This coming tournament is quite important to me, as whether I can stay on the train or even qualify for the Challenger Gauntlet depends on my finish here. Going into testing, Historic seemed quite open, and I had to think about how the new cards from Kaladesh Remastered were going to change the format.
The set added a bunch of cards that one could expect to have some impact on Historic. So the first step I took was to see whether any archetypes fueled by those new additions were now good enough. Kaladesh Remastered being a lot more toned down than Amonkhet Remastered meant that the number of cards I needed to look at was a bit reduced.
Besides Fatal Push, Sram, Senior Edificer, and Scrapheap Scrounger most cards fell flat. I put some time into combo decks combining Paradox Engine with Witch's Oven and Metalwork Colossus. But those decks were lacking speed, especially with red aggressive strategies, fueled by the unbanning of Burning-Tree Emissary picking up steam.
I want to discuss the archetypes I at least considered registering, starting with White-Blue Control and White-Blue Auras. Both had seemingly overperformed even before the release of Kaladesh Remastered.
|Lukas Honnay, 8-1 in the SCG $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier|
This deck gains pretty much nothing from Kaladesh Remastered. I believe it to be favored against the Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath decks, but all the other big players, namely Goblins, Auras, and Sacrifice decks, are unfavorable matchups, due to the lack of good cheap interaction. While Wrath of God certainly is good and getting to incorporate Grafdigger's Cage in your main deck is as well, I think the deck doesn't quite cut it anymore after the drop of Kaladesh Remastered.
|White-Blue Auras with Sram|
Access to Sram, Senior Edificer gave this deck a huge boost in power. Others gaining Fatal Push does hurt though. I believe this deck to be a good choice overall, but both Claim the Firstborn and Sultai/Four-Color Turbo Pig with access to Extinction Event are a headache that I don't believe to be fixable. As I expect the three-to-four-colored Uro strategies to account for the biggest metagame share, playing a deck that is a slight underdog to them only makes sense if you expect people to bring a lot of Goblins. This deck is happy to farm Goblins all day long, having access to both Grafdigger's Cage and Hushbringer and featuring quite the clock.
|Will Pulliam, Top 12 of the SCG $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier|
Goblins got Chandra, Torch of Defiance, which I believe to be an upgrade over Irencrag Feat in general, trading some explosiveness for another angle of attack while still able to ramp out Muxus, Goblin Grandee. I think Goblins is one of the few decks that are actually favored against Uro decks, like Sultai and Four-Color Turbo Pig, but that comes at the cost of being a slight dog to Claim the Firstborn decks, like Rarkdos Sac, Jund Company, or Jund Trail, while being pretty much unplayable in the face of White-Blue Auras. Goblins had respectable win rates over the last few weeks. So along with expecting a decent bit of Uro decks, I would also expect Goblins to show up in numbers, probaly as the second most represented archetype.
|Shmashjaxx_MTG, 8-1 in the SCG $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier|
The Pig in the room, I assume the most played archetype of the tournament's Historic portion, first introduced to the world at the Season Grand Finals by Team Channelfireball.
Versions that incorporate Yasharn, Implacable Earth lose some power, due to having worse mana, but fortunately Yasharn wrecks havoc in so many matchups, that I believe it to be worth it. It single-handedly demolishes sacrifice-themed decks, while additionally stopping Neoform, the protection creatures out of White-Blue Auras as well as the mana acceleration out of Goblins. This archetype does have a huge target on its back. Being attacked from different angles, while needing to tech for the mirror can be a pretty big cost. You mostly want different cards to make the Goblins matchup better, keep the Auras matchup favorable, and get ahead in the mirror, making it tough to get the correct list.
In addition, other players will also explore more options to beat you that you might not be even aware of, like Paradox Engine, which makes answering everything people throw at you rather difficult. Nonetheless this deck incorporates the best cheap interaction along with the last remaining, hopefully soon banned, broken Simic mythic rare Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath.
Sacrifice decks come in all form and shapes, be it Rakdos, more aggressively oriented, with Collected Company or with Trail of Crumbs. All of them have to answer one problem: How do you beat the Yasharn, Implacable Earth?
I felt like the Trail version was a bit too slow, even with the inclusion of Fatal Push, but that might've been due to my possibly subpar version. For Collected Company versus non-Collected Company versions, I was torn. Company gives you better draws in first games, but it comes at the cost of a more painful and worse mana base, while sideboarded games can get tough. In sideboarded games you're forced to either keep the creature count high, which takes away flexibility, or you're supposed to board out Company, which costs you so many sideboard slots that it's probaly no good.
This combination led me to believe that the black-red variant is the one to be at, specifically because you get to include main-deck answers to Yasharn, Implacable Earth like Rankle, Master of Pranks and cards generally good against Sultai/Four-Color such as Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. I believe this deck to be slightly behind to even against Turbo Pig, ahead against Sultai, ahead against all of Auras, Goblins, and Control. Green versions are ahead in the pseudo-mirror, but I think not by much. More narrow decks like Neoform, God-Pharaoh's Gift, and Paradox Engine make for tough machups, but are not too bad because we have access to Thoughtseize and a reasonable clock.
Cauldron Familiar in combination with both Witch's Oven and Mayhem Devil is a personal favorite of mine. Since the deck is reasonably well-positioned and I have a list I am happy with, deciding to play it was not a hard choice. Here it is:
|My Historic Deck for the Zendikar Rising Championship: Rakdos Sacrifice|
Discussing some of the card choices:
Most of the four-ofs are pretty obvious, as they are the core of the deck. Scrapheap Scrounger is great, because it both gives you more grindy elements as well as beating down reasonably well, while fueling Priest of Forgotten Gods.
I'd love to include a fourth Midnight Reaper, as it is one of the best cards against Sultai/Four-Color, but because it's only okay against Goblins and Auras I don't think you can make space for it in the main deck and you have better options for the sideboard.
The two Stitcher's Supplier ensure you have enough one-drops and help getting Cauldron Familiar, Scrapheap Scrounger, and Woe Strider plus escape fuel into your graveyard. They often become worse after boarding, because people will bring Grafdigger's Cage and such, so having too many can be tough on the sideboard numbers.
One Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and one Rankle, Master of Pranks: Those are pretty good against Sultai and Turbo Pig, while being servicable to good elsewhere. I had two Rankles for the longest part, but Skysovereign continued to impress and splitting the legendaries seemed nice.
Before discussing the sideboard content, I'd like to tell you that most cards in the main deck can be cut in sideboarded games. The cards I touch the least are the Woe Striders, but there are no sacred cows.
Thoughtseize: You bring these in a ton of matchups, mostly combo and control decks. Against Turbo Pig you can bring small amounts if they bring Grafdigger's Cage against you. Auras and Goblins are also matchups in which Thoughtseize does quite well.
Rankle, Master of Pranks: It's mostly for Sultai or Turbo Pig, with occasional use on the play against Auras or against control strategies in general.
Abrade: Destroys Grafdigger's Cage as well as being somewhat flexible, getting rid of Witch's Oven, Mayhem Devil, and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Usually don't bring it if Cage is the only target, if they only have one or two Cages.
Act of Treason: To steal big things against Sultai, Four-Color, or in mirror matches/pseudo-mirrors.
Witch's Vengeance: Against Goblins, can occasionally be used against Spirits.
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship: Pretty much great against every deck that is not super fast, so keep it in the board against Goblins, Auras, Neoform, and similar decks and board it in otherwise.
Heartless Act: Another flexible removal spell, which you can board against most creature decks and against Turbo Pig.
A few decks I considered shortly and why I don't play them:
Black-Red Arcanist: The mana is quite tough and I think other decks profit off of Fatal Push more than this one.
White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift: The deck is not bad and maybe a good version could get there, but you're often using the first few turns just spinning your wheels and I didn't think that was sufficient.
Burning-Tree Emissary Aggro: I mean both Monored and Gruul here, but I think both of them fall flat, because Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath plus Fatal Push is quite difficult to overcome, as well as Aether Gust being a mainstay in blue decks' sideboards or even main.
Monoblack Aggro: Extinction Event being the sweeper of choice out of Uro decks is a problem, as is being unfavored against both Goblins and Auras.
Monogreen Food continues to perform at a decent level with good matchups against a huge portion of the metagame. Temur decks build around Genesis Ultimatum can be problematic. But I assumed that those, while present, would not take up a chunk of the metagame as big as to make playing Food a mistake.
|My Standard Deck for the Zendikar Rising Championship: Monogreen Food|
The fourth copy of The Great Henge and the sixth six-drop were added out of respect for the mirror and because they make up your best draws. Garruk, Unleashed is a better sideboard tool than Questing Beast. Sorcerous Spyglass is for the surge of blue-black control decks. The rest is pretty stock.
The tournament starts on December 4 — tune in, wish me luck, and see you for a tournament report after!
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