Naya is pretty straightforward. You play big monsters and attack your opponent. I tried to make a good Where Ancients Tread deck, but after playing a lot of games, I realized that it couldn't quite compete, even with the decks in the casual room.
The Where Ancients Tread deck was a lot of fun, though, so I'll talk about it for a moment, because it's a lot more in the spirit of Naya than the deck I'm going to focus on this week.
I wasn't sure how to make a deck that focused on playing 5-power creatures that could get in the game and not just tap out to make a guy every turn. I didn't succeed in finding a good balance, but I did find a very nifty combo: Where Ancients Tread and Stampeding Wildebeests. Yes, Stampeding Wildebeests is in Tenth Edition. I'm not sure if this deck really has what it takes, but I imagine a tuned list would play cards like Woolly Thoctar, Druid of the Anima, Devoted Druid, Fertile Ground, and perhaps some Shadowmoor block Avatars, like Oversoul of Dusk or Deus of Calamity. I'd like you guys to fiddle with this concept and shoot me some e-mails. I know the deck has some potential to at least be a casual powerhouse, and I'd like to see what you guys do with it that I couldn't think of.
I went back to the drawing board and decided that I needed to make the deck aggressive enough to beat decks like Faeries. The deck also needed to have enough board presence to beat decks like Kithkin.
I've always had a huge crush on Leaf-Crowned Elder. It's a reasonably sized creature for its cost and he can accrue huge amounts of card advantage if he's left unchecked. I could go two directions with a Leaf-Crowned Elder deck: Treefolk or Shamans.
Treefolk are a powerful tribe, but Doran archetypes have already been pretty well explored. These decks are known contenders, and considering the amount of testing and tuning that they've already undergone, I doubt I could make a new competitive version of the deck, especially not on a reasonable budget. (Thoughtseize and Doran, the Siege Tower costs an arm and a leg.)
Shamans, on the other hand, haven't really taken off. I played a Shaman deck during Block season and thought it was a lot of fun. The Shaman archetype has the ability to kill opponents on the fourth turn by curving into a Rage Forger, and it has enough board presence to make life really hard for decks like Kithkin.
When I played Shamans in Lorwyn Block Constructed, it was just red and green. Fortunately, we now have Jungle Shrine and can afford to splash white without much trouble. Naya Charm acts as a pseudo-Cryptic Command in creature vs. creature matchups, and Oblivion Ring gives us an answer to nearly any question our opponent may ask.
I'm going to break the deck down by the cost of each card and explain why each card fits into the archetype.
Even a deck as aggressive as Naya can't afford to play too many one-drops when it needs to find room for so many lands that come into play tapped. There is, however, one creature that the deck needs to function properly.
Flamekin Harbinger: Flamekin Harbinger fetches Rage Forger. It also works very well with Leaf-Crowned Elder. You put the Flamekin Harbinger into play and get to search up a Rage Forger for a big attack. If you have multiple Leaf-Crowned Elder in play you can actually put the Flamekin Harbinger and a Rage Forger into play and still get your draw for the turn. If your opening hand has at least two Mountain and another land you can play untapped along with two Flamekin Harbinger, you can play your first Flamekin Harbinger fetching another Flamekin Harbinger. On your second turn you can play two harbingers and put a Rage Forger on the top. On your third turn you can play a Rage Forger and attack for nine.
I also considered Seedcradle Witch, but I found that I never really had the opportunity to use the ability effectively without stretching my manabase too thin.
Bosk Banneret: Bosk Banneret helps the deck get truly absurd draws. It allows you to play a second two-drop and a Rage Forger on your third turn, lets you accelerate into a turn-three Leaf-Crowned Elder, or lets you play another two-drop on turn three leaving Incinerate mana up.
Wolf-Skull Shaman: Wolf-Skull Shaman allows you to control the board without having to over-commit and get wrecked by a Wrath of God effect. Wolf-Skull Shaman has a great deal of synergy with your Flamekin Harbinger. It's important to remember to put your Leaf-Crowned Elder's kinship trigger on the stack before Wolf-Skull Shaman's; if you order them wrong, you play the Shaman for free, but you might not get a Wolf token.
Tattermunge Witch: Tattermunge Witch helps poke through the last points of damage. Its mana cost makes him a good addition to the deck even without its ability. You can easily play Tattermunge Witch off your excess land when you have a Bosk Banneret in play.
Incinerate: Incinerate is exceptionally efficient. Three damage for 2 mana is really powerful. Incinerate can be used to remove your opponent's lone blocked or it can be thrown at their face in the late game. Generally, I prefer to play removal that can be used to dome my opponent at later stages of the game. If you're building an aggressive deck that plays red, I think Incinerate is almost an automatic inclusion.
Rage Forger: It's pretty obvious why we're playing Rage Forger. It hits the gym, hard! It's not too uncommon to have double Rage Forger on the table in a deck with Flamekin Harbinger so you can expect to win on turn four pretty often even if your opponent has a blocker or two. Sometimes it's correct to hold the Rage Forger to set up a big turn where your opponent attacks into you. Usually, though, it's correct to play the Forger so long as you have a single Shaman in play. If your opponent has a reasonable board, you may be better off holding on to it.
Naya Charm: Naya Charm is exceptional in the Kithkin and Elves matchups. The ability to tap down your opponent's team will almost always result in a win when you're playing these types of matchups. The other abilities are useful too. It's always good to have extra removal when you're on the play, burning your opponent's only blocker can sometimes give you enough tempo to steal a game. Against five-color decks you can Regrowth your Leaf-Crowned Elder. Leaf-Crowned Elder accrues a great deal of card advantage and your opponent's will usually be forced to use one of their wrath effects even if they're just getting a one-for-one.
Oblivion Ring: Oblivion Ring might be better off as Flame Javelin, but I think it's better in an undefined format. The casual room often offers you some pretty unique problems, like Story Circle, a card like Oblivion Ring can handle any sort of shenanigans that come in the form of a permanent.
Leaf-Crowned Elder: Leaf-Crowned Elder is huge. He can block a Boggart Ram-Gang and stay around to use his kinship unless your opponent has another burn spell and, if he goes unchecked, he will start to amass card advantage that makes it extraordinarily difficult for your opponent to win.
Now our deck looks like this:
Let's break the deck down by types of mana you need and decided how our mana base is going to look. I'm going to count hybrid mana symbols as 0.5 of each color they include. For example, each Tattermunge Witch will be calculated as 0.5 green and 0.5 red.
We'll definitely be playing four Jungle Shrine. We probably also want to be playing some Vivid lands in a three-color deck like this. I think playing nine white sources will be plenty so we can play a singleton Plains alongside the four Jungle Shrine, two Vivid Crag, and two Vivid Grove. That leaves us with 15 more slots for lands, and we can split those between Mountains and Forests. Our mana base ends up looking like this:
I definitely want to be playing Guttural Response in this deck's sideboard. I also think it's probably correct to play some Burrenton Forge-Tenders. I like playing a one-of Eyes of the Wisent in sideboards of decks that play Flamekin Harbinger, it's one card that can change matchup percentages by about 30 percent. The sideboard I ran when testing this deck looked like this:
This is the final list I was playing with.
I took my new deck into the casual tournament practice room to play some games with it. Rather than just give you game data, I've decided to assess how certain matchups are played.
Faeries: Against the Fae you need to be as aggressive as possible. Your goal should be to dump your hand on the table. If you can curve into a turn three Leaf-Crowned Elder you should probably win. Faerie decks don't usually have Terror anymore, and Agony Warp can't really stop you. Guttural Response comes in here; you probably want to take out Naya Charm. The only way Faeries will be able to keep up with you is Cryptic Command; they'll be forced to use it early and you can usually get them with Guttural Response.
Five-Color Control: Five-Color is a difficult matchup. It's probably best to try to kill your opponent as quickly as possible. In the past you could play out one threat at a time against decks like this and make them use their Wrath of God effects. Unfortunately, nowadays the five-color decks have Cruel Ultimatum. It's just one card, but it makes us play a completely different game. There's no way for us to grind out a win because our opponent can just play one huge spell and it pretty much wins the game all on its own. You'll want to sideboard in Guttural Response, Magma Spray, and Burrenton Forge-Tender if they have Firespout. It's important to note that many of the five-color decks now have Infest in their sideboard. This doesn't mean that Burrenton Forge-Tender is unplayable. The one-drop still has value so long as they're packing Firespout, but it's not like you're invincible when you have one in play. Just play guys and attack. Once they Wrath of God you, just start pointing burn spells at their face. Magma Spray is really good in this match; it prevents them from using Makeshift Mannequin on postmortem Mulldrifters, and it gets Kitchen Finks out of the way very quickly.
Kithkin: This matchup is unusual. If they draw Spectral Procession, things are bad for you. If they don't have a Spectral Procession, then it's a pretty easy matchup. You'll want to bring in your Magma Spray and take out your Tattermunge Witch. The new white decks play a lot of creatures with first strike, and Tattermunge Witch's activated ability isn't very efficient against first strikers.
Quillspike combo: This deck is pretty under the radar, but it sees a lot of play in the casual room. It seems like a pretty easy matchup the few times I've played it. They don't do much if you just kill their Devoted Druid. Save burn spells for the Devoted Druid or the win and you should be fine.
Red Deck Wins: This is a surprisingly hard matchup. The big issue here is that you don't have a way to deal with their Demigod of Revenge. You can Flame Javelin one, but you're just dead to them drawing a second one. If you put them on a good clock you can outrace them, though. Don't be afraid to overcommit to the board in Game 1. In Game 2 you have to play carefully. They will side in either Firespout or Pyroclasm, and it's important to recognize which as early as possible. If it's Pyroclasm then you can play around it with your Rage Forger and Wolf-Skull Shaman; if it's Firespout then you probably want to have a Bosk Banneret or a Leaf-Crowned Elder in play before you use Rage Forger. It's important to get value out of our Rage Forger.
I hope you guys enjoyed this week's deck as much as I did. If you enjoy playing aggressive decks that play well in the long game, then the Naya Shaman deck might be for you. The deck is absurdly cheap and it's a ton of fun to play. I've gotten a lot of e-mails over the past few months begging me to make a good Rage Forger deck, so I hope this satisfies your needs. Until next week, tinker around with Where Ancients Tread and shoot me some e-mails telling me what you come up with!