ladder by storm! The deck’s origins come from an Izzet deck that the masterful h0lydiva was piloting. She had been crushing Bo1 Historic with it and when players caught wind, it took the Arena Open by storm in April 2022, which was something not on my radar. I’m not terribly active on Twitter, but I saw SO MANY people retweeting her thanking her for an easy 7-x run in the Bo1 portion. Let’s take a look at the original list.
This deck does a lot of what you want in Bo1: you’re extremely fast, you can punish effectively when the opponent has an awkward draw, and you have enough interaction to stymie opposing game plans when needed.
At it’s core though, you are an aggro deck just with some tempo elements. The deck relies on getting a creature on board, casting enough spells to grow your creatures, and bonking the opponent to death. In Bo1, this is an effective strategy as interactive decks aren’t nearly as popular.
While this list looks and is fantastic, h0lydiva went a step further by improving on her base while making a sideboard for those who wanted to venture into Bo3.
In terms of the main deck, not much has changed. The biggest difference was the addition of a land and a Spikefield Hazard which can act as a land, both changes I definitely agree with. Even in a deck with a low curve and a lot cantrips, missing land drops can easily be a death sentence. By going up to a functional 20 lands, the odds of that happening drop a fair amount which should make the deck more consistent.
Now for the sideboard, it’s a different ball game. On a Twitter thread explaining it, what she was going for were cards that were good in certain matchups but to avoid over-boarding or cards that detract from the deck’s game plan. Since this is so linear, this is a great approach and one I definitely think she accomplished. All the cards here are potent and cheap interaction with the exclusion of Saiba Syphoner.
Syphoner is so interesting to me as she slated it as a card that was good when the matches go long. You can play it out proactively, get back your best spell, and have a 2/2 to boot. Now I’m not saying she’s wrong, but I didn’t see it the same way. Generally speaking, when you’re going long with this deck I believe you’re trying to set up a kill of some sort. With that, you’re likely holding back some amount of spells rather than just playing out whatever you draw instantly.
With that, this is going to be a 4 mana 2/2 most of the time, while not awful, is pretty mopey compared to other options in Historic. Furthermore, unless you’re getting back Expressive Iteration or maybe a Static Discharge, the spells you’re recurring are generally not individually powerful. I feel like this bars the power level of Syphoner pretty harshly and doesn’t accomplish what it’s set out to do. All that said, I like where her head is at for the inclusion.
So with all that out of the way, I initially slated this deck as strong in Bo1 as it lacks the interactive decks that may give this trouble. Is this deck well suited for Bo3? Considering you’re reading this guide, you have to know the answer is yes! I was surprised myself how effective this strategy could be in Bo3 as I thought too much removal would be a pain, but the sheer speed of this deck makes it a bear even for decks with a lot of interaction. So to find the best list, we already have a good base to work from but there are two important questions to answer.
To Companion or Not to Companion?
So h0lydiva admitted herself that she forget about companions with the initial run with the deck. However, with her Bo3 iteration, excluding a Companion was a conscious choice on her part. So that leaves our options to no companion, Jegantha, the Wellspring, or Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
Personally, I think Companions are too good if you have functional free access to them so I’m going to eliminate no Companion right off the bat. So that leaves us with Lurrus or Jegantha. I wasn’t positive how to go the Lurrus direction, but thankfully someone did it for me!
This list looks rather clean with White for Clever Lumimancer and Lurrus and 12 lands to make it work. You also get access to White sideboard cards which could be helpful, but I think are ultimately just a small bonus rather than a key feature. Although this seems relatively free, I do have some issues with it.
One, your mana base is appreciably worse than the base version of the deck. Generally to cast 1CC spells you need 18 or so sources and our deck only has 12. In fairness, it’s not like we’re ever casting Lurrus on curve, but there could be games where you can’t cast Lurrus at all. Furthermore, while Clever Lumimancer seems perfect in this deck, I actually don’t necessarily agree. Sure it can deal a lot of burst damage and it’s great when there’s nothing in it’s way, but I feel like that’s the exception and not the rule. I feel that evasion is so critical in this deck as it’s not often you’ll have an open path to beat the opponent down and on top of that the deck has 1-2 fewer White sources than I would like for a 1 drop.
So, that ultimately leads us to Jegantha, the Wellspring. You may be thinking how a 5 mana 5/5 in a super low curve deck is any good, and I could be biased, but I think it’s worth it. First off, you have to change literally none of your deck to accommodate it. You may lost out on some choice board slots, but I found a way around that as you’ll see soon. Second, you’d be surprised how effective a 5 mana 5/5 is. In a prolonged game where both sides are exhausted of resources, a 5/5 that can’t be hit by burn or Fatal Push can be devastating. It’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but you’ll be surprised how relevant of a threat it is in general, even in games that don’t go as long.
So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the list I’ve arrived at after much testing.
So obviously we remained with the same base of cheap Wizards and a bunch of spells, but let’s talk about the stand out cards. So unlike the other lists, I decided to go with 3 Sprite Dragon. As I played the deck, I realized that Symmetry Sage felt like the best card in it, but I wasn’t positive why at first. With more repetitions, it became obvious as it was a cheap beater that had Evasion which was so critical in this deck. Many decks have ground creatures, but Historic seems awfully weak to Fliers right now for whatever reason. To that end, I figured I needed more threats that could help “go over” other decks, and Sprite Dragon wasn’t my initial choice.
I started off with the Harmonic Prodigy per h0lydiva’s list and I understand what they were in theory, but they didn’t work for me in practice. She was saying how you could hit the opponent for massive amounts of damage as it could double triggers, but the key of Prodigy is that you actually needed additional creatures to get the full effect. Yes this can be nuts if you have a Soul-Scar Mage or better yet a Dreadhorde Arcanist on board, but a lot of games I feel like keeping creatures on board is the hard part. The games that I can deploy and insulate multiple creatures I win easily anyway so a card that abets that game plan seemed unnecessary.
I then tried Frenzied Geistblaster as a means to pitch excess lands and convert that into spells with a decent body. Long story short, Geistblaster was solid, but I wasn’t overly impressed and surprisingly I found that pitching lands was worse than it initially seemed. This deck doesn’t need a lot of mana to operate, but you’re happy to have a good amount of lands too.
Thinking I needed evasion, I moved on to Delver of Secrets. Delver seemed like the perfect inclusion as it was a spell heavy deck, it was a Wizard (on the front side anyway), and it could be a 3/2 Flier for cheap. What ended up happening was nothing short of disappointing. Delver was a horrendous top deck and even with 26 spells, it didn’t trigger that consistently. We didn’t have any way to manipulate the top of the library so I was hoping that the rough 40% blind flip chance would be enough, and let me tell you, it wasn’t. 1 mana 1/1s is not what we’re in the market for.
Finally I ended up with the Sprite Dragons and have been reasonably happy with them. They do start small and take some spells to get going, but permanent Prowess is a nice addition and I’ve been able to grow them to pretty scary proportions if I get to untap with them. Another downside to them is that they aren’t a Wizard for Wizard's Lightning, but I think 12 Wizards is enough regardless.
The next main deck choice I want to go over is the 4 Reckless Charge. This one is simple, this card is just nuts. It allows you to kill really quickly, has a reasonable flashback cost, and has the added bonus of working well with Dreadhorde Arcanist. The deck initially played 3, but I felt that I always wanted to draw one so I quickly went up to 4. These don’t excel in every matchup obviously, but it’s a great game 1 card when the odds are both player’s decks are the least interactive.
For the final weird choice, we have The Royal Scions in the board. I wanted more threats for the controlling matchups and adding a planeswalker seemed obvious, but many of Izzet’s famous walkers like Narset, Parter of Veils and Chandra, Torch of Defiance didn’t work with Jegantha. You could just play them anyway, but Jegantha performs the best in those prolonged games so doing that seemed contradictory to it’s inclusion.
Finally I settled on The Royal Scions, and let me tell you, they’ve been fantastic. Cheap to play, high loyalty, card filtering, additional damage (with First Strike and Trample which are fantastic key words for the deck), and a quick to trigger ultimate has let this play out so much better than you’d think. Couple that with all the interaction we have and protecting them is relatively easy. They have been so good for me and I’ve considered adding more ,potentially over Fading Hope, but depending on the meta you’ve been facing that could be right or wrong.
Overall, this deck has been excellent at punishing opponents with stumbles, kills super quickly, and has great grinding potential as well.
As a final note before moving onto the Matchups and sideboard guide, if you want to play this in Bo1, you can use my same list. My game 1 plan in Bo1 and Bo3 is identical as you want to be as proactive as possible so there’s no need to make any changes.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
You are playing very similar decks in the vein that you’re both aggressive tempo decks, but while they have inevitability, we have speed. With that, you want to try and avoid the games going too long as they will start to out card advantage you so being aggressive is the key here. Since most lists don’t play wraths anymore, deploying your creatures first and trying to leverage as many prowess triggers as possible from your spells has been the most successful strategy. They do still play a good amount of removal you have to be cognizant of (which is why we cut all Reckless Charge), but you can’t really play around them in a meaningful way.
It may be weird to not include Spell Pierce or Mystical Dispute, but trying to interact with their 1 mana spells seems like a losing battle, especially in a prolonged game. Be aggressive and pray their draw isn’t a controlling one.
As the most prominent form of Sacrifice now that Cauldron Familiar is no longer the cat’s meow, we play a much more interactive game than normal. The main thing that matters is controlling their payoffs like Priest of Forgotten Gods or Mayhem Devil, so if you can do so while racing, you’ll be in great shape.
The entire crux of this matchup is going to revolve around whether you can answer their threats immediately or not, so play with that in mind. Unlike other matchups, you don’t need to keep a hand with a creature in it if you have a bunch of removal instead. Obviously you ideally want one, but it’s not a requirement. Thankfully we have so much removal that I would say this matchup is generally even, there’s not much to it beyond not tapping out early if possible and just answering everything immediately.
|+1 The Royal Scions||-4 Play with Fire|
|+3 Bonecrusher Giant||-2 Consider|
|+3 Abrade||-4 Reckless Charge|
|+3 Unlicensed Hearse|
This is another heavy interaction matchup so the game is going to be a lot about how much damage you can deal with the threats you’re able to keep on board. Even though ideally you’re not playing a longer game, it’s likely going to come to that so being more patient with how you play is generally best. You don’t have to worry too much about their threats as they won’t be too relevant, focus on enacting your game plan. The exceptions to this rule are Dreadhorde Arcanist itself and Unlicensed Hearse hence all the Abrade.
Go as fast as you can in this matchup without opening yourself up to getting blown out.
|+1 The Royal Scions||-4 Play with Fire|
|+3 Bonecrusher Giant||-4 Reckless Charge|
|+1 Spell Pierce|
|+3 Mystical Dispute|
Obviously Control is going to be interactive, but thankfully, a lot of their interaction is clunky. A lot of the games start off with us putting on a lot of pressure early that they mitigate, then we can methodically chip their life total away when they have to balance being interactive and proactive. Don’t play into a wrath unless you have Spell Pierce backup and be mindful of Archmage's Charm which can steal a 1 drop before combat which can really mess up a turn.
Generally speaking, I like deploying one threat at a time (once you’re out of the first few turns) and forcing them to deal with that individually then deploy the next, but that can change depending on the board state. Although you don’t want to go long, you have more inevitability than you may think.
In this matchup we’re all about going FAST. They can have some pretty nasty inevitability with the Solemnity and Nine Lives lock, but Bonecrusher Giant can turn that off for a turn which can lead to wins out of nowhere. Never the less, you want to get their life total as low as possible so Bonecrusher Giant is even an out for you, since if their life total is too high, you won’t be able to kill them regardless.
Tips and Tricks
- For Soul-Scar Mage you want to be extremely cognizant of it’s ability to shrink creatures/grow larger in combat when playing with it. You can make a lot of greedy attacks into opponents who don’t want to lose free creatures to get free damage just to deploy more threats.
- Keep in mind that Symmetry Sage increases the BASE power to 3, not the creature’s power to 3. Soul-Scar Mage and Sprite Dragon, no matter how large they get, have a base power of 1, so Sage will always buff it by 2.
- Even in the face of apparent removal, don’t be afraid to run out Sprite Dragon on turn 2, since if they don’t have the removal, you can likely grow it like crazy.
- Don’t forget you can use Sprite Dragon defensively extremely well. Blocking then casting a removal spell and Consider can easily blow out an opponent in combat.
- Although buffing Dreadhorde Arcanist can be a great play, don’t go too crazy trying to achieve it unless you desperately need a spell in the graveyard. If it’s convenient and good, of course go for it, but don’t tunnel vision for it.
- Always remember that aggression is key. You don’t need to play long or short games as long as you’re constantly being proactive. Sometimes being reactive is the most proactive thing you can do if your clock is slower than theirs, but never just sit back with no plan in mind.
Thank you for reading! Let me know if you like these more in depth guides or have any questions, leave a comment below or in our Discord community!