Historic is about to change forever with the addition of Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive. While it’s usually Standard that’s heavily impacted by a new set’s release, this time around, all the new instants and sorceries that are being added exclusively to the Historic card pool means we’re likely to see a huge change in the character of the format.
Some of the cards included in the Archive are so powerful they were pre-banned outright (Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt, Counterspell) – but there were some surprising cards that made it through the rounds of pre-bannings. How long will they survive? Here are my picks for the most bannable cards (for Historic) in the Mystical Archives!
I’ll be doing everything I can to get this card banned. I don’t mean I’ll be railing against it on Twitter, complaining about how awful and unfun it is – no, I’ll be attempting to Stone Rain people on turn two as much as I can and have them complain about how awful and unfun it is. If Stone Rain does end up getting banned, I can’t wait to claim some of the credit for blowing up the lands of people who keep a two-land opened and think “nah, it’ll be fine.”
We don’t get land destruction at three mana any more. Is Historic at a point where it can just ignore an actual, literal Stone Rain? I don’t know. The mana is pretty good, with three-color decks splashing a fourth as a matter of course these days for Yasharn, but maybe that can be unpicked with four copies of Stone Rain and some Primal Commands thrown in there as well. I’m into it.
All in all, I think it’s unlikely that Stone Rain actually does get the chop, but that won’t stop me having fun. I’ll be out here destroying lands and then Mana Tithing whatever they try to cast afterwards – oh, such a shame, if only you had an extra land to pay the one!
Extra turn effects have proven themselves to be playable at seven mana, and here’s one at five. Nexus of Fate was truly obnoxious – turns out instant-speed Time Walks are just too good no matter what, never mind the shuffle-back-in clause. However, Alrund’s Epiphany is a mainstay of Sultai Ultimatum decks in Historic now, and the addition of Time Warp means that Emergent Ultimatum can guarantee its caster an extra turn.
This in and of itself might be enough to prompt action – Emergent Ultimatum piles are now going to be Time Walk/Time Walk/Actual Anything Else and the worst case scenario is they get an extra turn plus something else. Long story short: Time Warp doesn’t just mean we now have a five-mana extra turn card, it means we have a seven-mana extra-turn-plus-something-else card, or a seven mana Time Stretch. Either is bonkers.
If the format doesn’t change too much, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Time Warp at the forefront of banning discussions in the coming weeks and months. If Historic speeds up considerably – not out of the question – then maybe Sultai Ultimatum becomes an irrelevant deck, but if it doesn’t, its Ultimatum toolbox just received a significant upgrade.
More than anything else, it’s Faithless Looting’s pedigree that gets it on this list. Before it was banned in Modern, very few decks playing Faithless Looting were ever trying to do anything fair, and while Historic doesn’t have a card pool overflowing with busted nonsense coming out of the graveyard, the potential is nonetheless there.
Faithless Looting is one of those enabler cards that only gets better and better as more and more cards join a format alongside it, and even now there are decks it can slot into. Dreadhorde Arcanist decks make significant use of the graveyard with everything from Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger to Claim // Fame, and filling up the ‘yard with stuff like this is always welcome.
Looting was banned in Modern with very good reason, and the longer the Historic format exists, the more likely Looting will go the same way as it did in Modern. As an enabler and as an engine for graveyard decks, they don’t come a lot better than Looting, so don’t be surprised if it gets axed from Historic in the coming time.
For better or worse, the storm mechanic has come to Historic, despite having a scale of unlikely returning mechanics literally named after it by Mark Rosewater. I have no idea what a storm deck might look like in Historic – there’s talk of Grinning Ignus plus Birgi, God of Storytelling – but if there is, Mind’s Desire is such a good storm finisher that it’s banned in Legacy.
I’m not confident storm will make it in Historic, given the lack of good rituals and high-quality cantrips needed, but make no mistake, Mind’s Desire will be the first to go if storm decks end up becoming a thing. This card is so obnoxiously overpowered. Here’s something you might not have known about Mind’s Desire – you can storm into other copies of Mind’s Desire and begin anew!
I’ll leave the actual construction of a deck built to abuse Mind’s Desire to other people (I’ll be too busy tuning my Boros Land Destruction deck), but I will not be surprised to learn of the banning of Mind’s Desire should it actually get there. There are some safeguards – Whirlwind Denial is, at least, a way to counter storm decks “going off” – but if storm is good, it’s going to be really good.
Brainstorm is the cornerstone of Legacy, where, in conjunction with fetchlands, it makes up one of the most efficient and skill-testing card “advantage” and selection engines in the entire game. For those who don’t know, you can cast Brainstorm, draw three fresh cards, put two other cards from your hand that you don’t want back on top of your library, then crack a fetchland to shuffle those useless cards away.
This interaction is powerful enough to be a foundational part of virtually every blue deck in Legacy, and now it’s coming to Historic. Historic, of course, lacks proper fetchlands, but it does have Fabled Passage and… Evolving Wilds? Maybe that’s too much of a stretch, but then again, maybe not, given how ridiculously powerful Brainstorm can be as a cantrip.
I don’t often buy into the whole “the sky is falling” mentality, but I look at a card like Brainstorm and really wonder how it’s going to pan out. Perhaps the shuffling support just isn’t there, I don’t know, but if Brainstorm can actually be harnessed as it is in Legacy, the effect this one card will have on the format can scarcely be overstated.
On the other hand, Brainstorm is one of the most skill-testing and beloved cards ever printed – especially amongst old Magic boomers, who love to cast it, so maybe it will stick around as a nod to enfranchised older players who don’t get much of a chance to play Legacy any more. Whatever the case, Brainstorm threatens to upend the Historic format, and is my pick for the most bannable card in the Mystical Archive.
What do you think? Is there a card I missed? Should Defiant Strike be included? Let me know what you make of the list!