The Industry Standard: The Tale Of Wolf & Rat

Find out if you should play Aaron Barich’s Naya Aggro deck from the Top 4 of #SCGDAL at #SCGDET this weekend by reading the latest The Industry Standard.

When we last left off, our dashing and cunning young hero (played by yours truly) had vanquished the terrible menace that was the Jund/Junk metagame thanks to the help of his friends Experiment One, Voice of Resurgence, and Ghor-Clan Rampager. The group was regarded highly and praised for their innovation and fearlessness in an otherwise midrange-infested format. However, history soon forgot about the fair and noble Naya folk, and time as always rolled onward. The old heroes were forgotten as the world around them changed.

That is until the menace came back . . .

Hello once again and welcome back to The Industry Standard. For those of you who don’t remember me (or never read my article in the first place), this is my second time writing for StarCityGames.com, and I must say that it’s an honor to have the chance to write once more. The feedback I got for my last article was incredible, and I hoped it would lead to me write again in the future. Luckily for me, that seems to be the case. If you want a more formal introduction to me, then I advise you to take a look at my other article. Anyway, on with the story!

It’s A Known Field

There is always a villain. Sometimes they just change masks. Sometimes they just change names. But underneath they are always the same.

Standard is at that point again. Everyone has their decks. Everyone is waiting for Journey into Nyx. The format has been "solved." I hate that term. Solved. It’s such a lie. It makes some people stop thinking, makes them stop trying. There is no such thing as a solved format. There is always room for innovation. Sometimes though the innovation is on a small scale rather than a large scale. It can be as simple as trading out a few cards for something no one has tried before. Sometimes it’s the smallest and simplest of things that make the biggest and most unexpected waves. All it takes is something as simple as adding a wolf to a zoo.

A Whole New Naya . . . Kinda

The new heroes were not enough to stop that which had taken hold of the world. It was time for the old heroes to be reborn anew.

I have taken Naya through many different iterations in the past year. I’ve played it so much that it has become somewhat of a joke among some of the southern players.

"Hey Aaron, still grinding them Ghor-Clans?"

"Aren’t you sick of losing to Mono-Blue Devotion?"

"When are you finally going to stop playing Naya and start playing a real deck?"

Heads up everyone—Naya is a real deck!

I think Naya’s power comes from the fact that it can be built in so many different ways to fight any kind of expected metagame. With a Standard format that’s constantly shifting like the one we currently have, that’s a big deal.

Expecting a lot of control? Play more creatures with flash and Domri Rade.

Expecting a lot of midrange? Play a classic good stuff Naya with Boros Reckoner and Advent of the Wurm.

Expecting a lot of aggro? Play Naya with Brave the Elements.

Expecting a more diverse field? Play Naya with Witchstalker (like I did at #SCGDAL).

The point is that the initial Naya shell of great creatures and great tricks will always be good. My Naya deck may be new, but it’s still the same old game plan with the same powerful cards. It’s not that they suddenly became good. They’ve always been good. People just don’t play with them enough.

Oh, speaking of Naya with Brave the Elements, that is a deck I like a lot and have had a lot of success with. I played it for quite a while before switching to my current build, and it’s quite the powerful deck. I would know—I built the deck that Brad Nelson got his initial list from.

I’m not saying that because I want any credit. (Okay, that’s a lie. I would like a little because it feels good for a bigger name than yourself to play your deck.) I’m saying it so I can get more trust from you all. I want to show that I know my Naya and that you can trust what I have to say since I have been working on it for quite some time. I want to reassure you that it’s not just me getting lucky and having success with my ideas.

I built the Witchstalker version with the goal of shoring up the awful Mono-Blue Devotion matchup that all the G/W/x aggressive decks have. It felt like the only games I won were the ones where I was able to slap an Unflinching Courage on a protection from blue creature and go to town, so I figured why not go with more of a Naya Hexproof approach. That deck has a good Mono-Blue Devotion matchup. I play some cards that are good in that deck like Boros Charm, Selesnya Charm, and Ghor-Clan Rampager, so I figured a transition wouldn’t be that hard. I knew I wanted Skylasher in the board if that was the plan, but I needed another hexproof style threat.

Tale Of The Wolf

The Naya folk alone would not be enough to defeat the new threat. Many had grown old and no longer wished to fight. Instead those that remained called upon the fabled wolf.

After a quick Gatherer search for all the hexproof creatures in Standard, I came to a not so startling conclusion.

They are all pretty bad looking.

With such heavy hitters as Gladecover Scout and Ascended Lawmage, what more could a mage ask for? I decided on Witchstalker as my hexproof threat of choice for its size, and I got to grinding events. With this testing I came to a startling conclusion.

A 3/3 is actually pretty big game.

People couldn’t beat a 3/3 hexproof creature. It bricked most of Mono-Red Aggro and Mono-White Aggro’s creatures. It couldn’t die to Mono-Black Devotion’s best kill spells. It was a huge deal in the R/W Burn matchup against Ash Zealot and Satyr Firedancer, and it sometimes just forced a Supreme Verdict out of the Sphinx’s Revelation decks. It did everything! I won so many games from just the Witchstalker plus pump and double strike plan that I decided I wanted even more chances to do it.

Win Free Or Die Trying

Victory was required for the Naya, and they would do anything to get it.

Standard is a format full of free wins. It is almost required. The amount of variance is high right now, and I think the best way to use it is to harness the variance in your favor. Look, all of the best decks have the ability to win games they have no right winning!

Mono-Black Devotion has Thoughtseize plus Pack Rat.

Mono-Blue Devotion has the curve of Thassa, God of the Sea into Master of Waves.

U/W Control can miracle Sphinx’s Revelation.

The funny thing about Naya with Witchstalker is that its free wins beat all the free wins listed above.

Mono-Black Devotion? Well, I drew fourteen damage, so you’re dead.

Mono-Blue Devotion? Nice Master of Waves, but here’s a Skylasher with three Auras.

U/W Control? You’re tapping out? Good thing I can pump my guy and kill you then!

In the pursuit of more free wins, I added two copies of Ajani, Caller of the Pride to the deck, and they have performed very well. Many people don’t or can’t actually play around the walker’s -3, and the ability to make my creatures just a little bit bigger is more important than it seems. A Wurm token can trade with Desecration Demon, and Witchstalker can attack through Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Lifebane Zombie, and Courser of Kruphix. Boon Satyr trades for all of G/R/x Monsters’ creatures. One power makes a lot of difference even when it’s not noticed.

It’s A Mono-Black World

Naya wasn’t the only one to call on a new friend. The menace too had a new ally: the rat.

If you brew any kind of deck right now in Standard, the first question you have to ask yourself is "can I beat Mono-Black Devotion?" That deck is the best since it has powerful cards, a straightforward game plan, and the ability to beat anything with a bit of luck. I’ve always felt that Naya Aggro has had a bit of an edge against the black decks. Most of your cards have redundancy, and Voice of Resurgence is just such a huge tempo swing. Imagine for a moment me on the draw:

Mono-Black: Swamp, go.

Me: Forest, go.

Mono-Black: Swamp, go (holding a hand with multiple kill spells).

Me: Plains, Voice of Resurgence, go.

What can Mono-Black do here? They were on the play. They kept a hand with enough kill spells to keep me off threats for a while, but now they’re on the back foot. Even if my opponent kills my Voice on his next turn, I still have a creature, and they can’t cast something else like an Underworld Connections if they were planning on it. I just gained a huge amount of tempo simply by casting my two-drop on turn 2, and that tempo can be enough swing the game in my favor.

Voice of Resurgence is just one card in my deck though. Witchstalker fills a similar role. If they keep a hand with all kill spells and plan to draw out the game, a single Witchstalker now sends them back peddling into oblivion. The addition of more flash threats just adds more pressure on Mono-Black and requires them to have the perfect answer at the perfect time. This matchup is definitely my favorite.

The Others

The rat may be an enemy, but it’s not the only one that people cry for the downfall of.

Mono-Black Devotion may be prevalent, but it’s not the only deck out there. Sphinx’s Revelation Control, Mono-Blue Devotion, G/R/x Monsters, Naya Hexproof, Mono-White Aggro, Mono-Red Aggro, and Mono-Black Aggro are some of the other decks you have to contend with, and they all bring their own specialties to the table. So the question is "how do you beat them all?" The answer to that isn’t always simple.

Most decks have only one answer, and it may or may not be good enough. Naya with Witchstalker on the other hand has two answers: aggro and hexproof. The ability to have two answers has always been the point of the transformational sideboard dating many years back in Magic’s past and is something that hasn’t been done with the full fifteen-card sideboard in a while. Having two answers lets you cover many more questions than before, and it’s a wonderful ability to have.

I like to bring in the hexproof package against Mono-Blue Devotion, Naya Hexproof, and the Naya Aggro mirror. Those decks are usually about trying to race, and the hexproof package makes us a much better racing deck than Naya Aggro ever can be even with the extra double strike potential. When I bring the hexproof package in, I usually do it like so, only bringing in Skylasher against blue:

Nonblue Decks


Boon Satyr Boon Satyr Boon Satyr Advent of the Wurm Advent of the Wurm Advent of the Wurm Experiment One Experiment One Experiment One Experiment One Temple of Abandon


Ethereal Armor Ethereal Armor Ethereal Armor Ethereal Armor Unflinching Courage Unflinching Courage Unflinching Courage Unflinching Courage Madcap Skills Madcap Skills Madcap Skills

Mono-Blue Devotion


Boon Satyr Boon Satyr Boon Satyr Advent of the Wurm Advent of the Wurm Advent of the Wurm Experiment One Experiment One Experiment One Experiment One Voice of Resurgence Voice of Resurgence Voice of Resurgence Temple of Abandon


Ethereal Armor Ethereal Armor Ethereal Armor Ethereal Armor Unflinching Courage Unflinching Courage Unflinching Courage Unflinching Courage Madcap Skills Madcap Skills Madcap Skills Skylasher Skylasher Skylasher Skylasher

Against the more aggressive aggro decks like Mono-White Aggro, Mono-Red Aggro, and Mono-Black Aggro, I just bring in Unflinching Courage, cutting Advent of the Wurm and Madcap Skills. The commentators over the weekend thought it was weird that I kept in Boros Charm over these cards. My reasoning for this is that the Boros Charm "combo" lets me get a step ahead when put in a racing situation. This is very important considering these decks play cards that make it hard to block like Brave the Elements, Firefist Striker, and Mogis’s Marauder, and sometimes the only way to win is to kill them before they kill me.

I find that Naya with Witchstalker’s worst matchups aren’t very popular right now. I really don’t like playing against the Mono-Black Aggro decks, Naya with Brave the Elements, or the Naya Hexproof deck. Mono-Black Aggro can be just as fast as me, but it’s more disruptive and has a stronger and more consistent mana base. Naya Hexproof is faster than me, and the only real way for me to win the game is to sideboard into the same deck as them and hope to draw slightly better than them. Naya with Brave the Elements is very similar to me except they play Boros Reckoner and Brave the Elements, which are better than Witchstalker and Advent of the Wurm in the aggro mirror. Other than those decks though I feel either equal or slightly favored against the current known decks.

The Tournament

It was fated that the wolf and the rat would battle and that the world would watch in awe.

I can say that I have never been so confident going into a tournament in my life. I felt like I had all the plans, all the angles picked out from the start. If I didn’t run bad, I thought I would be fine. I was right. My only loss in the Swiss was in round 7 against Naya with Brave the Elements, where in a tight game 3 I missed my third land and died with two copies of Unflinching Courage and two copies of Witchstalker in my hand. But the real heartbreaker came in the Top 4.

I lost to Mono-Black Devotion.

"Mono-Black?" I thought as I was preparing for the Top 4 match. "Sweet, I can’t wait to play in the finals." I’ll admit I was cocky. I had been grinding Magic Online for a whole week and had only lost to Mono-Black Devotion once, when I had to mull five in games 2 and 3. I could pretty much see myself putting the Open trophy next to my other one. Instead, I lost.

The wolf of Dallas had fallen.

And so the rats descended upon the wolf. Surrounding it. Suffocating it. The great hero had fallen.

Sometimes it’s not meant to be. Sometimes you can’t win.

The Naya Of Nyx

This is not the last we have seen of our great hero however. It is fated he will return stronger than ever before.

The card Mana Confluence means great things for Naya Aggro in the future. A large part of the reason for my loss against Mono-Black Devotion was my inability to curve my spells. Being able to cut four of my Temples will be an unbelievable upgrade that can only mean good things for the deck. The slight loss in the R/W Burn matchup will be a fair tradeoff since I already feel slightly favored against them.

Mark my words, Naya will be the best aggro deck of the coming format, and I will make sure of it.

P.S. In celebration of my Top 8 and spring break, I will be doing a 24-hour We Love Naya Magic Online stream on Twitch Thursday starting around 2 PM. Follow me on Twitter for more info and for the announcement when I start.