I had this whole sweet article planned for when I won the PTQ last Saturday, full of ‘I-told-you-sos and ‘look-at-me-I'm-awesomes, but that probably wouldn’t go over so well, considering I didn’t actually win the PTQ. I did go 6-2 with the Naya Update, losing only to a pretty extreme mana flood, and a poor tactical decision (I misread my opponent and played around Day of Judgment when he had Baneslayer Angel instead) in round 6. I also don’t have any awesome sports metaphors for you this week, so I’ll just get right into it.
I went 3-0 against Mythic, 1-0 against Jund, 1-1 against UW, 1-0 against R/b Blightning, and 0-1 against a Green-White homebrewy deck (the mana flood round).
Regarding the changes from last week, and some notes:
-The changes were -3 Ranger of Eos, -2 Wild Nacatl, -1 Scute Mob, -2 Sunpetal Grove, -2 Birds of Paradise, +1 Noble Hierarch, +1 Lotus Cobra, +2 River Boa, +2 Gideon Jura, +2 Elspeth, Knight Errant, +1 Swamp, +1 Plains, and an entirely new sideboard, which I will get to in a second.
-The cutting of the Ranger of Eos package was imminent, and needed to happen sooner. It’s awful in every matchup except Jund and like Red or something, and even in those matchups the cards it was replaced with are better. Wild Nacatl was almost never a 3/3 due to Spreading Seas or the fetching sequence. There were 3 Rangers, only 3 targets, and only one of those three targets was any kind of respectable whatsoever (Scute Mobviously).
-Gideon Jura is UN. REAL. It’s very hard to lose with any kind of average draw that includes Gideon against Mythic. Turning off their exalted and then killing their Baneslayer Angel is pretty back-breaking. This is the best answer, across the board, to what is easily the best card against Naya, and that is Baneslayer. Path to Exile might be more mana efficient, but I would much rather have Gideon in my deck.
-[card elspeth, knight-errant]Elspeth[/card] is amazing versus Jund, UW, and UW/x. Flying over Wall of Omens and always having a follow-up to their wrath is invaluable. Elspeth also allows you to race Jund pretty efficiently. Elspeth is just a better Behemoth Sledge really. It’s possible that the Sledge should get cut for another one, but the ability to be searched up by a Mystic is probably worth it.
-Is there actually any scarier play in standard than turn two Lotus Cobra? I honestly can’t think of one. What about turn one Noble Hierarch into turn two Lotus Cobra + fetchland? If you want to tilt your opponent instantly, that is about as good a way to do it as I can come up with.
-The Swamp: I wanted some spice in the sideboard. As it turns out, I got so much spice in there, I didn’t have room for the Swamp, so it got moved to the main. I also upped the Plains count by 1, cutting the two Sunpetal Groves. I was fairly unimpressed with them most of the time, and having more basics to search for keeps you from getting hurt more by Spreading Seas. That said, here is the spice:
I loved this sideboard. It felt dirty. It felt evil. I was showing it to some of my friends and they had absolutely no idea what was going on. They couldn’t even tell what deck I was playing. I felt like almost every card in it was going to drop my opponent’s jaw. The first time I played Duress against UW and took his Path to Exile and slapped him on the head with a Vengevine, that-oh-by-the-way-is-getting-plus-three-plus-three-and-flying-next-turn, you might say I felt pretty good about myself. As much as I loved it, it was probably a couple cards off. Here’s why:
Beating Baneslayer Angel:
Baneslayer Angel is, and will continue to be, the hardest card for Naya to beat. However, I believe that if the Banelsayer problem can be solved, this deck is pretty unstoppable. In order to solve the problem though, the sideboard needs a little reconstruction. Against Mythic, Bit Blast is fine at fighting Baneslayer because our game plan revolves around Cunning Sparkmage anyway, so the two combine to take her down pretty well. Against, UW, however, this plan doesn’t work as well. I have contemplated leaving the Sparkmage package in against UW if I know they have Baneslayer, but that simply can’t be the right solution, considering the amount of room that needs to be made for cards we want to bring in. One possible alteration is to change Bituminous Blast to Doom Blade, and one of the [card linvala, keeper of silence]Linvalas[/card] into a Path to Exile or Oblivion Ring. This would provide extra insurance against both UW and Mythic’s Baneslayers, while not altering the makeup of the sideboard drastically. Doom Blade also conveniently kills Kargan Dragonlord. Hooray!
Another change I wanted to make was -2 River Boa, +1 [card elspeth, knight-errant]Elspeth[/card], +1 [card gideon jura]Gideon[/card] to the main. River Boa was fine against both Jund and UW, but Elspeth and Gideon are game-breakers, and I wanted more of each all day. So, given these changes to the configuration, how would we be sideboarding against Baneslayer Angel?
Linvala is quite poor against Mythic’s Lotus Cobra starts, and is mostly used as just a value card against Knight of the Reliquary and can conveniently shut off their multiple one-drop openings. It is probably wrong to [card path to exile]Path[/card] their Lotus Cobra, but almost certainly right to Oblivion Ring it or Doom Blade it if you can. Slowing them down long enough to get Sparkmage online is crucial. If you know they have brought Linvala in, as many Mythics are doing nowadays, it may be right to hold off on your removal unless you have a way to remove Linvala from play as well.
The Qasali Pridemages are also relevant here, hitting Everflowing Chalice, Oblivion Ring, or Spreading Seas in response to a Day of Judgment, but the other cards hold more value. The plan after board against UW is to grind them out with planeswalkers and duress to keep them off balance. Lotus Cobra is awful in this matchup, since the best things you can do with it are just run over by Day of Judgment. Just make your deck as Day-proof as possible, and make sure you don’t lose to a [card baneslayer angel]Baneslayer[/card]. If they don’t have a [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card] in play, it’s hard for them to grind out a deck with 4 Vengevine, 4 Bloodbraid Elf, and 6 proactive planeswalkers. Obviously the matchup is still close, but hopefully the tools after sideboard can keep them off balance enough to push through.
This sideboard is only an example of effort that can be taken to help ensure that the deck’s biggest weakness doesn’t cost it a tournament. It might not be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction to protect against the scariest countermeasures most opponents can muster.
Possible Directions To Move From Here:
-I have two goals this week: Find the best mirror trump (i.e., Cunning Sparkmage is trump Game 1, [card linvala, keeper of silence]Linvala[/card] trumps Sparkmage, [card gideon jura]Gideon[/card] trumps Linvala, what trumps Gideon?), and feel comfortable when my opponent summons a Baneslayer Angel.
-Sarkhan Vol could be a decent direction to move if I were trying to be a little more aggressive against UW. The Threaten ability is very powerful against Baneslayer, and would probably win the game against Mythic if we had any kind of aggressive start. He also kills Sparkmage in the mirror (they will probably have Cunning Sparkmage kill itself in response to the -2 ability, and if they don’t, then you would do so upon taking control of it), but doesn’t answer the Linvala trump in that matchup.
-Eldrazi Monument has obvious implications against UW, Jund, the mirror, and possibly Mythic.
-Sarkhan the Mad was an absolute beating from the Jund opponent I played in round 3, when he drew it. It was similar to the presence created by a Baneslayer, in that I was unable to attack into it, and I was also unable to defend it from killing me. Sarkhan is also a sweet answer to Polymorph, for whatever that’s worth.
-My own Baneslayer Angels might be a direction I want to take. It is possible that adding even more fives would just be too much on the mana constraints, but I want to try them out. Fighting fire with fire, etc.
-Ajani Vengeant has been proposed and discussed, and Gerry Thompson even played some at the GP (He finished 10th, and Bobby Graves also finished 11th with the deck). I feel like Ajani a little weak against UW, since all my opponents have boarded Purge in against me anyway, but if there are other applications I’m not seeing, I would be happy to test them out. I suppose locking down Sparkmage or Knight in the mirror is a possibility?
Naya has some incredibly powerful tools at its disposal, and I can’t wait to sleeve it up again and leave a trail of destruction behind me. Being aggressive with planeswalkers is pretty awesome, and I’m a little sad we didn’t figure it out earlier. To me, Naya feels like Mythic, minus the turn 3 nut draw, but with an edge in the mirror, and better mana. And better planeswalkers. And Vengevine. And Bloodbraid Elf.
I’m going to play Naya, its sweet. That’s really all it comes down to. Standard is pretty diverse, and you can do pretty much whatever you want, as long as you know your weaknesses and plan for them. If you don’t know what specific scenarios to prepare for, then your results will obviously suffer, but if you do… well, I hope I have turn two Lotus Cobra.
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