Boros Winota Deck Guide: Put the Win in Winota
Y’all know what time it is, it’s Deck Guide time. The last one I did was on Dimir 8 Shark Control which was a resounding success, and I can’t thank each one of you enough for taking the time to read it. So as a thank you, I’m giving you more decks! Today, we’ll be going over the archetype I was most surprised wasn’t that good with the release of Zendikar Rising, Winota, Joiner of Forces. For the reason it wasn’t good, it’s not too hard to figure out why.
Unsurprisingly it’s not easy for an aggro deck to beat two card drawing, life gaining, ramping Green Mythic Rares that need to be dealt with almost immediately. Who could’ve guessed except for literally every person on Twitter? However, Uro recently received his divine punishment leaving just Omnath to hold up the fort. So, can Winota now put the hurt on him with his pal, Uro gone? I believe so actually.
Part of the reason I believe Winota struggled was that it’s not the easiest deck to build. You would think Winota makes the deck building decisions obvious, play a bunch of non-Humans and some good Humans you want to Winota into. In a sense, that is correct, however it gets more complicated when you consider how best to line your threats up on the curve and even what colors you want to be. My first foray with Winota in new Standard was a Naya variant made by Charizard_James, you can check out his Twitch here. My most savvy readers would recognize this list from last week’s Meta Snapshot.
I disagreed with some of the card choices, but I believe this was an excellent base to start off with. However, I was quickly dream crushed by Omnath and haven’t picked the deck back up since. With the Uro ban though, I thought it was prudent for me to rediscover Winota and right before I tried Naya again, I discovered Oliver Tiu got a 7 win run in the Standard challenge using Jordan Cairns’ (Heisenb3rg on Twitter and Arena) Boros Winota list.
I liked the look of this list a lot, and being two colors made the mana cleaner, although I thought the mana base of Naya Winota was quite nice. However, I’m sorry to say that Jordan doesn’t hold a candle to me in deckbuilding. Utilizing my 400 IQ certificate I received from a totally reputable Facebook test, I revolutionized Winota in a way your feeble brains can hardly understand.
Your mind is likely torn asunder, so much so, you’re probably thinking this is functionally the same list with a few cards in the main deck changed and a slightly different sideboard. Well, uh, moving on.
All kidding aside, I think Jordan established a reasonable base to work off of. I rated Maul of the Skyclaves highly in the initial Wildcard Crafting Guide (until Chris Kvartek made me push it down a tier, jerk) and I’m glad it can see it’s time in the sun. So with all that in mind, let’s break this deck down.
1 Alseid of Life’s Bounty: One of my few additions to the deck. Since there aren’t many tap lands, I figured having an additional one drop non-human could be nice. One of my few gripes with Jordan’s list is that I felt that he was a little lacking in the non-human department to trigger Winota. Now, this isn’t the most powerful card around, but it has utility in protecting creatures, triggers Winota, and holds a Maul of the Skyclaves very well. If you don’t like this lil guy, I wouldn’t entirely blame you, but I’ve been a fan so far.
2 Giant Killer: Giant Killer is a HOUSE. If it was a non-Human, I’d argue it’s one of the best cards in the deck, but since it isn’t, I’ll still argue that it’s one of the better cards in the deck. The Adventure half is extremely relevant right now with all the Omnaths running around, and the tap ability isn’t too bad either. You can’t really run 4 main deck in an open metagame but obviously you get to 4 in havethe 75. Niche, but very powerful.
4 Selfless Savior: Now this is one good boy, and checks off every single thing we want in a Winota deck. Cheap creature, protection, and a non-human. You can never leave home without these pups.
2 Spikefield Hazard: Another smart inclusion in the deck, having cheap answers to Lotus Cobra is nice, however with the Uro banning, they feel less necessary than they used to be. I still play the 2 myself, but I can totally see shaving them for different cards, perhaps more Alseids or a different cheap spell.
4 Kor Blademaster: Easily the strangest inclusion in the deck, likely only because it’s the best non-human in the 2 drop slot in Red and White, trust me, I looked. However, the Blademaster still holds a Maul very well and can be a pseudo-Embercleave out of nowhere if you have a Maul equipped to one of the many Warriors in your deck. I’m not the biggest fan of the card, but it fills its role and I can’t see replacing it.
3 Seasoned Hallowblade: The first list had 4, but I like 3 here. Hallowblade can definitely be punishing against certain decks but I haven’t been super enamored with him as of late. Spikefield Hazard forces you to pitch a card to protect him and he gets easily chump blocked by Swarm Shamblers and Lovestruck Beast tokens. Nevertheless, he is still a powerful card and I’m mostly hard on him because he doesn’t feel as good as he did last set. I still wanted 3 copies since I’m happy to draw him most games but multiples get bad pretty quick as you can only discard so many cards to keep him alive.
4 Kargan Intimidator: For a 2 drop, Intimidator has so much text. He can buff himself, make things not be able to block, and give Warriors trample! For 2 mana! Unreal. I never thought that when I hit a 2 drop off a Winota trigger, I would be happy about it. Intimidator is an incredible mana sink and makes blocking extremely difficult for your opponent. Everyone likely knows this already, but you can make one of your Human creatures a Coward to proc an additional Winota trigger. Talk about value!
3 Shatterskull Smashing: One of the best of the Mythic DFCs, Smashing has been great for me as it’s a painful Mountain early, and a reasonable removal spell late. You don’t want too many of these, but you’re quite happy when you draw one.
4 Maul of the Skyclaves: Oh Maul, how I love thee. Probably the best iteration of Griffin Guide, Maul allows you to jump up a creature and really put the hurt on the opponent quickly. There aren’t naturally many strong Flying or Reach creatures so the Maul, most of the time, may as well read unblockable instead of Flying! As I mentioned before, Kor Blademaster and Maul are BFFS so if you can assemble them together, your opponent is in for a rough time.
4 Bonecrusher Giant: This card is broken. I said it was Tier S in my Wildcard Crafting Guide and I stand by it now. Card bonks one of your opponent’s creatures and then makes a 4/3 right on time for Winota to come down. What more could you ask for?
1 Phoenix of Ash: Since this original list was from before the Uro ban, I’m not sure if this was entirely intentional, but Phoenix of Ash is a genius move for many reasons. On the surface, when you have only one Escape creature in your deck, you’re more or less guaranteed to get a lot of mileage out of the card when you draw it; this is likely the reason Jordan included it in the first place. However, the fact that Rogues is a popular deck right now and they can incidentally mill over your phoenix? I hope MENSA is sending Jordan his membership card, because this is the perfect way to help combat them. Furthermore, it’s an evasive creature that comes down right before Winota and triggers her. Excellent one of.
1 Basri’s Lieutenant: The Human I was most surprised to see vacant from the list, he isn’t the most exciting, but boy does it feel good to get him off a Winota. The protection from Multicolor isn’t as important as it was last season, but not being able to be blocked by an Omnath is still big game. The only unfortunate part of the inclusion is that you can’t really make good use of his death trigger, as he’s the only creature that adds counters to your creatures. I could definitely see wanting to play more of this guy or adding an auxiliary card like Luminarch Aspirant to help him out as well.
4 Winota, Joiner of Forces: The namesake of the deck. It’s another 4 drop in the pantheon of 2019-2020 4 drops that allow you to cheat on mana. All of them have been busted, and Winota is certainly no exception. My first iteration of a Winota deck was much more like this version of it as well; instead of trying to hit the swingiest creatures you could off of her, you just use her as an insane turn 4 play to get value from good creatures you naturally want to be playing. It’s kind of like a Hero of Bladehold in that sense except you have to build your deck slightly different to give your Hero of Bladehold haste and make 3/1s instead of 1/1s. This card is one of the best in Standard, play it while she’s still around.
1 Kenrith, the Returned King: Big Papa himself. A bit of a weird inclusion in an Aggro deck but this is the best Human in Standard to hit off Winota. With a pantheon of activated abilities and dual lands that can help you use the more niche abilities, he’s a powerhouse in the deck. However, due to his high cmc, he’s limited only to one copy mainboard and one sideboard. I wasn’t positive if I wanted Kenrith over another Basri’s Lieutenant until I played a match against Monored. My opponent had a great start, applying early pressure and killing every creature I played. On turn 5 I resolved a Kenrith and passed and with their attack, I was put to 1 life. On my turn, I played land 6 and gained 10 life. They drew and passed the turn, no longer able to attack. I played a land and gained 10 life. Then they scooped. I was sold ever since.
1 Embercleave: This is likely the most contentious number in the entire deck. On one hand, Embercleave is broken, on the other, it can be clunky or rendered mostly unnecessary if you have a Kor Blademaster out. I feel like you want 2 of this, but I’ve been completely unsure on what to cut for it or if it’s even necessary. Maybe one of my genius readers can find the perfect number of Embercleave for this deck.
2 Giant Killer: Completing the set from the main. Great when there are 4 power creatures, bad when there aren’t. Easy peasy.
2 Embereth Shieldbreakers: Dependent on how popular Clover gets, you may want to keep jacking that number up. Temur Clover can be a challenging matchup, but if you can get rid of the Clover part, you’ll have a much easier time. The body is unfortunately relatively unimpressive, but it gets the job done.
4 Thundering Rebuke: My removal spell of choice in new Standard. The 4 damage mark hits nearly everything you want to right now. It’s a shame that it isn’t an instant, but it’s pretty rare you’re holding mana open anyway unless you already have Giant Killer. Although it’s slightly less versatile than Scorching Dragonfire, the 4th point I believe makes a big difference when we’re living in Omnath’s world.
2 Skyclave Apparition: A nice speed bump against other aggressive decks, this can exile any non-token permanent under 4 cmc so you can also use this to eat Clover. It’s not the best to use this as a fragile Oblivion Ring against creatures with comparable power and cmc, but using it against creatures that are ahead of the curve of very valuable (ex. Lotus Cobra, Fae of Wishes, Bonecrusher Giant, Lovestruck Beast) is a great way to utilize this.
2 Phoenix of Ash: A great card when your opponent doesn’t have many ways to deal with fliers or they’re trying to mill you. I had a match against Crab Omnath where they had turn 1 Ruin Crab into turn 2 Ruin Crab, Fabled Passage. Those bad boys milled over a Phoenix and it easily soared over the battlefield to crush them.
2 Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients: You want this against Control decks as the general gameplan of boarding in Planeswalker against Control is generally good. It makes 1/1s and can draw you cards. It’s generally niche as there aren’t many brave souls who are willing to play control against Omnath. But I think it does enough to warrant it’s inclusion.
1 Kenrith, the Returned King: Utilize this when your opponent doesn’t have many ways to answer your Winota and you should be in good shape. Think Mono Red and Mono Green.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
I’ll just rip what I said in the 8 Shark guide and put it here; I’m not the biggest fan of definitive sideboard guides as they can placate your ability for on the fly decision making, but knowing how I approach each matchup is obviously extremely helpful. There you go. Now onto the matchups.
Four-Color Omnath (Regular)
|+2 Giant Killer||-3 Seasoned Hallowblade|
|+4 Thundering Rebuke||-2 Spikefield Hazard|
|-1 Alseid of Life’s Bounty|
There’s a lot of variance in Omnath builds nowadays so you have to be nimble in how you approach this matchup. With this board plan, I envision they play Terror of the Peaks and Bonecrusher Gian so your Rebukes will have plenty of value. With all the removal coming in, the necessity of Spikefield Hazard lessens.
Four-Color Omnath (Crab)
|+1 Giant Killer||-4 Kor Blademaster|
|+3 Thundering Rebuke||-2 Spikefield Hazard|
|+3 Phoenix of Ash||-1 Alseid of Life’s Bounty|
Ruin Crab isn’t a problem for this deck to attack through and actually helps fuel Phoenix which is super nice. Generally they have fewer heavy hitting creatures so the removal loses slight value, but you need to kill Omnath on sight, so you still need a reasonable amount of to keep it at bay.
|+2 Giant Killer||-4 Kargan Intimidator|
|+2 Embereth Shieldbreaker||-1 Kenrith the Returned King|
|+2 Skyclave Apparition||-1 Alseid of Life’s Bounty|
Probably the most difficult sideboard plan for me as my heart wants me to put in Thundering Rebuke, but you can’t go too low on creatures. Maul of the Skyclaves is super awkward as it’s excellent against Clover’s gameplan of clogging up the board, but it’s awful against Brazen Borrower. I’m definitely going a little low on Humans with this configuration and it likely needs work, but this is what I’ve liked so far.
Mono Red Aggro
|+1 Kenrith, the Returned King||-4 Kargan Intimidator|
|+4 Thundering Rebuke||-1 Giant Killer|
|+2 Skyclave Apparition||-1 Phoenix of Ash|
I cut some of the less impressive cards and put in more removal spells and Kenrith. As much as I love Kargan Intimidator, against Monored it’s almost always a 2 mana 3/1. Definitely not super impressive. Giant Killer isn’t amazing but it can kill Anax and Bonecrusher Giants so if you feel like you’d prefer that over Maul, go for it.
Mono Green Stompy
|+2 Giant Killer||-4 Kargan Intimidator|
|+4 Thundering Rebuke||-2 Spikefield Hazard|
|+2 Skyclave Apparition||-1 Alseid of Life’s Bounty|
|+1 Kenrith, the Returned King||-1 Phoenix of Ash|
|-1 Maul of the Skyclaves|
Got to pay my boy Rumti his respects, but our current sideboard is very good against him. You overload on removal and simply don’t let them untap with anything important. Rumti himself said that this matchup can be very rough, and I believe him.
This is an extremely general plan, but you want to keep your threat density high and ditch your removal spells. However, if you’re facing 8 Shark, you may want some Giant Killers in as an answer to the many sharks they can dish out. If you do, Maul of the Skyclaves leaves a lot to be desired in these matchups generally so those can easily be cut as well.
That’s about the jist of it! I hope you enjoyed your read and thank you for your time! If you want to watch me make a fool of myself for your entertainment, please follow me on Twitch!