Bringing Yorion, Sky Nomad To Historic

Sam Black seeks Historic’s first great Yorion deck. He exhaustively details the options to maximize it before presenting two builds.

Yorion, Sky Nomad, illustrated by Steven Belledin

Looking over the results from recent Historic tournaments, I notice that Yorion, Sky Nomad is seeing very little play.  It’s hard for me to believe that Yorion isn’t a strong enough card, so I have to suspect that people just haven’t figured out how to use it yet.  I’d like to take a stab at fixing that.  I do have a build that I like, but rather than starting with that and explaining my choices, I’d like to work to have a better understanding of Yorion’s options in the format by examining what each color has to offer for the archetype.

Any deck with Yorion has to be either white or blue, so those are the most important colors.  Let’s look at the draws to both:


Legion's Landing

This discount Omen of the Sun is one of the few one-mana permanents that can generate a real material advantage, and while you lose the ability to blink it if it transforms, you shouldn’t exactly be sad that your one-mana 1/1 lifelinker gave you an improved Castle Ardenvale.  It’s not particularly high-impact, and legendary matters in a deck that’s trying to stack permanents and doesn’t care very much about a 1/1 creature, but I think this is a pretty great card at one or two copies.


Apparently this card is legal, which was news to me as of a couple of minutes ago.  If your deck is full of creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities, this will have a lot of options, and it’s particularly nice in response to Skyclave Apparition’s trigger.

Charming Prince

I’ve found this to be a little low-impact, but it’s a good way to generate endless Yorion loops and its floor isn’t that low.

Glass Casket

I think Auras (either Orzhov or Azorius) may be the deck to beat in Historic, and if it isn’t, the deck to beat is probably some other aggro deck like Mono-Red or Gruul. Glass Casket is good to great against all of these, and generally a great way to clean up Skyclave Apparition tokens.

Momentary Blink

Another weirdly legal card, this might be better than Cloudshift if you’re playing both white and blue.

Militia Bugler

This probably only works in certain builds of Yorion, but if you have enough hits that this will routinely find something, it’s an interesting option since you get better stats than most value creatures. And as we learned from the third toughness on Reflector Mage, that can matter a lot.

Omen of the Sun

This is something of a staple in Standard Yorion decks, but I think merely a consideration in Historic.

Skyclave Apparition

The best white card in the format also happens to work extremely well with Yorion, which makes it the biggest draw to white.

Archon of Sun's Grace

This is only good if you have a lot of enchantments, but it’s one of the highest impact finishers you can add to a Yorion deck.

Cavalier of Dawn

It requires a lot of white mana, but it offers a powerful body and versatile removal spell.  I’d want to make sure my deck is constructed in such a way that I can expect an artifact or enchantment to end up in my graveyard pretty often, so this plays well with Sagas.

Elspeth Conquers Death

Speaking of Sagas, while this plays well with Cavalier of Dawn, you can only play so many five-mana cards and you’re likely playing copies of Yorion itself, so these two are largely competing for the same space.  I’ve expected that Elspeth Conquers Death would be the better choice, but to be honest, I’ve been a little disappointed with how often my opponent doesn’t have anything for me to exile, so Cavalier of Dawn might actually be better if triple white isn’t a problem.


Fblthp, the Lost

As with Legion’s Landing, I’d be very careful about playing multiple copies of this card, but I do think there’s enough value to having random creatures around that the first copy isn’t even clearly worse than Omen of the Sea.

Omen of the Sea

The good cantrip. Adding flash and scry 2 clearly sets this ahead of all the random artifacts that draw a card when they enter the battlefield.  This is one of the best blue cards with Yorion.

Barrin, Tolarian Archmage

It’s really nice to get effects that immediately impact the battlefield, and while this is no Skyclave Apparition, it’s the best blue has to offer.

Exclusion Mage

This is much weaker than Barrin — it can’t target planeswalkers or your own creatures, and while Barrin rarely draws cards, this never does, but it’s easier to cast and not legendary. So if you want a lot of this effect, you might play some of these before you play the fourth or maybe even the third Barrin.

Champion of Wits

This is a really strong card, but a lot of the strength is in the late-game inevitability that eternalize offers and that’s not really an area where Yorion needs help.  There are some reasons you’d want cards in your graveyard, and if you’re playing enough of those, this might make sense to play, but I think it’s unlikely.

Glasspool Mimic

I’m kind of obsessed with this card with Yorion.  It’s not as good in the more controlling builds that play a lot of counterspells, but if you’re building Yorion as a tap-out value deck, Glasspool Mimic is awesome.

Sailor of Means

This has a pretty solid body for a value creature and offers a unique resource, which makes it interesting.  I’m not really excited about the fact that this lets me cast Yorion on Turn 4, since Yorion is stronger the more time I’ve had to build up my battlefield, but if enough of my value is in the form of drawing cards, creating Treasure could help me convert that impactfully later down the line.  Not likely, but an interesting option.

Both colors also offer a variety of instants, sorceries, and planeswalkers depending on what kind of game you’re trying to play.  Any sort of Azorius Control deck or any control or midrange deck featuring either of these colors can play Yorion, so an exhaustive consideration of the options available isn’t realistic.  I’m not trying to suggest that a Yorion deck can’t play Wrath of God or Censor by leaving those cards off these lists; I’m just trying to highlight cards that specifically interact with Yorion’s ability.

If you’re not drawn to other cards offered by the color, and you’re just looking for the best cards to blink with Yorion, I think white offers better tools than blue, because blue’s strength is primarily in drawing cards and just as I’ve discussed in building Yorion decks in Standard, I think it’s even more true in Historic that you need the power from both Yorion and the spells you cast that build up to Yorion to immediately impact the battlefield, not to build up your hand, which should have more than enough options regardless.


Omen of the Dead

I still believe this card is underrated and incredible with Yorion, offering an incredible amount of power to your mid- to end-game for at an extremely low cost.

Acquisitions Expert

Burglar Rat and Yarok’s Fenlurker are both legal and both lack the disadvantage that you won’t make your opponent discard if they kill it in response, but I think I still prefer Acquisitions Expert because the second toughness matters.  There are a good number of one-power creatures around and this doesn’t die to Goblin Chainwhirler.

Lithoform Blight

I think this is a little low-impact for my taste, but it is an enchantment if you care about that type and there are a lot of lands with abilities, so it has some chance.

Trial of Ambition

This is the biggest draw to black for me.  There aren’t a lot of two-mana permanents that immediately impact the battlefield and this does so in one of the best possible ways and in a way that is often particularly good to repeat.  This might be my single highest priority to include with Yorion.

Treacherous Blessing

This is the highest impact you’ll get for your mana when it comes to drawing extra cards.  It’s very hard to run out of resources if you cast a single Treacherous Blessing, but again, I’m not sure you’re likely to run out of resources in most matchups even if you don’t, so I prioritize this less than others seem to.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Gonti is my pick for the most fun Magic card ever printed, so I’m absolutely here to try to generate more Gonti triggers.  The strength of its trigger ranges pretty widely from horrible against decks like Auras and Mono-Black Aggro to absolutely awesome if you can hit Karn, the Great Creator against an artifact deck.  As it happens, generally it seems like the worse the trigger is, the better deathtouch is.  I prefer this to drawing cards because it can offer access to things your deck can’t normally do, but it’s still a little low on immediate impact.

Ravenous Chupacabra

Before Skyclave Apparition was printed, I’d be pretty excited about this.  As is, it doesn’t feel all that exceptional, but it’s high on immediate impact.

Demonic Pact

This card has a pretty big Skyclave Apparition problem, and it’s a little on the slow side regardless, but it does powerful things with Yorion.

Liliana's Mastery

Did we need a bigger Omen of the Sun? Probably not, but it’s available.

The Eldest Reborn

The black Elspeth Conquers Death, its first ability is a little weaker and narrower, but the other abilities are arguably better, so this is a very reasonable consideration.

Unburial Rites

I mention this mostly to call attention to the fact that it’s legal in Historic, but it could be interesting to build with this and Champion of Wits.


Omen of the Forge

I love this card in Standard, but Trial of Ambition largely seems like a better version in Historic.  Still, this is a reasonable consideration.

Mask of Immolation

A weird midpoint between Omen of the Forge and Omen of the Sun, this has some interesting flexibility.

Wily Goblin

As I said with Sailor of Means, I’m not that excited about accelerating Yorion, but the deck can potentially use a lot of mana and the bar is quite a bit lower for output on two-mana permanents.  The biggest problem with this card is RR in the casting cost.

Trial of Zeal

Oath of Kaya is a lot better, but this isn’t legendary, which is a big deal.  If you’re red and not white and black, this is a reasonable consideration.


Arboreal Grazer

While I was talking down ramp in conjunction with Yorion, skipping from one to three sounds pretty good to me, since the two-mana cards aren’t that exciting, and this can continue to ramp you further with each Yorion trigger.  If a lot of your output is in the form of drawing extra cards, this is a great way to convert those cards into battlefield presence.  I’d view this as a way to mitigate overloading on card draw, so this pairs best with blue or Treacherous Blessing.

Elvish Visionary

Despite being exceptionally fragile, I think this is an above-average cantrip permanent, because creatures have more of an immediate impact than random artifacts and enchantments, and you can choose to use it to pressure planeswalkers or preserve your life total or whatever.  That said, it’s not a lot better.

Wall of Blossoms

I think this is the actual best cantrip available.  The body is actually a good blocker that buys meaningful amounts of time against a number of good decks while staying on the battlefield to blink.  This is the biggest draw to green for me.

Carven Caryatid

Another card I was surprised to learn is legal, this has a lot of the same things going for it as Wall of Blossoms, but three is a much bigger investment, and I’m not sure we really want to invest that much mana into a card that will only help us against decks that want to attack on the ground.

Elvish Rejuvenator

I still don’t love ramping, but if I’m going to ramp, this is the right kind of way to do it.  Just as I prefer Elvish Visionary to Golden Egg or whatever, I think I prefer Elvish Rejuvenator to Omen of the Hunt.  For the most part, I don’t think this is what I’m looking for, but it’s reasonable and I think it’s probably, but not definitely, better than Llanowar Visionary.

Jadelight Ranger

This is a weird mix of drawing cards, filling your graveyard, and getting an immediately relevant body, but where you’re not sure which combination of those things you’re going to get.  I don’t think I’m excited about this card, but if I’m particularly interested in filling my graveyard, I might give it another look.

Llanowar Visionary

Comparing this to Elvish Rejuvenator is really weird, since this both gives me more mana and also draws a card, but unlike Elvish Rejuvenator, if this dies, I don’t get the extra mana.  For the most part, I think I’ve decided that this isn’t the output I’m looking for, but I’m not especially confident about that.

Reclamation Sage

This is a nice effect to have access to, but if you’re playing white, Knight of Autumn is a much better card.


Originally paired with Restoration Angel, blinking Thragtusk has always been awesome.  Trying to curve five into five isn’t ideal, but this is a powerful card that can pull you back from pretty far behind.  Embercleave means this doesn’t absolutely crush Gruul decks like it used to, but it still does its thing pretty well.


Oath of Kaya

This is about as good as it gets for immediate interactive impact and is another really important card to me.

Basilica Bell-Haunt

This has a restrictive casting cost, but the output is pretty ideal for prolonging the game and grinding your opponent down.  This card could easily overperform.

Doom Foretold

I don’t know if my dislike for Doom Foretold in Yorion decks is irrational at this point, but I don’t think it is.  I thought it was too slow for Standard and it’s obviously even worse in Historic.  This card obviously has negative interactions with Yorion.  They’re paired together because they both like the same support cards, but I still don’t think that’s the right approach unless you’re specifically interested in cards that really want this effect like Treacherous Blessing and Demonic Pact.

Disinformation Campaign

Here’s a weird option, but if you have no interest in ever returning it to your hand, it might not seem so slow, and instead it just provides a good mix of grinding your opponent down while keeping your resources flowing when you blink it.

Hostage Taker

Unless you’re blowing up tokens with this, it wants you to put extra mana into it before you blink it, which might not be ideal, but it’s a creature with a great enters-the-battlefield ability, so it’s worth keeping in mind.

Acolyte of Affliction

There are lots of Gravedigger variants, and this is a a weird one to choose as the most interesting, but I love that this doesn’t require any setup; you can treat it as a cantrip creature that offers a bit of selection, yet it also contributes to “unbreakable” (slightly harder to disrupt) loops similar to Omen of the Dead, but in a way that scales better.

Knight of Autumn

I think there are enough artifacts and enchantments around that this is actually just a great maindeck card, given that its failsafe modes of gaining four life or getting two counters give it plenty of play when there isn’t a target to destroy.

Renegade Rallier

It’s cute that revolt is always on when you blink this, but I think it takes too much work to make sure you can consistently have something to return.

Yasharn, Implacable Earth

If you’re not playing anything that this messes with and you have enough basics that you can find, this is a solid way to make sure you keep making your land drops while potentially devastating some opponents.  This likely pairs particularly well with Arboreal Grazer.

There are several possible directions I didn’t go into deeply here.  For example, I left out the Food package that’s played with Yorion in Zendikar Rising Standard.  Similarly, in Historic, you can build around an energy package in the same way.  Like Food in Standard, that deck likely doesn’t want to play Yorion as a companion because there are only so many good energy cards and you want to play a high density of them.  Yorion is interesting with Aetherworks Marvel because it can blink all your energy producers to give you another shot, and it just plays a strong value game with Rogue Refiner and friends, but that’s not really the kind of thing I’m focusing on at the moment.  I want a companion.

Looking at the landscape of Historic, I think it’s most important not to get run over by Auras, Mono-Red, and Gruul. After that, I want to have game against Uro in various Sultai and Bant control/value shells, and then I’d ideally also like to have game against Aetherworks Marvel / Ugin, the Spirit Dragon / Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and also Mind Stone artifact decks that potentially have similar end-games.

I believe Yorion can accomplish all of that.

My priorities to make sure I have a good aggro matchup are Trial of Ambition, Glass Casket, Wall of Blossoms, Oath of Kaya, and Skyclave ApparitionWall of Blossoms is the least important of those.  I definitely want to play both white and black.  Green is appealing as a third color, but not strictly necessary.

Trial of Ambition, Glass Casket, and Skyclave Apparition offer some game against Uro, but to beat Uro decks I’ll also need to make sure I can keep up with them on resources, which shouldn’t be too hard, and also have answers to five-mana planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Nissa, Who Shakes the WorldElspeth Conquers Death and Cavalier of Dawn are good ways of accomplishing that.  The Eldest Reborn has a problem actually killing Nissa because they can generally sacrifice a land instead.

Elspeth Conquers Death can answer both Ugin and Ulamog, though both can do enough damage that it might be too late.

If I have Knight of Autumn, Skyclave Apparition, and Elspeth Conquers Death, I imagine it would be difficult for Mind Stone decks to get off the ground.

With all this in mind, the version I’ve been playing is Abzan:

I think this does a good job of focusing on keeping pace with the opponent in the early-game.  Rather than playing cantrips that don’t impact the battlefield on Turn 2 into a big play on Turn 4, this deck uses cheap interaction that builds up its own battlefield so that it’s in a stable enough position that it can play four-mana cards that contribute only marginally to the battlefield while building resources to allow it to reach a state of inevitability when it casts Yorion.  In such a diverse field, I think it’s important to try not to fall behind, since that requires precisely the right catchup mechanism, and that’s harder to pinpoint.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury is likely the most flexible card, and the last copies of Elvish Visionary, Knight of Autumn, and Acolyte of Affliction are negotiable.  I could see Cloudshift and Yasharn, Implacable Earth as top contenders for that space.

Another approach is to play up the discard aspect to grind the opponent down more proactively.  Consider this take:

I’m nervous about taking turns off for Omen of the Sea and Treacherous Blessing, but Basilica Bell-Haunt is pretty good at catching up and I like how much this deck can shred an opponent’s hand.  The challenge is that once you’ve made your opponent discard all their cards, doing more of that doesn’t get you anywhere, which is why this deck has to invest in cards like Omen of the Sea and Treacherous Blessing to make sure it can keep the ball rolling.

There are a lot of angles I haven’t considered here, but I think these are good starting points to figuring out a build of Yorion that can compete with the top decks in Historic.  I’m confident there’s something here.