Last week I spent a ton of time working on the RUG control deck. Even though it seemed like ti would be very good, it took one conversation with Brian Kibler at the Pre-Release to know what I wanted to do. I wanted to break Scroll Thief.
I started with a brew of RUG designed to have enough utility creatures to make Molten-Tail Masticore good. This was the list:
The deck was mediocre at best, but what I found out is that Masticore is the real deal. So many times I would ask my opponent when they were at and they would say some low double digit number. This meant they were just dead on upkeep. The power of using Jace very aggressively to get the last 4 points needed to burn them out was astonishing. This deck showed me that Molten-Tail Masticore has real potential.
Now it’s time to find out what type of surroundings this guy needs to be good. The first thing this guy needs is a deck that can deal with creatures without only relying on his help. Molten-Tail Masticore will not be the removal spell you want to always rely on. It is very slow and can take until turn 5 to kill a creature. When I first started brewing with him, I pretended he could count as a removal spell. This was stupid since I would be too slow and lose a ton of tempo. His ability is best when racing so that you can deal 4 damage to their face or when the game is slowing down. This means I do not want to use him as the core of a deck even though you want to build around him. This is when I stumbled onto this lovely brew.
So I know I love this deck way too much but it is still probably one of the best decks to be playing right now. Here is the list before I get to involved with talking about it:
Let’s talk about the cards before we get into the deck.
These two lands are probably the most powerful lands for aggressive green decks since the original duals. They fit this deck perfectly. The downsides to them are almost ignored with 11 creatures that help produce mana and not having many cards that cost more than 4. This means that 1 accelerator means you really only need 3 lands to play most of the spells in the deck.
These lands also help getting the turn one accelerators down on the turn they belong. Naya has always had a tough time with their mana. This is by far the best the lands have ever been in the deck and gives the deck a consistency it has never had.
My brother talked me into this card before Nationals. I never really liked it all that much, but it has a chance to really shine in the new format. Artifact destruction is at an all-time low with the loss of Oblivion Ring and Maelstrom Pulse. It also gets much better since Eldrazi Ramp and Valakut Ramp will be very popular decks in the next few weeks. Eldrazi Monument is a hard card for both of these decks to deal with and can be set up as an Overrun when they have started to gain board position.
One of the downsides to this card is having both it and Molten-Tail Masticore in the same deck. Losing a card and a creature every turn can be very bad if they are not going to die right away. It should not come up that much but is something to be concerned about when playing the deck.
I will have to swallow my pride a bit here while I tell you a story.
I was having a conversation with Patrick Chapin at Gen Con this year about Squadron Hawk. He was going on and on about how powerful this card can be and I just thought it was another rant about a card that probably won’t pan out. Well I was wrong. I know I cannot always agree with decks with the man, but he does know his theory.
Squadron Hawk is the new best friend of Naya. Naya is not as fast as it used to be when it had Bloodbraid Elf and Knight of the Reliquary, but it still is as powerful. These four birds make all of your 4- and 5-drops so much more powerful. They also are just good at attacking people for small amounts of damage. They are the new backbone of the deck.
The new lands help fix what a Llanowar Elves cannot. This means the card is just there to help power out fast starts. The deck really wants to have explosive starts since most decks have no way to beat them. These cards also help become fodder for Fauna Shamans and Masticores. It is very important to have an abundance of these guys even though the best one of them all rotated.
This guy seems like he might be out of place but there are some games you just want to power out a big guy to end the game. He is here when Lotus Cobra and Fauna Shaman team up to produce 7 mana in the early turns. He can just end the game vs. aggressive decks and be a 1 turn clock against a ramp style deck. I also look very good on this card :-).
The rest of the deck is self explanatory. The most important thing to talk about is why this deck will be good. Like I said in my article last week, control is not the place most players want to be right now. They do not know what they will be trying to deal with and the lists will be untuned. This is good for Naya since control has always been a tough matchup for them. What is not a bad matchup is creature decks.
Naya has always been good at beating other creature decks and that is because of Cunning Sparkmage. Sparkmage is the key card for this deck. It gives the deck an angle that can decimate other decks. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail, but if white weenie and elves are popular….
Another good matchup is the ramp decks. They have a tough time dealing with a fast clock+ Eldrazi Monument. Their removal is very slow and are trying to do something powerful the same turn you are trying to kill them. I think people will also play Ratchet Bomb as a removal spell and even though it is good against White Weenie, it is terrible against Naya.
I do not know what I want for the sideboard yet since I haven’t played anything but game ones. I think these 13 cards could be good and have to figure out the last few depending on the metagame.
The only card I need to test more is Refraction Trap. Pyroclasm is very good against this deck and can justify playing a fringe card to help beat it. The interesting thing about Refraction Trap that I learned this week is that it is the source of the damage as opposed to Harm’s Way. This is not that important since the cards work almost the same way, but Refraction Trap can redirect the damage to opponents’ planewalkers while Harm’s Way cannot. Keep that in mind if you play with this card.
The rest of the cards have specific roles that I think will be important in the next few weeks. I might try a few Elspeths in the sideboard to see if they are any good against other fast aggressive decks but we will see.
Before I wrap up this article and start my 4 days of Magic at Paradox Comics and Cards (they have tournaments all weekend with enough 8 hour breaks to sleep), I want to talk about my first draft on Channelfireball.com.
The first three picks were Inferno Titan, Lightning Bolt, and Hoarding Dragon while passing a Mind Control. The fourth pick was between Cloud Crusader, Runeclaw Bear, Mana Leak, and Harbor Serpent. I ended up taking the Runeclaw Bear and many people thought this was a bad pick. PV even gave me a hard time and put it in his article.
Now I am not hear to defend this pick, but to defend something about Limited I have thought for a long time. For many years pros have written about putting cards on scales. Now these scales are still used quite often in set reviews and pick orders.
THESE ARE ONLY HERE TO BE A STARTING POINT.
I used capital letters to get your attention! Too many people take these evaluations and set them in stone like they came from the mountaintop or something. They are just here to help players that are not familiar with what we have already been working with. It is just a good starting point. Magic becomes a very hard game to play the more you view it as black and white.
Luis taught me a very important lesson when I started working with him. He told me to always take the rare if the pick was close, because you will get more opportunities to play with the commons and uncommons. I also started to do this when I didn’t think the pick was close. I just wanted to know how every card played out. I also tend to draft green much more than most people. I drafted green in all four drafts at Nationals and Amsterdam. This is why I would value a card like Runeclaw Bear over the other spells. Not because it is a better card, but because if I get into the color I will have another playable that curves well.
Learning that there are so many possibilities and that no matter what, there will never be a perfect algorithm to draft is very important. This week was the first time we have had five different drafters in five days. I think it is a good time to learn how different people play Magic. I know I was here at midnight to see PV do a draft video. I want to learn just like everyone of you. I just think it is even more important to learn how to learn.
Next week I will be bringing you another draft video and an article on everything I know for States. I also just joined Twitter @fffreakmtg and will be giving some good information there as well. I didn’t know I could fall in love with Magic more than I already am but I did. Thank you for all of the support over the last year because much of my success is because of you guys. Good luck in the release events!