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Owen’s a Win – Pro Tour Naya *15th*

I placed 15th place at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, and this finish makes me ecstatic. First off, it’s good to have a solid PT finish because I know if I had just been a little bit luckier I could have had three losses instead of four and you may have seen me in the Top 8 once again. This finish also makes me happy because I’ve locked up Platinum for the 4th year in a row and have a very legitimate shot at making the Players Championship—this Pro Magic thing may not be such a bad idea after all.

Lastly, this finish meant a lot to me because I played a deck of my own design—I very rarely do this in a Pro Tour. In fact, I think the last time I played a deck solely of my own design for a Pro Tour was over 5 years ago. I think this is a big hole in my game that I need to fix, regaining confidence in my own decisions.

I played a big Naya Zoo deck, which in and of itself wasn’t the most exciting thing ever, but I did feel it was a strong, consistent, aggressive deck that had great sideboard options. My record in Modern with the deck was 7-2-1:

[ccdeck]4 Arid Mesa
2 Forest
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Plains
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
3 Verdant Catacombs
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Loxodon Smiter
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Wild Nacatl
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
—–Sideboard—–
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Batterskull
2 Blood Moon
2 Combust
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Rule of Law
1 Shatterstorm
2 Stony Silence
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Torpor Orb
1 Wear and Tear[/ccdeck]

In hindsight I think this list was almost completely optimal within 3-4 cards. My testing process involved making a list of what I believed to be the expected metagame and played tons of matches against those decks. Usually 10 presideboard and 10 post-sideboard to try and get an accurate representation of what people could do with their deck after sideboard. The more I played, the better my record got. I expected these decks, in order of popularity:

Zoo (Tribal Flames, Big Zoo, and Little Naya)
Splinter Twin
Birthing Pod (Kiki and Melira)
Affinity
Faeries
Jund
UWR Control
Tron
Miscellanious Combo (Scapeshift, Storm, Living End)

Almost all forms of Zoo turned out to be good matchups for me. I wouldn’t always win every set of games but through testing the various matchups I learned it was important to have a rock solid mana base and that you definitely wanted 4 [ccProd]Scavenging Ooze[/ccProd]. I played almost no games against Big Zoo with my deck and it’s possible this was a mistake. It just didn’t seem like a deck other people would be excited about and also any card I would put in my sideboard for this matchup would be narrow and hard to utilize against any other decks. This was one of the strengths of my sideboards–many of the cards I played could be used in many different matchups. [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd] is killer against Tribal Flames Zoo but it’s also quite good against Faeries, UWR Control, Tron, and Scapeshift.

The 2 copies of [ccProd]Loxodon Smiter[/ccProd] may look a bit odd, but I knew my deck needed more threats after hundreds of games testing against removal-heavy decks. I didn’t want to just continually draw and pass the turn if my first two creatures were killed. I had removed the 3 [ccProd]Bant Charm[/ccProd] that I was testing for ages and added a 4th Scavenging Ooze, which turned out to be an all-star, and two Loxodon Smiter.

This deck often struggles against [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd], and while it isn’t like I thought Liliana would be particularly popular, I thought some people would play it and having a couple Smiter can help mitigate her. I also noticed how strong Smiter was against cards like [ccProd]Remand[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mana Leak[/ccProd], [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Anger the Gods[/ccProd]. These cards were extremely popular and successful so I liked having a little preemptive measure to make them weaker. Loxodon Smiter is also shockingly powerful against cards like [ccProd]Kird Ape[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd]. In hindsight I wish I had played a 3rd copy of this card.

[ccProd]Thundermaw Hellkite[/ccProd] was a big draw to this deck because it was amazing against Birthing Pod, Faeries, Control, Jund, and the mirror. In the end it was crappy sometimes and other times it was good but not great. It’s not a card you ever want to see in your opening hand and if you play against a combo deck it’s going to be close to useless. With the benefit of hindsight I would have played zero copies, but given that I did have them, they won me a match straight-up and could have been amazing when topdecked in some games that I lost. One of the best things you can do with Thundermaw Hellkite is cast it on turn three off any combination of [ccProd]Noble Hierarch[/ccProd], [ccProd]Birds of Paradise[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Knight of the Reliquary[/ccProd] and destroy all opposing Birds of Paradise from a Birthing Pod deck. This came up occasionally in testing and it was always a complete blowout.

I played one copy of [ccProd]Birds of Paradise[/ccProd] in my own deck and I stand by this decision. I liked this card because I wanted to run 4 [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd] and 4 [ccProd]Noble Hierarch[/ccProd], though I acknowledged the fact that if these were your only one-drop creatures and you didn’t draw one or the other you just didn’t get to cast a spell on turn one. I wanted my deck to be fast and consistent and I said previously when talking about this deck that turn one Noble Hierarch into Loxodon Smiter is very similar to Birds of Paradise into turn two Knight of the Reliquary. I also liked how Birds of Paradise played into my plan of casting an early Blood Moon after sideboard.

This deck really ended up turning into a straight [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd] deck. That was one of the strongest aspects of the deck from day one. I eventually played a ton of green fetch lands and two Forests to help support getting basics into play to make my deck fully functional once I cast Blood Moon. I expected more people to play Faeries and UWR control where this card is at its best. I also liked that it was an ace against matchups I expected to be poor but played in small numbers, like Tron and Scapeshift. Lastly, I liked Blood Moon against Tribal Flames Zoo–years ago in the Extended format I considered myself to be a bit of a Tribal Flames aficionado and I knew that Blood Moon is one of the cards I feared the most.

Currently I am in Barcelona preparing for the team Grand Prix this weekend. My team is William Jensen and Reid Duke and we’re mostly relaxing after the Pro Tour. It’s always stressful to go through the process of picking a deck and knowing you’re spending your time wisely and preparing well. I hate doing poorly only to then think back to how I could have utilized my time better.

I’ve had some time to reflect on the Pro Tour, the decks that did well, and even play some Magic Online myself. I think my list of Naya Zoo is one of if not the actual best deck in the format and I highly recommend it moving forward. This is what I would play if there were another Modern Pro Tour tomorrow.

[ccdeck]4 Arid Mesa
2 Forest
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
3 Verdant Catacombs
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Loxodon Smiter
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
Sideboard
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Batterskull
2 Blood Moon
2 Combust
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Rule of Law
1 Shatterstorm
2 Stony Silence
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Torpor Orb
1 Wear and Tear[/ccdeck]

I cut the Thundermaw Hellkites, like I discussed earlier, and in their place I have added 1 [ccProd]Chandra, Pyromaster[/ccProd] and 1 Loxodon Smiter. Chandra is underrated in Modern, I played it in my Jund deck at GP Detroit and absolutely loved it. Since then I have grown a fondness for it. The number of 1-toughness creatures played in Modern is massive, most importantly [ccProd]Noble Hierarch[/ccProd], [ccProd]Birds of Paradise[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd]. One aspect of Chandra that I like as well is that it’s a solid mono-red threat, which means whenever Blood Moon comes down you can always cast it and its ability should be enough to help you win the game. I also like that Chandra is great against UWR control, since when it comes down its loyalty is going to go up to 5 and it will not die to a [ccProd]Celestial Colonnade[/ccProd] attack. This is more relevant than you might think.

The second change I made to the deck is to cut 1 [ccProd]Sacred Foundry[/ccProd] for a second copy of [ccProd]Horizon Canopy[/ccProd]. I played a second Sacred Foundry in the Pro Tour because I just literally couldn’t think of a good land to put in that spot. I hated the idea of [ccProd]Stirring Wildwood[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Treetop Village[/ccProd] because it conflicted with my Blood Moon plan and also were generally horrible cards to have in your opening hand if you ever wanted to have a fast draw or play defensively against someone else’s fast draw. Plus there’s a small amount of value in having many different fetchable lands for Knight of the Reliquary, being able to sacrifice a Sacred Foundry in a pinch and always have access to a second Sacred Foundry should you need it. In the end I prefer the second Horizon Canopy much more now, it is just a very good card and makes it so you mana flood less often, a legitimate concern in some matchups. Plus, I almost always use Knight of the Reliquary to go and grab the Horizon Canopy when I’m desperate so why not give myself 2 free cards instead of just 1 in the dire situations.

I added [ccProd]Ethersworn Canonist[/ccProd] to the sideboard to help the Living End and Storm matchups which I’ll admit are not good. Most of the time I think [ccProd]Rule of Law[/ccProd] is better than Canonist because it does not die to [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] but I went with the 1 and 1 mix here because Ethersworn Canonist is amazing against [ccProd]Empty the Warrens[/ccProd]. It would be a real tragedy if you lost to a storm deck as a result of them casting Empty the Warrens for a big number while you had Rule of Law in hand. This should help make that happen less often. Lastly I included 1 [ccProd]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/ccProd], I like this card a ton against Splinter Twin and Birthing Pod but it also does something very powerful in the mirror match. A creature that cannot be blocked and stops the opponent from ever activating his [ccProd]Scavenging Ooze[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Knight of the Reliquary[/ccProd] is a pretty robust threat.

As I mentioned earlier, I think this deck is great for Modern and great against the decks that people played at the PT. I won’t be attending any Modern Grand Prix in the near future but writing about this deck is making me wish that I were. I intentionally chose not to include a sideboard guide for this deck because often I find them to be harmful for people new to the deck. In Modern particulary I’ve found that you need to be constantly trying to reevaluate how you sideboard in various matchups. If your opponent has a bunch of [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Batterskull[/ccProd] then you want [ccProd]Ancient Grudge[/ccProd], but sometimes you never know that until it’s over and other versions of whatever deck they’re playing will not have these cards and it’s a disaster to add Ancient Grudge to your deck when it has no targets. The best advice I can give you is to try the deck yourself and get in some games against any matchup where you don’t know exactly how to sideboard.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter

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