The Boss of Louisiana
States has always been my favorite tournament of the year. Its never about playing the best deck in a cut-throat environment; its always more relaxed and people are playing whatever they want to play, not necessarily what they have to play. Also, States is about seeing your friends across the state that you haven’t seen in forever. I can pick up a conversation there with guys I haven’t seen in over a year as if we were hanging out the day before. We all speak a common language there – Magic. There are several small towns in Louisiana that we all come from, including my town of Ruston – many players are scattered about Louisiana and don’t get to play as frequently as those in a big city with a large card shop or two. Being reunited in a room full of almost 100 people that are well-versed in Magic lingo and game theory has always been very enjoyable for me.
Andre Coimbra’s victory in Rome inspired me to resurrect my old Naya deck from PT Honolulu. At Honolulu I played a Naya build that fared pretty well against a field full of Jund, giving my first ever Top 8 at a big event. It featured a full 4 Dauntless Escort instead of Woolly Thoctar and 7 Planeswalkers and Ranger of Eos while forgoing the “best card of the tournament” (Bloodbraid Elf). Here’s the block deck I played to a Top8 finish at PT Honolulu:
Throughout that entire tournament I was wishing my Battlegrace Angels were more Thornlings. Jund absolutely couldn’t beat Thornling while the Angel died to Bituminous Blast or something similar all day. I preferred the consistency and options that Planewalkers provided over the lottery of Bloodbraid Elf. Getting another Nacatl wasn’t my idea of power, nor was having another 3/2 ground creature in play. Ranger of Eos filled that role quite nicely. I’d battled a room full of Jund with my particular Naya strategy before, and figured that this was my best chance at braving through Thrinaxes and Blightnings once again. Thornling is truly the hood-ornament of the deck and is one of the most underrated win-conditions in Standard right now. He’s a BOSS I tell ya. Here’s what I decided to play at Louisiana states:
I basically upgraded cards from my Honolulu deck, namely switching Druid of the Anima for Birds of Paradise while adding the efficient Lightning Bolt and the 1-of Scute Mob. The increase in 1-drops allowed me to easily play the full 4 Ranger of Eos. Knight of the Reliquary is better then Woolly Thoctar 95% of the time. The Knight usually comes down at around the 4/4 range, but if combine the acceleration, easier casting cost, permanent +2/+2 just by tapping, and the eventual 3/4 flyer, the pros far outweigh the cons. I wanted to run them at Honolulu but Naya Panorama just wasn’t enough oomph to cut it. With 4 Arid Mesa and 4 Terramorphic Expanse he’s a welcome addition.
Things to note about the deck:
- Plenty of Forests to support the 1-drop green creatures and to ensure a protected Thornling late game
- Few Bolts and other Red spells because you likely wont get a Mountain until turn 3-4
- Always cast Thornling with a Green mana open unless you’re against something like Turbo-Fog or MonoW
3/3 Wild Nacatals are more common due to Terramorphic Expanse. The deck often goes turn 1 Cat, turn 2 Noble Hierarch + Terramorphic, crack for Plains/Mountain (whichever you don’t have in hand) and attack for 3. Then, turn 3 Ranger or Planeswalker and attack for 4. There is also the nice draw of turn 1 Noble Hierarch, turn 2 Knight of the Reliquary, for an explosive turn 3.
Round 1 – Ryan Suire – Boros
Game 1: He starts out quickly with a Steppe Lynx turn 1, turn 2 kill my Nacatl, turn 3 Geopede, and plays a steady stream of fetchlands as Boros is built to do. He Rangers on turn 4 getting Lynx and Bushwacker and wacks me on turn 5, bringing me to 2. A Ranger of my own for 2 Wild Nacatls and a big Knight of the Reliquary help me stabilize and I eventually take control of the game with bigger creatures while he draws blanks like 0/1s and 2/1s.
I take out a Hierarch to make my deck a little less vulnerable to an early Earthquake.
Game 2: He starts with Goblin Guide and I start with Nacatl. I Path a 5/5 Geopede on turn 3 and he places it off to the side facedown. Next turn he casts and Elspeth and procedes to use the face-down exiled Geopede as a token. I suggest that he use something else, anything else really, to avoid confusion. I hand him my lighter (I attacked with 1/1 lighter tokens all day), but we eventually settle on a differently colored, empty sleeve. We go on to cast some Rangers and get some dudes and have a semi-stalemate. Naya Charm tapping his team seals the deal.
Round 2 – Brock Henley – W/U control
Game 1: I have a good draw that involves something like 5 creatures in play on turn 3 against his slow start. He Oblivion Rings a bunch of creatures but Ranger of Eos and Planewalkers provide more threats than 1-for-1 answers can handle.
Game 2: I eventually cast a Manabarbs with several creatures in play and he slumps. I take 4 damage to cast another and he laughs at the ridiculousness of the situation. My cats attack for lethal soon after.
Round 3 – Luke Dantin – MonoW Emeria
Game 2: He doesn’t draw many threats, mostly removal for my creatures. I Path and Oblivion Ring his creatures and his Emeria never gets to target anything.
Round 4 – Donald “The Governor” Paul – Jacerator
Game 1: I keep a slow but keepable hand and eventually get locked out by a steady stream of Flashfreezes and fogs. I get Archive Trapped after a bunch of turns of fruitlessly attacking.
I keep in Paths just in case he brings in Baneslayer Angel.
Game 2: He starts with an early Howling Mine and Sunspring Expedition while I have some creatures applying pressure. I try to find a way to resolve a Realm Razer, but it ends up being met by an obvious Flashfreeze. Fortunately, he hits a pocket of lands while I’ve built a critical mass of attackers and he dies when he runs out of fogs.
By this time I figure that his maindeck is so good against mine that he shouldn’t want to side in his Baneslayers, while Naya Charm can regrow Unstable Footing or a Manabarbs that gets countered or milled away.
Game 3: This is the closest and most exciting game of the tournament for me. I Oblivion Ring his early Howling Mines and get a Dauntless Escort in play to combat the potential Day of Judgment. He plays a steady stream of Jace Belerens, which keeps him with just enough cards to keep fogging but not enough gas to comfortably pull ahead. I get enough creatures in play to be able to attack his Jace and threaten lethal to him while his Safe Passages save him but not his Jace. I resolve a Manabarbs and he soon has to take 5 damage to cast Time Warp as simply a cantrip. Worst Time Warp ever. After a while of taking 2-3 damage to fog, the damage adds up and he’s locked out of the game. Whew. Not a match-up I want to face again.
Round 5 – Blake Lemoine – Jund
Game 1: I land an early Dauntless Escort alongside a 2/2 Nacatl and a 1/1 Scute Mob. He kills off the Escort and I sacrifice it to make my guys indestructible. He thinks for awhile, plays some Jundy stuff, and attacks with his 3/3 beast token. I immediately shove my 2 creatures to double block as he’s forgotten that my guys don’t die to damage this turn.
Game 2: I mulligan and get Blightning’ed twice. Never in this one.
Game 3: I land a Thornling and it goes all the way while he draws irrelevant removal spells. What a boss. Baneslayer in the same situation and I’d be toast.
The other 4-0s draw their round and I’m sitting as the only 5-0 of the tournament. I of course get paired down and we shuffle up to play it out.
Round 6 – Eric Rodrigue – Naya
Game 1: On the play I start out quick with a Noble Hierarch and Knight of the Reliquary. Elspeth and Ranger of Eos make my army huge compared to his. I path his Baneslayer and have the Naya Charm to punch through.
Game 2: Turns out that he sided in Wall of Reverence and Behemoth Sledge as well, only more of them. This game goes on for a good 40 minutes with both of us playing at a fairly quick pace. I finally turn the game around with him at something like 50 life to my 3. Three entire sheets of paper later the life totals are something like 80 to 60 in my favor. Between my ever-growing Scute Mob (up to 24/24 before his Day of Judgment) and fully-powered Thornling attacks with Behemoth Sledge against his double Sledge, double Wall, and Baneslayers, plus Ajani Vengeants, over 1000 points of combat damage were dealt this game. While I think I could’ve won this game I might have gotten decked had the game gone to the end. That would’ve taken another good 30 minutes. Not a match-up I wanted to face in Top 8 where the rounds are untimed…. we might be there all night.
So I’m 6-0 and get paired against a guy that wants to play it out. I came to game so I’m in.
Round 7 – Darryl Deincola – Jund
Game 1: Win. Don’t recall much about this game other than Elspeth lifting my guys over 3/3 lizards.
Throughout the tournament I began siding in less and less Great Sable Stags. My jund opponents had been siding out their Sprouting Thrinaxes and Putrid Leeches in anticipation of Celestial Purge and Stag
Game 3: I mulligan twice this game and am never really in it. Jund does its thing and I take my first loss.
I feel a tad tilted after this match even though it didn’t really matter. My first loss of a tournament always affects me the worst, whether it be Round 1 or the finals. I chug a Dos Equis XX with my friend Andy Ewen to shake off the beat and get set for the top 8.
Quarterfinals – Matt Prichard – Jund
Game 1: The key play of this game was casting Ranger of Eos for 2 Noble Hierarchs so that my other Ranger can attack past his Bloodbraid Elf for 5 damage. After an attrition war, only my 2 Noble Hierarchs remain. While one sat back and one attacked the duo was enough to finish him off.
Game 2: I mulligan to the following 4 card hand on the draw: Noble Hierarch, Great Sable Stag, Knight of the Reliquary, Journey to Nowhere. I didn’t play a land until turn 4 while I get Blightning’ed twice. I lose. I actually don’t think I’ve ever kept a hand without turn 1 play. Hopefully will never have to again.
Game 3: Our cards trade 1 for 1, and my Ranger of Eos trades with a Bloodbraid and a Blightning. Things get Pulsed. It’s looking grim when he casts a Siege-Gang Commander and I’m a fairly low life. A couple tokens trade for a Ranger and a Hierarch and I’m left with only Thornling in hand and only 2 Forests, 2 Plains, 1 Mountain and a Wild Nacatl in play. I rip the 3rd forest, attack with Nacatl, and play my protected Thornling. Thornling turns out to once again be the boss as he eventually has to start chumping (even though it has trample) and eventually kills him. Baneslayer would’ve died in that spot, followed by me shortly after.
Semifinals – Dylan Smith – Jund
I’m paired with a local player from Ruston. We test together and we both decide that I can best use the free entry since I’ll be going to a ton of Grand Prix next year.
Finals – Michael Laviolette – Vampires
Mike is a 2-time State Champion that came to the tournament intending on playing whatever he got handed. Proving that he’s the real-deal once again, he pilots Vampires all the way into the finals. We prize split, with him getting the product while I get the custom DCI card and title alongside the free Constructed tournament entry for a year.
On a side note, Mike’s Semifinal’s game 2 involved the most exciting play of the tournament. His opponent was at 38 with 2 tapped Baneslayer Angels and multiple active Luminarch Ascensions. With 2 Vampire Nocturnus in play (revealing Mind Sludge on top) Mike’s opponent was quick to tap out and play out the cards in his hand. Mike untaps, casts Sorin Markov to put his opponent to 10 and attacks with for 10 in the air to take what looked like an unwinnable game.
Overall I enjoyed playing Boss Naya as it has the tools to deal with most any situation while having many potent opening draws. My most commonly sided out card of the day was definitely Lightning Bolt. Another Naya Charm should likely fit in somewhere. I’ve considered adding an Oran-Rief, the Vastwood for extra power but am not convinced right now that its necessary. I mainly like the idea of having a 1/2 Birds of Paradise in play, but once again, that’s a bit too cute. The biggest thing going for Oran-Rief would be making Great Sable Stag a 4/4 threat against Jund, so I imagine I’ll either go that route or soon abandon the Stags to pursue another strategy to combat the RBG menace.
Most Lightning Bolt targets are killable by Burst Lightning just as easily. Getting to 5 mana is rarely an issue, and the existence of Malakir Bloodwitch has me leaning towards Bursts over Bolts. 1 Sarkhan Vol seems like a card worth trying as it could lead to some Boros-Bushwacker-like explosive plays when combined with Ranger of Eos. He’s also fine with Martial Coup or Elspeth tokens.
I’ll definitely be playing an updated version at St Louis this weekend, possibly with an Island and Spreading Seas in the sideboard. It might seem sketchy at first, but with 2 Birds, 4 Noble, 4 Knight, 4 Terramorphic its not as screwy as it sounds. Misty Rainforests can be added essentially for free as they work well with Knight of the Reliquary and are more sources of Blue. Here’s the build I’m currently working with:
Props to Marcus Bailey for head judging a well run event and to Jeffery LaJaunie and the staff of And Books Too for hosting the event. They always make chili dogs or Jambalaya for the gamers and its always amazing. Thanks guys!
Good luck to all who try the deck!
Tom “the Boss” Ross
CitrusD at gmail dot com