I decided to dust off Arena recently. It was mostly because of the Gladiator queue, but while I had the game open I thought it might be interesting to try building my Vesperlark Reanimator deck for Historic. Arena is missing a couple of pieces from my Modern list, namely Triskelion and Trostani’s Summoner, but the core of the deck is all there.


Historic Vesperlark

Historic, Best of One

Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton

Even with its smaller card pool, there are a number of interesting targets for Vesperlark to reanimate in Historic. Polukranos, Unchained and Henrika Domnathi are both interesting options, and I know other people have tried Trostani Discordant in this kind of deck as well. Ultimately, I landed on Marionette Master and my trusty Modern sideboard plan, Irencrag Pyromancer.

Marionette Master offers some interesting flexibility, providing either a chunky 4/6 or a wall of chump blockers, depending on what you need. Generally, I’ve found the 4/6 to be more useful, but three throwaway creatures that gum up the board and let you go extra wide can be pretty handy sometimes. Just watch out for the inevitable Meathook Massacre.

Going “tall” with Marionette Master has two big advantages: she hits much harder when reanimated with Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, and it makes each artifact you sacrifice hit the opponent for that much more. A single Marionette Master can finish off an opponent in short order with a sweet combo-like kill. Much like the copies of Triskelion in my Modern deck, this gives the deck a good way to win the game without having to attack.

If I was going to make full use of Marionette Master, I’d need to tweak the game plan of the deck a little bit, though. This meant adding Voldaren Epicure for its cheap Blood token, and finding room in the mana base for a few copies of Treasure Vault. Thankfully, this deck isn’t all that colour-hungry, and between the Shocklands and Pathways it has plenty of fixing. You might get stuck with a hand full of colourless sources every now and again, but the benefits of the Treasure Vault make it worth the risk. With a Marionette Master in play, the Valut is effectively a Fireball land!

I pulled off the same trick last year with my Historic Treasures deck and Mayhem Devil. I really enjoyed it; sacrificing Treasure Vault to drain your opponent (even if X is zero) is very satisfying. Come to think of it, Vesperlark sacrifices itself when you evoke it, meaning it would trigger Mayhem Devil and Ravenous Squirrel. That’s interesting. I wonder if there would be a way of combining these two lists somehow… some sort of Vesperlark Treasures? Ah, but I digress.

I’ve already talked at length about why I like Irencrag Pyromancer, and it continues to overperform for me. It’s a sweet design, and provides a lot of interaction and reach. Getting a free Lightning Bolt for drawing two cards in a turn is great, and that 0/4 body is surprisingly resilient.

Because I was moving Irencrag Pyromancer to the main deck (or I guess “the only deck,” since this is a best-of-one list), I swapped out Charming Prince for Raffine’s Informant. Without the army-in-a-can of Trostani’s Summoner or the benefit of resetting Triskelion counters, Charming Prince lost a lot of his… well… charm. Blinking a Seasoned Pyromancer is all well and good, but that’s not enough to justify his inclusion. Raffine’s Informant fills a similar role to the Prince in the early game by setting up reanimation targets and smoothing out draws, but she’s much better alongside Irencrag Pyromancer. The fact that the Informant is also a cheap 3/2 is nothing to sneeze at, either; it’s useful to have something that can actually block Questing Beast, unlike most of this deck.

Speaking of scary threats, I definitely needed some removal to round out my list, especially since I was playing best-of-one. In Modern I included Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile as efficient answers that would leave me with mana available to enact my game plan. Neither of those are options in Historic, so I had to find something else.

Lightning Strike is no Lightning Bolt, but it gets the job done. I like to think of burn spells that can hit “any target” as modal spells. Choose one: destroy target creature, destroy target planeswalker or destroy target player. Historic has some interesting one-mana options for red removal, such as Frost Bite, Strangle and Play with Fire, and those have merit. Unfortunately, my mana base doesn’t allow me to use Frost Bite effectively, and Strangle‘s sorcery speed makes it much harder to finish off bigger creatures with it. Similarly, Play with Fire and other Shock variants often fall short of dealing enough damage to really matter. The extra point of mana for Lightning Strike can be cumbersome, but it’s usually worth the price.

As for white removal, March of Otherworldly Light is no Path to Exile. Nor is it Prismatic Ending. Honestly though, it comes pretty close to both. The only thing holding me back from running more copies of it is the card disadvantage it imposes, and the fact this list has far more red cards than white ones. If I had more “true” card draw (instead of the assortment of rummage effects), and a wider selection of throwaway white spells, March would rank much higher. As it stands, I didn’t build my deck around it, so I can’t use it to its full potential. Even so, I’ve rarely been disappointed when I draw it; it’s nice to have such a versatile answer to my opponent’s nonsense, especially when you don’t have access to a sideboard.

Fateful Absence feels a lot more like “the Path to Exile at home,” but it’s still pretty solid. The spell loses some of its luster in longer matches, like games against the seemingly ubiquitous Bolas Tribal control decks in Historic, but that’s always been the problem with Path-like removal: your short-term gains had better be worth it, because you’re creating problems for yourself down the line.

I initially rounded out my removal suite with Cathartic Pyre instead of Fateful Absence. This red removal spell can’t hit players like Lightning Strike, but unlike the Strike it’s literally a modal spell. On paper its modes make it look like the perfect fit for this deck: it can be interaction when you need it, or a way to discard your reanimation targets instead. In reality, it’s… fine? Honestly, the card worked well enough, and I was reasonably happy to run it, but it always felt like the worst card in my hand every single time I drew it.

All in all I’d rather be playing Modern, but dipping my toes into Historic again has been interesting. The actual matchups I played weren’t great, but I still enjoyed exploring this new way to build Vesperlark Reanimator. This experiment also gave me a lot of ideas for the future; everything in my Historic Vesperlark list is Modern legal, after all, which opens up plenty of possibilities that I’d never considered before.

Come to think of it, everything in my Historic Treasures deck is Modern legal too. That’s really interesting…

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