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Historic is a very deep format now with a ton of viable decks and tools. The format is underexplored as far as I’m concerned and people mainly recycle similar decks over and over. However, I reckon there are plenty of cards that ought to be played more, be it thanks to their versatility, different angle of attack, or utility they provide. Below I present the ten cards that I see as underplayed in the format.
The first card on the list is A-Mentor's Guidance. Thanks to the popularity of (in)famous Expressive Iteration, it’s been brushed off heavily. While Iteration is still an excellent card, I think some attention ought to be brought to the now newly rebalanced Guidance. There are three main advantages of it compared to Iteration.
First, the mana cost is easier which might be relevant, especially in tri-color decks like Jeskai Wizards. Second, it digs deeper in your deck. While Iteration looks at the top three, Guidance goes potentially four deep. It’s going to be key when you’re looking for the burn spell for the win. Last but not least, you can slam Guidance turn two if need be, while Iteration in such a spot would be a sorcery speed Anticipate.
As Guidance requires a specific condition to be met, you’d have to play it in a deck which almost guarantees meeting it.
This card warrants an entire article piece. It’s always been at least playable and a great way to go over the top. One use for Hulk is just as top-end in control decks and a way to turn the corner. Late game you can flashback an Absorb or a card draw spell like Behold the Multiverse. It pairs very well with another underplayed card in Settle the Wreckage, which it can flashback as well.
Another use is utilising a popular engine in Magma Opus. The combination of Hulk and Opus was seen in Pioneer, Explorer and I think it could see a bit more play in Historic. It could be played in an otherwise fully control deck such as Jeskai or Izzet. It might be tough for the opponent to combat your fully reactive plan with a game-winning combination played as soon as turn five, possibly four if you’ve used Opus Treasure ability twice.
Last but not least, Indomitable Creativity works very well with Hulk. You could play a more combo-focused version aimed at specifically turboing out Hulks. With Unholy Heat being nerfed, no point removal played currently deals with Torrential Gearhulk.
Cling to Dust
Arguably the least exciting card on the list. I’ve played it every time I played black in Modern, its utility is three-fold as far as I’m concerned. First off, it’s a maindeck piece of graveyard hate. It comes in handy against cards like Tarmogoyf, Arclight Phoenix, Ox of Agonas, Dreadhorde Arcanist, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, Reckless Charge, and many more.
In addition, it’s a main deck piece life gain. There are a lot of aggressive decks with Wizards and Mono Red at the forefront of the format. It could be life-saving to gain 3 life in a tight spot. On top of actual life gain, your opponent will not play around it the first time so you can get some favourable exchanges because of that.
Lastly, it draws a card. Therefore, the worst case to ever happen is for the card to cycle which is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes, you’ll be able to draw a card AND get the graveyard hate utility like against Reckless Charge or Magma Opus.
And all the aforementioned is baked into a single card costing one mana. On top of all that, it’s recastable thanks to its Escape mechanic. I personally always play it in my interactive black decks and I think you should too.
It’s a variant of a classic Experimental Frenzy. This type of effect is very powerful in creature decks. In this case, you can chain some creatures off the top and usually playing twoish of the top is enough to really swing the card advantage battle.
In addition, this card alone can help you rebuild after a mass removal spell. Post-Wrath you slam Realmwalker and hopefully play 1-3 creatures off the top now forcing them to have another removal. Even if you don’t run out a lot of creatures, Realmwalker is a must-answer threat as the potential for you to cast creatures off the top looms every single turn.
It’s been usually played in Elves, but that does not have to always be the case. You can choose the creature type so it can fit some other creature tribal decks. What immediately comes to mind are Angels which already play green and Humans. If you end step Collected Company into Realmwalker on Angels, your opponent knows they are in trouble. Thanks to being a changeling, it’s also an Angel so it works well with the synergies.
Laelia, the Blade Reforged
Creature and aggressive decks do enjoy good card advantage engines. Laelia, the Blade Reforged is an excellent card for red aggro decks and that’s for multiple reasons. It’s a haste attacker so it adds to the board and complements the main plan, contrary to Experimental Frenzy. Its own exile trigger grows itself immediately so it’s a 3/3 haste attacker which is an okay rate right off the bat. With each attack it provides you with one more card, thus providing card advantage, and with each attack it grows by one, thus becoming and even scarier threat.
On top of that, it synergises with already played cards like Light Up the Stage in that they trigger Laelia and she’ll become bigger.
Karn, the Great Creator
Everybody recognises the card but it gets much less press than it should. It slots into a lot of potential shells – artifact-based decks and ramp decks would be the two main ones. There are Treasures, Clues, and Food tokens in the format so it gets some utility from its passive. In addition, you can play a huge assortment of tools in the sideboard – threats, prison pieces, answers, hate cards. Game 1 grabbing a Grafdigger's Cage could be lights out for some decks.
In Bo1 you have to use it carefully as you’re only allowed 7 slots but in Bo3 it goes up to 15.
Its reanimation ability is also relevant. Making God-Pharaoh's Statue a creature closes the game very fast. Just be careful in the light of potential removal – you don’t want your otherwise untouchable permanent to be killed.
Anger of the Gods
Dealing 3 damage and exiling the opposing board is a powerful effect and I am surprised it’s not played more. It shines against Wizards, Elves, Humans, Mono Red, Rogues, Merfolk, GB Food and the list goes on. It could be played main deck in some URx control deck when it itself is not affected. However, you could also just have some in the board and bring them in on the draw to stop the opponent in their tracks if they overextend. I honestly believe it’s one of the most powerful mass removal spells in the format.
Arguably the most played artifact shell is UW Affinity with Thought Monitor. The deck has a ton of card advantage and mainly the two-drop of choice has been Ingenious Smith. However, the deck does not put pressure on the opponent that well. This is where Patchwork Automaton would come in. I can imagine builds where it either replaces Smith or complements it. While Smith triggers once a turn, Automaton triggers every time you plan an artifact spell. Therefore, it works great with you dumping your hand off Ornithopter or other cheap artifacts.
In addition and most importantly, it has Ward. It means that the most efficient removal in the format, Fatal Push and Unholy Heat, suddenly cost 3 mana which is a huge slow down. If the opponent has a piece of removal that costs more than one mana, then the increased cost is that much more painful. The combination of triggering every time and Ward makes it a real player. It itself is also an artifact so it triggers others, which I cannot say for Smith.
In more imaginative decks like Hardened Scales it’s even stronger as it gets two counters per trigger so it grows much more exponentially.
It used to be played, but the hype died down. I still think it warrants inclusion in decks. There are a lot of lands to choose from that will complement what Death’s Shadow needs – there are both shocklands and lands that Lightning Bolt you upon entry like Shatterskull Smashing. You could play it in a Grixis Shadow shell like it’s played in Modern.
The biggest difference being that you still have access to Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Long game, playing Lurrus into an 8/8 Shadow, presents the opponent with two powerful threats. Basically, you interact all the way through the game and at some point you drop a powerful one drop. Being one mana later in the game is still relevant as you can multispell or hold up interaction. I’ve also seen it in Rogues shells but the idea stays the same – interact and then play Shadow.
It also works great with Ranger-Captain of Eos which can find it.
Knight of the Reliquary
The main reason I think it warrants more playability is the nerf of A-Unholy Heat. Now it does not deal 6 damage, so your overgrown Knights survive this prevalent removal spell. In addition, it fixes mana should you need it. If you float mana and tutor out another untapped land, it essentially ramped you by a single mana as well.
You can play creature lands like Lair of the Hydra and other utility lands like Bojuka Bog or Castle Ardenvale. It works great with Tireless Tracker as you can find Fabled Passage, crack it, find another land and now you’ve got 2 Clue tokens and Knight grew thanks to the Passage having been sacrificed.
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