Six Sweet Historic Decks

Historic has come to MTG Arena, and I’ve been busy messing around with the new format—principally, as you might imagine, trying to find silly decks to showcase on Arena Boys. Today I’d like to share some of the preliminary lists I’ve been working on, as well as some lists that were suggested by Arena Boys viewers.

An important disclaimer before we begin, however: most of these decks are slated towards being interesting or sweet, rather than hugely competitive. Keep that in mind as we get into it!

Mono-White Life Gain

Perhaps the most obvious archetype from Historic is a life gain deck that features not only Soul Warden but also Commander all-star Serra Ascendant. There are a lot of sweet life gain cards on MTGA, both from current Standard and from before rotation, so it’s time to get the band back together—here’s a list adapted from one that Arena Boys fan Chanceless sent in.

Mono-White Life Gain

19 Plains
3 Castle Ardenvale
1 Idyllic Grange
4 Serra Ascendant
4 Healer's Hawk
4 Soul Warden
4 Ajani's Pridemate
3 Resplendent Angel
2 Lyra Dawnbringer
3 Venerated Loxodon
3 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort
3 Dawn of Hope
3 Conclave Tribunal
4 Ajani, Strength of the Pride

2 Disenchant
1 Conclave Tribunal
1 Ixalan's Binding
1 Lyra Dawnbringer
1 Dawn of Hope
2 Unbreakable Formation
3 Gideon Blackblade
3 Baffling End
1 Settle the Wreckage

A 1-mana 6/6 flying lifelinker is obviously busted in half, and a lot of the time that’s what Serra Ascendant is in this list. Outside of that, with an overload of Ajani’s Pridemates thanks to the 4-drop planeswalker, things get out of hand very quickly. There’s even a small Angel subtheme with Resplendent Angel and Lyra Dawnbringer, and decent removal with Conclave Tribunal!


If Distant Melody is here to help us build tribal decks, you know I’m going straight for the best tribe in Magic. Thanks to Unclaimed Territory and Tournament Grounds, Knights have better mana than perhaps any other multicolor tribe in Historic, so we can almost get away with murder here—this is a three-color list that still plays Benalish Marshal, and is just one source of each color away from meeting Frank’s mana requirements!

Esper Knights

2 Plains
4 Tournament Grounds
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Godless Shrine
4 Unclaimed Territory
1 Watery Grave
4 Dauntless Bodyguard
4 Knight of the Ebon Legion
3 Blacklance Paragon
4 Foulmire Knight/Profane Insight
1 Smitten Swordmaster/Curry Favor
3 Order of Midnight/Alter Fate
4 Worthy Knight
4 Benalish Marshal
2 Kinsbaile Cavalier
4 Distant Melody
4 History of Benalia

1 Unbreakable Formation
4 Midnight Reaper
3 Duress
3 Moment of Craving
2 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
2 Disenchant

Is this list not greedy enough for you? I’ve got you covered; just play red for Inspiring Veteran as well. Cut two Blacklance Paragons and two Order of Midnight for a playset of the red-white lord, and cut two Plains, a Watery Grave, and one Benalish Marshal for four copies of Sacred Foundry. The mana will suck even more than before, but who cares? Four-Color Knights all the way!


Perhaps a more sensible use of Distant Melody is splashing for it in Elves. The Elf tribe did extremely well out of Historic Anthology 1, snagging Elvish Visionary, Imperious Perfect, and even Fauna Shaman! All three feature in the list below, which seeks to do a similar thing to Legacy Elves—keep cards flowing, build out a wide board, then attack for lethal after tutoring a finisher.

Simic Elves

6 Forest
1 Island
4 Breeding Pool
4 Hinterland Harbor
4 Fabled Passage
3 Castle Garenbrig
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Pelt Collector
4 Elvish Clancaller
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Growth-Chamber Guardian
3 Fauna Shaman
3 Imperious Perfect
4 Steel Leaf Champion
1 Marwyn, the Nurturer
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Beast Whisperer
1 End-Raze Forerunners
4 Distant Melody

2 Reclamation Sage
3 Oakhame Adversary
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
4 Veil of Summer
2 Return to Nature
3 Shapers' Sanctuary

Rather than Craterhoof Behemoth, we have End-Raze Forerunners, and rather than Glimpse of Nature we have Beast Whisperer—and that’s in addition to all the other toolbox cards that Fauna Shaman can search up. Quite aside from that, however, you can just curve Llanowar Elves into Steel Leaf Champion and start attacking—this deck packs a serious punch.

Izzet Phoenix

Arclight Phoenix is a multi-format all-star, but picks up a super sweet sidekick in Historic with the addition of Kiln Fiend. It’s easy enough to pick up an old Izzet Phoenix deck from yesteryear, bung in a couple of upgrades, whack in a playset of Kiln Fiend, and rev up the engines with some cheap instants and sorceries!

Izzet Phoenix

7 Island
7 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
1 Temple of Epiphany
4 Kiln Fiend
1 Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft
4 Arclight Phoenix
4 Crackling Drake
4 Crash Through
4 Shock
4 Dive Down
1 Spell Pierce
1 Maximize Velocity
4 Chart a Course
1 Beacon Bolt
1 Finale of Promise
4 Opt

1 Spell Pierce
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
3 Negate
4 Lava Coil
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
1 Castle Vantress

All the usual suspects are here: Opt, Shock, Chart a Course—but I really like Crash Through in this deck. Pushing through damage with a Kiln Fiend can be difficult when the opponent goes wide with chump blockers, and this card punishes that very nicely (as well as fueling Phoenix turns). And, of course, there’s always the backup plan of an enormous Crackling Drake!

Treasure Hunt

Treasure Hunt is one of the silliest cards in the new Historic format. Unfortunately, there’s no Zombie Infestation to go with it, but we can nonetheless do some sweet stuff with it thanks to Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. The level-one deck with this card is absolutely hilarious, and despite an abysmally low win rate, it’s still a real blast to play. Besides, sometimes you just get ’em, and feel like an absolute genius.

Treasure Hunt

51 Island
4 Mystic Sanctuary
4 Treasure Hunt
1 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries

You need to mulligan to two non-Island cards, which results in a turn-five win. Turn two Treasure Hunt, turn-three Treasure Hunt, turn-four Jace, turn-five double Treasure Hunt, then activate Jace to win with an empty library. We did it—Historic has been broken in half. As long as they don’t have interaction, disruption, a quick clock, or anything that resembles a cohesive gameplan, this deck is busted.

Hidetsugu’s Second Rite

Perhaps the most exciting card in Historic is Hidetsugu’s Second Rite, an old favorite of many players. Toffel is one such player, and insisted we play with this card on Arena Boys as soon as possible. Look forward to next week’s video, when we premiere an insane list suggested to us by an alert viewer Charlie Warren.

Hidetsugu’s Second Rite

20 Swamp
1 Mountain
3 Fabled Passage
2 Cabal Stronghold
4 Lazotep Reaver
1 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
3 Torgaar, Famine Incarnate
3 Murderous Rider/Swift End
2 Hidetsugu's Second Rite
4 Treasure Map/Treasure Cove
4 Mastermind's Acquisition
1 Thaumatic Compass/Spires of Orazca
1 Wishclaw Talisman
3 Cast Down
4 Chromatic Lantern
2 Ritual of Soot
2 Cry of the Carnarium

1 Hidetsugu's Second Rite
1 Torgaar, Famine Incarnate
1 Zacama, Primal Calamity
1 Bolas's Citadel
1 Star of Extinction
1 The Immortal Sun
1 The Mirari Conjecture
1 Unmoored Ego
1 Duress
1 Persistent Petitioners
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Chaos Wand
1 Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
1 God-Pharaoh's Statue
1 Sanguine Sacrament

The wombo-combo of Torgaar plus Hidetsugu’s Second Rite is a game-winning one-two punch, and this deck is built to support that with the old mono-black Chromatic Lantern approach. The sideboard is full of Arena Boys favorites, so feel free to adapt it as you see fit—but with decent defensive capabilities and good interaction, it’s surprising just how functional this ridiculous list is!

There’s so much to explore and discover in Historic, and these decks represent a starting point for anyone looking to dip their toe into the format and have some fun. Happily, many of the cards—Distant Melody, Elvish Visionary, Imperious Perfect, Kiln Fiend—are all commons and uncommons, so it shouldn’t cost you too many wildcards assuming you have many of the other cards from Standard. Have fun!


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