The Wild and Wacky Theorycrafts of Historic Anthology 3
Hi folks! I recommend you read my Set Review (linked above) before you begin this, as it gives some much-needed context for the decks I’m about to present.
Please note that as the title states, decks are pure theorycrafts! I haven’t had the opportunity to test them as the Anthology isn’t even out yet, and they’re guidelines for you to build upon/test out. I’ve tried to include a good mix of fun and good here; I’ll be shying away from heavily meta decks unless I can innovate on them/take them into completely new directions, but at the same time I am trying to build to win with the chosen concepts. I’ve put more effort into the maindecks; the sideboards may well need some tweaking.
4C Humans with Ancient Ziggurat
I said in my Historic Anthology 2 Review that I thought Humans was looking powerful, but needed better fixing and a couple more good Humans before it could really go wild… guess what Ikoria & Historic Anthology 3 delivered? For months, Humans has combined the classic hatebear disruption package of Thalia, Kitesail Freebooter, and Meddling Mage to lock your opponents out of casting their cards, but what if I told you they can now kill really fast?
- I’ve included Hero of Precinct One in this build because as it turns out, there are really a lot of good multi-colour Humans running around now, and Judith, Scourge Diva and General Kudro both synergise incredibly well with that card. Kudro acts as anthem effect and repeated removal in this deck with Hero; I originally wanted only 3 of each Legendary, but I feel like Kudro is actually worth having 4 of here, since you want to draw it so much.
- Having access to Umori g1 is some great additional upside, though I do think you’ll be boarding it out for the most specialised tools in the sideboard most of the time.
- General’s Enforcer is great here, acting as sweeper protection in itself by granting no fewer than 12 Humans indestructible.
- Deputy of Detention is much harder to kill when backed up by all this disruption
- For alternate builds, I do tend to think Meddling Mage is a bit overrated and weak in the draws where you don’t have Kitesail Freebooter, since naming in the dark is pretty mediocre; I could see trimming a couple of those on that basis, but I left the full four in here since I wanted more Hero hits. Other cards you can try out: Tajic, Legion’s Edge and Rix-Maadi Reveler.
This is probably the deck I’m most confident in of the lot in both its potential for fun and power level. Even in Historic, a really high-power format, I suspect Humans has what it takes to be great now in one build or another, and this is a very good starting point towards that.
Gruul Goblins with Gempalm Incinerator & Ancient Ziggurat
Gempalm Incinerator is an extremely powerful card; while I suspect Goblins just doesn’t have the powerful 1-2 drops it needs (apart from Skirk Prospector) to be really busted just yet, it is significantly better. Green gives us access not only to Grumgully and Zhur-Taa Goblin, but to the most powerful tools Ikoria has brought us, Goblins’ very own Companion! Umori is basically free for us to play, since you want pretty much all creatures for your Ringleaders anyway. The joke with Goblins is that you use Skirk Prospector and Goblin Warchief to cheat a bunch of stuff into play rapidly, Ringleader refills your hand and means you basically never run out, and Matron can tutor up silver bullet Goblins like Trashmaster to win with; the deck plays out more as a midrange than an aggressive deck, while still outputting tons of pressure and spitting far too many Goblins onto the board in a single turn!
Ancient Ziggurat is a nice upgrade to Rootbound Crag, reducing the number of unkeepable opening hands we’re dealt.
For the sideboard, we can transform into an Umori-less deck with Experimental Frenzy and Cindervines against Control, Ruinblasters and Rampaging Ferocidons against Field of the Dead (Ferocidons also come in against various lifegain strategies), Incginerator against any heavy creature deck without wraths, and Chainwhirlers against Aggro/decks with lots of x/1s.
Zombies with Gempalm Polluter & Ancient Ziggurat
Yes, I know every single deck has had Ancient Ziggurat so far; it’s a testament to the card’s power! A grindy midrange deck that burns opponents out and generates neverending amounts of value, Zombies has seen sporadic play in Historic before, and now gets a powerful and synergistic card for its plan in Gempalm Polluter, which will often cycle to burn opponents for 4-5 damage for free. While the lists I saw were Mono Black before, I decided to splash White for Corpse Knight, since it has great synergy with the Polluter plan, and for some better sideboard options.
Esper Rites Reanimator with Unburial Rites & Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger
Unburial Rites being castable directly from the graveyard means all you really need is self-mill in your Reanimator decks to set up both halves of the combo; unfortunately Historic doesn’t have loads of great early options for that since I didn’t really want to play Merfolk Secretkeeper (or Stitcher’s Supplier without sacrifice outlets). This is the first of two Unburial Rites builds I have on show today; the more all-in one. This one is less resilient but inhabits a Control shell with Emry + artifacts for value.
Pros over just having Unburial Rites as a value card:
- This deck gets to run a lot of incidental hate for Field of the Dead – 3 Ashioks main really hurt that deck, and then the late game of Agent of Treachery/Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger should overwhelm it. Any other graveyard decks also get a real blasting – Uro will not be a problem here.
- Emry + Glass Casket/Mind Stone is a powerful draw engine. Sadly I wasn’t able to find more than 6 artifacts I wanted to run, but that + all the other self-mill should be enough to consistently have Emry be threatening to return something. Out of the sideboard, you get to potentially add a bunch more artifacts.
- The deck gets to find Unburial Rites more, given more self-mill and Atris.
- This deck doesn’t really do very much if you can’t set up the combo. It won’t play a great value game; it’s very all or nothing. If your opponent can consistently answer Ulamog, you’re going to have a rough time winning the game.
- There are fewer incidental creatures to bring back with Unburial Rites, so you really need one of the big 7; I included a couple of Atrises which are fine to bring back but not super exciting.
- I couldn’t really find a great discard outlet; if this deck draws one of its big creatures, it will have to wait until it can hardcast them to get them out of its hand, and it is much worse at doing that than a deck with more ramp.
- This version isn’t capable of answering artifacts and Enchantments like Grafdigger’s Cage and Leyline of the Void maindeck, and only has a few ways to answer them in the sideboard.
Overall I suspect this version has too many weaknesses, but this could be a cool thing to try out and iterate upon; even if it doesn’t work now, I suspect it’s only one more really good self-mill card or discard outlet away from being good.
4C Field Rites Reanimator with Unburial Rites & Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger
Much as I was loathe to include a Field deck, I feel like this is doing enough interesting and different things to warrant inclusion. I’m not sure this is the best use of slots in the Field deck, but it should break the mirror really well to steal their Fields and make best use of them, or to reanimate an Ulamog which the other Field decks will have a lot of trouble dealing with. Unburial Rites getting you two bites at the apple and being castable directly from the graveyard is incredibly strong. I included Beanstalk Giant to try to expand on the Rites targets without hurting the Field strategy.
I suspect that if you have the basic Field shell already and are buying the Anthology, this will be a good thing to try out as it won’t cost you very much at all!
Devotion Fight with Phyrexian Obliterator
Let me preface this by saying “too cute” was very much a concern as I constructed these decks! Still, I think this is Obliterator’s best shot in Historic – the problem is that Mono Black Devotion is far too weak, and Obliterator doesn’t do a powerful enough thing to justify playing that deck, even with Gray Merchant. However, Obliterator + fight effects is legitimately very powerful; if you can land that combo against any midrange strategy, you really will Obliterate them!
This Green version is much faster and can set up t4 Obliterator + Prey Upon, and can dig for Obliterator using Fiend Artisan. It’s slightly less good a Gray Merchant deck, since the cards just produce less devotion, but honestly I think Obliterator will do a good enough job there anyway. Back for More might be more trouble than it’s worth, but this version does have ways to Ramp into it and get Obliterator directly into the graveyard, and that is a crushing t6 play that makes best use of the Obliterator. I suspect this is the better version for executing the primary gameplan and really crushing midrange decks.
One of the main problems with the Fight strategy is that Mono Black Devotion’s cards aren’t really very good at fighting, so this version alleviates that by cycling away its fight card when it’s bad, and having a bunch of ways to dig for it. I noticed that this deck had a lot of pump effects and mana sinks, and so I began to consider known busted card Fires of Invention, and it seems pretty good with Pack Rat and a lot of ways to refill your hand. Josu Vess is really cool with Fires, since it allows you to produce an army of Zombies as early as turn 6! I only added one because my too cute senses were going into overdrive and I was out of slots, but perhaps a braver planeswalker than I will find room for more… I suspect this version is better against sweepers and more consistent, but less explosive.
Other ideas I had:
- I attempted to make a Tempered Steel/Steel Overseer aggro deck, but I found that I had overrated how many reasonable artifact creatures there were in Historic in my Set Review. There just wasn’t much after Stonecoil Serpent, Gingerbrute, Ornithopter, and Arcanist’s Owl; you really need a critical mass of reasonable early Artifact creatures for that sort of deck. Take a look for yourself here. My apologies! But we’re only a couple of decent artifact creatures away, so look out for those in coming sets.
- I stayed away from Scapeshift Gempalm Polluter, since I felt it would be too boring for this article. I do legitimately think that combo is very powerful, but I’m not sure Sultai is the direction Scapeshift wants to go in, since you do give up Teferi and good Wrath effects for your control plan; still it’s likely to be a decent mirror breaker.
Thanks for reading! As always, you can find all my articles at mtgazone.com/Drifter or follow me on Twitter/Reddit for regular updates.
If you enjoyed this article/have feedback, please leave a comment, as it helps me gauge how much demand there is for these sorts of Historic Theorycrafts, and whether I should do a follow-up. Look out for Historic Brawl decklists this Friday, as we’ll be going all out for the FNM at Home event coming out then!
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