Yorion Isn’t Dead: Why You Should Ignore The Results Of The Zendikar Rising League Weekend

One small-field event is not enough reason to give up on Yorion decks in Zendikar Rising Standard. GerryT makes the case with his latest build.

Yorion, Sky Nomad, illustrated by Steven Belledin

So, let me get this straight. Yorion, Sky Nomad was the scourge of Zendikar Rising Standard for the majority of its post-ban Standard lifespan and we’re going to declare the deck DOA based on a small, weird tournament where the players were all trying to beat Yorion?

Cool, cool, cool.

Hot take: How about we analyze why the deck wasn’t successful and go from there? 

For starters, everyone who played Azorius played 80 cards. That isn’t inherently wrong but those versions are worse right now. We have more than enough playable cards to fill out a playable 80-card maindeck but it usually means playing counterspells or much worse versions of interaction or card advantage. 

Mystic Subdual Glass Casket

For example, Mystic Subdual can be a solid answer to Edgewall Innkeeper and Ruin Crab, among other things, but having to include it when you could play four Glass Caskets and a smaller deck isn’t ideal. It’s not doing to do enough against the Lovestruck Beasts that you’ll run up against. 

Both of the 60-card Yorion decks in the Zendikar Rising League Weekend were Selesnya but they were also the most successful. Selesnya has some advantages over Azorius but not enough to justify that big of a delta in win rates. 

Secondly, those 80-card decks usually consisted of counterspells, which are great for fighting opposing Yorions and not much else. If you decided that Yorion was the strongest deck, it would be easy to assume that many players would play it. It’s understandable to then try to tune your Yorion deck to beat the mirror and assume you either beat everything else or wouldn’t play against many other decks. 

Sadly for those players, most of the field came to the same conclusions, except that instead of playing Yorion themselves, they played Dimir Rogues. 

Perhaps the biggest reason while Yorion flopped is because they cannibalized themselves with inconsistent builds and cards that were mostly good against mirrors or other slower decks. There’s zero reason why Yorion’s poor performance should be an indicator that Yorion itself is a bad strategy. 

So, with that knowledge, let’s go back to the drawing board. 

Gruul Adventures crushed Zendikar Rising League Weekend, Rakdos Midrange did well, and the best-performing Dimir Rogues deck had sixteen creatures. Creature removal is cool again. The counterspells that those Yorion players packed their decks with decidedly are not. We have to account for creature decks while making sure we’re not rolling over to Dimir Rogues or the rare Temur Ramp decks.

This is a very clean 60-card decklist playing only the cards I want to be playing. It has game against everything and can be tuned to fight anything that it’s particularly weak against. One of the main reasons you want 60 cards is because casting Yorion, Sky Nomad on Turn 5 is incredible and something you want to do against basically every opponent.

Charming Prince Barrin, Tolarian Archmage

We’re not playing the weaker, value-oriented cards like Charming Prince or Barrin, Tolarian Archmage. That was by far the worst part of the 80-card Yorion decks. The truth is, you don’t have to work that hard in order to make Yorion or Skyclave Apparition powerful. A single Yorion blink on an Omen of the Sea or refreshing a Mazemind Tome will eventually lead you to a situation where you’re blinking multiple permanents somewhere down the line. 

Most of the cards we’re playing, aside from Omen of the Sun, are powerful enough to stand on their own. Those cards also contribute to the same game plan, except for Dream Trawler. However, Dream Trawler is a powerful card that reads “I win the game” against many decks in the format. It’s also something that can win the game in situations where some Yorion-fueled value can’t. 

Dream Trawler Solemn Simulacrum

Solemn Simulacrum is the single holdover from the original Barrin lists and many players have removed them. I don’t blame them, as Solemn can be mediocre at times but I’ve enjoyed the value and acceleration. Drawing multiples isn’t ideal though.

Mazemind Tome was a card I suspected would slip into Yorion decks when it was released but it hasn’t gotten widespread adaptation yet. Omen of the Sea is obviously the best thing to blink with Yorion and a big part of the reason why most Yorion decks include blue. For the most part, Mazemind Tome has only shown up in nonblue lists as a sort of Omen replacement. Azorius would play more Omen of the Seas if it could. Golden Egg is solid but Mazemind Tome is better and I’m very happy with its inclusion.

Mazemind Tome Waker of Waves

Waker of Waves is another potential card for the “proxy Omen of the Sea” slot, especially since it combines well with Elspeth Conquers Death. I tried it and it was exactly fine. Meanwhile, Mazemind Tome is always fine and can sometimes hard-carry through games. 

Our manabase is relatively straightforward. We want early blue sources for Omen of the Sea but need an abundance of white for Skyclave Apparition and Shatter the Sky. Thankfully, there aren’t many colorless lands that tempt us, so we’re only playing colored sources. Azorius doesn’t have the strongest manabase but we can make do with some two-color lands, The Birth of Meletis, and card selection from Omen of the Sea and Mazemind Tome.

Raugrin Triome Tranquil Cove

Raugrin Triome is a popular choice over the other options, such as Tranquil Cove. Triome helps the various Castles enter the battlefield untapped and can cycle if you’re flooding out, but neither of those things matters in my version. I’ve built the deck to maximize the snowballing capabilities, which typically means leaning into velocity and using your mana every turn. Basically, if you have excess mana to spend on cycling or activating a Castle, you’re probably losing. Getting a cycle, some scrying, or a 1/1 is unlikely to save you. 

Obviously, not every game can go according to plan but the extra life from Tranquil Cove is going to matter more than cycling. Yorion decks typically want to make every land drop, so cycling is dubious at best. 

Skyclave Cleric Glasspool Mimic

Both Skyclave Cleric and Glasspool Mimic are worthy of consideration. Ondu Inversion is also cute against decks with Trail of Crumbs and Doom Foretold. With a mana curve that includes several five-drops, I’d prefer to keep the amount of lands that enter the battlefield tapped to a minimum. In order for a DFC to make the cut, it has to either enter untapped or have the potential to have a profound effect on the game. 

Oddly enough, the one that’s mostly likely to fit that description is Skyclave Cleric. Against a deck like Gruul Adventures, it can block early and help stabilize you thanks to Yorion. The others are more of a luxury, but if there’s a matchup where you want some extra percentage points, you can probably find something.

My Yorion list mostly has cards that neatly fit into buckets, which makes sideboarding relatively straightforward. In matchups where you don’t need to interact with creatures, you can cut Glass Caskets and the like. Similarly, the cards in the sideboard are meant to address graveyards, fighting on the stack, card advantage wars, and removing creatures. You won’t find any convoluted sideboard plans with Yorion because you don’t need them.

VS Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)


Shatter the Sky Shatter the Sky Elspeth Conquers Death Elspeth Conquers Death Elspeth Conquers Death Omen of the Sun Omen of the Sun


Glimpse of Freedom Glimpse of Freedom Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mazemind Tome

The Birth of Meletis can be underwhelming here but I consider it part of the manabase, especially in matchups where you can afford to spend time on it in the early-game. It doesn’t accomplish much here but the 0/4 and lifegain can give you an extra turn to try to stick a game-winner. 

I want to cut Dream Trawlers but you have so many must-counter threats that it’s not that difficult to stick, especially with four Mystical Disputes to back it up. 

Try not to get your Glimpse of Freedom hit by Cling to Dust and you should be fine. None of their cards will work. If Dimir Rogues is a larger portion of the metagame, Glimpse of Freedom is a maindeckable way to handle it. You would sideboard it out against everything else but it would dramatically improve the Game 1 win percentage. Sideboarding a third copy to really pressure their Clings is also reasonable.

If they’re the Shark Typhoon version, keep in mind that they will eventually plan on hard-casting the card at some point. Essence Scatter is much weaker against them and Elspeth Conquers Death has more value. Negate is also better against that version. Since the Lurrus versions performed much better than the Shark Typhoon versions, I’d expect it to continue being the popular version. 

VS Azorius Blink (Yorion)


Shatter the Sky Shatter the Sky Omen of the Sun Omen of the Sun Glass Casket Glass Casket Glass Casket Glass Casket


Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Heliod's Intervention Negate Negate Mazemind Tome

Having more card advantage with Mazemind Tome is a huge boon here. You will typically get run over if you don’t have the same stuff as your opponent. Maybe you draw fewer Omen of the Seas, Skyclave Apparitions, or Yorions than your opponent and get buried. Assuming your draws are equal, it will come down to disrupting their Yorions. Either counter them or blow up their blink targets and force them to play an anemic game. 

If they seem to be leaning on Dream Trawler, you might want to keep in a Shatter the Sky or two but that’s not a great plan against a deck with Essence Scatter and Mystical Dispute.

VS Temur Ramp


Dream Trawler Dream Trawler Omen of the Sun Omen of the Sun The Birth of Meletis The Birth of Meletis Solemn Simulacrum Solemn Simulacrum


Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Negate Negate Mazemind Tome Shatter the Sky

Your early-game will consist of stopping their mana-producing creatures. They’ll often recover with a Cultivate and start jamming big spells. For the most part, you can stop whatever they’re trying to do because they’re usually only casting one spell per turn. Genesis Ultimatum is the exception here, so stop that from resolving at all costs.

Essence Scatter will be able to trade profitably with Llanowar Visionary, Terror of the Peaks, and Beanstalk Giant. However, they’ll usually be able to play around it by casting noncreatures on the turn you have a very obvious Essence Scatter. You can mitigate that by having Omen of the Sea or a Mazemind Tome activation ready to go if they don’t play into you.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon can be a problem but you can usually anticipate when it’s about to get cast. A cool trick is to cast a second copy of Yorion, keep the original, and use the blink effect to remove the original. That will bring the original back at the end of your turn, which will allow you to blink your permanents until your opponent’s end step, keeping them safe from Ugin for a turn. 

VS Gruul Adventures


Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Solemn Simulacrum


Shatter the Sky Shatter the Sky Giant Killer

I feel like we should have more for this matchup but not much matters outside of Shatter the Sky. You want to mitigate the potential damage from Embercleave and The Great Henge since those are their best cards but Shatter the Sky can mitigate their efficacy. Once their battlefield is swept, you can answer the big cards with Elspeth Conquers Death.

Heliod’s Intervention is a potential answer, albeit one that is very clunky. Disenchant is an option and might be a good call considering how strong their artifacts are. It does have a high likelihood of being dead though. 

Giant Killer is cute because it’s instant-speed interaction against Embercleave and the body can stop Embercleave on its own.

VS Rakdos Midrange


Elspeth Conquers Death Essence Scatter Essence Scatter


Soul-Guide Lantern Soul-Guide Lantern Mazemind Tome

This matchup is odd. Your cards can line up perfectly against theirs but their deck comes at you from a ton of different angles. Glass Casket doesn’t work against Liliana, Waker of the Dead; Elspeth Conquers Death doesn’t do anything against Kroxa; and the grindy elements don’t matter if they have a particularly aggressive draw. Thankfully, cards like Skyclave Apparition and Omen of the Sea are good against everything they’re trying to do.

Having access to a sweeper can be nice but it’s not something you want to flood on. Their clock is relatively slow but you’ll often want to sweep away some tokens at some point. If you’re doing your thing and keeping up, it won’t be necessary but sometimes you need the emergency reset. 

Shaving Elspeth Conquers Death can be dangerous because of Liliana. They have so few viable targets that it makes sense though. Plus, you still have Skyclave Apparition to take care of it but those are stretched thin because of Kroxa. 

Soar On, Big Bird

Azorius Blink is still great. It’s going to be a fixture of Zendikar Rising Standard until the next set is released, at the very least. You can choose to ignore it but eventually people will revisit it and start putting up results. I highly recommend being the person setting the trends, not the person who loses to them.