Dimir Devotion

Dimir Devotion

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

dimir devotion

I just recently started getting a little fed up of the current Standard environment when low and behold: some new decks showed up! Well, the card pool not being exactly huge … we’ll just called them new takes/ variants on existing archetypes. One such deck caught my eye when I saw that it Top 8’ed a local PTQ here in Montreal. I recognized the deckbuilder/player and immediately thought the deck was very interesting and obscure enough that it was worth trying out and writing about.

Here’s the list:

Dimir Devotion

Standard Format


Creatures: 14

2 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Pack Rat

Instants: 12

3 Dimir Charm
3 Far/Away
4 Hero’s Downfall
Psychic Strike

Sorceries: 4

4 Thoughtseize

Enchantments: 4

4 Underworld Connections





Planeswalkers: 2


Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver


Lands: 24

4 Watery Grave
4 Temple of Deceit
12 Swamp
4 Mutavault


Sideboard

1 Ratchet Bomb
2 Cyclonic Rift
3 Doom Blade
3 Gainsay
4 Lifebane Zombie
2 Notion Thief

When you think mono black devotion you’re probably thinking something along the lines of this. It’s pretty similar to the Dimir list : Devour Flesh is replaced by Far/Away and Doom Blade is more or less Dimir Charm now. The newer cards aren’t direct ports however, simply different ways of interacting with our opponents.

What, no more Whip?

whip of erebosWhip it! Whip it good!

While Whip of Erebos was sometimes an MVP in the more classic Monoblack build, it’s now fallen out of favor for more creatures (now running 4 Pack Rat) or more removal. It’s just not the beast it once was. Opponents got to know how to play around it, expect it and it was probably the worst card to draw in multiples without having a Pack Rat in play. Sure, it allowed you to ‘rebuy’ cards that your Azorius/Esper opponents countered or destroyed and perhaps reanimate a game-ending Gray Merchant of Asphodel, but things have changed. The lifelink ability is still good enough to maybe warrant it as a one-of somewhere in the 75 but just like Nykthos, it’s too ‘iffy’. The deck prefers consistency over random fancy cards. Don’t trade them off too hastily though, it’ll probably see play before long in some reanimator deck (I’m fairly sure of this being a thing).

The ‘Core’

The changes made are mostly in place to be better able to answer cards that are traditionally problem cards for this deck. For example:

blood baron bubbleDo you not just hate this card?

While Devour Flesh was a pretty good answer to this guy, Far/Away is just a touch better and more versatile. In the scenario where they have two creatures in play, one of them being Blood Baron of Vizkopa, you get to bounce the other guy back to their hand and get them to sacrifice their Blood Baron (since the card resolves from left to right). Another pretty nice move if you’re in a bind is to bounce Blood Baron back to their hand and then Thoughtseize it. It seldom comes up, but it’s nice to be aware of. This is true of any creature you absolutely want to get rid of when they just have too many things on board (Precinct Captain and two soldier tokens).

far awayUnsummon and Diabolic Edict all in one

You might have read the previous paragraph and wondered: how can you cast Far on a Blood Baron of Vizkopa? Isn’t the card multicolored (Blue and Black) thus making it impossible to target Blood Baron with it? Well, if you read up on the rulings found here, you will note that:

On the stack, a split spell that hasn’t been fused has only that half’s characteristics and converted mana cost. The other half is treated as though it didn’t exist.

This is pretty interesting information. Unless you’ve had this come up before, you probably weren’t fully aware of it. I’ve actually had to look it up myself in a local tournament. Unfortunately, the person casting the spell was not aware of how it worked and had cast both halves. Fortunately for them, it would have made it impossible for them to legally cast the spell with Fuse so they were allowed to take it back and receive a small warning (FNM REL, so no biggie). It also interacts with an opposing Soldier of the Pantheon, so be sure to remind your opponent that they won’t be gaining that 1 precious life point if you only cast one of the halves.

Another interesting play is to cast both halves, the Away half on your opponent and Far on your Gray Merchant of Asphodel. It’s usually a win/win situation. If they kill your Gray Merchant in the process the Away half will still resolve because the spell had two targets. I really enjoy the fact that a card that’s basically a removal spell can now double as an extra Gray Merchant when you need to finish of your opponent, stabilize or just survive that extra turn.

Dimir Charm? What does that even do?

dimir charmLove that quote !

What? When did this become playable? Wasn’t this like an FNM promo a while back and nobody cared? Well, yes basically it was probably the most underplayed charm (along with Gruul Charm). Heck, even Simic Charm saw some play a while back (in Bant Hexproof decks). This thing was just unappealing until now.

The main problem of monoblack decks is that their 2 cost removal varies between Doom Blade, Pharika’s Cure and Ultimate Price. None of these hit Nightveil Specter. Two of the three can kill a Pack Rat,Mutvault, Burning-Tree Emissary. One of them hits Sin Collector, Rakdos Cackler, Master of Cruelties. Think of it as Dimir’s version of Last Breath (another card that is seeing much more play). Dimir Charm deals with all of these.

What about the other modes?

Being able to counter a sorcery is nice, but those are almost at an all time low these days. Supreme Verdict is something you would counter, only you can’t. Let’s take a look at other popular targets:

mizzium mortarsSay goodbye to your 4 or less Pack Rats

rakdos's return

Less played, but can be more devastating

thoughtseize

Who doesn’t run this ?

There are a few more that I’m probably missing, such as Read the Bones, Divination, Anger of the Gods, Dreadbore and Duress. They all see some play, so it’s nice to have this option too. It catches people off guard, which is nice. Obviously, this becomes less good once people become accustomed to the deck. This is something that happened to the original monoblack deck awhile back. A lot of players learned how to sideboard against it and what to play around. The lack of mass removal also made the original deck more vulnerable to an early rush of creatures.

Isn’t there a third option?

Glad you mentioned it, then again just pretend it’s not there. Much like Breaking/Entering‘s second half, you can just skip it. There are very few times it can come in handy (much like casting Entering from under a Shelldock Isle in a mill deck to grab their giant Eldrazi creauture in response to its triggered ability). Once of those times is when your opponent absolutely needs a specific top deck or a live draw when you are going to win the following turn. You’ll play it on them and most likely end up giving them a land. You can also play the ‘mill’ mode if they decided to Scry and keep the card on top. Note however that this is probably still not that great.

Another situation would be to allow you to dig for a game-winning Gray Merchant. In conjunction with Underworld Connections, it can be like a badly assembled Sensei’s Divining Top. Not too exciting, but it’s there and I hope you never have to go there.

Ashiok, playable?

One of the main problems of this deck is that it tends to lose games that go really really long (usually versus Azorius and Esper decks). The current Standard planeswalker, Liliana of the Dark Realms is just terrible from a competitive standpoint. Go ahead and jam her in your whatever Commander or casual deck, but at all costs: don’t try to make her ‘work’ in Standard.

In comes our Dark Knight in shinning armor, sort of. I have tried various BUG builds with Ashiok in them and it never really felt that I was winning with him in play, even when I was. merged with the monoblack shell however, things become more interesting. Even if all he’s doing is something along the lines of +2 into -1 to -3 to play one of their small dudes over and over, it’s just fine. He can stem the bleeding or just completely slow down their aggro. In a monoblack ‘mirror match’ taking a ‘milled’ Nightveil Specter is downright insane.

ashiok

One of the cooler features of the card is that it deals with one of the more hated deck quite well. I’m talking about Azorius control. No one can actually enjoy playing against a deck that almost literally does nothing for so many turns only to win off the back of an Elspeth, infinite recurring Sphinx’s Revelations with Elixir of Immortality or a Jace ultimate (unlikely). I don’t really enjoy playing where such a deck is ‘a thing’. Ashiok slowly grinds these decks down with his +2, almost never activating ability # 2 and then can go ultimate barring any Mutavault hits or Detention Spheres. At that point, you should be in a good position to win since they will need to rebuild their hand or you will have milled the Elixir of Immortality and their few win conditions.

Psychic Strike? Where’s the real list?

You might have to go and read what the card does and that’s understandable. Normally it’s an O.K limited card when you’re playing a mill archetype in Ravnica block draft (or if you were playing Sealed in Gatecrash). The card has one very interesting feature.

psychic strike

Did you spot it?

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That’s quite an interesting mana cost, is it not? One blue mana only? Counter anything? hmm…seems legit! The mill feature is probably not relevant most of the time, but it’s basically free. We get to play a counterspell in a deck that runs a minimum number of blue sources. Eight blue sources to be exact and that’s more than enough. We only ever really need one in play most of the time.

While Psychic Strike is nice to have, you must keep in mind that it’s a sort of ‘last ditch’ card. You want to be countering something ‘big’ like a Sphinx’s Revelation, Elspeth, Gray Merchant, Blood Baron, etc. I really like the fact that an Esper/Azorius player can’t reliably go: “End of turn Sphinx’s Revelation for a lot. What are you gonna do about it, monoblack player?”

What now?

Well, you can maybe go out and test it. I know I have, with favorable results. So far it’s been 7-0-1 (only two local tourneys) and its had some match-ups that were bad for regular monoblack. If it were to become more and more popular, the deck would generate more hate towards it and likely become less effective overall. For the time being, it does not look to very popular under its UB form as most people prefer the white splash for Blood Baron and Sin Collector.

I doubt the sideboard needs that much explanation, except that it has more counters specifically versus the blue deck (Gainsay). The Cyclonic Rifts seem pretty random but they can be used to bounce Detention Spheres back to our opponents’ hands. Following that, you can go ahead and Thoughtseize the Detention Sphere to get a Recoil or Vindicate-style effect.

In the end, the deck wins in typical monoblack fashion as usual. You’re just a little more flexible versus the hate cards and have more maindeck answers against certain cards that were harder to deal with when the deck was just all monoblack. I do of course really like that one of my original favorite sideboard cards found it’s way in there …

notion thief

Sphinx’s Revelation for how much?

Here are some words of advice from the deck’s creator:

“I really like playing against u/w you have an lots of threats and the counters are unexpected and give you an easy win, also Notion Thief is a beast against them as if they don’t answer it they cant Revelation or Divination. The match-up I hate the most is the ” mirror ” match, they have disruption and lots of removal so usually whoever gets Underworld Connections up first wins. The deck does well against aggro because of all the removal and Ashiok is a beast. Unless he gets answered,he starts to spit out blockers and the hardest threats to answer for the aggro decks are usually the cards they are playing themselves, like Reckoner.”

Simic Flash

simic flash

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

Here is a list of a cute little deck that won a PTQ in Brazil. It’s not your usual top tier deck and I encourage you to at least try it out or playtest against it. It probably will do pretty well at least in a local store FNM, especially if people are not aware of its contents.






Simic Flash

Standard Format



Creatures: 20

Boon Satyr
4 Briarpack Alpha
4 Horizon Chimera
4 Shambleshark
4 Skylasher

Instants: 15

Cyclonic Rift
4 Dissolve
Opportunity
4 Simic Charm
3 Syncopate

 





Lands: 25


4 Breeding Pool
6 Forest
7 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Temple of Mystery

Sideboard

3 Bident of Thassa
3 Gainsay
3 Plummet
4 Sensory Deprivation
2 Triton Tactics

As you can see, the purpose of the deck is to keep counter mana up and then play a flash creature if there was nothing to counter on your opponent’s turn. That’s right, you never play anything but land on your opponent’s turn. Kinda cool, huh? It’s obviously not the most powerful-looking deck in the format but it is pretty decent at what it does. Most of the time your opponents will be thinking that you are playing with draft deck leftovers until you beat them.

horizon chimeraLimited powerhouse, err… maybe not

You don’t absolutely have to get the 4 Mutavaults right away if you’re worried about the deck costing too much. The deck functions pretty well without it and you get to spend your money elsewhere. Give it a chance, you might end up liking it.

White Weenie

white weenie

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

The current metagame in Theros Standard is comprised of several UW/x control decks or as we refer to them ‘ Sphinx’s Revelation decks’ and Devotion decks. All colors are represented in the devotion shell, but one: White. There have been a few lists here and there with Angel of Serenity and Boros Reckoners, but nothing really solid. At one point when Theros was just released there was even a certain ‘Sphere of Safetydeck. There are a few good white noncreature permanents to try a controlish build but not enough to really glue it all together into a consistent deck. The other devotion decks are aggro to midrange, with monoblack devotion being a sort of control deck at times. The white deck has to go to its roots and play the weenie role. While it’s not immensely popular right now, it does win its fair share of games and may get much better when Born of the Gods is spoiled.

White Weenie

Standard Format


Creatures: 28

Boros Elite
Dryad Militant
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
Precinct Captain
4 Imposing Sovereign
4 Daring Skyjek
4 Banisher Priest

Enchantments: 2

Spear of Heliod

Instants: 4

Brave the Elements

Planeswalkers: 4

Ajani, Caller of the Pride

 





Lands: 24


4 Mutavault
18 Plains


Sideboard

2 Keening Apparition
3 Last Breath
3 Fiendslayer Paladin
2 Glare of Heresy
Celestial Flare
1 Gideon, Champion of Justice
2 Rootborn Defenses

Weenies?

The creatures in this deck are referred to as weenies, but don’t confuse this term in meaning they are not tough. A lot of them pack quite a punch. Of course you have your ‘stats matter’ creatures, such as Dryad Militant. Let’s face it: with Snapcaster Mage gone, this card is basically a vanilla 2/1 that can be played in either Green or White decks. That’s just fine with us – we weren’t really looking to utilize its ability against the dire Spellheart Chimera. We also have a 3/1 for two mana in Daring Skyjek. Reminiscent of Future Sight’s Blade of the Sixth Pride with an actual ability. Having this be a 3/1 flier is very nice as the rest of this deck’s creatures don’t exactly have great forms of evasion (read : none). Pounding down your opponent’s life total early on with him is good too and even maybe having it trade with a more mana-intensive creature can be fine later one (but we aim to avoid trades in this deck).

soldier of the pantheonMake sure not to miss the lifegain triggers

Soldier of the Pantheon is our other 2/1 for a mere 1 white mana and his ability can be extremely relevant. Just to list a few creatures he can attack past: Boros Reckoner, Nightveil Specter, Burning-Tree Emissary, Loxodon Smiter, Fleecemane Lion, Voice of Resurgence, etc. You get the point I suppose. It’s more or less ‘evasive’. While you may be focused on bringing the beatdown, you’ll want to remember that you can gain quite a bit of life with his other ability as well. It might not seem like a ton, but it can really give you the edge when you’re racing against another aggressive deck like Monored Devotion.

The 2CMC+ Drops

While our one drops are all about bringing the aggro, the majority of 2-drops are there to give us some board presence. Whether you’re making extra 1/1 tokens with Precinct Captain, exiling an opposing creature with Banisher Priest or slowing your opponent down by a turn with Imposing Sovereign, you are advancing your board state.

imposing sovereignFinally seeing some play

There is an interesting point on having both Banisher Priest and Imposing Sovereign in play. While in most normal situations your opponent can simply use a removal spell such as ‘Doom Blade‘ on your Banisher Priest in order to retrieve his exiled creature, he cannot during your attack step and then hope to be able to block with it. The creature he will get back will returned tapped and thus unable to block. It’s rather obvious, yes, but it’s extremely relevant to be aware of too. Of course I don’t need to explain that it’s somewhat risky to attack in a similar scenario without having Imposing Sovereign in play on your end. In this case, we probably want to make sure we keep a single white mana up for the eventual Brave the Elements we will need to counteract this nasty surprise.

Banisher Priest is pretty sweet but you shouldn’t just play it whenever you can either. If you would lose one of your creatures in combat but then still manage to inflict a lot of damage to your opponent, you probably want to keep it in hand if you anticipate a larger blocker, board wipe or even an opposing Banisher Priest in the future. I have seen many players moan about how their opponent just drew the right card to recover and now they lost a chunk of their board presence. Truth is: their opponent was probably waiting for the right time to play his card as well. If you used your Banisher Priest on Monoblue’s 0/1 Cloudfin Raptor just because your really wanted to get in for the extra 2 damage, then don’t go complaining when you hit a brick wall in his following play of Frostburn Weird, Nightveil Specter or game-changing Master of Waves.

banisher priestYou don’t run 8 of them, so don’t play as if you did

Just because this is a white aggro deck does not give you the excuse to play sloppily. You need to make sure you make optimal plays, good attacks and pressure your opponent whenever possible. Throwing in an extra attacker which is going to get freely killed is terrible. I’ve seen this often and it makes me wonder if people understand combat. If your opponent is going to take the same amount of damage because X number of creatures will most likely go unblocked then what is the point of also attacking with an extra creature that will get blocked and just die. Note that this is different than actually trying to push through extra damage.

I had come up with these example scenarios, but it’s like 3 AM, so I’ll keep it simple. But basically doing something like attacking with an extra Dryad Militant which you know will get blocked, die and not trade is usually bad if the creature your opponent used to block it was not originally going to be blocking anyhow.

Finally, Precinct Captain makes life very difficult for those decks that choose to not play any mass removal . Granted that monoblack devotion can’t really do that right now, not without a support color (green for Golgari Charm or White for Merciless Eviction). Once you start churning out those tokens with Precinct Captain you should be really making life difficult for those decks. You can also just flat out ignore Desecration Demon as well. He’s probably on of the best WW costed weenies of all time. Sure cards like Ratchet Bomb can hurt, but no one is really playing that right now. Also, it’s probably going to just take out a small wave of tokens, once. I even started to run Illness in the Ranks sideboard in my own monoblack deck against White Weenie (and Orzhov Weenie) and so far it’s been hit or miss.

precinct captain

Non-creatures?

While a lot of decks play tons of creatures they still sometimes need the odd support cards for removal, pump spells and other utility. Spear of Heliod does its best Glorious Anthem impersonation here,only it can’t stack (since it’s Legendary). This is also the reason the deck packs two; we never ever want to draw more than one per game but we do want to at least draw one. I realize that it also has another ability, but the odds that you will be utilizing it are slim. If you find yourself needing it, it may be because

A) it’s a really grindy and tight game.

B) you are on the defensive (not where you want to be with this deck)

C) you randomly killed a Guttersnipe after it resolved its triggered ability. Congrats!

ajani caller of the prideWhat? and aggressive planeswalker?

Ajani, Caller of the Pride has not seen much play recently but he is truly at his best in this deck. He boosts your little guys so they can become more battle ready against your opponents slightly bigger threats. He also allows you to go in for the killing blow with his flying/double-strike ability. If you find yourself needing his ultimate, well… good luck!

Spear of Heliod

spear of heliod art

“Spear! Spear! Spear! ” – some random wrestling announcer, somewhere

While Heliod does not make an appearance in this deck, his legendary weapon sure does. It’s still a Glorious Anthem with a random upside. You probably won’t be activating it often, but it’s there. The downside? Legendary! Yeah …

brave the elementsDoes quite a few things rather well

This little beast of a card is back in force to make white weenie a more legitimate contender. Whether it’s protecting one of your guys from a removal, making profitable blocks or making sure your dudes go in unblocked – it’s pretty damn good. Remember to leave that lone white mana up in order to make many opponents think twice before casting something they may regret. You often only need to lower your opponent’s life total to just under 10 life so that you can cast Brave the Elements and win in one big swing. Nowadays decks are very mono-colored that you probably only need protection from a single color to let your whole team through. Remember however: it doesn’t do anything for your Mutavaults.

Sideboard Plan

While the sideboard may seem all over the place, that’s because well … it is. It’s a bit of a mess but the cards do serve their purpose well. Keening Apparition is not something we are accustomed to seeing in most 60-card decks at all. It deals with: Detention Spheres, Bident of Thassa and Underworld Connections.That’s just a few things I came up with right off the top of my head, but there’s more. You definitely want to side these in against Esper and UW Control variants. They can be brought in to answer a Detention Sphere that’s already in play or simply played pre-emptively. I prefer to just hold them in hand and cast them as pseudo-Disenchants. However, if it’s Detention Sphere that you fear … there’s always : Glare of Heresy.

glare of heresySo much hate !

Glare of Heresy also doubles as removal for cards like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Voice of Resurgence and Boros Reckoner (just to name a few). It’s a really good card in the mirror (duh!) as well as versus Esper. You might even get to hit some more random stuff with it (Loxodon Smiter ?) as well.

Fiendslayer Paladin is no stranger to White Weenie deck sideboards. He basically gives you a good edge against Red Devotion decks as well as doing a good job at dodging Monoblack Devotion removal spells (just watch out for Devour Flesh). Don’t forget that he only can’t be targeted by red/black spells, so don’t have him randomly die to a Boros Reckoner damage redirection effect or commit him to a board that would still end up dead to Anger of the Gods.

The presence of Last Breath in Standard sideboards sure has been increasing as of late. This can be attributed to creatures like Nightveil Specter, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Pack Rats and a few other devotion enablers. In a format where cards like Doom Blade, Ultimate Price and co. have a somewhat tough time of hitting their mark, you might have an easier time sniping things with Last Breath (or Orzhov Charm if you splash Black).

last breath shadowmoorI much prefer the Shadowmoor artwork to the Theros one and the Mercadian Masques one

Celestial Flare is also no stranger to the White deck sideboard party. It does pretty well against things with Hexproof and protection from white. Of course the catch is that they more or less have to be the only creature attacking/blocking. It’s not the best solution against Blood Baron of Vizkopa, but we’ll take it. Don’t forget to keep your Imposing Sovereigns in the deck though, as they slow down the Bloodbaron quite well ( a turn is still a turn).

At the other end of the spectrum, we run Rootborn Defenses. Yes, it’s obviously to save our army from something like a Supreme Verdict. We will rarely get the Populate benefit from it, unless we already have Precinct Captain soldier tokens in play. It’s not as awesome as Brave the Elements is, but even Brave the Elements does not save us from a total board wipe such as Supreme Verdict.

Gideon ?

gideon championYou were expecting someone else?

I think this is more of a wildcard versus control decks that anything else. You at least get a 5/5 that can keep attacking them every turn on an empty board and is fairly safe from removal (not counting Detention Sphere). It’s probably better off as a third Keening Apparition or something, but it’s always fun to give more play time to the underused planeswalkers, no?

If anything, the White Weenie deck will over time teach you how to play a tight game of aggro. When to attack, trade, block and protect your creatures. It’s all going to be combat damage, so no lucky top-decked burn spell or Gray Merchant of Asphodel here! Try it out at your local FNM or whatever other day of the week your store holds Standard constructed events. You might be pleasantly surprised.

FNM Promo for February 2014

feb 2014 fnmAnother foily elf to pimp your decks with

Well, they printed another mana dork FNM Promo. We have LLanowar Elves and Avacyn’s Pilgrim as past FNM cards and now we get Elvish Mystic. I honestly think the original artwork is ten times nicer, but this one is not terrible either. It’s better than quite a few FNM cards as of late and will be very tradeable.

elvish mystic og

Remember that you can only get these in February 2014, which is still quite some time from now. Go to your local brick and mortar store FNM events for a chance to win them either randomly or by finishing in the Top 2.

FNM_logo

Naya Hexproof

naya hexproof

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

The Standard puzzle has pretty much been solved at the current juncture. It’s all about Mono decks (Blue, Black, Red and Green)  Esper, Gruul and the odd Rakdos aggro. With only five sets to work with, the number of competitive decks is not staggering. It can be quite frustrating for a hardened rogue deckbuilder to come up with something that is both competitive and fun. We’ll end up with decks that are similar to some established ones because of too many good cards they’ll have in common and then just say :” Why don’t I just play the one that I know can win?“.

thassa

Thassa, of Monoblue Devotion fame

It’s not about wrong or right and you don’t have to necessarily be the ‘creator’ of the deck you are playing. Yes, you can take some pride in that, but no one is going to be all that impressed if the deck goes 0-3/4 at your local store event. A common mistake is to ‘force’ a slightly less pricey deck on someone. I truly am against this as it more or less limits the person’s fun based on his/her budget. Let’s face it: Magic is a luxury. It’s a hobby, much like videogames are and very much like comic books or other sorts of collections. You can generally find a good ‘middle ground’ for a Standard deck that your friend/client can appreciate, learn from and win with all the while not burning too big of a hole in their wallet.

I don’t think that the deck I am about to divulge is especially fun or cheap per se, but it is an attempt at breaking through the current meta. It should seem a little bit familiar to most of you that already played in Innistrad Standard where Bant Hexproof was viable. I decided to give it a test run at a local store to see just how it would fare. Keep in mind that it did perform rather well during the swiss portion of a Magic Online tournament recently, starting at 6-0.

Here is the decklist:

Naya Hexproof

Standard Format


Creatures: 17

Boon Satyr
Fiendslayer Paladin
4 Gladecover Scout
Skylasher
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Witchstalker

 

Enchantments: 19

Chained to the Rocks
4 Ethereal Armor
Gift of Orzhova
4 Madcap Skills
4 Unflinching Courage


 





Lands: 24


4 Forest
Plains
Sacred Foundry
4 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple Garden
1 Temple of Triumph

Sideboard


3 Banisher Priest
2 Boros Charm
3 Fiendslayer Paladin
2 Holy Mantle
3 Mending Touch
2 Skylasher

It is in essence all about enchanting one of your hexproof creatures and going to town. Turn 1 Gladecover Scout into Turn 2 Madcap Skills is already hard to beat. Piling up the enchantments on your hexproof dude can’t hurt unless your opponent is running mass removal or ‘edict’ effects (Devour Flesh). The deck runs somewhat less creatures than your average aggressive deck so it’s sometimes tricky when deciding to go ‘all in’ with one creature or to save up some buffs for the next creature you draw/play. Also, sometimes casting an actual second threat can seem redundant but you do get a guy to block counter attacks with (usually a Witchstalker). Surprisingly the deck does not play any maindeck Loxodon Smiters ,which have become a mainstay in most Naya/Selesnya builds. The other creatures all have some built-in removal protection or can replace themselves (Voice of Resurgence).

On the Aura side, we notice that they are basically cheap and efficient buffs. Eight of them can grant our creatures Lifelink, which allows us to edge out our opponents when we are in a damage race. Gift of Orzhova furthers the cause by giving our creature flying as well. Ethereal Armor plays nice on both offense and defense, but we clearly want to be the aggressor here. Don’t forget to count your Boon Satyrs as enchantments when you have Ethereal Armors in play though. Chained to the Rocks is very cute, but as I witnessed, it was not very easy to ‘connect with’. You sometimes keep good hands with no Mountains because they allow you to ‘get there’ quickly. You then get into situations where you have a Madcap Skills or a Chained to the Rocks in hand with no Mountain/red source. This is very embarassing and gives your opponent almost all the time in the world they need to stabilize.

zen mountain

Runs 8, only needs one

As far as the lands go, we can’t really ask for much. Until the ‘Selesnya Temple’ is released, we are stuck with the Selesnya Guildgate which is a necessary evil for running a tri-color deck. We have to run 4 Stomping Grounds and 4 Sacred Foundry in order to support our filthy Mountain habit. Regular Mountains would just make the mana base even worse and Temple of Triumph, while providing us with red mana would screw over our ‘Enchant Mountain’ aura. It’s not easy being Naya right now. Esper is very much the easier Shard to play (since black is strictly a backup color in that deck).

I test the deck out at a local store with what should have been more or less a soft field. Here is a run-down of the action:

round 1 banner

VS. Mono Red

I win the die roll and keep a Selesnya two-lander. I land a turn 2 V0ice of Resurgence but am already on the defensive when he’s swinging with a Firedrinker Satyr, Firefist Striker and Mutavault. A Chandra’s Phoenix joins the party on his end. I get a third land, Temple Garden, shock myself only to play Unflinching Courage on the Voice of Resurgence. I have to attack because blocking is not even an option thanks to Firefist Striker. My damage output is < than the damage I am taking and I go down in Game 1.

voice of resuregenceReally good, just not on its own

Game 2 is very frustrating as I mulligan down to five with a Sacred Foundry and a Plains, but with a Chained to the Rocks and Fiendslayer Paladin in hand. I want to say it was close, but I never ever drew my third land and simply scooped up early on. My opponent always had that turn 2 Firefist Striker, so I’m not too sure how much resistance I would have provided with my Fiendslayer. Granted I would of had to use Chained to the Rocks on his Firefist Striker early (which I did), but he just had so much gas and was set with his 3 lands in play for the rest of the game.

0-1

round 2 banner

VS. Green Devotion (with blue splash)

I’m playing against a more competent player this time (not that it really mattered in the first round) so I can better gauge if the deck is a worthy contender or a flash in the pan. Of course this is barring any form of mana/color screw. I get some early Gladecover Scout action but when he accelerates into a Garruk -3’ind an Arbor Colossus, I pretty much scoop up my cards when I fail to find Mountains for Chained to the Rocks or Madcap Skills.

Going into Game 2, I immediately side in 2 x Banisher Priests since his deck had little to no removal for those, save Polukranos. I get early Gladecover Scout beats and decide to split up my enchantment distribution with Ethereal Armor x 2. I Gift of Orzhova one of the scouts and later on I draw a Chained to the Rocks which I actually have a Mountain for.Would you looks at that? I actually attacked and won. Good old aggro!

gift of orzhovaSurprisingly good!

Game 3 is looking somewhat similar to Game 2 without my red source for Madcap Skills. He gets a Garruk, Caller of  Beasts into play and -3 for a Prophet of Kruphix. On my turn he untaps everything and I attack him thinking that I’m covered for whatever he will sneak into play since I have a Voice of Resurgence and can recoup whatever losses I may incur. He taps Nykthos for an insane amount of mana and flashes in an Arbor Colossus. He uses the rest of that mana to Monstrous it. My 7/7 First Strike Lifelink Gladecover Scout falls to a gigantic 9/9. Getting 3-for-1’ed was never so brutal. At least I get a 2/2 Elemental token, yay!

0-2

We play some more games for fun versus his Selesnya aggro deck. It’s pretty much split even except that, you guessed it: the Selesnya deck is just way more consistent.

round 3 banner

VS. Nivmagus Elemental deck

I start off with a turn 1 Gladecover Scout followed by 2 x Ethereal Armor and a third one on turn 3. He starts doing some random stuff with Hidden Strings and Nivamgus Elemental + Young Pyromancer. I never ever draw land # 3 for Gift of Orzhova to just win the game . This is just not my day for drawing appropriate colored land or even an appropriate quantity of them.

nivmagus elementalOne of the last cards I would expect to be playing against

In game 2, I telegraph my opponent’s play of playing a Hidden Strings on his Judge’s Familiar, which is why I play an untapped Sacred Foundry. He still plays into my obvious trap and casts Hidden Strings ciphering it onto the Judge’s Familiar. I flash in a Skylasher and block the little owl. He takes his time to read Skylasher and frowns. I try to play a Unflinching Courage on my little insect that following turn, but my opponent happened to have drawn Magma Jet. Bye bye spider guy! Just as luck would have it, I am stuck with a handful of Auras and no little hexproof dude to enchant.

0-3

round 4 banner

VS. Junk Aggro

I noticed that I am playing against John, the same dude who wrote the Olivia Commander article. We always have some amusing matches and now since we are both 0-3 we can let loose and just joke around. It’s all about fun right? Game 1,  believe I did the usual Gladecover ‘shenanigans’ and won by giving it flying thanks to Gift of Orzhova (yeah, it does that too).

The second game was rather long since I was drawing blank for quite a few turns and I had split my enchants, making it hard to attack past a Reaper of the Wilds (good card). I also had a Chained to the Rocks in hand, waiting for John to tap out so that I can hit his Reaper with it. That never occurred though and I just ended up using it on his Loxodon Smiter later on. John also stabilized back to almost twenty life thanks to a Whip of Erebos. I just know that eventually I will draw a Madcap Skills or Gift of Orzhova to finish this, but for the meantime  I am stuck with a pair of useless Witchstalkers holding the fort while I attack with my 5/5 lifelink Gladecover Scout trying to force a trade with his potentially Deathtouch Reaper of the Wilds. At some point I lose an enchantment to a Golgari Charm. I decide to keep a couple of creatures in my hand fearing something like a Gaze of Granite for 1-3, which would blow up all my nonland side of the battlefield. I get him to low enough digits that I can finally draw and play Madcap Skills/Gift of Orzhova and win.

Final record :1-3

Final Verdict

I can maybe see how this would do really well versus things like monoblack devotion and such, but it just felt really inconsistent. You always want that Madcap Skills on turn 2 and the mana seems to be working against you often. Against a few other decks, it might seems like you are going to win and then they sort of stabilize if you have no Chained to the Rocks to get their big blockers out of the way. It just never seems like you have a clear advantage in a lot of matchups. Of course I only played 4 rounds with it and I was not particularly lucky at times. I can more or less see how this can get some quick wins in, but it’s probably not something I would like to play again. I also found that maybe 2 Boon Satyrs is not enough.

gladecover scoutThis is nowhere near as good as in the Modern Aura deck

To say that this is not my kind of deck would be an understatement. I sort of like the Ethereal Armor interaction with cards like Gods, God Weapons and Boon Satyr. I can maybe see myself running it in some kind of brew where enchantments really matter (hopefully next set will help with that). Otherwise, it just really feels like we are playing a strictly inferior version of the old Bant Hexproof deck . Madcap Skills is fine and all, since it gives you a sort of ‘evasion’ as well as a good pump in stats but I can’t help but feeling that we might want to go back to Bant colors and run something like Aqueous Form and some other blue cards. That way also be a dead end, but something  to examine for a little while. We would also gain a 3/2 flying hexproof creature in Ascended Lawmage, however that doesn’t seem relevant enough for something we play on Turn 4 at the earliest. Fleecemane Lion can gain hexproof but I really like a turn 2 Voice of Resurgence better in most matchups. Perhaps having a couple of Fleecemanes in the sideboard can be decent.

fleecemane lion artThey’re Grrrrrrrrrrrrreat!

In the end …

The deck is just not what it used to be. It’s not as fast as some of the devotion decks and is sadly not always the aggressor, which is terrible. If you fall behind with this deck, it’s very very hard to come back into the game. This is a prime example of a deck that would perform better online than it would in real life.  I would dismiss it for now and wait until we maybe get something new for it in Born of the Gods.