Got there! #pptq winner / #rptq Dublin here I come 😀 Thanks @BasicMountain pic.twitter.com/7DeX8wd31Y
— Michael Flores (@fivewithflores) August 7, 2016
Two weeks ago I was able to land a Modern PPTQ with a Naya Burn deck, hopefully to set myself up for Pro Tour Dublin. Hopefully this short writeup will help you do the same 🙂
I. Your Cards Largely Cost One
Well, one and two. But almost all your guys cost one, and even your lone three mana spell (Rift Bolt) also costs one. This is extremely important as Modern is a wickedly compressed format… Almost every deck puts its opponent on the back foot (if not the grave) by turn four, so just having cheap one and two mana cards is a legitimate deck feature; and 2)
Imagine you’re a deck that plays three and four mana cards, don’t know what you’re up against, and start off on one (or even two) lands that enter the battlefield tapped… You might play all one spell before the game effectively ends. Naya Burn’s cards are less powerful, less card advantageous, maybe… But it will play four to six of them in the same window (which often will be lethal right there).
II. The Philosophy of Fire is on Overdrive in Modern
Remember the original Philosophy if Fire: Your average card does two damage; your opponent starts on twenty life; you start with seven cards… Ten spells wins the game.
In Modern your average opponent will start on fourteen and your average card does between three and four — not two — damage. Do the math! You will be able to win on as few as four spells and your opening hand, unopposed, will be lethal most of the time!
Combined with the first point — the super affordable costs on your spells [versus the gigantic or profligate costs of many other Modern options] Naya Burn is the most operationally attractive deck in the format.
III. Atarka’s Command Deals Three to Them… But Three to You?!?
Atarka’s Command is a cute, medium-powerful, redundant spell that can also play main-deck spoiler to Kitchen Finks or even a Hail Mary Siege Rhino. Sometimes you counter their Lightning Helix; sometimes you have two Swiftspears down and are living the dream.
However most of the time Atarka’s Command is three damage for two mana (in the running for the least efficient wannabe ‘Bolt in Naya Burn)… While also being the only green card in the deck. The corollary is: If you can ever get Atarka’s Command out of your deck between games, you probably should. The ability to start on sixteen (instead of fourteen, on account of being obligated to find Stomping Ground rather than basic Mounting with the same fetch) is often as valuable for you as it would be for an opponent staring down your hot hand.
Don’t get me wrong, Atarka’s Command is awesome when it’s awesome; but if it’s just Incinerate that can’t hit creatures, any number of your sideboard cards will be more effective, without requiring you to ever search for green (example, siding in Searing Blood and Lightning Helix or Path to Exile and Lightning Helix for the only four green cards in the starting deck).
Second corollary: This is the same reason Wild Nacatl is a suboptimal card choice in this deck; not only is it not particularly synergistic, it forces you to pay additional life a disproportionate amount of the time.
IV. Eidolon of the Great Revel Does Even Damage
Most of the creatures in Naya Burn can deal even or odd damage; Grim Lavamancer attacks for odd but shoots for even; Taylor Swiftspear starts on odd but buffs to even or odd. Eidolon of the Great Revel has both even power and even damage triggers.
Playing against Eidolon of the Great Revel is extremely challenging for most decks. Yes, it can be “dealt with” but almost always at an annoying cost. If it hits one time before it is removed, Eidolon of the Great Revel is already in Boros Charm range. Make no mistake! You really should probably remove it! But a mistake I saw opponents make over and over was around fetchland management. If you’re at seventeen and you take two you’ll go to fifteen. If you are at seventeen and you go to either sixteen or fourteen you’ve essentially let the Naya Burn player draw a card.
Don’t think this matters? I beat more than one opponent saving Monastery Swiftspear and friends with Boros Charm; Eidolons can be saved from death’s door…
V. Your Sideboard Cards Are Flexible and Powerful
One of the main things I learned from Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa in an article way back when is that one-color decks tend to have weak sideboards relative to multicolor decks. As someone who has spent years playing Patrick Sullivan Red Decks in Legacy, the contrast to Naya Burn in Modern is dramatic. This deck has specific answers to Leyline of Sanctity that can serve as card advantageous Time Walks against Phyrexian Unlife or Pentad Prism. It can lethally reverse an all-in Infect player who has Vines of the Vastwood back. It can — unlike almost every other Red Deck in competitive history — even remove big creatures!
You can re-work your deck in sideboard situations into a lock deck (say your Death’s Shadow opponent leaves you with Deflecting Palm with his Thoughtseize and you manage to stabilize at any point); you can go into mono-creature removal (generally with advantages across the board); or even plan for a progressive slow game around a Grim Lavamancer who will never die.
Oddly — and amazingly — the answer to the age old question of “Who’s the Beatdown?” in some games might be “Not me!”
VI. Corollary: Resist the Impulse to Side Out “Weak” One Mana Spells
Just remember that you need to have a critical mass of one mana spells. You will almost always be tempted to side out Lava Spike (the most narrow card in the deck) or Rift Bolt (the hands-down weakest card in the main deck). It will usually be correct to side out “some” of those. However the strength of this deck once you have three mana is to be able to make two plays per turn while the opponent is only making one play. However you can’t make two plays if you have three lands and all your cards cost two. You need some Rift Bolt suspends / Grim Lavamancer activations / Lava Spikes to the jaw or you are going to end up glutted, stuck, and raced.
That said, Path to Exile costs one!
VII. Know Your “Two-for-Ones”
Searing Blaze has two targets! You can’t counter it by sacrificing Insolent Neonate or shooting your own guy with Path to Exile in response. It will usually be right to leave unbroken fetchland(s) on the table to trigger future landfall on the opponent’s turn rather than just trying to “thin your deck” (especially at the cost of life).
Searing Blood only does two to creatures! It is in some sense less narrow than Searing Blaze but is way less effective against medium sized creatures, way less effective against any kind of tricks, and doesn’t deal damage to the opponent unless the opposing creature actually dies. For this reason it is usually not the right move to go all-in on creature removal using Searing Blood against decks with Mutagenic Growth or whose first play is likely to be a Tarmogoyf.
Destructive Revelry only does two! Don’t get me wrong… When this card is on, it is usually the worst possible card for your opponent to see; but it costs twice as much and does less damage than a Lava Spike. Having a card that only does two in your deck actually costs your goldfish math an entire card, on average while slowing you down a full turn. Yeah. Modern is quick, yo.
VIII. Let Goblin Guide be Your Guide
Always remember the Bella Flores reading of Goblin Guide. Goblin Guide is the best because it turns Magic into chess; you know what your opponent is drawing, so you can make the best plays. Card advantage be damned! The game is often compressed enough that the card advantage doesn’t end up mattering at all. However, the information might matter a lot.
In the deciding game of my PPTQ, my Goblin Guide revealed a Skullcrack on top of my opposing burn deck’s stack. That meant he was going to miss his next land drop and was going to draw a Skullcrack. So I played around the Skullcrack. At the end of my next turn, on queue, he played the Skullcrack just to get a burn spell out of his hand; I responded with Lightning Helix, essentially countering the Skullcrack, and putting him three points closer to death.
Post Script: Today Miles Rodriguez is playing in his first Star City Games Invitational Top 8. He played the same 75 to a 7-1 finish in Modern, with his only loss to the great Brad Nelson. Go Miles!
The list was perfect, no need to change anything. And thanks 🙂