Feature Article – The Boss of Louisiana


States has always been my favorite tournament of the year. Its never about playing the best deck in a cut-throat environment; its always more relaxed and people are playing whatever they want to play, not necessarily what they have to play. Also, States is about seeing your friends across the state that you haven’t seen in forever. I can pick up a conversation there with guys I haven’t seen in over a year as if we were hanging out the day before. We all speak a common language there – Magic. There are several small towns in Louisiana that we all come from, including my town of Ruston – many players are scattered about Louisiana and don’t get to play as frequently as those in a big city with a large card shop or two. Being reunited in a room full of almost 100 people that are well-versed in Magic lingo and game theory has always been very enjoyable for me.

Andre Coimbra’s victory in Rome inspired me to resurrect my old Naya deck from PT Honolulu. At Honolulu I played a Naya build that fared pretty well against a field full of Jund, giving my first ever Top 8 at a big event. It featured a full 4 Dauntless Escort instead of Woolly Thoctar and 7 Planeswalkers and Ranger of Eos while forgoing the “best card of the tournament” (Bloodbraid Elf). Here’s the block deck I played to a Top8 finish at PT Honolulu:

Throughout that entire tournament I was wishing my Battlegrace Angels were more Thornlings. Jund absolutely couldn’t beat Thornling while the Angel died to Bituminous Blast or something similar all day. I preferred the consistency and options that Planewalkers provided over the lottery of Bloodbraid Elf. Getting another Nacatl wasn’t my idea of power, nor was having another 3/2 ground creature in play. Ranger of Eos filled that role quite nicely. I’d battled a room full of Jund with my particular Naya strategy before, and figured that this was my best chance at braving through Thrinaxes and Blightnings once again. Thornling is truly the hood-ornament of the deck and is one of the most underrated win-conditions in Standard right now. He’s a BOSS I tell ya. Here’s what I decided to play at Louisiana states:



I basically upgraded cards from my Honolulu deck, namely switching Druid of the Anima for Birds of Paradise while adding the efficient Lightning Bolt and the 1-of Scute Mob. The increase in 1-drops allowed me to easily play the full 4 Ranger of Eos. Knight of the Reliquary is better then Woolly Thoctar 95% of the time. The Knight usually comes down at around the 4/4 range, but if combine the acceleration, easier casting cost, permanent +2/+2 just by tapping, and the eventual 3/4 flyer, the pros far outweigh the cons. I wanted to run them at Honolulu but Naya Panorama just wasn’t enough oomph to cut it. With 4 Arid Mesa and 4 Terramorphic Expanse he’s a welcome addition.

Things to note about the deck:

– Plenty of Forests to support the 1-drop green creatures and to ensure a protected Thornling late game

– Few Bolts and other Red spells because you likely wont get a Mountain until turn 3-4

– Journey/Oblivion Ring are split to prevent getting blown out by Maelstrom Pulse

– Always cast Thornling with a Green mana open unless you’re against something like Turbo-Fog or MonoW

3/3 Wild Nacatals are more common due to Terramorphic Expanse. The deck often goes turn 1 Cat, turn 2 Noble Hierarch + Terramorphic, crack for Plains/Mountain (whichever you don’t have in hand) and attack for 3. Then, turn 3 Ranger or Planeswalker and attack for 4. There is also the nice draw of turn 1 Noble Hierarch, turn 2 Knight of the Reliquary, for an explosive turn 3.

Round 1 – Ryan Suire – Boros

Ryan was playing a basic Boros build from the first Standard 5k, featuring Kor Skyfishers and Teetering Peaks and such.

Game 1: He starts out quickly with a Steppe Lynx turn 1, turn 2 kill my Nacatl, turn 3 Geopede, and plays a steady stream of fetchlands as Boros is built to do. He Rangers on turn 4 getting Lynx and Bushwacker and wacks me on turn 5, bringing me to 2. A Ranger of my own for 2 Wild Nacatls and a big Knight of the Reliquary help me stabilize and I eventually take control of the game with bigger creatures while he draws blanks like 0/1s and 2/1s.

Sideboard: +3 Wall of Reverence, +1 Behemoth Sledge, -1 Ranger of Eos, -1 Thornling, -1 Elspeth, -1 Noble Hierarch

I take out a Hierarch to make my deck a little less vulnerable to an early Earthquake.

Game 2: He starts with Goblin Guide and I start with Nacatl. I Path a 5/5 Geopede on turn 3 and he places it off to the side facedown. Next turn he casts and Elspeth and procedes to use the face-down exiled Geopede as a token. I suggest that he use something else, anything else really, to avoid confusion. I hand him my lighter (I attacked with 1/1 lighter tokens all day), but we eventually settle on a differently colored, empty sleeve. We go on to cast some Rangers and get some dudes and have a semi-stalemate. Naya Charm tapping his team seals the deal.


Round 2 – Brock Henley – W/U control

Game 1: I have a good draw that involves something like 5 creatures in play on turn 3 against his slow start. He Oblivion Rings a bunch of creatures but Ranger of Eos and Planewalkers provide more threats than 1-for-1 answers can handle.

Sideboard: +2 Manabarbs, +1 Dauntless Escort, -2 Lightning Bolt, -1 Knight of the Reliquary

Game 2: I eventually cast a Manabarbs with several creatures in play and he slumps. I take 4 damage to cast another and he laughs at the ridiculousness of the situation. My cats attack for lethal soon after.


Round 3 – Luke Dantin – MonoW Emeria

Game 1: I come out fast with turn 1 and turn 2 plays. He casts Day of Judgment and I recover with Elspeth and Ranger of Eos. I kill him before Emeria gets online.

Sideboard: +2 Manabarbs, +1 Dauntless Escort, -1 Lightning Bolt, -1 Thornling, -1 Knight of the Reliquary

Game 2: He doesn’t draw many threats, mostly removal for my creatures. I Path and Oblivion Ring his creatures and his Emeria never gets to target anything.


Round 4 – Donald “The Governor” Paul – Jacerator

Game 1: I keep a slow but keepable hand and eventually get locked out by a steady stream of Flashfreezes and fogs. I get Archive Trapped after a bunch of turns of fruitlessly attacking.


+1 Realm Razer, +1 Unstable Footing, +2 Manabarbs, +1 Dauntless Escort, -1 Journey to Nowhere, -1 Martial Coup, -2 Ranger of Eos, -1 Naya Charm

I keep in Paths just in case he brings in Baneslayer Angel.

Game 2: He starts with an early Howling Mine and Sunspring Expedition while I have some creatures applying pressure. I try to find a way to resolve a Realm Razer, but it ends up being met by an obvious Flashfreeze. Fortunately, he hits a pocket of lands while I’ve built a critical mass of attackers and he dies when he runs out of fogs.

Sideboard: +1 Naya Charm, -1 Path to Exile

By this time I figure that his maindeck is so good against mine that he shouldn’t want to side in his Baneslayers, while Naya Charm can regrow Unstable Footing or a Manabarbs that gets countered or milled away.

Game 3: This is the closest and most exciting game of the tournament for me. I Oblivion Ring his early Howling Mines and get a Dauntless Escort in play to combat the potential Day of Judgment. He plays a steady stream of Jace Belerens, which keeps him with just enough cards to keep fogging but not enough gas to comfortably pull ahead. I get enough creatures in play to be able to attack his Jace and threaten lethal to him while his Safe Passages save him but not his Jace. I resolve a Manabarbs and he soon has to take 5 damage to cast Time Warp as simply a cantrip. Worst Time Warp ever. After a while of taking 2-3 damage to fog, the damage adds up and he’s locked out of the game. Whew. Not a match-up I want to face again.

It should be noted (if youre a fan of Turbo Fog) that you can stack the triggers from Manabarbs and cast Safe Passage to prevent the damage. No need to bolt yourself there.


Round 5 – Blake Lemoine – Jund

Game 1: I land an early Dauntless Escort alongside a 2/2 Nacatl and a 1/1 Scute Mob. He kills off the Escort and I sacrifice it to make my guys indestructible. He thinks for awhile, plays some Jundy stuff, and attacks with his 3/3 beast token. I immediately shove my 2 creatures to double block as he’s forgotten that my guys don’t die to damage this turn.

Sideboard: +2 Celestial Purge, +4 Stag, +1 Dauntless Escort, -2 Lightning Bolt, -2 Knight of the Reliquary, -1 Path to Exile, -1 Martial Coup, -1 Naya Charm

Game 2: I mulligan and get Blightning’ed twice. Never in this one.

Game 3: I land a Thornling and it goes all the way while he draws irrelevant removal spells. What a boss. Baneslayer in the same situation and I’d be toast.


The other 4-0s draw their round and I’m sitting as the only 5-0 of the tournament. I of course get paired down and we shuffle up to play it oKnight of the Reliquaryt.

Round 6 – Eric Rodrigue – Naya

Game 1: On the play I start out quick with a Noble Hierarch and Knight of the Reliquary. Elspeth and Ranger of Eos make my army huge compared to his. I path his Baneslayer and have the Naya Charm to punch through.

Sideboard: +2 Wall of Reverence, +1 Behemoth Sledge, -1 Ranger of Eos, -2 Wild Nacatl

Game 2: Turns out that he sided in Wall of Reverence and Behemoth Sledge as well, only more of them. This game goes on for a good 40 minutes with both of us playing at a fairly quick pace. I finally turn the game around with him at something like 50 life to my 3. Three entire sheets of paper later the life totals are something like 80 to 60 in my favor. Between my ever-growing Scute Mob (up to 24/24 before his Day of Judgment) and fully-powered Thornling attacks with Behemoth Sledge against his double Sledge, double Wall, and Baneslayers, plus Ajani Vengeants, over 1000 points of combat damage were dealt this game. While I think I could’ve won this game I might have gotten decked had the game gone to the end. That would’ve taken another good 30 minutes. Not a match-up I wanted to face in Top 8 where the rounds are untimed…. we might be there all night.

So I’m 6-0 and get paired against a guy that wants to play it out. I came to game so I’m in.

Round 7 – Darryl Deincola – Jund

Game 1: Win. Don’t recall much about this game other than Elspeth lifting my guys over 3/3 lizards.

Sideboard: +2 Celestial Purge, +2 Stag, +1 Dauntless Escort, -2 Lightning Bolt, -1 Martial Coup, -1 Path to Exile, -1 Naya Charm

Throughout the tournament I began siding in less and less Great Sable Stags. My jund opponents had been siding out their Sprouting Thrinaxes and Putrid Leeches in anticipation of Celestial Purge and Stag

Game 2: He has a Malakir Bloodwitch that I have a hard time dealing with. A few cascades into Burst Lightning that he kicks and a few attacks and I’m dead.

Game 3: I mulligan twice this game and am never really in it. Jund does its thing and I take my first loss.


I feel a tad tilted after this match even though it didn’t really matter. My first loss of a tournament always affects me the worst, whether it be Round 1 or the finals. I chug a Dos Equis XX with my friend Andy Ewen to shake off the beat and get set for the top 8.

Quarterfinals – Matt Prichard – Jund

Game 1: The key play of this game was casting Ranger of Eos for 2 Noble Hierarchs so that my other Ranger can attack past his Bloodbraid Elf for 5 damage. After an attrition war, only my 2 Noble Hierarchs remain. While one sat back and one attacked the duo was enough to finish him off.

Sideboard: +2 Celestial Purge, +2 Stag, +1 Dauntless Escort, -2 Lightning Bolt, -1 Martial Coup, -1 Path to Exile, -1 Naya Charm

Game 2: I mulligan to the following 4 card hand on the draw: Noble Hierarch, Great Sable Stag, Knight of the Reliquary, Journey to Nowhere. I didn’t play a land until turn 4 while I get Blightning’ed twice. I lose. I actually don’t think I’ve ever kept a hand without turn 1 play. Hopefully will never have to again.

Game 3: Our cards trade 1 for 1, and my Ranger of Eos trades with a Bloodbraid and a Blightning. Things get Pulsed. It’s looking grim when he casts a Siege-Gang Commander and I’m a fairly low life. A couple tokens trade for a Ranger and a Hierarch and I’m left with only Thornling in hand and only 2 Forests, 2 Plains, 1 Mountain and a Wild Nacatl in play. I rip the 3rd forest, attack with Nacatl, and play my protected Thornling. Thornling turns out to once again be the boss as he eventually has to start chumping (even though it has trample) and eventually kills him. Baneslayer would’ve died in that spot, followed by me shortly after.


Semifinals – Dylan Smith – Jund

I’m paired with a local player from Ruston. We test together and we both decide that I can best use the free entry since I’ll be going to a ton of Grand Prix next year.


Finals – Michael Laviolette – Vampires

Mike is a 2-time State Champion that came to the tournament intending on playing whatever he got handed. Proving that he’s the real-deal once again, he pilots Vampires all the way into the finals. We prize split, with him getting the product while I get the custom DCI card and title alongside the free Constructed tournament entry for a year.

On a side note, Mike’s Semifinal’s game 2 involved the most exciting play of the tournament. His opponent was at 38 with 2 tapped Baneslayer Angels and multiple active Luminarch Ascensions. With 2 Vampire Nocturnus in play (revealing Mind Sludge on top) Mike’s opponent was quick to tap out and play out the cards in his hand. Mike untaps, casts Sorin Markov to put his opponent to 10 and attacks with for 10 in the air to take what looked like an unwinnable game.

Overall I enjoyed playing Boss Naya as it has the tools to deal with most any situation while having many potent opening draws. My most commonly sided out card of the day was definitely Lightning Bolt. Another Naya Charm should likely fit in somewhere. I’ve considered adding an Oran-Rief, the Vastwood for extra power but am not convinced right now that its necessary. I mainly like the idea of having a 1/2 Birds of Paradise in play, but once again, that’s a bit too cute. The biggest thing going for Oran-Rief would be making [card]Great Sable Stag[/card] a 4/4 threat against Jund, so I imagine I’ll either go that route or soon abandon the Stags to pursue another strategy to combat the RBG menace.

Most Lightning Bolt targets are killable by Burst Lightning just as easily. Getting to 5 mana is rarely an issue, and the existence of Malakir Bloodwitch has me leaning towards Bursts over Bolts. 1 Sarkhan Vol seems like a card worth trying as it could lead to some Boros-Bushwacker-like explosive plays when combined with Ranger of Eos. He’s also fine with Martial Coup or Elspeth tokens.

I’ll definitely be playing an updated version at St Louis this weekend, possibly with an Island and Spreading Seas in the sideboard. It might seem sketchy at first, but with 2 Birds, 4 Noble, 4 Knight, 4 Terramorphic its not as screwy as it sounds. Misty Rainforests can be added essentially for free as they work well with Knight of the Reliquary and are more sources of Blue. Here’s the build I’m currently working with:




Props to Marcus Bailey for head judging a well run event and to Jeffery LaJaunie and the staff of And Books Too for hosting the event. They always make chili dogs or Jambalaya for the gamers and its always amazing. Thanks guys!

Good luck to all who try the deck!

Tom “the Boss” Ross
CitrusD at gmail dot com

31 thoughts on “Feature Article – The Boss of Louisiana”

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  2. sweet tourney report i like the naya build you took i never really thought of thornling as that much of a threat but my god hes a boss isnt he lol. congrats man.

  3. In reference to your round 7 game:
    as a note, (as per my understanding of the rules), you cannot kick anything that is cascaded into. the spell is played off of a cascade (not cast), while the kicker can only be payed if the spell was cast. I could be wrong though

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  5. Fritz:

    The spell is CAST off of the cascade, the wording on cascade spells were before the M10 text change so it should say “cast” instead of “play” so you can kick a cascaded spell.

  6. Yeah all the creatures

    the same creatures in the original list + Gargoyle Castle, sorry for the confusion

    1 Gargoyle Castle

    2 Birds of Paradise
    4 Wild Nacatl
    4 Noble Hierarch
    4 Ranger of Eos
    2 Thornling
    4 Knight of the Reliquary
    1 Dauntless Escort
    1 Scute Mob

  7. Hey great article and I appreciate the report play by play w/sideboard options. Congrats on the wins and good luck going forward.


  8. @Fritz: You can in fact kick cards you cascade into. Play and Cast are the same, the words just changed with the M10 rules I believe. Could be wrong on that but not on the kick things that you cascade into

  9. good to see a naya list that makes sense πŸ™‚

    elspeth is pretty much always better than sarkhan vol imo

  10. I was watching the Naya Mirror match but the life totals got so ridiculous I had to leave.

    Hooray for the Andy shout out.

  11. really liked the report the evolution of the deck was also good to see. Outta interest do you know the vampires list you would have faced in the final just I’m thinking of running it (wasn’t my first choice I lost that Naya deck in a drink related misadventure that I whole hartedly regret).

    good work, nice read, keep it up

  12. Great article and report from the nicest guy nicknamed “the boss” in the world. Congrats on the win!

  13. I typically play in the Lafayette area when I can because they give free chili dogs and Im a tremendous fatty.

    Naya is the Holyfield….

  14. Hey Tom! I’m not sure if you remember me, but I played you at Grand prix Tampa and Minneapolis. Anyway congrats on piloting a semi-rogue deck (Thornling) all the way!

    I enjoyed reading your article. Your summaries for each match were enjoyable, along with how you sideboarded. Good luck next year! And hopefully I’ll see you around in some Grand Prix. πŸ™‚

  15. A friend of mine is working on a more aggressive build of Naya, and I think yours would be a perfect fit for him. He prefers decks that come down to play skill and good choices, rather than ones that rely on good variance from cascades to pull off the win.

  16. Great job on winning! That was probably the most fun Magic tournament I’ve played in. I love the shop in Lafayette, too bad there isn’t a similar shop down here in New Orleans. I went 5-2 with G/W tokens which was good enough for 12th. I was hoping to get to play you.

  17. Your first opponent, Ryan, and quarterfinals opponent, Matt, are both personal friends of mine. Small world eh? Strangely enough, I met Matt in Panama City. I know they both gave you good games. Great job on winning. I hope to play you in the future. πŸ™‚

  18. New Orleans has next to nothing for Magic players. Baton Rouge has a good store but it can only support 50-60 people.

  19. Hey Tom. Have had the pleasure of watching you play at a few States tourneys in Louisiana. You played my little brother (Ryan Suire) rns 2 and after his match I asked him who he played. His reply….Tom Ross…..he destroyed me. I watched you the morning of States this year and while you were outside trying to decide what your eventual list was going to be, you should have seen the people catching a glimpse of your deck. I mean all out in the open just pouring over it. I stepped up and told one of your peeps there that they needed to put your deck aside and not let anyone see it. I don’t think it mattered because you won the whole thing anyways, but man were there alot of rubbernecks around that table. Good job on the win and hopefully one day you and I can sleeve em up and sling some cardboard at States. Good Luck on your future endeavors in Magic…..by the way…..Donald “The Governor” Paul is one of the regulars at And Books II and is easily one of the best players in the state. I watched your match against him and the Manabarbs absolutely wrecked him. Beauty play.

  20. I’ve been playing something very similar lately and i was wondering what your thoughts are on playing a second Scute Mob in the deck? I’ve been very happy getting two copies from the Ranger in most of my testing. Rarely are they able to get rid of both. Granted, it’s not very useful to draw early, but i consider it more of a 5-drop with a reduced casting cost really. It also usually draws removal if i decide to play it early.

    How are the Spreading Seas working so far?

  21. Congratulations to your successful tournament and the good article!

    “Throughout that entire tournament I was wishing my Battlegrace Angels were more Thornlings.”
    Hehehe, Moo-Moo Plow Cow finally gets to breath some tournament air; but was he chosen over the flying 50$ bills out of budget reasons, or did you expect that his indestructibility is a lot more relevant than the additional point of toughness that also protects your finisher from Bituminous Blast?

  22. Hey Tom, great tourney report!

    I have a quick question for ya. When you gave a few pointers for the deck at the beginning, you said “Always cast Thornling with a Green mana open unless you're against something like Turbo-Fog or MonoW.” In your match against Jacerator, you had the Escorts in to combat Day of Judgment. The same was true for Mono-White decks. So as a rule of thumb, shouldn’t one ALWAYS keep the green up for Thornling? Or are the exile effects inherent of those decks enough to run him out there?

    OK, that was two questions but whatever.

    I too am curious as to why you’re not running Baneslayer Angels.

  23. I played in the St Louis 5k this weekend. The Spreading Seas worked out as planned. I played Jund in rounds 2 and 3 and the Seas locked both opponents out of green mana. Unfortunately I didn’t draw any Seas against my rd 5 Jund opponent that ggslive featured, but if I had it would’ve been very good against his turn1 Savage Lands.

    I usually take out something like Mountain, Martial Coup, Wild Nacatl, Journey to Nowhere, Oblivion Ring for Island and 4 Spreading Seas.

    I played Sarhkan Vol this weekend and was overall happy with him in the deck.

    I played Burst Lightning over Lightning Bolt and never regretted the switch.

    I chose Thornling over Baneslayer because its a bit better vs Jund. I can beat non-Jund decks without needing to run Baneslayer Angel in the main or sb.

    Thanks for the comments guy, I’ll try to put together a follow-up on the deck soon

  24. Congrats tom…wish i had the mesa’s to play the deck at states…props on the thornling idea… good thing i didn’t though b/c spellpiercing that time warp was money…and fun as hell…call me next time you go on a road trip…I thought we were gonna keep it real homie…

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