Standard Deck Tech: Naya Runes
I’ve been getting real comfortable with the Khaldhiem Runes deck lately. Between FNM’s, ladder, and occasional Standard games around the kitchen table, I’ve seen a lot of Jukai Naturalists, Runes of Speed, and Showdown of the Skalds. The deck saw some success during Khaldhiem’s release, still riding with enchantment support from the earlier high-power sets like Theros: Beyond Death and War of the Spark. Although, back then there were quite a few other powerful decks that stifled enchantments. It wouldn't be until Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty that the deck would really come together.
Looking at current Standard Enchantment lists, it reads like a draft best-of from NEO: a playset of Generous Visitors and Jukai Natrualists make up your early game drops. Getting these out on turn one and two respectively can go toe-to-toe with aggro lists provided you hit your Rune or Saga drops. Opening hands should usually contain one or the other, along with two or more enchantments. It's crucial to get those +1/+1 counters, since the decks like Hinata and Vampires are running Voltage Surge. While that early removal is scary, Tamiyo’s Safekeeping can blow out opponents who overcommit to clearing your aggression. However, as you rank up the ladder or become a regular in FNM’s, most of your opponents removal will be going into Runeforge Champion.
Let's talk about runes, a nd the enabler of those runes: Runeforge Champion. Runeforge is a tutor for one of the 3 runes in our deck: Rune of Might, Rune of Speed, and Rune of Sustiance. Each rune will draw you a card when played, and each rune costs 1 generic with Runeforge on the field. That becomes free with both Runeforge AND Natrualist, and a free hand of runes usually means a closed out round.
Knowing what to tutor for is key to taking wins on Naya Enchantments; and while I have some advice for what to take, it’s really a sense you develop through playing the deck and playing Standard. Rune of Speed is usually the safest pick. It can be a bit of a win-more card as it doesn't make your beaters more durable, but it can get a freshly cast Runeforge or Kami of Transcendence into the red zone. Rune of Might is your go-to protective rune, as the boost to power and toughness keeps your creatures out of range of your opponents burn. Rune of Sustiance is strong in the aggro mirror, but the lack of P/T increases hurts, and you need the damage in the control and midrange matchups.
Showdown of the Skalds was a staple of this deck back in Khaldhiem, and it’s not left yet. Oftentimes this is your mid-to-late game closer. In a perfect match, you’ll be playing out free runes to draw threats to then buff next turn with more free runes. In reality, this is usually used to draw past land drops, and to eke out a few extra points of damage for the win. Showdown of the Skalds is a tough cast, and tends to go down a few copies for a playset of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Kiki-Jikki lives on, giving fresh standard players nightmares as a delayed Jikki is still a Jikki, on top of generating treasures and looting. All coming at the cost of three mana- or less with your Jukai Naturalists. Goblin Shaman can also be a solid target for runes and Visitor buffs, keeping your mana fixed and your treasures plentiful. Both these sagas come out as soon as you can play them, even without things to benefit off enchantments. They’ll be your main way of drawing cards and setting up when the inevitable counterspells or removal come out.
Finally, a bit of sideboard talk. Some decks run the Legion Angel package from ZKR- I’m not a huge fan, but I see the appeal in some matchups. Cut a Rune of Speed for the main deck angel and slot the rest of the playset in the sideboard. Vampires is still running wild, so one or two Circle of Confinement is a great play. When up against vampires, cut your Kami of Transcendence and a Rune of Sustiance. Getting your opponent low before Evelyn, the Covetous comes down is key. For the mirror, I really like Rip Apart and Strangle. Strangle usually gets three copies, and Rip Apart gets two. The remainder of the sideboard will heavily depend on the local meta if you’re playing in FNM’s or with friends. Experiment with extra copies of your Sagas, and try to find tech against your problem cards. Rip Apart made its way into my deck after matching into the mirror and getting the worse draws- maybe you’ll have a similar discovery.
I’ll be sad to see the deck go come The Brother’s War in November. Though, with Double Masters and Commander Legends 2, we’ve got this extended standard season to have one last hurrah for Runes. I don’t see Naya Enchantments dethroning any of the Vampires or Jeskai lists, but I can absolutely see this deck hovering around Tier 1. Few other decks in the format feel as fun to play as Enchantments, but hey- Maybe Dominaria United will give the deck something to absolutely break the format for a month or two!