Alongside some interesting Banned and Restricted announcements from Wizards of the Coast, we were met with a very interesting unbanning. This should be received ironically since the last ban announcement had this card’s face plastered everywhere. Just after everyone else starts to forget about her, the Winota unban is here.
Winota’s Rebalancing in Historic
During Winota, Joiner of Forces‘ creation, it’s safe to say that Wizards of the Coast underestimated the amount of power that it represented. Generally, Winota threatened to flood the field with human creatures in the early game, triggering off each nonhuman creature that attacked. This made it incredibly easy to cheat in creatures like Agent of Treachery on turn three and start stealing your opponent’s lands. This becomes even more oppressive when you consider that Winota can cheat in multiples of these in one attack step.
This last point is what’s being changed for Winota. Winota will now only get one trigger per combat, regardless of how many nonhuman creatures you attack with. This allows you to keep the spike in power that Winota was initially supposed to grant without ending the game immediately. You still have the opportunity to cheat out some fascinating creatures, but not in a way where the entire meta should have to warp around Winota.
Will Winota See Play in Historic?
The answer to this question is probably, but not for the reasons you might expect. If Jund Sacrifice were still a viable strategy as of today, then Winota, in its Historic iteration, would have been useless. Now that Cauldron Familiar can no longer block, Winota looks much more interesting.
One important thing to note for Winota hopefuls is that Winota decks in Historic may look different than they have previously. Since Winota only triggers once per combat, cards that create multiple bodies are much less attractive in Winota decks. This archetype can now, instead, focus on including powerful creatures in a ratio where Winota is still effective.
Considering the changes, this haymaker target should make the most sense. Agent of Treachery is still a scary target, but Angrath’s Marauders threatens to end the game on impact. Since you won’t be getting as many opportunities to cheat things out, you need something incredibly impactful on its own. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker still threatens to be an all-star in any Winota deck. If you end up drawing this seven drop, you should be able to discard it for something more curve-friendly.
Kenrith remains an excellent target for Winota decks. This doesn’t cost too much, so drawing it shouldn’t be too detrimental. With the ability to give all your creatures Trample for cheap, Kenrith is a threat that can also quickly end the game. Unfortunately, Kenrith is less effective now that Winota can’t trigger multiple times. If old token-style decks with Esika’s Chariot remain the best Winota Strategy, this may be better. Even if the meta adjusts, Kenrith is a very versatile threat. A Jeskai shell can use Kenrith, Returned King to draw extra cards, while a Mardu one can reanimate creatures that have passed. The Mardu one, in particular, is very enticing and may fit nicely into a brew we’re interested in.Tovolar’s Huntmaster was the premier option for Explorer and Pioneer Winota decks as its haymaker. This creature does a ton of heavy lifting on its own when it’s Night, so it definitely still competes for the spot. Considering that this puts ten power on the board on its own, depending on how the meta shapes up, this could still be the best option. That said, Jeskai Control looks to be the deck that will dominate Historic after changes, so something more explosive probably fits the bill better initially.
What Needs to Change for Winota to Perform Optimally?
It’s no secret that old Winota decks that go wide will now miss the mark in Historic. Both Izzet Phoenix and Jeskai Control are not particularly worried about decks like this. As a result, Winota needs to adjust. There are two routes that Winota could explore at this point. The more intuitive one would be a Boros Midrange deck like the fringe tier two archetype that has seen some play in Historic. This deck already shows promise. Changing the human to nonhuman creature ratio should allow Winota to thrive in a deck that won’t need much innovation.
The second deck leans towards optimizing a combo we discussed in a different article. Since the new Shadowheart, Sharran Cleric card is coming in Alchemy: Baldur’s Gate is a human, Winota can help tutor it. Adanto Vanguard is a decent creature on its own and is well-positioned in a meta that threatens to sport a bunch of removal. If you manage to Specialize Shadowheart into its Rakdos version, Adanto Vanguard becomes an instant speed four damage ability. If your life total is higher than your opponents, this combo threatens to end the game immediately. Naturally, a Winota deck will be attacking a lot, so this isn’t a hard requirement to meet. As mentioned earlier, Kenrith may serve as an exciting threat that is cheatable by Winota. It should give some extra redundancy to the combo by reanimating pieces from the grave.
Historic is Finally Changing
With all the exciting changes coming to the format, Historic looks attractive for the first time in months. It’s a shame that MTG Arena changed all of its weekend qualifiers to Alchemy out of the blue, but I hope the Winota unban gives her another chance to shine. At the same time, while I’m not a massive fan of her personally, many people like the archetype.
If you want to see Wizard’s article on all the Banned and Restricted changes, you can do so here.