Jeskai Magma Opus Gandalf Historic Deck Guide (Including a Budget Version!)
Welcome back, wizards!
Strixhaven’s impact on Standard is fairly low, but it has been instrumental for Historic. We have new Arclight Phoenix versions, Dreadhorde Arcanist decks – made possible by the likes of Faithless Looting, Inquisition of Kozilek and Brainstorm.
If you know me, you know that I love Gandalf decks (= Control) and surprisingly, the best new card for this deck is not a Mystical Archive card, but from the main set itself – and that is Magma Opus.
The combination of putting it into a graveyard and then playing it as early as turn 5 with Torrential Gearhulk is an incredible power play. Not only is this a great win condition – it’s also good at getting further control over the board.
Below, there is also a budget version of this deck! Check it out for more information.
Upsides over Azorius Control
The older Azorius Control lists had Castle Ardenvale, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Shark Typhoon as win conditions. I don’t think that this is good enough anymore. Decks are getting better and better at grinding through the later stages and it’s becoming harder and harder to win with Ardenvale tokens. I do think that you need something with a bigger punch, and Magma Opus is exactly that. This also gives you a sense of proactivity, which makes this deck choice better in open fields.
Something I didn’t mention before is the fact that we have Lightning Helix now. This is a significant upgrade over Baffling End, as this being instant speed is worth a ton and it’s crazy how much of an edge this gives you against aggressive decks. There is also the great upside of being able to target Planeswalkers and even just the face directly. Lightning Helix is incredible and you don’t want to miss out.
How to play the deck
Survive the early game with Lightning Helix and Anger of the Gods and win the game with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Torrential Gearhulk. The game plan is quite simple, although your sequencing is what will make this game tough. Can you spend mana to Foretell your Behold the Multiverse or do you have to keep Censor open? Will you cycle your Cast Out end of turn because you need a land or will you keep it because you have no removal in your hand? This can require some practice, but it’s incredibly rewarding and you really do feel like the protector of Middle-Earth when you’re winning.
Card Choices: Main Deck
I want some number of Censor because the early game can be a bit rough if you don’t hit your land drops. Usually, if you have action you need lands (so you cycle this) and if you have lands you need action and this can be a nice counter spell there.
This is a nice catch-all, but the reason why I’m not playing 4 is because this card actually doesn’t solve the problem. It’s a tempo card – it will buy you some time so you can play your better spells. Sometimes, this is all we need – just one more turn to overpower the opponent with a Torrential Gearhulk + Magma Opus. Don’t forget that – it’s more of a tempo play, even though the card doesn’t go back into the hand. If I was playing Azorius Control with less powerful win conditions for example, I would probably not play Memory Lapse at all.
Incredible, flexible removal spell. I really love Helix and you surely wish that you face all the aggressive decks, as it’s incredibly tough to win against this card when you’re on that side of the matchup.
A lot of decks are playing blue right now and this card is obviously great against that. But even against the other decks, this is just a 3 mana counter spell in the early game. This card is honestly a bit messed up and I like how well it does even in the non-blue matchups. If blue decks are not very present anymore though, you should probably still cut it and play something else instead.
Narset is just an incredible card for Control decks. Even if you don’t hit decks with her passive, it’s still a card that finds you a good answer for the matchup that you’re playing. But that’s not all – a lot of decks are playing Brainstorm right now and oh boy are they in for a surprise if they try to cast this when you have Narset out.
We don’t need Absorb anymore as we already have Lightning Helix. Foretelling this in a world with strong discard spells is pretty neat. If you don’t like this card, play Sinister Sabotage instead, but I would advise against Absorb for now.
As already stated in the beginning, it’s more important to exile the smaller creatures rather than being able to hit the bigger ones (there are practically none). If the meta shifts and bigger creatures get popular again, play Wrath of God or Day of Judgment instead.
This is a cool 1-of to have against practically any deck. Sometimes it kills something and ramps you, sometimes you get to discard the cards that you don’t need in game 1 (example: You’re against Control and you have Anger of the Gods in your hand. Get rid of them!). You also have a pretty neat trick together with Narset, Parter of Veils where you can force your opponent to discard 2 cards in their turn. For bonus points: Do it in their Upkeep so that they have to discard the card that they just drew (if their hand was already empty).
Another nice 1-of to have an answer against every type of permanent. Sometimes it can happen that something slips under your radar and you have no good answer against it. Well, now you do, and if you don’t need it, you can just cycle it away. I mentioned it with Censor already, but I like having some cards that allow me to keep hitting these important land drops in the early game. Cheap cycling helps a lot.
I’m not as high on this card as most people are, but it plays a good role in this deck. It’s in instant, so it works well with Torrential Gearhulk, but it’s also just a good spell to get some cards back since most of your deck trades 1-for-1. If you’re thinking about cutting this card, get some other form of card advantage in (like Narset, Parter of Veils perhaps).
Big Tef is one of the big reasons to play Control. This card is incredibly strong and used to be the only win condition for control decks. It’s not enough anymore, but it’s still one of the most dominant Planeswalkers that we have right now. Never below 4 copies!
Commit // Memory
It’s either a 4 mana pseudo-removal/counter spell, or it’s a devastating finisher when you have Narset, Parter of Veils out. It’s a great 1-of to sometimes win you the game. It can also reset the game otherwise, but be aware that your opponent untaps first.
Part of your strong combo, but Hulk over here is just a great card overall. Can be a counterspell, can be card draw, can be Magma Opus – and it also finishes the game in a few swings. Card’s incredible, don’t play less than 4.
At first I thought that this card would be bad if we didn’t have Torrential Gearhulk, but honestly: You can dump it into the graveyard early and just ramp into Teferi, Hero of Dominaria on turn 4. And you dont have to play this on turn 5 or 6 with Torrential Gearhulk – replaying that will always be a strong play, no matter the stage of the game. And if the games go late, you can just play that for 8 mana – I’ve done that a lot while testing this deck. Card has been impressing me a lot.
If you want to get a bit fancy, here is some food for thought: Play Thrill of Possibility, Faithless Looting or Thrilling Discovery. You get more cards into the graveyard this way, which will allow you to play all the expensive goodness like Inspired Ultimatum, Ruinous Ultimatum, or any other of these. Now you can also play Mizzix's Mastery, which will certainly be a strong turn 4 play! I Dislike Mizzix’s Mastery in this deck because it’s only for the turn 3 Magma Opus (which might still be good enough), but it’s something that I didn’t test enough to judge. Maybe you can do it, go nuts!
Vantress is much better when you’re flooding out. You want to find Torrential Gearhulk or Teferi and not create some 1/1’s – they will usually not win the game anyway. I still like having one copy because it allows you to defend Teferi when you’re lacking some removal spells, and it’s a nice card against control decks.
Brainstorm is a powerful card, but playing this means that you have to play Fabled Passage and playing this means more tapped sources in the early game. It also means that you would need to play more basic lands, which is not always easy in a 3 color deck. I think Azorius Control would be the better Brainstorm deck overall, because you can just play more basics, which makes cards like Birth of Meletis an option.
I tried it and it wasn’t so bad, honestly. I just didn’t feel like it was necessary and that this was not the best Brainstorm deck. I’m not 100% convinced this is correct and you can try and make it work somehow.
No Baffling End
In some metagames, it can be better to play Baffling End. That is if you need to exile all the early creatures, or if you’re playing against “big” 3 mana cards (like Lovestruck Beast). Right now, most of the targets are small (or have flash, hello Rogues), so having Lightning Helix instead is stronger.
I tried fitting it somewhere, but I couldn’t find out what to cut for it. There’s also the problem that it doesn’t find you the Torrential Gearhulk. Search is incredible though, so if you find a good spot for it, go ahead. I myself might try to fit this card in here somewhere in the future.
Wait, it stops a lot of decks right now! And it also hits Collected Company! Yes, but it also stops our own Torrential Gearhulk. Don’t learn it the hard way (like me).
Card Choices: Sideboard
Nice artifact hate that also hits creatures. If you play against more artifact decks, play more Abrade.
This card ruins our Magma Opus combo, but Rest in Peace is way too strong right now to not play it. It completely annihilates Rogues and the Dreadhorde Arcanist decks and that’s just worth it. Whenever I board these in, I board some Gearhulks and Magma Opusses (what is the plural of this) out, and bring in Shark Typhoon as an alternate win condition.
There is also the option to play Soul-Guide Lantern instead. However, I think that this is not a very good card and it also doesn’t destroy Rogues as much as Rest in Peace does.
The best counter spell in the control mirrors. If you expect more of these decks, go up to 4 copies.
Not only is this card incredible in control mirrors, it’s also the alternate win condition whenever you put Rest in Peace in, as mentioned above. You basically transform into the win conditions that classic Azorius Control used to have, which is usually enough when you blow your opponent out with Rest in Peace.
This card is insane against Auras. That deck really doesn’t function well when it can only play 1 aura every turn – and the most fun part is that it doesn’t stop your Torrential Gearhulk combo. Auras is not very popular, but if it gets more popular, play up to 3 copies of this.
This card gets more and more rating for me personally. There are a lot of blue decks these days and this hoses those nicely, especially in counterspell wars. It’s also one hell of a card against Rogues, a deck that gets more and more popular. Go up to 4 copies if you expect more blue decks and go down to 0 copies (including the main deck) if almost no one plays blue.
1 Narset, Parter of Veils
For the matchups where more value and more of the passive ability is needed.
For the creature decks that don’t get hit by your damage based removal spells. If the metagame switches to bigger creatures and more Gruul again, then it’s correct to play more copies of this, main deck included. Right now, I don’t think that makes a lot of sense. If you have the choice, play a mix of this and Day of Judgment so you can play around Meddling Mage a bit better.
Historic is kind of wild right now, but I will still try to mention the most important archetypes here. Most lists vary a lot right now, so please adjust and only use this sideboard guide as some sort of mind map. Sideboard plans are good – as long as you don’t force yourself to always stick to them.
|+3 Rest in Peace||-2 Censor|
|+2 Dovin’s Veto||-2 Narset, Parter of Veils|
|+1 Mystical Dispute||-4 Magma Opus|
|+4 Shark Typhoon||-2 Saw it Coming|
|+1 Abrade||-1 Prismari Command|
Rest in Peace is really insane in this matchup. Not only does it stop their game plan having enough cards in your graveyard, it also stops the peskiness of Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Agadeem’s Awakening. The plan that worked for me the most so far has been taking Magma Opus out (because of Rest in Peace), but between Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize and counterspells, it’s not even guaranteed that it resolves. Magma Opus is expensive, but it’s also at instant speed, so it could be correct to have a split of Gearhulks and this. The reason why I still like Gearhulk is that it’s an instant speed beater that finishes the game quickly – you still don’t want to durdle around too much, otherwise they can just mill you to death.
If you want to improve this matchup further, play more Anger of the Gods. If you decide to try out Magma Opus post-board, keep in the Prismari Command and cut Memory Lapse instead.
|+3 Rest in Peace||-4 Magma Opus|
|+1 Abrade||-1 Prismari Command|
|+4 Shark Typhoon||-2 Censor|
|+1 Narset, Parter of Veils||-2 Mystical Dispute|
If you draw Rest in Peace, you’re golden. In matchups where your opponent plays a lot of discard spells, your reaction always has to be this one: Bring in all the card advantage tools and cut expensive cards. Every 2-for-1 helps. If they start eating your hand in the early game, try to stay calm – you can always win with a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria later. If this matchup becomes problematic for you, play more Anger of the Gods in your sideboard.
|+3 Rest in Peace||-2 Censor|
|+1 Mystical Dispute||-2 Memory Lapse|
|+1 Narset, Parter of Veils||-4 Magma Opus|
|+4 Shark Typhoon||-2 Saw It Coming|
|+1 Wrath of God|
Rest in Peace is great against Arclight Phoenix and Dreadhorde Arcanist, so we want that plan again together with the Shark Typhoons. You can sometimes get destroyed anyway by Sprite Dragon or Crackling Drake, so we want to make sure to have enough removal for that.
I dislike Memory Lapse because most spells of your opponent’s deck are pretty cheap and they have enough card draw to back it up. Magma Opus is just way too expensive and it doesn’t work with Rest in Peace anyway. Saw It Coming is also just too expensive. This matchup seems a bit like a 50/50 to me, where the most skilled player should win more on average.
|+1 Abrade||-2 Mystical Dispute|
|+1 Wrath of God||-2 Saw It Coming|
|+2 Dovin’s Veto||-2 Memory Lapse|
|+2 Shark Typhoon|
|+2 Deafening Silence||-4 Lightning Helix|
|+1 Mystical Dispute||-2 Anger of the Gods|
|+2 Dovin’s Veto||-1 Prismari Command|
|+2 Shark Typhoon|
This should be a good matchup because we just have so many counterspells. Beware of their combination of discard spell into Ultimatum though. Deafening Silence stops their Ultimatum, which is nice.
Jeskai Opus (Mirror)
|+1 Narset, Parter of Veils||-4 Lightning Helix|
|+1 Mystical Dispute||-2 Anger of the Gods|
|+2 Dovin’s Veto||-2 Memory Lapse|
|+4 Shark Typhoon|
The most important thing here is to hit your land drops. Besides that you should be in the better position, because 4 Shark Typhoon really goes a long way here.
A lot of people hate the fact that Historic is incredibly expensive, so I made this one for you! This list contains rares and mythic rares mainly from Standard.
Of course, Torrential Gearhulk is not really replaceable. If you want to upgrade, get Teferi, Hero of Dominaria first. Then you should try to get the lands, as they will be a good investment in Historic anyway. If you do not have the Pathways, play the corresponding Temples instead.
This is slowly becoming my new favorite deck, and I really hope this could make you guys a bit happier as well.
As always, stay healthy my friends!