Feature Article – Evolution of Naya: PT San Diego *9th*


Yes. Wild Nacatl is good in Standard.

Not as good as in Extended or Legacy, but no need to be greedy. I’m happy with a 2/2 for G on turn 2 that upgrades for free by simply playing normal Magic.

I’m gonna save the deep, strategic match-up and sideboard advice for another article. Right now I’d like to talk about how the deck came to be the Naya build that took PT San Diego by storm. Lets start with my ultra-rough-looking list that I was able to win Louisiana States with back in January. Andre Coimbra’s win in Rome with Naya inspired me to pick up my Wild Nacatls again for Standard, however with a very different approach to the build.


Boss Naya


My States deck was an evolution from the Naya build I used to top 8 PT Honolulu last year. I didn’t play Bloodbraid Elf or Woolly Thoctar because I wanted to play Martial Coup and Dauntless Escort. I built the deck on the car ride to the tournament; I played with a wide assortment of cards just for kicks.

The Naya build from States was full of experimental one-ofs and was a huge blast to play. States has always been the tournament to try cool, interesting decks and concepts and that’s exactly what I did. Throughout my testing with Naya I tried and removed practically every red, green, and white playable available to me and adjusted numbers progressively as I time went on. Even “auto-4-ofs” like Wild Nacatl, Bloodbraid Elf, and Knight of the Reliquary were tested as 2 or 3-ofs just to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. Emeria Angel, Sarkhan Vol, Baneslayer Angel, and even Spreading Seas and basic Island made their ways in my tournament 75 at one time or another.

Here’s the list that I battled with at Pro Tour San Diego:

This differs from Boss Naya build that Luis Scott-Vargas took to his historic 16-0 performance by the following cards:

+1 Dauntless Escort
-1 Elspeth, Knight Errant

+1 Dauntless Escort
+2 Qasali Pridemage
-1 Oblivion Ring
-2 Baneslayer Angel

His changes were, in my opinion, to play cards he knows were good and powerful based on his previous play experience. It’s been said time and time again that playing with the deck or even the individual cards you know is better than playing with agreeably better cards that you’re personally unsure of. LSV is happy attacking with Baneslayers and I’m happy to get the utility of Qasali Pridemage and extra Dauntless Escorts. I feel like my build was correct but his build was correct for him. There’s no clear-cut better plan; it comes down to personal preference and the expected metagame to an extent. If you expect that Open the Vaults deck that top 8’d PT San Diego gains popularity then having Qasali Pridemages and Dauntless Escorts to fight Day of Judgment will come in handy.

The numbers in the deck may seem crazy at first glance, but I assure you they came through countless hours of testing and tuning.

The 1 Dauntless Escort in the maindeck will certainly only be a 3/3 for 3 in some matchups. The good news is you’re likely the favorite to win those matchups anyway. He’s great against Bituminous Blast and Day of Judgment, the deck’s two biggest enemies. He also protects from a Terminate or something similar mid-combat when you attack with the Knight of the Reliquary or whatever with a Behemoth Sledge on it.

The removal package of 3 Lightning Bolt, 2 Oblivion Ring, 1 Path to Exile, and 2 Ajani Vengeant turned out to the just the right mix. I like to cast Bloodbraid Elf into an empty board with a good chance of hitting something relevant. Path to Exile was the worst hit, but having just one wasn’t much of an issue. The first Path to Exile is often the best anyway.

One of the biggest problems with building Boss Naya was the lack of a good 2-drop. Lotus Cobra, Steward of Valeron, and Qasali Pridemage were all decent options but found each of them underwhelming in testing. The deck also had a severe lack of evasion effects, leaning heavily on cards like Baneslayer Angel or Elspeth, Knight Errant for her Angelic Blessing ability to get past a clogged board-state. There was also a big weakness to board sweeping effects. Planewalkers and Ranger of Eos took the sting off sometimes but there seemed like a bit more was needed.

Enter Worldwake’s Stoneforge Mystic. The equipment package that it comes with has solved many of the design problems that existed with Naya. The 2-drop, the lifegain, the reach with Behemoth Sledge’s trample, and the ability to turn Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise into legitimate threats were all things that the deck needed. All kinds of random equipment were considered for the deck, down to a sideboard Blazing Torch against Malakir Bloodwitch and friends, Sigil of Distinction as a late-game monstrous +X/+X boost to whatever, and even Unscythe, the Killer of Kings to mise with by using Stoneforge Mystic’s ability as the only way of putting it into play. The final decision was a 2 and 2 split of Stoneforge Mystics and Behemoth Sledge and Basilisk Collar as the equipments of choice. No need to dilute the deck with a cute toolbox. Also, Sigil of Distinction is an awful card to cascade into with Bloodbraid Elf, which was basically the nail in the coffin for that option.

Coming into the tournament I wanted to build Boss Naya with the following cards in mind to beat:


Boss Naya attacks Jace 2.0 in a number of ways. First, there aren’t many good targets for its bounce ability other than Knight of the Reliquary (which isn’t an issue if its active and you can fetch Sejiri Steppe). Next, Wild Nacatl and various other cheap threats put early pressure on the mighty $50 planeswalker. Bloodbraid Elf and the sideboarded Goblin Guide kills it on the spot if they tap out to play Jace, which is oftentimes the case as they can be put on a quick clock and need to act fast. Lightning Bolt, Oblivion Ring and the trump planeswalker: Ajani Vengeant finish up the anti-Jace package in case my animals can’t get it done.

Dauntless Escorts are to combat Bituminous Blasts and Day of Judgment. The Rhino/Solider often gets you a 1-for-1 against Bituminous Blast and can gain even more value if they cast it during their turn as they can no longer attack into an indestructible team of Cats and Birds or whatever.

I was happy to discover that Boss Naya is very resilient to sacrifice effects like Gatekeeper of Malakir and Cruel Ultimatum. My current record is beating 3 resolved Cruel Ultimatums, due to the deck’s potential to come back with Bloodbraid Elf and Ranger of Eos. The Ultimatum is almost a joke. Overextending into Day of Judgment without a Dauntless Escort, on the other hand, can sometimes be too much of a tempo swing to overcome.

The 3 Misty Rainforests were leftover from a manabase I used when I had 1 basic Island + 4 Spreading Seas in the sideboard to attack Jund. Verdant Catacombs will do the same effect if you don’t have Misties. You might even monetarily resemble Junk or Jund (for what its worth) and change your opponent’s first play or two. A split of Misties and Verdants would be fine, too…just use whatever’s available to you and it will work. They’re a necessary ingredient to boost your Knight of the Reliquary and as a fetch target when you need to activate your Knight for a fetchland into Forest, a common play to pump your Knight while effectively tapping it for mana. This comes up often when you cast Ranger of Eos and want to cast the green 1-drops you just searched up.

After starting off 4-0 with the deck I felt like I had something special. For the first time I felt like I had a GOOD chance of winning a Pro Tour, that is if I could just make it through the drafts and into the top 8.

I didn’t do a single draft with Worldwake draft before the Pro Tour and I definitely felt the effects of the lack of practice. I put up a 9-1 record in standard but a mediocre 3-3 in Limited and missed out on top 8 by 1 measly % point, finishing 9th. Not quite a heartbreaker as it came with $7000 but I can’t tell how much I wanted another PT top 8, especially one where I could pilot what I felt was the breakout deck of the tournament.

For those interested I placed 22nd in GP Oakland with Zoo, losing the last 2 rounds and just missing out on my 3rd consecutive Grand Prix top 8. The day before the tournament it snowed in Louisiana for the first time in over a year. As wondrous as it was, as we never get snow like that here, it spelled bad news for my flight plans. For those who don’t know, Louisiana is ill-prepared to deal with heavy snow and it led to quite a miserable trip stuck in airports around the country. Two canceled flights and one delayed flight later, I showed up to the Grand Prix midway during round three. Special thanks to Brad Nelson for fronting the entry fee and to the staff that ran the tournament for allowing me to email my decklist the night before to ensure that I was in the tournament for round four. I’ve never been so grateful to have three byes.

In hindsight I’d replace 1 Temple Garden for 1 Breeding Pool and 1 Baneslayer Angel for 1 Ranger of Eos maindeck. There were many times that I wanted to have Sacred Foundry and Breeding Pool as the first two lands to fetch out.

Bojuka Bog would’ve done amazing things against my last final round opponent who was playing Dredge, piloted by none other than Cedric Phillips. Ravenous Trap just doesn’t enough as they tend to play around it whether you have it or not. If I could go back I’d play 2 Bogs over the 2 Ravenous Traps… 2 just in case you happen to draw one in your opening hand you still have an instant-speed graveyard removal when you have a Knight of the Reliquary out. The 2 Bogs + the 4 Knight of the Reliquary becomes effectively 6 hate cards for only 2 sideboard slots, which should be enough.

In my next article I’ll go more in-depth soon about sideboarding against various matchups, with a strong focus of sideboarding versus Jund since it seems to be the deck that beats us most often. As its still the most popular you’ll need to come prepared, and although I feel that Boss Naya is the favorite against it when played correctly more progress can be done to raise our matchup percentage facing it.

To finish, some don’ts for aspiring pros:

Don’t play credit card games with people who are 8-0 in a Pro Tour as they’re clearly running way too good and you’re bound to end up paying the bill.

Don’t play a decklist on magic-league days before the Pro Tour because it’s your “only way to test.”

Don’t wait until a Pro Tour to do your first draft of a format. It’s not the best place to playtest.

Good luck with Boss Naya, I love playing it and hope you will too.

Tom Ross

[email protected]

CitrusD on Magic Online

20 thoughts on “Feature Article – Evolution of Naya: PT San Diego *9th*”

  1. You play on magic-league? Or are you referring to some other pro who did so? PV? Craig Wescoe?

  2. Congrats on the 9th place finish and having the break out deck of the tournament. It could’ve been better if only you had won one more limited match and LSV not getting mana screwed three games in a row but it’s still an awesome achievement.

    Doing some commentary on your limited portion would be extremely helpful. As most of your readers are aspiring pro’s (like me) seeing where you went wrong is often more helpful than knowing what you did right.

    If you were to play the deck again, what would you change? Keep the same? Would you bring the Boss out now that the meta is slowly changing?

  3. @Kenyon: Actually I did play on MWS a lot leading up to the PT and got fed up with all the people disconnecting because my ‘Kor deck isn’t a serious deck’, even when I was beating them with it. In fact, turn one “Plains, Trusty Machete” games never ever finished. :/

  4. @magic-league: shit. more like E-league.

    the realization that Tom Ross and CitrusD are the same person just blew my mind wide open.

  5. MagicLeague is still pretty soft….only a few actual good players play on it, that is why I am gonna start playing standard on Modo

  6. MWS is fine as long as you have someone to play-test with, who is on the same page as you. The only problems I ever have is when I randomly play someone who doesn’t have a strong sense for the rules of the game. An intermediary between the two applications of MTGO and MWS would be a saving grace to playing online magic. As it currently stands clicking “yes” instead of “no” on “would you like to use this ability”, makes may triggers basically mandatory unless your opponent is F2 happy.

    @ Wescoe: I’ll gladly test against your T1 “Plains, Trusty Machete” any day of the week. Testing abnormal non tier 1 decks on MWS is almost impossible without having something set up before hand.

    @ The Boss: What would you do, if anything, to increase the consistency of this deck’s mana base? Also, had you previously tested G/W decks that were less powerful but more consistent? It’s obviously hard to argue with the decks insane record in standard swiss, but it is a question that I find myself asking nonetheless due to the lack of a Red splash in Chapin’s U/W control deck.

  7. I tested out Living End on MWS, and even when your playing against janky decks, you can gauge the value of cards like Architects of Will and the such. I find it pretty useful even when the level of play isn’t that high. It’s better than dropping hundreds of dollars on MOL.

  8. Very nice article. Thanks for the in depth description of what cards and why, I was really intrigued with your rataionale. Went 5-1-1 (draw was to tie for 1st as it was late and I wanted to go out and have some beers) in the last FNM I attended with a bastardized version of LSV’s deck (only ran 1 stoneforge total, 1 collar, 3 rangers, 3 nacatls and 2 sparkmages side….LOL) and it still performed quite well.

    I have always enjoyed zoo decks (naya especially) and it’s unfortunate that you didn’t top 8. I usually play a junk deck (that I like a LOT) and while the cards in this deck seemed underpowered, they really weren’t when I started to play them. They are great value cards and some have awesome card advantage to them.

    To have a deck this cool named after you must feel pretty good though. It’s by no means a total loss. Keep up the good work.

  9. I’ve been playing Boss Naya all week. I went undeefeated last FNM with it. I love the deck, its so much fun!

    I made a minor change, -1 Dauntless escort +1 terramorphic expanse.

    Watching lsv lose to being mana screwed 3 games in a row was too heart wrenching to not include a little it more mana consistency. I was really worried about being flooded with 25 lands, and 6 turn one mana dorks, but with all the fetching in the deck, it was rarely an issue. However, I STILL had mana problems during the whole tournament, but nothing I couldn’t over come.

    I was thinking of swapping 1 forest, for 1 misty rain forest, but i was thinking why ross didn’t design the deck that way to begin with? there has to be a very good reason. anyone know?

  10. Thanks to your previous build of Naya, I was consistently feeding my drafting habits through the Standard daily events, MTGO 8 man and 2 man queues. I found the deck handled almost everything at better than 50% except for vamps. I did make some changes to your previous build by taking out 1 Nacatl, 2 Rangers for 3 Emeria Angels, and also the Naya Charm and Coup for Baneslayer. Also added Pridemage and Acidic Slime in the board to handle assorted artifact and Valakut decks. Finally changed bolts to burst lightning for the Vamps matchup. Jund’s removal just could not match up with the speed and density of threats.

    I never liked Bloodbraid in previous Naya builds as the cascade is just not as great compared to Jund. Also found Ranger underwhelming in Jund matchups as the only good thing you fetch is Scute Mob while Nacatls are weak there.

    So question on the new build is what you think of two MVPs for me previously
    – Emeria (sick with Knight)
    – Thornling (unbeatable in most non-white matchups once you’re ahead)

    If the previous build was consistently beating Jund (better matchup vs the ones with Putrid Leech), I see that the new version can only improve the matchup if I take out the Bloodbraid and lower the ranger / nacatl count for Emeria and Thornling. Of course, will have to test the other control matchups, which were not a problem too before WWK.

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  12. I asked this in LSV’s article, but I guess this is a better place for it, seeing as you built the deck. Did you consider trace of abundance when thinking two drops? If so did you test it? It looked like a nice option, basically replacing birds (since there aren’t too many good turn two three drop plays anyway) and allowing your four drops to come down turn three. Also protects your man lands if you can set it up for the late game.

    Anyway, thought I’d try and get the opinion of someone a lot more familiar with what the deck wants to do than I am.

  13. @DavinciCoder

    I know it sounds dumb but I do think trace abundance is a better card than people give it credit for, however.

    Initial thought: Bloodbraid–> Trace/birds seems bad and braid into noble is not a great deal better though it does allow you to bash for 4 rather than 3. Just an initial thought.

  14. birds over trace of abundance or any non-creature ramp spell because bird can be a threat with a sledge, it can block dragons and angels, and it can fly over and win you games occasionally.

    the biggest reason obviously is with sledge in play, any little dork can be a serious threat, so why not stock up on dorks?

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