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Winota, Joiner of Forces Art by Magali Villeneuve

Explorer Naya Winota Deck Guide: Put the Win in Winota With the Best Deck

Hello everyone! It has been a week since the release of Streets of New Capenna, and with it, a whole host of decks and now even formats to explore! Generally we only have to worry about delving into one brand new format, but like we did for Alchemy, we get the chance to try even more ways to play the game!

For those unaware, Explorer is the newest format hitting Arena and is functionally a Pioneer analog. This will be a paper format that will run alongside Pioneer and will eventually catch up to it, but in the meanwhile, it’s an interesting Pioneer/Historic lite!

While there are definitely a lot of new and exciting decks I want to try, at the end of the day, we all have to pay our tithes to the queen. No matter what decks you’re looking to try out, you should always be mindful of what the most popular/powerful decks are going to be in the prospective format. Generally speaking, that’s a bit more nebulous as it is literally a new format, however, we know what decks are currently crushing it in Pioneer and we just have to see which ones port over. So if we’re talking about a Pioneer deck that’s mostly intact and is insanely powerful, one name stands out above all others: Winota, Joiner of Forces.

To put it simply, Winota is an extremely messed up card. It’s an insane threat and card advantage rolled into one package that requires little build around and only needs to survive until your combat, not even a whole turn, for the chance to win you the game on the spot. I never really played Pioneer myself, but I did have a chance to play with Winota in Historic prior to the ban which is a fun story.

It was April 2020 and I was around 90% Mythic after a really bad run of trying to beat Standard Jeskai Lukka Fires and not finding a deck that could (that deck would shortly be banned out as well), but the issue was I still wanted to top 1200 for the season. I ran the math and I needed to win roughly 15 matches in a row to accomplish that which seemed pretty much impossible… Until I heard rumors of a Winota deck tearing up ladder.

I found a Naya Winota list and immediately went to work going a pretty decent 21-0 going from 90% to somewhere in the 200s. It was easily one of the most egregious decks I’ve ever played on Arena and we get to do it again. The list in Pioneer is a bit different from what I played in Historic back in the day, so I’m willing to go with the more current version of the deck. With porting the deck and replacing the few cards that needed to be replaced, we end up with a monster of a deck and what I consider to be the best deck in the format. Let’s take a look.

(E) Naya Winota
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $566.41
best of 3
4 mythic
48 rare
7 uncommon
1 common
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (4)
Lands (24)
Temple Garden
Stomping Ground
Sacred Foundry
60 Cards
15 Cards

The deck has one plan and one plan only: beat the opponent to death. Every card in our deck is designed to do that in one way or another and it is extremely good at accomplishing it.

Of course, the star of the show is Winota, Joiner of Forces. Winota allows you to dig deep through your deck for every non-Human creature that attacks to find Humans that come out of the gate swinging. This is obviously a disgusting ability as it allows for explosive turns, cheating on large swaths of mana, and in most cases, winning the game on the spot. The secret is to play mostly non-Human creatures and then play value and/or expensive Humans to get the most out of the triggers. Back in the Historic version the top end was Angrath's Marauders which provided insane explosive power, but nowadays, we use Tovolar's Huntmaster. While Huntmaster has lower potential of a true OTK, it’s a much better card for board presence, will win the game most of the time anyway, and is much easier to cast due to being 6 mana versus 7. So what non-Humans are we running? I’m glad you asked!

To start with, the deck has a core of a lot of ramp creatures to get the ball rolling quickly. In Pioneer, that means Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves, but for Explorer, we still have Llanowar Elves and Gilded Goose which replaces the missing Elvish Mystic. Both are non-Human attacks and both are good turn 1 ramp sources, and while Goose is weaker than Mystic, being able to fly for more consistent Winota triggers and making any color of mana shouldn’t be underestimated. On top of those two, you have Prosperous Innkeeper which has the insane value of being a non-Human mana dork that doesn’t even need to tap to use the mana! A very common play pattern is turn 1 dork, turn 2 Innkeeper, then turn 3 Winota attacking with both, getting a few Humans, and ending the game on the spot. To say it’s broken in this deck is definitely an understatement.

While this strategy is certainly powerful, it may sound a bit fragile on the surface. So the entire deck is revolving around Winota resolving and then surviving, right? While that’s the easiest way to win, it’s far from the only way as this deck has a whole slew of resilient cards as well. To start out, we play Adanto Vanguard in place of Voice of Resurgence. Adanto was an inclusion back in the old Historic deck as well and functionally never being able to die while providing solid pressure is a great deal. For newer cards, we have Fable of the Mirror-Breaker which has been popping up in pretty much every format you can play it in! Not only does it produce two non-Human creatures for Winota, both are extremely potent value creatures as well which makes killing both a high priority as well. Finally, we have Esika's Chariot which is an insane top end card that also produces two non-Humans while also threatening to win the game by itself if uninterrupted. So while this deck does really want Winota to stick, it certainly doesn’t need to with all the other amazing threats we get to play.

Rounding out the deck, we have our final two human hits with Brutal Cathar which doubles as removal and a non-Human when it flips and the lone Blade Historian as our easier to cast Angrath's Marauders. The beauty of playing a deck that’s functionally all creatures isn’t lost on me and is insanely effective despite being such a linear game plan.

Not only do we have a powerful and linear game plan game one, we have excellent sideboard options as well. Need graveyard hate? Scavenging Ooze as a non-Human and Rest in Peace if we’re breaking out the big guns. Need to interact with slower decks? Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Elite Spellbinder will stall them nicely. What about the worst case scenario: the mirror? Four Redcap Melee and the lone Skyclave Apparition will be sure to help you out. This deck is just a fine tuned machine of aggression, value, and power that it’s so hard to contend with, so love it or hate it, it’s a Tier 1 strategy.


Redcap [card name=
Redcap Melee Art by Chris Rallis

While the format is still relatively new, we do have a good enough base line between Pioneer and the first week that we can get a decent sampling of matchups.

Naya Winota

+4 Redcap Melee-3 Adanto Vanguard
+1 Skyclave Apparition-1 Blade Historian
-1 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker

Now here’s a complex matchup, don’t let them attack with a Winota on board! You’re both going to be racing each other, but it’s mostly going to come down to who can stick a Winota or an Esika's Chariot first.

Defending is not really a thing in this matchup and value isn’t super relevant so being as aggressive as possible while holding up Redcap Melee as often as you can is about the extent of strategy in this matchup.

Mono Red Aggro

+4 Redcap Melee-3 Adanto Vanguard
+1 Skyclave Apparition-1 Blade Historian
-1 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker

The boarding is identical to the mirror and the matchup is similar, but the main difference is Mono Red is much less explosive and your Redcap Melee are so much better. They can’t really race a Winota or an Esika's Chariot so ramping towards those is a great game plan. Something to keep in mind is that they’re likely to have a lot of removal for these threats as well, but if they don’t, they will generally instantly die.

Izzet Phoenix

+2 Scavenging Ooze-4 Gilded Goose
+3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben-1 Prosperous Innkeeper
+3 Redcap Melee-4 Brutal Cathar
+1 Rest in Peace

This matchup is going to be a slog as Phoenix is going to try and keep your board clean while you’re trying to peck them to death with whatever creature you can stick. Since they have so much removal, we don’t need to go as fast and instead focusing on accruing value while slowly whittling down their life total.

Your graveyard hate is going to be important to prevent them from getting free Arclight Phoenix, but even if you don’t find any, Redcap Melee is great at stalling Phoenix or killing Crackling Drake and Smoldering Egg which are both huge pains for this deck as well. Don’t rush into removal, play it patiently, and keep the pressure on.

Azorius Control

+1 Scavenging Ooze-4 Gilded Goose
+3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben-4 Brutal Cathar
+4 Elite Spellbinder

If you thought Phoenix was a slog, then boy do I have news for you. Although this will also be a timely matchup, you don’t have to worry as much about the opponent getting a lot of value out of nowhere rather than them slowly taking over the game.

The key to this matchup is to constantly apply enough pressure that they have to keep answering creatures, but not putting out so many threats you get blown out by a board wipe. It’s a hard balance to strike and one that will mostly come with practice, but there is a non-negligible amount of games they just don’t have the wrath or you get a quick Winota and bonk them to death.

Prioritize your sideboard creatures and value creatures highly and you should be able to outpace their removal in most games.


Tovolar’s Huntmaster Art by Cristi Balanescu
Tovolar’s Huntmaster Art by Cristi Balanescu
  • Although this deck is all about getting to Winota, knowing when to play it out is one of the most vital skills for the deck. If the opponent is holding up mana, you can just as easily deploy a different threat rather than just jamming Winota and hoping it works or you can even not play anything! Learning when and what to play is very important for getting your wins.
  • After getting a Brutal Cathar or Tovolar's Huntmaster out, carefully track whether it’s day or night when dealing with additional Brutal Cathar. You’d hate to play out Cathar thinking it will be interaction just for it to be a 3/3!
  • On the topic of Tovolar's Huntmaster, don’t forget about the play of passing the turn, letting Huntmaster flip, then using the activated ability to kill an opposing creature.
  • Remember that Esika's Chariot can copy any token, not just the Cats. You can use this to copy Treasure tokens, the Reflections of the Mirror-Breaker goblin, or even a copied creature from Reflections of Kiki-Jiki itself!
  • If the opponent is holding up removal, attacking with just the Cats rather than Esika's Chariot is a very valid play.
  • When boarding for a matchup not listed here, try to not take out too many non-Humans as you don’t want to hurt the odds of you getting triggers with Winota.

Are there any Explorer decks you’re particularly excited to try? Let me know in our Discord community!

Thank you for reading!

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Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on
Twitch and Discord.

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