Today we're going to step into Standard's wonderful world of aggressive decks. We will talk specifically about Gruul Adventures and Naya Winota, decks that have been standing out a lot in the last few weeks in the main tournaments of the format.
And how has the metagame changed to make these two decks so popular and successful lately? We saw Sultai Ultimatum having a drop in winrate and participation in championships and the rise of some anti-meta control decks, so to speak. We have Dimir, Sultai and Izzet control trying to go against each other with different form of recursion and finishers. Dimir Control looks like a worse Sultai Control, as Polukranos, Unchained and Binding the Old Gods are exceptional cards.
Izzet has many well-placed removals, such as Cinderclasm and Redcap Melee, both of which are already being used in the maindeck in an attempt to punish Gruul and Winota. Dimir Rogues has also seen increased participation in tournaments with more aggro-focused builds using maindeck Crippling Fear and multiple copies of Heartless Act and Power Word Kill.
One of the engines on the deck is the mana boost we have with Jaspera Sentinel + Magda, Brazen Outlaw. This combination enables Esika’s Chariot, Goldspan Dragon, or doubling plays on turns 3 and 4 to make more board presence.
Plus we can tutor the dragon, the chariot, or Embercleave with Magda's activated ability, if she untaps a few times. It is for this ability that some lists run Rimrock Knight // Boulder Rush, as it synergizes with Magda or even Masked Vandal who, in addition to synergy for being a shapeshifter, exiles a target artifact or enchantment, being good to prevent the Chariot from untapping. Also, let's talk a little about the card that gives consistency and pressure to Gruul and Naya Winota, Esika’s Chariot.
The Chariot is problematic to resolve because it always generates 2-for-1, or 3-for-1 with the two 2/2 tokens created when it enters the battlefield. When it attacks, we can copy a Cat token, a 1/1 token from Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire, or even a Treasure token from Magda, which serves as a ramp to activate her ability earlier to search for an Embercleave to close the game. We have some removals for the Chariot, but once it enters the battlefield, it always generates an advantage that forces the other side to exchange resources negatively due to the tokens. Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice a land to use Redcap Melee on the artifact to deal with it.
Another piece of consistency are the manlands Den of the Bugbear and Lair of the Hydra. The disadvantage of entering tapped when having more than 2 lands is offset by the opportunity to not make useless landrops in the late game, as we will have creatures to apply pressure if necessary. Another consistency piece brought by Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is Ranger Class. Not only does it create board advantage by creating a 2/2 token when it comes into play, but it also applies pressure easily and can make any trade unfavorable on level 2 and create card advantage quickly at level 3. It's not a kind of The Great Henge, but it turns out to be cheaper and better for early game than Eldraine's artifact.
On top of that, the already widely discussed Adventures package generates plenty of card advantage and is indispensable for aggressive decks. The curious thing is that the deck has lost its focus on Adventures and is centered on the aforementioned synergy of Jaspera and Magda. I think it's much better to keep a hand with Jaspera on 1 and Magda on 2 with some other cards than a hand without them and 3 or 4 adventures because adventure hands end up being slow for a format where Jaspera at 1 is indisputably the stronger play. The Adventures end up supporting the deck to be more consistent and have more card advantage mechanisms, but it is not the center of strategy.
The other deck I'd like to talk about in the article is Naya Winota, which is making great results. Esika’s Chariot and Jaspera Sentinel managed to do what seemed impossible: bring consistency to a Winota, Joiner of Forces deck, a card that relies heavily on the game's variance. As stated before, the Chariot generates pressure on the board and that makes exchanges unfavorable for the opponent, in addition to being able to be piloted by Winota and triggering her ability once again. Meanwhile, Jaspera Sentinel brings consistency to the deck by ensuring more often than not we'll be able to cast a 4 drop on turn 3 or 4.
In addition to being a non-human that triggers Winota, it creates a treasure token to increase the chance of casting a 4-drop on turn 3 and still gains life when a creature enters the battlefield under your control, an ability that has proven relevant in a format where aggressive decks dominate – remember that it has synergy with the Chariot, gaining 2 life with the 2 tokens that enters the battlefield.
All these consistency factors, card advantage and aggressiveness at the same time make this the best Winota deck we've ever had in the format. Although we still rely on the luck factor of how many humans Winota reveals from the top, and we always want Blade Historian among those cards, the deck manages to press hard enough before the deck's star appears or even wins the game without Winota showing up.
One last point is that having Jaspera to generate any color of mana and Prosperous Innkeeper creating treasure, we can activate all of Kenrith's abilities, making the card a powerful late-game engine and the main threat at this stage of the game. You can loop creatures from the graveyard and revive them every turn, draw cards when needed, gain life, or leave your creatures huge with counters.
Until the arrival of Innistrad, I believe that the format won't present many changes. At most, it will happen what we've been witnessing for a while, a rotation of the best decks in the format because deck X is good against deck Y which is good against deck Z. Izzet Control itself has good matches against both aggro decks over which we discuss in the article, but it's not a good deck against Sultai, for example. From that point on, the meta may be adapting week after week for tournaments, but I don't think we'll see new decks popping up until the next set.
That's it for today. You can leave any questions, comments or feedback below!
See you soon!