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Dreadhorde Arcanist Art by G-Host Lee

Historic Rakdos Umezawa Arcanist Deck Guide: Lurrus Arcanist Is Back and Better Than Ever

Hey everyone! Today I’m going to be covering my RB Umezawa Arcanist deck in Historic which I recently used to climb into the top 25 on the Arena ladder with a 41-22 record. The deck has felt great and has been so much fun to play – you can check out the video above from my YouTube channel if you’re interested in seeing the deck in action! I’m also finally going to start streaming next week since I’ve had a lot of people ask so feel free to follow my Twitch page if you’re interested.

RB Umezawa Arcanist
by Altheriax
Buy on TCGplayer $316.26
Historic
best of 3
4 mythic
31 rare
17 uncommon
8 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Companion
Instants (10)
1
Cling to Dust
$0.35
4
Unholy Heat
$1.00
4
Painful Bond
$0.00
Sorceries (12)
4
Thoughtseize
$63.96
Enchantments (4)
60 Cards
$294.4
Sideboard
4
Abrade
$1.00
2
Duress
$0.50
2
Go Blank
$1.18
15 Cards
$15.33

Main Deck

Thoughtseize Art by James Ryman
Thoughtseize Art by James Ryman

Arcanist decks have been around for a while now and have always been near the top of the Historic meta, but the deck recently got some really nice tools from both the latest set Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty as well as the latest Alchemy set. If you’ve never played an Arcanist deck before, the general game plan is to go underneath the opponent and strip them of all of their resources using the most efficient discard and removal spells in the format and then close out the game with your threats.

Dreadhorde Arcanist is the central card in the deck and at a base rate, it allows you to recast 1 mana instants and sorceries from your graveyard whenever it attacks which allows you to double up on the efficient discard and removal spells that the deck is running. This particular build differs from most other Arcanist decks in that it often plays more like a tempo deck than a midrange deck and so applying pressure once the opponent is out of resources is very important, especially when you have Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat.

1-mana Instants & Sorceries

Thoughtseize & Inquisition of Kozilek: These are the two most efficient discard spells in the format and are a crucial part of the deck’s game plan against control, combo, and midrange. Thoughtseize is generally the better out of the two as there are a number of cards with mana value 4 or higher that are important to hit like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Collected Company, or creatures like Crackling Drake or Stormwing Entity for example.

It’s not strictly better than Inquisition of Kozilek though, as the 2 life loss definitely does matter against both aggro, and decks that have good reach in the late game like UR Phoenix, Cat/Oven decks, and decks running burn spells. In those matchups, you’ll want to trim or often cut the discard spells entirely, but they are the most important cards in the deck in the slower matchups and are the main reason why you’re a favorite against control and combo decks.

Bloodchief's Thirst & Unholy Heat: These are here mainly as creature removal and the first thing I want to address is why I’m not running Fatal Push. Fatal Push is one of the best removal spells in the format and you can recast it with Dreadhorde Arcanist but it’s almost impossible to trigger revolt in this list.

I’m not running Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger (I’ll go into more detail on this later) or Fabled Passage. Regarding Passage, I think there needs to be a really big payoff to warrant running it in a Historic deck – something like Brainstorm or Omnath, Locus of Creation is a powerful enough payoff to warrant it ,but Passage is essentially a single coloured land that enters tapped for the first three turns which just doesn’t feel worth it just to enable revolt or delirium. With that, Fatal Push is basically only going to kill 1 and 2 mana creatures which just isn’t good enough.

Like I said, this particular list often plays more like a tempo deck and so you are almost always going to be going underneath the opponent which means that you need to be able to deal with bigger creatures the opponent plays in order to keep attacking with your Dreadhorde Arcanist and Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat.

Instead of Push, I’ve decided to run Bloodchief's Thirst which has felt great. It can kill cheap creatures in the early game while also scaling well into the mid-late game being able to kill both big creatures and planeswalkers. You can also pay the kicker cost on Bloodchief's Thirst when you recast it off Dreadhorde Arcanist in order to kill any creature or planeswalker. Unholy Heat is potentially the best removal spell in the format and similar to Bloodchief's Thirst, it can kill cheap creatures in the early game and also take out almost all creatures and planeswalkers in the mid-late game once you have delirium online.

Cling to Dust: I’m a big fan of Cling to Dust as a 1-of in these sorts of decks if you’re not running any other escape cards (if you’re running a build with Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger then you’re probably better off running Soul-Guide Lantern instead as both cards will be fighting over cards in the graveyard for their escape cost. I think having main deck graveyard hate in Historic if it fits in with your deck’s game plan is a big bonus right now as most of the decks that are using the graveyard (like Phoenix, Arcanist, Greasefang, and Food to a lesser extent) tend to be heavier on graveyard synergies game 1 and will usually then become less reliant on it post-board.

The nice thing about Cling to Dust is that it’s still reasonably good against decks that don’t use the graveyard as it’s either repeatable card advantage or life gain. One of the traditional weaknesses of Arcanist decks in the past was a lack of life gain which makes you vulnerable to decks that have good reach in the late game so having the life gain mode here is great at stabilizing so you can’t get finished off by Cat/Oven or Burn spells/ Phoenixes off the top.

Other Creatures

Dragon's Rage Channeler: This is one of the best 1-drops in the format and is great at enabling a lot of the synergies in this list. The surveil is great at both setting up delirium and filling the graveyard for Dreadhorde Arcanist as well as filtering to dig for what we need. The fact this turns into a 3/3 flyer once delirium is online is also really important at being able to present a fast clock once the opponent is out of resources. The main weakness of the Arcanist gameplan is that it’s not great if the opponent top decks well and so giving them as few draw steps as possible once they’re low on resources is really important.

Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat: I think this is a good point to explain why I’m not running Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger as this is typically the slot where you would run it. I played Kroxa in this list for quite a while and it was really strong, especially in conjunction with Dragon's Rage Channeler, but I felt it just made the deck way too vulnerable to graveyard hate. Dreadhorde Arcanist and the delirium cards are already hurt by graveyard hate and if your main other threat also gets shut down by graveyard hate, that’s a terrible spot to be in. This is especially problematic right now due to the very high amount of graveyard hate in people’s sideboards due to the popularity of Phoenix, other Arcanist decks, and Food so I don’t think Kroxa is worth running in this build.

Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat on the other hand is a really strong threat that runs away with the game and one that doesn’t get affected by graveyard hate at all. This deck is especially good at enabling Rahilda to connect as you can strip creature removal from the opponent’s hand with your discard spells and clear the way for Rahilda to attack with your creature removal. If you can start connecting with Rahilda, the advantage you gain just snowballs the game and it’s a great way to take advantage of the board state that Arcanist is trying to achieve where the opponent is low on resources.

New Cards

Painful Bond: This is a new card from the latest Alchemy set and is absolutely insane on rate. Getting to draw 2 for 2 mana at instant speed with very little downside is so good and I think Arcanist is probably the deck that benefits the most from its addition to the format. Because of the drawback, Painful Bond is typically best in either Lurrus decks or decks with a relatively low mana curve.

Most of the other Lurrus decks in the format already have access to pretty good card advantage (eg. Trail of Crumbs and Deadly Dispute in the Food decks, Kor Spiritdancer etc in Auras) so while it’s a nice addition to a deck like Food, it’s not really making the deck that much better. Arcanist on the other hand has never really had a good source of card advantage so this is such a nice addition to the deck and ensures you don’t run out of gas as well as giving you a chance to get back in a game where you’re behind which is something previous Arcanist decks have always struggled with.

Life of Toshiro Umezawa: This is a card that I didn’t think would ever see play in Historic when I first saw it but it synergizes really well in this deck. The first two chapters have three modes you get to pick from:

  • Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn: The biggest upside of this mode is buffing Dreadhorde Arcanist which allows you to recast instants and sorceries that cost 2/3. Being able to recast Painful Bond is the one that comes up the most and is insane at both getting further ahead or giving you a chance to get back in a game where you’re behind. You can also recast Kolaghan's Command, Abrade, and Go Blank out of the sideboard using this ability which is so strong whenever it comes up. Buffing Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat with this ability is also really strong and is another way you can force attacks through even when the opponent has bigger creatures. Buffing a Dragon's Rage Channeler with delirium helps to increase your clock and buffing Lurrus of the Dream-Den can help win races due to the large swings because of lifelink.
  • You gain 2 life: Generally the least appealing of the three modes but like I side earlier, other Arcanist builds are generally light on lifegain so having this as an option is really important in matchups where your life total really matters.

It then transforms into a 2/3 which helps to increase your clock and can also produce extra mana to cast instants and sorceries with which comes up more often than you might think.

Other Cards

Kolaghan's Command: I like this as a one of as it’s a card you’re usually happy to see the first copy of, but you never want to draw it in multiples. This is a very flexible card and having main deck artifact removal is very nice against Witch's Oven and the Affinity deck, but the main draw of this card is being able to rebuy Lurrus from the graveyard which can single-handedly win you the game if you’re in a grindy matchup. Also, don’t forget that you can fire this off in the opponent’s draw step if they’re empty-handed to make them immediately discard their draw for that turn.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den: Lurrus is sick in this deck at being able to replay your important threats after the opponent has dealt with them and is often the deciding card in grindy matchups. Don’t underestimate the lifelink on this either as a way to both put the game out of reach once you’ve stabilized as well as a way to swing races in your favor especially in conjunction with the +2/+2 ability on Life of Toshiro Umezawa.

I think the main reason why people tended to move away from Lurrus and started playing the planeswalkers instead was because the old Lurrus builds were very reliant on the graveyard, often running cards like Stitcher's Supplier and Claim in addition to Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger and Dreadhorde Arcanist. Now that we have access to Rahilda as a nice win condition that doesn’t rely on the graveyard and Painful Bond to generate card advantage, I think it opens up space for Arcanist decks to move back to Lurrus builds that don’t just get hosed by graveyard hate.

Mana Base

22 lands has felt like a good amount considering we have a pretty low curve and ways to filter and draw off Dragon's Rage Channeler and Painful Bond in the early game. The creaturelands Den of the Bugbear and Hive of the Eye Tyrant are really important as there are certain hands you might want to keep with just interaction and no threats and the creaturelands allow to apply pressure if you struggle to draw creatures or the opponent has removal. They’re also very important at pressuring planeswalkers against both control and opposing Arcanist decks that are running planeswalkers.


Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire are basically free to run as 1 ofs – Sokenzan very rarely comes up but the channel ability on Takenuma is actually really powerful at being able to get back Lurrus once it’s killed so that’s a land you’ll generally want to hold onto if you have other lands you can play instead.

The rest of the manabase is pretty straightforward, the good 12 red/black dual lands (Dragonskull Summit will enter tapped too often to warrant running) and a couple of each basic.


Sideboard

Abrade Art by Dominik Mayer
Abrade Art by Dominik Mayer

2 Soul-Guide Lantern: Having access to additional graveyard hate is really important in Historic right now so Lantern is key at shutting off stuff like Arclight Phoenix and delirium vs the Phoenix decks, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger in the mirror and other more fringe graveyard interactions like Greasefang, Okiba Boss. Being 1-mana means that it will always be able to shut off the graveyard in time even if you’re on the draw and it being an artifact also makes getting delirium online easier too.

4 Abrade: This pulls double duty as both additional creature removal and artifact removal. The reason I’m running this over something like Molten Impact or Fatal Push is mainly due to the Affinity deck. That’s a deck that can be difficult to beat if you’re not able to permanently kill their Nettlecyst and so I felt Abrade was the right choice as it makes the Affinity matchup a lot better while also being perfectly reasonable as creature removal too.

2 Duress: Additional discard for control and other slower non-creature decks like GW Enchantress and Jeskai Creativity. I was originally running Feed the Swarm in this slot but I wasn’t impressed by that card. In theory it’s a card you bring in to be able to kill Rest in Peace as well as doubling up as creature removal, but it always felt really bad against UW Control when they didn’t have Rest in Peace and it always felt sub-par as creature removal too.

Against UW Control, it’s important to be able to apply pressure once the opponent is low on resources and if the opponent doesn’t have Rest in Peace, having a Feed the Swarm sit in your hand doing nothing always felt awful. Since I’ve tried to build this deck in a way that is more insulated against graveyard hate, Rest in Peace is also less of an issue and you can always snipe a Rest in Peace with one of your discard spells like Duress anyway.

2 Go Blank: This doubles up as both additional discard and extra graveyard hate too so it’s a card we can bring in against Phoenix, Arcanist, and UW Control.

4 Hidetsugu Consumes All: This card is here pretty much exclusively for the Food matchup. I was always reluctant to play Arcanist before the release of Kamigawa because of how bad the Food matchup was, but this card can single-handedly flip that matchup on its head. In most situations, it acts as a one-sided board wipe that kills everything they have in play other than Trail of Crumbs and then exiles everything to stop them bringing it back with Lurrus later. You do need to give up access to Lurrus as your companion when you bring this in but it’s absolutely worth it as the Food matchup is miserable in most cases otherwise.


Best of One

If I had to alter this list for Best of One, I’d replace the Kolaghan's Command with a single copy of Witch's Vengeance as Humans and particularly Elves are two decks that tend to see more play in Bo1 and tend to play well against single-target removal.

I’d also replace the 4th copy of Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat with a single copy of Soul-Guide Lantern for additional graveyard hate.

Additionally, you could replace Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat with Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger if you wanted as there will obviously be less graveyard hate in Bo1 but be aware a decent number of decks will still be running graveyard hate in Bo1 so Rahilda might still be the safer option.


Sideboard Guide

Kolaghan’s Command Art by Daarken
Kolaghan’s Command Art by Daarken

Izzet Phoenix

InOut
+2 Soul-Guide Lantern-4 Thoughtseize
+4 Abrade-4 Inquisition of Kozilek
+2 Go Blank

Discard spells are pretty mediocre in this matchup as they have so much redundancy and so many cantrips to dig to what they need so we replace them with Soul-Guide Lantern and Go Blank to shut off the Phoenixes and delirium and extra removal to kill their other threats.

In general you should try and save your removal for their non-Phoenix threats wherever possible as cards like Crackling Drake and Stormwing Entity will deal huge amounts of damage if they’re left for even a single turn. Obviously Arclight Phoenix itself is dangerous especially if they’re able to bring back multiples fast but the extra graveyard hate we bring in should help shut off that avenue of attack.

Additionally, always be wary of your life total here, if you stabilise at 8 life for example, the value of taking the extra 2 life off Life of Toshiro Umezawa is very high as it will put you out of range of the opponent suddenly bringing 3 Phoenixes back from the graveyard.

GB Food

InOut
+4 Abrade-4 Thoughtseize
+4 Hidetsugu Consumes All-4 Life of Toshiro Umezawa

Hidetsugu Consumes All is the key card in this matchup so we bring in all 4 copies alongside 4 copies of Abrade to kill their creatures as well as Witch's Oven. Thoughtseize is cut here because the Food decks typically win by draining you out and so the 2 life lost off Thoughtseize will essentially be helping them to win.

In general, the most important cards to keep off the board in this matchup are Witch's Oven and especially Trail of Crumbs. It’s always worth using your discard spells before the opponent reaches 2 mana wherever possible as Trail of Crumbs is the most important card to discard because it’s their main card advantage engine and is also one of their only cards that survives Hidetsugu Consumes All.

UW Control

InOut
+2 Duress-1 Cling to Dust
+2 Go Blank-3 Bloodchief's Thirst

Here we just want extra discard spells and we trim some removal and Cling to Dust. Cling is important to cut as it literally does nothing if the opponent has Rest in Peace. If they’re not running Rest in Peace and they’re interacting with the graveyard eg. Magma Opus/ Gearhulk builds then keep in the Cling to Dust and cut the 4th Bloodchief's Thirst instead. Bloodchief's Thirst is the cut over Unholy Heat because even though Bloodchief's Thirst can kill Planeswalkers, it’s pretty expensive to do at 4 mana and is sorcery speed so will likely be countered whereas Unholy Heat is a lot more efficient and is also more useful in the early game at dealing with tokens from Shark Typhoon and The Wandering Emperor.

What to take with your discard spells will vary a lot depending on what you have for example you should prioritise taking early creature removal if it will enable you to start attacking with Dreadhorde Arcanist or Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat but you should always take Teferi, Hero of Dominaria off your Thoughtseize and Duress no matter what. The creaturelands are also incredibly important in this matchup so think carefully before animating them into a potential March of Otherworldly Light as not having access to them later in the game can cost you.

Auras

InOut
+4 Abrade-1 Cling to Dust
-1 Kolaghan's Command
-2 Life of Toshiro Umezawa

This is already a really good matchup, but post-board we trim some of the less efficient interaction and Cling to Dust for Abrade.

This matchup will always come down to whether you have more answers than they have creatures – if you can take down all of their creatures then their deck basically does nothing so it’s better to play very cautiously in the first few turns to ensure they don’t get a creature to stick. Playing around Selfless Savior and Karametra's Blessing is very important to that end.

RB Arcanist

InOut
+2 Soul-Guide Lantern-1 Kolaghan's Command
+2 Go Blank-1 Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat
-2 Life of Toshiro Umezawa

This is a tough matchup to give a set sideboard plan for as it can vary depending on their build. If it looks like they’re running multiple Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger then bringing 2 Soul-Guide Lantern and 2 Go Blank is good, but if they’re less reliant on the graveyard then I would only board in 2 Go Blank and cut 1 Kolaghan's Command and 1 Life of Toshiro Umezawa.

This matchup is incredibly grindy so you need to think carefully about what you use your removal and discard spells on. The main way to pull ahead here is to try and set up a situation where you can start attacking with Dreadhorde Arcanist for value or especially if you can start connecting with Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat.

Against the planeswalker variants it’s important that you don’t let them build up too many chump blockers and also be careful animating your creaturelands into removal early on as it’s very important to have a way to be able to kill the planeswalkers quickly once they’re in play. Lurrus of the Dream-Den is also incredibly valuable here so be careful playing it out into removal if you can avoid it and also be careful not to put it into your hand too early and have it get hit by a discard spell if you’re not planning on casting it soon.

Affinity

InOut
+4 Abrade-1 Cling to Dust
-2 Life of Toshiro Umezawa
-1 Inquisition of Kozilek

Abrade is obviously great in this matchup and we’re just making some trims elsewhere to find room for it.

In this matchup, the main cards you want to be focused on taking out are Nettlecyst and Karn, Scion of Urza against the UW versions and the legendary creatures in the Mono U version. Since they tend to run a lot of graveyard hate, this is a matchup where you might have to rely more heavily on Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat to snowball advantage. Also always be wary of Metallic Rebuke especially if they have a slow start.

GW Enchantress

InOut
+2 Duress-1 Cling to Dust
+2 Go Blank-1 Kolaghan's Command
-2 Life of Toshiro Umezawa

This matchup is all about tempo and your general game plan should be to use your discard spells as early as possible to keep them off Sterling Grove, Enchantress's Presence, and the Nine Lives/ Solemnity lock. Try and race and kill the opponent as quickly as you can as well so they can’t top deck these pieces later on. Keep Bloodchief's Thirst and Unholy Heat in to kill Sythis, Harvest's Hand and Sanctum Weaver.

GW Heliod Combo

InOut
+4 Abrade-1 Cling to Dust
-1 Kolaghan's Command
-1 Life of Toshiro Umezawa
-1 Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat

This is another good matchup for us, post-board we just want extra removal to ensure that we keep them off the combo.

The key in this matchup is keeping them off their lifegain enablers like Soul Warden wherever possible as this will mean that their Voice of the Blessed and Trelasarra, Moon Dancer well never grow and they can’t combo off either.

Always use your discard spells before the opponent has 3 mana too as Heliod, Sun-Crowned is a card we would love to take since it’s impossible for us to interact with once it’s in play and can cause us problems eg. if they can set it up alongside Ajani's Welcome and Castle Ardenvale they’ll be making and growing creatures every turn which is very difficult to beat. Also make sure that you’re always taking Collected Company with your Thoughtseize.

5C Niv

InOut
+2 Duress-1 Cling to Dust
+2 Go Blank-3 Unholy Heat

Discard spells pull a lot of weight in this matchup so we want the extra Duress and Go Blank. They don’t tend to interact with the graveyard so Cling to Dust gets cut and Unholy Heat won’t do anything until you have delirium as all of their creatures outscale the 2 damage so that also gets trimmed.

This can be a tough matchup due to the amount of removal they run, especially after sideboard. If possible you want to use your discard spells to clear the way for your Dreadhorde Arcanist and Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat to start attacking. This is another matchup where tempo is very important as giving them enough time to topdeck a Niv-Mizzet Reborn can completely undo all the work you’ve done with your earlier discard spells so make sure to try and close out the game as quickly as you can once you’re ahead.

Embercleave Aggro (Mono R/ Gruul)

InOut
+4 Abrade-4 Thoughtseize

Pretty simple sideboarding here, we bring in Abrade as extra creature removal that can also hit Embercleave and artifact graveyard hate and cut Thoughtseize as discard spells aren’t as impactful and the 2 life loss is actively bad in this matchup.

This should be a pretty good matchup unless they have a nuts start with multiple Burning-Tree Emissary. The key here is to make sure you play around Embercleave so killing their creatures as quickly as possible so they can’t play it or having an Abrade up to kill it at instant-speed are the best ways to stabilise. This is another matchup where lifegain can help put the game out of reach once you’ve stabilised as they do have a lot of haste creatures so don’t be afraid to use the lifegain option on Life of Toshiro Umezawa or get Lurrus of the Dream-Den into play early.


Tips & Tricks

Lurrus of the Dream-Den Art by Slawomir Maniak
Lurrus of the Dream-Den Art by Slawomir Maniak
  • Unless the opponent has a must-kill threat or you feel you need to use a discard spell to snipe a potentially problematic card, you generally want to prioritize getting Dreadhorde Arcanist or Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat into play as soon as possible.
  • If enabling delirium is crucial (Ex. the opponent has a big creature you need to kill with Unholy Heat) you can use a discard spell targeting yourself to pitch the fourth card type into the graveyard. Similarly, don’t forget you can trigger delirium at instant speed using the channel ability on Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire if land is the fourth card type you need.
  • If you have no creatures in play and you want to use the +2/+2 ability on Life of Toshiro Umezawa on one of your creaturelands, you need to remember to set a stop during your upkeep and animate your land before your main phase or Arena will skip straight to the Umezawa trigger and you won’t get the opportunity to apply the buff.
  • You can activate the same Den of the Bugbear multiple times in order to produce an additional 1/1 token when it attacks.
  • Don’t be afraid to bluff an attack with Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat if you’re falling behind and the opponent has an important blocker, even if you don’t have a damage spell – since the opponent probably knows you’re running 4 Unholy Heat it’s not unlikely that they’ll let the attack through as they would get blown out in combat if you did have it.
  • If you have multiple Dragon's Rage Channeler early, it’s usually best to prioritize getting delirium online as fast as possible as you can outrace a lot of decks with Channelers once they become 3/3 flyers.

This deck has been so much fun to play and it feels like it has reasonable matchups across the board so I’d definitely recommend it if you you like playing interactive games of Magic. Thanks a lot for reading!

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Altheriax
Altheriax

Alth is an MTG Arena grinder who has been #1 on the ladder multiple times and is always looking to bring new ideas and archetypes to the format and push them to the top spots on the ladder. You can follow him on Twitter and YouTube.

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