The Physical Reality of Magical Spells

Hello my dear readers!

I decided earlier this week that I am going to play Naya Burn on Saturday.

It was really down to Naya Burn or the Lightning Bolt Deck and I was actually on the Lightning Bolt Deck for a few hours before talking to Red Deck master Patrick Sullivan. If there is one player in the multiverse who you want to listen to when trying to win a PTQ with little Red men, it’s Patrick Sullivan.

PSulli instructed me to not play the Lightning Bolt Deck (despite his solid performance with the archetype at Grand Prix Los Angeles) and to play Naya Burn in the alternative.

So why play only one of these two decks?

I noticed that I have been collapsing late in tournaments. I am old now, see. Even tournaments where I make a run for the Top 8 I am typically winded by round six or seven. And win it all? I haven’t won a PTQ in three years.

But with long years come long teeth and a long view. Among the weapons at my disposal is an understanding of the physical realities of playing with Magic cards. We are playing with real cards, remember. We live in a real universe with real interactions with not just our opponents but our own bodies. I have made some improvements to mine recently but I decided that I want to try to give myself a little more breathing room if possible.

Look at it like this: I am likely to win in the early rounds not matter which reasonable deck I choose. However consider I play MWC… If I play MWC even against a helpless and incompetent opponent I am consigning myself to playing about sixty turns, just to get out of the first round! Now multiply that by the eleven or so rounds required to win a PTQ. Can it be done? Of course! But the fact of the matter is that — for me Me ME — and the fact that I have been gassing late in tournaments, I just wanted to try to preserve as much psychic energy as possible.

In the same situation with Naya Burn (that is, an incompetent and helpless opponent) I could win the same match in ten total turns.

Plus, Naya Burn (and the Lightning Bolt Deck for that matter) has a secret Stage Three (kind of) but can get there without having a million mana in play. One of the things that has bothered me about my game for about the last five years is that I have relied over much on having a lot of lands in play; I was once able to play to Top 8 caliber in premiere events stuck on one land.

It’s like GerryT chided me a few weeks ago: It’s all about having sufficent fire to try to win each and every game.

This time around, I think I have the best chance of keeping that fire kindled if I can save up the mental energy over the course of the day.

So… Naya Burn:

4 Lightning Helix

4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl

4 Incinerate
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Kird Ape
4 Mogg Fanatic
2 Pyrostatic Pillar
4 Seal of Fire
4 Sulfuric Vortex

4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Forest
3 Mountain
2 Mutavault
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
3 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills

3 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Ancient Grudge
3 Lash Out
2 Pyrostatic Pillar
3 Kataki, War’s Wage

(my likely PTQ list)

1) Pyrostatic Pillar is there to turn “every matchup in to the Zoo matchup” … It has been working out pretty well as a two-of in the main. You’ll notice this is the only two-of (and I hate two-ofs in general) in a deck full of four-ofs. Well, that’s what happens when you play 22 lands.

2) I like Lash Out quite a bit. If Incinerate is good enough for Extended, surely the same is true for Lash Out.

3) Affinity Overload! See previous post, &c.

4) What’s better, swapping in main deck Kataki (over Keldon Marauders) for mise value or figuring out how to transform into a Gargadon Sadin style deck?



facebook comments:


#1 wobblesthegoose on 02.19.09 at 1:51 am

If those are your criterion for a deck, turbo-dredge would be a much better choice. That deck is awesome, and a real darkhorse right now.

That said, playing an underpowered deck like Naya Burn just leads to harder play decisions all day during the tournament. Yes, you /can/ win games in under ten turns, but the games that go long require significantly more tight calls then with decks that are just overwhelmingly more powerful. If you’ve got a few days, learning to combo out with elves requires little though and is a great choice with affinity on the rise and fae on the wane. Still, not as cool as turbo-dredge.

#2 GerryT on 02.19.09 at 2:43 am

Above poster: Isn’t Dredge just worse than Elves and loses to mostly the same stuff?

MichaelJ: You’re already sick vs Affinity right? Might as well play the card that is the best against everyone else.

#3 wobblesthegoose on 02.19.09 at 4:10 am

My testing is sure to be horribly skewed, and most likely invalid.

That said, I’m pretty sure that it depends on the meta. I mean, most of the top decks were built around elf defeating shells, which makes them more hostile. Consider that mj’s naya burn is maindecking pyrostatic pillar. That card is all downside against narcomoebas. The deck may be worse than elves, but it loses to almost entirely different stuff.

#4 wobblesthegoose on 02.19.09 at 4:10 am

*which continues to make them more hostile

#5 wrongwaygoback on 02.19.09 at 4:43 am

Oh man, old age. It’s a killer (literally (literally “literally”)).

I agree with the strategy. I have far less experience in magic competition than most, but I do have a lot of experience in a competitive business environment where working long, long hours for a period of weeks is a must. At this kind of competition, where the brain may have to work for 16 hours straight, getting the mental game right is an absolute must.

In my last PTQ (hell, my only PTQ so far) I made sure I did a couple of things:

* Drink plenty of water early on, and keep a bottle of water with me at the table.
* Make the time to have a decent lunch.
* Power nap if my game ended early.
* Limited caffeine in the afternoon, with a natural sugar fix as well.
* A quick, low fat dinner (pasta + meat)

I was in the Top 8, second match, facing down a weary opponent. Before we had even started he looked at me and said, “You know, I don’t even care if I win this or not.” And I thought, “Sweet, I’m into the finals.”, and beat him handily. Ended up coming 2nd.

Or, to put this another way –

In standard, can you say that you’ll have a flawless game across the 8 x 40 turns (320 turns!) you’re going to face playing 5cc? What about the 8 x 14 turns (112 only) playing Red Deck Wins? As a old guy I can safely predict I’d be happy to make 4 mistakes in 100 turns, rather than worrying about the 12 I make in 300. If each mistake is a game loss, then I’ve lost 4 games (or two matches) in eight playing RDW – but I’ve lost 12 games (maybe 6 matches!) playing 5cc. Mathematically, surely my odds are better playing RDW?

Perhaps more importantly – if the control decks are all likely to get to Top 8 on power but their owners run out of steam, while you get to the Top 8 on skill AND still have enough mental energy to go on, surely your already ahead going into the Top 8?

Just a thought.

#6 eric281 on 02.19.09 at 7:31 am

You had me completely convinced to play martyr proc, but this is much more like what I’ve always had success with. Care to go over your SB strats at all?

#7 kingpete on 02.19.09 at 7:55 am

Kataki gets in for damages fairly easily, and makes engineered explosives that much more expensive to pop…

#8 mtgxman on 02.19.09 at 10:09 am

I like this list. I’m a little concerned about Sulfuric Vortex with the amount of pain you get from your lands. While it stops life gain, which is important, how often are you ahead in life enough to cast it?

#9 DAisaka09 on 02.19.09 at 1:14 pm

Mike the list looks pretty solid overall, i can see the logic in cutting molten rain and bumping up the vortex count to 4 (when vortex is good you really need to see it) but i have a couple of questions concerning the sideboard. How good is lash out really? I assume you side it in against the mirror and against domain zoo but it seems a little loose to me. I played them in my sb during GP LA and hated them. Also is Jitte really what you want? when i tested with it it wasn’t that good since all your guys except for goyf are really small and die easily. When you connect its obviously awesome but your guys never live long enough to do so. Gargadon maybe?

#10 Bob Baker on 02.19.09 at 3:29 pm

I also question the inclusion of Lash Out, but I like the inclusion of more main deck Vortexes. I was struggling to find a card to replace Molten Rain and I think this is the best solution I’ve seen.

#11 The American Nightmare on 02.19.09 at 7:01 pm

Under the old Fledgling Dragon principle, I’ve found Mystic Enforcer to be pretty good in a Zoo on Zoo matchup. I might be testing wrong on that, but I played a couple matches where I wish I had it instead of another random dork.

I’m kinda surprised though…not enough faith in the Bant AggroControl? You can play maindeck Trygon Predators for affinity, even some poor sap whose depending on a Mox! 😛

#12 sheetylogik on 02.19.09 at 8:52 pm

I say go for the gargadon swap. and good luck, your deck looks solid.

And about the “running out of steam” thing . I completely agree, its very hard to play control for 10 rounds + Top8 for sure. Oh how I miss Balacing Tings. I won 50% of my games last year on turn 4-5 with Draco.

going to the time limit every round = fail.

#13 Joe on 02.19.09 at 10:03 pm

Lash Out is a great card because of Clash. You do 3 damage (just like Incinerate), and you get to look at the top card of your library and decide whether or not to pitch it FOR FREE, and you can randomly mise 3 extra damage to the face by stealing a one-drop vs. their land (again, FOR FREE). I agree that your deck looks good. Have fun Mike.

#14 DavePetterson on 02.20.09 at 2:04 am

There is a hidden cost on Lash Out (and any Clash card, for that matter), though. Of course Clash can help smooth your own draws. If, however, your opponent needs to dig for an O-Ring in order to kill the Vortex that’s making their Helixes suck (or whatever card they need to stabilize), you’re helping them do that as well. It’s still better for you, but you give the enemy more options as well. Not so bad in the first few rounds, I guess, but it seems like it would have diminishing returns in the later rounds.

#15 ReAnimator on 02.20.09 at 1:32 pm

Isn’t Magma Jet just better than a maindeck Pillar? Like it digs you to vortexes, goyfs and sideboard cards. I’ve tested a lot of Naya zoo and i don’t think i would trade the magma jets for anything.
They always look weak on paper but if you actually play with them they are pretty incredible.
From your list i would -2 pillar -1 seal -1 vortex and +4 magma jets.
At the very least a Jet is better than a 4th vortex, as you don’t need multiple vortexes that often and in certain matchups you don’t want any.

#16 messels on 02.20.09 at 5:52 pm

i don’t agree w/ the lash out decision. it’s only 3 damage to target creature and potentially 3 damage to target player. i’d play magma jet. scry is pretty damn sick for a low-land count. could do hellspark elemental as an alternative too?? not sure how your testing shaped up…
also, why not volcanic fallout? hate against fae & elves without losing the tempo of hitting the opponent. ‘uncountable’ is pretty sweet against fae.
so yeah, i don’t like the lash out choice. :p
i also wonder about the tempo choice of a jitte. cast + equip is most often going to be two turns of tempo, right? wouldn’t you rather be dropping a hellspark or playing another [cheap] burn?
…other than that, i think your list looks really fun. lots of efficiency there.

#17 Top 8 Magic » Sages of the Anima plus Congregation at Dawn… Really? on 04.11.09 at 9:13 pm

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