Magic: The Gathering Arena needs these Historic cards in its binder

With the full release of Magic: The Gathering Arena finally upon us, it’s an exciting time for old school fans of the long-running card game. All throughout the open beta, we could only work with the last handful of sets to build decks. We all assumed that this would be the case going forward as well, but player outcry eventually made Wizards of the Coast reconsider. Now, the plan is to implement selected cards from Magic history into the game’s Historic format. With that and somewhere in the ballpark of 200 hours of playtime, here’s a list of cards that would improve the current meta. Grab that long box under your bed and take a trip down memory lane, let’s draw our first hand.

Magic: The Gathering Arena Historic cards | Combating life gain

Ajani's Pridemate Magic Arena

You know it. We all know it. One of the biggest cheese decks out in the Arena involves a certain cat soldier and his vampiric cousin. Life gain has traditionally been a weak strategy in Magic: The Gathering, but the pendulum now firmly swings in the other direction. With Ajani’s latest incarnation and his all-powerful Welcome, life gain in this new format may become more powerful than ever. Thankfully, Magic’s history does have a few cards that could rotate into historic and counter this strategy.

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Everlasting Torment is the first that comes to mind. This Shadowmoor classic prevents all life gain and damage prevention, although it also brings along the Wither mechanic. A better pick could be the similar Leyline of Punishment from Core Set 2011. With Leylines returning in the most recent core set, it’s curious that Punishment didn’t already get a reprint like White’s Leyline of Sanctity. Combustion is good, but it would be better to sacrifice it to Zzzyxas’s Abyss in a heartbeat for something that stops Pridemates in their tracks.

If you’d rather take the fight to Ajani directly, a few old creatures could do just the trick. Stigma Lasher is a particularly nasty shaman that prevents life gain for the rest of the game with a single strike. Archfiend of Despair and Erebos, God of the Dead could join the already available Rampaging Ferocidon as beefier options. It remains to be seen if keywords like Devotion will make the jump with these Historic reprints or if they require too much extra work. In any case, the ideal option would be Skullcrack, a red damage spell that could hold the cats at bay until a Shock is locked and loaded.

Magic: The Gathering Arena Historic cards | Peeking over Modern Horizons

As a longtime Magic player who’s rediscovered his love for the game following the release of Magic: The Gathering: Arena, I found it unfortunate that Modern Horizons didn’t make it into the game. It is understandable why a nostalgia-focused set filled with old mechanics didn’t make sense, but logic can only take you so far. Thanks to Historic, we can pick and choose cards from this recent set that wouldn’t require any additional work by the developers. No Snow permanents, no slivers, no Suspend, just unique variations on what’s already available.

Despite the aforementioned paragraphs deriding the most powerful cats in current Magic, both King of the Pride and the Bear queen should added to the game. Lord creatures make great centerpieces to unique decks, and it would great to see how viable some of those archetypes could be. In a similar vein, Judgement-era Genesis would make for some interesting interactions with modern-day Golgori, although maybe a bit too interesting. It’s very hard to play pure Goblins with the current card pool, which is a tragedy for an old school fan. A heaping helping of support could put it at least on the level of modern Vampires, which would be much appreciated.

As for the big splashes, Serra’s debut as a planeswalker is great. Angels are already pretty strong currently thanks to Bishop of Wings and other support in the last Core Set. Adding in stuff like Serra and Segovian Angel would complement that well. Finally, Modern Horizons releases plenty of cards with Cycling, and it’s downright bizarre that this staple mechanic isn’t anywhere to be seen in Arena so far. Although it is a new mechanic, the current game should support it without much trouble, and it feels as integral to the game to me as Flying or Walls.

Magic: The Gathering Arena Historic cards | Honoring the classics

Arcbound Worker Magic Arena

Magic: The Gathering is full of great ideas and archetypes that never got their due. One of my personal favorites were the Arcbound creatures in the original Mirrodin set. Arcbound Ravager got all the headlines for how broken it could be in that environment, but the rest of its kin were fun to use as a unit. Modular is a great little ability, and it would be nice to see the tribe come to Arena without its big brother hogging all the glory, especially when you consider all the cards in the meta that deal with +1/+1 counters.

In a similar vein, classics should make a return for the new audience like Plague Wind, Arkroma, and guild cards from the original Ravnica set. I always prefer to play with the full history of Magic with the tabletop version of the game. I hope the implementation of Historic can let me do the same thing in a digital format. As a formally lapsed player, I want to discover what I missed when I dropped the game and I want to see old favorites interact with new staples in odd ways. That’s what this format potentially can be, and I only hope that it lives up to that promise.