Putting the Aggro Back Into Loam: Part 2 – Naya Loam at Eternal Masters

Tarmogoyf Mox Diamond

Hello again, Juzamjimjams here. To preface the second instalment of this series I’d just like to thank everyone for the feedback on my previous article – it was incredibly encouraging and it has definitely inspired me to continue producing content. The purpose of this article is to recap my experiences at the Australian Eternal Masters event that took place over the weekend of the 10th of June. I’ll also take this opportunity to comment on some of the matchups that I had prepared for leading to this event, as well as some general commentary in terms of where I’m at with the deck.

The list.

Lands: (27)
1 Barbarian Ring
1 Dark Depths
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Forest
3 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Karakas
1 Maze of Ith
1 Plains
2 Plateau
2 Savannah
1 Taiga
1 Thespian’s Stage
1 Tranquil Thicket
4 Wasteland
4 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills

Creatures: (13)
1 Gaddock Teeg
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
1 Renegade Rallier

Non-Creature Spells: (20)
2 Council’s Judgment
2 Green Sun’s Zenith
2 Life from the Loam
4 Punishing Fire
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Mox Diamond
2 Sylvan Library

Sideboard: (15)
1 Bojuka Bog
2 Containment Priest
1 Ethersworn Canonist
4 Faerie Macabre
1 Reclamation Sage
3 Swords to Plowshares
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

The list above is what I took to our weekly event the Thursday before Eternal Weekend (which served as our last minute testing night) – most numbers are the same as the original list, notable changes include Ethersworn Canonist and Bojuka Bog in the board, as well as Renegade Rallier in the main.

Renegade Rallier Bojuka Bog

Rallier took Tireless Trackers’ place for no purpose other than testing, though it was as early as Round 1 that I knew it was locked in.

Unlike Tracker, Rallier forwards proactive play patterns and is relatively less mana-intensive (despite being two colours). In the fair matchups, dropping a Rallier after trading off a creature in combat can easily swing the game in favour. However, in addition to this, the Rallier has obvious land synergies; be it recurring a Wasteland or ramping via fetches. It is also really fun to drop an untimely drawn Mox Diamond and say ‘trigger Revolt’ to your opponent. At this stage I’m happy with Rallier, it is a much needed tool to strengthen the consistency of the deck.

Bog was something of a metagame call; it’s inclusion is reflective of my expectations of the number of Black-Red Reanimator and Dredge decks there would be in the room– it’s also sure as hell better than Council’s Judgment against storm.

This slot could easily be any generic grave hate piece, I chose Bog for the obvious synergy with Knight of the Reliquary. At this point I am wondering if this slot may be better served to sure up other match ups. The mixture of Faerie Macabre and Containment Priest in conjunction with the swathe of answers in the main keeps the Reanimator matchup pretty reasonable, I also never played a graveyard deck other than Storm on the day; but that is neither here nor there.

My tournament.

Round 1: Sneak & Show.

Not really what we’re hoping to see in Round One, “the jig is up”, as it is said in Melbourne. This particular opponent is a local player, and therefore knows what I’m on (especially considering I had beaten them in the Finals three days prior). My opponent is aware of the things that can go wrong for them when they Show and Tell in a fatty – this gives me time, but also means they know they need to go for Sneak Attack to kill me.

I resolve a reasonably early Chalice and start clocking with a Goyf, I hold the KotR in hand for the possibility of a Show and Tell and manage to ride my Goyf to victory. Winning game one is huge.

One of the frustrations of this matchup is that they often have hands that can ignore a Chalice of the Void, though Chalice is still meaningful disruption that can buy you time. Sneak & Show has the ability to go ‘bigger’ than a Chalice on 1, unlike other blue decks. Granted, it still hits their cantrips, though I’ve regularly found that in the games where they let your Chalice resolve, this usually means they have the combo in hand already, rather than this being a signal of their guards being down. Regardless of the awkwardness of Chalice of the Void, it’s still necessary to shut down their one drops against their slower hands – these are the games we have the best chance.

Sideboarding for this matchup is a nightmare, we have some intuitive pieces to bring in and some very obvious drops, though we also have to prepare for some of their more heinous sideboard cards such as Blood Moon.

Out:
4 Punishing Fire – They don’t kill your opponent’s stuff.
1 Life from the Loam – Waste-locking isn’t probable.
1 Wasteland – See above.

In:
2 Containment Priest – Obviously.
1 Ethersworn Canonist – Makes them work harder to assemble the combo.
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben – Taxes their cantrips, has first strike in case she gets into combat with Emrakul.
1 Reclamation Sage – Hits Blood Moon, Sneak Attack and Omniscience.

It may seem correct to drop both Life from the Loams in this matchup. Hell, it probably is correct, I just respect the deck’s capacity to offer you incredibly clunky hands that Life from the Loam can help smooth out. It’s definitely not where you want to be in the matchup, but frankly, this matchup is not where you want to be anyway.

From here I lose in Game Three after an incredibly nerve-wracking and grindy match that takes close to the full fifty minutes. I am content with the way the deck performed. The reality is that Sneak & Show is designed to play through the interaction that we have, and has a considerable amount of inevitability when games go long. I took heart in my opponent saying “normally the Loam match ups are a Bye, your build is far tougher”.

0-1, gotta win out.

Round Two: Ad Nauseam Tendrils

Gaddock  Teeg

I resolved an early Gaddock Teeg against my storm opponent Game One and spent about 10 minutes asking myself internally if it was rude to tell him he literally cannot win. Regardless, he figured it out eventually and we moved on to game two.

The ANT matchup is fine; I feel somewhat better with this build thanks to a faster clock, but we don’t have Dark Confidant, so sometimes we just don’t draw what we need – this really stresses good mulligan decisions. With ANT specifically (in terms of Storm variants) I feel the most confident, as they’re not very likely to kill you turn one. This is, however, another Blue deck whose capacity to kill you through a Chalice of the Void you need to respect their . Their 0 drops and 2 drops are just as lethal, and they’ll often sandbag one drops into a Chalice to either test you or to get their Storm count high enough.

Out:
2 Council’s Judgment – This is probably the worst card in the matchup.
1 Life from the Loam – I like to shave them, for similar reasons as discussed against S&S.
1 Wasteland – They can kill you off a basic swamp.
1 Maze of Ith – They don’t have attackers, KOTR shenanigans are unlikely to be relevant.
3 Punishing Fire – They don’t have stuff to kill, usually.

In:
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben – Tax those spells gurl.
1 Ethersworn Canonist – Another ‘must remove’ bear.
4 Faerie Macabre – Not as good as surgical, but can still make their PiFs more difficult.
1 Bojuka Bog – Generic grave hate that is better than the cards that come out.

I lose Game Two to a faster goldfish, they drew what they needed before I was able to piece together anything meaningful. I go on to win Game Three with the dream of drawing all sideboard cards + a fast Goyf.

1-1, back on track.

Some notes on my sideboarding.

This is probably as good a time as ever to comment a little on my rationale in terms of boarding. When it comes to sideboarding with Loam specifically, and especially when you are running the Dark Depths combo in your 75, I believe that the card Life from the Loam is an important consistency tool. I’ve lost more games to clunky hands with two Mox Diamonds and a Dark Depths + all the good non-land cards in my deck than I can count, and this is clearly reflected in my sideboarding for matchups that the Loam engine is not at it’s strongest.

Please don’t take this as a suggestion that you should be leaving Life from the Loam in against the matchups that it’s bad against. I am simply attempting to shed light in terms of my approach of shaving the cards that aren’t fantastic, in lieu of ‘cut everything that is bad’.

Round Three: Eldrazi

Love the board stall match up. It always feels good to flex your combat math muscles after getting into a long rhythm of stack interaction and remembering Chalice triggers. When your opponent doesn’t know what you’re on, you gain a lot of percentage points by them wasting their first turn casting Chalice on 1. Regardless of this though, they still get on board very quickly, and in the same vein, we need to quickly achieve one of two things: assemble the Waste-lock before they can get on board, or get on board just as fast. I find that our life total gets low pretty quickly in this match up (yeah, duh), because even if we’re able to land our Goyfs and Knights quickly, they need time to grow – with the negligible amount of reach that the Eldrazi deck possesses (yeah, I know Endbringer pings), it feels better to take a bunch of early damage if it means you’ll be able to stall out the board with creatures that outclass theirs.

Knight of the Reliquary

I won this match 2-0, KotR is the absolute King of Board Stalls in that they are capable of blocking profitably with virtually no set up, can essentially block two creatures at once (with Maze of Ith), and generates value even when not closing out the game. I feel that this matchup is quite straightforward; you absolutely have to be on top of your game in terms of blocking and attacking, though this is a skill that you should be able to maintain with regularity whilst piloting this deck.

Out:
1 Gaddock Teeg – A 2/2 with virtually no text here.
4 Chalice of the Void – There’s basically no way to leverage this card meaningfully in this match up, their curve essentially starts at 3.

In:
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale – Their mana sucks and they need to hold on to their idiots.
3 Swords to Plowshares – Absolutely necessary, especially when on the draw.
1 Reclamation Sage – They often board into Leyline of the Void.

Leyline of the Void

Leyline of the Void is an interesting one in this matchup – I take a lot of pride in the general capacity that this build has to win through the Leyline, though this statement doesn’t really hold true in the Eldrazi matchup.

Our graveyard functions not only as an engine route for Wasteland and PFire, but more significantly allows our creatures to be better than Gray Ogres. The effort that we have to invest into the removal of said Leyline is negligible, between a pair of Pridemages, a pair of CJs, a pair of Green Suns and a Sage in the board; though it is still something that needs to factor into the gameplan.

On the whole, I’m pretty happy with the Eldrazi matchup, it is definitely favoured, but isn’t quite reaching Bye territory; I’m thinking 60-40.

2-1, feeling encouraged.

Round Four: Eldrazi

Frankly, there’s not much to comment on here that wasn’t covered in Round Three. I won 2-0, after making something of a decent Red-Green Lands impression in Game One – leading my opponent to board sub-optimally. There were some questionable plays involving Wastelanding and then attacking into my huge KotR, but I’m not sure that would have really changed the outcome.

3-1

Round Five: Elves

Punishing Fire

Another ‘fine’ match up. With the hands that you want it’s pretty heavily favoured, but Elves have a pretty amazing ability to gum up the board and ignore Punishing Fire. It may seem obvious, but the matchup really pressures you to have Mox Diamond in your opening hand, though this is not something you should be mulliganing for specifically as long as your hand is functional – sort of like Aether Vial in Death & Taxes. Game one I mulled to a fantastic six with a turn one Chalice with Grove and Punishing Fire on the play, can’t really ask for much more.

In:
2 Containment Priest – For Natural Order, Green Sun’s.
1 Ethersworn Canonist – Attacks them on the same axis as it does Storm.
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale – Fairly intuitive.

Out:
2 Wasteland – They know to fetch basics, though you still need a couple for their Cradles.
1 Council’s Judgment – Slow, but serviceable.
1 Maze of Ith – Not a huge amount of application against a very wide board.

In Game Two my opponent revealed Leyline of the Void, which is not something I am entirely accustomed to against Elves, though it makes sense. My opponent must have kept something of a clunky hand, which sometimes happens when keeping a Leyline hand (I honestly can’t remember if they mulliganed). I was able to chip away at their resources and land a Chalice of the Void at some point, though the most significant aspect of the game was my ability to navigate the board whilst ignoring their Leyline. This effectively meant they had kept a hand with one fewer card, and meant that the gamestate was positive enough for me so as to not necessitate the utilization of my graveyard; turns out Goyfs can still get big using only one grave. I won the match 2-0, and it was pretty brutal too, definitely felt like a good demonstration of the power level of Naya Loam.

4-1, still in this.

Round Five: Shardless BUG

Shardless looks pretty good on paper, though I am willing to admit that I don’t have a very good record against them with any variant of Loam. They’re a fair deck with removal that can hit anything in our deck (other than a Marit Lage). They’re also pretty capable of leveraging their resources through a Chalice of the Void on 1.

In Game One my opponent missed several land drops early, which allowed me to assemble each of my soft locks with relative ease – this was a bit of a non-game.

Out:
1 Karakas – Karakas provides no meaningful interaction, and I had to make a cut.
4 Chalice of the Void – They have some 1 drops, and they do have Ancestral Visions; it’s still too easy to ignore.

In:
1 Reclamation Sage – Sometimes they pack Null Rod, which isn’t huge, but is something. Sage is also a Nekrataal for a bunch of their threats; Strix, Shardless Agent.
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale – I find that the games they win are the games they run away with Deathrites, and hey, they might forget their trigger.
3 Swords to Plowshares – Chalices are coming out, and a fast answer to a scary Goyf is important.

Dark Depths The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

There was a turning point in Game Two where we had something of a stalled board, and I had an active KotR. I fetched a Tabernacle, with the hope of disrupting their mana, and weakening their Deathrite Shamans. Needless to say, it backfired. For some reason, having a pricey/pretty card in my deck distracted me from the correct line of fetching the Dark Depths combo, that BUG decks tend to struggle with when properly timed. The Tabernacle did a good amount of work for me earlier in the tournament against my Eldrazi opponents; it was a combination of this, and just wanting to play with my favourite toy that lead me to making this mistake.

Game Three was a hell of a game; it was grindy, and I had assembled a Wasteland soft-lock early, though my opponent was making every land drop for every turn of the game. There was another pivotal turn of the game where I definitely needed to play out my wasteland, but played a Dryad Arbor before I could stop myself. This is comp REL, I noticed my mistake the second it was down, but there are no take-backsies. Retrospectively, this was the point that I should have abandoned the Loam plan and started drawing cards so as to further my board presence. I did not, and eventually got run over by Goyfs backed up with Deathrites.

4-2, out of contention. Mentally I have dropped, though didn’t fill that out on the matchslip.

Round Seven: Death & Taxes

Still let down from the previous match, I was not really mentally present and was beat to shit by Grizzly Bears in two games. My opponent did surprise me with a main deck Magus of the Moon, which I had heard was a thing, but had never experienced.

My boarding would have been something like this:

Out:
4 Chalice of the Void – Another deck that is fantastic at ignoring and answering Chalice.
1 Gaddock Teeg – Literal 2/2 with downside in this matchup.

In:
1 Reclamation Sage – They have a bunch of artifacts.
3 Swords to Plowshares – The games that they overwhelm us with idiots are hard to win.1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale – At this point in the tournament I wish this was a Kozilek’s Return, though it’ll do for now.

D&T is the matchup in Legacy that I have, by far, the most experience with – shout out to my boi M Kelly. I am content with the way Naya Loam is positioned against it; having better mana is huge, Council’s Judgment is also pretty damn snazzy; I’ve got it at 50:50.

Post-tournament thoughts.

Eternal Masters provided me with plenty of opportunities for reflection with regard to my approach to the tournament (and Magic as a whole), as well as some great learning opportunities for the development of my deck.

Firstly, I think that playing with cards just because you like them is a perfectly valid reason to have them in your list. Deckbuilding, in its essence, is a creative process and therefore you are likely to include your ‘fun’ cards in earlier iterations of the deck; before cutting them in tuning.

The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is a fucking powerful card, and is one of my favourite cards in the game, but it’s probably better in 4c Loam (and obviously, Lands) than in Naya. The matchups that you want Tabernacle in, other than Elves, I’ve found are also the matchups that you want to be very present on the board. Ergo, you’ll be heavily taxed by your own lock piece.

Kozilek's Return

The most common criticism I have received from my earlier lists are a lack of a board wipe; I’ve since seen Pyroclasm get tested by Local Legend Xian, though Kozilek’s Return has the strength of dodging Prelate on 2 as well as getting through protection effects. K Return seems pretty important for the games that you fall behind against decks such as Elves and DnT, therefore I’ve since replaced The Tabernacle with Kozilek’s Return. This will also mitigate my apparent predisposition to fetch it with Knight of the Reliquary suboptimally; I recognise this as one of my biases.

In terms of the decks performance as a whole, I was really impressed. My loss to Sneak & Show was very close, and I definitely felt that I had the necessary tools to win – I don’t think that playing a Loam strategy is where you want to be in the first place to be well placed against that deck, but it definitely feels nice to escape auto-loss territory.

There was definitely an error in my mentality for this tournament – I was so focused on proving myself (by succeeding with the deck) that I allowed my losses to take away from the joy of the games. Legacy is about the boys, and I definitely feel liberated having recognised that I was allowing a Spikey mentality to detract from the experience of playing my favourite card game with some of my favourite people.

With Eternal Masters done and dusted for another year, I intend to focus on tuning the deck in a way that will improve consistency; it feels like a waste to have fantastic mana and fail to leverage it.

Tweaks for tuning – my current list.

Lands: (27)
1 Barbarian Ring
1 Dark Depths – I’m still convinced that this is a natural fit in the build.
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Forest
3 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Karakas
1 Maze of Ith/Kor Haven
1 Plains
2 Plateau
2 Savannah
1 Taiga
1 Thespian’s Stage
1 Tranquil Thicket
4 Wasteland
4 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills

Creatures: (13)
1 Gaddock Teeg
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
3 Tarmogoyf – We still have six of them.
1 Renegade Rallier

Non-Creature Spells: (20)
2 Council’s Judgment
3 Green Sun’s Zenith – I’ve wanted to play three of these from the start, cutting is hard.
2 Life from the Loam
4 Punishing Fire
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Mox Diamond
2 Sylvan Library

Sideboard: (15)
1 Kozilek’s Return
2 Containment Priest
1 Ethersworn Canonist
4 Leyline of the Void – I’m worried that this is a little all-in, but I guess we’ll see.
1 Reclamation Sage
3 Swords to Plowshares
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

At this stage of testing I have noticed that the deck doesn’t really have power level issues; the games you lose are the games that you draw the wrong half of your deck. To this end, the extra Green Sun’s Zenith is there to add a little flexibility in terms of the threat that you want; note that Green Sun’s can act as a Naturalize effect when you need it and Qasali Pridemage will also sometimes attack better than a Goyf in the first few turns.

Consideration of Magus of the Crucible.

Ramunao Excavator

I think that this cool dude has some fantastic potential in Loam variants, the slot that this might fit is where Renegade Rallier is currently sitting – though I am hesitant to drop the Rallier as another important consistency tool.

In my opinion, it’s also very clear that you don’t drop a Knight of the Reliquary for this, whilst a very promising effect; KotR is literally the shoulders of the deck as both the biggest threat, and an engine card.

Some Thoughts on other matchups.

Miracles 2.0

Portent

Loam pilots used to end up in different camps in terms of our position against old Miracles, and whilst I definitely believed we were favored, I think we are even more so now. As a start, they’re far less capable of relying on Terminus as a way to shut us down, and of similar importance, we no longer have to focus on removing a Counterbalance in order to resolve our spells. Jace, the Mind Sculptor has historically been a strong way to combat the Loam decks, though with two main deck Council’s Judgments and a higher density of Punishing Fires he is definitely easier to remove. Naya Loam is also perfectly capable of outracing a Jace; a strength that I think 4c Loam lacks.

Miracles 2.0 seems to have a higher density of one drops now, which improves our already fantastic Chalices. In addition to this, they’ve also lost a huge amount of power with the loss of Top. I believe we are favoured, probably only slightly, either 60:40 or 55:45. The subgame of ‘how much damage are you willing to let this Dryad Arbor deal you?’ is a really exciting one, and we really stretch the axes on which they have to answer us – I recently played a game against Miracle Man Stephen Tang a couple weeks ago where I manually ticked down a Dark Depths to 1 counter, had a Barb Ring loop going and was still threatening resolving creatures in one game. We drew, but it was still awesome.

Honda Civic (Grixis Delver)

Gurmag Angler

We basically chose this strategy with the hope of beating up on Blue decks, though you should never underestimate their consistency. Their threats, other than the Fish, all die to Punishing Fire; the Waste-lock is also pretty effective here. It can be difficult to catch up if they’re on the play with a Deathrite, the card is just absurd, but this is definitely at least a slightly favored matchup, similar numbers to Miracles.

Big Daddy Lands (Red-Green Combo Lands).

Maze of Ith

This matchup is a thing of beauty, you’ll both try to Wasteland each other into oblivion, and one of you might succeed. The Thespian’s Stage subgame is also really tight, because a Marit Lage facing down a Marit Lage is an interesting boardstate to navigate. Ultimately, however, I think that we’re favored. Most of our threats are Punishing Fire proof, Maze of Ith is also not a particularly effective way to hold us at bay (due to the aforementioned Wasteland battle). There is something to be said of the hands that they have turn one Exploration and get their Life from the Loam engine on early, though these games are still perfectly winnable.

I have a similar opinion of this matchup as the Green-Black Turbo Depths match up, though I think that Lands is slightly favored where Green-Black Depths is slightly unfavored for us. Lightning speed is a great way to combat Loam in general, and if you’ve got a turn one or two 20/20, sometimes I just won’t have the setup to answer it.

All in all I’ve got Lands as 60/40 favored, and I only bring up Depths because of the similar nature of the subgames, which I’ve got at 40/60 unfavored (I recently died to Fling in three games against Depths, it was disgusting).

Czech Pile (4c Control).

Kolaghan's Command Baleful Strix

This is a swingy one. Their threats are very squishy, but also really annoying to handle. Punishing Fire as well as Life from the Loam are both obviously at a premium here, but a well timed Counterspell can very easily swing the game – it may seem bad to Force of Will a recurrable spell, but if they’re able to land a Leovold or exile the Loam/Pfire with a DRS, it can be pretty difficult for us to recover. They also really overwhelm us in the card advantage war. If we’re able to leverage a Sylvan Library well, we might have a good chance, but I have so far not played against a Czech Pile player that didn’t respect Library with an Abrupt Decay. This is definitely the matchup that I feel the lack of Dark Confidant most heavily, Snapcaster Mage is just a really annoying card to play against with a deck that is largely constructed around sorceries.

I have this matchup as 70/30 unfavored, it is definitely not unwinnable, because they have greedy mana and squishy threats. Ultimately they’re better at resetting after the huge exchange of resources that happens in the first few turns, however.

Closing Thoughts.

The deck feels awesome. I had a pretty bad weekend of side events at GP Sydney with it, but a huge amount of it was definitely my exhaustion from scrubbing Day One of the main event. We also don’t play Brainstorm (and therefore sometimes don’t draw what we need).

It’s really cool to see people playing the deck too, a bunch of local guys have given it a go to some pretty reasonable results in our weeklies here in Melbourne. If you’d like to get into contact with me about the deck, or anything Magic related; you’ll find me as @juzamjimjams on The Source and Twitter. My next article will probably be a primer for the deck unless I can think of something more topical. In any case, thanks for reading!

Also, if you’re a Loam Pilot, or have any interest in the deck as a whole, check out the Facebook group I created as a place for a bit of an informal environment for some chat around the deck.

By James O’Brien

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