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Introducing Naya Adventures In Zendikar Rising Standard

Courtesy of Sam Black, it’s time to explore Standard’s next best Adventures deck – Naya!

Yasharn, Implacable Earth, illustrated by G-host Lee

Following the popularity of Mono-Green Food in Standard, and informed by the success of Yasharn, Implacable Earth in Historic as a testament to the power level of the card, I was interested in finding a Standard deck that could make use of Yasharn.

Since Yasharn is a white card, I figured I’d want to play Skyclave Apparition, and since Yasharn guarantees a fifth land after it’s cast, it made sense that I’d want to use Yorion, Sky Nomad, particularly since it’s also good with Skyclave Apparition.  Previously, we’ve seen Selesnya Blink decks with Yorion that revolved around Food, since cards that generate Food play well with Yorion, but those cards obviously don’t play well with Yasharn, so I needed to find another shell.

That lead me to Adventures.  I think it’s important for a midrange deck in Standard to have a strong value engine and Adventure creatures are an easy way to do that.  Like with Food, it can be tricky because the payoff, in this case, Edgewall Innkeeper, is diluted in a larger deck, but I think the Adventure creatures are strong enough on their own that that’s not too big of a problem.

I’ve become accustomed to building Yorion decks that start with Yorion as a companion and three additional copies in the maindeck, but Adventure creatures aren’t actually strong to blink, so you don’t actually build up battlefields where incremental additional copies of Yorion generate much value.  I still think playing extra cards for the companion is worth it, since I like all the cards in my deck and the larger deck is necessary to have functional mana while having basics to find with Yasharn.

So where did this experiment take me?


Adventures

This deck is a combination of a few different pieces.  First, we have the Adventure package:

I started out with fewer copies of Giant Killer, but quickly went up to four because that card is absolutely incredible against Gruul Adventures.  Thanks to The Great Henge and Embercleave, their deck is basically built around a necessity to control a creature with power four or greater, and Giant Killer offers a kind of protection from Embercleave that I’ve been struggling with out of Skyclave Apparition decks because so many of the strong white answers can only be cast at sorcery speed.

Bonecrusher Giant is the reason to play red and not really a card that needs a lot of justification at this point.  I wanted to play with an Adventure shell, so it was clear that splashing for Bonecrusher Giant was correct.

Lovestruck Beast is in a similar boat to Bonecrusher Giant — I’m playing Adventures so obviously I want Lovestruck Beast.  It’s worth discussing the fact that this deck is basically playing a pure control game against other creature decks, so attacking with the 5/5 isn’t a priority at all, but it’s a great blocker and the easiest way to play The Great Henge so it’s fantastic here.

Shepherd of the Flock is the card with the weakest pedigree, but in context of the rest of this deck, it’s amazing.  Obviously it can pick up any other Adventure creature so that you can cast the Adventure side again, and doing so will net you an extra trigger with Edgewall Innkeeper or The Great Henge.  With two Shepherds, you can just loop them with one of those engines for value, though circumstances where you have that kind of time are rare.

The options for taking advantage of Shepherd don’t stop there.  On top of the normal use of simply countering a removal spell (fantastic against Bonecrusher Giant), you can also respond to Skyclave Apparition’s trigger by picking it up to exile something without giving your opponent a token, or you can pick up any of your other permanents with enters the battlefield triggers.  Additionally, it’s a Human, which means that Kogla, The Titan Ape can pick it up, and then you can cast the Adventure again to keep reusing a Skyclave Apparition or whatever. 

But wait, there’s more!

It can even pick up your lands, which is particularly exciting when it allows you to pick up a Shatterskull Smashing or Emeria’s Call that you played in the early-game to get a powerful late-game spell.  Less impressive, but still possible in a deck with some tricky mana and no real two-color lands, you can also pick up a Pathway just to play it on the other side.

I’ve often sided Shepherd of the Flock out just because I can’t figure out what else to cut and it seems the least innately strong, but I think that might just be lazy and it’s generally played well.  I’d also note that it’s best to try to be patient with it — casting a 3/1 on Turn 2 without an Innkeeper on the battlefield is very rarely any good.

Abusing Yorion

The next package is the Yorion/value package:

While it can feel like the advantage offered by these cards is minimized by only having Yorion as a companion, Shepherd of the Flock picks up a lot of the value that would be offered by additional copies.  Also, all of these cards are just good enough on their surface that I’d be happy to have them regardless of whether I’m ever blinking them, unlike an Omen or something.

Skyclave Apparition is basically just too strong not to play if you’re playing a lot of white mana sources.

Yasharn, as I mentioned earlier, was the impetus for building the deck.  It’s absolutely as good against Mono-Green Food as I hoped, and in addition to just offering a solid rate, it’s actually a really important part of the mana base for this deck, which is trying to make its fifth and sixth land drops, but also Yasharn offers valuable fixing by guaranteeing my second white and green sources.  The mana in this deck has felt precarious but functional since it has a lot of colored mana symbols in casting costs and no true two-color lands, and I couldn’t get away with that without Yasharn.

Elspeth Conquers Death is a card that I could potentially see moving some copies of to the sideboard.  It’s a fantastic card against Gruul Adventures, but honestly this entire deck is fantastic cards against Gruul. When sideboarding, I genuinely struggle to find anything to cut when I want to add Embereth Shieldbreakers and Wilt to cover all my bases against them and Elspeth Conquers Death does have some bad matchups. Still, it’s a great card that pairs really well with Skyclave Apparition and Shepherd of the Flock and largely falls in the “too strong not to play” space.

Kogla is kind of absurdly strong.  Casting it can be tricky but Yasharn and The Great Henge make it work.  In Mono-Green Food, the activated ability is kind of a corner case where you can set yourself back to save Kogla, but in this deck it’s a whole engine in itself, as Giant Killer can just kill all their huge creatures if you have Kogla, for example.

The Great Henge does the same thing here that we’ve seen it do in other decks, with the added notes that if you cast Yorion, you draw a card for every nontoken creature you control and that Yasharn turning off opposing Thrashing Brontodons actually makes it appreciably more likely to survive.

This should maybe just be another Fire Prophecy, but it’s nice to have the option to use it to clear a Skyclave Apparition token and then reset it with Yorion or Shepherd of the Flock.

Additional Options

Then we have a few other cards:

I was playing Omen of the Forge when I had maindeck Yorions, but without those it felt like the advantage of potentially blinking Omen once with Yorion was much lower than the advantage of killing Ruin Crab, Soaring Thought-Thief, Bonecrusher Giant, and Kazandu Mammoth with Fire Prophecy, and putting a card back in your library with it is particularly awesome with Yasharn.

I’m a battlefield control deck with a ton of creatures, so this just seems strong enough to justify a copy of.

The Lands

Finally, we have the lands

The mana is interesting here. With Pathways for all my colors, I felt like I could get away without playing any tapped two-color lands as long as I used enough DFCs to have enough sources of every color. Counting DFCs I’m playing 38 lands.  That’s almost half the deck, but it’s also pretty similar to what Gruul’s doing and I have much trickier color requirements.

I think the Emeria’s Calls are definitely great, with so few tapped lands I can often just play them tapped without interrupting things at some point and it’s not that bad if I have to pay three life. Additionally, the deck very rarely fails to play a land so Emeria’s Call is pretty easy to cast and it’s a good high-impact way to avoid flooding, which, as mentioned earlier, is particularly nice with Shepherd of the Flock.

This one’s trickier.  It’s a powerful enough card that it’s pretty easy to play, but I’m not taking much advantage of it because attacking isn’t really a priority.  On the other hand, it’s nice to have a reliable proactive play that I can make when most of my cards are best if I can use them to answer an opposing permanent first, and it also helps enable The Great Henge while keeping up my creature density for resolved Henges and Vivien. So while I think it’s good enough to be correct to play, it’s not one of the best cards in the deck the way it is in Gruul.

I’m not totally sold on this yet.  I haven’t cast it much but it feels like enough of a freeroll that it almost has to be worth it.

I’m not totally sure about these. I don’t think their entering the battlefield tapped is particularly costly, though with so many Pathways it’s definitely come up. It’s that with Yasharn and Fabled Passage I really want at least four Plains and four Forests and the question is how many additional lands that only tap for a single color I can afford. Castle Garenbrig is incredible with Kogla but I’m less sold on Castle Ardenvale, as it feels pretty free but it’s rare that the game is going to come down to making 1/1s.  I could see replacing it with basically anything.

I think Temple of Plenty would actually be pretty good in this deck.  I think I could afford a few tapped lands and having real two-color lands would make it a lot easier to get WWW to use the Shepherd of the Flock on my Skyclave Apparition trick, for example, where I usually have to balance how much white and green mana I’m playing. The question is how to find room for them since ever other land in the deck is doing something important.  I could see cutting any or all of Castle Ardenvale, one Forest, one Plains, and one DFC for up to four copies of Temple of Plenty but I’m not sure what’s best.

The Sideboard

The sideboard is a little more up in the air.  The maindeck is tight enough that I haven’t wanted to sideboard a lot, which is good for a Yorion deck, but it also means I haven’t really had a lot of experience with the sideboard cards and haven’t figured out exactly what I want.

Embereth Shieldbreaker is really nice against opposing The Great Henge decks, but a lot of what Gruul is doing that matters is The Akroan War and Wilt is much better against that.  I could see any mix and any number of Embereth Sheildbreakers and Wilts.

Mazemind Tome is my go-to against anyone who’s trying to play an attrition game and I basically start every sideboard I make with four of them, but I’m not sure that’s actually the best practice.

Vivien and Garruk are there as additional high-impact cards against control decks.  Fundamentally, my deck’s pretty horrible against control decks.  This deck is basically built to prey on creatures and gets crushed by Doom Foretold  I’m not super sure whether I can fix that, but since the maindeck is already about as good as it can be against creatures, I have to try in the sideboard.

Ox of Agonas is there as an escape threat against Dimir Rogues, but I’m not sure if it’s the right one.  I don’t empty my hand especially quickly, and you really want to escape early and often against them, so Phoenix of Ash might be better.  On the other hand, I also want more grindy cards against control decks and I think Ox might be the right way to go there, but I really don’t know.

Scavenging Ooze and Glass Casket are technically sort of a nod to Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger decks I suppose, but are honestly mostly just serviceable cards I can cast to tune my deck with, I’m not going to pretend the sideboard is particularly well tuned.

Overall, this has been a fun way to completely crush opposing green creature decks, but beating blue decks is a struggle.  The core is strong enough that I think it might be possible to find a way to pick up some ground against at least some other control decks, but even if you have a bad matchup against them, Zendikar Rising Standard in a place where you can actually do pretty well by playing a pairing lottery and hoping to beat up on creatures.