Historic is a fantastic and underexplored format on Arena. While the top decks are quickly becoming a known quantity due to more competitive players taking interest in the format ahead of the Player’s Tour taking place in August, it’s still wide open in terms of deck and archetype viability. To help showcase this, I’ve made six affordable decks for you; one for each colour, and each with their own unique playstyle. This is a two-part series, with this first part diving into Mono White, Mono Blue, and Mono Black.

As Historic is a digital-only format and cards costs can be somewhat difficult to estimate due to the economy on Arena, I’m judging budget builds on their use of Mythic wildcards, which are disproportionately difficult to obtain. Rather than give prices in Dollars or Tix, I’ll be displaying the number and type of wildcards needed to craft the deck [M: mythic, R: rare, U: uncommon, C: common]. A large number of cards were also made extremely affordable through the Historic Anthology bundles, which contained several popular rare and mythic cards at a fair price.

It’s worth noting that Jumpstart isn’t far away from landing on Arena, and some of these decks will gain massive upgrades from the set. I’ll make sure to mention any upcoming cards that will help boost these strategies even further.

Mono White Tempered Steel—12 R, 29 U, 22 C

Creatures (30)
Stonecoil Serpent
Inquisitive Puppet
Locthwain Gargoyle
Sparring Construct
Steel Overseer
Voltaic Servant

Spells (10)
All That Glitters
Make A Stand
Tempered Steel
Lands (20)
12 Plains
Zhalfirin Void
Radiant Fountain

Sideboard (15)
Tormod's Crypt
Deafening Silence
Glass Casket
Make a Stand
Conclave Tribunal

First up, we have the most aggressive deck on the list. The namesake card is an old favourite for many players, and there was much rejoicing when it was confirmed to be coming to Historic.

The idea of the deck is simple: play as many cheap artifact creatures as possible, and turn them sideways after landing a Tempered Steel. It plays and feels a lot like the Affinity decks of old, and is almost as fast. If the Tempered Steel plan doesn’t come together, we also have a backup plan in the form of All That Glitters, which is effectively the white Cranial Plating.

Most of the creatures in the deck are there only because they’re also artifacts, but there are a few worth making note of. Steel Overseer is another way to grow our rag-tag team of cookies and gargoyles, and when paired with Voltaic Servant we can activate it twice a turn. This is particularly effective against creature-heavy decks like Gruul Monsters and Mono Red.

There are a lot of decks that run sweepers, so we’re packing two Make a Stand to keep our board intact through Shatter the Sky. The fact that it can be used as a combat trick to steal games too makes it all the sweeter.

We’re mono white with very few pips in our mana costs, so we can run four Zhalfirin Void in our mana base to help filter our draws, alongside four Radiant Fountain as a buffer against other aggressive strategies. There are a number of powerful utility lands in the format, so these land slots can be adapted to suit the metagame. Buried Ruin will be available in Jumpstart, so a single copy might make its way into the mana base too.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, which is demonstrated in the sideboard.

  • Tormod’s Crypt: The cheapest graveyard hate in the format.
  • Deafening Silence: Capable of shutting down any spellslinger decks, particularly Nexus of Fate and Izzet Blitz/Phoenix.
  • Glass Casket: Perfect for other aggressive creature-based strategies.
  • Make a Stand: Necessary against any deck that runs board wipes.
  • Conclave Tribunal: An efficient, catch-all answer to almost anything in the format.

You may notice that we don’t have any way in the seventy-five to deal with Field of the Dead decks. This is because most decks with that as their primary strategy are already strong matchups for us. We can win on turn three a non-zero amount of times, and turn four is very common. It’s also worth mentioning that Ugin, the Spirit Dragon does very little against our creatures, even if it does hit Tempered Steel itself.

Mono Blue Tempo—2 M, 7 R, 36 U, 11 C

Creatures (21)
Siren Stormtamer
Spectral Sailor
Brineborn Cutthroat
Merfolk Trickster
Brazen Borrower
Sea-Dasher Octopus

Spells (19)
Curious Obsession
Dive Down
Spell Pierce
Essence Capture
Lookout's Dispersal
Lands (20)
Castle Vantress
19 Island

Sideboard (15)
Aether Gust
Cerulean Drake
Mystic Subdual
Mystical Dispute
Tempest Djinn

Our next list is an homage to the Mono Blue Tempo list that the fantastic Autumn Burchett piloted to take down the very first Mythic Championship. It looks to land a cheap, evasive threat, suit it up with Curious Obsession (or Sea-Dasher Octopus), and protect it while disrupting the opponent’s game plan. It’s a very “Marmite” deck: you either love it or hate it, though most of the dislike for it has been garnered by playing against it rather than with it.

Pteramander, Siren Stormtamer, and Spectral Sailor are our early threats; once they’re suited up they can be kept safe with Spell Pierce and Dive Down.

Merfolk Trickster and Brazen Borrower are our most interactive creatures, allowing us to make combat a nightmare for our opponents. Backing them up is Brineborn Cutthroat, which was once affectionately nicknamed “Blue Tarmogoyf” by Corey Baumeister. It’s at its best when you can flash it in early, as it compounds the pressure put on by the early fliers. Add to this some efficient counterspells, and you’ve got an affordable force to be reckoned with.

The mana base is extremely simple, with the only nonbasic land being a single Castle Vantress. Generally speaking, this deck can win with as few as two lands in play, and it’s rare that it floods due to the low land count. For this reason, a single Castle Vantress is enough to give the deck a little more utility in the late game, without sacrificing consistency. If the deck ends up hitting the late game, you’ve either lost or you’re drawing several cards off Spectral Sailor’s activated ability.

This deck’s main weakness is aggressive decks, and the sideboard really highlights this. In addition to the anti-aggro cards, we also have further customisation for our counter suite.

This is a deck with a reasonably high pilot skill requirement, but anyone can perform well with it once the reps are put into it. Once Jumpstart arrives we will see Curiosity enter Historic, alongside Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, which could massively boost the deck’s power. Curiosity would likely replace Sea-Dasher Octopus, mostly because one mana is so much more efficient than a two mana mutate. I’m unsure whether Kira would earn a main deck slot or not, though that would largely depend on the level of interaction in the metagame at the time.

Mono Black Devotion—5 M, 27 R, 20 U, 3 C

Creatures (26)
Knight of the Ebon Legion
Tymaret, Chosen From Death
Yarok's Fenlurker
Ayara, First of Locthwain
Murderous Rider
Phyrexian Obliterator
Solemn Simulacrum
Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Spells (10)
Agonizing Remorse
Phyrexian Arena
Lands (24)
Castle Locthwain
20 Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Cry of the Carnarium
Virulent Plague
Leyline of the Void
Massacre Wurm

Mono Black Devotion is a reworking of a midrange archetype that was first popularised around the time of the original Theros block. Its game plan is simple: grind your opponent out, and finish them off with a combination of creatures and a massive life swing from Gray Merchant of Asphodel.

There’s quite an impressive disruption package in the form of Agonizing Remorse, Yarok’s Fenlurker, and Tymaret, Chosen From Death. These cards ensure that your opponents’ hands and graveyards are never fully stocked, which is relevant in most matchups. Murderous Rider and Eliminate help us deal with any resolved threats, with the zombie knight also making for a great blocker against more aggressive decks.

Both Ayara, First of Locthwain and Solemn Simulacrum are great value cards, allowing us to gain incremental advantage and help slow down any fast starts our opponents might have. Phyrexian Arena is our main value piece, however, helping us to churn through our deck to find exactly what we need in a timely fashion.

The deck’s main win conditions are Phyrexian Obliterator and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, both of which are especially problematic for any red-based deck. Obliterator makes combat almost impossible to navigate, and fan favourite Gary can end the game on the spot, and is especially potent when paired with the Phyrexian horror.

The mana base is another easy one, with the only nonbasic being Castle Locthwain. It’s a powerhouse, and a playset is fully deserving of inclusion. Unfortunately, despite the deck’s weakness to Field of the Dead strategies, we can’t afford to run either Field of Ruin or Ghost Quarter due to the intensive cost of cards like Ayara and Obliterator.

Like with most midrange decks, Mono Black Devotion has a great time against aggressive strategies but can struggle against combo, and decks that go over the top of them. Our chances improve post-board, however, as we gain access to several powerful options.

If you enjoy playing decks like Jund or The Rock in Modern, then this is the deck for you. It has difficulty against some of the better decks in the format, but with practice and efficient sideboarding, it will reward you with a swathe of wins.

Jumpstart may have some new goodies that may be worth trying out, too. Languish is a huge boost to black’s ability to kill multiple creatures, and Gifted Aetherborn adds to the devotion count while also being an efficient threat. Finally, Phyrexian Rager might also make its way into the deck; it’s a staple in Mono Black Control in Pauper due to its efficiency, and I would be more than happy to have my opponent bounce it with Teferi, Time Raveler.

So far we’ve covered a white aggressive deck, a blue tempo deck, and a black midrange deck, all of which happen to be revitalised versions of much-loved standard decks from years gone by. Come back soon for part two, where I’ll be covering three more decks and archetypes for the last three (?!) colours in Magic!

Scott is an Irish content creator and head of the budget division of the Izzet League. His primary focuses are Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, and he can be found storming off on Twitch and Youtube.

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