A-Naya-lating the Competition

Posted in Reconstructed on February 12, 2013

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

In just a few short days, the top players from around the world will convene in Montreal. Bringing their best Standard decks to the table, these top competitors will duke it out round after round until the dust settles and there is a clear victor. New decks will come out of nowhere. Old decks will stake their claim. And the future of Standard will be shaped for everyone.

With all ten shocklands making practically every color combination viable, it's going to be an event to watch. Are you ready?

This week, we've going to delve (but not Delve) into what goes into making a deck you could see playing at this Pro Tour. While the intensity and immense pressure of making the best play you can and sideboarding properly against a new deck on the fly won't be saddled on your shoulders, if you've never played at that level then you might just catch a gist of it off of these words.

I received a long list of interesting submissions this week, and if you're looking for some new decks to try out this week—even if you're playing in, say, a Pro Tour—it might be worth your while to take a look at the whopping amount of decklists at the end of this article. There are more than thirty post-Gatecrash decklists to feast your eyes upon. But first, let's take a look at the deck we're going to be focusing on today.

With Gatecrash's shocklands available, and a few more powerful cards, a strong Naya deck—meaning red, green, and white, named after the Shards of Alara shard—is finally starting to coalesce together. Let's take a look at Dean Khazanov's take on the archetype:

Dean Khazanov's Naya

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The Battle Plan

A Naya deck falls into the midrange category—but make no mistake, this is a much different midrange than something like the black-red-green nature of Jund.

Whereas Jund midrange decks seek to attrition you over the course of a long game and generally don't play cards like mana Elves, Naya decks tend to be a little faster and a little more aggressive. The deck trades black mana for white mana, swapping removal for strong, versatile creatures.

This deck can come out of the gates quickly, playing a turn-one mana Elf into a turn-two Loxodon Smiter, and quickly start setting down damage. However, like most midrange decks, it can certainly play a more controlling game as well. Thragtusk, Restoration Angel, and Huntmaster of the Fells are strong against beatdown and control decks alike, providing a mix of virtual card advantage and hard-to-deal-with threats that make opponents gnash their teeth.

Avacyn's Pilgrim
Loxodon Smiter

The key with any midrange deck in this format is making sure it can keep pace with Sphinx's Revelation decks. The litmus test is this: can you beat Supreme Verdict, pinpoint removal, and then a Sphinx's Revelation?

Having some kind of way to play a long game is crucial against those sort of decks. This is where Jund tends to come out ahead since it's more attrition based... but with Gatecrash, Naya has the perfect card to help fill that hole.

But more on that later. For now, let's begin to look at the individual cards!

Deck Breakdown

Some cards fit this deck well—and others can be improved. Let's go through each one and see if it's worth keeping around.

Avacyn's Pilgrim

Mana Elves are exactly the kind of card this deck wants. Playing a three-drop on the second turn is the sort of speed this deck seeks to obtain. While Elves do open you up to Supreme Verdict, they have so many upsides that they're definitely worth playing. Plus, Avacyn's Pilgrim even fixes your mana for you!

In addition to four Avacyn's Pilgrim, I would also want to play four copies of Arbor Elf in this deck. Dean's deck has enough green sources to consistently take a trip to Greendale on the first turn, and so playing more one-mana Elves is fantastic for us. I want to maximize the chances of playing a Loxodon Smiter on turn two, a Huntmaster of the Fells on turn three, and a Thragtusk on turn four—and playing as many mana Elves as possible is the best way to do that.

Huntmaster of the Fells

Huntmaster of the Fells is one of the best midrange creatures available in Standard. It makes a creature and picks up some life for you the turn it enters the battlefield, and, if unchecked, it flipping back and forth can absolutely dominate a game by removing your opponent's creatures.

This deck makes fantastic use of Huntmaster of the Fells and is geared up to cast him on turn three. The Huntmaster also plays marvelously alongside Restoration Angel. All four copies of this card are going to stick around.

Restoration Angel

Speaking of Restoration Angel, she is definitely strong in this sort of deck. Not only does she fly and dish out damage, not only does she come down at instant speed to wreck your opponent's attacks and mess up combat math, but she has numerous synergies within this deck.

With that said, I think it's actually pretty close between three copies and four copies of Restoration Angel for this deck. While she is strong, it's important this deck isn't just four- and five-drops. Restoration Angel is often best after you've already played one of your other cards with a strong enters-the-battlefield effect, and so most of the time she isn't the ideal four-drop. While you won't weep if all you draw are Angels, I would much rather have a hand with one creature with an enters-the-battlefield ability and one Restoration Angel than two Restoration Angels.

Still, with all of that in mind, I still settled on the side of playing four because of how strong she is at putting the game out of your opponent's reach early on. A lot of decks can't easily come back from a early Restoration Angel on a Huntmaster of the Fells or Thragtusk. If you were looking to make a cut after playtesting to lower the curve, I could definitely see cutting the fourth Angel.


Thragtusk is awesome and four copies should be in this deck. Enough said, right?


Well, not so fast. Actually, I think there are some pretty reasonable arguments against the full four Thragtusks here.

First and foremost, it's worth the question if some Wolfir Silverhearts are actually better. In many matchups, the larger creature is going to be far more threatening. A lot of players have evolved their decks to compensate for fighting against Thragtusk and are ready. They'll have Skullcracks, Crippling Blights, and so on. Getting 12 extra points of power for five mana (that can be adjusted around at instant speed with Restoration Angel, mind you), not so much.

Wolfir Silverheart

I don't think we're quite at the tipping point where Silverheart is the choice yet, especially since our deck does have Restoration Angel to combo with it. However, I definitely wouldn't be surprised if some players at the Pro Tour brought Silverhearts to the table alongside—or even instead of—the mighty Thragtusk.

Second, it's crucial that this deck doesn't have too many five-drops. I already know I want to play the maximum number of Thundermaw Hellkites in this deck—more on that shortly—and having the full eight-pack of five-drops might be a little excessive for curve reasons.

I do think it's close between three and four copies of Thragtusk for this deck. I eventually came down on the side that only has three for curve reasons and then sideboarding the fourth, although, like Restoration Angel, I do think it's a close call.

While it may just seem like one card slot, over the course of ten Standard rounds of a Pro Tour, a single card slot can make a big difference. Consistency is crucial, and you want to be careful to build a Pro Tour deck's mana curve appropriately.

Thundermaw Hellkite

While Thragtusk is cemented in most player's heads as the ideal five-drop you always want, it actually looks to me that this dragon is going to be the better fit.

This deck needs to deal a lot of damage quickly. While Thragtusk is nice if you want the game to go on for a long time, you don't always have that luxury. Unlike midrange decks in ages past, it can't afford to take tons of time because of the threat of Sphinx's Revelation. Once a control deck enters the Sphinx's Revelation phase of the game, you need to defeat it quickly or you are going to lose.

A 5/5 hasted flier that gets past opposing fliers fits that bill perfectly.

If your opponent is leaning on Supreme Verdict to beat you, a Dragon presents a must-deal-with threat that also sends 5 damage to his or her face right away. If your opponent is another midrange deck, this Dragon creates one of the best clocks in the format and forces your opponent to remove it. Against beatdown decks, it can turn you from backpedaling to providing lethal pressure as your creatures on the ground block to buy time for your Dragon to chomp through.

While Dean was heading in the right direction with two, I'd like to go a step further and sign this deck up for the full four copies.

Loxodon Smiter

This deck looks to start attacking fast against control and create some huge threats against beatdown, and a three-mana 4/4 creature is a great fit for that. Especially with the push to move up to eight mana Elves, this deck wants plenty of strong three-drops to cast. The original list had three Smiters, and I'd like to move up to four now that we have extra mana Elves to help get there.

Aurelia, the Warleader

Aurelia, the Warleader is absolutely brutal if you can cast her. Most of the time, she's just instantly game over. The second attack step allows you to punch through for so much damage—even just a Restoration Angel already on the battlefield means that an Aurelia, the Warleader can send up to 12 points of damage straight at your opponent! She even untaps all of your mana Elves to boot, so you can cast something in your second main phase.

The tricky part, however, is casting her in the first place. While Aurelia, the Warleader is incredibly powerful, she might also be a little win-more. In a deck that already has so many five-drops, how much better is she going to be than, say, a Thragtusk? While she turns into an oncoming storm once she's on the battlefield, getting up to six mana isn't easy—especially since by that point your opponent might have found a Supreme Verdict for your creatures.

I think if you want to play Aurelia, the Warleader she makes for a nice one-of. I never want to draw two, and this deck can't afford many more top-end slots, but having one as an occasional fifth hasted large flier is completely reasonable. I'm going to opt not to play her just because I'm a little concerned about this deck's curve and the kind of opening hands it might get, but I could certainly see playing one if you wanted.


I would rather have Arbor Elf than Farseek in this deck. While Farseek provides a source of mana that can't be easily removed by Supreme Verdict, the speed of the mana Elves makes this a clean swap for me. I also want to get more spells out of this deck so I can safely add in Domri Rade, making this an even easier switch.

Clan Defiance

I'm all for having a few X spells in this deck to give you inevitability and hurt creature mirrors. However, I'd say Bonfire of the Damned is going to do that job even better. With just a couple copies you're not that likely to find it in your opener, and it's far more brutal in the midgame. Bonfire it is!

Boros Charm; Garruk, Primal Hunter; Searing Spear; Selesnya Charm

An incredible card for this deck is Domri Rade. With eight mana Elves, he can come out on turn two and consistently start dominating the game.

Domri Rade

Against control decks, he makes for a must-deal-with threat. They essentially need to Detention Sphere him or lose. The endless stream of card advantage is incredibly troublesome for them, and, unless you're somehow already in a tight spot, Domri's ultimate is nearly unbeatable.

Against beatdown and midrange decks, he not only finds you creatures you need—providing the string of card advantage Naya was lacking prior to Gatecrash—but also gives you a repeatable source of removal. A turn-two Domri can decide midrange mirrors.

The cost of optimizing Domri, however, is lessening the number of noncreature spells in your deck. While those spells are all strong, Domri is going to be so powerful in this deck that he supersedes playing those spells.

With those spells out of the picture, this deck is going to be a little light on two-drops. While you do have eight mana Elves, it's important you still have something to do in the games where you don't draw one or your opponent removes it.

There are two great options here: Strangleroot Geist and Flinthoof Boar. They're both incredibly strong two-mana creatures that have haste. If I had the room to play both of them, I would, but I think there's really only enough space for one.

Strangleroot Geist
Flinthoof Boar

Strangleroot Geist gets the nod here, since it is both an extra line of resiliency to pinpoint removal and Supreme Verdict, and it also has some synergy with Restoration Angel and Domri. There's definitely a more aggressive version of this deck to consider that has both Strangleroot Geist and Flinthoof Boar—but with this midrange approach, I want to give the cards that fit that part of the precedence.

That brings our decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Naya for Montreal

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But what about that sideboard? Well, let me break it down!

Centaur Healer

Against beatdown decks—especially Mono-Red and Zombies—Centaur Healer brings your total of lifegain creatures up to a comfortable number. Although they will have Skullcrack, it's a lot easier for them to leave two mana up for a Skullcrack when you're about to cast Thragtusk than it is when you're casting an early-game Centaur Healer.
Rest in Peace

Although this deck is overall strong, it has few answers to the Reanimator decks. Those decks will run all over this one. While I dislike how poor Rest in Peace is if you draw multiples, you need it so badly against those decks that I'm willing to run the full four copies.
Boros Charm

The control decks are going to lean on Supreme Verdict against you, and if you can establish a board presence and then leave mana up for Boros Charm they're going to be out of their primary weapon against your blisteringly quick starts.

While I dislike bringing in more spells in a deck where Domri is at his prime, you're cutting Bonfires for these so you're only actually going up by one spell.
Knight of Glory

These are just a creature that's strong against Zombies and black-centric control decks. You could also consider Pillar of Flame instead, depending on how many red removal spells and Devour Fleshes you expect Zombies to play.

This just fills out the set against beatdown and midrange. I don't think you want the fourth copy against control: I would rather have Thundermaw Hellkite most of the time, and, especially after bringing in Boros Charm, which you want to hold two mana up for, you can't afford to have too many five-drops.
Bonfire of the Damned

Like Thragtusk, this adds a third one into your deck against beatdown and midrange decks. It just makes it that much more likely you'll find one. (Although hopefully not in your opening hand.)

How would I sideboard exactly? Well, this is how I would traditionally sideboard—although depending on the matchup you can switch it up in different ways. For example, in beatdown I don't say to sideboard in Knight of Glory, but if you're playing against Zombies you definitely want to be playing some.

Versus Beatdown (Like Mono-Red and Gruul)

-2 Domri Rade, -4 Thundermaw Hellkite
+1 Bonfire of the Damned, +1 Thragtusk, +4 Centaur Healer

Versus Other Midrange Decks (Like Jund and Naya)

-2 Strangleroot Geist
+1 Bonfire of the Damned, +1 Thragtusk

Versus Control (Like Bant Control and Esper Control)

-1 Thragtusk, -2 Bonfire of the Damned
+3 Boros Charm

Versus Unburial Rites Reanimator Decks

-2 Bonfire of the Damned, -2 Strangleroot Geist
+4 Rest in Peace

Honorable Mentions

There were a ton of great deck submissions this week. Take a look over them, and see what inspiration you can draw for your local tournament—or maybe even the Pro Tour!

Kyogo Kawada's Infinite Angels

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Kelvin Cabrera's Simic Maniac Deck

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Mark Ian Alloso's Orzhov Aggro

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Satoshi Ito's Boros Splash Black

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Paul's BUG Beatdown

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Devin Carter's Esper Control

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Andrew Montoya's Blasphemy!

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Gianluca Soriano's Thragtusk's Mastery

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Zach Aker's BUG

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Jetse Lensing's Immortal Servitude Combo

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Nick Olson's BUG Control

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Stefano's Mono-Black Control

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Ed Gerlits's Wild Science

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Evan Cloutier's Bant Elves!

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