Zendikar is among us, and most players are eagerly awaiting for what Standard looks like with the new cards and rotation. While Standard is certainly exciting, I am particularly interested in seeing what Historic looks like with all these new cards. Historic is a non-rotating format with a continuously growing card-pool, therefore there are a lot of cool and unique interactions in the format. Today I'll be going through my top six cards in Zendikar Rising for Historic.
Finally, we have a hate card to deal with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath! Wait...you're telling me Uro decks can also play Confounding Conundrum? Oh no.
It's no secret that Historic and Standard are both largely dominated by Ramp strategies, with a few exceptions. I'm very happy to have a card like Confounding Conundrum as a sideboard card to combat these Ramp decks, because frankly I'm getting bored of them being the best thing to do in every format. However, I am not particularly looking forward to the gameplay that will happen in Uro mirrors, especially when one player is free to ramp as much as they want while the other player doesn't have a chance to catch up.
I do think a card like this is a net-positive for formats dominated by ramp decks, and I hope to see this have a significant impact in Historic. Unfortunately, Uro decks will probably be just as powerful as they are now, because they also have access to this card, while being able to tailor their deck to deal with it better than a traditional "Ramp into Ugin" strategy.
Ashaya, Soul of the Wild is yet another card that can find a home in Ramp decks in both Historic and Standard. In Standard there are fewer card synergies with Ramp as a whole—however, that isn't the case in Historic. Growth Spiral, Uro, Nissa, oh my. As I stated previously, Ramp archetypes remain strong and at the top of the Historic format because of powerful enablers like Explore, [[Growth Spiral] and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath.
Ashaya, Soul of the Wild is obviously going to be good in a deck that makes a lot of land drops, but she is especially good when paired with Nissa, Who Shakes the World. This combination allows creatures to become Forest lands and tap for double mana with Nissa out. This is good in a Simic Ramp deck with other ramp creatures to support Ashaya like Arboreal Grazer, or in Sultai Ramp where you can untap a Watery Grave with Nissa and still hold up Aether Gust, Growth Spiral or a counterspell.
This is a card I can see being played in both Standard and Historic. However, Sea Gate Stormcaller is especially powerful in Historic decks because of the larger card pool. There are more powerful one and two cost instants and sorceries in Historic, and this card helps Midrange thrive as an archetype. In Historic, we already see Sultai Midrange as a strong deck choice - it being a popular selection from the Mythic Invitational. The archetype only improves with the addition of Sea Gate Stormcaller. You are able to copy powerful spells like Thoughtseize on turn three. In fact, you can essentially copy most of the spells in your deck: Eliminate, Growth Spiral, Heartless Act, etc.
Along with previously printed cards, there are other cards in Zendikar Rising that pair well with Sea Gate Stormcaller, such as Bloodchief's Thirst. Additionally, because you have a decent amount of ramp cards, you can also get to a point where you are able to cast Sea Gate Stormcaller with the kicker cost to copy any of these spells multiple times.
While Sultai decks are the first thing that come to mind when I think about Sea Gate Stormcaller, this card has many spots in Historic. Recently, Izzet Phoenix made a return by making the Top 16 of an SCG Championship Qualifier. This is another deck where Sea Gate Stormcaller slots flawlessly into—maybe even better than the Sultai decks! You have the opportunity to cantrip more often and effectively shape your hand for the following few turns. You also get to set up lines to bring back Arclight Phoenix after discarding them with Chart a Course, Lightning Axe or Thrill of Possibility or by milling them with Strategic Planning. In Izzet Phoenix, you likely won't be able to utilize the kicker cost on the card, but copying one spell is often sufficient enough to bring back Arclight Phoenix or set up following turns how you need to.
Omnath, Locus of Creation is the card I am most excited for in the new set—mostly because it looks like the most fun thing to be playing. The mana cost is off-putting at first, however, in the next section I talk about a card that helps fix this problem: Lotus Cobra. But before we get there, I want to talk about each sentence on Omnath, Wall of Text.
First, when Omnath enters the battlefield, you get to draw a card and replace the card. Unfortunately, getting Omnath to resolve is going to be your first battle because of Aether Gust, Mystical Dispute, or any non-color specific options. Second, you need Omnath to survive for a turn if you aren't able to make a land-drop right away. That alone might be a reason to hold off on casting Omnath as soon as possible.
Ideally, I think I would like to cast Omnath and be able to cast a Growth Spiral the same turn. This enables the first two land drop triggers: gaining four life, then adding WURG to your mana pool. After you add this mana, you are much more likely to enable the third landfall because you have the extra mana to utilize by casting Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, for example. When you achieve the third landfall, you get to deal damage to the opponent and planeswalkers. This is one of my favorite parts, simply because there are not enough ways to efficiently kill planeswalkers in most formats. Honestly, Omnath might not be the most efficient threat you could be playing in these ramp decks, although it pairs well with all of the Ramp spells, Yorion, Sky Nomad, and even Genesis Ultimatum.
This article has predominantly been about various ramp decks and what they gain from Zendikar Rising. It's not surprising that a set bringing back the Landfall mechanic is going to spring Historic further in the direction of Ramp strategies - not only by printing powerful payoff cards like Omnath and Ashaya, but also by printing powerful enabler cards like Lotus Cobra. Lotus Cobra pairs perfectly with the other powerful two drop ramp enablers in Historic already: Growth Spiral and Explore. Picture the following turn three: Growth Spiral, first and second land drops, two Lotus Cobra triggers, crack Fabled Passage, third Lotus Cobra trigger, Nissa, Who Shakes the World.
There are endless possibilities with Ramp decks because of Lotus Cobra, and you can take the deck in any direction you want it to go. Temur, Bant, Sultai, 4c Omnath, Yorion, Simic—you name it. I am personally excited to see how the Omnath decks develop in Historic—that will be my starting point in Historic when Zendikar Rising releases. Keep your eye out for a follow-up article in a couple weeks!
I have played quite a few Sacrifice decks over the past year in Standard and Historic, and it has become one of my favorite archetypes. That being said, the archetype consistently had one problem without a good answer to it: Enchantment-base hate. Red certainly has enough artifact removal to deal with a decent amount of hate cards like Grafdigger's Cage. However, players were often struggling against problematic enchantments like Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void if you were playing Rakdos Sacrifice. Jund Sacrifice even started playing Reclamation Sage to deal with all the additional hate cards in everyone's sideboards. Finally, with Feed the Swarm we have a way to deal with enchantments for only two mana.
Some people argue that giving black enchantment removal breaks the color pie, but I am here for it. This card gives Rakdos Sacrifice an edge again over Jund Sacrifice because you no longer need to play a more painful and less consistent manabase to beat Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace. I am going to be spending a lot of my time in the new format working on Rakdos Sacrifice along with the Ramp decks.
I wanted to make a special note about the Pathway lands in Historic before closing out the article. Historic has had some okay mana, but a lot of archetypes have struggled at a basic and foundational level because of the poor manabases. The Pathway lands are the closest to true dual lands we have in Historic, and I am very excited for them. I am especially going to keep my eye on Orzhov Vampires and Gruul Aggro because these were the two decks that seemed to struggle with poor mana the most.
These are my first impressions of the new Zendikar Rising cards when it comes to Historic! I have a lot to test out during the Early Access Streamer Event as well as after release, so keep your eyes peeled for my articles in the upcoming weeks featuring lots of decklists! If you want to watch me test out all these ideas live be sure to follow me on Twitch. Also be sure to check out fellow TCG Writer, Adam Hernandez (@yoman5)'s Decklist dump on Twitter for ideas on decks to play in Standard and Historic!