Monday, 23 November 2020

Naya Landfall .dec

Naya landfall based zoo was the best cube deck after original Zendikar was released. This was the slow beginning of the creature power creep. There were a couple of outliers from recent sets like Kitchen Finks, Wild Nacatl, and Bloodbraid Elf which combined very well with the aggressive landfall dorks. This was coming from an era in cube where running dedicated creature removal was risky as it could easily have no targets, or at least no worthwhile ones for such cards. The quality of threats in the Naya zoo deck of the time just blew the socks off the opposition. If they were playing dorks they would be crushed for tempo and utterly outclassed. If not they would goldfish at such a rate that control and combo decks simply couldn't keep up. It was the spread of cards Zendikar brought to the table that really gave zoo the consistency. Lotus Cobra was foolish burst. Loam Lion and Goblin Guide bulked out the one drops giving it not only one of the most playable one drop tempo plays but also hands down the best. Other decks were still packing things like Carnophage and Jackal Pup, you were flopping out 2/3s and they were your weakest cards!

Sure, the occasional Wrath would buy a bunch of time but the manlands would generally mop up. It was also the first time we really saw cards that were reasonable tempo also providing value be that in persist or cascade, or just in popping back from the bin like Vengevine. It took a fair while for the meta to adapt and other colours to catch up before Naya zoo was dethroned. Unlike most other archetypes that have had the top spot for a period of time Naya has never got back there.

A new Zendiakar set arrives with new landfall cards and it is very much time to revisit an aggressive Naya landfall based build. I do not think this will be taking Naya back to the top spot in cube by any means but this deck is impressively punchy. It has adapted to the modern cube meta and is far lower to the ground and trying to abuse synergies far more than just having high powered individual cards. I wouldn't even really class this as a zoo deck. It is a landfall aggro deck and is probably closer to a Hardened Scales or Kiln Fiend deck. This is my take on a 2020 Naya landfall list;

23 Spells

Steppe Lynx
Akoum Hellhound
Wild Nacatl
Scythe Leopard

Wayward Guide-Beast
Sakura Tribe Scout
Skyshroud Ranger
Elvish Reclaimer

Skyclave Pickaxe

Brushfire Elemental
Plated Geopede
Fearless Fledgling
Lotus Cobra

Wrenn and Six
Once Upon a Time

Living Twister
Kazandu Mammoth / Valley
Retreat to Valakut
Valakut Exploration

Radha, Heart of Keld
Tireless Tracker / Renegade Rallier 
Wayward Swordtooth
Kazuul's Fury / Cliffs

17 lands

Horizon Canopy
Sunbaked Canyon

Rampaging Ravine
Gruul Turf
KessigWolf Run

Karplusan Forest

Arid Mesa
Wooded Foothills
Windswept Heath
Misty Rainforest / Verdant Catacombs

Stomping Ground
Sacred Foundry
Temple Garden


The core hard hitting one and two drop classics in Steppe Lynx and Geopede doubled up with Akoum Hellhound and Brushfire Elemental. This redundancy in low level synergy payoff makes it worthwhile to really push the landfall side of the deck and even go above and beyond the ideal double hit. To this end I included a variety of cards that allow for extra landfall triggers and of course ways to ensure you have lands to lay consistently. In testing this list was averaging over two landfall triggers a turn for the six or so turns of the game which was pretty impressive. Hitting over four on occasion which is fairly silly but a lot of fun. I really wanted to include Atarka's Command so as to add to the means of getting extra land into play. Sadly it isn't really removal or a threat and in a synergy list this tight it is pretty hard to justify despite being really cute.

The one drop dorks that tap to put extra lands into play were very impressive and really carried the deck. All my best and most powerful games involved sticking one of them early and keeping it in play for a while. Sadly Aboreal Grazer isn't the right kind of effect. You are not trying to ramp really, you are just after the triggers. Swordtooth was decent. It wasn't uncommon to get the blessing by turn four or five and he is very big when you do. Dryad of the Illysian Grove is the safer option giving a bit of fixing and always being able to tangle in combat. Three mana 2/4 dorks are not exactly aggressive though so for once I do rather prefer the polar option. They feel pretty comparable overall but you probably don't need both as the one drops are your go to. Exploration is certainly a consideration over the more expensive options. 

A lot of nice Gruul cards that work with lands have been printed since the first Zendikar set and did a lot of work to help power up the deck. Wrenn and Six and Radha are great for helping you hit those lands while also being good high tempo and value threats. The extra Canopy land is great too and lets you effectively run cycling lands that also trigger your landfall and never come into play tapped. The canopy lands effectively wasting land drops to cycle isn't an issue in this deck as you have lots of land, capacity to get more lands, multiple land drops, all on top of a very low curve. This is why Guide-Beast is good, returning lands is often a plus. They are also much better fixing and tempo than any of the cycling land alternatives.

Spell lands are a nice little boost to this list as well. They let you play more lands in the deck without risk of flooding. The Mammoth is obviously great but the Fling Cliffs are perhaps a little cute. 17 lands doesn't sound like that many plus Once Upon a Time is 18/39 as far as opening hands go. A bounce land makes that closer to 19/39. The two spell lands bring it to 21/39 which gives much better odds on having landfall all the time. Nearly 20% more land effectively which ensures you don't dry up on the landfall. On the flip side, with Once Upon a Time, two Horizon lands, a man land, and a utility land, you are looking like you are closer to 13/39 lands and safe on flooding. It is always lovely when you can gain effective card quality in a tempo deck and the utility and function of the lands in this deck really lets you exploit that heavily. 

As ever with these test decks I design them far more towards the goldfish optimal build and neglect interaction. In practice I should have a bunch more things like good old Lightning Bolt. Boros Charm looks good for wrath protection and wiping someone out with a big double striker. Much like Atarka's Command it is just a bit too much of a luxury. Selesnya Charm and Dromoka's Command would be my normal go to for utility removal in these colours. I might be able to get away with Shard Volley in this list if Bolt and other good options are unavailable! Even Scythe Tiger looks viable but I suspect cards like Sylvan Safekeeper would be wiser uses of land sacrifices. I could also just go a bit bigger and play Felidar Retreat or top quality classics like Collected Company, Bloodbraid Elf and Ghor-Clan Rampager.

All in all the deck is just a beatdown deck but it has some impressive early game, some very high roll draws, and it has a good chunk of late game for a deck with such a low curve and high aggression. It is a little too high on the synergy to become something you can find and do in drafting cubes but it was incredibly impressive. It could just pull so far ahead in basically all relevant metrics and do so with incredible speed off the mark. Turn three kills are a very real thing! I wouldn't be shocked if similar looking things appear in modern when the meta is rip for a good old zoo style beatdown. Below are my considerations for the deck that didn't make the cut for one reason or another but easily could with certain tweaks or leanings. I also found myself tempted towards going blue for the power of Omnath and Uro but at that point you should really be going for a midrange deck and that is a whole different sort of thing. 

Spikefield Hazard
Shatterskull Smashing
Satyr Wayfinder
Harvest Wurm
Vinelasher Kudzu
Life from the Loam
Undergrowth Champion
Territorial Scythecat
Dryad of Illysian Grove
Courser of Kruphix
Knight of the Reliquary
Rhonas the Indomaitable
Renegade Rallier 
Felidar Retreat


  1. I would *LOVE* to include a significant Landfall package to spice up Naya but I worry drafters won't see enough cards (critical density) in the draft *and* I am also a bit loathe to just "jam in max # of fetchlands" as a crutch because those slots are currently dedicated to other (more varied) lands. Without a reliable way to trigger landfall each turn a lot of these guys run out of steam fast and most midrange decks just run them over. :( I guess this is just the classic struggle with most Keyword archetypes. I will allow that Landfall is far less parasitic than most of these--that's why it still has my attention! And then I look to your cube(s) for guidance here and...I don't see them?

    How/When do these packages see play? How do you integrate them in your drafts? Do you build supplmental modules for a draft and then take them out at the end? Sorry if these are stupid/obvious questions but I've been wondering this for a while now.

    1. These are all good questions! Landfall is certainly one of the keywords that gets away with little support. A lot of the cards stand up well on their own and have high power. However you are right, there is little merit in trying to support such things. It can be fun for a bit but cube is best when you have minimal narrow or polar cards for which these zoo landfall cards are on both accounts. Even just supporting zoo is a bit like hard work in most cubes and not worth the return.

      When creatures were weaker I did support a landfall zoo archetype in my cube and it was solid but that era is long gone. I also tested out most of the newer landfall cards and found them to be good but not quite there for the most part.

      You can include really whatever you like in cube but in order to do so you need to balance the power level accordingly. Cards that allow for multiple land drops in a turn mitigate reliance on sac lands if that is a concern. A peasant cube would be a very suitable power level for a zoo landfall archetype but the mana base would be a real burden. It often looks very out of place or defeats the point of more budget cubes but I am generally in favour of having the best possible mana in a cube. If fixing is too good play less of it rather than worse cards but we are getting off point here!

      So how do I play these kinds of cards and deck? In the more constructed end of cube game play. Open rotisseries and points list formats allow for essentially constructed magic. In this case I literally built up the deck alongside a bunch of other decks I wanted to test and did a little tournament with them.