Yes. Wild Nacatl is good in Standard.
Not as good as in Extended or Legacy, but no need to be greedy. I’m happy with a 2/2 for G on turn 2 that upgrades for free by simply playing normal Magic.
I’m gonna save the deep, strategic match-up and sideboard advice for another article. Right now I’d like to talk about how the deck came to be the Naya build that took PT San Diego by storm. Lets start with my ultra-rough-looking list that I was able to win Louisiana States with back in January. AndrÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© Coimbra’s win in Rome with Naya inspired me to pick up my Wild Nacatls again for Standard, however with a very different approach to the build.
My States deck was an evolution from the Naya build I used to top 8 PT Honolulu last year. I didn’t play Bloodbraid Elf or Woolly Thoctar because I wanted to play Martial Coup and Dauntless Escort. I built the deck on the car ride to the tournament; I played with a wide assortment of cards just for kicks.
The Naya build from States was full of experimental one-ofs and was a huge blast to play. States has always been the tournament to try cool, interesting decks and concepts and that’s exactly what I did. Throughout my testing with Naya I tried and removed practically every red, green, and white playable available to me and adjusted numbers progressively as I time went on. Even “auto-4-ofs” like Wild Nacatl, Bloodbraid Elf, and Knight of the Reliquary were tested as 2 or 3-ofs just to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. Emeria Angel, Sarkhan Vol, Baneslayer Angel, and even Spreading Seas and basic Island made their ways in my tournament 75 at one time or another.
Here’s the list that I battled with at Pro Tour San Diego:
His changes were, in my opinion, to play cards he knows were good and powerful based on his previous play experience. It's been said time and time again that playing with the deck or even the individual cards you know is better than playing with agreeably better cards that you’re personally unsure of. LSV is happy attacking with Baneslayers and I’m happy to get the utility of Qasali Pridemage and extra Dauntless Escorts. I feel like my build was correct but his build was correct for him. There’s no clear-cut better plan; it comes down to personal preference and the expected metagame to an extent. If you expect that Open the Vaults deck that top 8′d PT San Diego gains popularity then having Qasali Pridemages and Dauntless Escorts to fight Day of Judgment will come in handy.
The numbers in the deck may seem crazy at first glance, but I assure you they came through countless hours of testing and tuning.
The 1 Dauntless Escort in the maindeck will certainly only be a 3/3 for 3 in some matchups. The good news is you’re likely the favorite to win those matchups anyway. He’s great against Bituminous Blast and Day of Judgment, the deck’s two biggest enemies. He also protects from a Terminate or something similar mid-combat when you attack with the Knight of the Reliquary or whatever with a Behemoth Sledge on it.
The removal package of 3 Lightning Bolt, 2 Oblivion Ring, 1 Path to Exile, and 2 Ajani Vengeant turned out to the just the right mix. I like to cast Bloodbraid Elf into an empty board with a good chance of hitting something relevant. Path to Exile was the worst hit, but having just one wasn’t much of an issue. The first Path to Exile is often the best anyway.
One of the biggest problems with building Boss Naya was the lack of a good 2-drop. Lotus Cobra, Steward of Valeron, and Qasali Pridemage were all decent options but found each of them underwhelming in testing. The deck also had a severe lack of evasion effects, leaning heavily on cards like Baneslayer Angel or Elspeth, Knight Errant for her Angelic Blessing ability to get past a clogged board-state. There was also a big weakness to board sweeping effects. Planewalkers and Ranger of Eos took the sting off sometimes but there seemed like a bit more was needed.
Enter Worldwake’s Stoneforge Mystic. The equipment package that it comes with has solved many of the design problems that existed with Naya. The 2-drop, the lifegain, the reach with Behemoth Sledge‘s trample, and the ability to turn Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise into legitimate threats were all things that the deck needed. All kinds of random equipment were considered for the deck, down to a sideboard Blazing Torch against Malakir Bloodwitch and friends, Sigil of Distinction as a late-game monstrous +X/+X boost to whatever, and even Unscythe, the Killer of Kings to mise with by using Stoneforge Mystic’s ability as the only way of putting it into play. The final decision was a 2 and 2 split of Stoneforge Mystics and Behemoth Sledge and Basilisk Collar as the equipments of choice. No need to dilute the deck with a cute toolbox. Also, Sigil of Distinction is an awful card to cascade into with Bloodbraid Elf, which was basically the nail in the coffin for that option.
Coming into the tournament I wanted to build Boss Naya with the following cards in mind to beat:
Boss Naya attacks Jace 2.0 in a number of ways. First, there aren’t many good targets for its bounce ability other than Knight of the Reliquary (which isn’t an issue if its active and you can fetch Sejiri Steppe). Next, Wild Nacatl and various other cheap threats put early pressure on the mighty $50 planeswalker. Bloodbraid Elf and the sideboarded Goblin Guide kills it on the spot if they tap out to play Jace, which is oftentimes the case as they can be put on a quick clock and need to act fast. Lightning Bolt, Oblivion Ring and the trump planeswalker: Ajani Vengeant finish up the anti-Jace package in case my animals can’t get it done.
Dauntless Escorts are to combat Bituminous Blasts and Day of Judgment. The Rhino/Solider often gets you a 1-for-1 against Bituminous Blast and can gain even more value if they cast it during their turn as they can no longer attack into an indestructible team of Cats and Birds or whatever.
I was happy to discover that Boss Naya is very resilient to sacrifice effects like Gatekeeper of Malakir and Cruel Ultimatum. My current record is beating 3 resolved Cruel Ultimatums, due to the deck’s potential to come back with Bloodbraid Elf and Ranger of Eos. The Ultimatum is almost a joke. Overextending into Day of Judgment without a Dauntless Escort, on the other hand, can sometimes be too much of a tempo swing to overcome.
The 3 Misty Rainforests were leftover from a manabase I used when I had 1 basic Island + 4 Spreading Seas in the sideboard to attack Jund. Verdant Catacombs will do the same effect if you don’t have Misties. You might even monetarily resemble Junk or Jund (for what its worth) and change your opponent’s first play or two. A split of Misties and Verdants would be fine, too…just use whatever’s available to you and it will work. They’re a necessary ingredient to boost your Knight of the Reliquary and as a fetch target when you need to activate your Knight for a fetchland into Forest, a common play to pump your Knight while effectively tapping it for mana. This comes up often when you cast Ranger of Eos and want to cast the green 1-drops you just searched up.
After starting off 4-0 with the deck I felt like I had something special. For the first time I felt like I had a GOOD chance of winning a Pro Tour, that is if I could just make it through the drafts and into the top 8.
I didn’t do a single draft with Worldwake draft before the Pro Tour and I definitely felt the effects of the lack of practice. I put up a 9-1 record in standard but a mediocre 3-3 in Limited and missed out on top 8 by 1 measly % point, finishing 9th. Not quite a heartbreaker as it came with $7000 but I can’t tell how much I wanted another PT top 8, especially one where I could pilot what I felt was the breakout deck of the tournament.
For those interested I placed 22nd in GP Oakland with Zoo, losing the last 2 rounds and just missing out on my 3rd consecutive Grand Prix top 8. The day before the tournament it snowed in Louisiana for the first time in over a year. As wondrous as it was, as we never get snow like that here, it spelled bad news for my flight plans. For those who don’t know, Louisiana is ill-prepared to deal with heavy snow and it led to quite a miserable trip stuck in airports around the country. Two canceled flights and one delayed flight later, I showed up to the Grand Prix midway during round three. Special thanks to Brad Nelson for fronting the entry fee and to the staff that ran the tournament for allowing me to email my decklist the night before to ensure that I was in the tournament for round four. I’ve never been so grateful to have three byes.
In hindsight I’d replace 1 Temple Garden for 1 Breeding Pool and 1 Baneslayer Angel for 1 Ranger of Eos maindeck. There were many times that I wanted to have Sacred Foundry and Breeding Pool as the first two lands to fetch out.
Bojuka Bog would’ve done amazing things against my last final round opponent who was playing Dredge, piloted by none other than Cedric Phillips. Ravenous Trap just doesn’t enough as they tend to play around it whether you have it or not. If I could go back I’d play 2 Bogs over the 2 Ravenous Traps… 2 just in case you happen to draw one in your opening hand you still have an instant-speed graveyard removal when you have a Knight of the Reliquary out. The 2 Bogs + the 4 Knight of the Reliquary becomes effectively 6 hate cards for only 2 sideboard slots, which should be enough.
In my next article I’ll go more in-depth soon about sideboarding against various matchups, with a strong focus of sideboarding versus Jund since it seems to be the deck that beats us most often. As its still the most popular you’ll need to come prepared, and although I feel that Boss Naya is the favorite against it when played correctly more progress can be done to raise our matchup percentage facing it.
To finish, some don’ts for aspiring pros:
Don’t play credit card games with people who are 8-0 in a Pro Tour as they’re clearly running way too good and you’re bound to end up paying the bill.
Don’t play a decklist on magic-league days before the Pro Tour because it's your “only way to test.”
Don’t wait until a Pro Tour to do your first draft of a format. It's not the best place to playtest.
Good luck with Boss Naya, I love playing it and hope you will too.
CitrusD on Magic Online