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By: Motu, Aaron Kahler
Apr 20 2009 10:45am
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I love burgeoning formats.  Due to the nature of MTGO the format changes almost daily as everyone races to figure out what works and what doesn't.  What cards are being undervalued and which strategies can be exploited.  Upon my return to MTGO I immediately entered the arms race that is the current Alara Block Constructed metagame.  Rather quickly it was apparent that the format was composed of the following strategies: Five-color Control, Naya, Bant, Exalted White Weenie and Red White Control.  Although fringe strategies include Esper, Jund Ramp, and Red Black Unearth Aggro.  Notice anything?

Path to ExileOblivion RingMartial CoupElspeth, Knight-errant

Yah, White is that good.  Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring combine as the spot removal suite of choice, Martial Coup is the ever important Block Constructed "wrath effect", and Elspeth, Knight-errant and Ajani Vengeant have proven themselves to be the most dominant planeswalkers.  The format reminds me somewhat of Invasion Block Constructed in which the format was largely composed of U/x/x decks armed with the power of Fact or Fiction, Exclude, and Repulse.  Seeing as Invasion Block Constructed is one of my favorite formats of all-time I consider this a good start to a format yet to see its third set.  PTQing during Invasion Block Constructed I had great success by slightly modifying known archetypes -- Disrupt single-handedly carried me to my first Top 8 in my first ever PTQ.  All day long people thought they could safely cast Fact or Fiction when I had less than 4 mana up, seeing as my only hard counter on the day was Mystic Snake, only to get their precious Fact or Fiction countered while I cantripped.  In the current Alara Block Constructed metagame the same opportunity exists.

Disrupt

Small changes to archetypes can swing matchups drastically and it is with this in mind that we turn our attention to the various approaches one can take to Naya.

First, one can take an aggro approach:

 

Now this main deck is looking to get aggressive early with Wild Nacatl or Noble Hierarch plus Woolly Thoctar or Knight of the Reliquary with removal, planeswalkers, and Ranger of Eos playing backup.  While Knight of the Reliquary may look out of place, the guy is legit.  He thins your deck, fixes your mana, accelerates your mana (since you can tap the land, sacrifice it, then tap the land you search out), and in the mirror can grow bigger than any other dude (remember you can tap the land you sacrifice, search out a panorama, then use the floating mana to sac the panorama for +2/+2).  But what changes can be made here?  If you want Ranger of Eos to be able to fetch some fat later in the game you can include a single Feral Hydra but what if you want to push the envelope a bit more?  After playing with the above Naya list for several hours I began to feel like Sarkhan Vol wasn't pulling his weight and each time I played Ranger of Eos I felt like I was cheating.  Knight of the Reliquary also seemed like it could be better utilized.  What if... led to the following:

 

Ranger of EosCall to Heel

That's not Naya!  But it's pretty close.  I took the most aggressive Naya creatures and combined them with the Naya removal suite.  Then I decided to push things further by giving myself Call to Heel + Ranger of Eos.  If playing Ranger of Eos wasn't sick enough before, now I can pretend he's Flametongue Kavu and I have Repulse.  I can play him and search out two dudes, stack damage and then return him to my hand all the while drawing an additional card! 

Knight of the ReliquaryMight of Alara

Knight of the Reliquary fixed my mana before, but now he does one better by powering up Might of Alara.  If you think that's quite a stretch remember the removal suite of choice?  Almost everyone is running Path to Exile.  This list uses the opponent's Paths to power up it's Might of Alara as well a late-game Banefire if needed.  Incidentally, by pushing the planeswalkers aside, the deck has become less of an assault on the wallet.  No planeswalkers?  If I'm not going to run that many costly spells, why not take advantage of the powerful mana fixing of Ancient Ziggurat?

 

 

Decks like the one above have been circling around MTGO for the past few weeks and Phish4 has carried it to a number of Daily Event Top 8 finishes.  Bloodhall Ooze supplements Wild Nacatl and Noble Hierarch in the 1-slot and between the ooze, crasher, and thoctar it is highly likely that Cliffrunner Behemoth is going to be in a hurry to take a quarter of your opponent's life-total.  Naya Charm gives the deck the ability to deal a few points of damage early and then use Ranger of Eos to fill the board with dudes only to tap the opposing team and alpha-strike for the win. Ancient Ziggurat is so good.  If you haven't played with it, I highly encourage it.  I often spend the later part of the evenings running craziness powered by the little temple that could in 2-mans and the Tournament Practice room -- this is my current favorite:

 

 

Why not play all the best creatures the format has to offer?  Besides it feels good to attack your opponent for 14 before they've taken their third turn.  The first time you play Noble Hierarch into Woolly Thoctar into Rafiq of the Many you'll know why I often close the evenings with this deck -- sweet dreams!

What direction do you think aggressive Naya decks should take in the format?  Should Ancient Ziggurat be seeing more play?  Chime in by using the comment thread below.

24 Comments

Manabase? by Thomas David Baker (not verified) at Mon, 04/20/2009 - 12:02
Thomas David Baker's picture

Wow, what is the manabase like on that last one? 9 green sources in a 60 card deck for first-turn Wild Nacatl/Noble Hierarch seems low. And Turn 3/4 Rafiq looks pretty unlikely. Does it play better than it looks?

It's not the most competitive by Motu at Mon, 04/20/2009 - 13:47
Motu's picture

It's not the most competitive deck, but it is as advertised quite fun. Basically the deck was part of exploring Ancient Ziggurat -- how good is the land really? Turns out almost any hand with Ziggurat is going to be able to play just about whatever it wants. The ability to use Knight of the Reliquary to fetch the land simply regulates your mana so that you can play the best threats in the environment.

This article is mostly my voyage in testing the aggressive boundaries of the format. Ranger of Eos and Ancient Ziggurat both seemed insane in decks looking to brawl and so I set out to find if either could be exploited more than they currently were. Certainly Ranger of Eos has found a home in the format, but Ancient Ziggurat still seems to be sitting on the sidelines. Deep down I feel there has to be a way to take advantage of the mana fixing power of the ole Babylonian temple.

Might seems lacklustre when by Kha (not verified) at Mon, 04/20/2009 - 14:33
Kha's picture

Might seems lacklustre when compared to Sigil Blessing which is already on colour, better in "stalls" and you dont have to bend over backwards with your mana base.
Ive been running versions similar to the bloodhall ooze deck you list above and the Blessing has been really good in the various naya mirrors.

Call to heel is pretty interesting for the control matchups, allowing you to fully extend without having to worry too much about a coup blowing you out. However ranger is the only interesting target for it currently (the new hasty elf coming in reborn could be another).

Naya ziggaraut by Anonymous (not verified) at Tue, 04/21/2009 - 03:48
Anonymous's picture

I have played around with the naya ziggaraut, and i just don't see how it has placed at all... I mean it looks and seems like it is fast. But if you get bad luck and don't draw 1 color of lands it seems like your pretty much screwed. Unless im just having the worst luck on MTGO cause i have played and played and like 2 out of every 4 games i don't draw one color land i need and i just loose.

Mulligan Aggressively by Motu at Tue, 04/21/2009 - 10:24
Motu's picture

You do have to mulligan aggressively with the Naya Ziggurat deck, but it has placed well due to the power of quick beats backed by Naya Charm to tap down the opposing team. Naya Charm dominates the mirror match.

However since the writing of this article the deck has actually moved away from Ancient Ziggurat in favor of a full set of Jungle Shrine and a couple Exotic Orchard so that it can run Elspeth to give it additional reach through the air.

Ziggy by AJ Sacher (not verified) at Tue, 04/21/2009 - 21:36
AJ Sacher's picture

Hey, this is AJ Sacher aka Phish4. The Ziggurat build was quite good for a long time, but it's time of dominance has passed. I cut the Ziggies and jammed 4 Elspeth and have been having moderate success with it. The original aggro list was given to me by Owen Turtenwald. I then put Naya Charms into it and had a good run. The problem now is that all of the other Naya decks are going bigger and bigger, jamming Coups main and quad Battlegrace angel. The problem with this is that those changes are literally only good against the "mirror". So until people realize that they're scooping to 5c instead of destroying it, the more aggressive version of the deck can't thrive.

That's my take, anyway.

Why is there no Edit button... by AJ Sacher (not verified) at Tue, 04/21/2009 - 21:37
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And yes, you have to mulligan quite aggressively to have success with the Ziggurat build.

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