How to Play the Mystical Archive Cards in Historic

How to Play the Mystical Archive Cards in Historic
Inquisition of Kozilek Art by LostKeep

Hello everyone! Today I’m going to go over a topic nobody asked for, but one I think is important. The Mystical Archive cards add a whole dimension of power into Historic, but knowing where to use them isn’t always as obvious as it may seem. A lot of these cards require a bit more finesse in the deck building process than I believe many give them credit for, so hopefully this should help you out when you’re trying to brew Historic decks with Strixhaven! This won’t be a list of every Mystical Archive card, rather just a list of cards where I believe they are being underutilized or in the wrong decks.

BRAINSTORM

WHERE TO USE IT: Blue Decks that has many ways to manipulate the top of the library

WHERE NOT TO USE IT: Every other Blue deck

I want to get this one out of the way as Brainstorm is the card that inspired me to make this article in the first place. Brainstorm is an incredibly powerful card and literally defines the Legacy format, so it’s no surprise a lot of people just play it in every deck that they can. The issue is, if you can’t manipulate the top of your library after you cast Brainstorm, all it accomplished was exchanging some cards in your hand with some cards on the top of your deck. This is what’s referred to “The Brainstorm Lock”.

The reason you want to avoid this lock when possible is if you don’t have what you need in the top 3 cards when resolving a Brainstorm, the card did functionally nothing. That being said, I think people get too worried about potentially being locked, but you do want to avoid it when possible. Let’s use some examples to illustrate, I’m going to show 2 Historic Phoenix decks to show how well it uses Brainstorm.

 

Creatures
4
Arclight Phoenix
4
Crackling Drake
Spells
2
Spikefield Hazard
4
Brainstorm
4
Faithless Looting
3
Lightning Axe
1
Maximize Velocity
4
Opt
4
Shock
4
Chart a Course
2
Curate
3
Thrill of Possibility
1
Unsubstantiate
1
Anger of the Gods
1
Prismari Command
Lands
1
Fabled Passage
2
Island
1
Mountain
4
Riverglide Pathway
4
Spirebluff Canal
4
Steam Vents
2
Sulfur Falls
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Magma Spray
1
Spell Pierce
2
Abrade
2
Aether Gust
1
Cerulean Drake
1
Disdainful Stroke
1
Negate
1
Young Pyromancer
1
Anger of the Gods
1
Brazen Borrower
2
Mystical Dispute

(H) Strixhaven Izzet Phoenix 

Creatures
4
Magmatic Channeler
4
Arclight Phoenix
1
Crackling Drake
4
Stormwing Entity
Spells
1
Shatterskull Smashing
2
Spikefield Hazard
4
Brainstorm
4
Faithless Looting
3
Lightning Axe
4
Opt
2
Shock
4
Chart a Course
2
Finale of Promise
2
Strategic Planning
Lands
4
Island
3
Mountain
4
Riverglide Pathway
4
Steam Vents
4
Sulfur Falls
Cards (60)
Sideboard (12)
3
Magma Spray
1
Spell Pierce
2
Abrade
2
Aether Gust
2
Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor
2
Mystical Dispute

So with this first list, I really don’t like Brainstorm as it only has 3 ways to clear cards off the top of the library (Curate and Fabled Passage). With this version, the odds of putting yourself in a lock is significantly higher. You could argue that you could Chart a Course or Faithless Looting after a Brainstorm to unlock yourself, but that’s a rather inefficient use of both of your cards then. With that, I would not recommend playing Brainstorm in this list and would opt for a different draw spell (get it?) Now, let’s take a look at my Phoenix list.

Now I’m not going to claim that my list is better than the other, but we can certainly say it uses Brainstorm better. It may be overkill, but I have 10 ways to clear the top of the library after a Brainstorm (Magmatic Channeler, Stormwing Entity, Strategic Planning). I think the minimum number of ways to clear the top of the library in a Brainstorm deck should be 8, and ideally you want 10-12. Beyond these cards, stuff like Narset, Parter of Veils, Tamiyo, Collector of Tales, and other self mill options also work very well with Brainstorm. I know the cards great, but you have to work a bit to make it great.

LIGHTNING HELIX

WHERE TO USE IT: Control Decks

WHERE NOT TO USE IT: Burn Decks

 

Companion
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Creatures
4
Clever Lumimancer
4
Ghitu Lavarunner
4
Soul-Scar Mage
Spells
4
Pillar of Flame
4
Shock
2
Lightning Helix
4
Lightning Strike
4
Light Up the Stage
4
Skewer the Critics
4
Wizard's Lightning
Lands
4
Inspiring Vantage
3
Mountain
4
Needleverge Pathway
3
Plains
4
Ramunap Ruins
4
Sacred Foundry
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
3
Grafdigger's Cage
2
Baffling End
3
Rip Apart
3
Roiling Vortex
3
Insult/Injury
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den

(H) Jeskai Control 

Planeswalkers
3
Narset, Parter of Veils
1
Narset of the Ancient Way
3
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Creatures
2
Dream Trawler
Spells
3
Valakut Awakening
2
Justice Strike
2
Lightning Helix
2
Scorching Dragonfire
1
Tale's End
2
Absorb
3
Anger of the Gods
1
Sphinx's Revelation
1
Timely Reinforcements
2
Commit/Memory
1
Solar Blaze
2
Wrath of God
Enchantments
1
Search for Azcanta
2
Shark Typhoon
Lands
1
Castle Ardenvale
1
Crawling Barrens
4
Glacial Fortress
4
Hallowed Fountain
1
Island
1
Needleverge Pathway
4
Raugrin Triome
2
Riverglide Pathway
4
Steam Vents
3
Sulfur Falls
1
Temple of Triumph
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Grafdigger's Cage
1
Aether Gust
1
Baffling End
2
Dovin's Veto
1
Rest in Peace
1
Tale's End
2
Timely Reinforcements
1
Cast Out
1
Commit/Memory
1
Wrath of God
1
Commence the Endgame
2
Shark Typhoon

Ok so this is a bit of a hyperbole admittedly, but Helix is overrated in Burn. I understand going White right now to play Clever Lumimancer is certainly appealing, and it’s not that Helix is bad in Burn, but it’s really not exciting. Lightning Strike was always one of the worst cards in your deck so adding more of that effect doesn’t seem great to me (although Helix is a good deal better than Lightning Strike).

If you want to play Burn, I wouldn’t branch into White and just stick with Red for perfect mana and Ramunap Ruins. So where do you want it? Jeskai Control. Just last weekend, Jeskai Control won the SCG $5k so clearly the deck already has some real promise. The version I listed isn’t particularly tuned, it’s just the winning list with some copies of Helix in it, but I’m sure it’s a reasonable place to start.

MEMORY LAPSE

WHERE TO USE IT: Tempo Decks

WHERE NOT TO USE IT: Control Decks

This is another card that I’m not surprised gets misused as the most similar card to it in recent memory, Aether Gust, more or less saw play in every Blue deck. I know this can feel like a more universal Aether Gust, but you have to be mindful in what decks you’re playing this in. For example, something like UW control really doesn’t want to play Memory Lapse as delaying a spell for one turn is not as impactful as just countering it. If you can’t leverage the advantage you’re getting from Lapsing a spell instantly, you’re only delaying the inevitable for one turn rather than having Memory Lapse be a different card that can just answer the problem outright.

Although it may seem tempting with something like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, you’d be better served with something like Censor or a more targeted counterspell like Dovin's Veto, Disdainful Stroke, Essence Scatter, or so on. Your deck needs to take advantage of the tempo gain you accrued and if you really want to leverage that as much as possible, you can’t do any better than Rogues.

(H) Strix Rogues 

Creatures
4
Merfolk Windrobber
4
Thieves' Guild Enforcer
4
Soaring Thought-Thief
1
Brazen Borrower
3
Zareth San, the Trickster
Spells
3
Fatal Push
2
Inquisition of Kozilek
4
Thoughtseize
4
Drown in the Loch
4
Memory Lapse
4
Into the Story
Lands
4
Clearwater Pathway
4
Drowned Catacomb
5
Island
6
Swamp
4
Watery Grave
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Fatal Push
2
Grafdigger's Cage
2
Spell Pierce
4
Aether Gust
2
Noxious Grasp
4
Mystical Dispute

Memory Lapse is disgusting in Rogues as it synergizes super well with the deck. It can either be a normal Memory Lapse and the tempo you gain from it is really high impact as Rogues thrives on tempoing out the opponent, or you can put the card on top to just mill it making this a 2 mana hard counterspell! Remember, delaying the opponent isn’t helpful unless you can make meaningful gains with that time you bought yourself, otherwise you just cast a spell for no reason.

INQUISITION OF KOZILEK

WHERE TO USE IT: As a Thoughtseize surrogate or in decks that want to play a high density of discard spells

WHERE NOT TO USE IT: Any random deck playing Black

(H) Strixhaven Rakdos Arcanist 

Companion
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Creatures
4
Stitcher's Supplier
4
Dreadhorde Arcanist
4
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
4
Young Pyromancer
Spells
2
Bloodchief's Thirst
4
Claim/Fame
4
Faithless Looting
2
Fatal Push
2
Inquisition of Kozilek
1
Spark Harvest
4
Thoughtseize
4
Village Rites
Lands
4
Blightstep Pathway
4
Blood Crypt
1
Castle Locthwain
4
Dragonskull Summit
2
Mountain
6
Swamp
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Duress
2
Inquisition of Kozilek
2
Soul-Guide Lantern
3
Abrade
2
Angrath's Rampage
3
Noxious Grasp
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den

So here’s the deal, Inquisition of Kozilek is a great card and nobody is denying that. The issue is, I feel like a lot of players are caught up in how Modern Jund played discard spells (generally a 3/3 split between Thoughtseize and Inquisition) rather than understanding why Jund played it like that. Modern is/was an incredibly different format, most decks were packed to the brim with cheap spells and Jund used Thoughtseize effects well as they had Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil to leverage the resource exchange. A lot of decks in Historic not only don’t leverage their Thoughtseize effects that well, Inquisition isn’t nearly as good as Thoughtseize either.

Inquisition is really good in decks that want a ton of discard or decks that only care about cheaper cards and don’t want to lose life (the second scenario is quite niche, but it’s possible some combo deck would want Inquisition over Thoughtseize) rather than every black deck just now playing 6+ discard spells. If you want to play with a bunch of discard spells, I’d recommend Arcanist as that’s a deck that utilizes them extremely well as Dreadhorde Arcanist and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger make great use of them.

ABUNDANT HARVEST

WHERE TO USE IT: Unlock yourself from Brainstorm

WHERE NOT TO USE IT: Everywhere Else

Here’s the hot take of the article, I don’t think Abundant Harvest is that good. So it’s either 1 mana find a random land or find a random spell. To be honest, neither side of this is particularly exciting to me and mostly feels like a situationally better Opt. That being said, if you use it in conjunction with Brainstorm, then I can see the appeal. If you put 2 lands or 2 spells back on top then just Harvest for the opposite, this will get you out of a lock every time which is interesting. That being said, I still don’t know if this is even a good card, but it least it’s reasonable there. I would not put this in a random deck thinking this is going to be some great value play because you’re likely to be very disappointed.

That’s all that I have today! If you like my content and want to see more of it, you can check me out on Twitch! Have a great day!

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, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and teaching!

13 Responses

  1. Aldeayeah says:

    The real reason Burn decks played lightning helix was that it’s terrific in the mirror/aggro matchups. It’s not so good in a meta where aggro/burn isn’t widely played.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Very true! Theres not much racing in this format compared to Modern so Helix is definitely a lot less important.

  2. Sliferis says:

    Nice take from coach Bub. I wonder how his beef with DanyT develops. On a more serious note beachbody is really coming through.

  3. Zafarion says:

    I’ve seem some monoR lists splashing white just for Lurrus and better sideboard. Mana fixing is less of a problem for aggro in historic as time passes, there’s plenty of untapped dual lands now. Luminancer is alto a great card that can push Boros aggro to top tiers. This way lightning helix is better than lightning strike, but replacing it, not playing alongside with it.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Splashing has definitely become easier, but it’s still not free as the Boros Burn lists are playing Plains to help supplement their white mana sources. With adding a color, they’re adding a layer of inconsistency to the deck that I don’t think its worth it, although Clever Lumimancer is scary good on turn 1 and Helix is still solid. If we had a 4th free dual land, then I would say the splash is free.

  4. Markiz says:

    Wow, so Nassif has been playing memory lapse wrong the whole time. Hopefully he’ll find this article before next historic league weekend.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Feel free to disagree, but I was watching the stream as well and Memory Lapse was pretty unimpressive overall. The card is very good, but that doesn’t mean its the perfect card for the deck. I could very well be wrong in the context of Historic, but historically speaking Lapse has flourished in tempo decks and never really saw play in hard Control decks.

      • DoggertQBones says:

        There were two comments that were removed as they were extremely disrespectful and we’re trying our best not to cultivate that on mtgazone. I never believed I knew it all and if the tone of my articles give that off, I’ll work to improve it. That being said, there’s a few issues I have with your comment. One, impersonating my username is disrepectful so trying to say I’m in wrong when doing that is hypocritical at best. Two, I only write about what I feel strongly about so of course I’m going to say it with sincerity, but that doesn’t mean I believe I’m infallible. Third, I openly invite all criticism, even stuff I wouldn’t necessarily want to hear. Saying I’m a know-it-all, yet very wrong but then not expanding on why I’m wrong either means you’re either just flaming me for no reason or you can’t articulate why you feel I’m wrong. Magic is collaborative and I’m just putting my opinions into the mix and am lucky enough to have a platform for them, and when people have questions or disagree, I will answer them directly and honestly. If you’re not happy with what I provide or how I conduct myself, please tell me, I’m always looking to improve. However, if you think you’re going to get anywhere by being rude and not providing any actionable feedback, then why should I entertain what you have to say and why should we keep the comment up when it’s not helpful to anyone? However, if you can point me to where you think I’m being condescending, that would be helpful. If you believe me using examples on where I think cards are used ineffectually are condescending, then I’m not sure how else I could get my point across. I don’t think lesser of anyone trying out the cards in these manners and I could certainly be wrong, but all my content is designed to make the reader better at Magic and this is just another one of those scenarios.

  5. Anogio says:

    Sorry, but I *strongly* disagree with your comment about where/where not to play brainstorm. I’ve been playing MTG for over 20 years (yep, I’m an old codger), and I can tell you Brainstorm is insanely powerful, with, or without shuffle mechanics.

    Some non-shuffle uses of Brainstorm:

    1) Cast to find an answer to a relevant spell on the stack, or battlefield, i.e; counter magic, removal.

    2) Cast to find a combo piece, or any other card that you need to complete your immediate game plan. This is obviously subjective to the state of the game.

    3) Cast to protect your hand from discard spells, putting the card you need to keep safely on top of your library until your next draw step. This one is really important, because there are dismally few effects that allow you to willingly put cards from your hand back onto your library *at instant speed*.

    Adding shuffling mechanics just makes the card even better, allowing you to shuffle away cards that are dead in your hand.

    I suspect the reason you are playing down the power level of this card is because the most prominent use of brainstorm is in conjuction with fetches for maximum effect, and you don’t have enough experience with this card to know how truly powerful it is, even without shuffling.

    Watch the next few months in Historic. Once people begin to understand just how powerful this card is, it will start appearing in every deck that plays blue. People will play budget fetches for this.

    Btw, “Brainstorm lock” is a term used to describe the after-effects of a misplayed Brainstorm, which is VERY easy to do.

    Also:

    Lightning Helix, overrated, and only playable in control?!?

    3 damage to anything, AND 3 life, at instant speed, for the paltry sum of 2 coloured mana(not a problem in Historic, with shocklands), and you don’t think that’s worth splashing for? Again, I was playing competitively, when it was first printed (I still have my beaten up playset), and it was one of the most played cards in the format at the time.

    Modern decks splash for this and Boros Charm. There are only a couple of “target anything” burn cards that are better, and one of them was pre-emptively banned from Historic (Lightning Bolt).

    Again, time will prove me right on this.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Those are all excellent points overall. My main contention of Brainstorm without fetches is that you’re spending a card to get small advance through your deck and locking yourself in to your hand + 3 cards for the next few turns without a way to clear it. I’ll go through your points and add my thoughts.

      1) Brainstorm can definitely be helpful there if the card you need is within the top 3, as it stands there isn’t really a better alternative (Opt is the next best), so this is cogent

      2) This can be relevant in something like Neostorm as a way to try to quickly dig for a combo piece, but other means like Strategic Planning or Curate can get you deeper if what you need isn’t in the top 3 as well. As you noted this is subjective and that’s an obvious downside of Brainstorm.

      3) This is definitely the largest upside for Brainstorm without fetches and it’s best application if you don’t have a way to clear the top of your library, no argument there.

      Brainstorm lock, as I’ve heard it, is just being stuck with Brainstormed cards with no way to clear them, mostly used after an improperly cast Brainstorm but Brainstorms can more often be improperly cast in Legacy as you have access to all the fetchlands. I think the term is still applicable here as there will be times you’ll be forced (or just want to) Brainstorm without a way to clear the top of the library afterwards. I don’t know if there’s a term for this beyond being Brainstorm locked but I could be wrong.

      To add to your point, Rogues with 4 Brainstorm and only 4 Fabled Passage to shuffle just won the Insight $5k so I’m very curious to see if I’m severely underrating Brainstorm. I know the card is great but I could very well be underestimating it without more ways to clear the top, I’ll be excited to see how much play it has in the upcoming months.

      For Lightning Helix I believe I wasn’t the clearest. Lightning Helix is a great card, but it’s overrated specifically in Historic Burn. I know Modern Burn has been playing Helix and Boros Charm for a long time (I played my fair share), but in Modern the white splash is 100% free where there’s a tangible cost to playing White in Historic. 3 dual lands is certainly a great start, but the fact that most of the lists I see have to play Plains says to me that there’s a tangible cost to playing it. Furthermore, Historic right now is a lot different from OG Ravnica and a lot of cards that were staples then aren’t as good now. I would say Lightning Helix did age gracefully, but I was just talking about the context of Historic. As it stands, I’ve seen next to no Burn, but Jeskai Opus happily playing 4 Helix so I don’t think my prediction is going to be too far off. If Boros gets another fast land, then my opinion on Helix in Burn would definitely change and it’d be weird to not play it as a 4 of more than likely.

      Lastly, never be sorry about disagreeing with me. I always welcome those who feel differently about something I’m talking about.

      • Anogio says:

        You keep talking about “clearing the top of your library”… I will not argue that without fetch lands, brainstorm is a weaker card, but not by that much.

        If the cards you’re dropping on top from your hand are dead draws, then it’s that your deck is too focussed, not that brainstorm isn’t good.

        I think you have, as you put it, severely underrated this card. It does all I described for ONE MANA.

        Look at it this way: the net result of Brainstorm is “U: Draw a card”. How does this “U: Draw a card” spell compare to other “U: Draw a card” spells?

        1) Opt? This is a “pure” draw spell. Scrying is good, and instant speed is good, but it does NONE of the other things Brainstorm can.
        2) Serum VIsions? Deck manipulation spell. Replaces itself and lets you potentially smooth your next two draws, but at sorcery speed.
        3) Ponder? Poor man’s Brainstorm. The only one that truly operates in the same design space, and even comes close to the same power level. And it’s banned in *modern*, of all formats.

        To be perfectly honest, I suspect Brainstorm will be banned within 6 months. If the format can’t support Lightning Bolt without warping, then it can’t support Brainstorm. Not because it’s too powerful, but because other cards that allow on demand shuffling, or trigger off card draws, make Brainstorm an auto-include, I would genuinely play 4 of in every blue deck with Fabled Passage, even mono coloured.

        Need more evidence? Sure thing:

        1. Teferi’s Ageless Insight. Brainstorm now reads “U: Draw SIX cards, and put two back” Add a single copy of Teferi’s Tuteledge and it adds on “Target plays mills 12”. Value town.
        2. Lorescale Coatl: Brainstorm now becomes a permanent giant growth. In Blue.
        3. Makes Terramorphic Expanse actually worth playing. Whilst doing all the above.

        You said:
        “This can be relevant in something like Neostorm as a way to try to quickly dig for a combo piece, but other means like Strategic Planning or Curate can get you deeper if what you need isn’t in the top 3 as well. As you noted this is subjective and that’s an obvious downside of Brainstorm.”

        You use the word “downside”…

        Not really; it’s just something that Brainstorm doesn’t do quite as well as other options. Sure, you could use Curate, or Strategic Planning, but what are you giving up for being able to dig so deep? Everything I mentioned.

        The real power of Brainstorm isn’t it’s raw power(which it has in spades) ; It’s true power lies in it’s flexibility, It can do most things better than it’s peers(opt et al) for the same cost, and is almost as good as it’s higher costed peers(if not situationally better), and costs less mana, and can do more.

        Put simply, Brainstorm is good in every deck that runs blue, but in different ways, that are not always apparent, until you figure out how to play it properly in that deck, and you don’t actually need to build a deck around it, though it’s certainly fun to do so.

        • DoggertQBones says:

          Again cogent points. My issue is that one mana draw spells really haven’t seen Historic play before as they haven’t cleared the bar in power level. Brainstorm is by far the strongest we’ve seen so that’s going to be the largest determinant to if it’ll just be in every Blue deck or not: is every Blue deck better with a beefed up one mana cantrip? As it stands, I’m not sure. The card certainly does a lot for one mana and saying it’s unequivocally bad without a fetch wouldn’t be accurate. However I feel a bit differently about your other points.

          You can find yourself in a spot where you need a specific card to get out of it and if the top of your deck doesn’t produce I wouldn’t say necessarily the deck is too focused, it can just mean you needed something specific and you didn’t find it.

          I don’t believe Teferi’s Ageless Insight, Lorescale Coatl, or Terramorphic Expanse are now playable with Brainstorm. Sure they synergize well together, but I suspect those cards will see no play as they functionally always have.

          Your last point though is very reasonable and I agree with, a lot of people are likely casting Brainstorm incorrectly as it’s one of the hardest cards to play with. I don’t necessarily think you need to build your deck around it, but personally I feel like just Brainstorm and 4 Passages isn’t enough to make it an auto-include in every Blue deck. That being said, I also wouldn’t be surprised if I’m completely wrong about that specific point and will be curious to see.

          • Anogio says:

            “I don’t believe Teferi’s Ageless Insight, Lorescale Coatl, or Terramorphic Expanse are now playable with Brainstorm. Sure they synergize well together, but I suspect those cards will see no play as they functionally always have.”

            That’s fair. Those were pretty janky examples. But my main point is that one mana instants in blue really don’t come much better than this without being ban worthy, and it’s better thanevery other blue spell for one mana that draws,

            I especially like Brainstorm, because, as you correctly pointed out, it’s hard to play optimally, and very easy to misplay. It has a high ceiling

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