Power and Toughness—The Return of Naya

There was a less spiky turnout at Twenty Sided Store last night – I’m not sure if this is good or bad but it was definitely true. I ran the Naya list that won the Star City Standard Open over the weekend. After struggling through GW, BR, Jund, and countless Reanimator builds I went back home to GRW and was welcomed with open arms. Here’s the list:

4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk
4 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Farseek
4 Forest
3 Mountain
4 Cavern of Souls
3 Clifftop Retreat
2 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Temple Garden

3 Angel of Serenity
2 Zealous Conscripts
2 Rest in Peace
2 Garruk Relentless
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
4 Pillar of Flame

And here’s some commentary/reimagining:

Round One vs. Mike’s BR


Mike dropped his deck on the floor, parts of it, and I saw that there was a Messenger and a swamp and a Dragonskull Summit and was excited to try Naya against BR Zombie Aggro as I’d only played my deck against a single control deck on MTGO the night before and wondered about its matchup vs. an aggro strategy.

Game one I mull to six and keep something like Cavern, Cavern, Pilgrim, Smiter, Smiter, Hellkite. Pretty loose. I play Cavern on Human and drop a Pilgrim. The following turn I play Cavern on Elephant (double counter-proof! My dream card!) and turn three I smash, cast another one, followed by more smashing on turn four. He plays Geralf’s Messenger and an Elixir of Immortality (which threw me) on his turns, maybe another messenger. A few more attacks and I have him with Smiter beats. I wasn’t totally stoked on keeping the mull to six I kept – I think things get REALLY bad when I’m at five cards and knew I could dork out of the mana problems with my two Smiters and a few turns to draw some lands. It was clearly the wrong thing to do (keep this hand) but I was feeling it.

Game two he mulls to six. Early on I have some dudes in play, he has Messengers. He Ultimate Prices one of my creatures, passes the turn and tries to Tragic Slip my Smiter which doesn’t do much since he didn’t activate Morbid on my turn. I offer for him to take the spell back and he declines in a friendly way saying he already played it and it was his mistake. My score keeping indicates a lot of dealing four damage so Smiter must’ve gotten there.

1-0 matches. 2-0 games.

Round 2 vs Zac Clark’s American Control


Our game one goes twenty minutes long at least. There was a very real chance of Zac milling himself with Looting (Desolate Light House), Revelations, and draw steps. I get him down to nine via Smiters and Tusks – having to save various creatures at various times with Selesnya Charm. I then drew lands 75% of my draws, stall out, and any creature I cast is Tamiyo’d. I don’t see a way for me to win and don’t see a way for Zac to win either until he miracles Entreat the Angels for a million. I attack into them the next turn, taking a few with me after blocks and Bonfires. He Azorius Charm lifelinks all of his angels and I wait for him to kill me or for me to topdeck Bonfire, the former of which happens (sigh).

Game two is faster and smashy early on. He’s able to get me to four life but that’s more than zero life and I win.

Game three is similar to game two with the addition of a miracle’d Entreat that I can’t deal with. Zac goes on to 4-0 the evening (I think – he took off before I could find out).

1-1 in Matches. 3-2 in games.

Round three vs. John Silvestri’s RDW


Game one John and I mulligan to five. We get to a point where we both have a Hellkite and then I have two Hellkites and it’s over.

Game two John again mulls to five and I keep a fairly “the nuts” seven. His five is good, lands, Stromkirk Noble (a favorite card  of mine that I’ve never played), and a Gorehouse Chainwalker. I drew and held a Bonfire aloft before ultimately putting it back into my hand (saying “gee wonder what I’ve got to which John laughed). I use it a turn or two later for two, wiping his board.  I have a Huntmaster chain going, murdering all his x/2 creatures, gaining life, making Wolf tokens to block any other dorks he throws at me. This eventually carries me to the win.

John’s recently back into the game and a very dedicated red player. When people commit to non-blue strategies it’s the best. He even has a Jace playmat sort of ironically. HA! Jace playmat. Red spells. HA!

2-1 maches. 5-2 games.

Round four vs Tony Loman’s Jund


Tony only plays Jund in every format now. Legacy, Modern, Standard – all Jund. He told me he’s working on a sick Jund EDH deck. I can’t wait. Tony’s a sort of permanent nemesis of mine as he’s a super good MTG player and SLAUGHTERED me when I came back to the game by Valukuting my poor mono Black aggro deck to death in about three seconds. His approach to the game is bizarre (his lands are often in haphazard piles, he’s usually chewing a pen, and this match the paper he’s keeping his life totals on is sort of in the middle of the battlefield). And I’ve come to love the guy over the last couple of years and love playing him as he’s a good sort of sideways teacher.

Game one looks pretty shitty on his end. My notes say 2x Hellkite and 1x Hellrider (which probably means Huntmaster – so many Hs it’s hard to keep track but I know I was running zero Hellriders!). I remember him trying to Ultimate Price a Smiter (doesn’t work – Smiter isn’t mono colored) and then upon it being a not legal target he Sever the Bloodlines it. Dragons get his life total to zero eventually so it didn’t matter much.

Game two I sided out two Selesnya Charm for two Zealous Conscripts. The game is fine, I get to five mana and don’t do much. A Tusk comes into play. He gets a Garruk then an Olivia. He puts his Olivia up to a 5/5 and attacks saying he doesn’t see how I don’t lose this turn. I Charm his Olivia and he says “yeah I guess that happens, maybe I shouldn’t have taken her up to 5 but I have to shoot your dudes, argh! Who knows?!” I am down to 3 after this attack. I draw a Bonfire and put it into my hand like a moron and think about trying to get Tony to let me cast it for its Miracle cost. I decide not to bother, losing me the game and avoiding any possible conflicts (it reminds me of the Ultimate Price, pass turn, Tragic Slip mistake Mike made round one).

Game three Tony mulls to five. I have a very slow hand that eventually gets to two Hellkites facing his Olivia. Upon casting the second Hellkite and swinging Tony tries to block one with Olivia which is of course tapped as a result of the second Hellkite entering the battlefield. He scoops. We go through my sideboard at my request and he advises that I always need to board in Garruk in a control or midrange match up and probably take out two Bonfires. This makes sense. I had sideboarded in two Conscripts and out a Charm and a Farseek.

3-1 matches. 7-3 games.

Josh Fetto and I playtest his BR deck vs. my Naya deck. He wins something like five out of eight games (though he says he won more). Naya gets better post board with Pillars coming in and Charms going out. We are both very tired and walk to the front of the store and shoot the breeze for a few minutes before L training it in opposite directions to our homes.

I’m pretty damn happy with the deck and its performance. It seems like a deck I’ll stick with for a while. Playing with Hellkite is extremely satisfying (as are my old friends Huntmaster of the Fells and Bonfire of the Damned). I like Smiter more and more every time I play it, too.

No FNM for me this week (I’ll probably do the early draft) ‘cuz it’s Jen’s (my girlfriend) birthday and we’re going to see The Faint. I’ll be playing in 20ss’s Modern Tourney on Sunday running Kibler’s GWb Bears deck. I 3-1’d a Daily on MTGO with it Monday night and am pretty much in love with the deck. It’s got all my favorites and some new crazy cards (and Chalice of the Void – best sideboard card ever) look for a report on this Monday morning.

Thanks for reading!

Matt “The Obliterator” Jones



cover photo: a cat token card and 20ss’s business card by Lauren Bilanko – used often last night in place of wolf tokens.

6 Responses to “Power and Toughness—The Return of Naya”
  1. Fetto says:

    5 of 8 sounds about right:)

    I agree the pre-board games all seemed to favor Rakdos (and post-board Naya), but the sample size is so small.

    Still trying to figure out a good SB strategy for Rakdos Aggro and it seems like, with people bringing in Pillars or Bonfires, etc., that bringing out the 1-drops for Nighthawks, Appetite for Brains and a more tuned removal suite is a good plan. The Knights of Infamy seem worthwhile to keep in since they can attack through Smiters, Spirits and Resto Angels (and help Aristocrats attack through souls/dragons with exalted). I don’t think this is a great matchup for Bonfire, but I could be wrong. Pillar is terrible (only kills Huntmasters unless you are 2-for-1ing yourself), Tragic Slip is very good, Searing Spear is solid, Brimstone Volley is either ok or great since burning them out isn’t so likely with all the incidental life gain, but morbid is easy to achieve in the matchup and it kills all of their creatures including Thundermaw Hellkites.

    I have been going back and forth between Flames of the Firebrand and Bonfire of the Damned but the Naya midrange matchup clearly favors Bonfire (though I’m not sure I’d bring it in anyways). Flames is probably better against GW aggro since it will more reliably kill a silverblade paladin + something else on T3 before they just go off and because it will more reliably kill a Sublime Archangel for less mana (tho killing Archangel on your turn is not ideal).

    Another card I’m considering for the board is Olivia. She seems like a solid choice to bring in against Rakdos, so having access to her also provides Rakdos with additional outs. She’s also very good against midrange decks, Lingering Souls, Behemoth decks (she eats up the small creatures), etc..

    Tough cards to beat for Rakdos v. Naya are Huntmaster (2 blockers is relevant and you can’t tap out for an Aristocrat with a Huntmaster on board cuz they can just ship n’ flip to shock it), Thundermaw Hellkite (beats Aristocrats and is a super fast clock) with the all-star being Farseek. Games with a T2-3 Farseek played out completely differently than the games without.

    It’s counterintuitive, but Smiters and Thragtusks didn’t seem so great against Rakdos (though Thragtusks are very hard to beat if Rakdos is behind). I think the issue is that a lot of Rakdos’ damage comes from fliers so Smiter/Tusk don’t often get to block (and Smiter can’t block Knight of Infamy).

    I think the Bloodthrone Vampire/Mark of Mutiny version of Rakdos would be better against Naya since treacherous Hellkites are such a huge swing (and then they get eaten). I don’t know whether that version is as good against the mirror or the field, however. Act of Treason is almost completely blanked by sac outlets (you can still untap/grow/haste your own guy) and Bloodthrone Vampire is super weak to Tragic Slip which I am almost certainly going to maindeck. I think that version is also weaker to sweepers, but I’d have to play it a bit to know for sure.

    Going forward I will be testing the following Rakdos list:

    4 Gravecrawler
    4 Diregraf Ghoul
    4 Knight of Infamy
    4 Geralf’s Messenger
    3 Hellrider (+/-1)
    4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
    3 Thundermaw Hellkite (+/-1)

    3 Tragic Slip
    4 Searing Spear
    1 Ultimate Price (possibly Dreadbore, Bonfire, Tragic Slip)
    2 Brimstone Volley

    4 Cavern of Souls
    4 Rakdos Guildgate
    4 Blood Crypt
    4 Dragonskull Summit
    1 Mountain
    7 Swamps

    3 Pillar of Flame
    3 Bonfire of the Damned
    3 Apetite for Brains
    2 Rakdos Charm
    1 Olivia Voldaren
    3 Vampire Nighthawk

  2. tony says:

    Almost every time I check this blog I read about some big shot punk gloating about beating me.

    • Matt Jones says:

      HAHA. I wrote about how much I love you.

    • Zac Clark says:

      Personally speaking Tony, you’re one of the tougher dudes to beat in the store! Take it as a compliment. At least when I do it. I don’t think I sweat as much as when I play against you. You don’t make play mistakes often if at all, I try extremely hard during our matches because I feel like if I can play well against you, then I have a shot at going onto play well in larger scale tourney. I’m nervous as shit during our games. It’s damn near cathartic once its over. Whether I win or lose vs you I always take something away from the match. Currently in Standard I think we’re 2-2 (Battle of Wits/Zombies you took, Zombies/ Naya Pod I took, Bant Pod/Zombies you took, and this week I evened the score. That said, a win vs you is something to celebrate a lil, you play at a pro level. I look forward to the next chapter of this rivalry that likely goes on only in my mind.

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