Pondering—Project Naya

When I happened upon the list above, from Tomoharu Saito, I immediately fell in love. The entire 75 just felt so clean, sleek, and brutally efficient.

Ever since Burning-Tree Emissary was spoiled, I’ve been in the lab trying to break the card. I’d be sitting on the subway during my daily commute, and suddenly get the urge to try the card out in a new combination. I’d break out my phone, boot up the Decked Builder app, and get to brewing.

I asked myself, “What do I want to do the most on the second turn if I open a hand with BTE and the lands to cast her?”

There were a few candidates. Lightning Mauler lets them both get in immediately for four damage, but is otherwise unimpressive. Signal the Clans lets me roll the dice and tutor for some gas, but it felt too durdly. Strangleroot Geist and Ash Zealot, as much as I wanted to play with the cards, could not be cast off of the GR provided by the Emissary. Finally, Wandering Wolf felt like too much of a build-around card, and was even more susceptible to bounce effects than any of the others.

I needed a sizeable dude for the mana that wouldn’t be totally dead were I to draw it later in the game. Flinthoof Boar fit the bill. Being able to get a combined five power on the board on turn two is pretty nice, and one could do much worse than getting a hasty 3/3 for three later in the game.

Saito thought one step further and tried to squeeze in the most value possible by including one-drops. And where better to look than the old iterations of Red Deck Wins? One of the drawbacks of the old RDW curve was that it sometimes conflicted with its game plan. What I mean by that is that the ultimate goal of RDW is to get a bunch of little guys and build toward a massive turn four off of a Hellrider. However, since Ash Zealot outclassed all of the deck’s one-drops by such a large margin, playing the Zealot on T2 was almost always preferable to playing double one-drop. But in doing so, the “Hellrider lackey” count is reduced by one, which could have implications down the line.

In Saito’s shell, there is less of a consideration. You often get to have your cake and eat it, too. There are many variations: the aforementioned BTE into Boar; BTE into removal; or, my personal favorite, BTE into one-drop plus Rancor on the guy you played T1.

The other problem RDW had was that its 3CMC slot was a bit wanting. Pyreheart Wolf is fine, but he’s only just fine. Yes, it gave the team evasion, and yes, it survived Wraths, but the size of its body was never impressive. Boros Reckoner, on the other hand, is a complete house. I don’t really need to sing the praises of the card, as many people have already jumped on the Reckoner bandwagon. And honestly, it’s a good bandwagon to be on right now. A Spitemare for three mana with the ability to activate first strike is pretty nuts. Nothing can block it profitably—quite literally—because blocking it with a bigger creature will only result in the death of its smaller comrades. In the case of Thragtusk, the bane of red’s existence, it either gets eaten by Reckoner, or trades with it and probably loses the five life it gained for its controller. That is big game.

I shared the list with Matt. The man doesn’t need to be told twice to play green and red cards. There was a bit of a problem (as pointed out by Josh Fetto) in that the deck felt soft to Wrath effects, as most all-in aggro strategies are. So naturally, it’s Boros Charm to the rescue. And thus, Project Naya was born.

Deck: Project Naya

Counts : 60 main / 15 sideboard

4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Ash Zealot
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Hellrider

4 Rancor
4 Boros Charm
4 Searing Spear

8 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Stomping Ground

4 Pillar of Flame
4 Thunderbolt
4 Volcanic Strength
3 Traitorous Blood

I put the Pillars in the sideboard as I’m not too thrilled with the card. Two damage just doesn’t get it done most of the time, and that one mana could be better spent developing your board instead of aiming it at the opponent. That said, removal is removal, and Pillar does still get rid of certain creatures that other removal can’t, i.e. Strangleroot Geist, Gravecrawler, and Geralf’s Messenger (that said, how relevant those creatures will be in the new meta remains to be seen). As such, the Pillars get room in the sideboard. Mugging might also be a card. It doesn’t kill anything Pillar can’t kill, but it does get the bigger guys out of the way for a turn.

I cut the Reckless Waifs because they are pretty terrible all around. You only board them in on the play against control to try and get a free flip, and oftentimes you undo your own progress by playing two guys on T2 via BTE and flipping the Waif back.

The final note is that I’m not entirely sure about the manabase quite yet, but the reason I refrained from plugging in Clifftop Retreats is because I want to minimize the amount of taplands in the deck. Now, it may become an inevitability down the line as four white sources is probably not enough to support the Boros Charms, as you won’t typically draw those sources. More testing will be needed.

For now, I think this is a solid build to take to an FNM while the meta is still being fleshed out.

17 Responses to “Pondering—Project Naya”
  1. Justin says:

    What do you think about Madcap Skills over Pillars in the side? Still gets around big dudes the same way Mugging does, but might not be worth the potential 2 for 1 blowout.

    • Li Xu says:

      Yeah, the potential to get on the wrong end of a 2 for 1 makes me weary to play it. The sideboard definitely needs work though, Saito looks like he just straight ripped it from the RDW sideboard.

    • Matt Jones says:

      People kept saying to me “yo, Madcap Skillz” all night. I just don’t see it. You have uh maybe no way to protect your dude from being 2 for 1’d, and, shit, just seems unlikely to make it for very long without that happening.

  2. Matt Jones says:

    I played this deck, well, the following version, last night and have some thoughts on it.

    4 Rakdos Cackler
    4 Stromkirk Noble
    4 Ash Zealot
    4 Flinthoof Boar
    4 Burning-Tree Emissary
    4 Boros Reckoner
    4 Hellrider
    4 Pillar of Flame
    4 Searing Spear
    4 Rancor
    12 Mountain
    4 Stomping Ground
    4 Rootbound Crag
    4 Thunderbolts
    4 Volcanic Strength
    4 Flames of the Firebrand
    3 Traitorous Blood

    1.Other aggro decks can’t beat it unless you brick on land or flood. I lost one game vs. Zombies when I bricked on land (bricking on land = having only one land). I should’ve mulligan’d.

    2. The times when I enjoyed and benefited from having Stromkirk Noble were few and far between. I don’t know what I’d rather he was but certainly something else has to be better.

    3. Pillar is solid. It kills like half the creatures in the format. That said, in a control/flash meta-game (aka the 20SS meta), Pillar is a piece of garbage.

    4. IT IS SO HARD TO GET GREEN MANA (sometimes).

    I went 1-3. My match-ups were the following:

    R1 vs Randal’s BR Zombies — I was able to more or less crush Zombies in three very uninteractive games. The loss was the aforementioned bad one land keep.

    R2 vs Lebron’s UWR Flash-like deck (he’ll correct me if/when he reads this). G1 my memory is lousy but I started out strong, ran out a ton of monsters, and a Lebron’s removal was enough and he got back in it and won it. G2 I got Lebron down to 6, somehow, Thunderbolted him on his turn, then, knowing he had one non-counterspell and one unknown card, and that he’d probably win if I didn’t kill him this turn, I hit him with the second Thunderbolt and he says “You got me”. G3 I ran face first into a Boros Reckoner without paying attention to his open mana for first striking, and scooped when he blocked and killed my beefy but no-butt’d Cackler. I had kept a one-lander that, had the one land been basic Mountain, would’ve gotten there, probably, but it was a Rootbound Crag and the Cackler came down turn 2 off the ETB tapped Crag. A turn 2 top decked Mountain allowed me to dump BTE, BTE, Rancor onto the field. They all died horrible deaths.

    R3 vs Mike’s Bant … ? something deck. G1 I was fast and furious and won. G2 we stalled out and I don’t win stalls. G3 I was in with a chance, Blind Obedience was fucking me up and its extorting was REALLY bad for me. He was down to three or so before he started his extorting. He gets back up to 9 and an Auger reveals a Revelation, and I scooped’em up. I can’t beat him Sphinx’ing for 10 more life (he had a lot of land).

    R4 vs Zac “Captain Durdles” Clark and his UWR Control Deck. G1 he crushes me. G2 I mull to 5, play well/correctly, and win. G3 I run face first into a Supreme Verdict, curse, and scoop’em up. We recorded our match here:

    I think that the deck is cool. I don’t think the sideboard is good and I don’t think you’ll be able to cast Boros Charm if you only run four Sacred Foundries. You’re also straying pretty far from Saito’s deck if you start messing with the mana base and throwing other cards in. How often will you be keeping two mana back for a Boros Charm (in the event of a wrath)? You need all your mana on your turn, you know? Pft.

    Anyway, enjoyed your article. Keep going, man.

    • Li Xu says:

      Thanks Matt! Keep at the deck, no one except a master just puts together a deck and crushes the first time.

      Also, the video didn’t get in your comment 😦

      • Matt Jones says:

        Oh yeah I got distracted by having to do “work” at work. I’ll upload it now. It’ll take forever probably b/c it’s 900 hours long.

        I’m not sure this deck is actually my style. Unlike GR Aggro of the bird/sword variety, there is like no way to be awesome later on. Rancor falls off but doesn’t stay in play like a sword and can be graveyarded by removing the creature one is targeting from play prior to Rancor resolving. Sword sticks around and can make a mana creature a not shitty top deck. Rancor doesn’t have the same affect.

        I think a Naya humans list is better suited to my level of appreciation. We’ll see.

      • DMG says:

        I don’t think adding four clifftop retreats hurts the mana very much. You still get 12 mountains to bring your other lands in untapped, and this seems like it should be enough to support the white consistently without mana screw.

      • Li Xu says:

        That’s the feeling I got after watching a few of Matt’s games, even though he didn’t play white. Also, 20 lands is definitely too few, I’d trim a spell here or there for a 21st, maybe even a 22nd.

    • Justin says:

      Maybe try Stonewright instead of Noble since all your lands produce R? There’s also Experiment One, but he’s not evolving past a 3/3 in this deck. He can survive a Supreme Verdict though.

  3. American Hogwarts is what we ended up calling the deck and it’s u/w/r midrange Matt. It’s not flash since we cut the angels for superior creatures.

    • Fetto says:

      Came across the following take on GRaggro that I shared with Matt. It’s similar to Saito’s list but clearly goes another way:

      4 Experiment One
      1 Legion Loyalist
      1 Dryad Militant
      4 Vexing Devil
      4 BTE
      4 Flinthoof Boar
      4 Strangleroot Geist
      4 Lightning Mauler
      4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
      2 Fling
      1 Searing Spear
      2 Skull Crack
      4 Rancor
      8 G/R Duals
      7 Forest
      6 Mountain

      It eschews Hellrider and the base red for more consistency at the 2-drop slot (BTE can combo into any spell in the deck other than Ghor-Clan and Strangleroot). It effectively curves out at 2 now and plays like a suicide deck. Vexing Devil is the most interesting addition since it grows Experiment One every time and will usually do 4 damage.

      Rampager is there almost solely for its bloodrush. Flinging a bloodrushe’d/rancor’d dude is good. That it gives trample allows you to get great value while smashing through otherwise annoying blockers (Tusk, Angel, Augur of Bolas).

      Biggest issues/questions I have with the deck are the 1-ofs. Dryad Militant will grow your Ex1 but Loyalist seems better suited for the board for matchups with Lingering Souls or other tokens. Rakdos Cackler seems better than either option since it’s a consistent 2-powered attacker that wont just die to Staticaster/Augur or something. Not having Hellrider feels brutal and I don’t really get why this deck curves out lower than Saito’s list but plays an extra land. The 1-of Searing Spear is also suspicious. The deck zergs its opponent so removal isn’t so important. Perhaps it should be a 3rd Skull Crack. or…. GRUUL CHARM! Charm seems to fit this deck very well. Faltering seems to be exactly what this deck wants to break stalls or clear annoying Spirit Tokens. You can also fit white in for Boros Charm pretty easily by replacing some number of basics with the GW/RW shocks. I don’t think this deck would care about taking some extra damage.

      So I’d try -1 Loyalist, -1 Militant, -1 Searing Spear, -1 Forest, +2 Cackler, +2 Gruul Charm in the main with the following SB:

      3 Loyal Legionist
      2 Mark of Mutiny
      2 Skull Crack
      2 Domri
      4 Pillar
      2 Thunderbolt

      Alternatively, you could play the 8 white shocks to support some number of Boros Charms. They could probably replace the Flings in the main (tho I love the Flings) since they both sort of provide value v. removal.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] by an (always appreciated) guest post from Jeremy Broomfield on his first GTC draft experience. Li Xu Naya’d Saito’s Gruul deck (can anyone resist the temptation of Boros Charm?) and […]

  2. […] Magic and had the following to say about it (I originally posted this in a comment on Li’s Pondering—Project Naya […]

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