Historically Speaking – Jump Start

I’m sure everybody that’s ever created media in some form or other has always run into dry spells. Mine might have been longer than others, but hopefully after today that will change. The COVID 19 virus has totally changed the entire way we see and play Magic the Gathering. I can no longer go to game stores and play freely or meet with my friends for casual Magic. As a website devoted to helping people “gather” and communicate with others playing Magic the Gathering in Japan, I seem to have lost my purpose. Hopefully once things are back to normal, or some new normal, I can find that purpose once more. Until then, I’d like to use this platform to talk about my continuing journey as a Magic player. 

I’ve played paper Magic since I was 12 years old (Revised edition), but I’ve only played digital Magic the Gathering for about a year. I’ve never been really good at limited to be honest, my strength always laid with constructed formats. MTG Arena has given me the ability to play both, but to be honest, poor standard metagames and broken cards kept me away for quite a while. I didn’t start to play digitally more until the Historic format was announced. 

It’s no secret that I loved Frontier when it was a casual format, and I embraced Pioneer with open arms because of this (I’m also a co-host on a MTG Pioneer podcast if you want to listen). I was a little disappointed when I heard Pioneer wouldn’t be coming to MTG Arena right away, but nevertheless I picked up Historic after the rotation last year and started to collect cards I thought would be playable for when Pioneer was fully available on the platform. I played here and there to finish my daily challenges on Arena but didn’t really get into the competitive side until recently. 

With the addition of the new Jump-Start set to MTG Arena, the Historic format has made playing Pioneer digitally, for free, almost a reality. While the Arena only format means that you’ll face off against cards not currently legal in Pioneer, it is also a great place to hone your skills as a competitive player while we can’t go out and play with others in person. Today I’d like to talk more about the Historic format online and give you some deck ideas to help you explore it. 


Jump Starting Your Historic Experience


Waste Not, Want Not ….


Leading up to the release of Jump Start on Arena, I had been working on quite a few Historic decks that I was hoping of transforming into Pioneer decks eventually. The first of which is a BR Waste Not deck that I had talked about before on this website. The deck has undergone many changes on both the Pioneer and the Historic end, but I’d like to think that it has finally come together into a compact, powerful archetype. I had been messing around with the archetype in Pioneer prior to it being released on Historic in the 2nd Anthology, so when it was announced I was ecstatic. Playing with it on Arena has allowed me to explore it in more ways than I could ever dream of. 


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This most recent build was adapted from a Pioneer version that went 5-0 the other week on MTGO. The main additions to this deck from Core Set M21 have been Eliminate, and Liliana, Waker of the Dead. While my Pioneer version has more of a combo with Collective Defiance, this Historic version goes more for a midrange/controlling angle. The core cards of Kroxa, Burglar Rat, and Rankle are still there with Waste Not, but Liliana has added a much faster clock when an opponent is out of cards than just the black and red titan by itself. The 5-0 Pioneer version was also running Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage which I have tested out periodically in the past both in the main and sideboard. 

With the Jump Start Historic meta just now taking shape, I expect this version to change quite a bit in the coming weeks. I’ve already gotten suggestions to add more Bonecrusher Giants than Murderous Riders, and I’ll probably be trying out Angrath’s Rampage instead of Bedevil going forward to give me a lower curve while still keeping Bedevil’s effects intact. 

As it is more of a control version, you can see that I have 3 board wipes main to deal with aggressive decks like Gruul and mono red, and I also have an exile effect main so I don’t get destroyed by cards like Ulamog, the Ceaselsss Hunger which my deck simply can’t deal with easily. 

The sideboard hasn’t changed too much except for the inclusion of Necromentia, a key card for any and all control or combo match ups. 


This card has proven to be integral in disabling decks of all types effectively and consistently. It’s much better than Lost Legacy in Pioneer since you can name any card other than a basic land, which includes cards like Field of the Dead in Historic. I believe it’s incredibly underrated now. 




Another deck I have been working on and off again with in both Historic and Pioneer is Scapeshift. I’ve jumped around between Sultai and Jund, but have settled on green and black at the moment for the MTG Arena format. Both Historic and Pioneer are both lacking good finishers for the namesake card, but things have gotten better for it recently. 


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Field of the Dead will show up in any and all Scapeshift decks in Historic, as well as some Golos mono green planeswalker decks. The real reason to play GB over Bant or mono green is your access to Dread Presence, and to a smaller extent, hand disruption. 

One of my reasons for picking this archetype up again was the reprinting of Azusa, Lost but Seeking in M21. She’s been largely overlooked in both standard and Historic, and even Pioneer, but I think she is a much better card to have than Arboreal Grazer as a way of flooding your board with lands. The biggest problem in Arena is the lack of Courser of Kruphix to really break Azusa, but Jadelight Ranger does an admirable job of getting you more land quickly as well as smoothing out your draws. The mana base probably needs some work though, as I’m not sure how many lands are needed to effectively take advantage of Field of the Dead triggers.



Another card I’ve only recently started to try out as I was climbing the competitive ladder in Arena is Bolas’s Citadel. It’s a little bit tricky to use and would greatly benefit from having Courser of Kruphix legal to negate the loss of life, but it does a great job of digging through your deck to your combo pieces like Dread Presence, Scapeshift, and Field of the Dead. If you’re unable to flood the board with 2/2 zombies or don’t have enough swamps to finish an opponent with Dread Presence, then the last ability gives you one final way to finish off your opponent by making them lose 10 life. 

I believe “Dreadshift” is a very solid deck but is still missing out some key cards from Pioneer to make it really good. Having access to Courser of Kruphix, Abrupt Decay, and even a card like Retreat to Hagra for redundancy would be really helpful. It’s a great deck for breezing through bronze, silver, and gold tiers on MTG Arena, but you might struggle in the higher levels like Platinum and Diamond. 


Burning Bright

Jump Start didn’t really add much to either of the first two decks I talked about today, though I’ve been considering some new sideboard cards like Zendikar’s Roil in the Scapeshift deck as another win con.

This next deck I’m going to talk about has gone through an entirely new transformation however. It was a good deck and was absolutely killing in best-of-one games on Arena and helped me to climb the Platinum ladder quickly. But just last night I made it to a Diamond ranking for the first time ever, in no small part thanks to all of the recent changes I made from Jump Start. 

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 My Pioneer co-host said it couldn’t be done when I said I wanted to build turbo burn around Chandra’s Incinerator from the new M21 set. I set out to prove him wrong and did very well with the first few iterations but towards the higher level of competition it lacked consistency. 

Enter Jump Start. 



I had always said that Thermo-Alchemist from Eldritch Moon was underrated in Pioneer and that all it needed was the right build. Looking back to past metagames it usually showed up as a 4 of in many of the UR tempo and mono red burn decks of old. Why wouldn’t it be good now? With the addition of the Spectacle cards from the Guilds of Ravnica block, his ability becomes even more powerful. When you factor in Chandra’s Incinerator’s ability which lets you cast it less depending on how much non combat damage was done, you can realistically play it on turn 3 off of a Thermo Alchemist ping, a Skewer the Critics, and 2 floating mana. Heck, you could even ping once or twice more with the Alchemist to make the Incinerator 1 mana on turn 3. 

The other card that really helped out from Jump Start was the reprinting of Magma Jet. I had been playing Bonecrusher Giant because who DOESN’T like following up 2 damage anywhere with a 4/3 beater? However if you’re going all in on burn then deck manipulation is much better than having a burn spell and a creature. You want to keep the burn coming as quickly as possible, and that means scrying away lands and playing cards like Light up the Stage. There’s nothing worse than drawing nothing but land when you need just one more burn spell to finish your opponent. 

As for the other card choices, I can see some people calling me out for having Rampaging Ferocidon main, but life gain will absolutely destroy this deck if it goes unchecked. It does seem a little 3 drop heavy for a burn deck, but you have to keep in mind that 8 of those cards are Spectacle cards and actually only 1 mana to cast after damage. I definitely want to clean it up though. Going up to 4 Alchemist, maybe a 3rd Incinerator, and adding more one drops like Ghitu Lavamancer and Grim Lavamancer is probably a good idea (special thanks to my friend for pointing that out). Slaying Fire seemed rather necessary when Gruul was everywhere, but it could probable be dropped in favor of more one drops. Another card I can’t wait to show up in red is Ramunap Ruins, but that will have to wait for the next Historic update in August with Amonkhet Remastered. 


Getting Results


I know I’ve said I’ve been doing well with these decks but I don’t expect that you take my word for it so here’s some proof to get you to go out and try some of today’s brews;


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I just crossed over to Diamond Tier 3 today so there is a very real chance that I can make Mythic this season for the first time ever and have a chance to showcase both my deck and my skills in a Pro League. I’ll be continuing to work and tweak these lists so be sure to follow me on Twitter @yoschwenky for updates, and also keep your eyes peeled for some Twitch streaming in the near future so you can see them in action! 

As always, all comments are welcome down below. If you have some ideas or suggestions on how to further optimize these decks or if you tried these decks out and have feedback or comments I’d love to hear it! I hope you too can climb the ladder on MTG Arena with historic and have fun doing it! Thanks for reading and hope to see you again soon.