Decknology: Great Minds Think (Almost!) Alike

Written by Legit MTG on . Posted in Competitive Magic, FNM, Standard

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Decknology, a new weekly series with two Standard decks you can sleeve up tonight for Friday Night Magic. We hope to feature some Tier 1 decks and some spicy brews, but need your help! For a chance to be featured, submit your decklist with accompanying article (about 1,000 words) to editor@legitmtg.com. For best results, focus on what makes your 75 stand out from the crowd.

Naya Beats by Joseph Scalise

When he’s not writing or shooting hoops, Joseph Scalise is usually reading online articles, grinding at PTQs or playing in local FNMs. He would sleeve up White Weenie in every format but sometimes has to settle for other forms of aggro. Most of all, he is just a 21-year-old aspiring screenwriter who spends good chunks of his time on the sunny California coast slinging spells.

“I can call an army to my side in the blink of an eye. Best not blink.”

Those wise words are spoken by Yeva, Nature’s Herald, one of the most exciting cards in M13. Naya Aggro and Naya Pod are showing up at many top tables in Standard tournaments, and Yeva joins Thragtusk (the really real deal) and Thundermaw Hellkite (a sick-nasty flying beater) as great additions to these builds.

Yeva is a very interesting card because it gives aggro players the ability to actually play the “draw, go” style of Magic. Aggro players always want to turn their men sideways, and Yeva provides an entirely different avenue of play. At minimum, she is a 4/4 with flash, which dominates the ground in this current metagame by taking Strangleroot Geist, Geist of St. Traft, Snapcaster Mage, Blade Splicer and Huntmaster of the Fells.

Yeva will lead to situations where you flash her in at the end of your opponent’s turn, draw, play a land and then … pass? This creates a very sticky situation for your opponent. What do they do? What can you flash in? If they cannot directly kill or bounce Yeva, what are their choices? Do they pass and hope you have nothing in your grip? Do they try to answer whatever you flash in and hope you have nothing the following turn? This dilemma is exactly what make Yeva shine.

Yeva seems strongest in Naya colors. What if you flash her in, then draw, play land and pass white, red and green mana up? What if your opponent gets rid of her before attacking only to be ambushed by a Restoration Angel? What if they attack with their team and try only to be ambushed by a sneaky Huntmaster? Uh … gain two, trade with my wolf and block with my 4/4? This versatility is what makes Yeva very intriguing in the Naya builds that are adopting Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and going all in on creatures.

Certain creatures create all kinds of headaches for your opponents when flashed in. Hello, Thragtusk. Seriously, this beast is the definition of a beast. It does cost five mana, but it is a creature that is relevant against both aggro and control decks. Although it is a lot stronger against the aggro side of the metagame, the 3/3 is a great way to recover against wrath effects so you can keep on bashing.

If you have Thragtusk in your hand in your opening turns (or Green Sun’s Zenith) and you are playing against an aggro deck, you can play much more relaxed. You can take some damage here, some Geist hits there, and then Turn 5 (or Turn 4 with a mana dork) and BAM. You gain five life, basically setting back all their hard-worked damage, and then have a 5/3 on board? What if you Restoration Angel it? That’s 10 times better than restoring a Huntmaster. Gaining two life and a 2/2 wolf < Gaining five life and a 3/3. That’s just math. (Editor’s note: Fixed this equation. Joseph knows math. I apparently do not.) Thragtusk also offsets the life lost to [card]Gut Shot[card], [card]Dismember[card] and other free spells very well.

Dismember should continue to rise in popularity, especially with the printing of an aggro flyer that truly hits over the head like a sledgehammer. Thundermaw Hellkite is something a lot of people have wanted for a very, very long time — a constructed playable dragon, and no, Slumbering Dragon does not count. Outside of Dismember or any other kind of instant bounce or removal, Hellkite is a quick five to the face. It cannot be blocked with creatures barring those with reach when it enters play and effectively smacks your opponent upside the head for what quickly becomes lethal damage. It is another card that works very well with Restoration Angel — you can easily get in for some damage, then blink it with the Angel next turn before swinging in again.

I think you also want to run the full playset of Strangleroot Geists. Although three has become more popular in recent weeks because they get trumped by Restoration Angel and Blade Splicer, they become very, very powerful with the reprinting of Rancor. Turn 1 mana dork into Strangleroot Geist/Rancor is an extremely strong start that leaves your opponent at 16 life after Turn 2. That’s Goblin Guide damage! This is another package that allows the deck to quickly beat down and steal games. The prospect of placing Rancor on Thrun, the Last Troll or undying Geists is simply too powerful and too appealing.

The curve of the deck also works well because you can easily jump from one to three mana with the amount of accessible mana dorks. The mana also is supported by two Borderland Rangers, a card that has been very impressive. It fixes mana, allows you to accelerate and provides a blocker on the ground. In fact, sometimes this deck can go Turn 1 mana dork into Borderland Ranger so you can quickly cast your five-drops. The top end of the curve is something I really love about this deck because Thragtusk and Thundermaw Hellkite give it some extra reach and longevity usually absent in these type of builds.

In the original iteration of this list, I had Bonfire of the Damned over Dismember. However, after early testing I really wanted Dismember more. It has gone up and down in favor throughout its course in Standard, but it again has a time to shine. Taking down Restoration Angel is huge, but getting rid of Thundermaw Hellkite is invaluable. Bonfire is insanely powerful, and should be brought in against creature-heavy decks, but sometimes it gets there a little too late. Dismember does not have this problem, and Thragtusk helps you regain the draining of four life. Although Dismember doesn’t help with hexproof, it is a better call for the metagame and you can always bring Bonfire out of the sideboard.

May you always flash in your Huntmasters and your Hellkites never stop beating.

~Joseph Scalise

RG Aggro by Anthony Lowry

Anthony Lowry, also known as “Firebranded”, is a rising player from New York City known for his deckbuilding prowess and knack for aggressive strategies. He’s only been playing competitively since 2010, but he’s earned multiple top 16s in SCG Invitational Qualifiers, TCG player Qualifiers and similar events.

Since M13 came into standard, Michael Yip, Andy Tan and I have been working hard at the RG Aggro archetype. We wanted to take the most powerful M13 cards — Thundermaw Hellkite, Rancor and Thragtusk — and put them in the most aggressive deck possible. We spent the weeks leading up to M13′s release working on the Naya Pod archetype, but it slowly started becoming a Naya Aggro build. Soon after that, we eschewed the white and settled on RG.

Consistency is extremely important, which was part of the reason why we opted not to go with the Naya/Birthing Pod shell. Too often we’d run into problems with the manabase. While having access to white is certainly powerful because of cards like Blade Splicer, Restoration Angel and Sublime Archangel, we wanted a more reliable core.

Some of the cards we tried that didn’t pan out were Flinthoof Boar, Timberpack Wolf and Elvish Visionary. Flinthoof Boar was way too inconsistent, rarely being the 3/3 haste for three that was expected. Timberpack Wolf was actually very effective, but would take up too much space in the maindeck to maximize its effectiveness. Not only did you have to play four, but you had to run at least three Phyrexian Metamorphs, and probably the fourth Green Sun’s Zenith. Elvish Visionary was a fine two-drop, but it didn’t add enough pressure, and I didn’t want to spend time playing cards that drew cards in the maindeck. I’d rather just draw impact cards.

That first list wound up 3-1, losing to RB zombies in the final round because of some poor play. Overall, the maindeck overperformed against a not-so-easy field. The sideboard, however, was all over the place, and needed a lot of work. We’ve made adjustments since.

I quickly learned Thragtusk isn’t really where I want to be against decks with Vapor Snag. In fact, Vapor Snag was never really the problem. Too often I wished I had a second Wolfir Silverheart. First strike is a very big problem, specifically Blade Splicer and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Thragtusk and Rancor are both pretty embarrassing against decks packing both of these. Wolfir Silverheart is much better at handling that issue than Thragtusk is, and if we really needed the life gain that badly, and Huntmaster of the Fells isn’t enough, then there’s a pretty solid chance that we weren’t going to win that game anyway. Thragtusk is very solid against us, however, and trying to kill it as quickly as possible is important. Dismember isn’t the greatest answer, and the rest of the removal isn’t very effective outside of Bonfire of the Damned. Zealous Conscripts is decent at negating the five-life increase, but doesn’t really solve the problem. Sword of Feast and Famine is pretty effective, but Naya decks playing Thragtusk probably don’t care because of Restoration Angel. I’m open to suggestions on how to deal with the 5/3 beast (if we should worry about it at all!).

The second issue is the choice of sideboarded removal spells. We initially went with Pillar of Flame, mostly because we expected a lot of Strangleroot Geists, Gravecrawlers and Geralf’s Messengers running around. This was kind of accurate, but not good enough for me. The sorcery speed of Pillar was really bothering me, specifically in Delver and Rancor matchups. I didn’t really want Galvanic Blast either, since it wasn’t too great against Undying creatures, but was great against Rancors and Delvers. I’m definitely going with Gut Shot now, since it’s performing very well against Delver and Rancor, and much more efficient at dealing with the massive amount of mana dorks in the format. It is also the best answer to Blade Splicer that I’ve found. In the earlier renditions of the build, we weren’t realizing the problem wasn’t the golem token; it was Blade Splicer itself. You can also advance your gameplan and maximize your mana efficiency, while still dealing with the aforementioned cards.

The Garruk, Primal Hunter never felt very relevant either, mostly because Triumph of Ferocity fulfills a very similar role for a much lower cost. Triumph also has better evasion, isn’t as much mana investment, and pays for itself if you get even a single card out of it. You don’t get to generate a 3/3 Beast every turn, but the amount of actual cards you can gain is well worth the trade-off. Garruk was replaced with a second Ancient Grudge for a while, but I ultimately cut both Grudges and am playing an Acidic Slime and a singleton Combust. This particular build is very proactive, and I’m simply not a fan of having purely reactive answers in proactive decks, unless the effect is huge. Combust is one of those high impact reactive spells because it’s the best card at dealing with other high impact cards. Hero of Bladehold, Talrand, Sky Summoner, Restoration Angel, Delver of Secrets and Sublime Archangel all can win the game on the spot.

The last big concern was the ability to deal with opposing Dungrove Elders with Rancor, and Thundermaw Hellkites. A resolved Thundermaw can race incredibly fast, and a Dungrove Elder with Rancor is no slouch either. There’s only one card in the format I could find to deal with both of these reliably, and I definitely wouldn’t be embarrassed to play Deadly Recluse. Outside of Dismember, most monogreen decks aren’t going to have an easy time dealing with this. It’s even effective against Ulvenwald Tracker and Wolfir Silverheart, while playing nicely with your own. Decks with Thundermaw Hellkite will have much better access to spells that can kill it, but hopefully those resources are expended on your other major threats by the time a Hellkite is ready to strike. It’s probably best to just hold off on casting it/tutoring for it until a Hellkite or Silverheart is ready to hit the board anyway. The added utility of halting a Restoration Angel, Champion of the Parish and other major singular threats is not to be overlooked. It isn’t pretty, but it’s the best card for the job.

~Firebranded
Twitter: @aulowry

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