What's Happening In Historic?
By: sdparquinn - 07 Jan 2020
Information asymmetry can turn the tide of war, give you an advantage in certain markets, and can even allow you to piss people off with spoilers. It's about what you know and what others don't know. Historic best of three is currently the best place to take advantage of information asymmetry. I know because I spent last ranked season climbing all the way to Mythic #734 at my highest playing nothing but best of three Historic. So let me give you, my friends, some insider information.
The Gruul Test
It's straightforward, it's powerful, and it's aggro using the fairly typical aggro colors: red and green. If your deck can't beat it then prepare to lose a lot of matches. A ton of tweaks can be made to suit the player preferences but it always runs a ton of low cost and hasty creatures. There's not much to say here other than that. It's fast, it's aggro, and it's Gruul. But there is a lot we can say about how it shapes the meta which bring us to...
You know whats good against aggro decks? Control decks with a lot of sweepers and creature removal. Historic has these control decks. I highly suspect that most of my climb up the ranked ladder was thanks to taking advantage of Gruul's weakness to sweepers. There is, as always, an Esper and Grixis variant.
Splitting The Difference
I hear playing almost every card at instant speed is really good. If that's how you like to play well then you're in luck. There exist a lot of decent tempo decks packed to the brim with instants and flash creatures. There's the classic Mono Blue Tempo of last standard season: It lets you win games for free when Curious Obsession is backed up by ample protection. Or you could go with my favorites: Temur Flash and Izzet Flash. Izzet plays a tempo game just like mono blue but drops the fragility of curious obsession and adds red removal. This has the effect of shoring up your aggro matchups much better than simply going Mono Blue. Temur Flash takes this philosophy of adding a color to fill out weaknesses one step further. It adds the more impactful creatures found in green than can be found amongst red an blue but at the cost of greater instability in your mana base. But whichever color combinations they all fill out that niche of being the response to the response. It has an extremely good matchup against the format's control decks.
I believe the qaulity of a format can be judged by how close in power level it's teir two decks are to the teir above it. Thankfully I make it a habit to play these decks a few times whenever I got to the next division so that way I can make such a judgement without completely talking bullpokey. And it's looking pretty nice.
- Boros Knights is just as fast Gruul Aggro which means it's never a terrible choice but... You'll be having a ton of trouble facing Gruul's biger bodies. So it brings to the table exactly what Gruul does against the other meta deck but loses to Gruul.
- Kethis Combo uses it's name sake card combined with self-milling to creature graceyard recurssion loops. Cast a Kaya's Oath seven times from the grave or just mill yourself into a win Jace. It's god hands can achieve turn three wins and turn four wins are not uncommon. But it dies to grave hate, is vulnerable to the most common form of removal (creature removal), and can have extremely ackward openers due to the high presence of tap lands and it's four color mana base. It loses to itself more than what any player should be comfortable with. But it is absolutely the fastest deck in the meta.
- Nexus Combo casts, and then recasts, Nexus of Fate to take infinite turns. It's good but sadly the match timer keeps it from being even better. Additionally it's very weak to Gruul Aggro's ability to counter fog affects with Questing Beast, Stomp, and very effective hate out of the sideboard.
- Soul Sisters just gains a ton of life and uses the pay off cards like Ajani's Pridemate to produce powerful synergies. Probably the weakest of the teir decks worth mentioning. But it still warrents a mention because it can easily steall games from tempo and aggro. But it folds hard to any decent control hand.
And while I am certain I;ve missed a lot of the teir 2 decks and could have said more about the top contenders... This wasn;t meant to be an exhaustive exploration of the format. Just a short primer. to let you know what to look out for in a format with very little information floating around about it. Until next time.