Last updated on August 16, 2023

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle - Illustration by Even Amundsen

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle | Illustration by Even Amundsen

As a game that’s been around for 30 years, Magic has plenty of historic moments. Sets that rose in infamy for being utterly broken (looking at you, Mirrodin), or moments between players that have gone down in history like when Craig Jones topdecked Lightning Helix in a game-winning draw at Pro Tour Honolulu in 2006.

There’s plenty of history to celebrate within the game. Magic’s planes often have rich histories and stories connected to them. This is especially true of Dominaria, Magic’s home plane that many early sets took place on. Our return to Dominaria gave us an appropriate mechanic: historic! But how does it work? What are the best cards that use it? I’ll go over all of that today.

What Counts as a Historic Spell or Permanent?

Rona, Disciple of Gix - Illustration by Tommy Arnold

Rona, Disciple of Gix | Illustration by Tommy Arnold

Three card types count as historic spells or permanents: cards with the legendary supertype, cards with the artifact type, and enchantments with the saga subtype. Any cards with one or more of these types in their type lines count as historic cards.

Historic spells can only trigger a card that cares about historic spells once regardless of how many types it has that make it historic. For example, let’s say you have Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain in play and cast Karn, Legacy Reforged. Karn has both the legendary supertype and artifact type, qualifying as a historic card twice. But you only draw one card because Karn is one historic spell.

The History of Historic Cards in MTG

The historic mechanic debuted in 2019 with Dominaria. It was one of that set’s core mechanics. We’ve only seen it return sporadically since then, with the most recent historic cards from Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth.

The mechanic was a flavorful and mechanical success. Dominaria was the game’s first set on Magic’s home plane in 12 years, since the Time Spiral block that concluded in 2007. It was a mechanic that celebrated the history of one of Magic’s most iconic locations while we revisited old characters like Jhoira and Jodah.

The mechanical design is one of my favorites because of its sheer elegance. The types seem random as this mechanic cares about a supertype, regular type, and subtype. It draws them together by looking at how they connect through history: artifacts, especially on Dominaria, are often relics of the past enduring to the present; sagas tell the greatest events of a plane’s history, passed down through the ages as myths or folklore; and the legends of the present are those who will write the sagas future generations tell.

It’s simply brilliant storytelling through in-game mechanics.

Is Historic Technically a Card Type?

Historic isn’t a card type. It’s a mechanic that cares about certain card types, similar to how cards like Dragon's Claw and Aether Gust care about cards with a particular color.

Do Historic Spells Include Artifact Creatures?

Yes, historic spells include artifact creatures. Any card with the artifact type triggers historic cards. This means cards like Mycosynth Lattice and Encroaching Mycosynth make all your spells historic.

Are Artifact Lands Historic Spells? What About Historic Permanents?

Lands aren’t spells. They don’t use the stack, so artifact lands aren’t historic spells. But they are historic permanents. Cards like Artificer's Assistant and Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain that care about casting historic spells won’t trigger with artifact lands, while cards like Board the Weatherlight and Lost to Legend that interact with historic cards or permanents can interact with artifact lands. 

This is also true for lands with the saga subtype like Urza's Saga.

Gallery and List of Historic Cards

Best Historic Cards

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain

One of the most impactful historic cards in Commander, Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain is a one-card storm engine. Decks with Jhoira use their commander to power a cheerios-style game plan with tons of cantripping artifacts.

Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle

Another combo commander, Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle is one of white’s best combo commanders. Teshar decks use infinite loops with artifacts like Blasting Station or Ashnod's Altar to end the game in one fell swoop.

Diligent Excavator

Diligent Excavator

Diligent Excavator is unassuming but saw a decent amount of Pioneer play recently as a win condition for the combo decks using Retraction Helix, Rona, Herald of Invasion, and Mox Amber to create an infinite loop. Artifacts are fantastic at generating infinite loops like this, so the Excavator is always a useful card to consider as a win condition for such decks.

Decklist: Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain in Commander

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain - Illustration by Brad Rigney

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain | Illustration by Brad Rigney

This high-powered EDH deck uses Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain as a combo engine to win by casting cheaper artifacts and drawing its deck. The main win condition is Aetherflux Reservoir, with Thassa's Oracle as a backup wincon.

Get Jhoira down, then cast tons of cheap artifacts. You have a bunch of effects that make your artifacts cheaper, like Etherium Sculptor and Herald of Kozilek to make your artifacts cost 0. You’ve also got ways to bounce them all to your hand, like Retract and Hurkyl's Recall to cast them all multiple times a turn.

You can win a “fair” game by casting Reservoir and following it up with tons of spells, but you also have a couple of infinite combos I’d like to outline quickly. There’s the classic Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal. Imprint Reversal with Scepter, then copy Reversal. With enough mana rocks to generate three or more mana, you can untap them for infinite mana, generate an infinite storm count and easily win through Reservoir or Urza, Lord High Artificer.

Sensei's Divining Top, Mystic Forge, and any cost reducers that make Top cost 0 like the Herald or Sculptor, let you draw your entire deck by continually putting Top on top of your library and recasting it with Forge’s ability. This generates plenty of storm to win with Reservoir, and drawing your deck lets you win with Oracle.

Having Jhoira, Mana Crypt, Words of Wind, and any artifact that costs 0 lets you loop casting Mana Crypt, tapping for it for mana, and bouncing the other artifact with Words of Wind to generate infinite mana, infinite storm, and return all your opponents’ permanents to hand. You can also use Sol Ring with a cost reducer instead of Mana Crypt.

Historical Conclusion

Sanctum Spirit - Ilustration by Nils Hamm

Sanctum Spirit | Ilustration by Nils Hamm

I love the historic mechanic and how it combines the form and function of Magic cards to tell an intricate story while being easily digestible. The mechanic only gets stronger with time as Wizards prints more and more legendary creatures.

This is an incredible mechanic I want to see more of in future sets. Hopefully we’re not too far away from a set where historic is a primary mechanic once more rather than some historic cards sprinkled throughout a couple of Commander precons.

Do you want to see more historic cards? How do you feel about the mechanic? Let me know in the comments below, or over in Draftsim’s official Discord.

Stay safe, and write your own saga!

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