Naya Restored

At GP Minneapolis, Brian Kibler played his Standard Naya deck updated with cards from Avacyn Restored. Find out how he’d change the deck moving forward for SCG Open Series: Nashville.

"Have you played your deck before?"

"Nope, have you?"


Grand Prix that happen immediately after a Pro Tour are always funny. Pretty much the entire pro community shows up with little to no preparation, because they’ve spent all of their time since the latest set came out working on breaking a completely different format. More often than not you’re just going to see people showing up with a tweaked version of whatever they last played in the format with a handful of new cards. Some people will try entirely new decks, but rarely will they be nearly tuned enough to compete with the bogeymen of the format’s past.

As a result, it’s dangerous to draw too many conclusions based on the results of these tournaments. People have frequently bemoaned how little impact new cards have on a format during its early stages, and more often than not within a month or so those same players are the ones crying about how the new set is overpowered. Give it time. We may not have seen any entirely new decks spring fully formed out of the Helvault in time for Minneapolis, but I’d be shocked if we saw the same sea of Delver, G/R, and Ramp filling the top tables by the time the World Magic Cup Qualifiers roll around in the United States.

That said, I was one of the countless players who looked at the cards in Avacyn Restored and just took the ones that best fit into the deck I was familiar with rather than try to build anything new. I played literally zero games with the deck before submitting my decklist, but this is what I played based entirely on my experience with the pre-AVR deck and how the new cards impacted things in theory:

Looks familiar, doesn’t it? I knew as soon as I saw Restoration Angel that I was going to find a way to fit it into my Naya deck, and after the first time I cast a Wolfir Silverheart I decided that was going in as well. Those of you who are familiar with my take on Naya "Pod" know that I look at the deck as an aggressively oriented midrange deck first and a Pod deck second, and this version takes that design direction one step further. I stripped out virtually all of the one-of Birthing Pod targets, opting instead to focus on maximizing the highest quality cards at each casting cost and use Pod almost solely as a value card to upgrade my creatures.

This change is most notable at the higher drops. Gone are Vorapede and Acidic Slime, instead replaced by a pair of Wolfir Silverhearts and a Zealous Conscripts. I didn’t even bother playing a six-drop, because Wolfir Silverheart is bigger than the Titans anyway — why would I want to sacrifice him to downgrade? Titans can also be a major liability in a world where everyone else catches on to Zealous Conscripts or plays a lot of Clone effects. "Upgrading" your five-drop into a Titan can very readily mean you just die when your opponent takes it or makes a couple of their own.

Conscripts is an absolutely amazing card. It provides a ton of flexibility to deal with a wide variety of situations, all while being a 3/3 haste creature in a pinch. It has tons of synergy with the rest of the deck, too. You can Conscripts a creature and sacrifice it to Birthing Pod, or Pod up a Conscripts and play a Restoration Angel from your hand to Blink either the Conscripts and take something else or the creature you stole to keep it permanently. Remember, Restoration Angel says "under your control," so if you Blink a stolen creature with it you don’t have to give it back!

That’s to say nothing of stealing Tamiyo, Gideon, Liliana, Swords, or opposing Birthing Pods in critical spots. The card is that good, and it will have a huge presence as long as it’s legal in Standard. "Sure, that creature’s good, but what if they Conscript it?" is going to be a common criticism of every new fatty to roll out of M13 and Return to Ravnica.

The triple team of Restoration Angel, Wolfir Silverheart, and Zealous Conscripts solves a huge spread of the weaknesses that a midrange Naya deck used to face. Before Avacyn came busting out of the Helvault, we had to make due with a creature base that was rather unimpressive size-wise. My previous version of the deck had only two creatures that survived a Slagstorm—Vorapede and Inferno Titan—and you certainly couldn’t realistically expect to have either of them in play when your opponent decided to sweep the board.

Now, Restoration Angel gives you tremendous resilience to Slagstorm, and Wolfir Silverheart gives you a devastating follow-up that even trumps Titans in size. In one of my matches against Ramp at the Grand Prix, my opponent tried to set me up for a Slagstorm  by killing one of my two Strangleroot Geists with Beast Within, hoping to kill both the returned Geist and the Beast with the sweeper and leave me with just a single 3/2 in play. Instead, I responded to his Slagstorm with Restoration Angel, resetting the Geist with a counter and leaving me with nine power in play to attack him next turn. He didn’t win that one.

Restoration Angel does so much for the deck it’s insane. Blade Splicer is already the best three casting cost creature in the format, but when you can Blink it for a rebuy on the Golem token you amass a pretty insane army pretty fast. A first turn Avacyn’s Pilgrim, second turn Blade Splicer, third turn Restoration Angel leaves you with eleven power in play—after you’ve already attacked for four. If you have a Gavony Township and your opponent has no blockers, you can attack them down to two life on your fourth turn. And that’s not with some kind of low-staying power force that’s going to sputter out in the face of resistance; you have two sizable first strikers and a 3/4 flier!

Even beyond the all of the sweet interactions with all of your enters the battlefield triggers, Restoration Angel gives you a ton of play. In a deck full of creatures, you generally have to do everything at sorcery speed, and that means you’re often at the mercy of whatever your opponent might have to blow you out. With a normal creature, you’d have to decide whether you commit another threat to the board during your main phase, which could lead to a devastating Day of Judgment from your opponent. With Restoration Angel, you can hold back and wait—if you decide you need more action, you can play it during your opponent’s end step, or in response to a removal spell, or whatever.

Remember Mistbind Clique? Restoration Angel lets you get in on all of the attack step blowouts that Mistbind Clique used to create. It used to be that the Delver player was the only one who could mess with the combat math, but now you have the ability to flash in a creature that happens to be just big enough to fight with a Delver or Dungeon Geists and live. Speaking of Dungeon Geists, it hates Restoration Angel for more than that. If your opponent uses a Dungeon Geists to lock down one of your creatures, you can just use Restoration Angel to blink that creature out and the Geists forgets it ever had it on lock down.

Restoration Angel is the sort of card that people are going to need a lot of time to get used to playing around. At the Grand Prix, one of my opponents used a Phyrexian Metamorph to copy my Wolfir Silverheart and then tried to Doom Blade that same Silverheart after blocking my Borderland Ranger it was paired with. I used Restoration Angel to not only keep the Silverheart alive but repair it with the Ranger to make the combat go totally differently than he was expecting.

In that same match, my opponent had a Wurmcoil Engine in play that got to attack several times, and he was at fifty life while I was in single digits. Thanks to some Restoration Angel shenanigans giving me enough first striking blockers from Blade Splicer to keep the Wurmcoil at bay and then some more Blinking giving me multiple uses of Zealous Conscripts, I was able to claw back from that huge deficit to win the game convincingly.

I really can’t overstate how much more powerful this deck feels than it used to. Never in any of my matches during the Grand Prix did I ever feel like I was in a situation in which I had no outs, which is a very different state of affairs from before. Ramp used to be firmly a bad matchup. In Minneapolis, I went 2-1 against Ramp and felt like I actually got pretty unfortunate in the one match that I lost! My losses came at the hands of that one ramp deck, one G/R deck with four Silverhearts that just got out ahead of me in every game, another G/R deck against whom I kept a horrible hand for no discernible reason and got suitably punished, and a Delver deck in the last round against whom I lost a pair of incredibly close games.

I was so impressed by Restoration Angel in the tournament that the first change I’d make to the deck is to add the fourth copy. That means one of the other high cost cards has to go, and the only one I can really see shaving is Huntmaster. That may change if the world continues to be infested with Insectile Aberrations, but Huntmaster is your worst card against ramp decks and isn’t that impressive against control or other green decks nowadays, thanks to Wolfir Silverheart making the games play out very differently than they used to. I really liked Borderland Ranger since it helped manage some of the color issues the deck can occasionally struggle with, especially against decks that kill your mana creatures. I’d like to fit a third, but that might be overdoing it.

In retrospect I think cutting the second Birthing Pod was a mistake, so I’d put it back in. There’s just so many things you can do with Pod now thanks to Restoration Angel and Conscripts that even if you aren’t going up the chain past Silverheart you really want to draw one. That led me to put the Fiend Hunter back in since there are a lot of situations you want to fetch it, especially in a world of Silverhearts.

I think it’s finally time for Daybreak Ranger to go. Restoration Angel means that you don’t need a slot for flying defense anymore, and Bonfire of the Damned is just a better effect against tokens and mana creatures where Daybreak Ranger used to shine.

The worst card for me all GP was Strangleroot Geist. The matchups where it’s good aren’t nearly as popular as they used to be; all of the control matchups tend to be Lingering Souls decks instead of removal based nowadays. There aren’t really other good two-drops to replace it with, though. Thalia’s stock is on the decline with Delver no longer being quite as popular, and I wouldn’t want to play too many of those main anyway. I’m trying out Mikaeus at Michael Jacob recommendation, and so far I’ve liked what it does. The Gavony Township effect is very powerful in a deck that can generate as many creatures as quickly as this one can, and Mikaeus pretty much demands your opponent have removal for it early in a creature mirror or it can bury them quickly.

Sideboard-wise I liked the new additions, but I have some extra room after cutting Daybreaks. I decided to try out a few copies of Sword of War and Peace, since I wanted a non-creature threat against control to reduce my vulnerability to sweepers. I don’t like Sword in general, but it’s an all-star against Lingering Souls decks. LSV played Esper at the GP and complained that nearly all of his losses came at the hands of Sword-carrying creatures, so I figured it seemed like a good choice. Getting all of your creatures past both Spirit tokens and Sun Titans helps get the job done against most of the control decks out there these days.

Anyway, this is what I’m messing around with right now:

I don’t have any Standard events to play in for quite a while, as I unfortunately won’t be going to the SCG Invitational in Indy next month. I wish I was, because this deck is both a ton of fun to play and extremely powerful. If you’re hitting up one of the SCG Standard Opens or the WMCQs soon, I highly recommend giving this deck a try.

Until next time,