Historic on a Budget: Boros Cycling

Valiant Rescuer Art by Bram Sels
Valiant Rescuer Art by Bram Sels

Hello everyone! I frequently receive questions on how to break into Historic and I never had a good answer for them. Well that changes today! I’m going to go over how you can use the cards in your collection to make decks that can break you into Historic and even be very competitive! Furthermore, I’ll post different iterations of the same deck that will have varying degrees of expense (Completely Budget, Standard Budget, Purely Competitive) to make it easy to see which version you can reasonably afford.

Whenever people ask me the best intro deck to Standard, I always have the same answer: Cycling. Cycling has a powerful, proactive game plan that can easily crush any of the Tier decks, while mostly being Commons and Uncommons! Furthermore, it’s an easy enough deck that anybody can pick up and have reasonable success on the first try, but still deep enough that there’s something to learn there.

That being said, the beauty of Cycling doesn’t have to be reserved just for Standard, we can port it over to Historic as well! Cycling thrives in metagames that aren’t extremely fast as it has a strong early game and a powerful late game with Zenith Flare. For the most part, Historic is a medium speed format with few aggressive decks and plenty of midrange to slower decks so Cycling can perform really well here!

As a note, the first two lists are intended more so to be Best of One (Bo1) decks, but I added a sideboard if you want to take it into Traditional Historic (Bo3) as well. The Competitive version of the list will be Bo3 inherently, but of course you could definitely take it into Bo1 queue with good success as well.

COMPLETELY BUDGET

Flameblade Adept Art by Tomasz Jedruszek
Flameblade Adept Art by Tomasz Jedruszek

For the completely budget version of decks, the idea is to use as few Rares and Mythics as possible while still allowing the deck to correctly function. This won’t always be an easy task for a lot of different decks, but it’s likely the most manageable for Cycling. Let’s take a look at the complete budget build of Cycling.

(H) Budget Cycling 

Creatures (20)
4
Flameblade Adept
4
Flourishing Fox
4
Drannith Healer
4
Drannith Stinger
4
Valiant Rescuer
Spells (8)
4
Go for Blood
4
Zenith Flare
Enchantments (8)
4
Footfall Crater
4
Cast Out
Lands (24)
4
Forgotten Cave
6
Mountain
10
Plains
4
Secluded Steppe
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Fight as One
2
Soul-Guide Lantern
4
Baffling End
1
Shredded Sails
4
Forsake the Worldly
2
Reptilian Reflection

I’m particularly proud of this as this is a reasonable Historic deck with ZERO Rares or Mythics! That is not an easy feat to accomplish in any format, but especially so in Historic! Obviously you are giving up on a cleaner mana base and some rares, but this version of the deck is realistically not that much worse than the “complete” deck. If you want to break into Historic and you have the uncommon Wildcards to spare, this is a really easy way to do it.

In totality, this is 34 Uncommons and 25 Commons. If you’re just starting out, you may have issues with even 34 Uncommons, but with even a few months of play this amount will be inconsequential. As a quick aside, if you don’t have that many Uncommon wildcards, craft Glass Casket over Baffling End. Baffling End is a little bit better, but it’s mostly inconsequential.

Although this will definitely be a viable list, your mana base can certainly give you some issues. You do only need one red and one white source each, but drawing the wrong ratio is a lot more likely without any dual lands. If this is all you can afford, don’t worry about it. However, if you think you may be able to afford more, take a look at the Standard Budget section.

STANDARD BUDGET

Drannith Stinger Art by Denman Rooke
Drannith Stinger Art by Denman Rooke

For most people looking to break into Historic, but can’t due to prohibitive cost, this is likely where you stand. You have some Standard decks, but not enough Rares to break into Historic. With this section, I’ll be under the assumption that you own popular Standard cards so going for this build shouldn’t break the bank too much. For Cycling specifically, that gives us a few upgrades, but nothing major over the initial budget build. Let’s take a look.

(H) Standard Budget Cycling 

Companion
1
Jegantha, the Wellspring
Creatures (20)
4
Flameblade Adept
4
Flourishing Fox
4
Drannith Healer
4
Drannith Stinger
4
Valiant Rescuer
Spells (8)
4
Go for Blood
4
Zenith Flare
Enchantments (8)
4
Footfall Crater
4
Cast Out
Lands (24)
4
Forgotten Cave
5
Mountain
4
Needleverge Pathway
7
Plains
4
Secluded Steppe
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Reidane, God of the Worthy
2
Soul-Guide Lantern
4
Baffling End
4
Forsake the Worldly
2
Reptilian Reflection
1
Jegantha, the Wellspring

So far there are only 3 upgrades from the initial list. Jegantha, the Wellspring is a really nice add and although it doesn’t come into play often, it is functionally a free card. Furthermore, you have the small added bonus of potentially misleading your opponent in terms of what you’re playing (Jegantha generally means Jund sacrifice in Historic). Reidane, God of the Worthy is a nice add in the sideboard as it’s a great tool against both small creature decks if you want, and Control decks to heavily tax their spells.

Both of these are nice, but the largest upgrade is definitely the Needleverge Pathway. Having a cleaner manabase is always a recipe for success and this list only adds 5 Rares to the equation, still a premium for a Historic deck. Although this is an improvement, I would say it’s pretty marginal compared to the budget version. As such, I would opt for this version of the deck over the other only if you don’t have to craft any/much of it. If you do, you can just start with the base and take it from there.

PURELY COMPETITIVE

Hollow One Art by Anthony Palumbo
Hollow One Art by Anthony Palumbo

As the name implies, this is just the best version of the list we can possibly get. Let’s take a look at how this compares to the Standard Budget version.

(H) Cycling 

Companion
1
Jegantha, the Wellspring
Creatures (16)
4
Flourishing Fox
4
Drannith Healer
4
Drannith Stinger
4
Valiant Rescuer
Spells (8)
4
Go for Blood
4
Zenith Flare
Artifacts (4)
4
Hollow One
Enchantments (8)
4
Footfall Crater
4
Cast Out
Lands (24)
4
Forgotten Cave
4
Inspiring Vantage
1
Mountain
4
Needleverge Pathway
3
Plains
4
Sacred Foundry
4
Secluded Steppe
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Grafdigger's Cage
4
Baffling End
1
Abandoned Sarcophagus
3
Forsake the Worldly
2
Reptilian Reflection
3
Sweltering Suns
1
Jegantha, the Wellspring

The most substantial upgrades to the deck are the manabase and the Hollow One. The mana is obvious, having a better manabase makes it more likely to cast your spells. Cycling isn’t too color intensive overall, especially when we get rid of  Flameblade Adept, but having 12 dual lands versus 4 is still a substantial upgrade. Something that’s less obviously amazing is the inclusion of Hollow One, but it’s not hard to see why this is good. A frequent play pattern is you play a creature on 2, then you triple cycle on turn 3 into a free Hollow One! It’s a huge tempo swing that gets you closer to your Zenith Flare while also putting on a good amount of pressure.

Beyond those two major upgrades, we get some marginal ones in the sideboard as well. Grafdigger's Cage is a solid, yet narrow answer to graveyard strategies like Arcanist while also having applications against Collected Company decks. Abandoned Sarcophagus is a really nice grindy tool to have as you can rebuy all of your Cycling cards later, but is not the most necessary as there’s a lot of reasonable cards you can have against Control. Sweltering Suns can definitely be a nice add as the aggro decks can be a real headache and some decks like Elves really struggle to beat even one board wipe. You could also consider Hushbringer in any of these spots as it’s quite good against a lot of random decks and it is a rare in Eldraine.

TIPS AND TRICKS

These are tips to playing any of the versions, but obviously the notes referencing Hollow One will be applicable only to the final version.

  • One of the best features of Cycling is that you can functionally keep every hand with lands and spells. I would avoid any hands that are 1 and 5 landers, but anything in between is acceptable.
  • Ideally you want to deploy your threats first before Cycling a lot of cards. Flourishing Fox and Valiant Rescuer are still the best threats to play first while Drannith Stinger gets better while you have more mana.
  • Drannith Healer is pretty weak so I tend to cycle it more often than playing it. It’s nice if you need to block something or gain some life, but don’t be afraid to pitch it.
  • Generally you want to cycle as much as you can each turn when allowed, however when you have Hollow One, you can sandbag some of your cyclers in order to cast it during a later turn.
  • Go for Blood and Footfall Craters are more helpful than you’d expect. Both are really good with Hollow One overall, but you would still cycle them more often than not. For example, I would cycle Drannith Healer or ever Flourishing Fox (if it’s later in the game) over a Go for Blood or Footfall Craters.
  • Although Cast Out is really tempting to use, cycling it is generally better. Cast Out is great because it’s a decent card if we have to cast it, but you want to work towards the Flares.
  • Don’t forget you’re allowed to cycle Hollow One as well, but obviously we’d prefer not to.
  • You don’t need Zenith Flare to be lethal to cast it, but I would still wait as long as possible.
  • If you are low on lands, feel free to play out the cycle lands. Ideally we want to cycle them, but we play so many so you don’t have to feel bad playing them.
  • The Cycling creatures get outmatched really easily in the mid to late game (maybe besides Drannith Stinger), so don’t be afraid to cycle them.
  • In matchups you want Forsake the Worldly, you don’t have to hold on to them forever waiting for a target, it’s ok to keep cycling as you can probably find another copy.

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is a streamer and high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, GW Company in Historic, and Temur Koma in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and teaching! Twitch Discord

5 Responses

  1. Scott Schultz says:

    Thanks for this article. I had become disenchanted with Historic lately given that it’s turned into (IMO) a big cheese-fest where you either die to absurdly fast aggro or you die to absurd combo strategies. That’s not to say that Standard Cycling isn’t its own kind of cheese; it absolutely is and since I have other decks that also perform well, I tend to use them. However, cycling is also a truly budget option for anyone breaking into Arena for the first time, that’s also a meta-worthy deck.

    Given all that, I decided to go ahead and drop a few wild cards on a playset of Hollow One and sub out a few of the rare dual-lands with other rare dual-lands that I happened to already own, so that the crafting cost was minimal considering how most of us find ourselves with lots of common/uncommon wild cards and nothing particularly pressing to spend them on. (I play Bo1 exclusively, so I didn’t bother with the sideboard at all.)

    For this deck, the Hollow Ones were absolutely worth the investment and I’d say they are specifically what allows the Standard Boros Cycling deck to evolve into a Historic Boros Cycling deck. I don’t know if it will be top-tier, I’m only running it through Platinum 3 right now, but it’s definitely a solid performer against most things I’ve played it against so far.

    The one issue I’m thinking about tinkering with at this point is the historic cycling lands. On the one hand, they are definitely good for adding opportunities to cycle, and the deck is generally able to run lean on just the four lands needed to play a Zenith Flare. On the other hand, though, the cycling lands are really slow and some of my matches I feel might have been stronger outcomes if the lands had come in untapped.

    Overall, though, this is a solid deck and it at least gives me something to generate some wins to offset the times when I decide take another shot at a shrine/gates deck, LOL. My win rate is currently 7-1 at Platinum 4 (just “graduated” to Plat 3). I consider that pretty decent results for a new-built historic deck.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Appreciate the detailed response! I really like the Cycling lands as they are relevant way more often than the random spells like Footfall Craters and Go for Blood, so you could always just add more basic lands. I would not necessarily recommend that as flooding out with Cycling is the main way you lose, but adding a few more lands doesn’t seem unreasonable either.

  2. Matt says:

    Great idea for a series! Love your articles.

    Have you tested faithless looting with cycling in historic at all? Haven’t seen many cycling lists since Mystical Archives – which is a shame because it can be a blast to play

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Looting isn’t a bad idea but a lot of the cards don’t trigger off Discard beyond Hollow One and Zenith Flare. Furthermore spending a mana on card disadvantage that doesn’t trigger a lot of your cards is worse than a Cycling card that only gets you 1 card deeper but triggers the entire deck and also has functionality outside of being cycled.

  3. Henry Scipio says:

    I’ve been playing cycling exclusively on historic, making mythic the last 2 months. Faithless looting is awesome as it allows turn 2 hollowed ones. U tend to flood out in the late game and looting helps u dig 4 the zenith flare. Looting also helps you dig 4 your sideboard sides, like sweltering sun’s, when you can’t win without it.

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