Last week, I wrote about the possible directions companions go in Modern now that their rules have been changed. It seems there has been plenty of stretching to make companion work despite the nerf, and today, we’ll take a look at some of the breakout decks wielding Yorion, Sky Nomad.
Here’s a quote from my last piece:
With Yorion Uroza being neutered, I expect some less-competitive Yorion decks to gain traction in the metagame. While they won’t climb to Tier 1, I’d be surprised if previously fringe choices such as UW Blink and green-based value creature decks didn’t take up some of the shares left vacant by the de-powered Yorion decks of old.
It definitely seems like the Yorion deck we’d see over and over again pre-nerf has broken up into many small factions, among them value creature decks, focused blink strategies, distinct strands of combo, and even draw-go control. Read on to see how players are integrating the companion!
Yorion decks all play with tempo in some way: they tend to try delaying the game until they can cast and resolve Yorion, Sky Nomad and reap the value of blinking their cantripping permanents, not to mention the sudden board boost of a 4/5 flier. Then, they often continue using disruptive tactics to help their clock get there.
Still, some Yorion decks toe the tempo line more closely than others. The following couple decks show us how tempo-centric Yorion can go, running bloated suites of value creatures in the fish tradition.
While Urza established itself as the top Yorion deck back when companion was free, it didn’t look like this—here, Yorion Urza stocks up on cantrip and ETB effects like Wall of Blossoms and Thraben Inspector. If it’s going to invest more heavily into the Yorion plan, the deck wants to have more of a payoff for its trouble, and netting 1-3 additional effects with a cast of the companion seems like it’s worth the extra three mana. Besides, Wall of Blossoms happens to be great at blocking small attackers, so the card may also be filling a niche in combatting the high-performing Prowess decks while the metagame readjusts.
Yorion Vial flashes in the likes of Ice-Fang Coatl, Stoneforge Mystic, and Eternal Witness for instant-speed value with its namesake artifact, adding to its embarrassment of resources by blinking the whole lot of them with Ephemerate. When Yorion was first spoiled, this is the kind of shell I envisioned in my head, although it ended up taking us a whole metagame of cookie-cutter Urza lists for an all-in value creature plan to actually prove worthwhile!
This 8th-place finish for Yorion Vial doesn’t mark the deck’s first success in this new metagame. CFTSOC3 previously brought the deck to 3-2 in a Modern Preliminary. The pilot’s back-to-back finishes with their creation (I couldn’t spot any similar Yorion Vial lists in the 5-0 dumps until after this high-profile finish) suggests that rather than putting up a single 5-0 and then disappearing, Yorion Vial may have legs—and more importantly, that if players carefully tweak a build and stick with it, payoffs may abound.
Tempo is a breed of aggro-control. But something that has always differentiated Yorion shells from their non-companion midrange counterparts is how close to the control end of the spectrum they could sometimes fall. The next two decks employ Yorion as a control finisher of sorts in shells that certainly don’t plan on winning early.
This Yorion Control deck is a little different than most Yorion shells, which end up being control-slanted relative to the metagame at large, in that it splashes black into the Bant core for additional control options. Abrupt Decay and Assassin's Trophy provide flexible permanent removal, why Kaya’s Guile attacks graveyard interactions. Unmoored Ego also makes the sideboard, dismantling specific-card combo decks.
All that splashing comes at little cost thanks to Arcum's Astrolabe and Abundant Growth, which make running extra colors rather painless; both are cantrips players want to pack for their benefits with Yorion anyway. Should Yorion strategies find themselves longing after off-color spells, going four-color isn’t the worst idea—those spells also help reach the 80-card mark for Yorion’s companion condition. I imagine we’ll see experiments dipping into red or even red-black, perhaps at the expense of white, in the near future.
Yorion Stoneblade runs Stoneforge Mystic as a reversible win condition that can create a board presence early and also generates value with Yorion. Even the Batterskull fished up by Stoneforge can be blinked to make a new Germ!
While Stoneforge fetching Skull helps against aggro, PBARRRGH doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to winning the control mirror, packing a full set of A-Teferi, Time Raveler and even 2 Dovin's Veto in the sideboard.
Blink and You'll Miss the Combo
Landing Yorion can feel like achieving the “big turn” definitive of so many combo decks, lending the deck a combo dimension. But the rest of the decks we’ll look at today take the companion’s combo potential to new heights.
Like the Time Warp decks of Modern past, Yorion Turns seeks to take extra turns and extract as much value from them as possible. That doesn’t usually mean combat steps, although the free draws from Uro are quite alluring; most of the deck’s value lies in repeating planeswalker activations and reusing all its mana. Wrenn and Six is run at four copies to maximize the deck’s ability to make its land drops, a key reason to be taking extra turns, as there’s no shortage of ways to spend a lot in this build.
Yorion Wilderness sees the new companion rule and says: 3 mana? What's 3 mana? Indeed, with Wilderness Reclamation in the picture, 3 mana does seem trivial. But the deck’s goal isn’t just to grab Yorion on the cheap—it’s built to abuse the mana created by the enchantment, featuring plenty of card draw in the form of Fact or Fiction and everyone’s (least) favorite Wilderness interaction, Nexus of Fate. Helping fill out the card count are Growth Spiral and Goremand, on-plan cantrips that respectively accelerate the pilot or disrupt opponents.
Reclamation isn’t the only strategy that can make use of some land-ramping, and Yorion Scapeshift also seeks to fill out its 80 cards with Growth Spiral, Goremand, and Uro. It seems like this deck plays similarly to Modern's older Scapeshift decks in that it ramps to seven lands while delaying opponents as much as possible and then casts its namesake sorcery for the win. Yorion gives it an attractive Plan B, drowning opponents in value should they try to disrupt the build’s more linear strategy.
More to Come...
The other companions are settling into new homes, too. Tune in at the end of the month to see the other developments Modern underwent in June!