Magic: the Gathering’s Historic announcement, and why you should pay attention

Hi everybody, and welcome back to Strictly Average MTG. I hope you all had a great weekend, and had excellent box openings with Core Set 2020. Today I want to take a look at an announcement that honestly I felt like many in the community glossed over due to it not being tied directly to competitive play. Today I’ll be talking about the reveal that “Standard Plus” will be called “Historic”.

This past November I wrote my second article about my thoughts on a possible new format. While this did not turn out how I envisioned it, yet, the format has been revealed. On June 27th we received an update to Core Set 2020‘s entrance to MTG Arena, as well as information about the new format Historic. There’s even a link to their Q&A within that same article.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • When the fall expansion (code name “Archery” as that has not been revealed as of this writing) is released the expansions of Ixalan through Core Set 2019 will not be legal for play in Standard both in paper, and on MTG Arena.
  • Collections on MTG Arena will not be reset, or wiped, when the new set is released this fall.
  • The cards that left Standard, along with cards currently in Standard, and cards coming into Standard will be allowed for play in a new format called Historic.
  • Historic will have play options of Best-of-One and Best-of-Three.
  • Currently, they only plan to support Historic play on MTG Arena.
  • There are no plans currently to add Kaladesh through Hour of Devastation expansions to MTG Arena. “They’ll be back one day, just… not right now.”
  • Will there be older sets added? “Maybe one day, but there are currently no plans to add older sets to MTG Arena. While it’s certainly the dream, it’s an endeavor that would take years to implement.”
  • Historic play will not be ranked, and there are currently no plans for it to be a ranked format.

I feel it’s that last point I mentioned above that has quelled any buzz on this news. That, and the fact that most of the legal sets in it will be current Standard. While I may not agree with the starting point from a logistics standpoint I can understand why they started here. This gives them the opportunity to make a non-rotating format that can be better controlled, and not get to the power level currently illustrated in Modern. While the format is not going to be supported in paper play at the moment I am certain that eventually that will happen. This is why NOW is the time to start picking up the singles you want from these sets so you are ready when this format does become supported in paper.

Modern in its early days

Modern became an official format in the Spring of 2011, was the format for Pro Tour Philadelphia that year, and had its first Grand Prix in 2012. Even though stores may have supported the format it wasn’t until early 2015 until when the largest and most important tournament organizer got on board that the format really took off. The tournament organizer that was (and arguably still is) the most important to the majority of the community at that time was Star City Games (SCG).

During the weekend of February 28th, and March 1st of 2015 SCG hosted the first Modern Open in Baltimore Maryland, and wow was that top 8 filled with a some “fair” decks. A Sultai Control deck piloted by Gerard Fabiano won the tournament that also had a Jund deck by Hugo Rodrigues reach the top 8. Khans of Tarkir was released the previous fall, and brought the fetchlands from Onslaught with it to not only Standard but also Modern. Once this happened every possible color combination had the requisite fetchlands to make a quality manabase work.

However while that event was huge it really wasn’t until the next big Modern event in Columbus, Ohio that year on the SCG Open Series that the format was cemented as a popular one among players. It was also around this time that stores hosting Friday Night Magic (FNM) events started seeing increased attendance in their Modern events. While player attendance was increasing at these events, and the popularity of Modern was growing, there was one other thing that also started increasing around this time.

The price of singles.

Let’s take a look at some cards from March 1st, 2015 (the date of the first Open Series event for Modern), and review where those prices are now. These prices are all on MTGGoldfish, and these cards are also played in Legacy. I will also be looking at the original version of the cards. I know there are reprints, but for someone like me I enjoy playing the original versions of cards.

Prices then and now

  • Then: $23.80
  • Now: $54.99

The price of Blood Moon exploded after the Columbus Open in 2015 due to Tron winning that event hitting around $75 for a copy. While the reprints have helped its price this is still quite pricey for someone needing it in either their sideboard or even main deck.

  • Then: $19.00
  • Now: $67.65

If you would have told me that Chalice of the Void was under $20, and would have stayed that way until Oath of the Gatewatch was released I would not have believed you. I even had to double check this myself when I was pulling the data. This card became popular when Oath of the Gatewatch was released due to the colorless Eldrazi that went from Standard all the way to Legacy! On its way there it also made a pit stop in Modern to pick up the Urza lands, and Eldrazi Tron has been a deck ever since.

  • Then: $47.50
  • Now: $68.73

Even with two reprints Karn Liberated has continued up in price. A card that was not even in the winning deck of the Columbus Open  in 2015 (that Tron deck used the original Eldrazi as win conditions) it is more than a staple in that deck now. Under $50 is quite the deal compared to its price now, and with Tron becoming a stronger presence in Modern it’s not going down any time soon.

  • Then: $4
  • Now: $26.48

This was literally my reaction when seeing that Life From the Loam WAS ONCE A FOUR DOLLAR CARD!!!?? Now granted in 2015 a lot of Standard sets that helped Dredge become the deck it is now in Modern were not around, but still having a near bulk rare become a staple of the Modern format in about four years is something we need to pay attention to when looking at cards for Historic. $4? Damn. I wish I would have bought them all, however it was around this time my collection was focused on (and still is) only decks I play instead of just having cards that are not in decks.

  • Then: $58.00
  • Now: $99.34

Keep in mind it was another two years before Scalding Tarn, and the other enemy colored fetchlands would be reprinted. While that price was definitely expensive then I am sure many would line up to buy them at that 2015 price right now. As of the writing of this article it is the eighth most played land in Modern tied with the next fetchland I’ll mention.

  • Then: $35.00
  • Now: $69.19

For as much as I hear “Jund is good now” implying it was not good before the arrival of Wrenn and Six I wonder who has been buying these cards. Verdant Catacombs, along with Scalding Tarn, are on similar price trends. They both are played in popular, and powerful archetypes, and have both fallen and risen in price equally. It’s as if the decks these cards are in are destined to be paired against each other at the top tables in big events.

  • Then: $45.00
  • Now: $68.88

The most played creature in Modern, the Ambush Viper himself, Snapcaster Mage has been a mainstay in the format since Modern was created. It was around the time of the Columbus Open that vendors were buying this card from players willing to sell them as the demand was spiking. Nearing $90 in price at one point, this creature is played in every Eternal format where it can find a home. Who knew that flashing back spells would be something people would want to do? Oh yeah. Everybody knew that.

So as you can tell from the time that Modern started to ascend in popularity the prices as well started to increase to their current (and expensive) number.

…but where does that leave us with Historic?

Why this is important, and what you should be doing now

So looking at the above here is what we have learned so far.

  • Wizards of the Coast announces a new format.
  • Some stores provide play for it with small numbers.
  • A big tournament organizer begins to support the new format years later.
  • Demand for singles in this new format causes prices for singles to increase.

As we take a look at the birth of Historic we want to keep these things in mind. As we look at the cards most commonly played in Modern, and looking at similar cards that will be legal in Historic we may want to start picking up those cards now. Which cards? Let’s take a look.


You can not play Magic: the Gathering without lands (well with the exception of Manaless Dredge in Legacy). It was six years since the last time the shocklands, such as Hallowed Fountain, were in Standard. The checklands were also absent for awhile, and the enemy colored scry lands were just included in Core Set 2020. Modern increased in popularity once the mana became optimal, and this is about as optimal as Historic is going to get. Once we get the allied colored scry lands (which I would not be surprised if we get them this fall) then we would have everything we need to have excellent mana for a non-rotating “new Modern” format in historic. The scry lands should not be that expensive, and the checklands may be dropping in price soon as they are about to leave paper Standard. You should get your playsets of these first (even if you are only going to play on MTG Arena).


Non-creature spells are also very key to many decks. Cards that are either sideboard staples, do direct damage, or help you draw cards are played in nearly every deck across many formats. A large part of these are usually common or uncommon so they may not be very expensive; take a look at the sideboard of decks currently in Standard to pick those up. If they are played in other formats you’ll want to pick those up too.



In recent years enchantments have become increasingly powerful, and these above are no exception. The enchantments from Ixalan are quite powerful as they can eventually turn into lands, and this unique design likely won’t be seen again for a long while. It’s also more difficult to remove an enchantment as few cards give the player a choice of dealing with an enchantment or another permanent type. Keep an eye on which enchantments are appearing in other formats, and grab those first.



Although there are not a lot of strong artifact cards currently played in Standard many of them appear in other formats. Crucible of Worlds being reprinted last summer really helped lower its price so I would pick up your copies of these cards (and any others appearing in other formats) now.



Folks, let’s face it. The planeswalker train is not stopping any time soon. Heck we just had (counting the buy-a-box promo) 37 of them appear in the last Standard set, and there are three Chandras in Core Set. Unless you are strictly a mono red player (and even then you’ll probably want some planeswalkers) you will need them. Find the color combination you play the most, and get those relevant planeswalkers first. Then pick up the cheaper ones from there. Even if most of the planeswalkers don’t find a home in Historic they will in EDH.



Creatures win games. Even if it’s a creature from the sideboard, or a creature that has an effect that is not just attacking, it’s going to find a home in winning strategies. Llanowar Elves made its way back to Standard, and while it’s not overpowering it is the most played creature in Standard. You will want the best creatures for your deck so when you want to pick creatures up for Historic start with the best, and work your way down.

Breaking all of this down we can see how Historic can, in time, go the way of Modern. I would start building your collection now for this format, and to encourage your friends to do so as well. You could even play against each other in between rounds of Standard, or before the tournament at your store. If you think Historic will always be an MTG Arena format forever you could wind up paying nearly $30 for a card that is now around $4. Don’t miss out!

In conclusion

There is a lot of information to Absorb in this article, but I really want to focus on showing what the prices of Modern staples were compared to what they are now. While I understand that there are no plans to make Historic a supported format in paper keep in mind that it could eventually happen. You could even use this as a budget option to play Modern at your local FNM, or have something to play against your friends. Regardless of how much digital Magic increases over time there is always room for paper Magic so don’t get rid of your cards just because they are leaving Standard.

What is your favorite deck in Standard? Do you want to keep it together? What are your thoughts on Historic, and how would you like to see this format grow? Please comment below, and follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter. Next week I’m going to go in the opposite direction, and take a look at how much Modern is in Legacy.

Until then…




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *