Apart from my mind being in block mode for a few weeks, I have been quite interested in finding the right way(s) to take advantage of Deadeye Navigator in standard, as he is easily one of my favorite cards from a set of mostly unimpressive options. For those of you that are curious, I played a BUG list at GP Anaheim this week to a very modest 5-4 finish. There are some great stories from the weekend, which include winning a game against an opponent that resolved eight (8!) Unburial Rites, decking a Miracle Control player in a 48-minute-long game one, and experiencing incredibly delicious Kogi Korean BBQ burgers at a place across from the venue called Burger Land, which is also two blocks from Disneyland. I also watched a friend of mine take a BW deck to a 6-3 finish riding Gloom Surgeon, Sorin, Demonic Rising, and Bloodline Keeper. My losses were losses, and there typically is not much to say about them - sometimes you get all of the lands and sometimes you get none of the lands. I most certainly did not have the best deck in the room, but I would say that it's also true that the deck I chose to play was the right choice for me because I knew it well, and I was prepared with answers to every deck and card in the format. Being in a situation in which I can always find the right card to grind me out of a rough spot is exactly where I wanted to be this weekend, and BUG certainly affords that opportunity. I will look into possibly moving some of the deck's better interactions to the standard format, but it's more likely that an archetype like that will be more accomplishable after the rotation when we return to Ravnica in October.
For now, though, we still need new decks, and the decks I build between now and October actually have to consider a card called Lingering Souls as being either a legitimate threat to existence or a critical component thereof. This is a change that makes cards like Wolfir Silverheart, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Garruk Relentless (among many others) much less relevant than they have been over the past few weeks. As I mentioned before, the card of the week is Deadeye Navigator, and I think it's possible that he could become the card of the next few weeks as well. Let's go over the list of reasons why we could spend quite a bit of time talking about this relatively silent blue six-drop.
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Deadeye Navigator obviously exists to provide the Venser blink for your favorite ETB creatures while building inevitability or some form of in-game lock. When building with him, it's important to make a list of all of the cards that could potentially benefit from entering the battlefield on multiple occasions at each point in the mana curve. Let's not forget that if we have Navigator in play and bonded, we have 6 mana, two of it is blue, and it's likely that there are 3 blue sources as well, so we would be able to untap and blink something three times in one turn if we want to. It's important to know where your options lie in the curve because it's less likely that you will want to blink a one drop over and over because of the number of spells that will typically be cast between the two halves of the combo. Obviously you could wait to cast the one drop, but if I've made my point, it should be something along the lines of “we want things that cost more than 1U to get paired with Navigator so that we can feel like we're getting more value out of blinking it than we are from casting it.”
I will spare you the list of cards with ETB triggers in this week's article as everyone is capable of performing a Gatherer search, but rather, I will cut straight to the list that I think most represents the direction in which most players will expect to take a deck concept like this and review a few of the cards that seem to go well with the Navigator in the UW color scheme that satisfies Venser's requirements.
The deck is pretty simple, and while it looks like it might be a higher level deck, it's actually relatively easy to play. The plan is obviously to cast guys that have abilities and then attempt to use those abilities to maximum feasibility. Some of the cuter interactions with the deck include blinking Dignitary on more than one occasion or at least once per turn to lock your opponent out of combat until he or she can break out of the combo, and blinking Fiend Hunter multiple times with Navigator, stacking his ETB and LTB triggers in such a way that it exiles the targets permanently (hint: the order is Fiend Hunter ETB trigger, then soulbond resolving soulbond and immediately blinking the Fiend Hunter again while the ETB trigger is still on the stack. This will then put his LTB trigger on top, causing it to resolve before the ETB trigger that will eventually exile the creature permanently when you decide to break the chain.)
I did a bit of testing with this deck back when Avacyn Restored was a brand new set, and quickly realized that four is the exact quantity of Stonehorn Dignitaries necessary for the deck to perform well. Without four of that guy, it becomes a question at times whether or not you will be able to stabilize enough to lock out the opponent and begin working toward blink combo victories.
The Day of Judgments in the main feel bad sometimes, as the deck actually possesses the ability to be the beatdown as well, with acceptably aggressive creature drops at 2, 3, and 4 mana. They're quite necessary, though, as it's hardly the kind of deck that wants to play those creatures and turn them sideways, but having them makes having 4 Days a bit excessive. The card that isn't in the deck but was once before is Oblivion Ring, which performs well with Venser because of the ability to use it early and then Recycle it to get rid of something more important later in the game. If your metagame is less aggressive than mine and most of the others I've seen and heard about, feel free to swap the Days with Oblivion Rings, as it will likely be better for you to lean on the chump blockers and O Rings to move into the late game.
Cards that don't fit the plan of bonding with navigator or blinking with Venser every turn are typically going to ensure the possibility of setting up the combos you want to play. Ponder and Day of Judgment have obvious applications, and the deck wouldn't be complete without the DoJ to reset hairy situations that get out of hand before Dignitary can go to work. Gideon is the universal protector, aggro stifler, and big man on campus in a majority of decks that look to keep themselves in the game against any deck. I consider Inquisitor Exarch to be part of the survival team, but he is certainly there to be abused as a potential win condition with any of the blink effects, but particularly Deadeye Navigator. Exarch is just incredibly clutch in this deck at any point in the game.
Other cards that go well with the Navigator, but just barely didn't make the cut in the list above include:
Cathedral Sanctifier - provides the same effect as Exarch, but with less ability to actually help do things because of his diminutive size and lack of option to nug the dome to close out the longer games.
AEther Adept - Mist Raven is in this conversation, but I decided that just eating creatures is usually going to be better than bouncing them, so Fiend Hunter made the cut in this slot instead. Fiend Hunter is also much easier on the mana requirements of turns 1-4 when following Exarch, who really wants to have WW on turn 2.
Geist-Honored Monk - makes dudes and is a dude, but that's about it. Blade Splicer also makes dudes and is a dude, so for me, quality is better than quantity, and I think Blade Splicer's ability to clog the board is invaluable at 3 CMC. Monk is great, but there are more important things to do and better options at 5 CMC.
Precursor Golem - In a similar boat as Monk, Golem actually has the value of posing a decent win condition with Venser. Casting Golem and sliding with Venser or Blinking with Conjurer's Closet sets you up with 15 power and the ability to -1 Venser on the next turn for what's usually lethal combat damage. It's nice, but it turned out to be something that's not exactly necessary.
The sideboard for this deck is up in the air, as the results against control-based matches depend on whether or not your opponent has removal that is efficient enough to get rid of Navigator. Because he also has the blink ability, timing is everything if your opponent hopes to kill your navigator with anything that isn't a board wipe spell. If you find yourself struggling a little bit with control, Negate is a pretty strong option in addition to bringing in more Gideons or having a Karn or two in the board. Your aggro matchups are pretty well-set, and I think Mortarpod might be the only way to improve these matchups outside of boarding in removal for the Swords or additional DoJ. Blade Splicer has been very good here, so I'm not sure you will even need to bring those in from the board.
There are definitely options beyond the traditional UW shell, and I will definitely be reviewing and discussing those options as the weeks go by. Some of my favorite Deadeye Navigator targets are Acidic Slime and Zealous Conscripts, so there's a chance we'll be able to discuss Navigating things in all 5 colors during Summer Magic. Green targets afford us the opportunity to also ramp our mana and start going to work very quickly, which is something that might make the combo a little more stable. Giving up Venser seems like a big deal, but I'm beginning to even think that Conjurer's Closet is capable of imitating him in the decks that don't run his colors. There will be a lack of two other abilities which are insanely powerful, but the general blink locks can still exist with little sacrifice in the way of consistency.
In addition to meddling around with Deadeye Navigator, I will also dedicate a bit of time to reader requests in the coming weeks. Some of you have left comments or messaged me already, but now that we're already a few weeks into Avacyn Restored standard, I want to hear from you - what would you like to see in The Brewery next month? Which cards have you seen that you'd like to fit into some kind of pile that might be able to win a few games? Perhaps a deck that powers out a turn 3-4 Karn or other large threat via Druids' Repository - nothing is outside the bounds. Please leave a comment this week with the things you'd like to see and I will do my best to make it happen.
Thanks as always for reading, and if you haven't read the article about why we brew, please go check it out here.
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