To Magic players it’s a dirty and uncomfortable word, but it really needn’t be.
I could rifle off a list of pros half a page long who say that Invisible Stalker is one of the most obnoxious printings in the past five years. I remember
playing Innistrad Limited and living in the hell of playing against Turn 2 Invisible Stalker, Turn 3 Butcher’s Cleaver in back-to-back win-into-the-money
rounds at Grand Prix San Diego.
I went home empty-handed that day…
Today isn’t a discussion of whether or not Hexproof is the most fun mechanic in the history of Magic, because it isn’t. The fact of the matter is that it
IS a mechanic in Magic and it is the centerpiece strategy in a deck that I believe is a very strong choice in current Standard.
I played Naya Hexproof at the Open Series in Cincinnati and put up an unimpressive 5-5 record. Despite struggling to win
matches that particular day, I knew that the central strategy of my deck was sound and that, with a little bit of tuning and practice, I could come up with
a weapon that any mage would be happy to wield.
Now, the first thing that a player needs to get past when approaching the Hexproof deck is the stigma that the deck is a “one-trick pony” or that it is a
“cheap win” deck, because it isn’t. People tend to not like the Hexproof deck as a general rule because losing to the deck can be an extremely frustrating
experience. The Hexproof deck suits up one of its trademark untargetable dorks and the opponent simply didn’t get to play Magic as he or she got attacked
to death by a 9/9 Trample, Lifelink, First Strike, Hexproof Creature.
These people don’t have the proper respect for the Hexproof deck.
Do you know what other decks simply ignore the opponent unless that player has very specific cards to interact in very specific ways?
Naya Hexproof is my deck of choice in Standard because it is the best and most viable combo deck that a player can pick.
Remember, friends: just because a deck attacks for damage with creatures doesn’t mean it isn’t a combo deck.
This was a Combo-Control deck.
- 4 Gladecover Scout
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Witchstalker
- 4 Eidolon of Countless Battles
- 4 Bassara Tower Archer
Let me start off with what I think are some of the best selling points of this deck:
First and foremost, the deck has the fastest nut draw goldfish in the format. Naya Hexproof is capable of producing a Turn 3 kill.
While this may be an uncommon draw requiring a very specific combination of cards and mana, the deck is very capable of producing relatively common Turn 4
Boros Charm is so unbelievably good in this deck.
Sure, Boros Charm is an amazing card even if a player only utilizes the four damage mode. There are very few cards in Magic that simply dish out four
damage to an opponent’s dome for only two mana.
However, in this deck (unlike most decks), all three modes are amazing. Protecting your creature wearing multiple auras from a Supreme Verdict or an
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion -3 almost always wins the game on the spot. The real winner is that with trample and power boosting auras and Rampagers, the double
strike mode can often allow Boros Charm to deal between six and ten damage for a frugal two mana!
Aside from being the best Boros Charm deck ever, Hexproof also has a few other really strong points working for it.
The first one is that there are many decks that simply have no recourse for beating the angle that Hexproof attacks from. For instance, various Burn
strategies, GR Monsters, and GW Beatdown decks simply don’t have answers for making a gigantic lifelinking monster. They can’t kill it because it can’t be
targeted, and they can’t race it because it clocks them quickly and gains enough life to put your life total completely out of reach.
The fact that the deck simply has matchups where the opponent doesn’t get to play with you is a great reason to pick up this deck. It is the metagame
equivalent of playing a Storm deck in Legacy against a deck like Goblins. Their beatdown strategy isn’t fast enough to win the game first and they
have no way of interacting with the Storm’s manner of attack.
Having a large chunk of the metagame that is simply a bye is a big deal and I really like that aspect of Hexproof.
The other great element of this deck is that since the majority of your game-winning threats have Hexproof, many of the best cards in the format will sit
idly by in your opponent’s hand as you progress your game plan.
What is removal but removes nothing?
Speaking of making removal stink…
The other combo.
Traditionally, suiting up a one-drop with an aura would be high-risk. If they kill your creature right away, you’ve been two-for-one’d and have nothing to
show for it. Gladecover Scout is the perfect creature to Madcap Skills.
Imagine being on the play and having a Scout into a Skills on the play. You have basically assembled a combo that is Boros Charm to the opponent’s face
every turn for the foreseeable future. This one-two punch will end the game all by itself, with no help, in four more turns! Even if they have creatures to
block it, think about how long it will take them to assemble two blockers at the same time; additionally, when they do assemble two blockers you’ll
probably just have a Boros Charm, Selesnya Charm, Ghor-Clan Rampager, or more auras to make their block irrelevant.
The last card I want to touch on specifically:
Everything I could have asked for.
Eidolon of Countless Battles was the great missing link that I had been looking for in this deck. First of all, as an aura it is one of the most powerful
in the deck, often granting as much as +5/+5 to your monster.
Remember that even if you only have one creature in play to bestow upon, the Eidolon will, worst-case scenario, grant +2/+2, counting itself and the
creature you are bestowing on.
The other thing that makes this card great for the deck is that it’s a creature and an aura. One of the most difficult places that the deck can
find itself in is when an opponent can kill, Thoughtseize, etc. away all of your creatures and leave you with a hand full of auras with nothing to do.
Worst-case scenario, you can play out the Eidolon and suit it up. It isn’t ideal, but it comes up and works more frequently than you’d think. Especially in
sideboarded games, the fact that Eidolon of Countless Battles comes back as a creature is pretty relevant against black decks with access to Devour Flesh.
So, let’s recap:
I. Hexproof is among the fastest aggro decks in the format.
II. Hexproof’s general strategy can only be interacted with along a very specific axis of attack. It is a combo deck, which means you will get some number
of free wins.
III. Targeted removal stinks against this deck and everybody plays target removal. Dead cards in your opponent’s hand are a beautiful thing.
OK, now let’s talk about this sideboard.
Skylasher is a pretty obvious inclusion in this deck because it is the best Hexproof creature against Mono-Blue Devotion. Not only is it
untargetable, it’s also unblockable.
One of the big upsides to playing Hexproof as opposed to other Naya decks is that Tidebinder Mage, Mono-Blue’s best answer to GW creature decks, does
absolutely nothing against this particular GW creature deck! You can’t imagine how good it makes me feel to play GW and not give a hoot about a Tidebinder
Mage. It is pure joy.
I also like this creature as a sideboard option against various blue control decks. The ability to flash down creatures is valuable against them. The key
against blue control decks is not to run out of threats. Against control decks, I always sideboard in more creatures and take out the majority of my Auras.
Aegis of the Gods is specifically in the sideboard as a card to bring in against black decks. It does a great job of protecting your hand from their
discard spells. In particular, while you are hiding behind your shield, a Mono-Black mage cannot do the following things:
If Aegis lives, it essentially shuts off upwards of a third of their deck!
Remember, the Aegis also counts as an enchantment, which powers up Ethereal Armor!
So, what are these fatties doing in the Hexproof Sideboard?
Well, against matchups with lots of Edicts and Supreme Verdicts, having more creatures is an absolute must. You will also need creatures that don’t get
swept away in the tide of Golgari Charm’s -1/-1 mode.
The answer I came up with was to give out a cat call.
If this is the case, they’re going to have a tough time answering these cards in a reasonable way.
It’s also reasonable that these are among the best cards to be slamming down early against fast beatdown decks. Nice Gnarled Scarhide. What do you think of
Some matchups are going to bring in lots of cards to specifically attack your enchantments, so having quality threats that are good on their own is
Want more life gain in some matchups? Yeah, me too…
Anytime you’re playing against creature decks where you are likely to be racing or up against a fast clock, having more access to lifelink goes a long,
long way. There are also some matchups where the flying is more important than the +1/+1 and trample of Unflinching Courage. For instance, attacking over
the top of opposing Pack Rats instead of trading is a thing against Mono-Black decks, so I upgrade to Gift of Orzhova.
I have these in the sideboard for the mirror match specifically, but they tend to come in a lot more than you’d think.
Imagine which decks are going to try and interact with you with cards like Detention Sphere and Banishing Light, and then imagine blowing up those cards
for one mana at the end of their turn and how good that would feel…
To be honest, it feels even better than that.
I only play one of these and it’s only because they won’t let me play with more Boros Charms. The only matchup where I would want to bring this card in is
against decks that have sweepers like Anger the Gods or Supreme Verdict to help save my creatures.
Generally speaking, if you can protect a creature with an aura from Supreme Verdict for a turn, you’re likely going to win the game. The problem is that
you cannot afford to dilute your deck of threats to play a bunch of reactive cards. Between Wear // Tear and Ajani’s Presence, I don’t recommend going more
threat-light than that.
A few starting points on playing with this deck:
I. A hand without a creature is not keepable. Snap mulligan time. It doesn’t matter if you have a Temple. You cannot win without creatures. Just. Mulligan.
You don’t need an Aura to keep, but you absolutely need a creature.
II. Don’t trade your Voice of Resurgences for “value” in suspect situations.
Voice of Resurgence is absolutely fantastic at protecting your Hexproof-Enchanted creatures from Edict effects (especially post-sideboard) and one mistake
I see people make with Hexproof is to trade a Voice in combat and then, with the “get an elemental trigger” on the stack, have the opponent Devour Flesh
away a Hexproof creature.
Be wary of creating situations where you only have one creature in play and your opponent has Devour Flesh mana up!
III. This deck loves to bluff attack.
Your opponent casts a Desecration Demon and you have a Gladecover Scout with an Ethereal Armor on it. There are a lot of situations where you could and
should snap attack even if you don’t have a Ghor-Clan Rampager. They often can’t risk blocking.
I bluff attack a lot with this deck and haven’t been caught yet. If you take advantage of this element of the deck properly, you will net a lot of free
damage over the course of the tournament.
IV. In matchups where your opponent is known to have lots of removal that can actually kill hexproof creatures, such as Supreme Verdict, Devour Flesh,
etc., you should be boarding out a lot of auras and bringing in more creatures.
The one aura that I almost never board out is Madcap Skills, because it deals the most damage and gives you a quasi-evasive ability against good blockers
like Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Desecration Demon; however, I don’t bat an eye at giving up my “suit ’em up” plan against decks that have solid tactics for
punishing me for doing that kind of thing.
Remember, kids: you can’t win without creatures…
I love a good combo deck, and it makes me happy that a good combo deck actually exists in Standard these days.
Another thing that I can say in favor of this deck is that as the metagame continues to warp around black decks, this deck ought to become better and
better-positioned. It’s only a matter of time until the maindeck Lifebane Zombies get replaced by Nightveil Specters for an edge in the mirror, and that is
a huge benefit to Naya-style decks.
Hexproof hasn’t made its presence known yet, but I think that with a better build and better plans for the metagame, Hexproof could really take advantage
of a field that isn’t ready for it.
In any event, I will be playing it and loving every second of it.
The deck may not be very fun to play against, but I’ve been having an absolute blast being the bad guy and playing with it!
I love a good combo deck.