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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Nayacrush – A Versatile Answer in Return to Ravnica Standard
I love nature.
I’ve never been a hunter, a fisherman or rock climber, but
one of my favorite things in the world is to be in the woods or on a hillside
and feel nothing around me but the living, breathing, moving earth.
I particularly like naturally flowing water; rivers,
streams, lakes, ponds, even an evanescent surge after a rainstorm.It’s like watching the lifeblood of the earth
course around you.No two bodies of
water are the same.
I love finding an unusual creature amongst the organic and
chaotic swath of the forest.Considering
even a simple mushroom and the course of its day is an enlightening and
Seeing nothing but what the world itself brought about is a
very relaxing prospect, and I wish more people would take the time to see
it.I wish that we as people could slow
down from our technologically inundated lives to feel the primordial pulse of
the world around us.Taking a moment and
feeling the breeze sidle through the trees and listen to the hiss of countless
leaves overhead.Watching as the
sunlight flickers through the branches.Observing a bird or a squirrel go about his quotidian calling.These are all things that help me relax and
Nature is a force to be respected; its forces have shaped
the world on which we live, and it continues to do so to this day.Even the sturdiest monuments and the best and
brightest inventions of humanity can be moldered by the transformative power of
What happens when you try to harness this concept in a Magic
Bramblecrush is a straightforward, no-nonsense card that can
destroy any permanent but a creature.A
spiritual successor to Creeping Mold, this card has often been relegated to
sideboards in Limited and very little else.After all, it doesn’t kill your opponent’s primary win condition, does
But what if we reexamined this four-word sorcery to be
something a little more enticing?Bramblecrush has the potential to cripple an opponent’s combo, slow them
down to a sluggish, insurmountable crawl, or efficiently deal with an otherwise
unconquerable threat.This sorcery can do
When I was in college, I often shuffled up a fun (for me)
deck that featured a foursome of one powerful and since unprintable sorcery.
The deck was built around Stone Rain and other “I hate your
land” cards.The deck focused on a
playset of Stoneshaker Shaman, forcing permission opponents to sack a land or
take mana burn while I had firebreathing creatures and other mana sinks to keep
my own lands.As grief-y as it sounds,
in a multiplayer game, it wasn’t too bad.That being said, the Rain could be backbreaking.
In today’s Standard, Bramblecrush can effectively cost three
mana, and it pays to utilize the inherently red nature of the land destruction
plan to pursue that.
Do I need a third color?Farseek and other accelerants are a little less impressive when they
get…a Mountain.Black offered little to
advance this game plan, but the other two colors did.
Both provided legitimate ways to get to the goal of a turn 3
four-drop (preferably a Bramblecrush), and going into RUG territory would give
me access to other interesting and synergetic spell options.Alternatively, White gives me Avacyn’s
Pilgrim and Temple
Garden, legit paths to
get to four mana on three.With two
forms of ramp (mana dork into a Farseek, perhaps), a five on three was even
possible.Although I actually built and
playtested RUG first, I changed fairly abruptly to Naya, and I’m glad I
did.I prefer RUG a lot more for my playstyle,
but this deck needed white.
In a drive to support the noncreature destroyer, I came up
with this list.
3 Arbor Elf
2 Yeva, Nature’s Herald
1 Wayfaring Temple
3 Huntmaster of the Fells
2 Restoration Angel
3 Centaur Healer
1 Armada Wurm
3 Call of the Conclave
3 Brimstone Volley
3 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Garruk Relentless
1 Chandra, the Firebrand
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Sunpetal Grove
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Gavony Township
3 Pillar of Flame
2 Silklash Spider
1 Collective Blessing
1 Predatory Rampage
3 Purify the Grave
1 Chandra, the Firebrand
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
2 Devil’s Play
Deck Tech – Creatures
Originally Avacyn’s Pilgrim, I had traded mine away and
hadn’t been able to trade into them, so these filled in.Arbor Elf is a perfectly respectable one
drop.With any kind of luck, you’re
pulling a turn two Centaur Healer and a turn 4 Bramblecrush, so he’s an
essential part of the mill plan.He
takes counters from the Township well, and even getting in for a point of
damage on an empty board can make a difference.I still just wish it was Llanowar Elves, but…oh well.
Yeva, Nature’s Herald
Everyone that’s read my previous
articles about Yevaknows that she’s one of my favorite ladies in recent
Standard to build around.Here, nearly
every creature is green and so she fits right in.Although not surrounded by as many creatures
as she’d normally like, she still does fine for herself and is a relevant,
haste-ish body that can two for one your opponent.This slot was originally Wolfir Avenger in
the RUG build, but its transition to Naya made her a bit better.
OK, this one was admittedly a loose inclusion.With the wolves and Beasts I’d be making,
though, I wanted to see if he was any good at all.I figured he wouldn’t hurt as a singleton…right?With Yeva, he was also a huge instant wall
(in the right circumstances).
Huntmaster of the Fells
You look ravaging tonight...
The Huntmaster is the “midrange” push I’d need to stay
afloat against hyper-aggro matchups, and his one-man army mentality was just
what I needed in a fairly low creature count deck.
This quartet of creatures became available as I moved into
white.Although I played Thragtusk in
the RUG build, this build would let me use the Angel for maximum synergy.These were all good creatures that pulled
their weight after resolving.
Nothing particularly unusual in the spell department; I
liked Call of the Conclave as another three copies of Centaur Healer
(body-wise), and the ability to copy it with Chandra was cute.The planeswalkers were chosen to fill in
holes I might need, Garruk with removal and one-man-armyness, and Chandra with
reach and value.Just like with previous
deck’s I’d used with her, she can make a hand-cast Bonfire just as big as a
Miracled one.I didn’t have room for two
in the mainboard, as I preferred Garruk and needed to keep my sorcery count
high, but one in the sideboard would come in during the longer matches.
The lands are also uninspired…man, that was a boring deck
For the sideboard, I needed the Pillars to answer early or
out of control dudes like Deathrite Shaman or any of the myriad Zombies that I
couldn’t otherwise permanently deal with.Silklash Spider, a card that is made for green sideboards, is in there
for the Entreat the Angels/Lingering Souls decks that this deck has trouble
dealing with outside of a Bonfire.The
rest, honestly, was slop thrown together at the last minute.Predatory Rampage and Collective Blessing
both acted as alpha against a grindy creature deck.Everything else should make sense alongside
When it came time to try it out at Tuesday Night Magic at
Something2Do, I had a couple backup decks ready, but this one was the closest
to fleshing itself out, so after a hustled sleeve-up, I was ready to battle!
Round 1 – Dylan (Bant Control)
Dylan was a fairly frequent opponent for me in the shop, and
he often lingered with pals playing Legacy.His chops extend to Standard, though, so I was excited to give the deck
a shot against a strong opponent.
I won the die roll and got off to a fairly solid start,
hitting on-time threats and two Thragtusks.He sweeped them up with his Supreme Verdict’s and started resolving Jace
and Tamiyo, putting me in a pretty hard way.As I longed to hit one of my Bramblecrush playset, I didn’t.He resolved an Angel of Serenity and without
a lot of way to deal with it, I folded up pretty quickly.
In Game Two I just sided in more creatures and Devil’s Play,
which I thought’d be the easiest to overload with Chandra for the win.Although I got another aggressive start,
taking him to 11, he dealt with my resolved Chandra (with the Devil’s Play for
lethal in hand) with a Detention Sphere.My drawn Bramblecrush smacked the Sphere and revived Chandra, but he
then resolved a Thragtusk and another Sphere.Beyond that, he outclassed each creature I played with something very
juicy of his own.
0 – 1
Not a great way to start, but the Bramblecrush I drew in
game 2 was very helpful, and I just needed, like 16 against his deck.Oh well.Round 2!
Round 2 – Brian (Bant Control)
I’d seen Brian around the shop plenty, and I helped me get
my last Call of the Conclave I needed before the starting bell.Playing a list similar in color, but not in
design, to Dylan’s list, we went to work and I got a good start.An on-time Call of the Conclave kept the pressure
up, but his Miracled Terminus kept me from dealing a significant scratch.He developed his board with a Thragtusk and
an Entreat the Angels token.I was able
to widdle him down a bit further, but eventually, he cast Tamiyo and locked
down my only creature left, and I was toast before long.
In game 3, I got the dream start; turn 3 Bramblecrush his
green source into turn 4 Bramblecrush his Hallowed Fountain.This was admittedly pretty aggressive, but I
had sided in more creatures to deal with the sweepers and Tamiyo, so I thought
I could outrace him.Restoration Angel
appeared for me as he started to recover, and with a fairly imposing board
presence, he was a bit on the backpedal.A Miracled Entreat for 4 joined his board, and my healthy 24 life seemed
a little more meager.Tamiyo locked down
my Angel, and he swung for 12, cutting me in half.As he was representing lethal and I had eight
mana up for my Bonfire in hand (I’d need 9 mana to flatten his Angels), I had
to start considering some mediocre combat situations.I had to swing with everything, which was a
Thragtusk, a Centaur Healer and an Arbor Elf.He blocked correctly, as I expected him to, and I cast Bonfire for 3,
bringing him to 3.If I had one more
mana, I would Bonfire for 4, sweep away his blockers, and swing for 8.Very close, but a loss is a loss.
0 – 2
I was pretty frustrated at this point, as most people would
be after 0-4’ing, but I was resigned to play the deck out for my dignity’s
Round 3 – Megan (G/W Aggro with Lingering Souls)
Megan was a new face for me, but she was eager to play.She’d had a similarly rough night with her
deck, and she, like me, was wavering on the concept of the deck at all.We went to work after she had to mull down to
five on the draw.I got a great start,
ramping out perfectly into a Huntmaster.She did about the same, getting into a Sublime Archangel a turn
behind.The Huntmaster’s wolf got a lick
in, but it was quickly Oblivion Ringed.Lucky for me, I had a pair of Bramblecrushes ready, so I brought the
Werewolf back from exile, gaining more life and making another Wolf.Soon, though, the Archangel
was hitting me to hard and I had to cast my Garruk Relentless and punch the
Angel (that’s what I call his fight ability).She O-ringed the Werewolf again, and I broke it the following turn.Without any more creatures to block, the
Wolves finished her off.
In game two, I got an exceptionally powerful start.I Bonfired for two pretty early and went
pretty much unopposed for the rest of the game.The Avacyn’s Pilgrim I hit was the second white source she needed.
1 – 2
We looked over her deck afterwards and she asked for
suggestions; each that I gave her was one she had herself considered, and her
deck was very strong and consistent.I
think I just got a more intense draw each time, and I matched up favorably against
her with the red splash.
If you lose your first two matches at Something2Do, you’re
pretty much out of prizes barring some very unusual situation.That was OK, though, I’d gotten a win against
the deck I had intended to!
Round 4 – A Kind and Upstanding Gentleman (G/W Elf Aggro
My final opponent had a name, a fairly regal one, I’m sure,
but I didn’t catch it.He was very
polite and professional, I’ll say that much.My deck got aggressive again, hitting Call of the Conclave on time off a
one-colored land keep (!) and with Healers and Huntmasters on either side. This
was a pretty straightforward match.After a would-be-lethal attack, he was forced to chump-block with his
smaller Elves, andBrimstone Volley to
the dome did the job.This match, I
pretty much lived sideways.
After siding into nothing for game two, I got stuck on three
lands after keeping a fairly loose hand (no Forests, but non-basic green
sources and a Call of the Conclave), but I sacked out and played what I could
from my hand.A Miracled Bonfire for two
helped pushed my Centaur token and Centaur Healer through, and just like
before, a chump-blocker brought Brimstone Volley online for the kill.
2 – 2
An even 4-4 game tally, I was glad the deck performed as
well as I’d hoped it would against the Aggro metagame I’d seen last time.The deck performed very poorly against
control, without enough creatures or pressure to race sweepers and
Thragtusk.Although the deck was
flexible and offered several lines of play, most of them turned about to be
defensive at best, and the pilot can be blamed for several of them.Bramblecrushing two lands when I saw Brian
use Tamiyo last round?Loose…
On that topic, Bramblecrush did its job very
effectively.It always had a nice target,
and I never sided a single one out.The
ability to be flexible enough to hit an Oblivion Ring, a Tamiyo, and a Gavony Township
is no joke.The card may be a little too
slow for serious play; it’s no Beast Within.Still, I’m glad we have an effect like this in Standard.If I’d had my head on straight, I would have
made a Bramblecrush deck back when we had 8 R/G sources in Standard and Beast
Within.Who knows, though, Beast Within
might see a Core Set sometime.
The strongest players in the deck where the Thragtusks and
Bramblecrush.Garruk didn’t really do
much, and none of my sideboard cards did a whole lot, either.Chandra did a bit of work, but Thragtusk is
just a busted card.In this format and
with all the enablers that assist Big Sexy, there’s just not a better
five-drop.I was always always happy to have a Bramblecrush in
hand, as it gave you a good feeling of security on every turn of the game.
Although Wolves did seal up my last game, Huntmaster is not
the card he once was.In a format of
X/3s, the Werewolf has lost a lot of his steam.With Gruul around the bend, though, he may still have a chance to get
there, and I hope he will!I would say
Armada Wurm was also underwhelming, but never drew him in all four
matches.That’s what you get for only
playing one, but I wanted to test him.There was never really a time he would have turned it around for me,
though.I would have probably just
wanted Thragtusk any time I drew it.
And now for a bit of metagame analysis.With mana being as good as it is now, with
Shocklands, ISD and M13 duals, and the Keyrunes and Chromatic Lanterns floating
around, Standard decks seem to be one of two things: blinding fast aggro and
everything else.Super aggro/Sligh style
decks can still hit really hard, but the “everything else”, which encompasses
literally anything that can’t have
you dead or basically dead on turn 4, can overturn that deck very
“reanimator,” and “control” lists I’ve seen really are just control decks more
than anything else.Most of the
“everything” else decks can be collectively described accurately as
“three-color good stuff decks.”Depending on the colors chosen, there are particular high power threats
and answers that you play.Playing
Jund?Use Olivia Voldaren, Thragtusk and
Rakdos’ Return!USA?Entreat the Angels, Sweepers and Angel of
Serenity!Bant?See the above list, but add Thragtusk!There’s basically a continuum of threats that
you’ll pick from based on the lands you’re playing.This manifests itself as a fairly contrived
gameplay experience for someone like me.I’m sure they feel very different to pilot, but they don’t feel very
different to play against.The cards
that the top control decks use are really high impact, and so anything but the
most grindy of control mirrors will create overwhelming advantage for the
control player.Super Aggro just cares
about smashing your life total, but if anything else requires even a bit of
board presence, you may be out of luck against one of these leviathans.
I say this with a hint of frustration but more so with a
hint of confusion.I’m not sure how best
to combat these “midrange” monsters.The
decks I’ve crafted to play in RTR standard have almost all been subpar, my best
performing being the defender deck, and I’m not sure how to effectively answer
these threats without just doing a live-sideways style hyper aggro deck.I don’t mind playing those, and I probably
would in a big tournament, but those aren’t the decks I like to play.I consider the decks I make like paintings
while those hyper-aggro four-of lists are like pencil sketches; sure, the
sketch does its job, but is it as pretty or well-made?This is no way an attempt to say that my
decks are “works of art,” because they’re not.They’re full of holes, misinterpretations, poor judgment and poor
execution.But they’re attempts at art, and that’s what I’m
after.Bramblecrush didn’t let me down,
and the deck construction had a good starting point, but I’m not sure this deck
has a place in Standard right now; it’s on the bad end of “everything else.”
This hasn’t stopped me from crafting.Last night I finished crafting a fun deck
from my original stack of decklists I made at before RTR’s release, and after
playtesting it last night, it proves to be quite effective while maintaining my
I’d love to hear about a way you guys can think up to break
Bramblecrush.I love the card and I want
it to get some love.Any ideas?Let me know in the comments, and be sure to
follow me if you like what you read.
Thanks again for stopping by, and I’ll be back next week
with a fun brew with a lot of heat!