A little over two years ago, right after the release of Worldwake, a deck broke out in Standard. This was an important development because Jund was at the peak of its dominance. Until this point, there were not many options to combat the powerhouse tier one deck. There were talks of banning Bloodbraid Elf in Standard because we were seeing top eights with as many as six Jund decks.
At Pro Tour San Diego 2010, the Channelfireball team piloted a new Naya deck. Since the deck's designer, Tom Ross, was nick-named "The Boss," the deck was named Boss Naya. The catchy name stuck and most players remember it because of that. What made Boss Naya so good were the new toys from Worldwake like Stoneforge Mystic, Raging Ravine, Stirring Wildwood, and Basilisk Collar. The deck also featured a combo from the sideboard that aimed to assemble Cunning Sparkmage equipped with a Basilisk Collar. At the time, this was a brand new innovation. We had not seen an interaction like this before, so it took the field by surprise.
When I saw the coverage of this deck, I was immediately on board. Since the Naya shard was released in Shards of Alara, I had been playing that color combination to much success so changing my preexisting deck by a handful of cards was no problem at all. As I am prone to do even with a Pro Tour top eight deck, I immediately began to incorporated changes. My analysis was that the amateur metagame would have a larger percentage of Jund and aggressive decks so I wanted that Cunning Sparkmage package maindeck instead of as a sideboard plan. After making adjustments, I headed off to a Star City 5k the weekend after the Pro Tour. As I suspected, most of the players had not adjusted to the new deck and I wrecked the field with my version.
This was my list:
Boss Naya by Michael Lanigan
5th place at SCG Richmond, Virginia on 2010-02-28
This is one of my favorite decks that I have ever played, for many reasons. Certainly one reason was my success with it, but there are so many synergies in the deck and it is a ton of fun to play. With a deck like this, you can utilize your skill and outplay your opponent by taking a variety of lines of play. What makes this deck so powerful is that all of the cards are strong and playable on their own, but when you get them online together, they become even better.
The reason I wanted to talk about this today is because there are a lot of similarities between Boss Naya and what I am playing in Standard right now. Building this deck did not start with the concept of Boss Naya, but it did end up rather similar. Here's the deck for comparison.
- Powerful Spells on their own, check.
- Even more powerful synergies, check.
- Card advantage, check.
- Lands that affect the game, check.
- Sparkmage + Collar combo, double check!
- Green, Red, and White mana, nada.
Despite not being a Naya deck at all, these two decks have a lot of conceptual elements in common. If you look closely, this is basically just a different version of the current Jund deck in Standard. There are many cards that overlap between the two decks. We all know Thragtusk, Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells, Falkenrath Aristocrat, Olivia Voldaren, Thundermaw Hellkite and Farseek are strong cards. Lots of decks use these cards on their merits alone. Let me talk about the cards you don't see too often and provide some details.
Nightshade Peddler -- Here's the secret. This is the best card in the deck. I know, it seems like I'm joking around and in another sentence or two, I'm gonna laugh as I type some witty comment to let you in on my joke. But this time I'm serious.
There is a lot going on with Mr. Flower Salesman here. (Nightshade is a flower, in case you didn't know, and he peddles it, hence the nickname.) The two-mana creature acts more like an enchantment but pairs well with Izzet Staticaster, Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells, Olivia Voldaren, and Thundermaw Hellkite. There will rarely be a time when you don't have something to soulbond with it. The goal is to get him online with Staticaster to become a creature-killing machine gun. Think about how many decks omit removal entirely and rely solely on creatures to win the game right now. This Boss Naya synergy completely dominates those matchups. Even against the rest of the field, there is rarely a deck you don't want him in play against.
Izzet Staticaster -- If there were an actual Izzet deck being played right now, I would advocate this new addition to the guild in the deck. Right now, Lingering Souls and mana creatures are being played more than they should with no repercussions due to the lack of Pyroclasm in the format. Against decks that run these cards, you don't even need the Nightshade Peddler to pair with it because it is capable of killing multiple cards on its own. Even if they pump the tokens with Intangible Virtue or Gavony Township, you can always find the Peddler or a second Staticaster.
Zealous Conscripts -- Stealing permanents can be a viable way to win the game, especially if you can sacrifice them to Falkenrath Aristocrat or use the ability of a planeswalker you took. The power level of Conscripts varies depending on what deck you are playing against. Make sure to side it out against the fast decks, but bring the other one in against any midrange or control deck.
Deathrite Shaman -- While new to Standard, this one drop has a proven itself in Modern and Legacy. In Standard many players are utilizing their graveyards and against the slower decks you can take a big chunk out of their life total with the black ability. Shaman interacts with more than just the graveyard decks too. Against Snapcaster decks, you can remove their flashback target before they can cast it and even against decks like Mono Red, the lifegain can give you enough time to stabilize.
I foresee players arguing about my decision to run three copies stating it should either be four or zero depending on your evaluation of the card, but I think three is the correct number. You don't always want one in play and you certainly don't want two, so I believe three to be exactly right.
Tracker's Instincts -- It may not seem like it, but this innocuous little sorcery is one of the most powerful cards in the deck. Think of it as an Impulse with upside and you will begin to catch on to the power level. With so many synergies in the deck, being able to assemble them more easily is definitely a plus. The cards you don't choose also go to your graveyard, which is important for Deathrite Shaman. By the way, the first time you pick Nightshade Peddler over a mythic rare, you know you are on board with this deck.
Cavern of Souls -- Did you get the memo? Pro players have been sending it out to computer screens across the world for weeks now. Counterspells are back. If you are not ready for them, you will be left unable to resolve a spell the entire game. Cavern, despite the differing creature types, is absolutely necessary in this deck. It's presence alone changes the U/W Flash and control matchups entirely. When they can no longer rely on all their counters as removal spells, they find themselves quickly overwhelmed. Don't forget, almost all of your creatures are either humans or vampires but name dragon or beast with confidence when necessary.
Short Local Tournament Recap
Round 1 -- Jund
This will definitely feel like a mirror match because you share a lot of the same cards except you have card draw from Tracker's Instincts and can kill any of their threats in multiple ways. Unless one of you lands a quick Olivia Voldaren that goes unanswered, the match tends to go long, but you are definitely favored. In this match I ended up losing game one while I was mana screwed. Game two, I was in control the whole game and he never really saw removal to keep my creatures from running him over. In game three, my turn two Farseek, turn three Huntmaster, turn four Bonfire was enough to win a quick game with not much time left in the round.
Round 2 -- Jund
At first I thought this was going to be a replay of round 1, but then he played a Dreg Mangler followed up by a Falkenrath Aristocrat. It was basically still Jund, just a more aggressive version. Again, I lost game one to never hitting a fifth land despite fighting through many of his threats while stuck on four lands. Game two, my life total ended over twenty and was basically me doing what this deck does and killing every creature he played. Game three, I thought I was going to stabilize after he Bonfired my first two Huntmasters and [card Dreadbore]Dreadbored[/card] the third, but a topdecked Rakdos's Return killed me a turn too soon to allow my summoning-sick Deathrite Shaman to gain some life. A very close game that I thought I should have won but given the cards I drew, I don't think there were any plays I could have made differently.
Round 3 -- Junk Troll Rites
Being a different version of the reanimator deck, my cards are naturally good against him since he has no removal. Lotleth Troll is still good though and I took a lot of damage from it before gaining it back. I'm not sure he had an answer to Staticaster, let alone when paired it Peddler. This was a quick two games and I was in control almost the whole time. If he did not tap his mana wrong in game one to leave one less black open, it may have been closer but we will never know. This is a great example of Boss Jund dominating certain decks.
Round 4 - Naya Midrange
I would say this is one of the best matchups for this deck. They also have no removal so how are they supposed to beat your machine gun? Game one I stumbled on mana again and I thought I was going to be overrun by Restoration Angel and two Thragtusks plus a Borderland Ranger, but luckily I [card Trackers Instincts]Tracker's Instincted[/card] into an Olivia to pair with my Peddler.
Make sure you play around Selesnya Charm in this match. It is one of their only ways to interact with you. I declined to kill a second creature during his combat step and take a dangerous amount of damage so that he could not remove her. Then when I untapped I killed a creature and responded to the removal spell by killing the rest of his creatures. Going as low as two life after that attack, I ended the game at eleven once I got back on track. Game two was no contest because I started killing his creatures early. Even when he had the Oblivion Ring, I had a replacement to keep up the killing machine.
Abiding the Boss
In Summary, Boss Jund is really a force in the metagame right now. My plan is to take the deck to the TCG Player Invitational next weekend and let it loose on the high profile event. Hopefully there will be great results to follow. I have not been this excited for an event in a long time. If you've been hating Standard recently like I was, give this deck a shot and you won't be disappointed.
Until Next Time,
Unleash the Boss Jund Force!
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P.S. If you want a flashback to Boss Naya, here's the link to the original deck tech.