1, Jun, 24

Banned MTG Powerhouse Finds New Life in Alternative Format!

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As far as premier sets are concerned, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is infamous for debuting a multitude of cards that ended up meeting the banhammer shortly after their printing. Obviously, the original Companion rule was completely obscene. Even since the three-mana tax was added, though, Lurrus of the Dream-Den was still deemed too strong for Modern, Pioneer, and Legacy. Meanwhile, Yorion, Sky Nomad remains banned in Modern and Zirda, the Dawnwaker stays banned in Legacy.

Beyond the Companions, Winota, Joiner of Forces has been banned in Pioneer and nerfed in Historic and Brawl for a while. While all of these cards are certainly banworthy, enjoyers of these cards have been forced to look towards other Constructed formats to make use of them. For instance, Yorion is still a strong card in Niv to Light shells in Pioneer. Lurrus is excellent in alongside Orcish Bowmasters in Vintage, too.

Now, it appears Winota may finally have a place in the spotlight once more. Earlier in the week, a unique deck in Modern centered around the powerful four-drop put up a solid performance in a Magic Online Modern Challenge. This deck may not be as contextually broken as the Pioneer version was, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have legs. Let’s start by examining exactly what the namesake card brings to the table.

Winning with Winota in Modern

Winota, Joiner of Forces

Winota is an absurdly powerful card. However, it does require you to build your deck in a very specific way. The main objective with Winota is to attack with as many non-Human Creatures as possible the turn Winota enters play. For each of them, you get to pick a Human from the top six cards of your deck to put into play tapped and attacking.

With this in mind, most of the deck is made up of cheap, non-Human Creatures and game breaking Humans that you want to put into play with Winota. By far the best threat to put into play is Angrath’s Marauders. Angrath’s Marauders ensures that your other small Creatures can deal a bunch of damage. Importantly, Marauders is not legendary and works well in multiples.

Beyond Angrath’s Marauders, this deck also makes good use of Geist-Honored Monk. Geist-Honored Monk has the potential to be quite enormous in this style of deck. The two Fliers it makes when it enters can come in handy if you don’t win the game that same turn, since you now have some chump blockers for the crackback.

Geist-Honored Monk isn’t quite as strong as Marauders as a Winota hit, but it is much more realistic to hard-cast off of Birds of Paradise and Delighted Halfling. Given the presence of efficient interaction in Modern, such as Solitude, Winota is not guaranteed to stick every game. Geist-Honored Monk serves as a reasonable threat to cast that leaves some Creatures behind for a future Winota attack, which is quite nice.

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Enabling Winota in Modern

Eldritch Evolution

Now that we’ve covered the top-end elements that make the Winota deck scary, it’s important to go over the ways in which you can easily set up a big Winota attack. In the one-drop slot, Birds of Paradise and Delighted Halfling help you cast your Creatures ahead of schedule. Notably, neither of these Creatures are Humans, so they will also trigger Winota if they attack. Young Wolf makes an appearance as well, which lines up well against cheap removal from the opponent.

Similarly, Strangleroot Geist is a rather annoying card to deal with. In the case of Strangleroot Geist, though, the potent two-drop serves another important purpose here: enable Eldritch Evolution. Eldritch Evolution essentially serves as Winota copies 5-8, adding some much-needed redundancy to the archetype.

The downside with Evolution, of course, is that you traditionally have to sacrifice board presence to cast it. Fortunately, Strangleroot Geist’s Undying ability helps get around this problem. On top of that, because Strangleroot Geist has Haste, you can sacrifice it to Evolution, grab Winota, and attack with Strangleroot Geist on the same turn to trigger Winota right away.

Seasoned Pyromancer is also a perfect option to sacrifice to Evolution. Pyromancer can leave behind some non-Human tokens to help trigger Winota, which is pretty strong for a three-drop. As a Human, you can hit Pyromancer off of Winota if there are no Geist-Honored Monks or Angrath’s Marauders in sight.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Living End

Ultimately, the Winota archetype in Modern faces much steeper competition than the Pioneer variant did in the past. We mentioned that Solitude provides many decks with an answer to Winota even if the opponent is tapped out. Well, in addition to stronger reactive elements, there are fast combo decks to contend with.

Living End, for instance, can erase all of the progress you made playing to the board. Amulet Titan may be able to threaten a win before you even get Winota onto the battlefield. Golgari Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo, while a bit slower on average, can use the potent four-drop card to pick off your small Creatures and effectively blank Winota.

The good news, at least, is that the Winota deck is quite fast. Getting Winota into play turn three is commonplace, so you may be able to race some combo draws without any issues. Furthermore, between the Undying Creatures and token production, this deck is extremely strong in attrition battles. Young Wolf can singlehandedly deter Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer out of Rakdos Scam or Izzet Murktide. Winota dodges Lightning Bolt, so it isn’t always the easiest to kill. Sometimes, just swarming the board with tokens from Pyromancer and Geist-Honored Monk is enough.

At the end of the day, the weaknesses to combo and Solitude make it hard for this deck to emerge as a top-tier strategy. Nonetheless, if you’re expecting a lot of Lightning Bolt decks or Creature-heavy archetypes without much removal, Winota can be a strong metacall. For Winota enjoyers who have been waiting to break out the card at FNM since the Pioneer ban, now may be your chance!

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