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Going Bigger and Attacking the Format

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After introducing my Naya Midrange deck, I promised to go over changes I felt were optimal and that is exactly what we are going to do today. First, we’ll explore what changes I made for a local grand prix trial for GP Richmond. Afterward, we’ll get to how we can go bigger and effectively dismantle the format with a deck of this style.

The main changes that came out of my previous experience are the addition of one maindeck Ajani Vengeant at the cost of the third Domri Rade, as well as the addition of a second Kitchen Finks in the sideboard in the place of the now-maindecked Ajani. You’ll also notice there are no more Bonfire of the Damned in the board. The card was mostly just not good enough in any situation and has been replaced by two copies of Rest in Peace. This card can be pretty suboptimal with some of our cards, like Knight of the Reliquary and Tarmogoyf, so maybe it is also incorrect, but mise.  All of these changes were options I considered in the first place, but were ultimately made because I know that the expected metagame in my area is heavier on aggressive strategies than average. For reference, the list I played looked like this:

I played against Jund in every round except one, where I played against UWR Flash.  Being that most of games were wars of attrition, I began to notice one huge problem: card advantage. Who actually needs to draw cards? We do. We don’t need the velocity that blue decks do, but we do need to keep up. Unfortunately, Abrupt Decay was out In full force, as I expected. It becomes obvious that the easiest ways to improve on the strategy we already have is to implement some more card advantage and threat diversity. Diversifying our threats can be tricky when we have to accommodate our Domri Rades, but it doesn’t need to be.

Going Bigger

A popular term that people use when describing a powerful game plan is to “go big” or to go “over the top.” This is a tried and true strategy that we can implement to make up for our lack of card advantage spells. If our cards are more powerful, we don’t need as many of them. We need to capitalize on our advantages in order to be successful. This is absolutely imperative, and this is a list that might do this effectively.

I like this list. I like it a lot. At my heart, I am a midrange player who has a secret love affair with Valakut. Restoration Angel might seem slightly out of place, but it can be a huge tempo boost against Abrupt Decay and other spot removal. When you are playing such large threats, that tempo boost can put the game away rather quickly.

Previously, I could only justify a single Thundermaw Hellkite, but adding another Birds of Paradise and another Sacred Foundry lets us play another. I always want to draw it and the game-breaking effect it has is found nearly nowhere else in the format. I won’t turn this article in to a “why Thundermaw Hellkite is good” piece, since I believe Patrick Chapin already covered that before M13 was even released. The most important part of “Deathwing” (for all you WoW people) that isn’t the obvious 1/1 spirit (or faerie!) token disintegration, but the fact that it taps other flying creatures that don’t die. This lets all of our other creatures attack in most cases. I think this is the direction we want to move first.

Attacking the Format

Earlier I said that I leaned toward some life gain and defense in order to more easily combat aggressive strategies. I feel this was the correct choice, but I didn’t end up facing any of those decks. It is possible that I was wrong, but it is hard to know for sure. This new list solves some of our Abrupt Decay problem, giving us more dangerous threats and allowing our opponents less time to react. The more resilient build should have success where the smaller build failed.

The larger threats in this new bulid may also require two-card answers or other suboptimals play from our opponents, which is what we want. Staying on the offensive and keeping your opponent on his heels is important, but knowing when to hold back and play defense is just the same. Another small tweak that I think would help us against the field in general is the fourth Path to Exile. I feel like I always want it, but if we do add it, what to cut is controversial. Cutting a creature puts more pressure on Domri and our threat density, while cutting a spell is difficult since they all seem necessary. Lightning Bolt is in an odd spot, since it kills all the things we generally don’t care about because of their small size. This is, of course, with the exceptions of Pestermite and Dark Confidant.

Sideboarding

The sideboard is still strong against the format. This is how I generally board unless I see something spicy or plan on next-leveling somehow:

2 Choke: Any time you see Steam Vents or Hallowed Fountain, you probably want this. For best results, cast when your opponent is tapped out. Bring in against: Twin, UW(r) Flash, Delver.

1 Qasali Pridemage: Versatile card that serves as a strong coverall and does well against Birthing Pod and Spreading Seas. We have two maindeck copies for a reason.  Exalted is also not irrelevant.

1 Ajani Vengeant: This could be mainboard in some iterations. Add this against control, Jund, or any non-combo deck. I often cut a Pridemage for this.

2 Blood Moon: I like this against UWR Control or Flash, as well as the UWR Twin variant. It’s straightforward and exists in the main of a breakout deck from Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Prepare to next level in game three, since opponents play around it if you do show it during game two. Do not forget that Tron is still hiding in the field.

2 Voice of Resurgence: Straightforward protection that helps our lack of permission and disruption. Bring in against Control, Flash, anyone who is trying to play on your turn. Make them suffer for their insolence.

2 Linvala, Keeper of Silence: Protection from Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Viscera Seer, Grim Lavamancer, Spellskite, and anything else you see like this. Remember to board against  opponent’s cards, not decks. Board this in with your best judgment. I believe in you.

2 Stony Silence: This is our silver bullet for Affinity. It’s also useful against Pod. Linvala may come in with this. Don’t forget it makes swords seem pretty dull (get it?).

2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben:  This card is cringeworthy for your Storm and control opponents. It’s a pet card of mine. Feel free to replace these with your own pet card, or indulge me and play them yourself. I promise they are good. HINT: Cut noncreatures for these, since you often also want Choke in the same matchups.

1 Rule of Law: This slot could be anything, but this card felt right as extra protection from combo. We probably want a, “Destroy target Liliana of the Veil” card most.

Until Next Time

I hope this was a helpful insight into Modern, and I also hope to have more success than I did with the previous build. I’d like to write all about a big win soon! Please make any suggestions or ask questions in the comments or on Twitter, @InkwellLevitan. Until next time, where we’ll change it up again.

Praise Helix

JL

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Jordan Levitan

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