Daily Digest: We Are Harbinger

Nahiri could be a powerhouse planeswalker just waiting to break onto the #SCGStates scene. Ross Merriam takes a look at the latest list with everyone’s favorite lithomancer!

SCG States April 23-24!

Bant Company may have ruled the weekend, but that doesn’t mean we are short on cool new decks to analyze and explore. It just means Bant Company is ahead of the curve and we need to work to catch up and beat it.

Jacob Bard took this Naya Midrange list, initially conceived by Jadine Klomparens, to a near-Top 8 finish in the Open in Columbus, and there is a lot to like here.

At first glance it is a typical megamorph deck, using the efficient, resilient green creatures to gain a battlefield advantage and wade through removal spells. Dromoka’s Command and Declaration in Stone are great removal spells that we have seen a lot of in this format, so they are also obvious inclusions. And enough has been said about Archangel Avacyn, which slots perfectly into this archetype.

G/W aggressive-midrange decks like this were a known quantity heading into the format, given the pedigree of the megamorph creatures, but this one supplements that core in a novel and powerful way with two planeswalkers: Nahiri, the Harbinger and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.

Nahiri is a linchpin of the deck and the reason for splashing red in the first place. It was not nearly as highly touted during spoiler season as its power level merited because none of its abilities are flashy enough to be memorable. This is a planeswalker with good stats that will help you hit land drops, protect against flood, and gain you some value by killing creatures, freeing your creatures from opposing Silkwraps and the like, and discarding Deathmist Raptors before recurring them.

Since Nahiri will often have six loyalty when you first pass the turn with it on the battlefield, Nahiri is going to be very difficult for your opponent to kill in combat, and using the +2 ability repeatedly while building a progressively bigger battlefield will make it that much harder. Notably, if your opponent is unable to kill Nahiri immediately, you can untap and threaten Avacyn, making any attempt at attacking Nahiri very risky for your opponent.

Despite not having a flashy, game-ending ability, the value Nahiri represents will take over given enough time, and Megamorph decks have always been good at locking down the ground. If you find yourself wanting to use the ultimate, then there are some nice bullets to find in Linvala, the Preserver and Dragonlord Atarka. Both generate immediate value with enters-the-battlefield triggers that you can reuse after the creature is returned to your hand.

Consecutive Atarka triggers should decimate the opposing battlefield, giving a large enough advantage to quickly end the game before your opponent recovers. On the other hand, a Linvala trigger will help stabilize a battlefield from behind and give you the necessary life buffer to establish control with your powerful late-game.

The other planeswalker in the deck, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, is similarly excellent in protracted battlefield stalls. Eventually you can set up consecutive -2s to generate a dominating position or simply build to a huge ultimate. The Plant tokens are great for locking up the battlefield as this deck wants to do, protecting planeswalkers or saving you valuable life against aggressive decks. Nissa is perfectly suited to this shell.

The strangest card we see in the list is Lambholt Pacifist, but upon closer inspection I think it’s a solid role-player here. Between Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Dromoka’s Command you have several ways to pump it to four power so it can attack, and a two-mana 3/3 by itself matches up quite well against the many 2/3s and 2/1s in the format. It also lets you more aggressively punish opponents who stumble, which is an element this deck always wanted. You may be tempted to play something more traditional like Hangarback Walker in this slot, but I prefer the Werewolf.

The one card I would change is Traverse the Ulvenwald. A three-color deck can use the fixing, but this deck should have difficulty achieving delirium, so I would prefer Oath of Nissa in that spot, which can serve a similar purpose of smoothing your draws early without being a dead draw later in the game. It notably helps cast your two most difficult cards, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Nahiri, the Harbinger.

The sideboard is pretty typical for a midrange deck, although I particularly like the Radiant Flames / Avacyn’s Judgment package against aggressive decks, Clip Wings against Dragonlord Ojutai and opposing Avacyns, and Tireless Tracker against removal-heavy decks.

This deck is not particularly exciting, but it is a well-built, powerful midrange deck that makes great use of one of the more underrated cards in the format in Nahiri. Jacob’s solid finish gives us reason to believe that the deck can compete with Bant Company, as he must have played the matchup several times over the course of the tournament.

With a Pro Tour and States this weekend, I do not expect Nahiri to remain underrated and underutilized for very long.

SCG States April 23-24!