Jumpstart: Historic Horizons is almost here (editor’s note: it got delayed), bringing with it about 10 million cards that are new to Arena, all of them legal in Historic. Much like Strixhaven’s Mystical Archives turned the format on its head, these new Jumpstart cards will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, do the same thing. Historic will never be the same again, as its overall power level receives a sizeable buff with many cards coming in from Modern Horizons 1 and 2.
The number of cards that will strongly impact the format is of course much greater than five, but today we’re going to look at the five that will perhaps change the format the most – particularly for ordinary MTGA grinders who plug away on the ladder. Let’s get underway!
Unfortunately, Bogles has remained a powerful deck in Historic for quite some time, particularly on the Best-of-One ladder. Based in white and playing either black or blue as its secondary color, Auras, as many people now call it, is proactive, resilient and blazingly quick with the right draw.
It has game against removal and sweepers with cards like Alseid of Life’s Bounty and Lurrus of the Dream-Den, but Nettlecyst is going to bolster its staying power even further. All That Glitters is perhaps the strongest finisher in the entire list, and this is an All That Glitters that not only creates a body when it comes in, but also sticks around through removal and sweepers to suit up the next creature.
On top of that, with other additions like Thought Monitor, a new Affinity-like artifact deck might emerge. Obviously without Mox Opal, Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating, it’ll be nothing like the Modern Affinity of old, but the tools are there for this deck to succeed and Nettlecyst will be a part of it if it does. For those who have never played against Affinity – don’t underestimate a card like Myr Enforcer.
Merfolk hasn’t really ever been a “real” deck in Historic, even with all the Merfolk from the Ixalan block like Merfolk Mistbinder and Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. That’s set to change, let me tell you, and it’s mainly thanks to Svyelun of Sea and Sky. This card is nuts, and has singlehandedly revitalized Merfolk in Modern. It takes a lot for a card to break into an age-old, established archetype like Merfolk, and Svyelun was an instant four-of.
Offering protection against both point removal and board wipes, and being a source of card advantage, Svyelun does exactly what an aggressive creature strategy needs – and its stat line is also pretty respectable, as a three-mana 3/4! I can’t imagine a world in which Merfolk makes it in Historic without this card, and I’d be very surprised if the archetype wasn’t newly invigorated in Historic just as it was in Modern.
In addition to Svyelun, there’s also Master of the Pearl Trident, which joins Merfolk Mistbinder and Merrow Reejerey as yet another lord effect in the deck – these two additions are sure to make a big difference to Historic Merfolk, and it looks like fish might just be back on the menu.
Speaking of tribal decks, there’s one that is often seen as the scourge of the Best-of-One ladder: Elves. Blisteringly fast, Elves punishes any deck without early interaction with its dreaded Llanowar Elves into Elvish Archdruid starts, which are capable of producing ridiculous amount of mana before you’ve even played your third land.
Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan is going to be another powerhouse three-drop in this deck, and comes in to shore up some of the weaknesses of the archetype. Elves can be pretty soft to sweepers – a timely Deafening Clarion or Wrath of God can just be game over for them – so Freyalise comes along to help pull back some card advantage and provide a threat that’s resilient through sweepers.
It’s unbelievable that she has a -1 that’s better than draw a card in most situations (although this ability doesn’t hit Collected Company, of course), and her +1 will be disgusting with cards like Elvish Archdruid. Making a Regal Force, too, is huge in drawn-out games, and she ults very quickly. I’m confident that Freyalise will be an auto-include in Historic Elves, and the Best-of-One ladder will never look the same.
Archmage’s Charm has already proven itself as a format staple of controlling blue decks in Modern. Its restrictive mana cost is accounted for relatively easily in a format with fetches and shocklands, and its extreme flexibility means it’s a card a blue mage is happy to see at more or less any point in the game.
Will it be the same in Historic? All three modes are relevant, of course, as there is no shortage of one-drops in the format (Llanowar Elves, Selfless Savior, Witch’s Oven, Pelt Collector, the list goes on). No, it’s not the card’s text that will determine its playability, it is instead the UUU mana cost.
Right now, the best control deck in Historic is Jeskai, thanks to Lightning Helix. However, you can’t play Archmage’s Charm in a deck with multiple Sacred Foundries. It’s as simple as that. You need a minimum of 23 blue sources, which means that you can have two or maybe three non-blue lands in the deck. Considering cards like Castle Ardenvale are an important part of Jeskai Control, this is a tough hoop to jump through.
Still, I think Archmage’s Charm will make it. Between shocklands, checklands and Raugrin Triome, I think it’s workable. Having a Counterspell/Divination/bad Threads of Disloyalty split card is just too good to overlook, and I’d be very surprised if people passed on the opportunity to include this card in their decks.
The headline act for Jumpstart: Historic Horizons when it comes to competitive playability is, of course, Seasoned Pyromancer. There’s a reason this card is such a beast in Modern – it does it all. Provides card selection (or advantage), fills the graveyard, clogs up the board, offers sacrifice fodder, does work out of the yard… is there anything he can’t do?
Expect Seasoned Pyromancer to singlehandedly change the entire landscape of Historic, and immediately be adopted into multiple existing decks – if not spawning new ones as well (there are some new madness cards…). This card fits neatly into a bunch of different archetypes, from Sacrifice to Reanimator to Mono-Red Aggro. It’s bizarre to think that decks that are so wildly variant in their play style could all want the same card, but that’s how good Seasoned Pyromancer is.
If you’ve never played with or against this card, you’re in for a shock. In Modern, it’s a $45 staple played in everything from Gruul Midrange to ridiculous Omnath decks, and you shouldn’t expect it to be any different in Historic. Underestimate Seasoned Pyromancer at your own peril!
Historic is due for a big change in the coming weeks (editor’s note: it got delayed by two more weeks). Hopefully it weathers these changes a little better than the Mystical Archives, where Time Warp and Brainstorm proved to be far too good, but make no mistake: as I said at the top of the article, Historic will never be the same again.