You wake up in the middle of the night, cold sweat, it's the same recurring nightmare. First , it's the rats . There's no hero to save you . Then , it's the zombies. Someone's tampering with your mind in your sleep, you know it --probably some powerful demon.
The nightmare's over, we found a way to stop them.
I come from the Grand Rapids area of Michigan, surrounded by some very powerful mages. I just want to give a shout out to our awesome Magic community; the amount of Facebook posts, text messages, and phone calls I got was overwhelming. You all are truly the best.
So enough of all that, let's get to the reason why you're here: this ridiculously top-heavy deck that's been "affectionately" dubbed: Naya BigRange. I would love to sit here and say that I brewed this from the ground up, but that's not the case. Adam Van Fleet placed 10th with it at the Open in Somerset. He laid down the groundwork and I tweaked it a bit.
- 3 Keening Apparition
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Voyaging Satyr
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
So why would you want to play this deck? You looked at it, right? Just look at all those planeswalkers! We have nine! They give us so much game against the field, especially Mono-Black Devotion, not just in recurring pressure but in the ability to kill their creatures and dig for more threats.
If we look at the creature selection, it's really not that far off from any of the other Monster variants. We have acceleration, high toughness brick walls, mana dumps and one powerful set of flyers. Let's not forget the card that's easiest to look at and dismiss entirely:
So let's talk about the targets that Keening Apparition has, beyond just being a white version of Grizzly Bear with superior art. The following are cards that I killed over the course of the tournament with this powerhouse 2/2.
Now that's just what I killed, but there are plenty more juicy targets. If the Junk Constellation deck that BBD was playing this weekend takes off at all, Keening Apparition gets even better as it can kill almost everything in that deck. Not bad for a 2/2.
Banishing Light and Detention Sphere are the two best targets for this deck. The goal of this deck is to put a four-mana planeswalker onto the battlefield on turn 3 on the play every single game. For control to win, they have to remove it with one of the aforementioned enchantments. And that's where Apparition shines.
The spells we have are quite similar to monsters decks. Theirs are definitely a little better, but not by a whole lot. With seven mana accelerants, the deck has the ability to overload Mizzium Mortars quite frequently. Selesnya Charm has been one of my favorite charms for a long time due to its versatility.
Play a Desecration Demon? Get it out of here.
Greedy attack with a Mutavault? Here's a Knight.
This is where the real power of the deck comes from as the rest of the deck is built to accelerate to, deploy and protect these. The best draws (my favorite, anyway) are where you can slam a turn 3 Xenagos, the Reveler into a turn 4 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes and start popping out 5/5 haste satyrs every turn. This is so hard for decks to deal with because you present a fast clock with multiple pieces, and even if they can answer one of the pieces, the other can continue to make satyrs, give counters to existing creatures, or dig for the other piece.
So not only do we have the ability to present a hard threat to deal with, a fast and redundant clock, but we also have Elspeth, Sun's Champion as backup. Now I imagine I don't need to explain to everyone why this card is powerful. All you have to do is go back and watch a video of Patrick Chapin winning Pro Tour: Elspeth to see that.
I do want to take a minute to talk about the thought process and decision to include the miser's copy of Chandra, Pyromaster. When I was testing the deck, I kept ending up with 1 or 2 copies of Xenagos in my starting hand and then drawing an extra redundant copy. Against Mono-Black Devotion that's probably fine (you get one Thoughtseize'd, another Downfalled and then play one they can't deal with). That's the "Living the Dream" scenario as usually it just ended up with one or two dead cards in your hand and wishing they were anything else.
That's where Chandra, Pyromaster comes in. Chandra provides a slightly different angle of attack that has some serious synergy with Courser of Kruphix and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. With this setup, if necessary, you can dig six cards deep and essentially draw three of them. Now I don't know about you, but drawing three cards in a base G/R deck seems pretty sweet to me.
There are some matchups where Chandra is below average, mainly against the fast aggro decks, but she can ping off some X/1's in a pinch (I'm looking at you, Soldier of the Pantheon). Regardless if she is ideal or not in every matchup, it's a one-of that provides you with some extra reach, card draw, and a way to walk past opposing Blood Baron of Vizkopas. Every time I drew Chandra, I thought to myself, "Would this have been better as another Xenagos?" Sometimes the answer was yes, but the majority of the time, the answer was no.
There's not a whole lot to talk about in the land selection except for one major mistake that I almost made and that the Versus Video saved me from. If you go back and watch, you'll see Brian struggle to cast any spell on time and get absolutely run over. I dug out my Sacred Foundries, did a little bit of testing and realized that the deck was so much more aggressive and had a way more polished curve at the expense of a few points of life. Scrying in this deck is pretty important, because you have seven mana dorks that can be very rough topdecks, but it's not worth sacrificing your ability to play things on or above curve.
So now that we've covered why the deck is sweet and what the pieces are used for, let's get down to slaying the boogeymen of the format. I'm going to include some sideboarding tips, but take with a grain of salt, as I sideboard differently depending on my opponents play styles and what cards I perceive them leaning on the most. I also tend to slow the deck down a little bit and go bigger, so you'll see Voyaging Satyr cut a lot.
Mono Black Variants (3-0)
Turn 1 Thoughtseize you? Not actually that big of a problem. All of our cards line up pretty well against them and we're a deck with very high threat density and a fair amount of dig.
Lifebane Zombie is not at its best against us as well, which is pretty rare for a green deck.
Xenagos makes tokens to feed to the hungry demon if you don't have a Selesnya Charm to just get him out of the game. Elspeth obviously shines very bright in this matchup; if they try to go wild with the Pack Rat plan, you can really punish them with a huge Elspeth -3.
The BG Devotion build is actually kind of lackluster against us. Them having Abrupt Decay is really not anything we care about. The targets are Keening Apparition, Voyaging Satyr, and Courser of Kruphix. Or tokens. Seems like a fine trade to me.
UWR/Esper/UW Control (2-0)
I discussed earlier how insane Keening Apparition is in this matchup to rebuy your planeswalkers. If you know that they're playing control, it's totally okay to just play this guy out (against non UWR) on turn 2 and get 2-6 points of damage in before they eventually roll their eyes and take it out with an enchantment.
With the quantity of planeswalkers in the deck, Supreme Verdict really isn't that big of a deal. Just don't overcommit and you'll be able to grind them out.
I had one game against Esper Control where I couldn't possibly imagine myself getting back into it after two large Sphinx's Revelations, but Ajani and Chandra drew me so many cards that I was able to keep up with their card quantity by having better card selection, quantity, and power.
Here, we want to keep in at least one Mizzium Mortars so that when they slam an early Elspeth, you can take it out with an overloaded Mortars and your creatures. Elspeth is a beating for this deck so you have to respect it.
Another thing to keep an eye out for in this matchup is if the deck becomes more popular, Fated Retribution will get picked up in lists. I slogged through two of these in one game by slow-rolling a Stormbreath Dragon.
This was the matchup I was most afraid of and you can tell that if you compare sideboards with the previous list. I added four cards to the sideboard to shore up this matchup. Game 1, you're pretty much a dog. Your goal is to get as much onto the table as fast as you can without over exposing yourself to Searing Blood. You can read about the struggle here.
I felt very lucky to have beaten this in Top 4. I was actually just in Shock (pun intended).
You can really transform the deck for games 2 and 3 into a quicker creature beatdown deck. Elspeth and Ajani are just too slow, so they are the first cards to get taken out. Magma Spray is very good in this matchup; you can exile a Chandra's Phoenix and save yourself a lot of damage over the course of a game. Also, remember that Satyr Firedancer is an enchantment and can be killed with Keening Apparition.
Jund Monsters (1-0)
I was confident about this matchup and was pretty excited to see Monsters VS Monsters as the other matchup in Top 4. We're bigger than they are, which is a weird thing to say because our creature packages are almost identical. If they try to get an insane board state of huge creatures, you can just reset with Elspeth and continue on. They have removal spells game 1, but not a ton and two of them are Abrupt Decay. Their removal spells are very highly taxed and we can just slam threat after threat until they run out.
You have to retire the glorious Apparitions here, as much as it breaks my heart, because they're terrible in this matchup.
I went back and watched the coverage and it seemed they initially were a little confused (my opponent was, as well) about my inclusion of Mistcutter Hydra in this matchup. We don't have a ton of sideboard cards to bring in because we're already favored, so literally anything that's better than Apparition can come in.
I'm really looking for ways to keep this deck at the top of the metagame because it really punishes the current boogeymen. I don't feel that we're soft to many decks except for Brave Naya or R/W Burn which is a pretty good place to be.
The cards I'm currently tossing around in my head are an extra Chandra, Pyromaster and some number of Setessan Tactics. We probably also need an answer for Pithing Needle as that card is probably pretty good against us.
If I were going to a tournament tomorrow, I would probably do the following:
I'm also considering adding a Vandalblast to my sideboard to kill Pithing Needle(s), but I'm not sure what to take out.
I'm very excited to be in a position to reach out to the community here and get some feedback. What does everyone think? Where can we tweak the deck? Can we afford a greedy Mutavault or two? Someone go ahead and run this back for me in Providence, and let's see if it can win back to back Standard Opens!
One last shoutout to my team, Team Gaming Warehouse and to my friends on Team #YoloSnapKeep. You guys have really helped shape the player I am today and I look forward to us growing and improving together.
"Keening Apparition is truth, I'm telling you" -Brian Courtade