This past weekend I started to feel that there wasn't enough room for innovation in standard. Sure there are a variety of decks in the format, but I wanted something new. What I got actually wasn't a new strategy, but a resurgence of an old one. Naya Auras is actually not a deck that gained that much from Born of the Gods, yet it didn't see that much play in Theros Standard. It is an archetype that has been under the radar for a while, and I think now could be Naya Auras' time to shine. I would recommend the deck to anyone attending either the TCGplayer Diamond Open in Waco, Texas, or Hartford, Connecticut this weekend.
The reason why Naya Auras is so good right now is that it is a non-interactive strategy. By that I mean that there are very few cards that are capable of disrupting its gameplan. Most of the time, if Naya Auras is able to draw the correct combination of auras and hexproof creatures it will win the game.
There are only a couple cards, like Supreme Verdict and Devour Flesh that can interact with the deck in a meaningful way. Yes there are other sweepers in the format like Anger of the Gods and Mizzium Mortars, but putting auras on a hexproof creature can invalidate these cards very quickly. Most removal spells become dead cards that sit in your opponents hand the whole game.
Besides board sweepers it is important to be aware of ways to Remove Enchantments. While it is usually easy to deal with these cards, they are one of the only ways of removing any of your permanents from play. Cards like Detention Spheres quickly become Disenchants, so it is important not to put two of the same aura into play versus blue/white decks.
The game plan of Naya Auras is the same as other hexproof aura decks, like Bogles in Modern. Put a creature your opponent can't kill into play and put as many enchantments on it as possible. Seems easy enough right?
I would like to use the list of Jacob Maynard from the top eight of GP Cincinnati. I think that he has included all of the necessary elements a hexproof deck needs in order to succeed.
The first thing I noticed about this deck is the manabase. Yes, there is only a single basic in the deck. Does this make the deck too slow? The reason the deck can afford so many scry and shocklands is that against aggro decks the lifelink effects are more than enough to offset a slow start, or extra damage taken off lands. The rise of the 12 Temple Esper Control deck should show the importance of scry lands in the current Standard environment. Temple of Plenty may slip under the radar as the only card from Born of the Gods, but it seems to me that Temple of Plenty has significantly helped the naya manabase.
Another reason why the scry lands are so important is that they help you find a hexproof creature. With only eight creatures that actually have hexproof in the deck it can be very important to get one into play within the first few turns of the game. The auras in the deck will be useless without a creature to safely enchant them with.
The eight actual hexproof creatures in the maindeck are four Gladecover Scout and four Witchstalkers. While Gladecover Scout is a one-drop it is often correct to play him on turn two, to be able to play a scry land on the first turn. Try to avoid running Witchstalker into open mana from control decks to avoid it getting countered.
Voice of Resurgence is an important tool the deck has access to. When holding only one hexproof creature against Monoblack Devotion and Orzhov Control, it is generally correct to play Voice of Resurgence as your first threat. The reason for this is to protect your hexproof creature getting caught by Devour Flesh. Voice of Resurgence is also a creature that can hold auras if need be. When it dies at least the token makes it so a removal spell isn't a total blowout.
The last main deck creature is Fiendslayer Paladin. In a lot of matchups Fiendslayer Paladin serves as another hexproof guy. While Fiendslayer Paladin is good against base-black decks, and very good against Black Aggro decks, it is nuts against Burn and Monored Aggro. Nothing is more deflating when trying to race than seeing a Fiendslayer Paladin come down across the table, and get suited up with an aura. Do be aware that sometimes it is right to hold Fiendslayer Paladin back as a blocker during close races, when you suspect your opponent is holding a Skullcrack.
One of the auras in the deck that supplements Fiendslayer Paladin in providing lifelink is Unflinching Courage. I think this is the most important aura in the deck. The aggro matchups are very good for this deck because of its ability to gain massive amounts of life. Unflinching Courage has been seeing very little play recently, and Hexproof Auras is the perfect fit for the card.
The other auras in the maindeck are Madcap Skills and Ethereal Armor. Madcap Skills provides the highest power boost to your creature on its own, and is one of the main reasons to play red. Ethereal Armor requires other enchantments to make it good. It does have a very high upside though. For instance drawing multiple Ethereal Armors can end the game very quickly.
There are 16 actual enchantments in the deck, which work to make Ethereal Armor better. The best enchantment removal spell the deck has access to is, of course, Chained to the Rocks. While it is true that this is a non-interactive deck, that doesn't mean that killing a troublesome creature isn't important. At this point it seems that just about every deck running both red and white is also playing a full complement of Chained to the Rocks.
The ways of pumping your creatures without auras are Ajani, Caller of Pride and Selesnya Charm. Both of these cards have a variety of uses, based on a given board state. Ajani, Caller of Pride serves as a threat itself, but more importantly can give a large creature with auras on it flying and double strike, which often just ends the game right away. Selesnya Charm is one of those utility cards that people are still surprised by, and between the maindeck and sideboard there are a full four copies.
Okay so while Selesnya Charm is sweet as charms go, it is hard not to love playing with Boros Charm. Personally I enjoy running Boros Charm in a creature based strategy, where it isn't just used to deal four damage. The best part about Boros Charm is that it actually stops a lot of cards that the deck is worried about.
Boros Charm can of course be used for the double strike effect to just win the game on the spot, but the most important mode of Boros Charm in Naya Auras is its ability to give your creatures Indestructibility, and thus stop a Supreme Verdict. Having a trump to Supreme Verdict is very important in the current Standard format, so leaving up Boros Charm mana against the control decks is mandatory.
While certain cards in the maindeck are weak in some matchups, the sideboard is constructed so that games two and three are actually more in favor of Naya Auras than game ones. The reason is that most decks don't have many cards they want to be bringing in versus Naya Auras.
It is generally incorrect to take out any of the auras or hexproof creatures. People will board in stuff like Revoke Existence, but nothing sucks more than not having anything to enchant your Gladecover Scout with.
Let's take a look at the Monoblue Devotion matchup. Skylasher is a huge card that comes out of the sideboard against Monoblue Devotion. Skylasher sees play in non-hexproof strategies and yes, Skylasher is functionally a hexproof creature against Monoblue Devotion that also happens to block flyers and flash into play unexpectedly. Skylasher can also come in against control to add another threat, and the fact that it can't be countered is very relevant.
If the aggro matchup wasn't good enough game one, there is an additional Fiendslayer Paladin and Gift of Orzhova that come in after board. I can certainly see an argument for playing Gift of Orzhova maindeck, but perhaps Jacob Maynard decided that having four Unflinching Courage is enough.
So remember how good I was saying Boros Charm is? Mending Touch basically serves as Supreme Verdict trump five and six. Of course Regeneration and Indestructibility apply to other sweepers like an overloaded Mizzium Mortars as well.
I almost guarantee that when you leave one green mana up and your opponent attempts to kill your hexproof guy, it will be a blowout when you simply regenerate your creature. Mending Touch is especially good because you will not have very many creatures in play, so the ability to regenerate one creature with auras on it is almost the same as being able to regenerate all of your creatures.
The Mizzium Mortars in the board provide a way to kill Blood Baron of Vizkopa. That is almost the only reason they are in the board, but that reason is good enough. Facing an opposing Blood Baron can be annoying because of its ability to race and block hexproof creatures. If the metagame didn't have a significant amount of Orzhov Control I would recommend cutting these.
While I do like Jacob Maynard's list, I also believe there are other cards and directions the deck can be taken. I think the shell needs to be green/white, but I could see cutting the red.
Cards that didn't make the cut:
- Fleecemane Lion is the first card that comes to mind here. It is true that five mana is a lot to make your creature hexproof, and Fleecemane Lion is an easy target for opposing removal spells.- Boon Satyr provides another aura to make your hexproof guy larger, and is a threat in and of itself. It is true that bestowing a card for five is a lot, but if your creature does die getting to keep Boon Satyr around is nice.- Hero of Iroas is certainly very synergistic with auras, but suffers from the fact that it dies to basically all removal spells.- Eidolon of Countless Battles is the one card that I really want to find room for. I like having a card with a Bestow cost four, and the effect is quite powerful.- Ordeals might be getting to cute, but hey, if the deck moves more in the straight green/white direction they could start seeing play. There is a reason why the game just ends in limited when your opponent doesn't have an answer to an Ordeal.- Heroic creatures would be really sweet in the deck because of their interaction with auras. The issue here is that they don't have hexproof, so the entire gameplan would have to shift.- Other ideas?
Well it's time for me to fly out to San Francisco for the Magic Online Championships. Wish me luck!
Thanks for reading!
Seth Manfield@SethManfield on Twitter