This week, MTG Arena is getting a brand new format: Timeless. Launching on the 12th of December, 2023, this format is Arena’s very own version of Vintage, where every card is legal. Balanced by a three-card Restricted List, everything is on the table for this newfangled format.
Thanks to recent Historic no banlist and some banlist events, Timeless technically already has a metagame. Saying that, however, the unreleased format is also due for a major day zero shake-up. Thanks to the release of Khans of Tarkir on MTG Arena, Timeless is getting Fetch Lands and Delve cards.
As icons of Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage, these cards are poised to practically reinvent the Timeless meta. So, before you dive in and cash in all your wildcards, it may be worth stopping to take note of a few things.
Unfortunately, since Timeless isn’t out yet, we don’t have the best meta decks for you to craft and augment. Rest assured, however, that as soon as the format stabilizes, we’ll be writing up that exact topic. To tide us over until then, we’ll be highlighting some of the best undoubtedly soon-to-be breakout cards in the format.
Having seemingly been miraculously forgotten about by much of the MTG player base, Deathrite Shaman is definitely an oddity. Despite its elusive nature, however, Deathrite Shaman (often referred to as DRS) is unquestionably powerful. So much so, in fact, that this Modern and Legacy banned card will undoubtedly have a home in Timeless.
While Deathrite Shaman is a fantastically powerful card, there is a reason it has been forgotten about. Having been banned for five years in Legacy and almost a decade in Modern, this card hasn’t seen much play recently. Curiously, however, Deathrite Shaman is perfectly legal in Historic, yet it still barely sees any play.
Even in the recent no-banlist events on MTG Arena, Deathrite Shaman was nowhere to be seen. For better or worse, however, we expect this to change very soon, as Deathrite Shaman’s power is being unlocked. Thanks to the introduction of Fetch Lands to MTG Arena and Timeless, Deathrite Shaman is becoming a mono-black ramp engine.
Capable of exiling the spent Fetch Lands for added mana, Deathrite Shaman is exceptional in a great many decks. If you want to win that little bit faster, Deathrite Shaman is almost always your friend. Should you be brewing for Timeless ahead of release, you really don’t want to forget about this bafflingly unassuming powerhouse.
Miraculously, Tainted Pact wasn’t one of the top 20 cards from the first Historic no-banlist event. Despite this lack of initial interest, however, this unassuming instant from back in Odyssey could be beyond oppressive. Combined with Thassa’s Oracle, Tainted Pact is a breakneck combo win.
By being careful with your deck constructed, Tainted Pact can mill your entire deck out for just two mana. The only thing you need to achieve this novel feat is running almost entirely one-ofs in your deck. The only exception to this is two copies of both Tainted Pact and Thassa’s Oracle.
With Thassa’s Oracle in play, or enough mana to play one afterward, casting Tainted Pact is essentially an instant win. Considering you can cast this as early as turn three in most cases, this combo is definitely one to watch out for. Thankfully, thanks to its almost singleton construction it’s not perfectly reliable, however, it is still a major threat.
Despite the potential for being incredibly powerful, Tainted Pact does have an unfortunate catch. Thanks to MTG Arena’s UI, playing out this combo is incredibly tedious, as you need to constantly be clicking. Thanks to this, the Tainted Pact Thoracle Combo might be as un-fun to play as it is to play against.
While it’s hardly been forgotten about, we’d be remiss not to mention just how good Treasure Cruise is. Banned in Modern, Legacy, and even restricted in Vintage, this card is going to be absolutely everywhere. In the right deck or stage of the game, Treasure Cruise is effectively just Ancestral Recall.
Unless it ends up on the Timeless Restricted List very soon, Treasure Cruise is going to find its home within most blue decks. Even if you’re not building around it, it’s simply too good not to include most of the time. While this could already be a problem, Treasure Cruise is going to get even better, or rather worse.
While Timeless hasn’t launched yet on MTG Arena, most players are expecting UR Delver to be the most dominant deck. Built around Treasure Cruise’s near-unbeatable draw, this archetype is incredibly aggressive, dishing out damage and filling the graveyard extremely quickly. Not only does this blitz through opponents, but it allows for low-cost Treasure Cruises to keep the punishment coming.
Supplemented by Brainstorm, Lightning Bolt, and everyone’s favorite Monkey, UR Delver is almost assuredly a surefire hit. Should you want to mix things up, however, UB variants with Lurrus of the Dream-Den are also available. Capable of tapping into black’s vast removal and disruption options, Delver can be as controlling or aggressive as you like.
As if this synergy wasn’t enough already, Delve spells get even better alongside Fetch Lands. Providing extra fuel for their delving antics, these cards are practically inseparable. Whether you’re playing Treasure Cruise or the similarly powerful Dig Through Time, you can expect big things from Delve.
Combo Will Be King
At the end of the day, there’s no doubt that Timeless is going to be an intense cacophony of format-warping cards. With Oko, Thief of Crowns running amok and infinite turns aplenty, Timeless will be a full-on wild wasteland. Within this, speed is likely going to be majorly important, as combo decks seem primed for success.
Beyond just offering incredibly quick wins, combo decks have another advantage within Timeless. Unlike Legacy, Vintage, and even Modern, Timeless is missing some of the best counterspells. With no Force of Will, Mana Drain, Daze, or Force of Negation, there’s little reliable early game defense.
Without a robust suite of counterspells, combo decks are poised to run rampant within the Timeless format. This will be especially true within best-of-one games since there’s no sideboarding for counterplay. With this in mind, Timeless best-of-three might be your go-to if you want compelling competitive matchups.