Orzhov 8-Dancer: The New Tier 1 Monster in Historic
Guess who’s back! Well yeah, I am, but we’re talking about Historic Auras! The Mono White version was originally popularized by Ginky due to the addition of Kor Spiritdancer in Jumpstart. It dropped in popularity since Thoughtseize got introduced and when people started playing more and more copies of Extinction Event – cards that fit perfectly into Sultai Midrange, which was also getting more and more popular and is now undoubtedly the best deck in Historic as it answers many of the creature based decks in the format.
As for Auras, Kaladesh Remastered gave this deck two huge additions; Sram, Senior Edificer and Concealed Courtyard. Basically you have 8 copies of Kor Spiritdancer now (though Sram is obviously weaker) which is why I call this deck 8-Dancer. I will explain why this catapulted this archetype right back to tier 1 later.
Let’s look at the list first and what this deck wants to do; afterwards I will explain why I deem it superior over Azorius Auras, while explaining my card choices. At the end, I will give you a sideboard guide as well as some Mulligan decisions (you guys like those, so let’s give it to you):
The basic idea of this deck is simple: Play Kor Spiritdancer or Sram, Senior Edificer, make them beefy with your auras and accumulate card advantage due to their unique abilities. Usually auras are widely considered as suboptimal because you lose way too many cards at once when they kill your creature – running out of steam quickly when your opponent stifles the first aggression.
The additional card draw really helps you find all your pieces together so you can continue being aggressive, which also means that you get to play much more of a grindy game as well. This is why Lurrus of the Dream-Den is so good in this deck, too – it gives you another angle to attack your opponents apart from just being a fast deck.
One key thing to keep in mind is that you’re a fast deck, but not necessarily an aggressive one like Mono Red is for example. You’re much more synergy driven – your main goal should be to make your 8-dancers as untouchable as possible with the help of Selfless Savior, Alseid of Life’s Bounty and Karametra’s Blessing.
4 Alseid of Life’s Bounty: Incredible power on a 1-drop, especially in this deck. This ensures that you get on board for low mana investment, while at the same time protecting your 8-dancers. It also has lifelink so you can make this huge against aggressive decks which makes it much easier to race; it’s an enchantment so it counts towards All that Glitters, too! And last but not least: it gives you some sort of evasion for your big creatures when you give it protection from your opposing blockers so it’s an easy inclusion.
4 Cartouche of Solidarity: You need a lot of cheap auras in this deck, and this is one of the better ones for 1 mana. First strike is huge because you can practically never lose in combat anymore (also dodges some random deathtouchers, who would otherwise be absurd against you). Do not discount the additional body – sometimes it’s important to have another creature to slap your enchantments on and spread power evenly on your board so that your opponent can’t continue chump blocking with small blockers forever.
2 Karametra’s Blessing: Cheap spell to protect your creatures. The number here will vary on the metagame and if your opponents play more removals or sweepers. You can now say that Fatal Push is a removal that’s heavily played – which is true, but Blessing isn’t the kind of card that is optimal when your opponent is playing super cheap removal. You have to think of this card as some sort of mana advantage as well: It’s great when you pay 1 mana and your opponent pays 4 for Wrath of God for example; this kind of scenario will make Blessing incredibly efficient.
If you trade it for Fatal Push, you protected your creature, but it wasn’t efficient, in the sense that your opponent will probably still be able to double spell in their turn or maybe just fire off another removal in response to your Blessing. There’s a huge cost of including cards into your deck that aren’t auras or creatures. I also don’t think that you need too much protection anymore, because you don’t have to revolve your whole deck around specifically Spiritdancer – you now have Sram as well, which means that you get more tools to play and don’t need to protect your single threats as much as you had to before.
4 Selfless Savior: This good boi is the goodest indeed; play this on turn 1 and one of your 8-dancers on turn 2 and you know you’re in business. The fact that you can protect one of your creatures without spending mana is incredible and is sometimes better than Alseid because of that reason. Together will Alseid you now have 8 creatures that protect your 8-dancers (8-saviors?), which is plenty and another reason to not overload with cards like Karametra’s Blessing, especially in game 1.
4 Sentinel’s Eyes: This is your best 1 mana aura. The reason for that is that Vigilance is kind of important in a lot of spots where you want to win a race; but it’s also an Aura that can trigger your 8-dancers multiple times. The ability to recast this without having Lurrus out is important and gives you a bit more resiliency.
2 Glaring Aegis: This is basically just here to have a high density of 1 mana enchantments. It’s also nice to clear some pesky blockers for a turn and brings your creatures out of reach for burn spells easily.
2 Hateful Eidolon: Eidolon is another 1-drop with lifelink, making it great against creatures. The other reason to play this card is that it’s another pseudo-protection for your aura creatures, where it replaces your dead creatures for more cards in your hand. The last important thing is that you have great sideboard access against creatures – and this is just phenomenal. Azorius Auras has Staggering Insight to help win against creatures, but the mix of the removal auras that I’ll mention later is no slouch either.
2 Mogis’s Favor: This works well with the Eidolon I just mentioned; but it’s also flexible since it can power up your creatures. It’s a 1 mana aura that works with your dancers, so it’s always going to be relevant while also interacting slightly with your opponent.
2 Thoughtseize: This might be the single best card that black has to offer on Arena. It’s great in practically every black deck, but I want to be as proactive as possible in game 1 so I don’t want to include all 4 copies. I like to include this to have something against Extinction Event, too – a card that’s brutal against you as you can’t protect yourself from it otherwise.
4 All That Glitters: Incredible aura, as this allows you to finish the games quickly after establishing your dancers. This can easily give 5-6 power at once, making it an easy include.
1 Angelic Gift: Sometimes the protection by Alseid is not enough to punch through a wall of blockers, so here’s a way to give your creatures evasion. It costs 2 mana though and it doesn’t grant you any stats, so I don’t want too many (you also usually don’t need so much evasiveness anyway). In some matchup it’s pretty good, but it’s clunky enough that I don’t want too many in the main.
4 Kor Spiritdancer: Basically the reason why this deck even exists. The fact that this gets bigger by itself when you put auras on is just such a potent ability. Note that it’s a cast trigger, so you get a card even if you get your aura countered.
4 Sram, Senior Edificer: Your other 4 dancers! Obviously this is much worse as it doesn’t get bigger by itself, so it’s not nowhere near the fast clock as Spiritdancer is; but it’s still an obvious inclusion so that you can have this type of effect as consistent as possible.
Why Orzhov Over Azorius?
Obsession and Insight are great at being another card draw engine when you don’t have Kor Spiritdancer. I, however, don’t think that this is necessary as you now have access to Sram anyway; which means you’re going to draw way more cards anyway. Hateful Eidolon is another lifelinker and potential card draw engine, and we got better removal to make up for the fact that we don’t have Staggering Insight.
My second reasoning is the fact that I think that Thoughtseize is better than counterspells. Keeping mana open is not so easy but it’s always possible to just get that cheap discard spell out of your hand. We play 21 lands; keeping mana open isn’t always easy.
The thing that really shifts me towards Orzhov is the fact that our mana is much better: We have Concealed Courtyard and Brightclimb Pathway; Azorius has Temple of Enlightenment and no Pathway. That’s just horrible for a deck that’s looking to curve out and I have troubles sleeping knowing that I can’t play my dancers because of moldy temples.
1 Karametra’s Blessing: Against decks with tons of removal, you want to play more protection.
1 Fatal Push: Not an aura, but it’s just cheap efficient removal. This is especially important in the mirror.
1 Hateful Eidolon: Eidolon isn’t great in every matchup, but against creatures you want more copies.
2 Thoughtseize: Flexible card for multiple matchups; I’ll mention them later.
1 Angelic Gift: Additional evasion for the matchups that you need it in.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARD GUIDE
|In (on the play)||Out (on the play)||In (on the draw)||Out (on the draw)|
|+1 Fatal Push||-2 Karametra’s Blessing||+1 Fatal Push||-4 Selfless Savior|
|+1 Angelic Gift||+2 Dead Weight||-2 Karametra’s Blessing|
|+1 Hateful Eidolon||-2 Glaring Aegis|
|+2 Legion’s End|
On the play, I just want to be the most efficient version of Auras to get my 8-dancers going and let your opponent react to what I am doing. This is why Selfless Savior is great, as it allows your creatures to survive on turn 2 against Fatal Push, giving you a much better pace of the game. You don’t want to sit with removals in your hand when it’s you who should be controlling the tempo of the game.
On the draw, you can’ do that; if both players just do the same identical thing the one who got to play first wins. So we need to pack in more interaction, stop them from achieving their game plan and continue forward after establishing board control.
|+2 Dead Weight||-2 Thoughtseize|
|+2 Mire’s Grasp||-1 Angelic Gift|
|+1 Hateful Eidolon||-2 Karametra’s Blessing|
There’s really no reason to change the sideboard plan whether you are on the play or not. Just control the board with Eidolons and removal and make big lifelinkers. If you don’t get overrun you should win the game smoothly. You don’t need the Angelic Gift as you usually just win when you have giant beaters anyway.
|+2 Thoughtseize||-2 Mogis’s Favor|
|+1 Angelic Gift||-1 Glaring Aegis|
|+2 Apostle of Purifying Light||-2 Hateful Eidolon|
The game plan also remains the same: Beat them down while protect your creatures from their removal. This is why Thoughtseize is so important: Extinction Event can be absolutely devastating and you need to snipe it. Definitely prioritize keeping your 8-dancers alive over of interacting with their card advantage. It can be tough when they resolve Extinction Event, but apart from that you should be fine.
|In (on the play)||Out (on the play)||In (on the draw)||Out (on the draw)|
|+1 Angelic Gift||-4 Selfless Savior||+1 Hateful Eidolon||-4 Selfless Savior|
|+1 Hateful Eidolon||-2 Karametra’s Blessing||+2 Dead Weight||-2 Karametra’s Blessing|
|+2 Dead Weight||+2 Mire’s Grasp||-2 Glaring Aegis|
|+2 Mire’s Grasp||+2 Thoughtseize|
|+1 Fatal Push|
On the play you are usually faster and can just overrun them. On the draw you can get overrun sometimes by the turn 1 Skirk Prospector and an unanswered Krenko, Mob Boss, so we want to make sure to get more interaction in. I would typically no bring in too much removal when we have the upper hand in a matchup, but Selfless Savior and Blessing are so bad here that we can just replace them. They bring in some removal for us, but not much, and every card that’s not a Goblin hurts them more than us.
MONO GREEN / GRUUL AGGRO
|+1 Hateful Eidolon||-2 Thoughtseize|
|+2 Dead Weight||-2 Karametra’s Blessing|
|+2 Mire’s Grasp||-2 Glaring Aegis|
|+1 Fatal Push|
Funnily enough, the sideboard plan remains the same for both of these decks for me. Creatures are just not that big of a problem when you make a giant one yourself; control the board and win via card advantage.
First things first: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, one of Magic’s greatest and current world champion, wrote about “quality decks” and “quantity decks” in his latest article. He describes it like this:
- “Quantity decks”: Your cards all pretty much do the same and have roughly equal power level. Example: Mono Red Burn, where most of your spells are just there to target your opponent’s life total.
- “Quality decks”: You have some specific cards in your deck that elevate your whole strategy. Example: Mono Red Goblins, who want to have Muxus, Goblin Grandee most of the time.
Guess what Orzhov Auras is: A quality deck!
Our 8-dancers are so crucial to our game plan that we want to have them every game. This is the reason why I decided to play 4 copies of Sram, even though this dwarf is legendary as opposed to Spiritdancer.
What this means, is that you should probably take a mulligan whenever you don’t see either Sram or Dancer; unless you have a great reason not to (for example you’re against Mono Red and you have lifelinkers with All That Glitters and tons of removal in your hand). Don’t be afraid to take aggressive mulligans: A good start can easily win on a mulligan to 4.
Now onto the examples!
Keep or Mull? (unknown opponent)
Answer: Easy keep!
You even have double dancers, so don’t even have to be scared about them removing your first one.
You mulled on 5: What cards to you put back?
Answer: Alseid and Cartouche of Solidarity
Rule of thumb: When you take mulligans, keep the cards with the highest upsides so you can make up for the deficit of cards. That means that you’re not going to play around your opponent having removal, which is why I want to toss Alseid. It’s also not so easy to keep mana open here anyway as you need to draw all the cards you can get. If your opponent has removal, he has it – with a mull on 5 you’re bound to be on the backfoot anyway.
You mulled on 6. Keep or mull? If keep, what do you put back?
You have tons of hands that work better with 5 cards (almost all hands that have one of 8 dancers) and this hand just doesn’t do a lot. Your All That Glitters gives +3 power at max, which is just not great. If you want to keep this, you toss a Savior probably, but you really shouldn’t keep this hand, even if you already mulled once.
Mull on 6 against Sultai. You obviously keep – what do you toss?
This might look a bit dumb, but Sultai has tons of removal spells so it’s pretty tough to protect yourself; and you always have to keep mana open too. Thoughtseize basically protects you as well and since you have 2 copies of “dancers” it can be okay if they remove one. Never toss the aura, as you need these to redraw.
That’s what I have for today! If you like my content and want to see more of it, you can check me out on Twitter or Twitch! Have a great day and as always: Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter if you have any questions regarding this deck.
Until next time!