Power Sink - Winota's Spelling Bee

Winota, Joiner of Forces | Art by Magalli Villenueve

Letter Rip

Welcome back to Power Sink, the article series where we do a new rendition of the commanders that usually spell disaster for the pod. This time we're calling on Winota, Joiner of Forces.

Winota is the third most popular Boros commander, with 5,847 decks on EDHREC at the time this was written. Overall, she is the 75th most popular commander on the site, and in my opinion, the most powerful commander in the color combination. Whenever you attack with a nonhuman creature, Winota lets you find a Human creature among the top six cards of your deck and put it on to the battlefield. Winota has plenty of options, as Humans are a prolific creature type in the game with 1,408 of them in Boros alone.

Cheating of mana costs is notoriously powerful in Magic, but the fact that Winota is also providing card advantage and giving that effect for each nonhuman attacker is ridiculous. Furthermore, she brings those Humans in tapped, attacking, and indestructible, so you can possibly get in extra damage and not have to worry about a bad block. It's no wonder Winota was banned from Brawl at the time and is currently banned in Pioneer and Explorer. We're here to talk about Commander, though, so let's see what the word is on Winota.

Winota - Average Deck

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Commander (1)
Creatures (45)
Enchantments (4)
Artifacts (8)
Sorceries (4)
Instants (8)
Lands (30)

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Winota is arguably the best stax commander in cEDH, and the average deck on EDHREC shows that influence. The deck works by generating nonhuman creatures with token-generators, like Loyal Apprentice and Dragon Fodder, or with cheap creatures, like Ornithopter and Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh. Once you have your early attackers, you can deploy the commander, attack, and start ripping the Humans out of your deck.

As it turns out, quite a few stax pieces are Humans, such as Drannith Magistrate, Ethersworn Canonist, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. It's not unusual for this deck to go from having a few tokens to having a lock on the game in a single attack. Nonhuman hatebears, such as Archon of Emeria and Aven Mindcensor, make sense as attackers to trigger Winota, but it's the presence of noncreature effects, like Deafening Silence and Rule of Law, alongside fast mana that really indicate how prevalent this direction is for the commander.

This direction makes a lot of sense as Winota effectively plays through the effects that limit everyone to one spell a turn. If the cEDH version appeals to you, you can check ComedIan's Snowball Stax list on the cEDH deck database here, as well as an excellent video from Moderately Anonymous MTG on how to play it here.

Even outside the competitive version, Winota can snowball into a deadly threat by cheating out some heavy hitters. Blade Historian and Angrath's Marauders show up on the average list, but Winota's EDHREC page also has some high-mana-value creatures, like Captain of the Watch, Geist-Honored Monk, and Silverwing Squadron, which could become a problem at more casual tables when you're dumping them out at the rate Winota can.

Now that we've spelled out what to expect from this commander, it's time for the Power Sink version to take the stage. We're turning Winota into a Boros spellslinger deck.

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I Before E Except After Combat

While a combat-focused commander like Winota seems at odds with a spellslinger deck, I think focusing on spells will allow for a more flexible gameplan that gives the other players a bit of breathing room to play a more relaxed game as opposed to the creature onslaught you often get with this commander.

Spellslinger decks tend to have a bit of tension between wanting to hold up mana for instants and resolving permanents in the main phase that reward them for casting those spells. Winota helps us with this by cheating permanents into play. Said permanents do have to be Human creatures to get cheated in this way, but there are quite a few that reward us for casting instants and sorceries. Kessig Flamebreather, Lambholt Raconteur, Firebrand Archer, and Thermo-Alchemist will ping our opponents whenever we cast an instant or sorcery, or in some cases just a noncreature spell. Rockslide Sorcerer only hits one target at a time, but we can point that at any target and weaken planeswalkers or pick off low-toughness creatures.

We can get our spells back with Anarchist, Ardent Elementalist, or Revolutionist. Monastery Mentor and Young Pyromancer add to our token army, while Strongarm Monk powers up said army. Rionya, Fire Dancer makes a token copy of a creature at combat as well as one more for each instant or sorcery we cast that turn. This is great for copying something like Ardent Elementalist to get back spells or Kessig Flamebreather for more damage.

We've also got some general purpose Humans to help smooth things out for the deck. Blade Historian and Frontier Warmonger make it easier for us to attack, while Ellyn Harbreeze, Busybody, Magus of the Wheel, and Loran of the Third Path help us with card advantage. Neyali, Suns' Vanguard gives us a bit of both worlds by giving our attacking tokens double strike and exiling cards to play when we attack with those tokens. Finally, Angrath's Marauders is here because double damage is great for everything we're doing here.

Now that we've gone over the Humans, let's talk about the spells we'll be slinging. We need nonhumans, so making tokens with instants and sorceries is a good way to get some. We have standbys, like Raise the Alarm and Secure the Wastes, but many of our token-makers have a secondary function. Martial Coup and White Sun's Twilight also serve as board wipes, and we can save our creatures from a wipe with Grand Crescendo. Charge of the Mites can also function as creature removal. Not Forgotten makes a Spirit and puts any card in our graveyard on top of our library. Imagine putting Angrath's Marauders back on top before setting off Winota.

Spell it Out

Since this deck can make so many creatures, we're leveraging that with burn spells that care about our creature count, like Mob Justice, Massive Raid, and Dogpile. Burn at the Stake and Flame Fusillade require us to tap our creatures, so they're great to use with our noncombatants. Finally, we've got Price of Progress to punish those greedy mana bases since we seem to be getting new nonbasic land options constantly.

We're going light on combat tricks because I want this to feel like a burn deck as much as an aggro deck, but You See a Pair of Goblins makes tokens, and Haze of Rage can be cast repeatedly to trigger our cards that care about instants and sorceries. Kindred Charge can copy all our Humans for a big attack or to double up on our pingers. Surge to Victory and Mizzix's Mastery recast our spells, but they can be potential game-enders if we have the right board state or spells in the graveyard.

End All Bee All

This was easily the toughest time I've had brewing a deck for this series in quite a while. Winota is a commander that requires a carefully balanced deck, and that becomes much harder when you want to add a bunch of spells alongside your creatures. It was an interesting challenge to maintain that balance and to find enough Humans to make a compelling argument for her as a spellslinger commander, but I felt like I had to beat this deck into submission to get it to do what I want at the end. Normally I'm the sort of brewer who puts a list together and fine tunes it after playing it a few times. I can't do that with my articles, but this one demanded perfection, or as close as I could get to it.

Are you a deckbuilding perfectionist? Does it have to come out right on the first try or do you like to figure it out on the fly? Did you ever have a deck that you just couldn't get right for the longest time? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments.

Lenny has been in an on again off again relationship with Magic since Fallen Empires. He fell in love with Commander in 2010 when his friends forced him to build Niv Mizzet, the Firemind and has been with the game ever since. When he's not turning cardboard sideways or trying to justify using bad draft commons in EDH decks you can find him playing something from his massive board game collection or practicing the Brazilian martial art Capoeira. Follow Lenny on twitter @LennyWooley

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