Imagine a wonderful fantasy world where you attack with gigantic, invincible creatures and there is nothing your opponents can do to stop you. It isn't a dream; it's a deck called Naya Hexproof.
I played my new build of Naya Hexproof to a 12-3 (15th place out of 2049 players) last weekend at Grand Prix Chicago.
One of the things that I have been working on over the past few months with regard to my Magic game is to pick one deck and really stick with it for an extended period of time. Especially in formats that are very rigidly defined, like Standard or Legacy. Change occurs fairly slowly in these formats and getting a ton of experience with a deck and knowing all the ins and outs, all the match ups, and being very comfortable has a ton of upside.
The popular decks in Standard are pretty static. Mono-Black Devotion, U/W Control, Mono-Red Aggro, Mono-Blue Devotion, and Jund Monsters are all very solid decks that make up a very large percentage of the metagame. These decks are all pretty evenly matched with regard to their win percentages against the rest of the field.
Honestly, none of the aforementioned decks really spoke to me as a player. They are all fine decks, but none are really what I want to actually sleeve up and play with.
I wrote about Naya Hexproof a few months ago after I played it to a disappointing 5-5 finish at SCG Cincinnati. One of the observations I made about the deck after playing and failing with the deck was that it was an extremely powerful strategy, but I felt the list I played had a lot of problems between the main deck and the sideboard. I had gotten a list from Michael Jacob and another list from Jon Johnson and I sort of mashed the two lists together taking the elements of each that I liked. I then played the deck with very little practice in the tournament.
Let me just say that the thing I just described in the above paragraph is basically a recipe for disaster!
However, I really liked the idea of the deck and I decided to stick with it and have been working on tweaking, tuning, and practicing with Naya Hexproof ever since.
- 4 Bassara Tower Archer
- 3 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Gladecover Scout
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Witchstalker
The big thing I changed from previous versions of the deck that I have seen or have played previously is the addition of adding Fleecemane Lion to the maindeck.
Imagine Grumpy Cat. Now imagine Grumpy Cat randomly going SSJ and gaining Hexproof and Indestructable. It is kind of like that .
Fleecemane Lion fixes one of the glaring flaws of the Hexproof deck in that it provides and aggressive creature that can actually get involved in the combat step and bring some beats even when not suited up. The Lion also provides more depth at the two drop spot which is something that I believe makes the deck better.
I also went to work trimming the fat from the Hexproof deck by lowering the mana curve fairly significantly and cutting an extra land. I only play five cards that cost three mana total in the maindeck which makes a pretty big difference for a deck that is really trying to go under whatever the opponent is trying to set up.
I also cut back to only playing one Witchstalker, and I seriously wonder if just cutting it for the fourth Fleecemane Lion wouldn't have been better. Having one Witchstalker lets me make the cool C.S. Lewis pun, so at least the card has that going for it...
The key to why I believe Naya Hexproof was good in this tournament and will be good as a deck choice moving forward is that it has a lot of good match ups and also does things that are fundamentally unfair. I had a lot of turn 4 wins against opponents who simply couldn't interact with what my deck was doing.
Hexproof is a deck that is in many ways similar to Dredge or Storm, at least within the context of the Standard season within which it exists. It attacks from an extremely powerful and linear angle and forces opponents to have very specific cards to interact with it, and if one's opponents don't have those specific cards, they are probably going to lose.
While every deck has access to at least one or two of these cards throughout their 75, most decks don't actually have access to more than a couple total. In addition, most decks play a lot of cards that are not very good against the vast majority of what the Hexproof deck is doing.
Sure, they can kill a Fleecemane Lion every once and a while with these cards. However, keep in mind that if they are spending two mana to kill a Fleccemane Lion, that one's opponent is not progressing their board or dealing with the real Hexproof threats.
One thing I noticed about Fleecemane Lion is that it tended to be very good against opposing Black decks. It hits very hard while providing an insurance creature to protect Hexproof creatures from Devour Flesh. Also, because of all the combat tricks in the deck, it can pretty easily attack right through a pack of rats early in the game. It can also play defense on the play against Pack Rat if necessary, because it takes a long time for their Rats to get big enough to actually attack through it profitably.
Fleecemane Lion also really shines against fast aggro match ups because it comes down on the second turn and outclasses all other one and two drop creatures that people play. The card is simply bigger and stronger in the Red Zone.
While bringing this up may sound like one of those "Magical Christmas Land" moments, it is not actually that uncommon to end up monstrous-ing Fleecemane Lion and then putting a Lifelink enchantment on it and going to town. It actually came up quite a few times for me over the course of a fifteen round tournament against the Black decks.
The moral of the story is that I focused on making my version of Hexproof cheaper, more efficient, and better at beating down by cutting expensive cards (three-drops) for two drop creatures.
I love having access to the full amount of the combo:
These two cards together in a deck like Naya Hexproof simply steal games away from people. It is so much damage. I killed an opponent from 24 life with a Pack Rat back to block after his attack had put me on a one turn clock.
The other thing that is pretty sweet about this deck is that opponents have to respect the combo. I had a lot of opponents chump blocking against me because they didn't want to be dead on board to a plausible 18 out of nowhere.
Naya Hexproof is basically the combo deck of Standard.
It is fantastic against aggro and midrange decks and at its worst against control decks. Basically, in a game of Rock, Scissors, Paper, it is always going to be favored against Rock and an underdog to the dreaded Scissors.
Fortunately, Standard is a format where all of the decks (regardless of favorable and unfavorable match ups) are capable of winning at any time.
If you really think about what is going on in Standard, it isn't truly a Rock, Scissors, Paper analogy. Aggro and midrange make up a way bigger piece of the pie than U/W Control does, so technically it's like throwing Paper in a field that is four times more likely to throw Rock than Scissors.
Unfortunately, in the last round of the tournament I ended up playing against Tomoharu Saito for a spot in Top 8 with his very Scissors-y UWG Control deck. So, not only did I get my worst match up, but I had to play it against literally one of the best players in the entire world.
I mulliganed, flooded out, and got completely destroyed. It was a pretty disappointing end to a pretty fantastic 5-0 run on day 2. I was really hoping to dodge that match up (and him specifically) in the last round and instead get one of the trillion Mono-Black or Mono-Blue decks that were floating around at the top of the X-2 bracket.
Here is what I played against in the tournament and how I fared:
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Bye
Round 3: Jund Monsters, 2-0
Round 4: R/W Burn, Win 2-1
Round 5: Mono-Blue Devotion, Loss 1-2
Round 6: G/R Monsters, Win 2-0
Round 7: B/W Devotion, Win 2-0
Round 8: B/G Devotion, Win 2-1
Round 9: Mono-Green Devotion, Loss 1-2
Round 10: Mono-Black Devotion, Win 2-0
Round 11: B/G Devotion, Win 2-0
Round 12: Brave Naya, Win 2-1
Round 13: Mono-Blue Devotion, Win 2-1
Round 14: B/R Aggro, Win 2-0
Round 15: Bant Control, Loss 1-2
Let's talk about the sideboard:
I liked my sideboard a lot over the course of the tournament, and I used every single card that I brought multiple times throughout the tournament. A sideboard where every single card gets used multiple times and to great effect is a sideboard that is effective.
Fiendslayer Paladin is for exactly the kind of decks that you'd think he'd be good against. He's already Hexproof against decks that are playing black and red and already has the Unflinching Courage built right in. Put anything on this fine Knight and the game is pretty much over.
Against Red decks, Gift of Orzhova is another Armadillo Cloak, but I also bring it in against Mono-Black Devotion and against control decks. Being able to fly over creatures on the ground against black is pretty huge and flying over Nyx Fleeced Ram or Elspeth Tokens can also be pretty clutch.
Glare is a solid, flexible card. Obviously, it is going to be at its best against opposing white agro decks, but it also quite good against U/W decks because it can exile Detention Sphere, Elspeth, and Nyx-Fleece Ram.
One thing to think about with the Demystify effects in the sideboard is whether or not the cards your opponent is likely bringing in to interact with us are likely to be Enchantments. Banishing Light, Nyx-Fleece Ram, Eidolon of the Great Revel, and Unflinching Courage are all enchantments that people WILL bring in if they have them.
The games tend to go a little bit longer because they can chip away at your stuff, but as long as you have more threats to pound onto the battlefield it usually works out alright. I also really like the fourth Fleecemane Lion against any deck that plays a one drop two power creature and wants to attack me. Against one drop decks like Mono-Black Aggro, Fleecemane Lion outclasses most of an opponent's early pressure on the second turn. Honestly, I bring in the fourth Fleecemane Lion against any deck that isn't G/R Monsters or Mono-Blue Devotion.
Yeah tiny insect, show that Wind Drake who's boss!
I like Skylasher against Mono-Blue Devotion where if you ever draw the card in your opening hand, you pretty much win the game on the spot. It's also a reasonable card to sideboard in against various U/W decks since it gets around counterspells and can join the fight on their end step. Also, it is immune to their direct spot removal like Azorius Charm and Detention Sphere which is pretty nice.
Pretty much a card that I want to sideboard in against Mono-Blue and against G/R Monsters. I had one game where I couldn't play it because I didn't have a Mountain to put it on, and three games where it immediately won the game for me on the spot.
It's a little bit of a risk, but there is no other card out there that does this effect and is nearly so mana efficient.
Also, remember that it is an Enchantment so it pumps a creature enchanted by Ethereal Armor which is pretty sweet! I had one opponent actually count up all of my Auras that were attached to my creature and then block with a Desecration Demon only to find that it died to lethal first strike. So don't forget to count those Chained to the Rocks!
All in all, the deck was an absolute blast to play. While I'm a little bit disappointed that I lost the last round, didn't make top 8, and didn't qualify for the Pro Tour again, I'm still really happy with how I played, how I prepared, and the deck that I chose to battle with.
The other great thing about Naya Hexproof is that most of my rounds were over in about twenty to thirty minutes which gave me plenty of time in between rounds to get food or drink and get ready to play the next round.
Do you like combos?
Do you like playing eight minute games of Magic?
Do you like blanking the cards in your opponent's hand?
If so, this might just be the deck you've been looking for!