Hello everyone! Today we’re going to talk about a card that’s near and dear to my heart, Winota, Joiner of Forces. For whatever reason, despite Winota being one of the best cards in Standard, she sees extremely little play overall. Maybe people got scared off after Agent of Treachery went away or they thought Gruul was a better deck, but I’m here to say Winota is still extremely powerful and deserves it’s respect.
For the spoiler season, I had a list of Mardu Winota that was largely based off of one I was working on in Zendikar Rising Standard. The deck was very powerful, but the mana wasn’t the best and the deck needed another really strong early play. It’s safe to say that Kaldheim delivered on both fronts. We knew that Blightstep Pathway was coming to Standard, but Valki, God of Lies is an amazing addition I didn’t see coming and reignited my drive to break Mardu Winota. Let’s take a look at the original list for reference.
Like a lot of my lists, I tend not to change too much after testing as I spend a large amount of time on the first draft of the list. With some testing and tuning, I really like the spot the deck is in. Let’s take a look at the updated list.
Minor main deck changes and a reconfigured board is the usual route a lot of my decks take. Let’s talk about the card choices.
3 Valki, God of Lies
99% of the time, Valki is going to be a proactive 2 drop that can help disrupt the opponent’s curve. The deck really wanted one more strong 2 drop as just 8 with Skyclave Shade and Kargan Intimidator felt too low in the old version. Valki fills this role nicely and in a non-zero amount of games will also be a Tibalt much later; it doesn’t happen often, but we do play 25 lands so it certainly isn’t impossible.
4 Selfless Savior
The ol’ pooch still has some life in him yet. Selfless Savior isn’t always the easiest to cast on turn 1, but the ability to protect your important creatures is not to be underestimated. The main application is to protect your Winota, but even protecting your Valki can be an amazing play if the opponent needs to kill it.
3 Kargan Intimidator
Kargan Intimidator isn’t amazing, but it does fill multiple roles nicely. It’s an aggressive 2 drop that hits hard, it’s a mana sink, and it can “create” non-humans with it’s Coward ability. The biggest issue with Kargan is the classic Eldraine bullies in Lovestruck Beast and Bonecrusher Giant, but the card is still powerful and synergistic enough to warrant play.
4 Skyclave Shade
I’ve played Skyclave Shade in a good amount of decks, but this deck does it way better than all the others. An extremely pesky non-human for Winota, Shade will keep coming back for more with any land drop you can find, which isn’t difficult in a 25 land deck. By itself, Shade puts the opponent in a really awkward scenario as the best way to beat Winota deck is to clear out their non-humans, but Shade is an extremely difficult card to permanently remove. This makes it the premiere 2 drop in the deck as you can always count on it sticking around for the most part.
4 Bonecrusher Giant
I’m not above playing the biggest bully in Eldraine. Bonecrusher gives us another 2 drop play, interaction, and a great non-human body for Winota. Not much else we can ask for.
4 Woe Strider
Woe Strider is a weird card to see in an aggro deck, but when it’s 3 mana make 2 non-human bodies, it makes a lot more sense. It also has a lot of minor applications that do add up like the scry ability in the face of removal, a reasonable escape cost, and strong synergy with The Akroan War.
4 Basri’s Lieutenant
You don’t have to play 4 Basri’s Lieutenant in every Winota deck, but it does make sense in this one. It’s one of your best hits off of Winota and a very reasonable 4 drop play to get an aggressive curve. Furthermore, the Knight tokens Lieutenant creates are non-humans for some reason, so Winota synergy there as well!
4 Winota, Joiner of Forces
There’s not much to say about this card beyond it’s insanely good. If you have any board presence she can very easily shift the tide in your favor and if you can get 3+ triggers, the game is usually just over. It may seem like you have to build your deck in a specific way to get her to work, but when you look at the card quality of what we’re playing, it really doesn’t require very much to make her unbelievably powerful.
2 Kenrith, the Returned King
We aren’t a traditional aggro deck so having a few mid game options is very reasonable. Furthermore, Kenrith is the best creature you can hit off a Winota trigger so playing 2 feels very reasonable.
24 Lands + 1 Shatterskull Smashing
3 Giant Killer
As long as Lovestruck Beast and Bonecrusher Giant are still around, Giant Killer will have a job to do. Furthermore, the tap ability on it is quite good so even hitting it off of a Winota trigger isn’t too bad.
2 Embereth Shieldbreaker
The Great Henge is still great so we need to be prepared just in case.
2 Heartless Act
I want to limit the amount of non-creatures I play in a Winota deck, but having a few cheap removal spells can’t hurt.
2 Showdown of the Skalds
I preached the good word of Showdown of the Skalds in the spoiler season, and it makes its debut in the sideboard as well. Unfortunately for Showdown, it isn’t at it’s best here as a non-creature in a deck with a somewhat higher curve, but it’s still a very powerful card for slower matchups.
2 The Akroan War
This card is just nuts in any creature matchup and also has great synergy with our 4 Woe Strider.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
The metagame is starting to solidify a bit so I can start adding on more common matchups you may see on ladder.
|+3 Giant Killer||-3 Kargan Intimidator|
|+2 Embereth Shieldbreaker||-4 Skyclave Shade|
|+2 Heartless Act||-1 Woe Strider|
|+2 The Akroan War||-1 Embercleave|
This matchup is really going to come down on how the hands line up against each other as every game is super close. A lot of our smaller creatures line up quite poorly against their early game so we have to take those out. With that, it does make Winota worse, but in the same vein, both of these decks can struggle to actually interact with Winota as well. Control their large creatures, try not to let them get an early Henge, and this matchup is definitely winnable, but no game will ever be easy.
|+4 Kitesail Freebooter||-2 Kargan Intimidator|
|+2 Heartless Act||-2 Kenrith, the Returned King|
This is one of the few decks I would say has an actively good Rogues matchup as we do a lot of the stuff Rogues hates to see: the deck’s fast, disruptive, and has cards that like being milled. Winota isn’t as important in this matchup as most of your random beaters will get there given enough time so the real goal is to not let them get too far ahead with Into the Story. To help stop that, Kitesail Freebooter goes a long way to be a thorn in Rogues side that they’ll have to answer, while also dealing with the rest of the board as well.
|+3 Giant Killer||-3 Kargan Intimidator|
|+2 Showdown of the Skalds||-1 Kenrith, the Returned King|
I haven’t played this matchup enough to know who’s favored, but I would venture a guess that it’s roughly even. They have a lot of interaction to disrupt what you’re trying to accomplish, but this deck is also quite good at keeping on the pressure. The hardest part of facing this deck is playing around their many interactive spells, but as long as you don’t do anything unnecessarily risky, you should be fine.
|+4 Kitesail Freebooter||-3 Valki, God of Lies|
|+2 Showdown of the Skalds||-1 Kargan Intimidator|
|-1 Kenrith, the Returned King|
This is pretty general sideboarding as it’s going to be largely dependent on what they’re playing, but here’s a good baseline to work with. Kitesail Freebooter is obviously great against decks playing a lot of non-creatures and Showdown of the Skalds is great for grinding. Embercleave becomes less important as Winota is going to function in a pretty similar way and you don’t need more cards that are bad if they have an excess of removal. Overall, I think Winota does well against Control decks as cards like Skyclave Shade and Woe Strider can make life very irritating for the opponent.
The metagame is still very fresh so it’s hard to plan accordingly, but I think Winota is in a prime spot to be a real contender. When you have a deck that has the potential to be fast, resilient, and disruptive, I think that generally should warrant looking into. If you’re facing a deck you’re not familiar with and aren’t sure how to board, just analyze what they did and extrapolate from there. Bring in cards that interact well with what they seem to be doing and take out cards that don’t help much in that matchup. In that capacity, always keep your curve in mind and remember that you rarely want to board too many cards in as it starts to mess with Winota’s game plan.
That’s all that I have for today! If you like my content and want to see more of it, you can check me out here! Thank you for reading and have a great day!