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Historic Metagame Breakdown for Arena Championship 4

October 06, 2023
Frank Karsten

It's almost here: Arena Championship 4 runs this weekend, October 7–8! In this prestigious tournament, which will be streamed live starting at 9 a.m. PT each day on, 32 top MTG Arena players have brought their best Historic decks and will battle it out for $200,000 in prizes and two Magic World Championship 30 invitations. All Historic decklists will become available on MTG Melee after the event gets underway.

What is the Arena Championship?

The Arena Championship, a thrice-yearly event, is the pinnacle of competition on MTG Arena. In the previous season, Arena Championship 1 was won by Sam Rolph, Arena Championship 2 was won by Hiroshi Onizuka, and Arena Championship 3 was won by Benjamin Broadstone. The upcoming fourth edition invites players who earned the most wins across Qualifier Weekend Day Twos held in May, June, July, and August of this year.

To earn a spot in these monthly Qualifier Weekends, as described in more detail on the MTG Arena Premier Play page, a player first needs to prove their skills. They can do so by finishing in the Top 250 of the Constructed or Limited ladder at the end of the preceding month, by reaching enough wins in Day 2 of an Arena Open, or via a Qualifier Play-In event. To subsequently qualify for the Arena Championship, they need to reach seven wins on Day One of a Qualifier Weekend, followed by a good performance on Day Two. An invitation to the Arena Championship is a big achievement, and it offers an opportunity to compete for a huge prize pool.

The majority of Arena Championship 4 competitors have at least one Pro Tour-level event under their belt, so the field is largely comprised of experienced veterans. In other words, this will be high-level Magic featuring some of the best players in the world, including:

  • Magic World Championship XXIX competitor André Santos
  • Players Tour Online Top 8 competitor Joonas Eloranta
  • Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and Grand Prix champion Pascal Vieren
  • 7-time Pro Tour Day 2 competitor Tamás Glied
  • 19-time Pro Tour-equivalent competitor and streamer Thierry Ramboa

Historic Metagame Breakdown

Day 1 of Arena Championship 4 leads off with Wilds of Eldraine Draft followed by three rounds of Historic Constructed. Day 2 features three more rounds of Historic Constructed with a cut to a Top 8 Historic Constructed playoff to determine the champion.

Historic is MTG Arena's largest Constructed format, filled with both old and new Magic cards. Historic never rotates, and digital-only cards are legal, including rebalanced versions of existing cards. With over 9,000 cards to choose from, many unique strategies and wild synergies are possible. The metagame at Arena Championship 4 breaks down as follows.

Deck Archetype Number of Players Percentage of Field
Mono-Green Devotion 6 18.8%
Dimir Control 6 18.8%
Golgari Yawgmoth 5 15.6%
Izzet Wizards 4 12.5%
Kethis Combo 3 9.4%
Rakdos Midrange 2 6.3%
Samwise Gamgee Combo 2 6.3%
Rakdos Burn 1 3.1%
Jund Goblins 1 3.1%
Belcher 1 3.1%
Jund Midrange 1 3.1%

All decklists will become available on MTG Melee after the event gets underway.

The last major Historic tournament was Arena Championship 2, where the metagame in the Swiss rounds was dominated by Jund Midrange, Kethis Combo, and Mardu Reanimator. Hiroshi Onizuka ultimately won that event with Izzet Wizards. Since then, several new sets have been released, and Crucias, Titan of the Waves was rebalanced into a 3/1, shaking up the metagame.

616933 616988 617055 Chord of Calling Nurturing Peatland Utopia Sprawl

The most important new additions to Historic over the past few months stem from The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™: Orcish Bowmasters improved almost every black deck, while Delighted Halfling provided green decks with a Llanowar Elves upgrade that does not immediately die to Orcish Bowmasters. In smaller numbers, Sauron's Ransom improved the card draw suite of Dimir Control, and The One Ring boosted Rakdos Midrange.

More recently, Explorer Anthology 3 introduced Chord of Calling to consistently find Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, and Historic Anthology 7 improved black-green mana bases with Nurturing Peatland. Furthermore, the Enchanting Tales bonus sheet from Wilds of Eldraine added Utopia Sprawl as a synergistic way to ramp into a turn-two Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, unlocking six mana by turn three.

Due to all of these key new additions, Mono-Green Devotion, Dimir Control, and Golgari Yawgmoth surged in popularity. Combined, these three decks, whose strategies will be familiar to Pioneer and Modern players, comprise over half of the metagame at Arena Championship 4. Since these decks were nowhere to be seen at Arena Championship 2, Historic has clearly changed a lot since March, and it'll be exciting to see the matches play out this weekend.

Sleight of Hand 629588 Monstrous Rage 629743

The newest set, Wilds of Eldraine, has added several impactful cards to the Historic format even beyond its bonus sheet. Sleight of Hand was a welcome addition to Izzet Wizards, where looking at two cards provides superior selection to Opt or Consider. The End is a useful sideboard card for various black decks, as it can effectively extract Cavalier of Thorns; Yawgmoth, Thran Physician; or Kethis, the Hidden Hand. And Monstrous Rage has been adopted by various aggressive red decks to increase their damage clock.

Additionally, Agatha's Soul Cauldron was a powerful addition to Kethis Combo, as it can exile a dead Kethis, the Hidden Hand to grant its recursion ability to another creature, alleviating the damage that spot removal spells or Pithing Needle can do. The Cauldron is also a legendary card itself, so it can be exiled and recast with Kethis. Moreover, if Agatha's Soul Cauldron can grant the activated ability of Emry, Lurker of the Loch to Rona, Herald of Invasion, then you can loop two Mox Amber for infinite mana.

Bind to Secrecy Hollowhenge Wrangler Goblin Trapfinder Rope Line Attendant

Digital-only or rebalanced cards are not played in large numbers. In terms of rebalances, it can be useful to know that A-Haywire Mite is a 1/2 that gains 3 life, that A-Symmetry Sage is an 0/3 that grants base power 3, that A-Cauldron Familiar can't block, and that A-Blood Artist can only target opponents. However, the vast majority of competitive cards are equivalent to their original paper versions.

The most-played digital-only card is Bind to Secrecy, with 12 copies in total across all 32 decklists. If you are also familiar with Crucias, Titan of the Waves; Hollowhenge Wrangler; Jarsyl, Dark Age Scion; Goblin Trapfinder; and Rope Line Attendant, then that will cover almost all of the digital-only cards you'll see this weekend.

Historic Deck Summaries

To explain deck compositions in more detail, let me to briefly summarize and introduce all the archetypes one-by-one.

Mono-Green Devotion (6 players): Mono-Green Devotion is the premier ramp deck in Historic, using mana accelerants and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to flood the battlefield with permanents early. The deck is similar to its Pioneer counterpart, although Delighted Halfling and Utopia Sprawl are available in Historic, enabling a small white splash with ease in some lists, while Oath of Nissa and The Chain Veil are not. Most players can still grab Pestilent Cauldron // Restorative Burst from the sideboard to set up infinite loops involving multiple copies of Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner and Karn, the Great Creator.

Dimir Control (6 players): Dimir Control tries to play a reactive flash game, using cards like Fatal Push, Change the Equation, and Archmage's Charm to answer opposing threats. The win conditions are Orcish Bowmasters and Snapcaster Mage, which can also be played at instant speed. Historic is one of the few remaining formats where Lurrus of the Dream-Den remains legal, and this deck makes good use of the companion. All six Dimir Control players at Arena Championship 4 favor Lurrus over The One Ring.

Golgari Yawgmoth (5 players): Golgari Yawgmoth, similar to its Modern counterpart, combines undying creatures and Yawgmoth, Thran Physician to generate card advantage and achieve infinite combos. One such combo can be achieved with Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and two copies of Young Wolf, one with a +1/+1 counter and another without. When Yawgmoth sacrifices the counterless creature, it returns with a +1/+1 counter. The other receives a -1/-1 counter, which cancels out against its +1/+1 counter. This can be repeated to draw lots of cards, and A-Blood Artist wins the game on the spot.

Izzet Wizards (4 players): Izzet Wizards supports Soul-Scar Mage, A-Symmetry Sage, Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Balmor, Battlemage Captain with a smattering of cheap instant and sorcery spells. The suite of instants and sorceries includes Wizard's Lightning, which is basically Lightning Bolt in this deck, and Reckless Charge, which can set up fast kills.

Kethis Combo (3 players): Kethis Combo uses legends like Rona, Herald of Invasion and Emry, Lurker of the Loch to fill the graveyard for Kethis, the Hidden Hand, allowing legends to recast from the graveyard. These legends can include Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy and Mox Amber, which combine to fuel big combo turns. With all pieces in place, every Jace, the Perfected Mind represents a 15-card mill, which you can first use on yourself to enable future Kethis activations and eventually on your opponent to win the game.

Rakdos Midrange (2 players): Rakdos Midrange puts together the most efficient interactive spells, creatures, and value engines available in black and red. A typical curve involves Fatal Push or Thoughtseize on turn one; Bloodtithe Harvester or Orcish Bowmasters on turn two; Fable of the Mirror-Breaker on turn three; and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse or The One Ring on turn four.

Samwise Gamgee Combo (2 players): Samwise Gamgee combo aims to combine Samwise Gamgee, A-Cauldron Familiar, Woe Strider, and a Food. With these cards on the battlefield, you can sacrifice the Familiar, bring it back, create a Food, and loop for infinite drains. It's basically breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper!

Rakdos Burn (1 player): Rakdos Burn aims to take the opponent down to zero life as quickly as possible. It uses creatures like Monastery Swiftspear and Eidolon of the Great Revel for early pressure, and it exploits burn spells like Bump in the Night or Static Discharge to deal the final points of damage.

Jund Goblins (1 player): Jund Goblins can not only go the distance with an aggressive horde of Goblins but also has the potential for infinite combos with Putrid Goblin. When you sacrifice it to Skirk Prospector, it returns with a -1/-1 counter, but this cancels out against the +1/+1 counter provided by Metallic Mimic or First Day of Class. The result is infinite mana, and then Goblin Matron can fetch Pashalik Mons for the win.

Belcher (1 player): Belcher's mana base features zero actual land cards. Instead, it's comprised of only modal double-faced cards, such as Shatterskull Smashing or Spikefield Hazard. As a result, a single activation of Goblin Charbelcher will deal an amount of damage equal to the size of your library. Irencrag Feat provides enough mana to cast and activate Goblin Charbelcher, and Indomitable Creativity acts as a tutor for the namesake artifact.

Jund Midrange (1 player): Jund Midrange puts together the most efficient interactive spells and value creatures available in black, red, and green. It will punch a hole in your strategy with Thoughtseize, destroy your early drops with Fatal Push, and then do it all over again with Jarsyl, Dark Age Scion. Like most black decks, Orcish Bowmasters is an important inclusion. In fact, Orcish Bowmasters is the most-played main deck card overall at Arena Championship 4.

On the whole, Historic at Arena Championship 4 looks fun and diverse, as the metagame features aggro, midrange, control, ramp, and various combo strategies. Don't miss the livestream, which begins 9 a.m. PT each day, October 7–8, at! More details can be found in the viewers guide.

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