With Historic Horizons cards now entirely spoiled, it's clear that we have reached a major turning point for this digital-only format, played on MTG Arena. Historic Horizons includes cards from Modern Horizons and Modern Horizons 2, along with additional reprints and brand new cards designed specifically for Historic. What makes the set unique is its official departure from physical cards, as some of the cards in Historic Horizons don't exist on paper.
It's a fun set with lots of interesting new additions, but today I've chosen the 10 absolute best — in no particular order — that seem destined to change Historic as a format. All of these should see play, although some are tougher to evaluate than others.
Seasoned Pyromancer is going to look familiar to anyone who's played Modern over the past couple years, as it had a major impact on Modern as soon as it was printed. Admittedly, Historic is still not quite as powerful of a format as Modern, so a card that's good in Modern should be very strong in Historic.
Seasoned Pyromancer has plenty of options for finding a home in Historic decks. This is a discard outlet, so you can play it in Rakdos Arcanist with lots of cheap cards and the ability to fill up the graveyard quickly. In Modern, Seasoned Pyromancer has seen play in very straightforward midrange strategies like Jund, so it's going to be 'good enough' in a lot of decks, even without graveyard synergy. This is a nice form of card draw, and can fill the board with tokens. Seasoned Pyromancer can also serve as a win condition in a variety of decks, including control strategies that play red. All in all, this Pyromancer makes an easy pick as a card that will deliver a big impact.
Davriel, Soul Broker is one of the new cards specifically printed for use on MTG Arena, so I don't have any reference point to draw on in terms of how it has performed in other formats. There's also a lot going on with this card, making it very difficult to evaluate. However, I do think it will see usage, even if not in tier one decks. It's clear that a lot of effort was put into this card's design.
Critically speaking, I wish the plus one on Davriel was stronger. Forcing the opponent to discard a single card isn't going to keep Davriel on the battlefield if the opponent already has five power worth of attackers to immediately kill Davriel the same turn you cast it.
Davriel can also function as removal, and the idea of giving something perpetually -3/-3 is totally new. This means you can shrink opposing large creatures, which could be worthwhile in the long run, even if they aren't immediately dying.
The coolest part of Davriel, Soul Broker, by far, is its middle ability. Many of the new cards contain elements of chance, and Davriel is no different. True, you don't know which offers or conditions you'll get, but you do get to choose from the random offers and conditions you are given. The possibilities range from drawing three cards to receiving an emblem that grants creatures -1/-0. Ideally, players will cast Davriel onto an empty board, and untap with it after taking advantage of one of its offers.
Ranger-Captain of Eos is another familiar face from Modern. The key to this card is having decent one drop creatures to search out of your deck, and Historic definitely contains quality one mana threats. Remember, Death's Shadow is legal in Historic, and pairs nicely with Ranger Captain of Eos. The Historic format also contains Collected Company, and Ranger-Captain of Eos — already a powerful three mana threat — gains even more value due to its existence. Sacrificing the Ranger-Captain can also stop combo or control decks for a turn or two.
It's no surprise that Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan fits best in an Elf deck. This is very much a tribal synergy based card. Fortunately, Elves is already a solid deck in Historic, but it could stand a bit of a boost. It will be interesting to see how Elves decks are built moving forward. Noncreature spell slots are highly contested when decks utilize Collected Company, and I see Freyalise as fitting well as a two-of.
The first ability — untapping an Elf and perpertually boosting both a card in play and on the battlefield — is definitely cool. Elf decks will invariably contain Elves that tap for mana, so you can use this as a way to potentially gain some extra mana. The seek ability allows players to randomly pull an Elf out of the deck and put it into their hand. (Probably my personal favorite part of the card!) Finally, you can choose to conjure a Regal Force potentially two turns after casting Freyalise, which will oftentimes serve as a game winning play.
I've already mentioned the ability to perpetually shrink opposing creatures, but the key here is that you can use Davriel's Withering to permanently answer creatures that could otherwise recur from the graveyard. This card will be specifically good against some of the top decks in the format, and so will make an immediate impact. It can also permanently deal with an Arclight Phoenix, or something like a Cauldron Familiar. I think players are still wrapping their heads around all the implications of this one.
It didn't take long for players to realize the true power of Dragon's Rage Channeler. This card is huge in Legacy, and most people tend to assume that if it's good enough for Legacy, it's good enough for Historic.
That said, Brainstorm was a popular Legacy staple, and its impressive strength recently earned it the banhammer in Historic. Will Dragon's Rage Channeler meet the same fate? Probably not. It's more likely to remain a strong, highly playable addition to the format. The card fits well into decks that contain cantrips and cheap spells.
Unfortunately, it's not immediately clear where else the Rage Channeler fits in. It's not going to shine in Embercleave-centered decks like Gruul Aggro. Red based aggro may end up reverting to burn-based gameplay, alongside cards like Light up the Stage. If so, Dragon's Rage Channeler might work there.
Esper Sentinel just might be the long-awaited tool that white creature decks have been looking for, in order to become a major force in Historic. I'm fine with pushing the envelope a bit in white due to the struggles white decks have had recently, and Esper Sentinel does just that. As a cheap creature that is going to make life incredibly annoying for the opponent, it's definitely a hatebear.
This card's usefulness is dependent upon the metagame. It will be a strong performer against a deck like Izzet Phoenix that tries to cast a ton of noncreature spells. It's also going to pair well alongside Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. We could even see it in a Human based deck, and if you can pump the power of Esper Sentinel it's going to become that much more annoying for the opponent to deal with, so if Thalia's Lieutenant sees play, it will likely be paired with Esper Sentinel.
Playing Merfolk? Then this is a card you want in your deck. It's at the lower end of the spectrum compared to some of the cards on this list, simply because its best fit is in the highly specific Blue-Green Merfolk deck. That said, Merfolk is a solid tier two deck in Historic right now, and Shoreline Scout makes a nice addition. Conjuring a Tropical Island off of Shoreline Scout will simultaneously aid decks in consistency and allow players to run fewer lands.
If you don't have enough lands, simply cash in a Merfolk for the Tropical Island, and if you need a green source but don't have one, you can cash in a regular old Island instead.
I love that Wizards found a way to get the old school Dual Lands into Historic, and other fans will gravitate towards Shoreline Scout because of that. Notably, it will almost always be attacking for two points of damage — not a bad rate for a one-drop threat!
Unholy Heat looks good enough to see play in Izzet Phoenix, and that alone earns it a place on this list! On the surface, this card is nothing exciting, but it can easily scale up to deal with larger threats for only a single red mana, and that's what makes it so strong. Make sure to place it in a deck that can enable delirium, ideally alongside Faithless Looting to help fill the graveyard up quickly. Single red removal spells like Pillar of Flame currently are quite popular, and Unholy Heat is going to be better in a lot of scenarios.
Don't forget, this card can also take planeswalkers like Narset, Parter of Veil or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria off the board entirely! Red decks often have to sideboard Fry to get that sort of effect, but Unholy Heat is a perfect maindeck answer to those annoying planeswalkers and larger creatures, assuming you can enable delirium.
This is an incredibly powerful card that consistently holds a place in Modern. Why? Simply the mana cost. Two color decks will need to put in some work in order to reliably cast Archmage's Charm by turn three, but it can be managed. Of course, if you decide to run straight Mono Blue Tempo (still a deck in Historic), you don't need to worry about the triple blue casting cost.
This card is a counterspell, card draw effect, and sometimes even a way to steal an opposing permanent — all in one, and therefore too good to ignore. Players can make the necessary adjustments to fit Archmage's Charm into their decks, or even play the full playset.
Thanks for reading,