With Omnath Banned, Is Zendikar Rising Standard Now Yorion’s Yard?

Is Yorion, Sky Nomad a must-use card in Zendikar Rising Standard? World Champion PVDDR and six more SCG creators say what they’d play.

Yorion, Sky Nomad, illustrated by Steven Belledin

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the recent banning of Omnath, Locus of Creation; Escape to the Wilds; and Lucky Clover, what’s the deck to beat in Zendikar Rising Standard? That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Zendikar Rising Standard event! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!

When I posted a version of this list on Friday evening, no one knew quite what to make of it. My friend Yoman_5 asked if I was okay. Some people assumed it was just another of the multitudinous sketches I tend to share when I’m excited about deckbuilding, containing more of a raw idea than an actual finished product. Honestly, I think that’s mostly a correct assessment of this deck, except the core idea was so good that the rough edges didn’t matter.

Ondrej Strasky changed my Omen of the Hunts to Omen of the Suns and went undefeated in his Saturday tournament. Still, he was medium on the deck and I understand why. There are numbers and ideas worth tweaking here, but there’s no question I achieved my broader goal — I built the biggest midrange deck in Zendikar Rising Standard thus far. Now it needs to be cleaned up.

My core maindeck change is a swap away from The Great Henge and to Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate. The Great Henge doesn’t have great synergy in our deck. There aren’t a lot of big bodies and its not coming down all that early. It is the biggest thing you can do though, and in some matchups that’s critical. In most matchups though, casting a Yorion, Sky Nomad and grabbing a Charming Prince is plenty big enough. Maybe it’s dicey to soften up in the mirror when the deck is sure to pick up, but Elspeth Conquers Death is a fine out to The Great Henge once you know what they’re up to.

I can think of plenty of counters to this deck. Dimir Rogues is probably not a great matchup. Dream Trawler and Ugin are cards we are naturally soft against, though I’ve devoted more sideboard space to these issues now. We can use Sorcerous Spyglass to turn off hexproof when we’re ready to point removal at a Dream Trawler, and it’s our preemptive strike against an Ugin. I want to see if the format takes the necessary steps to react before I give up on the deck though. Plus, I already have some ideas about where to take Yorion next, coming in my article this week!

Dom Harvey — Naya Ramp (Jegantha)

It’s a really nice change to submit a list for a Standard What We’d Play without there being a clear best deck that makes you feel ashamed for registering something else. Every format looks more open than it really is in its early days, but this reboot of Zendikar Rising Standard genuinely looks more healthy and diverse than its recent predecessors. Aggro, midrange, control, and ramp are all showing up and no one deck has an alarming metagame share just yet.

If there’s one thing these strategies all have in common, it’s that they have to jockey for position on the battlefield. This leaves a gigantic hole for Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to ram through and Magic Online grinder lighdar used this realization to make their mark on the format this weekend with an old-school ramp shell reminiscent of Ugin’s homes from its first time in Standard. Phylath, World Sculptor with an effectively mono-basic manabase and Felidar Retreat give Naya Ramp (Jegantha) other worthwhile payoffs that capitalize on the lack of sweepers in the format, while Elder Gargaroth out of the sideboard is the best threat against anyone relying on cheap creatures.

This deck lacks the features that made ramp decks oppressive in Standard over and over again — mana doublers like Wilderness Reclamation and Nissa, Who Shakes the World or nonsense cards like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Omnath, Locus of Creation that do everything at all stages of the game — but it still finds ways to mitigate the usual risks of ramp strategies. Cultivate, Llanowar Visionary, and Solemn Simulacrum all replace themselves to stop you running out of cards, while double-faced cards like Bala Ged Recovery and Tangled Florahedron can be the missing piece of the puzzle or just your next land drop as required. 

Standard is finally balanced enough that you can basically play whatever you want, so obviously I want to play my own deck.

I think Yorion is the best way to win the grindy midrange matches that are becoming popular in Zendikar Rising Standard.  I’m not sure which color combination I like best, but I’ve been extremely impressed with both Skyclave Apparition and Wicked Wolf.  With these two and Elspeth Conquers Death as the backbone of my interaction, I feel comfortable against any opposing permanents.  Where Selesnya can struggle compared to Yorion decks with blue is with a lack of card advantage, but between Yorion’s ability to blink permanents that draw cards when they enter the battlefield and both Trail of Crumbs and Mazemind Tome as cheap engines, this deck can comfortably grind with blue decks.

The reason this archetype is so well-positioned is that Zendikar Rising Standard is very much about nonland permanents, and weirdly enough, green and white have the best removal right now.  All the answers are super versatile two-for-ones that you can blink and against aggro decks you can bring in Shatter the Sky on top of that.  It also doesn’t hurt that when this deck wins, it wins spectacularly.

I think Glasspool Mimic is one of the most underrated cards in Yorion decks that I’ve seen from other players, and it’s nice to have a splash that supports itself.  Don’t have blue mana? No problem — just play Glasspool Shore and you’ll be ready for the next one.

The final note on my deck compared to others: Bryan Gottlieb has recently lead a charge toward building 60-card Yorion decks that don’t take advantage of the companion clause.  I think this is a big mistake.  I think the card pool in Standard is easily deep enough that quality doesn’t suffer (I’d love to find something to cut for the fourth Mazemind Tome, but I like all my cards), and I think the Modern mana issue where bigger decks get better mana because you can play more basics and draw them less is in full effect here, to say nothing of the fact that literally losing the game because you run out of cards in your library is a very real possibility both in midrange mirrors and against opponents whose primary strategy is actually to mill you.

Corey Baumeister — Esper Doom Foretold (Yorion)

I’m a firm believer that Yorion is and will continue to be the best card in Standard until Kaldheim is released and I say that being completely and utterly unbiased due to my love and success with the card. The value you get from Yorion just outpaces any midrange deck that’s trying to answer your threats on a one-for-one basis. For now, that’s a big part of the Zendikar Rising Standard metagame.

The reason I have switched to Esper Doom Foretold instead of the traditional Azorius Blink lists with Yorion is really for the Azorius Blink matchup. I feel extremely favored thanks to Doom Foretold and Dance of the Manse and both of these cards attack Yorion decks in such a great way. Doom Foretold controls the “snowball” effect of a bunch of enchantments gaining value over the course of the game and Dance of the Manse is one of the few cards that goes over the top of Azorius Blink decks looking to abuse Yorion. That was the big reason that Yorion decks were not very good in Standard for quite a while; decks based around Omnath, Locus of Creation created this “go big or go home” metagame.

Outside of the mirror, Esper Doom Foretold is naturally good against aggro and midrange. And since there isn’t a good control deck in the metagame, that makes this the best deck in the format!

I’m fairly sure Yorion is the next egregious thing that will need to be scrubbed from Standard, even after the companion rule change tried its hardest to do that. The process of “take arbitrary game actions, then pay five mana and generate an assortment of the same arbitrary value, then often repeat indefinitely” is pretty oppressive. The only question is what Yorion deck is going to be the one that puts it over the edge, or whether the answer is just a mix of them.

For now, I’m starting with the Selesnya version that I believe originated with Bryan Gottlieb before Ondrej “had some self respect” and cut Omen of the Hunt and went on a winning streak. It loads up on proven good Throne of Eldraine cards, which is always a good sign your deck is doing overpowered things, and follows the recently successful model of having tons of mana and an overpowering threat.

Maybe it ends up that Esper Yorion with Doom Foretold, or Azorius Yorion, or just an 80-card version of the deck is better, but for now I’m assuming I should be playing Yorion until Ian Duke on some arbitrary Monday tells me I need to stop.

Carmen Handy — Jeskai Lukka (Yorion)

Yorions, Yorions everywhere.

Last weekend marked the first week of an Omnath-free Zendikar Rising Standard format, and with it, a boom of deck diversity.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much success to be had from the various flavors of aggro, which led to a ton of grindy slugfests fighting for the “best deck of the weekend” title.

Ondrej Strasky’s take on Bryan Gottlieb’s Selesnya Blink ended up being the talk of the town, crushing the CFB Pro Challenge event and making it look easy along the way.  That’s led the community down the go-bigger arms race to have the biggest battlefield at any given point.

In these races, the two options are to go the biggest or opt out of the fight entirely.  This version of Jeskai Lukka has the ability to fight on the grindy axis against other decks or be a pseudo-flash deck against opposing Yorion matchups.  With a lean curve and a pile of counterspells, the deck’s adaptability is incredibly attractive and Transmogrify creating a four-drop Dream Trawler is absolutely incredible.

The card is hard to kill in the Zendikar Rising Standard at the moment, and with Shark Typhoon at an all-time low, it’s running away with more games than it has in months.

Between the power of Negate and Dream Trawler in the current metagame, this feels like the best way to play a Yorion deck while having a concrete plan for the mirror, and I’d be happy to click submit on Jean-Emmanuel Depraz’s 75 if I had an event tomorrow.

After the latest bans, Zendikar Rising Standard seems to be in a pretty good place, as you can play basically any style of deck that you like. If you want to play aggro, you can play Mono-Red, Mono-Green, Gruul Adventures, Selesnya Adventures, or Winota builds. If you want to play control, you can play many different flavors of Yorion (Esper Doom Foretold, Selesnya Blink, Jeskai Lukka or straight Azorius). If you want to play midrange, you can play Golgari Adventures or Rakdos Midrange. If you’re looking for aggro-control, there’s Dimir Rogues. I consider all the decks I listed to be viable, which is pretty rare. 

That said, I still have my preferences. The aggro and midrange decks are all fine, but I’d rather be doing more powerful things. The mana for two-color aggro and midrange decks is still sketchy — Rakdos and Golgari don’t even get a multicolored untapped land, and while Azorius doesn’t either, it’s not nearly as big a deal if you’re not trying to be aggressive. Skyclave Apparition is also one of the best cards in Standard right now and a real boost for this deck, since it helps stabilizing early and getting rid of troublesome permanents later. 

Of the Yorion lists, I’ve liked the straight Azorius one the most. There are still some details to figure out when it comes to the decklist, and there are many different directions you can go towards (more counterspells, more early-game interaction, more removal or card drawing), so I’m sure my list will change a lot before it’s finalized, but this is where I am for now.