Positive EV – U/W Control versus Boss Naya: The Boss Naya Perspective

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Friday, March 19th – Earlier this week, Antoine Ruel brought us the lowdown on the Blue/White perspective of the UW versus Naya Standard matchup. Today, Manuel Bucher rounds out the matchup with his thoughts on the match from the Naya side of the table.

Antoine picked me up to play the Naya side of the “U/W versus Naya” matchup. He actually let me choose, but how could I notchose to play the deck that makes more card advantage? Although if I’m honest, I expect the matchup to favor the UW deck a fair bit. Day of Judgment and Martial Coup seem very scary, while the Naya deck seems to do nothing but “fair” things, at least on paper. The most unfair thing in Naya seems to be the Basilisk Collar / Cunning Sparkmage combo, which won’t be very useful in this matchup.

I ran LSV’s latest published version of the Naya strategy:

As a reminder, here’s the decklist Antoine played:

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

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

The Naya deck is not fast. When you look over the decklist, you might expect the deck to be an aggressive beatdown deck. It’s not. Wild Nacatls are not that good in the early game, since it usually takes some time for them to grow to full strength. Therefore, if your opening hand is not super curvy, it is not a big deal at all in this matchup.

There are two key cards in the deck for this matchup: Ranger of Eos and Bloodbraid Elf. The games in which you are not drawing any of the card-advantage-generating 3/2’s, you are probably a huge underdog. The games in which you draw multiples of both are the ones you are very likely to win.

Whenever your opponent is tapped out, or you have reason to believe that your opponent is not holding a counterspell for Ranger of Eos, you should always play it. If your opponent has mana up, the first thing you should be doing is casting Bloodbraid Elf.

In most of the pre-board games, the first Ranger of Eos fetches up a pair of Wild Nacatls, and the second another cat with Scute Mob. There’s rarely the need for either Noble Hierarch’s exalted ability or Birds of Paradise’s flying, but both are abilities you should keep in mind.

With Ajani Vengeant, I am starting to believe that playing it and shooting your opponent as its first free spell does a better job than trying and start to lock down your opponent’s lands. This statement is definitely wrong if you have to keep your opponent off playing a Martial Coup or Day of Judgment. But the majority of the time when I played Ajani, Antoine was just dealing with it immediately and I didn’t get any advantage of it.

You should try to avoid using Knight of the Reliquary as a mana generator, since he’ll simply not live long enough, and you should focus on getting as much damage in as possible instead. Fetching one of the manlands can be good, but only in rare scenarios, since the UW deck has enough good answers for them. Sejiri Steppe doesn’t have an impact on the pre-board games the majority of the time, but it becomes decent post-board. It can have an impact, and make sure that you are not going for an unblockable attack with a creature equipped with Behemoth Sledge.

Antoine usually boosted his Jace, the Mind Sculptor to five before Brainstorming or using it otherwise. If your opponent does this too, and you can only deal three damage on your next turn with creatures, you should attack Jace in this spot… unless you put your opponent in a serious position. The games are very rarely a race, and it more often comes down to having more gas. That makes it very difficult to win against a Jace that is on the table more than a few turns.

The majority of the time you cast a Stoneforge Mystic you should fetch up Behemoth Sledge. There are rare scenarios when your opponent is at one life and has some Celestial Colonnades or has Iona, Shield of Emeria resolved and you want to fetch up the Collar to deal with that.

The Sideboard

-4 Lightning Bolt
-2 Birds of Paradise
-2 Stoneforge Mystic
-1 Behemoth Sledge
-1 Basilisk Collar
+3 Baneslayer Angel
+1 Tectonic Edge
+2 Qasali Pridemage
+2 Manabarbs
+2 Dauntless Escort

Since the games are rarely a race and Antoine is adding counters with Jace on its first use more often than not, keeping Lightning Bolt would be very questionable.

Cutting Birds of Paradise might be scary, since the majority of the sideboard cards you are bringing in are so expensive, but the control player will be playing multiple Wrath of God effects during almost every single game, and you just can’t count on the card as a mana source. Cutting these and Lightning Bolts also makes the cascades from Bloodbraid Elf a lot better.

Stoneforge Mystic and the equipment package are very unattractive in the matchup, and the situations in which they are good are very rare. Behemoth Sledge is the card in the package that hurts us most when we cut it, and it even might be a mistake to do so. But I could see keeping the Hammer over the fourth Baneslayer Angel.

Tectonic Edge is an obvious addition once you add Baneslayer Angel. You just want to have access to the extra land. The fact that it deals with Celestial Colonnade shouldn’t have too much impact on the game, if not used on turn 4.

I expect Dauntless Escort to be amazing whenever I draw it, but I am a bit sceptical about the Manabarbs. I expect Manabarbs to be fine but not great against UW, and after playing the games I would rather have access to 4 Dauntless Escort. If there are a lot of Fog decks in your metagame, Manabarbs definitely gets more valuable.

Qasali Pridemage should be decent, in a very similar way to Dauntless Escort. It will make your opponent’s Wrath of God effects a lot worse, and he will have more trouble to actually Wrath and gain card advantage here.

Journey to Nowhere might be a reasonable sideboard card, but I expect that the amount of times you randomly reveal them with Bloodbraid Elf will lose you more games than they win if you randomly draw them and deal with a Baneslayer Angel.

Post-board Games (11 wins, 15 losses, 42% games won)

On the play: 5 wins, 8 losses
On the draw: 6 wins, 7 losses

The post-board games are a lot tougher, since your opponent’s Baneslayer Angel are a lot better than yours. Ranger of Eos fetching up Noble Hierarch gets a lot more attractive, as it makes attacking into Baneslayer Angel a lot easier. The fact that your decklist will have a Sejiri Steppe also makes your attacks a lot easier if you have an active Knight of the Reliquary. If you draw the Sejiri Steppe, which happened a lot during these games, you should try and play the land as late as possible. If you have Knight of the Reliquary active, you can still attack as if the land was in your library. Your opponent shouldn’t read you and all of a sudden block with Baneslayer Angel. Later in the game, you can still use the Steppe to get past blockers for the last few damage.

If you have the opportunity to trade Baneslayer Angels, you should be very willing to take them. With all the Brainstorms, Ponders, and card draw effects the UW deck is running, he will find more Baneslayer Angels (and solutions to them) very quickly. This makes you happy trading them, even when you hold a solution and you would win the race thanks to Noble Hierarch.

You can count on Dauntless Escort doing a good job, but having him shouldn’t see you overwhelming the board stupidly and dying to a Path to Exile. You should still be making sure that you have a fair amount of backup in hand.

Manabarbs is a card you don’t want to be casting unless either you have pressure on the board or your opponent is on very low life without Baneslayer Angel. If you cast Manabarbs with the only pressure you have being Wild Nacatl and your opponent taps out for Baneslayer Angel, you are doomed.

There are scenarios you want to be fetching up Tectonic Edge in the early stages of the game, to keep your opponent from casting either Baneslayer Angel or a kicked Martial Coup. But the majority of the time I would still be attacking with the Knight.

I tried to play a mana denial plan with Qasali Pridemage and Tectonic Edge (if I drew them both). This plan didn’t work out well, since the UW deck has so much deck manipulation and won’t screw that easy.

To finish the article, there were a few very funny situations in the games we played…

• Antoine drawing 10 cards with a Treasure Hunt.
• Antoine playing Iona, Shiled of Emeria to chump block a 8/8 Knight of the Reliquary that was equipped by Behemoth Sledge.
• Antoine stealing Scute Mob when he had five lands and I had only four, which I answered with Dauntless Escort and Qasali Pridemage — killing the Mind Control at the end of his turn and getting a 5/5 back.
• Antoine mis-clicking with Martial Coup and resolving the spell for three instead of five. We had to improvise the game on Magic Online with me having five creatures less than I actually had, and him having two more. We managed to do that without it having an impact.
• When I was screwed on two lands (Plains and Arid Mesa), Antoine activated Jace, the Mind Sculptor on me, and left the card on top. As Antoine is the kind of guy that likes to laugh at me if I fetched in that spot, I did not… and I ended up drawing the Forest he left me on top, giving me a slight chance in the game.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading.

Manu B