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Compulsive Research: Back to School

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Compulsive Research 700x235

Welcome back, dear friends!

I initially started to stream and write these articles almost a year ago under the Modern Mastery banner with a single hope and purpose; to make Day 2 of GP Toronto, which was a Modern event. The stream series allowed us to really analyze the Modern metagame at the time, and tune a single deck in preparation of the main GP.  We ended up just short of the goal, but the process proved to be quite sound.

Fast forward to today, and we find ourselves in a familiar situation. GP Calgary happens in the end of July, and I will be there.  It’s Jay Boosh’s bachelor weekend, and I’m there to bash.  We have been able to play a bunch of different decks in the format over the last couple months, and as such, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what the top decks in the format will be.

As such, I have decided on a deck to tune for the GP: Naya Midrange.

Breaking It Down

Traditionally, I have identified as a control player. Islands were always my home, and I love me some Plains.  It was during the end of the Modern Mastery stream when I was playing xMiMx’s Bloody Zoo deck, when one of my amazing readers asked me why I identify this way when I play so well with midrange decks and so very terribly with control decks.  I was forced to perform a Fearless Magical Inventory on myself, and after carefully taking stock of the decks that I have both had the most fun playing, and the ones that have brought me the most success, I ended up staring a potent truth in the face; I’m actually a midrange player.  I love Jund, both in Modern and Standard, and have always loved other interactive midrange decks like Bant, BW Tokens, and Junk.  It was time to suck it up and look for the best collection of dudes to turn sideways.

I have been playing Jund on paper for most of the last 2 months, and have become quite comfortable with the deck.  That being said, I have had my share of experiences where drawing the wrong side of my deck resulted in a loss.  Jund is one of the most powerful decks card for card, and is capable of winning every game if it pulls the right combination of draws.  With the format speeding up to try to combat the two prominent decks in the format (Jund and Junk Reanimator), I decided it was time to play something else.

I had the luxury of spell slinging for Sketchbook Comics in St Catherines, Ontario, and for that event I decided to try Adam Prosak’s4c Reanimator.  This deck showed itself to be the very best game one deck in the format, and I went 40-7 in games throughout the day.  I didn’t feel good about the prospect of having to play against an overwhelming amount of graveyard hate over two or three game sets for an entire GP, so I couldn’t confidently select this deck.  What the experience did provide me however, was a lesson in how good this card is right now:

Boros Reckoner did everything that I wanted it to in a game of Magic; it gave fits and nightmares to aggro decks, and presented a real threat that would be difficult to remove often without costing the opponent damage.  Since green is the king of midrange, and Voice of Resurgence is a heck of a magic card, I quickly decided on Naya Midrange as the place I wanted to be.

There have been a huge number of lists that have been doing well both in paper tournaments, and more importantly, on MTGO. Willy Edel has written a number of articles on the subject, most recently on Channel Fireball. This really cemented the decision to play this deck for GP Calgary, as even with M14, the deck stands to gain a lot.  Scavenging Ooze should very likely help to push Unburial Rites out of the format, and having incidental value against Snapcaster Mage should create another must-remove threat for control after the full set of Voice of Resurgence (crafty Ooze players will not allow it to die to a Pillar of Flame.)  As long as Trogdor is in the format, I can promise you that I will be raining fire down from the skies on my opponents.

One of the more powerful interactions in current Standard is between Boros Reckoner and Domri Rade.  This little two-step can be used to often two-for-one your opponent, while still retaining your board state.  Domri really presents a unique threat to your opponent when surrounded by a high creature volume in the deck.  Midrange mirrors are often decided by resource management, and Domri can provide a great source of card advantage with his plus ability, allow you to effectively dictate the flow of creatures on the board through his fight ability, and set up a nearly unbeatable trump with his ultimate ability.

He really does do it all, he just can’t do it alone.

This list contains a number of different ways to add value to Domri’s abilities, especially with the amount of creature pump that we have at our disposal.  Saving Domri’s fight ability until after combat is often correct, especially when you have a Ghor-Clan Rampager to use on your attacker first.  We also need to be aware of the timing on Domri’s first ability during control matches; always attack first so that you can redraw the creatures that get Azorius Charm-ed back to the top of your deck.

I have been working on this Naya list for a number of weeks now, with a few guys that I have come to really like working with – Jason Clark (@realevilgenius), Chris Lansdell (@lansdellicious) and Dan Dusang (@CapnTopDeck).  The list had seen a number of different iterations, some with main-deck Blasphemous Act and some with main deck Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, but ultimately the list took shape in this fashion when Chris suggested Firemane Avenger.  We really didn’t like Restoration Angel in the deck, as we had almost no value to gain by playing a 3 /4 flyer with flash.  The creatures didn’t benefit from the Angel’s blink ability, so we set out to replace her.  We didn’t want to play Huntmaster of the Fells mainly because I don’t feel they will ever be as good in Naya as they are in Jund.  Naya just plays almost entirely on it’s own turn, so you lose so much velocity when you have to pass to flip your werewolf.  Without a Huntmaster to blink, Angel was hitting the showers.

Enter Firemane Angel.  In the midrange mirror, which we expected to be more common, Lightning Helix is amazing.  Being able to attach this to a creature seemed very good, but Firemane Angel suffers from a very relevant drawback; it can’t attack into Restoration Angel.  Hilarious irony right?  The solution thankfully came to me when watching BBD play a Naya deck on the SCG Select side.  I had felt like the overall card quality was lacking in our initial lists, and wanted decidedly more resilience from our threat selection.  Ghor-Clan Rampager does not care about your blocking, sir!  It also is a trick you can draw off of Domri’s plus ability, and a respectable trample creature in it’s own right.  I was sold.

The last couple of cards came together also quite quickly.  Increasing the haste quotient of the deck would become more important, and watching my opponents play turn two 3 /3 creatures against me made Flinthoof Boar a wonderful addition.  Selesnya Charm is another card which can be used as a trick to push damage through with a trample and a boost, and can exile the typical huge offenders like Thundermaw Hellkite, Angel of Serenity, Obzedat, Ghost Council and even occasionally Falkenrath Aristocrats.  In game one, it also can become another creature at instant speed to help trigger battalion unexpectedly or simply to trade with a Firefist Striker or other such pesky creatures.

The list was complete:


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Let’s talk about the matches!

Rd 1 – RWB Aristocrats –

-Game one we get stuck on three lands with all of our huge guys in hand; our opponent shows us main deck Obzedat, at which point we struggle valiantly to deny the inevitable smothering from Ghost Dad 2.0.

-SB: + 3 Unflinching Courage, +3 Bonfire of the Damned, +2 Rest in Peace, -4 Voice of Resurgence, -2 Firemane Avenger, -2 Domri Rade. All of these cards help to us to race a series of small or token creatures while taking away the most powerful mechanic the deck has – morbid. Voice and Rest in Peace is a non-bo, and with the volume of non creatures coming in, some Domri had to hit the bench.

-Game two we mull to six, while our opponent mulls to five.  They get stuck on lands early, while we have all gas, a miracled Bonfire, and Trogdor off the top to put it away.

-Game three we keep the perfect curve of seven cards, and curve out on the poor opponent topping off with unflinching courage on a Loxodon Smiter. Wurmcoil Engine anyone?

After having it proven that Kessig Wolf Run is superior than Gavony Township in this match, I made the change for the rest of the matches.

Rd 2 – Esper Control

-We keep a hand with turn one Pilgrim, turn two Voice, and another Voice into a Loxodon Smiter and a land.  Not knowing we were against Esper Control at the time, it was a good keep. After seeing Watery Grave and then Godless Shrine from the opponent, I knew it was an amazing keep.  We put all our guys on the table, and then Thundermaw brought the finishing blow to the opponent and his army of Lingering Souls.

-SB: +2 Assemble the Legion, +2 Boros Charm, +1 Oblivion Ring, -3 Selesnya Charm, -2 Firemane Avenger. Expecting a high volume of wrath effects after board, we decided that the need for us to overextend to make Avenger amazing seemed like a bad idea.

-Game two we mulligan to five on the draw, but get rewarded for aggressive mulligans with two lands, a Boros Charm, a Flinthoof Boar and a Thundermaw Hellkite.  Thankfully, our opponent doesn’t apply much pressure, which lets us find lands, and three of our four Thundermaw Hellkites.  The opponent concedes the turn before we ultimate Domri, after casting the third Hellkite with Assemble the Legion in hand if all else failed.

Rd 3 – Junk Tokens

-Game one we get the perfect flow of creatures, which demolish the Voice of Resurgence and both sides of an opposing Lingering Souls before the opponent can play anything else. I put him on Junk Aristocrats and make these changes.

-SB: +3 Bonfire of the Damned, +2 Rest in Peace, +1 Oblivion Ring, -4 Voice of Resurgence, -1 Selesnya Charm, -1 Domri Rade

-Game two the opponent shows us the true nature of the deck, and buries us in Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice into multiple Lingering Souls and Gavony Township. Knowing what we are now up against, we change the plan.

-SB:-2 Selesnya Charm, -2 Rest in Peace, +3 Unflinching Courage, +1 Ray of Revelation

-Game three we mulligan to five again, get our opponent to five life, and then proceed to get buried by Garruk, Primal Hunter and Advent of the Wurm tokens. It didn’t help that we drew lands off the top for four consecutive turns until we were crushed.  Ah variance, you are a cruel mistress….

Rd 4 – Izzet Blitz

This is the deck that Travis Woo has been advocating lately.  It is very powerful and very explosive, while also being a relatively cheap deck to build. I expect we will see it more and more in the coming weeks on MTGO. Game one we look to be in good shape, but a Guttersnipe and a number of burn spells take us out with an opponent at six life.

-SB: +3 Bonfire of the Damned, +2 Rest in Peace, +1 Oblivion Ring, +2 Unflinching Courage, -4 Thundermaw Hellkite, -3 Selesnya Charm, -1 Voice of Resurgence

-Game two the opponent stumbles on mana and we get Avenger online with two Rest in Peace in hand.

-Game three goes a little longer, but the opponent bricks a few draws and Unflinching Courage demonstrates its value in damage races. the game closes with a critical Domri fight resulting in the win.

Wrapping It Up

Overall, the deck was a huge blast to play, and even with some poor mulligan results, we were able to pull most of the games out. The cards seem so powerful, and allow you to basically smother the opponent under a herd of elephants.  I have a couple of changes to make this week as we further tinker with the creature slots, so tune in next week when I run this hopefully through an actual 8 -Man or Daily if available.

This week’s winner of LegitMTG money is Marcos Rodriguez. Please make sure you email sales@legitmtg.com with the ID of your legitmtg.com user account to collect! If you don’t comment on the article, you can’t win any money. I look to the comment section for your valuable input on the deck choice, card ideas, and play advice. Please continue to leave them. I read the stream chat, but if you aren’t live with me I can’t get your feedback.

Huge thanks also to the team over at MTGO Traders. They really do make this whole thing possible. Don’t forget to tell them that Scotty sent you. It really helps let them know that what they do for us is awesome.

See you all tonight! I have some further Angelic antics for us to get into!

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