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Hello Planeswalkers from across the globe! Zendikar Rising Standard is developing phenomenally, with a huge amount of decks and variants being played to success. The bans of Omnath, Locus of Creation and Lucky Clover was what the format needed to completely balance and open the door for tons of strategies that were unplayable before to be more viable in the competitive scene. So far this, this has created a metagame with a tons of variety and room for more brewing.
We are now a couple of weeks into this new era of Standard, and slowly but firmly, some particular archetypes are starting to demonstrate that they might be one or two steps above the rest, and perhaps the strongest contender for the tier 1 slot right now, are Yorion, Sky Nomad variants.
Being one of the few Companion cards that survived the rule change and continued to be playable in conjuntion with Lurrus of the Dream-Den, Yorion is proving that the amount of value it brings to the table is too much to be ignored. Combined with some of the most efficient “enter the battlefield” abilities in the format, it can create infinite amounts of card advantage and some board states that just cannot be beaten. I think no Magic player on the planet would have thought, before Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths came out, that 80 card decks were going to be the new standard for constructed play.
Today we are going to take a look at all of the Yorion variants that are popping up and slowly taking control of the Standard metagame. Azorius, Esper, Orzhov, Jeskai, Selesnya, even Abzan and Bant, every decklist has some specific things going on, but all of them are trying to do the same in their own way: Trying to extract as much value out of the five drop flyer as possible. Which one should we be playing right now? Let’s begin:
This Blue and White version plays more like a traditional control deck compared to other builds. Tons of counterspells and things to do at instant speed lets you gain an edge against opposing Yorion strategies, since many of the spells played are expensive and require you to tap out in your turn, like Elspeth Conquers Death or Yorion itself. The other way to play the Azorius color is to take the “blink” route, adding Charming Prince and Thassa, that togheter with Yorion generate tremendous amounts of card advantage by letting you regain that precious enter the battlefield trigger over and over again. If you think you will be facing many Yorion mirrors, I’d recomend sticking to the more controlling build, but the blink alternative definitly has what it takes to compete against anything as well. Some of the key cards from this deck:
Omen of the Sea
The absolute main reason to play blue in your Yorion deck. It replaces itself, upgrades your card quality by a lot, and leaves a permanent in play that can either be sacrificed for extra scrying. In the ideal scenario it is blinked with Yorion for more card advantage. The fact that can be played at instant speed is huge, and makes even more sense in this particular version giving that you are playing so many counterspells.
As mentioned before, counterspells are the main difference from this build compared with the others, which gives a significant advantage against opposing Yorions. A mix of Essence Scatter, Negate, Neutralize and even Mystical Dispute makes a lot of sense:Since you will be drawing so many cards, you may find different copies of each other, and you dont want your hand to have multiples of the same card; flexibility will let you use the correct spell for each situation.
Losing blue might hurt in some degree, but gaining Black gives us access to discard spells, that can be huge against other slow decks like these, with Agonizing Remorse maindeck and a couple of Duress post board. Of course, the removal options increase by playing Swamps, and we gain access to Doom Foretold, a card that might as well compete with Yorion for being in the deck’s title since it warps how the deck plays out around it. This particular build will be most effective against aggressive opponents, by playing a lot of cheap interaction, and even some early creatures to block and stop attackers, with some life gain thrown here and there. Some of the key cards from this deck:
A powerful tool against expensive permanent based decks (and not so expensive too). The deck is built with this enchantment in mind, by having tons of permanent cards that give us value as soon as they come into play, and end up ready to be sacrificed without losing anything. There are many games in which, by using other removal spells, we end up forcing our opponent to sacrifice their best cards, or making them pass the turn without a play, because any card from their hand would be lost on their next upkeep. As for our board, there is even one card you actually want to sacrifice as soon as possible, and that is Treacherous Blessing.
One of, if not the most important reason to play black to begin with. Drawing three cards for three mana is a fantastic rate, and this leaves a permanent in play that can be either sacrificed with Doom Foretold, or blinked with Yorion for extra value. The 1 damage per spell downside is something to keep in mind, as in some games where we are pressured will be important, but most of the time it’s just a minor thing combined with cards that can give us life back like Charming Prince or Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis.
This version combines a bit of what’s good in both worlds, with access to Black for other options of removal spells, and Blue for Omen of the Sea and some counter magic in the sideboard. This comes at the cost of having the mana base a little bit less consistent, especially because there is no Esper Triome in Standard at the moment. Our gameplan here is mostly the same, trying to grind the game to the point where we are ahead on resources while using Doom Foretold to lock our opponent out of the game. But this particular list goes one step above by including another win condition in the form of Dance of the Manse, which of course becomes one of the key cards.
Dance of the Manse
This powerful sorcery becomes one the primary ways of closing out games in every deck that makes an appearance, and here is no exception. Its great having a card that can be played early to get some value (maybe bringing back one The Birth of Meletis and one Elspeth’s Nightmare for five mana) while also being an absolute bomb in the late game, that can return most of the permanents sacrificed with Doom Foretold, to get all those enter the battlefield triggers again, while also creating an army that can finish things in one swing. As with any other spell that requires tons of mana to be tapped, it might be weak to counter magic in some match ups (especially because, being blue, can be countered with Mystical Dispute for a single mana), but also have access to counter spells to fight back post board.
Not a key piece of the puzzle here, but worth mentioning as a very useful tool to control creatures in the early game against aggro decks (and non-aggro too, since it also kills opposing Skyclave Apparition which is nice). This saga comes with a potential two for one attached, and in games where there aren’t any bodies to destroy, the discard chapter will still prove very useful. If you manage to also get value out of the graveyard exile too, we are talking about a stellar tool for the deck (might be relevant in many matchups, since Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger is still a threat, and there are many Elspeth Conquers Death being played at the moment).
Here we drop the Blue and Black, and change direction going into Green, which completely transforms how the deck plays out, and introduces the Food mechanic to the mix. Gilded Goose and Llanowar Visionary help cast our big spells much faster. This deck can also make very good use of extra mana in the late game too as our Companion costs five mana and being able to cast multiple spells in a turn.
It’s very convenient that every Green card in this list works fantastically with Yorion, since they all of them have enter the battlefield abilities, with The Great Henge being the only one that doesn’t, but still working exceptionally with them as blinking every creature with the legendary artifact in play we get to draw that many cards when they return. Of course, being a Selesnya deck with a high mana curve might make this list weaker against control decks and even the lack of neither counter magic or discard spells will make matchups like Temur Ramp a nightmare since we cant stop them from doing what they want, and a resolved Genesis Ultimatum or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon will be very difficult to beat. Some of the key cards from this deck:
Trail of Crumbs
A cheap enchantment that comes into play very early, and that in conjuntion with Gilded Goose can be an excelent card advantage engine.The fact that it itself creates a Food token is key here, since that way becomes another permanent worth blinking with Yorion’s ability, to get an extra food to sacrifice for another card. Its also important to note that every card in the main 60 is a permanent, and that makes it so that we cant miss with Trail of Crumbs ability, guaranteeing an extra card every time we use it.
A great creature that saw a little bit of competitive play back when Throne of Eldraine released, and then ended up being forgotten as the Food mechanic itself has not been too competitive without Oko. In this particular list, it provides another source of interaction, while being a decent threat by itself. Of course, its enter the battlefield ability works perfectly with Yorion. It has the perfect base stats to take out opposing Skyclave Apparitions, and in conjunction with Food tokens generated from Trail of Crumbs and Gilded Goose, it can take down even bigger creatures if needed.
Perhaps the coolest trick in this deck is, post board, granting the wolf indestructibility in our main phase, making it a 4/4, and then follow that up with a Shatter the Sky, clearing our opponent’s board while also drawing ourselves an extra card!
This one is a variant from the Green and White version that we saw before, that splashes Blue to add Omen of the Sea (a card worth including in my opinion, as it hugely increases your card quality and makes Yorion turns much more valuable), Thassa, Deep-Dwelling, and in the sideboard we find counter magic and Shark Typhoon.
This particular list might suffer the same problem as the Esper version, since there is no Bant Troime in Standard yet. As a result we get a mana base that can be a little bit inconsistent and not providing the colors needed at the right time, in exchange for a boost in power level and flexibility. That is probably why we see a couple of Solemn Simulacrum being added to the mix, a creature we will be able to cast no matter which lands we have in play that will fix our mana issues while still working great with Yorion. No key cards from this list, as we have covered most of the important pieces before.
This one combines the best of both the Orzhov build and the Selesnya Version, with the food package being present, and the Doom Foretold plus Treacherous Blessing also being included. A full playset of Acquisitions Expert makes an appearance as the upgraded version of the Burglar Rats of Yorion decks from the last Standard season.
This three color alternative has a better mana base having access to Indatha Triome. I think this is good way of taking the Selesnya option one step ahead, as Doom Foretold is a legitimate win condition in some matchups, and gaining access to discard spells post board makes those unwinnable matchups for the Selesnya version at least playable. Again, no key cards from this list, as we have covered most of the important pieces before.
Regardless of which one you choose to compete in your next tournament or to rank up the Standard ladder on Magic Arena, it is undeniable that Yorion decks are here to stay. They have already established a tier 1 status, putting pressure in the rest of the archetypes that will need to have a decent Yorion match-up or end up being considered tier 2 strategies for the time being. There is no sign that these Yorion decks are going to stop being heavily played for as long as they are legal especially with a large proportion Magic Pro League and Rivals League members opted to play them this weekend!