Arena Historic Preview Discussion: Honden Brews Part 2

Historic Metagame 
By: Intrepid_Tautog - 20 May 2020

Continued from Part 1

At the word of their prince, the shimmering army attacked a praying king. A blinding array of blades met the sun. But even still, the old monarch would not be moved. A ring of death surrounded him, with little more than his five shrines standing in the way.

And yet, they would be enough.

The first unit charged, each sword pointed at the old man's heart. But as they came within a few yards, one of the shrines began to awaken. It stirred like an ember that had found its way to fresh tinder. Faintly at first, but with a greater intensity as the enemy neared. By the time the king was in striking range, the entire shrine was smoldering.

A soldier screamed out in pain and immediately dropped his sword. It glowed red-hot, the precious metal already melting into the soil. Another cry followed. Then another. Blades all around had lit up, the heat of the garden intensifying with each newly-cooked edge. Dozens of gold and silver swords were smelted in the hands of their owners, who despite the value of their armaments, did not hesitate to cast them down and flee.  

The next unit only made it four paces ahead of their predecessors. Another shrine had sprung to life, this one releasing a cloud of smoke. As each soldier passed through it, their memory of the last few days vanished. It was as if the thoughts were plucked out of their minds. Those affected found themselves adrift, staring at the sky in vain attempts to recall why they were there in the first place.

The prince was baffled, then furious. He had witnessed two units defeated by an old man's trickery. These games would end now. With a motion to his archers, the prince ordered the king's execution at a distance. If he couldn't get near the man, arrows would be enough. The wind stirred as the salvo sprang forth, but with it, another shrine answered. The bolts splintered in the air as if the king were wrapped in a robe of invisible steel.

As the final arrow shattered, the old king's eyes opened. Slowly, calmly. Almost as if the experience were more relaxing than anything else. Blue light now shone from the shrine to his left, and as it intensfied, the more the king's face turned to pity. Pity for the prince. Pity for foolish ambition that cared nothing for the bloodshed it might incur.

Drawing his own sword in response, the prince let out a scream and charged, himself. He would not be disrespected by this beggar-king. Avarice had clouded his judgment. Rage curdled rational thought. The young man failed to notice the ground itself spring to life. As the final shrine pulsed green energy, the very wildlife of the garden appeared to rebel. Vines wrapped around the princes legs, flowers popped up and tore the weapons and armor from his back, and even tiny insects began to amass under him. The assortment of creatures silently restrained the prince, hoisted him aloft, and looked towards the old man for further direction.

That night, a rattled army shambled home in disgrace. But their embarrassment was nothing compared to that of their prince, who was returned to his kingdom covered in vines and insect bites. Despite all his power and wealth, despite all his ambition, his efforts were thwarted by an old man and his faith.     

~The Tale of Five Shrines~

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Welcome back, fellow brewers, on our journey to Kamigawa and the potential of its five Hondens in Arena Historic. Last time, we took a high-level approach, breaking down the fundamental requirements and challenges to making a Honden deck compete against the current Historic metagame. But we did manage to find time to squeeze in one deck discussion. Today's entry will focus on some additional builds.

We'll be working with a variety of tools here. Some old, some new. I'm sure a great deal of tweaking will be needed in coming weeks, but for the time being, we're in pure experiment-mode. Winning with Hondens will be difficult against the format's upper-tier decks, but as mentioned before, I've a serious affinity for the underdog. And I imagine quite a few of my readers do so, as well.

So let's pick up right where we left off. Onto the brews!

Part 3 (Continued): Let's start brewing!

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Deck 2: Umori's Pilgrimage

Umori's Pilgrimage

Main 60 cards (28 distinct)
Creature (12)
$0.53€0.380.03
$0.25€0.180.04
$0.25€0.110.03
$1.05€0.210.03
$13.75€6.652.29
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (24)
$0.16€0.050.02
$0.25€0.110.03
$0.19€0.080.03
$7.73€2.170.88
$1.06€0.200.11
$2.50€0.290.03
$2.55€0.310.09
$1.84€0.240.09
$1.83€0.240.05
$0.16€0.050.01
$0.47€0.210.03
$0.19€0.050.03
Land (24)
$0.200.01
$0.260.01
$0.200.01
$0.240.02
$0.290.01
$6.61€5.022.60
$9.95€6.470.30
$9.99€6.210.46
$8.16€6.740.96
$5.29€5.360.38
$7.56€8.551.81
Side 14 cards (8 distinct)
$0.25€0.180.04
$0.53€0.380.03
$0.25€0.110.03
$0.16€0.050.01
$0.47€0.210.03
$0.25€0.110.03
$0.16€0.050.02
$0.19€0.050.03

Speaking of underdogs, I've always felt Umori, the Collectorimage was one of the more underappreciated Companions. His stats are certainly efficient for his cost, and his ability, while nothing ground breaking, is universally helpful. It's the deckbuilding restriction that makes the slimy little guy so tough to pull off. Outside of Standard Mono-Green Stompy decks (Pelt Collectorimage, Questing Beastimage, Shifting Ceratopsimage), there's few other oozy attempts out there.

This deck seeks to change all that, not only by featuring Umori, the Collectorimage as a Companion, but also via its focus on different card type: Enchantments. After all, how else could we win via the Hondens?

Side Note: This is a digression, I admit, but does anyone else feel Umori, the Collectorimage should've received a Godzilla alt-art of Hedorah, the Swamp Monster? Seriously, it's a perfect fit. Not only are they both oozes, but both like to pick up "stuff" (garbage, in Hedorah's case) to stick into their slimy selves! Make it happen, Wizards!

Anyhow...

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While we are Enchantment-centric, the land of Theros has provided us with an assortment of useful creatures that also fit the bill. The delightfully-disgusting Brain Maggotimage can helpfully deprive our opponent of dangerous spells, Nyx-Fleece Ramimage plays an excellent defense game, and Destiny Spinnerimage both shields us from counters while potentially acting as a late-game finisher if things get desperate. These creatures also fill key slots for sideboarding in-and-out, depending on matchup. More on that later.

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As Hondens span full spectrum, we'll need fixers and ramp. Gift of Paradiseimage and Dryad of the Ilysian Groveimage open us up to all colors. The Birth of Meletisimage is also included for additional land-fetch and defense. Though we don't have access to Setessan Championimage, the inclusion of Enchatress's Presence is actually preferable in this build, as it's less vulnerable to removal and we're not primarily seeking to win with creatures, anyhow (Destiny Spinnerimage, notwithstanding). The card-draw gained from Enchantress's Presenceimage is key. We're not running Honden tutors (Idyllic Tutorimage) or a way to cheat the Hondens into play (Dance of the Manseimage), so we'll have to draw them organically. Best way to do that is the keep the card draw coming fast and frequently!

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On that note, landing an early Hateful Eidolonimage against aggressive creature decks is one of the best openings you could hope for. That said, don't feel bad spending Mire's Graspimage on something like an Arboreal Grazerimage to keep the card draw flowing. The ultimate goal is assemlbing the Hondens, and the draw gets us there. To provide more flexible answers, we also run Banishing Lightimage to deal with other problem permanents.

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Our sideboard consists mainly of additional copies of the aforementioned cards, with the swapping in-and-out of choices varying on Aggro vs Control. For aggressive matchups (Ex. Mono Red), bring in additional copies of Nyx-Fleece Ramimage, Dead Weightimage, and Hateful Eidolonimage. Versus control, bring in additional Brain Maggotimage, Birth of Meletis, and Banishing Lightimage. Control is slow enough of a matchup to allow you time to cast Omen of the Huntimage without paying for it too heavily. Omen of the Huntimage can be more useful than it looks, helping with ramp, color fixing, and Scrying into Hondens.

While we're on the topic of Enchantments, there's another popular enchantment floating around that allows for all manner of multicolor shenanigans. It'd be a shame to build around Hondens without giving this strategy a try!

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Deck 3: Hondens of Invention

Hondens of Invention

Main 60 cards (26 distinct)
Creature (8)
$0.29€0.060.03
$0.47€0.140.03
$0.53€0.300.03
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (26)
$0.50€0.200.06
$1.84€0.240.09
$1.06€0.200.11
$2.50€0.290.03
$1.83€0.240.05
$2.55€0.310.09
$1.24€1.070.03
$0.47€0.180.03
$4.06€1.560.03
$0.25€0.100.03
$0.25€0.060.03
$0.25€0.100.01
Land (26)
$6.61€5.022.60
$8.25€7.161.54
$9.99€6.210.46
$18.99€13.991.41
$0.200.01
$0.200.01
$0.240.02
$0.290.01
$0.260.01
$7.95€9.342.33
$5.08€5.460.65
Side 15 cards (8 distinct)
$1.05€0.210.03
$4.06€1.560.03
$1.24€1.070.03
$2.50€0.290.03
$0.40€0.200.02
$1.25€0.470.03
$1.12€0.750.02
$0.25€0.060.03

A hybrid of a traditional five-color deck and a dedicated Fires of Inventionimage build, our take seeks to cheat Hondens into play via the namesake enchantment. The primary strategy is to ramp out Fires of Inventionimage asap, then start digging for free Hondens. The heavy degree of fixing and card draw fortunately makes hardcasting Hondens quite viable as well. 

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Starting things off, we have our mana-fixing and ramp package in Arboreal Grazerimage, Elvish Rejuvenatorimage, and Paradise Druidimage. Running these helps ensure we get Fires of Inventionimage to the table early. They'll also assist in color-fixing for us when and if we do need to cast our Hondens the old fashioned way.

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Once we find Fires of Inventionimage, and helping in the quest to do so, we run a series of card-draw and tutors to assemble the Hondens. Chemister's Insightimage and Boon of the Wish-Giverimage provide heavy card advantage, while Heartwarming Redemptionimage can provide added staying power against aggressive decks while recycling a dud hand in a pinch. Because we've many ways to draw lands, I'd recommend hanging onto excess lands once you've hit your sixth land-drop to better take advantage of Heartwarming Redemptionimage. Idyllic Tutorimage is slower, but can fetch up a key Honden to fit a given situation. Against Control, you'll be gunning for Honden of Night's Reachimage, whereas aggressive enemies will call for Honden of Life's Webimage or Honden of Cleansing Fireimage. Being able to chain Idyllic Tutorimage into a Honden of your choice via Fires of Inventionimage provides the deck with some much-needed versatility.

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We run two copies of Shatter the Skyimage maindeck and two in the sideboard against creature-centric opponents (Ex. Gruul). Deafening Clarionimage and an additional copy of Honden of Cleansing Fireimage are also included to protect against cheaper Aggro decks (Ex. Mono Red). Versus Control, bring in copies of Dovin's Vetoimage, Destiny Spinnerimage, and Mystical Disputeimage. Fighting slower strategies also gives you the added time to bring in the additional Idyllic Tutorimage.

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Here's hoping these builds have given you some brewing ideas for when Arena Historic Anthology 3 releases May 21st! Hondens certainly bring a unique flavor to the table. I'm really happy Wizards included this quirky cycle of Enchantments, as while their competitive potential remains to be seen, they make for a fun series of build-arounds.

Here's hoping you're able to craft some fables of your own.

Thanks for reading!

-Tautog-

@Intrepid_Tautog

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