Jumpstart Constructed Set Review + Top 10
What are the cards with the most potential in Jumpstart for Historic, and what should you be aiming for first when you select your packs? There are a plethora of cards that have the potential to see Constructed play; only a handful are absolute shoe-ins or staples, but those are certainly jaw-droppingly powerful!
Skip to the end and see my picks for top 10 Jumpstart cards here!
Note: These are Historic ratings. I’ll mention if they’re good in Brawl and sometimes other formats, but not rate for that. Half stars, other than the specifically defined ones, will signify being on the border/uncertainty.
- 5* – All Star in many different decks and archetypes, including top tier ones e.g. Llanowar Elves, Teferi, Time Raveler, Field of the Dead
- 4* – Great in/important to multiple different good decks e.g. Burning-Tree Emissary, Curious Obsession, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
- 3.5* – Good in many different decks or important in at least one good deck e.g. Mox Amber,Wildgrowth Walker, Phyrexian Obliterator
- 3* – Good in at least one decent deck or filler in multiples e.g. Lava Coil, Vivien Reid, Rotting Regisaur
- 2* – Likely to see play in some fringe decks at least e.g. Thrill of Possibility, Gates Ablaze, The Gitrog Monster
- 1* – Might see play somewhere but definitely not a sure thing e.g. Discordant Piper, Hadana’s Climb, Keep Safe
Here are a few further parameters:
- I am taking into account potential power, not just current power level – a lot of the cards in Jumpstart don’t fit directly into Historic decks right now, but have a dream for the future. I’ll rate in accordance with how likely that dream is, because Amonkhet Remastered is on the Horizon and it’s unclear whether Pioneer Masters/the other Pioneer sets being added will be legal in Historic, and those are likely to shake up the landscape dramatically. My comments will be mention whether I think cards are currently good in Historic, and I will skew my rating slightly upwards if they are.
- I won’t cover any cards that are already available in Historic. I also won’t cover any cards that I feel are too weak to see Constructed play.
- Anything on the weaker side but that fits into a less supported tribe could become good if that tribe suddenly becomes supported, but I’m not going to factor that into my ratings very much, because that would be a bit silly. Cards that are powerful enough to directly push their tribe will still receive high ratings.
- Cards are in alphabetic order, not in order of strength.
- I have split cards into three categories: Staples, more niche cards, and cards which have more hopes than guarantees.
This article is rather long, so if you’re looking for a specific card then use Ctrl+F to search for it!
- Allosaurus Shepherd is already revolutionising Legacy Elves, and has a good chance of pushing Historic Elves into viability (especially alongside Elvish Archdruid) – the power of a Craterhoof effect you don’t have to spend a card attached to a disruptive 1-drop Elf is immense.
- While this is going to be a better Sideboard card in formats with Chalice of the Void, remember that it says Green spells, not merely creatures – this card literally makes all your opponents’ countermagic into dead cards. Against a deck like Azorius, it’s a staple powerful sideboard card that they will be forced to remove, and therefore net you a lot of tempo, and often you’ll be able to sneak a big payoff spell under them with it. I suspect it will mostly see Historic sideboard play in decks that are ramping up and can use that last ability, but plenty can.
- The Elves deck as a whole looks like it will be very weak to Goblin Chainwhirler, which Allosaurus Shepherd compounds, so that’s certainly something to keep in mind, especially as Goblins was buffed a lot in this expansion.
- A usually better version of Cruel Celebrant, since Blood Artist triggers off opposing creatures too so it combines better with removal and really punishes trades. It does have 1 toughness, so it’s worse against cards like Goblin Chainwhirler, Mayhem Devil, or Blazing Volley, of which the first one matters a lot.
- While Celebrant only goes in a dedicated Aristocrats deck, Blood Artist could go not only in those but in different decks that just care about the drain a lot and expect a lot of creatures to die – casting a sweeper into Field of the Dead tokens with Blood Artist out is very appealing. Being Black rather than Orzhov helps a lot, and these effects stack extremely well so playing both is an exciting idea.
- In the distant future, when Rally the Ancestors is added to Arena, Blood Artist will always have a home in that deck.
- Blood Artist may well get there right now in Rakdos Sacrifice, and will be a staple in Historic to come.
- Branching Evolution could see some play as additional copies of Conclave Mentor, if that’s what the deck really needs, since it has one major advantage over that card – instead of simply adding a counter, it doubles them all, so it stacks extremely well with the Mentor and any cards that apply multiple counters at once.
- Even curving this into an 8/8 Stonecoil Serpent is pretty strong, and I could see this card seeing play in some sort of Mono Green The Ozolith deck also…
- Branching Evolution’s stock rises a lot if/when Hangarback Walker and Walking Ballista come to Historic with Kaladesh Remastered (which is likely to be the next one right after Amonkhet!).
- Without jumping the gun, I suspect Lord Hoof is Jumpstart’s greatest mistake and will hurt the Historic format. I think it will end games in a rather miserable and hard-to-counter fashion in the many decks it will spring up in, and will constrict the late game options people play.
- Craterhoof is ludicrously powerful, a better End-Raze Forerunners in every way (which is no longer a playable card in Historic, thanks to it), a card itself known for ending games, but not close to as many and as often as this card will. If your deck had End-Raze Forerunners in it, just sub it out for Craterhoof and be amazed at how stupid the card is.
- I suspect Elves, Craterhoof’s ancestral home, doesn’t need the card that much now that it has access to Allosaurus Shepherd, but it may well still play it as a 1-of. That being said, Craterhoof is an amazing payoff for any ramp deck utilising small creatures, including the Leyline of Abundance decks that already exist. It won’t be that important to those decks though; there are other good cards like Ulamog you can play after all, so maybe this will just be a 1-2 of there too.
- Cheating Craterhoof out with Polymorph or Lukka, Copperhall Outcast is totally busted, as the card has fantastic synergy with token generation. Craterhoof will likely remain the best creature in Historic to cheat into play in any deck with lots of creatures, since you don’t get Ulamog’s cast trigger and Craterhoof will almost always just end the game on the spot when it works.
- This card is likely to straight up get banned in Brawl.
- Extra copies of Curious Obsession in Mono Blue Tempo decks – much better than Sea Dasher Octopus or Staggering Insight in costing 1 instead of 2. Worse than Curious Obsession in Mono Blue Tempo, since +1/+1 matters a lot, but lacks the downside of sacrificing itself when you can’t attack.
- Has a lot of potential in combo decks since, unlike Curious Obsession, it works off any damage rather than just combat damage – the obvious combo is with Niv Mizzet, Parun, which allows you to draw your deck and deal that much damage to the opposing player (so killing them in almost every case). Check out Jeff Hoogland’s early brew of the deck!
- This card has some cool combos out there, such as with Quasiduplicate or Replicate – if you put one of those cards on the stack targeting a different creature and respond with Dualcaster, you get to copy him as many times as you want. This combo is expensive at 6 mana, since sadly you can’t already have the Dualcaster in play (the Quasiduplicate will come off the stack and you won’t be able to copy it), but infinite 2/2s are enough to win a lot of games.
- A decent value card by himself, being able to copy your opponent’s stuff and get a lot of value in some spots, even if all you’re doing is blasting one of their creatures with a removal spell back, but I suspect you do want to include some sort of combo if you play him, since he is expensive and situational.
- Dualcaster + Sublime Epiphany is a ludicrously expensive combo at 9 mana, but will draw your deck, bounce all your opponent’s stuff, and make infinite 2/2s. This could possibly be good enough in some wacky Wilderness Reclamation shell, although I wouldn’t hold my breath…
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
- Weak to removal, sweepers, and Teferi, but the upside is nuts when they don’t have an answer. One hit will often win the game against non-Control decks.
- Decent filler in Black aggro decks especially those capable of going wide, including Vampires.
Elvish Archdruid is an immensely powerful card, being a Lord that can often ramp out 7 or 8 drops the turn after it is played; the printing of Allosaurus Shepherd has given Elves a fantastic way to use that mana, no less. Archdruid is an absolute must-kill on sight in an Elves deck, it will often be coming down on turn 2, and it provides all the advantages of other Lords in that it helps protect your Elves from cards like Goblin Chainwhirler and Mayhem Devil, and represents a ton of immediate damage on some board states.
That being said, Archdruid’s success rests more on the success of Elves than Allosaurus Shepherd’s does; it is unplayable outside of that deck.
Explore is a Mono Green copy of Growth Spiral, a card that many decks in Historic are already playing and has literally broken the last three or four Standard formats in two. Growth Spiral has some advantages in that it is much better in decks with lots of instants like those incorporating Reclamation, but is harder to cast and can be Mystical Disputed. Both cards will see plenty of play, even alongside each other since there are plenty of decks that have wanted to play more than 4 Growth Spirals lately.
As long as Wizards doesn’t push one-mana acceleration hard in Historic (which, God knows, they shouldn’t do – Llanowar Elves is bad enough), Explore will be an absolute staple in it. Coming to Field of the Dead decks near you!
- A must-kill for aggro decks, and often trades up against Midrange. Doesn’t scale well with the late game and not that fast a clock; bad against Control or any deck looking to go over the top.
- An absolute staple for Mono Black Devotion; will see play as long as that deck is in the meta.
- Hard to cast, so kind of rough for 2-colour decks (including Vampires, but may well still be worth it there).
- Another good haste lord for Goblins, which now has quite the critical mass of them! Is capable of dealing far more damage than Goblin Warchief and enabling huge alpha strike turns that overwhelm your opponents, often in a way that’s hard for them to plan for.
- Likely to see play in every Goblins deck as at least as a 1-of. Goblin Warchief is generally better, and is likely to have more copies in the average Goblins deck, but Chieftain fits better in hyper-aggressive low to the ground Goblins decks, if such things gain popularity. The 3 drop slot is already crowded, but nonetheless it looks like the early Goblins decks are including lots of Chieftains as a way to convert Muxus into a quick kill and apply a lot of pressure!
While I doubt Historic will provide a good platform for a return to Grim Lavamancer’s glory days, since there are no fetchlands and not as many cheap spells to rapidly fill the graveyard, it was a card that was once good in aggro and Control alike, and should see play somewhere – it repeatedly hoses small creatures and represents a tremendous amount of burn damage to the opposing player over time. I suspect a more burn-oriented version of Mono Red will try it at some point and it will be good there, but Izzet spells decks, Grixis Surveil decks, or any deck that can fill the graveyard rapidly could try it out. Escape competes with Grim Lavamancer as does anything else that makes heavy use of your graveyard, so do keep that in mind e.g. your Grixis decks should probably not play Kroxa alongside this.
- Is your deck not playing creatures? Does it want one mana removal? Great! This card is guaranteed to be a reasonable sideboard option (at least) in some decks.
- This card won’t be good against some decks like Field or Tokens, where it’s not trading for a real card, but is fantastic against midrange and Control decks that are playing stuff like Dream Trawler or other expensive finishers.
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
- Has the potential to be an okay 2-of in any White-based aggressive deck, but isn’t super exciting outside of a dedicated Boros Dogs deck (which I don’t really think is viable in Historic as of yet, but maybe with future printings.
- Being Legendary is a huge downside on a 1-drop so you don’t want more than 2 copies, maybe 3 in dedicated Dogs.
Kira, Great Glass Spinner
- Potentially solid in Mono Blue Tempo and Fliers decks, especially out of the sideboard – protects your aura’ed creatures without the need for Dive Down or countermagic (but remember that this ability is symmetrical so you want to play the Auras first!).
- A huge upside is that Kira protects herself as well as any other creature – will be an absolute nightmare for Control decks, who will often have to burn two spells or abilities (or a sweeper) on her.
- Will any deck using Auras be viable over the entire course of Historic’s future? Well then, look no further because Kor Spiritdancer is a busted card for that strategy!
- Selesnya Auras is already a decent fringe deck, and this is far better than Setessan Champion for it. Mono White Auras has seen some play in the past too, and this is a giant boost to that archetype.
- Will compete with Extinction Event for premier Black sweeper, and often win – it’s better against aggro, and in decks with plenty of creatures that survive this, but worse in decks that have a lot of the same sort of converted mana costs and play their own x/4s.
- You do need to be quite heavy Black to play Languish, so Extinction Event does beat it there.
Lightning Phoenix has plenty of potential in Historic – many of the Mono Red decks of old were sporting as many as 12 bolts after all, and being able to recur the card for only 1 mana is fantastic.
While you can just play it as a fair card, some Izzet decks can go one better, directly discarding the Phoenix with cards like Thrill of Possibility to pay just one mana overall to recur it. That does require playing more bolts than those decks would usually play, so I suspect it wouldn’t be what we know of as Izzet Phoenix now but a completely new version! You could have both Phoenixes, but I suspect the deck constraints would clash too much, since a lot of the bolts cost 2 mana and Arclight Phoenix wants 1 mana spells badly.
Phoenix’s stats and the fact that it recurs end of turn (so it can’t make use of the haste when recurred) might let it down, since it doesn’t represent tons of damage by itself and it’s hard to have enough burn to fight Uro decks, but I think the cheapness and inevitability is enough, especially if they print some more efficient discard outlets and burn spells in future.
Muxus, Goblin Grandee
- Muxus is redefining his tribe. All-in Muxus decks have colossal potential; it may well just be that the card’s explosive power is the best thing to do in Historic Goblins, and early builds are all centred around that idea. Check out some Historic Goblins builds here; Muxus is one of the Jumpstart’s forerunners as a result of how well they’re performing at the moment.
- At the very least, it will be a 1-2 of in all of them, to tutor up with Goblin Matron, as a nice Ringleader hit, and something to ramp up to with Skirk Prospector and Goblin Warchief. Remember that unlike Ringleader, Muxus puts the Goblins in play, giving absurd tempo and often just outright killing your opponents with all the haste lords Goblins has access to, now that Goblin Chieftain is Historic-legal. A nice upside is how threatening an attacker Muxus is.
- If Goblin Lackey or Warren Instigator come to Arena at some point, Muxus will get even better – the Legacy and Vintage Goblins decks often have 3-4 copies because of how busted he is with those cards.
- This is a powerful option against Control decks, especially in the Sideboard. While I think Phyrexian Arena is generally better in Mono Black, this is a much more versatile card that slots more easily into midrange decks that don’t kill as fast or have as much lifegain, where Arena burning you every turn matters more (this is probably like 4-6 life you pay as opposed to 10+). Arena also harms your curve, while many decks don’t mind spending one mana on this.
- In some decks, being able to perpetually recur one creature is very valuable, especially combo decks where you want repeated access to your win conditions.
- A great card in Brawl, which is slower and has more creature options for you to bring back, by virtue of being a singleton format. Being able to recur silver bullets is especially powerful there.
This is some immensely powerful text – there aren’t a lot of lands in Magic these days that tap for two mana, and Phyrexian Tower can allow you to power out all manner of things from a turn 3 Phyrexian Obliterator to Claim the Firstborning their creature and sacrificing it, or just using it to sacrifice cards that you really want dead at the opportune time like Stitcher’s Supplier. One problem is that Rakdos and Jund Sacrifice, the main decks that would be interested in this effect right now, suffer from some mana troubles that this will exacerbate, but I suspect it’s just worth it anyway, at least to play a couple (EDIT: and it seems Crokeyz agrees in his Day 1 Historic Sacrifice list).
Regardless, this card has overwhelming potential, and I suspect will be one of the best cards in the set long-term.
- Rattlechains is synonymous with Spirit Tribal, and will help define the archetype’s viability in Historic. I suspect there are enough Spirits out there to form a reasonable deck already (here’s the full list) with Spectral Sailor, Supreme Phantom, Kira, Great Glass Spinner, Nebelgast Herald, Shacklegeist, and some more generic flying tribal payoffs.
- If Spell Queller and Mausoleum Wanderer come to Historic, Spirits will shoot up in power! (though that’s likely to be with Shadows over Innistrad block, which would have brought us Rattlechains anyway…).
This is a powerful card with a great effect for any deck running Wizards with good enter-the-battlefield abilities. Here are all of the Wizards in Historic right now, of which Frilled Mystic (this is a potentially busted 6 mana soft lock), Barrin, Augur of Bolas, Deputy of Detention (resetting it and protecting it from removal is still really good, even if you’re not getting value as such), Archaeomender, and Dualcaster Mage seem like the most exciting options.
There’s already a lot of potential there, and Riptide Lab will only get better with time. It’s such a low cost to add to a deck with a decent mana base, that will just give you free value, so I suspect this card will be good repeatedly in Historic’s lifespan! That being said, it’s more of a workhorse than a busted or defining card, since the effect is quite expensive.
Tinybones, Trinket Thief
Tinybones represents incredible value, being essentially a Dark Confidant if you have discard spells, and those tend to be pretty easy to justify including in your deck. One unfortunate aspect is that you usually want to cast them before Tinybones, but when he only costs 2, it’s easier to justify waiting a turn. The last ability is easy to play around but cool in that playing around it is a cost – they’ll be forced to sandbag lands and cast their spells at inopportune times, and it gives Pox decks a powerful form of inevitability since you can eventually discard them + use it immediately.
Tinybones may be played in the Waste Not decks, but Waste Not really hasn’t made waves so I suspect he has to be a good value card for other decks to make it big in Historic. Mono Black Devotion or some Pox deck running Burglar Rat (not Yarok’s Fenlurker since that sadly doesn’t trigger him) and perhaps Nicol Bolas, Ravager is one option – I have a Grixis Rats Theorycraft deck here, which needs updating and would be happy to run him, but all of this doesn’t really sound much better than a fun tier 2-3 ladder deck to me.
Still, his effect is powerful enough that in time, perhaps when Thoughtseize makes it to Historic (if original Theros Remastered happens and is Historic legal), I’m sure he’ll steal his fair share of wins, and being a perpetually decent fringe deck is not a bad fate. I suspect Tinybones is a card that will just get better with time, which pushes up my rating a little.
Thirst for Knowledge
(Star Rating would be more like 2 stars if I were only rating for right this moment)
- Throughout Thirst’s history, it has slotted into most controlling Blue decks with plenty of Artifacts, across a wide variety of formats. I don’t expect that to change in Historic – 3 mana draw three discard one is still a fantastic rate at instant speed.
- That being said, I don’t think it’s great right now – we haven’t had an artifact-themed set and likely will need to wait for Kaladesh Remastered before Thirst (and other cards like Emry, Lurker of the Loch) come to full fruition.
- Tezzerator and various other Karn, the Great Creator decks, fringe though they are, are certain to play some copies of Thirst.
Thragtusk is an amazing value card and sideboard option, providing an easy 3 for 1 against aggro and control decks alike, and being almost impossible for other decks to 1-for-1 with – leaves the battlefield is worth so much more than dies. Historically, it has been especially amazing in decks that flicker it, and there are some ways to do that in Historic such as Yorion, Sky Nomad, which can do some pretty busted stuff with it.
Thragtusk is laughably bad against any deck trying to play unfair Magic, which is a lot of decks in historic – if decks are going way over the top like in ramping to Ugin or Field of the Dead, or comboing you out, this is a card you will want to board out as fast as you can.
Wall of Blossoms
Wall of Blossoms is the kind of card that will see a lot of play in random Green decks, slow midrange and Control alike, but won’t be particularly important to any of them. As long as aggro creatures aren’t too big, it will soak up a lot of damage and replace itself for only 2 mana; that’s great value. Bant Control is the best place for Wall, since it will protect turn 3 Teferi and your other planeswalkers so well.
(Star rating would be more like 2.5 stars if I were only rating for right this moment)
- Don’t be fooled by this card being an uncommon; it is one of the most powerful 2 drop creatures ever printed, and terrifying in any deck with plenty of cheap spells. Young Pyromancer has been a staple for years in much more powerful formats than Historic and will see plenty of play, even if not as much right now.
- That being said, it’s much worse in Historic right now than Modern or Legacy, since 0-1 mana spells aren’t nearly as common or good. I give it such a high grade despite that, because I know that it will only get better and better with time, and at some point it will live up to its ridiculous potential.
- Goblin Chainwhirler is a staple Historic card, and a problem for Young Pyro.
Niche or Filler Cards
Chromatic Sphere is a card that may look innocuous, just providing a little mana fixing, but is deceptively dangerous… if there’s any sort of strategy in Historic’s future which wants you to amass a lot of artifacts, know that Chromatic Sphere will be there. Emry, Lurker of the Loch + Sphere already draws you two cards per turn, or you can make the Sphere a 4/4 with Animating Faerie to beat down, or try to make Mystic Forge happen in a format other than Vintage, but I suspect that at some point something more frightening will involve Chromatic Sphere. The one saving grace is that Wizards has been down this path far too many times, and perhaps has learnt from those mistakes, at least judging by how little Artifacts have done since, say, Kaladesh. For now, I will refrain from giving this too high a grade.
This is great upside if you’re willing to spend 1 mana extra on your Essence Scatter… but the difference between 2 and 3 mana counterspells is colossal, and most decks won’t be.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- An incredibly easy 2-for-1 that almost always nets you a good card. Strong in Mono Black decks, because it gives them options they wouldn’t normally have available to them e.g. being able to hold up Negate or stealing their Bolas and taking over the game!
- A bit slow for Historic, but this body really isn’t that bad.
- Could see play in grindy midrange decks as a (sometimes better) alternative to Atris, Oracle of Half Truths. Unlike Atris, this can’t help you hit land drops, which is a major downside. Probably more of a sideboard card there.
- Great in Brawl, as a a Commander or in the decks.
As someone who rode through hell a lot in the Standard of 2013, let me tell you that this card is deceptively powerful – it represents 6 or 7 damage, often out of nowhere, if you already have a few creatures in play, and that’s perfect for finishing off your already weakened opponents.
Unfortunately, Historic has a lot of competition in this slot for Mono Red, and I suspect Embercleave and Torbran are usually better, since they’re less vulnerable and do more when you have a smaller board – even if Hellrider does work exceptionally well with Torbran! Still, Hellrider has a major advantage over those two in that against Control decks, where you sometimes won’t have a board at all, Hellrider will still be dealing 4 damage the turn it comes out.
If we see a return to decks that look more like Cavalcade and want to be better prepared for when they don’t draw Cavalcade by having more of that effect, Hellrider could well be their best option, and it’s certainly worth trying out in creature-heavy Mono Red decks or even something like Boros Tokens.
Inspiring Call is a powerful alternative to Unbreakable Formation in any deck with a lot of +1/+1 counters, since often you’ll just be holding up Unbreakable Formation every turn for no value if your opponent doesn’t play into it. Now, in those spots, you have the option of using this as a draw 3-4 end of turn rather than waste your mana, and if you do resolve it against a sweeper then you get absurd value – often enough to not only stop this one but rebuild after the next sweeper!
This is mostly a card for Selesnya Counters with Conclave Mentor, but it’s possible a Mono Green deck will also be interested in it over Heroic Intervention. Do remember that these cards are pretty easy to play around by any savvy Control player so you do need to ensure you have a big enough board that they are forced to sweep – otherwise they’ll just play other stuff and waste your mana.
Krenko, Mob Boss
Krenko combines extremely well with Haste, which Goblins now have up to 8 Lords to give him, and many builds of Goblins are trying him out as a result, as he often immediately brings an army with him which can be sacrificed for mana with Skirk Prospector and keep comboing, or immediately attack and deal colossal damage in combination with Goblin Chieftain, and then threatens to do it all over again if he lives! Krenko also has great synergy with Conspicuous Snoop, who can borrow his activated ability.
Krenko does have some downsides – he can be a bit winmore and plays into sweepers, plus your Lords will get removed a lot and he’s pretty bad without them, but the early Goblins lists are all running him, thanks to how powerful he is as a Muxus hit alongside Chieftain or Prosector, and the longevity he gives the deck in the later game. Krenko’s gigantic payoff is certainly worth incurring some risk, and I have high hopes for him for as long as Muxus is legal.
Lightning Axe is a great card in any deck where discarding is often an upside, such as in Reanimator, a Madness deck (there are no Madness cards in Historic at the moment, but that could change especially if Shadows over Innistrad Remastered is on the Horizon…), or even in Izzet Phoenix. I suspect Phoenix in the current iteration wants to hang onto its cards too much to play this, but if a really fast build of Phoenix emerges, it could definitely use this.
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Linvala is a strong Sideboard card, and may well be a 1-of in decks with creature tutors like Fauna Shaman too – it completely shuts off Elves and creature-based Ramp decks, and nukes cards in lots of other decks, while having a reasonable defensive body.
Magmaquake has a lot of potential power, even if you do have to jump through some hoops – if you can ramp up, it can be a totally one-sided instant-speed sweeper that also takes planeswalkers with it. Whether that’s in a creatureless Big Red deck, an Izzet deck with mostly fliers, or with Wilderness Reclamation, I have fairly high hopes that this card will slot in as a 1-2 of somewhere, at least in the Sideboard.
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Strong in the Conclave Mentor decks/with counter synergies, but a bit slow and vulnerable. Likely still good enough in Selesnya Counters, but won’t see play anywhere else.
Oracle of Mul Daya
Oracle is an incredible tool for any land-heavy deck, providing immense speed and card advantage in one. I suspect it’s a bit too fragile to see widespread Historic play, being a 4 mana card that dies to anything and doesn’t help you stabilise, but sideboard play certainly isn’t out of the question for an effect so powerful.
Every green Brawl deck will want an Oracle; it’s just one of the best things you can do and they best kill it or you’ll win the game in short order. This is a five-star card in Brawl.
This is a deceptively good sideboard card and a strong alternative to Disenchant if you don’t care that much about artifacts (which there aren’t that many good ones in Historic right now). In White aggro decks, it won’t slow down your gameplan to include it, so they’ll be especially happy, but Control decks fearing Negate and Spell Pierce (say, against Mono Blue Tempo!) may well run it, since it doesn’t really have downsides for them other than being sorcery speed – you can just wait and play it when the Enchantment you want to destroy is already out, or you can have it in play as a proactive answer/pressure planeswalkers with it as well as any other creature.
This card’s modes may look weak and situational, but its power is in its versatility – between the two modes, it has a reasonable effect against any deck. Could be a strong 1-2-of for Feather decks, which can sometimes struggle with creatures that survive Reckless Rage, or just slot into a White aggro sideboard.
- This card’s name may mislead you into thinking it interacts with Zombie Tribal, but don’t be fooled – this is purely a combo card in decks that can draw a lot.
- Throw out your Awaken the Erstwhiles: this is what you want to combo with Treasure Hunt instead, as this card allows you to combo as early as turn 3 (though, okay, you might still play one Awaken the Erstwhile or whatever). It does make far fewer Zombies, but your opponents won’t make any either, and the likelihood of this plan’s success is much greater earlier on. Zombie Hunt will be a solid budget deck option, just as Erstwhile Hunt has been.
- This is also a potential combo win condition if you draw your deck, though it’s way better to do that with Thassa’s Oracle or really most other cards that win immediately, but hey maybe you can give the zombies haste or have one copy of Gempalm Polluter as well.
The Unlikely Heroes
These are cards that are missing something, but could surge in popularity if the right, unlikely circumstances arise!
If damage-based sweepers become more common, I could see Blessed Sanctuary seeing some play in Selesnya Midrange – it isn’t good enough for either of its three effects to be good enough by themselves, since the protection from burn spells is far worse than Leyline of Sanctity, and the making 2/2s is a combination of low impact and winmore (since you already have to be drawing well and tokens don’t work), but the combination of them becomes much easier to justify if Deafening Clarions and Storm’s Wraths are running around (since protecting your creatures is the most important effect, and it does work against damage-based spot removal too), and Selesnya does have some ramp to get it out sooner, when all its abilities are at their most impactful.
Still, it’s a really slow card, and that’s a lot of stars that have align to justify a mediocre combination of things…
Bruvac the Grandiloquent
I didn’t want to give Bruvac a star rating originally, since he is a confusing card to rate that hinges on his archetype’s strength more than his own – he’s a powerful card for mill decks having a good defensive body and speeding up your clock a lot, but most mill decks are ones using Teferi’s Tutelage or some other mechanism of inevitable mill, so they don’t need to speed up their clock.
Still, I suspect that at some point Wizards will print cards like Glimpse the Unthinkable again and Mill will be efficient enough to function more as a burn deck, as it sometimes has before, and if not it’ll be a reasonable jank deck at certain points, and Bruvac’s power level is enough to be a big draw into it.
- Cathar’s Crusade will make any creatures you play after it absolutely colossal and goes especially well in your Tokens decks, especially with Release the Dogs (that produces no less than four 5/5s at once!). It’s very slow, but if your Selesnya tokens deck is going big enough and has Ramp, there’s some potential. The problem compared to something like Divine Visitation, is the creatures take a while to get going if you’re not playing something like Release the Dogs, and flying is a huge boon.
- This is a busted card in Commander, and I suspect will be nuts in Brawl too – it’s much easier to live long enough and get enough value when the games are much slower and you’re playing a lot of creatures anyway.
The Shaman is a powerful payoff for Dragon tribal – being able to ramp for 2 on turn 3 isn’t something we often see. That being said, they would need to print some powerful new dragons for this to be better than simply ramping into other stuff. Playing Lathliss, Dragon Queen on turn 3-4 is reasonably powerful; it just doesn’t beat t3-4 Ulamog, Ugin, or Craterhoof, which several flavours of Green Ramp are capable of making happen. Most of the Dragons in Historic are fragile and don’t do very much, or have intense mana costs which don’t synergise well with Dragonspeaker, and I’m not sure that Dragon Tribal will ever really make it out of jank territory – it’s not even particularly exciting jank, since you’re usually just ramping to a big haste creature (or Drakuseth which is expensive and useless unless you already have a way to give it haste), a card like Lathliss which is pretty unexciting, or Bladewing the Risen, which requires you to jump through quite some hoops…
This is a card I hope they support, but until then is unplayable and it’s by no means a guarantee – there are some Dragons in Magic that are great to ramp to, like Dragonlords Atarka or Silumgar, but those still pale in comparison to what you can ramp to faster and more easily in Historic already (and we’d need to wait for Khans of Tarkir Remastered to acquire them, which is probably a long way away).
Exquisite Blood represents a cheaper infinite combo with Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose than Revival//Revenge, costing 5 rather than 6. That being said, there are a couple of big downsides: a) the split card is more flexible, enabling you to recur Vito if he dies and b) Exquisite Blood requires them to lose life or you to gain life for you to kill them that turn, which can be awkward. I suspect Revival is better just for the combo, but this could have a niche in a deck that wants this ability and plays the combo anyway.
Immolating Gyre is sort of like a 6-mana Ruinous Ultimatum in the right sort of Izzet or Jeskai spells deck; it won’t be that hard to set up in the right deck, but it does cost 6 mana and deckbuilding constraints. That being said, Ruinous Ultimatum is an immensely powerful effect and well worth 6 mana, so I expect this card to see some play, perhaps in the sideboard of decks like Izzet Phoenix or Drakes, which also has ways to cheapen the casting cost with stuff like Goblin Electromancer.
It’s a shame this card doesn’t hit your opponent’s face; it would be very exciting and receive a much higher grade.
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
Selvala could be a fine 2-of in some big Green midrange decks, since they both fill the big creature requirement well and can put the immense amount of mana she threatens to provide (she taps for 3 with just one 4-power creature) to good use with value cards like The Great Henge. That being said, Selvala is a bit weird in that you want creatures with lots of different power stats, and to play the smaller ones first, and this really does begin to sound like too many hoops to jump through, both in deckbuilding and play, but you could just play her mostly for that second ability with a bunch of 4 and 5 power guys, and just be happy when the first works out.
Selvala seems pretty nuts in Brawl, where you’ll more naturally have creatures with different stats and more expensive ones with higher power, and she seems like a fantastic Commander to build around there.
Will Wizards go off the rails and print a bunch of 0-mana artifacts again? This card may be 4 mana, but it’ll be busted if they ever do! Chromatic Sphere was printed at 1 mana this set, but I suspect this card really does need 0-drops; perhaps in a Mox Amber deck..
Notes on other cards:
- Aether Spellbomb belongs in similar places to Chromatic Sphere, and would receive about the same rating.
- Dwynen’s Elite is an Elves staple and strong enabler, especially for Elvish Archdruid, but sort of unexciting to talk about – its success hinges entirely on that of the Elves deck.
- Emiel the Blessed provides a powerful repeatable flicker effect, but I think it’s far too expensive with too mediocre a body for Historic. It’s likely to be solid in Brawl though!
- Pillar of Flame may see a little play now, but with Magma Spray coming soon in Amonkhet Remastered, that will replace it completely.
- Magma Jet could see some play in Izzet spells decks, but it has a lot to compete with since there are a ton of good Shock effects in Historic already, from Bonecrusher Giant to Shock itself costing 1 mana less.
- Scholar of the Lost Trove + Omniscience is an expensive but powerful combo.
- Corsair Captain is a fine Lord, in case Pirates becomes a real thing.
- Beetleback Chief provides three bodies for Skirk Prospector/the Goblin lords, so it could see a little play, but I suspect you can do better.
- Sylvan Ranger can be a reasonable way to make land drops, provided you can make good use of the 1/1 body i.e. in Golgari sacrifice decks.
- Hedron Archive could be good in Tezzerator/Artifact Ramp decks, and as an option to put in your Karnboard.
- Overgrown Battlement provides a ton of ramp with Carven Caryatid in defender decks, and Carven Caryatid could in itself be a decent Sideboard option against Aggro. Assault Formation has some hopes in this deck too.
- If you need a lot of bodies for whatever purpose, such as with Cathar’s Crusade, Release the Dogs is happy to help you out, but you’ll need to hand over a lot of mana.
- Weaver of Lightning has some potential as a sideboard card in Izzet spells.
- Archaeomender isn’t too costly at 3 mana and has a reasonable body, so it’s easy to imagine some artifact-centric decks having it as a value card/a way to recur wincons in artifact-based combo decks.
- Stone Haven pilgrim doesn’t really fit into Tempered steel/Steel Overseer decks; perhaps if more generically powerful artifacts are printed for aggro, that don’t require as much synergy.
- Rishkar, Peema Renegade could see play in the Selesnya counters decks.
- Terramorphic Expanse is a fine addition to many Brawl decks.
- Buried Ruin could see some play in Karn, the Great Creator big artifact decks.
- Dragonlord Servant is a lot worse than Dragonspeaker Shaman, since you can do its job much better by just playing Green, but it could see some play in future if they print cheap dragons you want to double spell with, for example, or you really desperately don’t want to be Green e.g. you’re playing Irencrag Feat or something.
- I mentioned Lathliss, Dragon Queen with Dragonspeaker Shaman, the only place you’d consider running her, and she’s still not that exciting there.
- Thriving Lands are a good budget inclusion for Brawl, but not good for most constructed formats – though Niv Mizzet/other 5 colour decks may want one or two.
- Torch Fiend is like Ronom Unicorn, but much worse in that you have to pay a mana – I suspect you’re better off just running more dedicated Artifact hate like Embereth Shieldbreaker at that point.
- Scarecrone could be a powerful addition to Karnboards – repeatedly returning your best Artifact creature to play is fantastic. The card is expensive and fragile, but can establish a lock that requires a sweeper to break with something like Platinum Angel (which Karn can also go and get).
- Volcanic Fallout is a possible replacement for Flame Sweep in some sideboards, since it is better against Mono Blue Tempo.
- Presence of Gond could see play if Intruder Alarm is printed into Historic, or there is another way to untap a creature whenever a creature enters the battlefield; both of those go infinite.
My top 10 cards for Historic long-term:
9) Kira, Great Glass Spinner
7) Blood Artist
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Please do let me know in the comments if I’ve missed a card you think is viable; there were so many of the 485 or whatever that I’m not certain that I haven’t!