Hello, my name is Josh Bickle and this is the first in a series of articles that will continue to look at Standard Magic as it evolves; from deck building, to play strategies, to individual cards, we will delve deep into the heart of Magic’s most changing format. Today we are going to start by looking at a card that was recently printed in M15 and that had quite the All-Star showing at Pro Tour ’15: Nissa, Worldwaker.

When Nissa Revane was printed back in Zendikar she was a lot of fun as a tribal Planeswalker. Overall, that tribal side of her really limited her power and playability as she wasn’t worth running outside of elf based decks and, at four mana to cast, she hasn’t had much of an impact on other formats. A few years later, enter Nissa, Worldwaker who in all fairness is once again very tribal like with all of her abilities circling around one very specific area. The difference from Worldwaker and Revane, however, is that Worldwaker focuses on your lands and can find a fit in almost any deck that is running green.

Currently in Standard green has some very playable cards. Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix, Polukranos, World Eater, and a wide variety of others are staples in the format. Nissa, Worldwaker makes green much more playable and encourages you to want to play green much more. The only real limitation to Nissa, Worldwaker is the double green mana cost and an ability that targets forests, making you more inclined to play her in a deck that green is the primary color. Let’s take a look at the abilities that Worldwaker brings to the table.

+1: Target land you control becomes a 4/4 Elemental creature with trample. It’s still a land. Extremely Fast U.s.

This ability is amazing and can be a major difference maker in a game. If you need an attacker you are getting a strong attacker, if you need someone to defend Nissa, Worldwaker or your life, now you’ve got it. Being able to turn a land into a powerful creature is without question a strong ability and just adds extra value to your deck. This “creature land” also has some pretty decent advantages in the current meta of magic. It is far bigger than most aggro based creatures and it escapes removal such as Planar Cleansing, Abrupt Decay, Bile Blight, and Lightning Strike.

However this is where you have to find the balance and know if it is the right match to play this ability against or if you can afford to lose the land as this creature will still fall to Putrefy, Doomblade, Hero’s Downfall, Mizzium Mortars, and a wide variety of other targeted removal spells. When played properly this doesn’t get you down all that much and possibly creates a great target to soak up a removal spell you don’t want in your opponents hand. When played without giving any thought, you could be down a creature and a land that you needed.

+1: Untap up to four target Forests.

What is this you say? You want me to play a powerful Planeswalker, untap four lands and then leave myself with a wide array of options left open? This ability is pure yes and won’t be more powerful then it currently is and it should be taken advantage of. In October when Ravnica cycles we are likely to lose our shock lands and then this ability is only going to target basic forests (unless new duals are printed). So for now you can play Nissa, Worldwaker out untap up to four lands and then possibly play another creature or Planeswalker or even represent a removal spell of your own. This ability can be used effectively across a sweep of different decks and just adds a lot of value as you hope to drop a strong Planeswalker on the board for just one mana. The only drawback it can have is only being able to untap two land, which is only a drawback depending on the hand you are holding.

-7: Search your library for any number of basic land cards, put them onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library. Those lands become 4/4 Elemental creatures with trample. They are still lands.

I’ve had many conversations with people regarding this ability, some of those people swear by it, while others do not believe it is strong. I tend to be in the middle. Is this the most powerful ultimate ever created on a Planeswalker? No. Is this ability good? Yes. Let’s start with the drawbacks of the ability. First, it is taking five turns at best before this ability is going off, and unless you are in a very bad spot, it is likely that five turns of turning your own lands into creatures or getting extra mana per turn should put you in a strong enough spot to finish the game. If you are in a good spot, then Nissa, Worldwaker should finish the game for you anyway. Plus needing five turns to go off can give your opponent a lot of time to find answers (of course this is dependent on the match-up).

Now let’s say we reach the point where this ability is going to go off. We need to ask ourselves some questions. First, is my deck running enough basic lands to make this ability useful? In a world of shocks, temples, and pain lands, basics don’t always creep into the list. Next, what is my opponent running? This ability can be crushed by a Supreme Verdict, an Aetherize, or an overloaded Mizzium Mortars cleaning your board. A Polymorphist’s Jest or Bile Blight can makie them all 1/1 and manageable. Depending on how many other lands you turned into creatures this could be devastating. Positive part is, black normally isn’t accompanied by a creature swarm to deal with all the creatures, and if you are facing a blue opponent or overloaded Mortars is easy to see coming.

Take the bad away and live in the land of everything went perfect in your game and you just woke the world on your opponent who doesn’t really have an answer. You’ve likely won the game as 4/4 tramplers can finish the job. But the more useful plus of this card is the mind game. The average player sees a Planeswalker and fears what it can do without thinking of the path it takes to get to the places it can “do the most damage”. That means that this ability creates a very strong fear generator that causes your opponent to focus on “when is Nissa going off”. Never underestimate how powerful that can be in a game of magic.

We’ve now taken a glimpse at what the Worldwaker can do and you may have begun to hypothesize over decks she can be run in, or you might remember her starring role in Jund Walkers if you follow Pro Magic at all. I am going to go ahead and say until it cycles Nissa, Worldwaker is going to be an impact player in Standard. With that said,  I shall provide some sort of evidence to back this claim up. Below we will take a look at three decks that can certainly be competitive in current standard that Nissa, Worldwaker is an All-Star player in.

Monogreen Devotion

Creatures (28)
Burning-Tree Emissary
Courser of Kruphix
Eidolon of Blossoms
Elvish Mysitc
Genesis Hydra
Nylea, God of Hunt
Polukranos, World Eater
Sylvan Caryatid
Voyaging Saytr

Planeswalkers (4)
Nissa, Worldwaker
Garruk, Caller of Beasts

Artifacts (2)
Bow of Nylea

Spells (2)
Chord of Calling
Lands (24)
20 Forest
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Darksteel Citadel

Sideboard (15)
Arbor Colossus
Nylea's Disciple
Reclamation Sage
Setessan Tactics
Sylvan Primordial
Hornet Queen
Mistcutter Hydra

The first thing you might notice about this Devotion deck is that it doesn’t focus on pumping out the big fatties like most monogreen devotion decks do. This deck is a much faster paced deck that drops a lot of threats. Eidolon of Blossoms is such an underrated card and this deck takes full advantage of it. Being able to access card draw when playing Eidolon, Courser of Kruphix, Nylea, or her bow can lead to some very strong card advantage. With access to a lot of mana you can potentially combo like crazy using Eidolon and a well-timed Chord of Calling or Genesis Hydra. I once managed to draw around 10 cards and play them all out.

Due to the focus on smaller creatures, Garruk becomes less important in this deck and Nissa begins to shine even brighter. When playing Nissa, Worldwaker you can bring in another 4/4 creature or you can untap your lands and play almost any card in your deck. The extra mana in this deck can be used to get solid monstrous activations with Polukranos or pump with Nylea, God of the Hunt. It also very casts Chords of Calling effectively while leaving extra mana up, or allows for a very strong Genesis Hydra.

This deck performs very well against other aggro match-ups. It pumps out creatures they have trouble dealing with, and has very solid defensive creatures as well in Courser of Kruphix, Sylvan Caryatid, Polukranos, and Nissa, Worldwaker lands. A very underrated card is also the Bow of Nylea. Giving your attacking creatures deathtouch is crucial to pushing through damage, many players are caught off guard by the fact a deathtouching creature with trample only needs to assign one damage to the blocking creature, and the rest tramples over. Outside of that, the bow can pump creatures, give you additional life to play with, or pull a creature back from the graveyard for Chord of Calling. Bow of Nylea does it’s work and it does it well. Your aggro match is very good even before adding in Nylea’s Disciple, Mistcutter Hydra, or Hornet Queen post sideboard.

Control match ups can be a little bit more difficult, particularly facing off against a Pack Rat which outside of Polukranos the deck doesn’t really have an answer to. This can create an issue where you may not want to play the deck due to the dominance of Pack Rat, but if your opponent can’t slam one early or at all, your Monoblack Control or BW Midrange match ups are actually pretty favorable. Post sideboard provides access to Hornet Queen and Setessan Tactics which can really go a long way. UW Control is however a more difficult match that you lose as often as you win. Overall my experience with this deck has been positive and has certainly taken its fair share of wins and I believe it is just a matter of finding the sideboard that really works before this deck really starts taking the meta by storm.

For now though, a slightly different take on the deck might be in order.

UG Devotion

Creatures (25)
Courser of Kruphix
Elvish Mystic
Kiora's Follower
Nylea, God of the Hunt
Polukranos, World Eater
Prime Speaker Zegana
Prophet of Kruphix
Sylvan Caryatid
Scuttling Doom Engine

Planeswalkers (6)
Nissa, Worldwaker
Kiora, the Crashing Wave

Spells (8)
Chord of Calling
Cyclonic Rift
Simic Charm
Lands (23)
Breeding Pool
Forest
Island
Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx
Temple of Mystery
Yavimaya Coast

Sideboard (15)
Scuttling Doom Engine
Arbor Colossus
Mistcutter Hydra
Negate
Reclamation Sage
Nylea's Disciple

On first glance you should be able to see that this deck runs quite a bit differently than the monogreen version it was born from. There is a higher emphasis on bigger creatures in combination with getting threats out of your way. Let’s start off with why we would run this version as opposed to the monogreen version. I present my first case in Simic Charm. Often considered one of the weaker charms, in this deck it is an all-star. This is one of the most fantastic defensive cards in standard, a +3/+3 pump, all your permanents gaining hexproof, or bouncing a creature to your opponents hand assists in defending your board and/or punching through your opponents defense. With a large manabase this deck also can make great use of Cyclonic Rift, easily being able to bounce an opponent’s entire board back to their hand.

Prime Speaker Zegena provides an excellent aggro option and hand restock source while Prophet of Kruphix is a nightmare for aggro based decks. But the bigger reason is the Planewalkers are all-stars in this deck. First off, they are very easily protected. Kiora, the Crashing Wave can shut down damage sources, provide additional land to feed Nissa, Worldwaker, and draw cards. There is also a very strong possibility of her going ultimate if not answered by a spell. Nissa, Worldwaker is also a big stand out in the deck, assisting with additional casting or adding additional big threats to the board. Negate and Scuttling Doom Engine also provides you with some great sideboard options.

This deck slows down a bit from Monogreen and because of that it actually has more issues stabilizing against the aggro matchup. A good starting hand can pretty much ensure victory, but often you may find the need to bounce creatures and play catch up which can be frustrating. However this doesn’t mean that the deck can’t perform against the aggro match up. If your deck stabilizes it can spell the end of aggro decks, plus the Doom Engine, Nylea’s Disciple, and Mistcutter Hydra in the sideboard can make post board a nightmare for most aggro decks.

On the flip side we have vastly improved our control based match ups. We have an ability to protect our creatures and deal with the more difficult creatures from Monoblack and B/W Midrange. We also have a decent answers for planeswalkers as well. Negate can be a huge win post board for the deck in assisting in the protection of our creatures or stopping difficult spells. The control match certainly shifts in our favor. Perhaps our most difficult match becomes Monored Burn as it may take too long to create a solid enough counter attack.

For the most part this deck performs really well, and once again showcases Nissa, Worldwaker as the all-star that she is. It is a much more complicated deck, with more thought process going into it, and it doesn’t quite have the run you over engine that monogreen does, nor the runaway match-ups. What it does have is a more stable and consistent base that provides better all-around match-ups if that is your style of play.

Finally we will take a look at a deck that needs no real introduction!

Jund Superfriends

Creatures (14)
Courser of Kruphix
Elvish Mystic
Sylvan Caryatid
Mutavault

Planeswalkers (11)
Chandra, Pyromaster
Nissa, Worldwaker
Vraska the Unseen
Xenagos, the Reveler

Spells (13)
Abrupt Decay
Dreadbore
Golgari Charm
Hero's Downfall
Mizzium Mortars
Putrefy
Rakdo's Return
Thoughtseize
Lands (24)
Blood Crypt
Forest
Llanowar Wastes
Mutavault
Overgrown Tomb
Stomping Ground
Temple of Abandon
Temple of Malice
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Sideboard (15)
Abrupt Decay
Golgari Charm
Magma Spray
Mistcutter Hydra
Mizzium Mortars
Scavenging Ooze
Slaughter Games
Thoughtseize

This is a typical Jund deck pure and simple. It plays all the good cards you could want, can be aggressive, stops your opponent’s board, and messes with their hand. No deck can do so many things so efficiently as Jund can. This deck was also the first deck to really show off the true power of Nissa, Worldwaker when Yuuki Ichikawa piloted to a Top 8 finish. The list I am showing is a bit different, finding a happy medium with Pierre Mondon that I have been doing very well with. As the name would imply this deck is all about getting there with your Planeswalkers, and in this regard Nissa and Xenagos are your two go to peeps and they can wreak havoc on an opposing player.

The deck is also able to pull two amazing defensive creatures from the green suite in Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid once again playing key roles. The other thing that Jund does well is control the board and with access to Abrupt Decay, Dreadbore, Mizzium Mortars, Putrefy, and Hero’s Downfall your opponent shouldn’t expect to keep their Creatures or own Planeswalkers around for very long. To top it all off, Rakdos’s Return and Thoughseize does a number on opposing hands and strategies. Slaughter Games and Scavenging Ooze also provide two sideboard card options that can truly cause your opponents a lot of issues.

The best part about this deck is it might not have a particularly weak match up. It CAN struggle against aggro decks, however after sideboarding it also becomes a much more streamlined and faster deck with better answers. It loves to see other control decks as it takes them to task with Planeswalker after Planeswalker. Powerful decks like UW Control or other decks that rely on one or two combo pieces can be ripped apart by hand control and get decimated by Slaughter Games post board.

While this deck is a very powerful and favorable deck, it is also a very difficult deck to pilot, more so if you are running this version to showcase the power of Nissa, Worldwaker. You have to know the meta very well, know when you can afford to take some damage, when it is important to use a spell, and when you can afford to risk losing a land into a creature. This deck will never take advantage of the Nissa ultimate as it doesn’t have enough targets, which means Nissa is exclusively there to create land creatures and untap mana.

So that is a look at one of our newest Planeswalkers and how she can effect standard for the next few months until we cycle into Khans of Tarkir and see what Wizards has up their sleeve for us. If you have suggestions or comments I look forward to discussion in the comments below. If you have a card or deck that you would like me to feature in a future column (Standard only) then you can reply in the comments or follow me on Twitter at Josh_Bickle!

Until next time!