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Much Abrew: Should Field of the Dead Be Banned in Historic?


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Over the past few days since the release of Amonkhet Remastered, we've been playing a lot of Historic on Magic Arena. While the format is a lot of fun in general, thanks to the addition of Hour of Promise to the format, Field of the Dead has quickly risen to the top of the format. My initial gut reaction was that Field of the Dead is simply too good for Historic. It was already suspended (and for some hard-to-understand reason, unsuspended) once in the format, after being banned in both Standard and Pioneer—the two formats most similar to Historic.

However, after I mentioned that I thought Field of the Dead would probably need to be banned, there was a surprising amount of disagreement. Some people felt like the deck wasn't that good. Other thought that aggro decks or combo decks have good matchups against the Zombie land menace. Eventually, I realized that it probably wasn't fair to judge the deck without actually playing it. Maybe some of the dissenters were right. Maybe Field of the Dead folds to aggro. Maybe it's not as good as it seems. So today, for science, we're playing Field of the Dead in Historic. Should you buy into the deck because it's an easy way to rank up on the Historic ladder, or should we expect a banning in the near future? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Much Abrew: Field of the Dead

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Discussion

  • First off, the deck. It's a pretty straightforward turbo–Field of the Dead build. If you look over the cards in our main deck, 31 are lands and another 18 are ramp spells, which leaves 11 slots dedicated to interaction (like Thoughtseize, Heartless Act, and Languish) and backup finishers (Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Hydroid Krasis). All the deck really wants to do is play ramp spells until it gets to five mana, use Hour of Promise to tutor up two copies of Field of the Dead, and spend the rest of the game making oodles of 2/2 Zombies each turn until the opponent realizes they can't keep up with all of the free land-based value and either dies to combat damage or gives up. 
  • Heading into our matches, I was pretty sold on the idea that Field of the Dead should be banned in Historic. After playing the deck, I'm even more convinced that Field of the Dead should not only be banned but be banned soon. We went 5-0 fairly easily with the deck, beating top-tier aggro, combo, and control decks, along with winning a Field of the Dead mirror. 
  • One of the main arguments people brought up in favor of keeping Field of the Dead in the format is that aggro beats it, but in our experience, this wasn't really true. We played Mono-Red twice in our five matches, and while our opponents did manage to steal a game, it didn't feel especially close. When you add the lifegain from Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath to a bunch of 2/2 Zombie blockers and good removal (along with sideboard all-stars like Aether Gust and Elder Gargaroth), Field of the Dead not only beats aggro but does so pretty handily. While it could be true that aggro beats Field of the Dead in best-of-one Historic, in best-of-three, the matchup very much favors Field of the Dead
  • Meanwhile, control matchups are very close to free wins for Field of the Dead, although our opponents did annoy us with Narset, Parter of Veils to shut down our card draw. But even without the ability to draw cards, the Zombie tokens from Field of the Dead will take over the game sooner or later.
  • This isn't to suggest that there couldn't be a deck out there that beats control. Some sort of fast combo deck that wins with spells rather than with creatures on the battlefield might have a chance, although even here, I'm not 100% certain, since if an anti–Field of the Dead combo deck were to develop, it would be pretty easy for Field of the Dead to play more counterspells and discard, which might swing the matchup back in its favor.
  • So, why is Field of the Dead a bannably problematic card in Historic? The answer here is threefold. First, Field of the Dead is an extremely strong card in a vacuum. The power of Field of the Dead is that the deck is amazingly consistent. Once a copy or two of Field of the Dead hits the battlefield, the deck has almost no dead draws. Top-deck a land for the turn? Awesome! Let's make a bunch more 2/2 Zombies for free. Top-deck a nonland? Awesome! It's either a ramp spell that puts one or more lands on the battlefield (making even more Zombies) or a finisher like Hydroid Krasis or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. There's almost no way for the deck to fizzle once it gets going.
  • Second, Field of the Dead is especially problematic now because of Hour of Promise. In all honesty, until the release of Amonkhet Remastered, I felt like Field of the Dead was a good but not overpowered deck in Historic, and I didn't really think it needed to be suspended or banned. But Hour of Promise changes the equation. Being able to put two copies of Field of the Dead directly on the battlefield—typically on Turn 4, thanks to a bunch of early-game ramp like Growth Spiral, Explore, Cultivate, and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath—greatly speed up the deck. No longer are we grabbing a copy of Field of the Dead with Golos, Tireless Pilgrim; we're now grabbing two copies for the same amount of mana. 
  • Third, the deck is incredibly difficult to hate out. Across our matches, we played against red players trying to beat us with Goblin Ruinblaster and control decks using the combo of Crucible of Worlds and both Field of Ruin and Ghost Quarter, and it wasn't even close to being enough. In reality, much of the hate Historic has for Field of the Dead is laughably ineffective, to the point where I'm not even sure you should try to fight Field of the Dead directly. Your best bet is probably to let Field of the Dead do its thing and then try to deal with the Zombies with something like Massacre Wurm or Virulent Plague
  • All things considered, after playing the deck, I'm even more convinced that Field of the Dead needs to be banned in Historic. Considering it was already suspended once, this time, Wizards should just cut out the middleman and ban it outright, rather than suspending it again. I've heard some people argue that instead of banning Field of the Dead, Wizards should ban Hour of Promise, which does make some amount of sense, considering that Field of the Dead was strong but not broken before Hour of Promise was released in Amonkhet Remastered. The problem with this plan is that Hour of Promise, as a five-mana ramp spell, is the type of card that will likely be printed again in the future. Meanwhile, it's a good bet that it will be a long, long time before Wizards prints another land that offers free value (without requiring mana) in the way that Field of the Dead does after the havoc that Field of the Dead reaped on formats back to Pioneer and Modern. Banning Hour of Promise is treating the symptom and a short-term solution, somewhat powering down Field of the Dead until something similar to Hour of Promise is inevitable printed. Banning Field of the Dead cures the disease and will allow Wizards to keep printing Commander-focused ramp spells like Hour of Promise without worrying that doing so will make Field of the Dead too good.
  • So, should you play Field of the Dead in Historic? The answer is pretty clearly yes if your goal is to rank up in Historic, but do it quick. I would be absolutely shocked if Field of the Dead were still legal in Historic a month or two from now. It seems exceedingly likely that it will end up being banned. While it is far and away the best deck in best-of-three Historic, and you should easily be able to rank up to mythic with it, it probably isn't a good long-term investment because of the banning risk. (The good news is that once Field of the Dead is banned, you should get a refund of four rare wildcards, and the rest of the cards in the deck—Uro, Ugin, Thoughtseize, and such—are cards that see play in other decks, so you shouldn't lose too much value once the banning happens.)

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What do you think? Is Field of the Dead too good for Historic? Should it be banned? Have you found the secret to beating it? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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