Duel with Ruel – Standard Jund versus Naya: The Jund Perspective

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Friday, April 9th – While Jund is still making all the headlines in the Standard press, Naya is proving very popular at high-level events. Antoine Ruel, however, believes the deck has no place in the current metagame. Today, he throws his Jund against his brother’s Naya, to see if there is any merit in the Green/White/Red machine…

Naya was one of the new decks in the format back at Pro Tour: San Diego, and LSV eventually lost in the Top 8 after a perfect record during the swiss rounds. Jund, on the other hand, has been a dominant force for over a year, and the deck to play for anyone who wants to win.

Since the Pro Tour, I have been claiming that Naya was just a bad Jund deck, and I’ve never understood why anyone would play it. Considering how many people run it at every event, the fact that it never won anything back then, nor has it had a good achievement since San Diego, I feel that my issues have been confirmed. The deck is not aggressive and not controlling; it just happens to win some games somehow, as any pile of good cards can do.

This week, testing should determine if I am right or wrong. I hope that I will understand why people choose to cascade into 1/1 Wild Nacatl or Noble Hierarch with Bloodbraid Elf rather than cascading into strong and efficient cards.

I opted for Emanuele Giusti’s Jund, as it won Grand Prix: Brussels.

Olivier played the following Naya list, also from the Top 8 of Grand Prix: Brussels (Nicholas Lambach).

Maindeck Games (13 wins, 11 losses, 54% games won)

On the play: 7 wins, 5 losses
On the draw: 6 wins, 6 losses

The games were very close, and I ended up winning. To be honest, I consider that Oli should be happier than I am with this result, as the matchup seems good for Jund.

As usual in the format, the player who draws the most powerful cards will have the edge in the game, but the tempo is also quite important. There are two very different kinds of games:

1 – Games in which you are the offense

Usually when you play first, yet sometimes when on the draw, as well as whenever the Naya mage has a slow draw.

As you have more direct damage and more removal in your deck than your opponent, you can race and presume that you will take him down to zero life first.

Putrid Leech is really good in this situation. Just try not to pump it whenever he might Lightning Bolt it in response. With only three of those in his maindeck, plus the fact that he needs to tap out very often, the card is not so scary anyway.

If you decide to go for the aggression, the one card you should fear is Behemoth Sledge, as it can reverse the life totals really quickly. Once again, the Naya decks play only one of these, plus 2 Stoneforge Mystics, so you should see it coming and adjust your plays accordingly. I think that Basilisk Collar is a blank in the matchup, so if the Stoneforge Mystic searches for it, it probably means that your opponent is holding the other equipment in his hand; then, it would be good to keep an instant speed removal spell to get rid of the equipped creature before it deals its life-gain damage.

In this configuration, it will often be good to kill a Noble Hierarch or a Birds of Paradise on the first turn, as it will slow down the Naya player dramatically. Most of the time, your opponent will not be able to recover from a slow start if you have a decent draw. His Ranger of Eos, equipment, and Man-lands will be off tempo.

Games in which you are on defense

Usually when you’re on the draw, or whenever you have a high proportion of late-game cards in your opening hand.

This strategy only works thanks to the expensive cards in the deck, such as Broodmate Dragon or Siege-Gang Commander. Those will allow you to come back into the game and compensate for the card advantage made by your opponent’s Ranger of Eos or Bloodbraid Elf; they also kill him really quickly.

Putrid Leech will be used as a premium quality blocker (it’s hard to go through a 4/4). It is really easy to know whether you can pump it or not, as your opponent should never attack into it without a Lightning Bolt in backup, as most of his creatures are three-power. Spouting Thrinax is the best card in the deck in this configuration, as it handles many attacks by itself. The Naya player’s best weapon against it are Oblivion Ring (not scary) and Behemoth Sledge (really annoying when you have to handle it and numerous creatures on the board, as you are not racing yet), and both are targets for Maelstrom Pulse.

In this scenario, it will probably always be a mistake to kill his Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch: you are on the defensive, and you need all your removal to hit something scary to delay things until you make a Broodmate Dragon that’s allowed to attack rather than being held back.

The good thing about these gameplans is that you have the opportunity to turn the game the way you like, whereas your opponent can only sit and watch what you are doing, as he only as only one game plan: play three-power guys and attack.

Anyway, whatever the state of the game may be, you have to kill Knight of the Reliquary every single time it hits the board, because as soon as your opponent untaps with it, you will be in huge trouble. It can fetch Sejiri Steppe (and virtually protect any creature from a needed removal spell), Tectonic Edge(and screw your mana, your Raging Ravine, or just slow you down), or for a Manland, which is not so scary as it is really hard for Naya to equip them every turn, which is necessary to turn the lands into something efficient. More, it is really hard to deal with a creature which can be gigantic in a few turns. Lightning Bolt isn’t a good plan to kill it, as it is already 4/4 whenever it comes into play if your opponent is smart. Then, your only answers are 2 Terminate and 3 Maelstrom Pulse; even with 4 Bloodbraid Elf, that is not a lot, and that is why I lost so many games.

If you want to win, you cannot afford to waste your removal.

Garruk Wildspeaker is really good. The worst thing that can happen with it would be putting a 3/3 beast into play and then seeing him get Lightning Bolted. The Overrun ability wins games as well, especially whenever you go for a control gameplan.

Blightning was really disappointing for once. It does not even counterbalance Ranger of Eos’s enters the battlefield effect. 50% of the Naya deck is mana (24 lands + 6 mana acceleration) for a deck with one spell that costs five! It was really easy for Oli to reduce the discard spell’s impact on the games. The only decent Blightnings I cast where to reduce the Loyalty counters on Ajani Vengeant and have Oli discard one card. The worst thing is that, even though Naya has 30 mana sources, its mana and curve are so bad. 8 Green lands available on turn 1 for 10 Green one-drops! The spells do not really need to be cast on turn 1, as a 1/1 Wild Nacatl deserves pity, and the 6 “Birds of Paradise” only accelerate into four real three-drops). Thus, he does not empty his hand until turn 14, and it is almost never profitable to make Naya discard two cards out of six or seven.

I felt that however terrible it was to cascade into a blank with Blightning, it was still 1000000000% better than cascading into a Bird of Paradise, especially when the cascade spell is the most expensive spell of the deck.

For those who do not understand yet, I hate Naya even more now I have played this matchup. Nothing compared to how much I dislike Jund… I just think that Naya is, with Open the Vaults, the only deck in the metagame that is not playable.

After the maindeck games, I checked its sideboard and found myself embarrassed, thinking about everyone who told me that Naya beats Jund. His sideboard has nothing scary, while my Jund deck got a lot better… how can you not have a sideboard plan versus a bad matchup that is the most popular deck in the format?

I did not really see how the upcoming games would not be the easiest since I started writing this column, but I might have been wrong.

+4 Deathmark
+ 2 Jund Charm
+1 Goblin Ruinblaster
-4 Blightning
-4 Putrid Leech

Sideboarded Games (19 wins, 7 losses, 73% games won)

On the play: 10 wins, 3 losses
On the draw: 9 wins, 4 losses

The sideboard games were even worse for him than I could have expected. Having such a good sideboard plan, against no plan at all, felt like playing against a Limited deck. I mostly lost to mana problems.

I sideboarded out Putrid Leech and Blightning to have more efficient cascade, and because those two cards were only good in rare spots. The Goblin Ruinblaster is a bit random; not so good to cascade, but it kills a manland, and as the games are longer, this can help a lot.

After sideboarding, you do not need to kill Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise any more. Just save your removal for real threats.

There are no more aggressive/control game plans. Just kill anything annoying that shows up, then beat your opponent up. You have to make sure that you can handle Knight of the Reliquary and Baneslayer Angel.

Jund Charm was really good as most of the time, as Naya plays a lot of Hierarchs and small creatures. Once you “Wrath” them away, you can spend your Deathmark, Terminate, and Maelstrom Pulse on something that is worth it. Something like this…

Oli: Turn 1 Noble Hierarch, turn 2 double Wild Nacatl, turn 3 Bloodbraid Elf into Knight of the Reliquary (with no land in the graveyard).
Me: Turn 3 Jund Charm, killing 5 creatures (the Nacatls were obviously 1/1).

There is probably a way to Lightning Bolt Knight of the Reliquary then remove your opponent’s graveyard with the Charm, but I was not in that position at that stage. The +2/+2 counters can be really good sometimes, especially if they are unexpected, such as in response to a Lightning Bolt at Instant speed on an attacking creature. Please guys, do not play you instant during your opponent’s turn all the time; it is very often better to play them at sorcery speed to avoid being tricked.

Deathmark was the best possible card that I could have, and the perfect addition to make sure you win against Naya.

To conclude:

Aggression : Jund > Naya
Control: Jund > Naya
Manabase: Jund > Naya
Card power: Jund > Naya
In the matchup: Jund > Naya
Cascade Power: Jund > Naya
Sideboard: Jund > Naya
Against Mono Red/ww: Naya > Jund (from what I have heard, not tested)
Against UW Control: Jund > Naya

I apologize to anyone playing Naya, but as I wrote earlier, I cannot understand why it is in the format. I think that is a deck that should not have survived a few games of playtesting. I do not write it off due to a personal grudge against the deck, but because I do not want people who read this to ever make the mistake of playing it.

Now that I have tested Naya against the two most popular decks in the metagame, and both matchups were bad, I do not intend to put it in the polls anymore. If you want me to, please tell me in the forums.

Cheers, and congratulations to Adam Yurchick, winner of GP Houston!