When Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty was first released, Naya Runes instantly became one of the most exciting decks across Standard, Alchemy and even Historic. While it looked like a potentially dominant strategy at first, it was soon hated to the fringes of the format by cards like Archon of Emeria and tons of cheap removal for creatures and enchantments.
After Streets of New Capenna, the cycle repeated. Naya Runes again looked like a great deck, and had a target on its head going into the Set Championship, the most competitive tournament of the Standard season. But again, players were able to come up with good plans against it, and held Runes to under a sub-50 percent win rate at the event.
For example, my teammates and I played Grixis Vampires, where more or less every card was chosen with beating Runes in mind. We had tons of cheap removal including main-deck Ray of Enfeeblement and three copies of Annul in the sideboard. We had a carefully crafted long-game plan involving Reflection of Kiki-Jiki with Bloodtithe Harvester, Corpse Appraiser and even Mind Flayer off the sideboard!
We felt good about the Runes matchup. But frankly, we still didn’t feel that good…
You might ask, what’s my point in all of this? I believe that Naya Runes is still one of the best decks in Standard. For my weekly Power Rankings, I monitor statistics tracked by Untapped.GG, and Naya Runes still has the highest win rate on the Arena ladder of any archetype – and by a fairly wide margin, at that (62.2 percent from Silver to Mythic on the Best-of-Three ladder. No other deck cracks 60 percent).
I believe that many players are using a poor result at the Championship as an excuse to write off Naya Runes, and I fear this is a recipe for disaster. Just like the classic archetypes of Dredge and Affinity, Naya Runes is at its strongest when no one is looking at it, and when no one is gunning for it.