Duel with Ruel #31: Standard Testing – Turboland versus Fauna Naya

Tuesday, September 7th – I thought I had the best deck going into this matchup… And I was wrong. This is why testing for real will always be better than just theory.

Turboland was the hot deck to play before M11 was released. With the new set, it only earned Obstinate Baloth in the sideboard and is slowly vanishing from the top of the tournaments.

Fauna Naya, on the other hand, keeps surprising me and is probably the best deck to play at the moment.

I expect Turboland to win maindeck, as Naya only has Realm Razer as a gamebreaker, and Cunning Sparkmage only kills Lotus Cobra.

I will run Lucas Florent’s latest version of Turboland:

Manu will play this Naya by Anibal Carbonero, 1st at Spanish Nats:

MAINDECK GAMES (6 wins, 18 losses, 25 % games won)
On the play: 4 wins, 8 losses
On the draw: 2 wins, 10 losses

And once more, I was wrong. This is why testing for real will always be better than just theory.

I admitted that with the M11 add of Fauna Shaman, Naya had became very good. Looks like I still underestimated the deck — it’s great!

At some point, I have to consider that the fact that my if opponent is always getting sick draws, that might be due to the quality of the deck he plays, not his luck. The fact is, Naya is really aggressive, and an active Fauna Shaman is the nut-high against everything around.

Turboland is based on:

1) The synergy of all its cards. For instance, Oracle of Mul Daya and Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Halimar Depths.

2) Accelerating the mana through ramp spells and Lotus Cobra, then playing Time Warp with tons of mana available, plus Planeswalkers to optimize the extra turn(s).

3) Surviving the beatdown by either bouncing the main threats of your opponent or blocking them with 0/1 Plant tokens. This allows you to get tempo and develop at the same time.

4) Casting the one-card combo: Avenger of Zendikar. Block any attackers, then untap with a ton of 4/5 tokens, attack, and win.

The main reasons of my loss here can be linked to the failure of all the above plans:

1) The synergy of the deck requires time. I just did not have it. Jace, the Mind Sculptor had to bounce creatures too often to do other cool things with it.

Oracle of Mul Daya, on the other hand, needs a few turns to be used properly. But here it would just be active the turn I cast it, then I had to either block a Bloodbraid Elf or just chump a huge monster.

Trapped in survival mode, I had other concerns than doing the cool and synergetic things that the deck requires to win. You have to hope that your opponent’s draw will be bad enough to that you can optimize the benefits from your spells.

2) I could not handle Naya’s Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch, which resulted in him having more mana and a board development that was both ridiculous and much better than mine.

Lotus Cobra died too often to Cunning Sparkmage to be really efficient. An accelerator on turn 1 followed by a Fauna Shaman on turn 2 made sure that my Cobra always faced a Cunning Sparkmage on turn 3. With the Survival of the Fittest guy, Bloodbraid Elf, and three copies of a hasty pinger, Lotus Cobra was surprisingly bad.

Moreover, unlike a Lightning Bolt, Cunning Sparkmage gets rid of all the upcoming copies of Lotus Cobra, turning them into dead cards.

Ajani Vengeant killed a Lotus Cobra, an Oracle of Mul Daya, a Garruck Wildspeaker or a Jace, the Mind Sculptor when it came into play, then “destroyed” a land (via Ajani’s lockdown) to eventually deal me lethal damage. Having a land locked is a huge problem; there’s a reason Turboland runs twenty-eight lands and ramp spells. The more lands you get into play as fast as possible, the higher your win rate will be.

The best game plan you can have will always include a Planeswalker on turn 3. Reaching four mana on turn 3 is vitally important. Then you need to untap with either Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Garruk Wildspeaker and cast a Time Warp, hoping to eventually reach an Avenger of Zendikar.

The problem there is, successfully untapping with a Planeswalker still alive. Bloodbraid Elf and Vengevine combined with the creatures already on the table will kill your Planeswalkers too easily. The best way for them to survive has to be to bounce the lone threat on the table with Jace, the Mind Sculptor then hope no hasty guy will show up… Which, according to my own experience, is very unlikely to happen.

Garruk Wildspeaker’s beasts and the plant tokens will be either killed by a Cunning Sparkmage, overwhelmed, or the Naya player will just play a Sejiri Steppe (either from his hand or through Knight of the Reliquary) to give his bigger guy protection for Green, making it unblockable and one-shotting your Planeswalker.

3) Bounce is almost always inefficient against haste guys — especially when recasting them allows your opponent to revive a couple of Vengevines previously put into the graveyard by Fauna Shaman.

Your plant tokens either do not block thanks to Cunning Sparkmage, or you will be facing too many guys. Just chump with them anytime you can, as you can’t rely on them anyway.

With the tempo race always lost, it is hard to even have a topdeck game plan. Into the Roil can get a bit disruptive for your opponent, but it will be far from being enough most of the time.

4) Avenger of Zendikar is supposed to be the one-card combo of the deck, providing blockers then finishing the games really quick. None of those really worked out.

First, Cunning Sparkmage equipped by a Basilisk Collar can kill the 5/5 before the plants can get their +1/+1 bonus. Seven 1/2 plants won’t achieve much in the games when you’re facing an army of monsters — at least if there’s no boost on the way.

Second, by the time you cast the Avenger of Zendikar, you are already facing hordes of big creatures that your tokens will have to chump-block immediately. And if that happens, you won’t untap with enough creatures to kill your opponent in one turn without Time Warp.

Third, if you are low on life, a combination of Sejiri Steppe, Baneslayer Angel, Cunning Sparkmage(s), and a Lightning Helix effect from Ajani Vengeant will finish you off.

The worst thing is that even if your first three steps work out and Avenger of Zendikar shows up on the next turn, Realm Razer will ruin your game plan. Remember that you cannot kill Fauna Shaman, Birds of Paradise, and Noble Hierarch. As such, it’s extremely easy for Naya to drop its bombs early. Armageddon against a Land Deck is just unfair and impossible to beat. The couple of Into the Roils will already have been cast just so you can reach this point of the game.

If your opponent has six mana available and Fauna Shaman before Avenger of Zendikar reaches the board, you will lose. Period.

Time Warp was either a winning card or a five-mana Explore. But for once, the second mode was useful, as the extra land could be key in casting an Avenger of Zendikar. Along with a motor and synergy, the card was just winning. But I could never cast Avenger of Zendikar and Time Warp on the same turn under Manu’s beatdown — and this should never happen.

The matchup is still winnable, as Avenger of Zendikar is still a bomb… But most of the games I won were due to Manu having poor draws. My best draws could not match with his good ones, especially when I was on the draw, where I was almost drawing dead.

The sideboard part should be rough again, there is no such thing here as a “B” plan like last week (where we sideboarded into Polymorph instead of Pyromancer Ascension). Sadly, the deck will keep its essence and only get some Flashfreezes instead of Lotus Cobra… And I’m afraid that cannot be enough.

SIDEBOARDED GAMES (10 wins, 16 losses, 38% games won)
As I had 2 different sideboard plans, we played 13 games in which I started, and then 13 where I was on the draw.

On the play: 8 wins, 5 losses
+4 Flashfreeze
-4 Lotus Cobra

Manu’s draws were weaker than game one — he took a lot of mulligans — but I believe that the matchup still would have eventually become favorable for me.

Flashfreeze was excellent; it provided me the entire tempo I lacked in game one. I could just pass my turn 2 and counter Manu’s first threats. It was even good to counter a one-mana accelerator that he could not play on turn 1 because of a tapland in order to slow him down, at which point I could then do cool stuff with my cards. I wouldn’t have believed how thoroughly this card could reverse the matchup.

Still, Manu boarded in extra threats:

2 Realm Razer: Just to make sure he drew even more of them.
1 Cunning Sparkmage: I’m sure glad I boarded the Lotus Cobra out! The card is still quite good, as it kills Planeswalkers, tokens, burns your face, and can team up in multiples to kill Oracle of Mul Daya.
2 Naya Charm: It kills Oracle of Mul Daya, or taps your Avenger of Zendikar and tokens for an alpha strike. There is not much to do about it, anyway, Manu had only two copies and I guess many Fauna Naya mages won’t have the card in their sideboard anyway.

On the draw: 2 wins, 11 losses
+4 Flashfreeze
+2 Fog
-4 Lotus Cobra
-2 Into the Roil

After Manu was up 6-0 and I understood that I would not win more than two games out of thirteen, I had to wonder what went wrong in the games.

Flashfreeze was the best card on the play and became the worst card on the draw.

The counterspell was always out of tempo. Let’s say I don’t play my Rampant Growth on turn 2 to keep up Flashfreeze mana:

Rather than just keeping what unexpectedly bad card, I decided to change the sideboard plan into this one:

-2 Into the Roil
+2 Fog

I was soooo out of the tempo that I decided to bring the Lotus Cobra in. Although the card was pretty bad game one, especially on the draw, I believed it was my only way to catch Manu back on the tempo battle. The card ended up bad as well, but definitely interesting.

No lies — I successfully stole the two games more than I won them. But on the other hand, Manu’s strategy of aggressively mulliganing had to result in some failure at some point.

Flashfreeze might have been better against some of Manu’s terrible draws — but then, Lotus Cobra had a chance to survive and the deck is still supposed to beat terrible draws whatever the sideboard plan is.

As a conclusion, the matchup is quite bad, which might explain why Turboland hasn’t had have good results lately. The deck is missing some sideboard options — maybe Narcolepsy ? — but anyway, the tempo problem on the draw just seems irreversible.

Amsterdam is coming, I hope that when I write my next article, I’ll have one more Pro Tour top 8 on my resume! Until then, for those who will attend, good luck there; for the others, I hope you will qualify for next year’s first Pro Tour — Lyon.