Single Card Spotlight: Winding Constrictor

Posted in Event Coverage on February 4, 2017

By Meghan Wolff

Meghan is one half of the Good Luck High Five podcast and an adjunct professor at Tolarian Community College. She loves Limited, likes Modern, and dips her toes into each Standard season. She's decidedly blue and is the #1 hater of Siege Rhino in the Multiverse.

Occasionally, a card comes along, a common or uncommon that earns the rare distinction of a premium place in the Standard format. Not as a sideboard inclusion or in ones and twos in main decks, but as a full four-of. A card around which players build entire decks.

Winding Constrictor, the 2/3 snake for a black and a green, is just such a card.

Slithering into a Standard Constructed tournament near you.

Maybe it was all in the timing. It arrived on the Standard scene at the right moment. Emrakul's untimely departure from Standard left black-green decks with a power vacuum, and into that vacuum slithered Winding Constrictor, an oddly fitting heir to Emrakul's tentacled reign.

Or maybe it's all in its capabilities.

If one or more counters would be placed on an artifact or creature you control, that many plus one of each of those kinds of counters are placed on that permanent instead.

If you would get one or more counters, you get that many plus one of each of those kinds of counters instead.

Winding Constrictor's abilities are fairly straightforward. The question a card like this begs isn't how it's best used, but how it can be most profitably abused.

Winding Constrictor isn't too far off from Hardened Scales, the rare enchantment from Khans of Tarkir that, like the Constrictor, added an additional +1/+1 counter to creatures already getting one.

Players fiddled with Hardened Scales during its months in Standard, but it wasn't until Grand Prix Houston, just weeks before the card was set to rotate out of the format, that Hardened Scales finally found a home in a powerful green-white deck full of +1/+1 counter effects. Pro Tour competitors weren't about to let Winding Constrictor suffer the same fate.

Players building around the Aether Revolt uncommon have a slew of powerful cards to choose from. Amongst them are all-stars from the Standard season preceding the introduction of Kaladesh, like Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar was a frequent inclusion in Green-White Tokens decks, but saw a decline in popularity with the rise of decks like Green-Black Delirium and White-Blue Flash. With Winding Constrictor in Standard, Nissa looks primed to make a comeback.

"I feel that if you have a Winding Constrictor and two other creatures, you're pretty unlikely to lose if you minus on a Nissa," said Thien Nguyen, a member of Team Fire Squad who went 4-1 in the Standard portion of Day One with Black-Green Constrictor.

Thien Nguyen of Team Fire Squad is more than aware of the power that Winding Constrictor packs with cards like Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar isn't even Nguyen's favorite card to cast with Winding Constrictor, nor is it the only way to create an insurmountable advantage.

"I think Rishkar is the biggest thing that makes [Winding Constrictor] very, very good," Nguyen said. "Going turn two Winding Constrictor into turn three Rishkar, personally I believe that's the best combination in Standard. I think people would say that it's Saheeli and Felidar Guardian, but if you have Winding Constrictor into Rishkar turn three, it's pretty comparable to your opponent dying immediately."

Nguyen's deck varies from many other Constrictor decks in that it runs a full four copies of Rishkar, Peema Renegade, because its effect with Winding Constrictor is so powerful.

This is only a small sampling of Winding Constrictor's many synergies with cards in the current Standard format. There's also Walking Ballista, the powerful artifact that the Constrictor gives an extra counter, and that is many players' card of choice for preventing the Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian combo.

There are cards like Verdurous Gearhulk, the Kaladesh mythic that's impressive on its own but, as Nguyen says, "if you have a Winding Constrictor out, you make like, three Verdurous Gearhulks."

Some Constrictor decks in Dublin chose to capitalize on the fact that Winding Constrictor also adds an energy counter any time a player would get energy, some by running Glint-Sleeve Siphoner to draw cards, others by moving into red and playing cards like Harnessed Lightning.

Whatever synergies it's sinking its fangs into at any given moment, it's apparent that Winding Constrictor arrived in the right format at the right time, poised to strike at the fresh Standard metagame.

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