Constructed Criticism – Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better

Thursday, January 27 – Tilt is a powerful weapon, one that every Magic player needs to control to do well. Todd Anderson piloted a disruptive, land-destruction Naya deck to 65th place at GP Atlanta. Let him tell you how it’s done.

The Saga Against Tilt Continues…

After receiving my second loss at Grand Prix Atlanta, something inside me snapped a little bit. I couldn’t move. I was shocked that I had even been in
the game after missing my second land drop, but after chaining together a series of plays to potentially put me back in the game, my opponent finally
dropped the hammer and broke my confidence.

Where do I go from here?

“Tilt is a powerful weapon.”

That’s true, but it is also a detrimental mindset that can greatly affect your performance. It makes you harass your opponent for their mistakes. It
makes you spiral into a pit of doubt, and the knot in your stomach won’t budge. Tilt flings you from reality into the place where you adhere to every
whim, and your mouth has no filter. It’s mental hell, and I don’t know why I continue to put myself into positions to experience it. I’m not sure if I
really love Magic, or maybe I’m a masochist.

What I can’t do is control my tilt completely, though I’ve been getting better. At this particular instance, with someone handing me my second loss in
the seventh round of Grand Prix Atlanta, I felt broken, lost. I felt as if I shouldn’t keep playing because either my deck wasn’t good enough, or I
wasn’t good enough; or (gasp) both.

But then, like the giant eagles soaring in to save the day at the end of the Lord of the Rings, Ryan Benito swept in to pick up my pieces.
“Don’t get bitter. Get better.”

I don’t know Ryan very well, but we’ve chatted a few times in our Magic careers, and he’s a nice fellow. Little did I know that those words would push
me through the rest of the tournament with a bit more inspiration and confidence, something I was definitely lacking after round 7. Every time I felt
like I was in trouble or about to lose, I would just chant those words, stay calm, and decipher my line of play calmly.

Grand Prix Atlanta taught me a lot about myself. It also taught me a lot about how important byes are, and how I should attend every possible GPT in my
local area in order to win them. Not having three byes in the last year has cost me over $800 in tiebreakers alone, and the extra win could have
vaulted me to Top 16 or possibly even Top 8 since the pairings would’ve ended up different. If you plan on going to a Grand Prix soon and are serious
about playing, play every single Grand Prix Trial you can before the actual tournament. 9-person GPTs that cut to Top 8 are much easier to win than
32-person GPTs full of people who are preparing for the next day’s event and probably know what they’re doing.

The Benefits of Ruining Their Day

This past weekend was a blast, and even though I ended up 65th, I was confident in my deck and felt like I had made a correct choice for the
tournament. Jund was good, but I wasn’t confident enough in my Scapeshift matchups to play it, and I just couldn’t figure out how to make Jund better
against them. You just weren’t fast enough, even with disruption, so I tried something different.

The night before, I built a Naya deck based around a solid list from Magic Online and changed cards to help battle the popular Scapeshift decks that
had been doing well in grinders, and I had seen pros piloting around the room. For whatever it’s worth, you should always go to the Grand Prix event
site the night before, if only to congregate with your other nerd friends, but you also can gain valuable information just by watching the grinders, as
well as pickup games between good players. Everyone wants to battle with their decks, so finding out what’s performing the best and what the best
players are leaning towards can give you some great insight into the format.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen various RUG and R/G Scapeshift decks performing very well on Magic Online, but they were virtually unknown other
than scant lists from Worlds (that were obviously outdated). Brad Nelson could be seen piloting the same list in 8-man after 8-man, smashing people
left and right, with no one the wiser since his list was never posted on WotC’s main site.

With that in mind, I felt like he would leak the deck to lots of the people around him, and people “in the know” would figure out just how good the
deck was. Without a solid list, I didn’t try testing or building it, because I knew I would probably fudge some numbers or leave cards completely out
of the list that were necessary to beat certain matchups. Instead, I focused on the decks I knew and how I would beat the matchups I expected to face.

With that in mind, let’s talk about Naya. My line of thinking when choosing Naya (virtually last minute) was that it was a few turns faster at killing
people with the Fauna Shaman chain, since Vengevine costs less to recur; thus you’re less susceptible to cards like Tectonic Edge, Fulminator Mage, and
Primal Command (and potentially Spreading Seas). Demigod of Revenge is still fine, and he’s much more powerful than Vengevine, but his difficult
casting cost hurts your mana base and also can be a trap if you start to use Fauna Shaman to chain them, and your opponent has the answer. Every time
you activate Fauna Shaman, you’re missing out on two damage, which means a lot when you’re trying to race a combo deck. Often against Scapeshift, I
would just start attacking, because they would always have Cryptic Command to tap out my team when I cast Demigod of Revenge and kill me the next turn.
The matchup was just bad, and no amount of Thoughtseizes and Deglamers would fix it.

Then what would fix it? Being faster would help. Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch are pretty sweet at accelerating you into fatties like Woolly
Thoctar and Knight of the Reliquary. Those creatures alone can help you race Scapeshift decks, putting them on an uneven keel while you pummel them
into the ground. Any sort of Tectonic Edge, Qasali Pridemage, or other disruption applied with early pressure is usually too much for them to handle.
What I figured out in testing was that they had a lot of trouble dealing with land destruction.

The mana base for RUG Scapeshift is much shakier than R/G, since it contains far more non-basics. While it still doesn’t have all that many, it usually
draws two in a game, giving you prime targets for Tectonic Edge and, my personal favorite, Goblin Ruinblaster. With Fauna Shaman, you could potentially
chain them into a backbreaking sequence against their mana base, but often a single one will put them too far behind to catch up. Qasali Pridemage,
Gaddock Teeg, and Tectonic Edge are also great cards against them, and the combination is just devastating.

After a lot of contemplation about theoretical cards in certain matchups, I came to the conclusion that this decklist, based on one piloted by
_Batutinha_ on Magic Online, was where I should start. After some insight from friends, the sideboard was altered slightly to help out against Mono-Red
(thanks Chrandersen). Here is the list I scribbled down right before decklists were turned in:

This list had everything I needed to combat the decks I was expecting to face, and I cut some cards I felt were mediocre or specifically targeted at
less popular decks. I didn’t feel like Mono-Red would be a top contender, and I was mostly right, but it has good matchups against Faeries and
Scapeshift, so it took down the PTQ on Magic Online this past Sunday, prompting a huge spring in popularity over the last few days. With that in mind,
I’d recommend having a few more cards to beat them in the sideboard, but I’m not sure how much space you can dedicate to the matchup.

The listed maindeck has a few off-color spots that were good in theory but probably not as good as I originally hoped. The maindeck Linvala was just
atrocious, but it seemed like I always naturally drew her in weird spots and never when I wanted her. The same could be said about Cunning Sparkmage,
Stoneforge Mystic, and Basilisk Collar, but I would be much happier if I had just added in a Sword of Body and Mind to have another card to fetch
against matchups where Sparkmage and Collar were not relevant.

I wanted the fourth Woolly Thoctar in almost every matchup, and I had originally cut it for the Linvala, so that switch is pretty easy. Woolly Thoctar
is just a large monster, but you really need to have a relevant threat on turn 2 when you’re able to lead with a Birds or Noble Hierarch. Having four
of each and possible some Kitchen Finks or another solid three-drop could potentially give you the starts you need to race combo, beat control, and
“out-big” the mirror.

Elspeth was another card I wasn’t happy with after playing the deck for a while, but it was very good against Jund and the mirror, helping to break
board stalls and push through that last bit of damage to win the game. If I had the tournament to play again, I would cut it for something more
proactive against Faeries, Scapeshift, or Mono-Red. The three don’t have very much overlap, so Kitchen Finks is my default at the moment. He’s good
against pretty much everything, and you rarely don’t want to draw it or cascade into it. He’s just solid, and he’s also faster than Elspeth and doesn’t
clog your four-drop slot.

The maindeck could have used another land, and I would suggest adding a Murmuring Bosk. The Misty Rainforests ran out of targets fairly quickly with
Knight of the Reliquary active, and I often needed my Misty Rainforest to fetch a second color to help cast spells in the early game. Another Tectonic
Edge is also an option, since it’s so valuable against Scapeshift, Faeries, and 4CC, but the colored mana requirements of Woolly Thoctar make that an
impossibility. Other than that, I was very happy with how few of my lands were coming into play tapped (unlike Jund), and the mana base balanced well
with Knight of the Reliquary, which was nice. I did have to mulligan a few no-green-mana openers, but I also kept a few on the draw that got there
easily, so overall very few complaints.

I felt like my sideboard plan was brilliant, and the only card I want to change is Path to Exile. With Goblin Ruinblaster, you don’t really want to
give your Faeries opponent more lands, since that’s one of the ways you keep them off their game-ending spells. I might suggest Combust, since they
can’t counter it, and it kills most of the creatures in Mythic, which are two of the matchups where you really wanted Path to Exile in the first place.
Combust also can’t be countered, which is sick against Faeries but also useful against U/W Control’s Baneslayer Angels. Goblin Ruinblaster was easily
my MVP of the tournament, taking out control and Scapeshift alike, ruining their plans to beat me with Wurmcoil Engine and Cryptic Command. Tectonic
Edge played a big part, since Knight of the Reliquary could easily ruin their mana base before they could get started, growing larger all the while.

Naya Charm was a theoretical answer for the mirror, acting as a removal spell for Cunning Sparkmage, a way to recur Basilisk Collar, and a “Cryptic
Command” of sorts to tap down their blockers so you can alpha-strike them. The mirror often comes down to a battle of Vengevines banging against each
other, so having a Falter effect usually ends the game on the spot. I don’t think you want more than two, since drawing multiples early can be
devastating if you’re trying to develop your board, and you also don’t want to cascade into it when you need to bring back Vengevines. It worked out
fine, but I’m not sure if it’s necessary since the mirror is becoming less prevalent.

Cunning Sparkmage is solid against a variety of matchups, and I wanted to fit the fourth into the sideboard, but it might be easier to just play a
third in the maindeck. I just seemed to draw it at irrelevant times, but it’s fairly solid against most creature decks, so it could be correct to play
more so that it’s easier to assemble the “Visara” combo. Sparkmage is also nuts against Faeries, making Bitterblossom irrelevant while also destroying
all hopes of Vendilion Clique and Scion of Oona staying alive. While they do have a lot of removal, you have more creatures, so something has to

Gaddock Teeg was awesome and helped in my four wins over RUG Scapeshift by shutting down their combo, Cryptic Commands, and Jaces. In combination with
Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender to shut down Firespout, as well as the various cards that disrupt their mana, he kept them from being able to kill me out of
nowhere while I whittled away at their life total. Forge-Tender is a great addition to the sideboard, since most decks with sweepers are relying on
Volcanic Fallout to do their dirty work, mostly in part to Faeries being incredibly popular. I don’t foresee this changing anytime soon, so he should
get the nod over other anti-red cards like Kor Firewalker and the like. Protecting yourself from these sweepers, and especially your disruption bears
like Qasali Pridemage and Gaddock Teeg, is how you beat Scapeshift.

As I said earlier, Path to Exile is not a card I would play in the deck if you can help it. With Goblin Ruinblaster doing a lot of dirty work, you
don’t want to be giving them more lands. Combust and Flame Slash are fine replacements, acting as a way for you to easily kill large monsters without
giving your opponent the vital resources you’re attacking. I don’t recommend bringing Ruinblaster in against any deck with Birds or Noble Hierarch
because they’re just too slow and you will rarely mana screw them. Jund is a different story, and I would definitely recommend bringing in Tectonic
Edges and Ruinblasters to keep them off Demigod mana. Stranding them with a Forest in play is incredibly satisfying when you kill their Twilight Mire
or Fire-Lit Thicket.

The last Qasali Pridemage is obvious, and I wanted another because I played against so much Scapeshift and Faeries, so I would recommend trying to find
room. If you open up some slots by moving some cards to the maindeck, this would be my first addition. He’s great against most decks, including the
mirror, since he can kill Basilisk Collar if they assemble “the combo.”

Overall I feel like the deck is incredibly well positioned to take advantage of decks unaware that you’re going to sideboard into a disruption-heavy
aggro deck. Most decks in the format can’t handle their mana getting attacked, which makes the Tectonic Edges and Ruinblasters incredibly strong. A
card I might want to add to the sideboard is Sun Titan since he can recur Tectonic Edge and Qasali Pridemage, locking out the Scapeshift decks
completely once you have control of the game. It also helps in the grind matchups like Jund, where the last threat standing most likely takes the game.
Bringing back Knight of the Reliquary is absurd in the aggressive mirrors, but getting to six mana is the only problem. With 30+ mana sources, it
shouldn’t be that much of a problem, but be aware that if your early mana dorks don’t survive, it will be almost impossible to cast.

If you decide to add the Murmuring Bosk, I would cut a Razorverge Thicket for a fourth Copperline Gorge. I would occasionally get screwed on red mana,
so having the fourth would be nice, and you’re virtually adding four sources of white when you add a Murmuring Bosk due to the Misty Rainforests
counting towards that end.

The small problems I experienced with the deck during the Grand Prix, as well as my many mistakes, are what led to my 11-4 record and 65th place. With
the perfect list and three byes, I’m positive I could have made Top 8. The Ruinblaster plan was just amazing, and I couldn’t recommend it more. People
were just unprepared to have their lands attacked, and I don’t think that is going to change for a while. Naya doesn’t have a lot of ways to interact
with combo decks otherwise, since Gaddock Teeg is not incredibly tough to dispatch. Qasali Pridemage helps since many combo decks rely on Prismatic
Omen sticking around, but it’s not reliable enough.

I hope you try the deck and see for yourself. As for Jund, I wouldn’t recommend just jamming in Ruinblaster because you can’t cast it on the third
turn, and you don’t have Tectonic Edge along with Knight of the Reliquary to complement the disruption. Jund is still a fine choice, but your matchup
against Scapeshift is much worse. I still hold that Blightning is not a good card in the format, but Charles Gindy piloted Jund to the Top 8 with a
Jund deck containing Blightning. When Scapeshift is popular, Blightning is good. Otherwise it’s terrible. Before the Grand Prix, Scapeshift was not
heavily played, so cutting it was acceptable. With the resurgence of Scapeshift, it might be correct to play them again. Time will tell, but I’m moving
on as of now.

I hope you guys enjoyed this foray into Naya. I didn’t want to do a tournament report this week because I feel like this type of article about the deck
is much more useful. We went to Fogo, Chow Baby, had a few laughs, but mostly we just played Magic. You can learn more from explaining new card choices
than hearing about inside jokes, though the latter is probably more entertaining but less relevant to those seeking to get better.

In the future, I plan on going into more detail on tournament reports, but my lackluster finish really kept me from being excited. Placing 65th is
fairly heartbreaking, but at least it wasn’t 17th.

Don’t get bitter. Get better.

Thanks for reading.


strong sad on MOL