Why hello there Thursday! I don't think we've been introduced. My name is Brad Nelson, and I know your friends Monday, Wednesday, and Friday very well. You see, I'm visiting today because this weekend is Grand Prix Richmond. We here at StarCityGames.com wanted to spend all week talking about Modern to help players that don't know the format that well. I spent all week working hard to get ready for this event. The only problem with this is that I stumbled upon a sweet new Standard deck. I still have something exciting for Modern lovers tomorrow, but I needed to stop by and say hi today for those looking for something amazing to play in the last Standard PTQ of the season.
I hope you're okay with this.
Last weekend I made the trek to Comics and Gaming in Culpeper Virginia for an IQ. I had plans on Friday that I didn't want to miss, which forced me to skip the Open Series in Atlanta. I didn't think Brian Braun-Duin was going to make another Top 8 to further his lead, so I thought I wouldn't lose any ground in the SCG Players' Championship race if I won the IQ, which I felt confident about. The reason for this inflated confidence was because I had a secret weapon. I had the best deck in the format, and no one else had any idea.
Thank you to whomever I played on Magic Online that gave me the idea. You seriously blew my mind (as well as my life total).
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 2 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
Naya Aggro has been around for some time now, but it has never had such a high damage output. This deck can kill out of nowhere! Whether you're casting Brave the Elements, Boros Charm, or Ghor-Clan Rampager, this deck can deal tons of damage in the midgame. This high-powered midgame allows the deck to stay consistent with eight scry lands. Normally come into play tapped lands are an aggressive deck's Achilles' heel, but this isn't your normal beatdown deck.
The reason for the design of this deck is because of what the other decks in the format look like. Mono-Black Devotion, U/W Control, and their variations are the only decks in the format that run a high volume of removal spells. This means that every other deck in the format is mostly playing permanents with a few removal spells sprinkled in. This is exactly the world that Brave the Elements is good in. Not only is this card a cheap way to protect your guys from a control deck's removal spells, but it can help get your team through a board full of defenders.
The only issue is that white aggro's normal creatures have a tough time dealing with the other creatures in the format. There's no real way to get around creatures like Polukranos, World Eater aside from Brave the Elements. Sure, Banisher Priest can solve some issues, but that's just not a card I'm willing to play right now since its very high variance in how effective it is. White aggro really can't fight a deck like G/R Monsters without drawing at least a couple Brave the Elements. One copy of Brave the Elements is needed to protect from removal spells, and another one is required to get the last points of damage across. This just isn't reliable enough.
This deck doesn't have much of an issue getting around big scary monsters since it's playing Selesnya Charm and Ghor-Clan Rampager. Both of these cards are very good right now and can easily keep you attacking through almost anything, not to mention how insane Boros Reckoner is against G/R Monsters!
I fell in love with this deck the moment I played against it and spent all week working on my list. I got it to a place I liked and ended up giving it to a couple of my friends. Mike Bryant and Andrew Shrout both made Top 8 of their PTQs, and I took down a 69-player IQ. Not a bad first weekend if I say so myself!
With this weekend being the last in the Standard PTQ season, I highly suggest playing what you know. Don't get too cute and end up playing this or any other crazy brew if you've spent months working with the same deck. It's too crucial of a weekend to simply bail on a known strategy. But if you're up in the air on what to play, I say it's time to Brave the Elements!
One of the most challenging aspects of this deck is understanding how to sequence your lands and spells. Oftentimes you'll be faced with this kind of hand:
This is not a bad hand, but there is an important option on turn 1. It would be easy to simply play the Soldier of the Pantheon on turn 1 if the hand had an additional one-drop or if it was a Dryad Militant, but that isn't the case. Not knowing the matchup means we don't know if the Soldier of the Pantheon will get brick walled immediately. Soldier of the Pantheon's protection from multicolor only exacerbates the situation since we won't be able to use Selesnya Charm or a topdecked Ghor-Clan Rampager to break through any blockers.
A turn 1 Soldier of the Pantheon does deal one extra point of damage in the first three turns if it is not dealt with as well as lets you wait a turn to manipulate your deck with Temple of Abandon. This is enough for me to lead with the one-drop.
But what if you know the matchup? Let's say we're up against G/R Monsters. Since we know the matchup, we are able to correctly scry with Temple of Abandon. We may miss out on a point of damage by leading with a turn 2 Fleecemane Lion, but it's extremely important to have the two-drop in play on turn 2.
For starters, our opponent might simply have a turn 2 Sylvan Caryatid. If this is the case, we will miss out on a point of damage by playing turn 1 Soldier of the Pantheon since it will be blocked on turn 2. The other issue is that Soldier of the Pantheon does not deal with any draw involving an Elvish Mystic. The opponent can simply block on turn 1 with the mana producer if they don't need it or curve into Domri Rade or Courser of Kruphix. Both of these starts do not beat turn 2 Fleecemane Lion. We can either swing through Sylvan Caryatid, threaten to trample over Courser of Kruphix, or use Selesnya Charm to deal with Domri Rade.
So I'm fairly confident that the correct play in this situation on the play in an unknown matchup is to play Soldier of the Pantheon, but I can't stress enough that the first two turns can win or lose you the game in almost every matchup. It's extremely important to sequence everything to the best of your ability. You don't need to curve out with this deck, but you do need to have impactful turns.
It is absolutely crucial that you do not consider this deck to be just another aggressive deck. The correct way to play it is to think of it as a board position deck that interacts with the opponent long enough to dispatch a combo element to deal lethal. Whether that is using Brave the Elements to alpha strike or using Ghor-Clan Rampager alongside Boros Charm to deal double digit damage, you must always be thinking about how you are going to end the game. This is why many hands this deck draws can be deceiving.
Opening hands on the draw without one of your breakthrough cards is almost always close to a mulligan.
It's just far too important to be able to attack into defending creatures in the early game to keep hands with just small creatures. Sure, they will sometimes be enough, but most of the time the opponent will build a superior board before you can get anything going. This causes you to be too defensive to be able to deal enough damage to win the game. You don't get the luxury of trading resources with the opponent. You have to take damage to deal with what other decks throw at you, but this deck has the potential to deal far more damage in a single turn than any other deck in the format. This is why you're advantaged in races and why you can't waste too many resources early in trades. A topdecked Brave the Elements will only win you the game if you have enough creatures in play with which to attack.
Creature-filled hands are strong on the play solely because all of your creatures are powerful. Boros Reckoner and Voice of Resurgence are very powerful creatures when they are surrounded by buddies. Draws that flood the board are also great on the play since you will be in a position to topdeck any of your breakthrough spells to close out the game. Scry lands help these draws since they can dig you to important cards like Brave the Elements and Ghor-Clan Rampager.
On the other hand, I'm almost always happy with hands that only have one or two creatures and a few breakthrough spells. Like I said earlier, many of the decks in the format use creatures to do the heavy lifting, making it almost a certainty that your first couple creatures will be around for a while.
Here's a sideboarding guide for the matchups you're most likely to face in a Standard tournament.
Being on the play is extremely crucial in game 1. It's rather easy to overwhelm them in the early turns before their big monsters come online when on the play. Ghor-Clan Rampager and Selesnya Charm make it easy to get over the top of their four-drops, with the only difficult to beat blocker being Stormbreath Dragon.
Being on the play also allows us to get Boros Reckoner into play before any of their four-drops make it to the battlefield. This lets us easily be the aggressor and makes it almost impossible for G/R Monsters to race. The only real way they can do this is to cast an early overloaded Mizzium Mortars, which we have eight ways to defend from.
Being on the draw is a different story. You will a difficult time dealing damage when you're on the draw against a hand with any acceleration. The best way to get damage in early is to threaten your pump effects. Even if I don't have one, I will almost always attack my Voice of Resurgence into a Polukranos, World Eater.
They will rarely block if they don't have a followup monster. This means you will get extra damage in and figure out a little about their hand. If they do have a replacement Polukranos, World Eater or Stormbreath Dragon, you will almost certainly need a bigger creature in play to deal damage. Voice of Resurgence isn't the biggest guy on the block, but its Elemental buddies sure do the trick. Getting a big monster of your own might be the only way to race a Dragon.
If they try to be more controlling, you simply need to hold up mana for Brave of the Elements or Boros Charm at all times. Their plan will be to sweep all of your guys away with Mizzium Mortars, which can be easily dealt with if you see it coming. It will be difficult for them to get through your whole team, so they will be out of options except for Stormbreath Dragon. You, on the other hand, have Brave the Elements, Ghor-Clan Rampager, and Boros Charm to help punch through a high dosage of damage.
Out (on the draw):
In (on the play):
Out (on the play):
In (on the play):
The only reason why Domri Rade comes in on the play and not on the draw is because we have enough time to set up blowouts. Domri Rade can be used to dig for creatures, but the true reason you bring it in is to blow them out with Boros Reckoner. On turn 5, you can Ghor-Clan Rampager a Boros Reckoner and cast Domri Rade, allowing the Reckoner to fight and kill multiple creatures or the opponent. One of the sweet ways to allow Domri Rade to act like a Boros Charm is to Ghor-Clan Rampager a creature besides Boros Reckoner and then have both of the creatures fight post-combat.
This matchup plays out a little bit differently than G/R Monsters, but the same principles are there. Sure, they have better removal spells for the matchup, but that comes at a price. Jund Monsters will take way more damage throughout the game because of its high volume of shock lands. This damage adds up in time, especially when all we are trying to do is set up "combo" turns.
Unflinching Courage just isn't good enough in this matchup due to the high volume of removal they have. They will also be boarding in more removal, making their deck less proactive. This means we simply want to be as aggressive as possible and not worry about any race scenarios. Just hold up Brave the Elements when you can since they will almost always be trying to kill creatures. If they go with this plan, one Brave the Elements might be enough of a tempo boost to snowball to victory.
Mono-Black Devotion & B/W Midrange
This has to be the easiest matchup for the deck. Not only does everything in their deck cost way too much mana, but cards like Brave the Elements and Voice of Resurgence are always backbreaking in the matchup. For example, they could spend three mana in an attempt to kill a two-drop while you save it with one mana. Talk about efficiency!
I've seen Boros Reckoner do way more work than expected when facing down a pack of Rats. I originally thought this matchup would be bad, but I am at least 10-0 in the matchup, which is because of our early game. Get the creatures in fast and early and the opponent will almost always crumble.
Mono-Blue & U/W Devotion
Lately some Mono-Blue Devotion decks have been splashing white for Detention Sphere and Ephara, God of the Polis in the maindeck and Glare of Heresy in the sideboard. This makes the matchup much more difficult, but there really isn't any way to fix it. Naya Aggro might not be a good choice if your metagame is filled with U/W Devotion, but it is still a strong choice if players in your area haven't given in to the power of splashing.
This matchup comes down to being as aggressive as possible. Your main goal is to find the best "combo" kill you can since the blue deck has a huge trump in Master of Waves. Brave the Elements can help get the last points of damage through, but this can be difficult if they're on the play and curve out (especially since Tidebinder Mage is very strong in the matchup).
I understand that this is a lot of sideboarding, but it is the only way I have found to win the matchup. Just get strong protection from blue creatures on the board and try to put Unflinching Courage on one of them. I wish I had more wisdom to bestow upon you, but this can be a tough matchup. The only way I have found success is with extremely gimmicky strategies.
The two copies of Last Breath in the sideboard are specifically for this matchup, but I have been considering the possibility that the matchup is too bad to waste sideboard slots on. If there was something I thought I really needed for other matchups, I would probably take them out, but for now they deserve their spots since there isn't much more the deck needs.
Game 1 can go either way depending on if you draw a Boros Charm. It's almost impossible for U/W Control to beat this card game 1 since it interacts not only with your spells but stops their best card against you. On turn 4, U/W Control will almost always try to protect their life total with Jace, Architect of Thought or try to kill all of your creatures with Supreme Verdict. Boros Charm protects your team from Verdict and gives you a one-turn window to kill them. Even if you don't succeed in killing them the following turn, you force them into having to have a second Supreme Verdict on the following turn.
Things get really fun if they cast Jace, Architect of Thought. Nothing is more fun than using Ghor-Clan Rampager and Boros Charm to kill an opponent who just played a Jace, Architect of Thought. This one-turn window can be all you need to finish off the game.
Things get much worse when you don't draw Boros Charm. Without this spell, you are forced to just commit as much pressure to the board as possible and ignore the fact that they have Supreme Verdict in their deck. I understand that adding more creatures to the board feels horrible when they do have it, but you cannot give them time. Just jam and hope they don't find it. If you don't, then you have to fight through a stream of planeswalkers that can also finish off the game very quickly.
This matchup gets a little bit better after sideboard since you have more instant speed creatures and a couple Domri Rade to help keep the stream of pressure alive.
I hope you guys enjoy playing this deck. Playing it has been the most fun I've had in this format in a very long time, and I'm really excited to hear about your experiences with the deck. Tomorrow I also have something extremely interesting up my sleeve before Grand Prix Richmond. You better stop by tomorrow before Friday's side events start!