A few weeks ago I played the Gr Monsters/Devotion deck from my previous article at a PTQ at Something 2 Do in Louisville. The event for me was disappointing. I made some mistakes in round one and picked up a loss. I was unable to win all of my remaining rounds and found myself a spectator as the event unfolded. The finals of the event was actually won by an interesting green based devotion deck that was splashing black for various removal spells. Most of the problems I was having with my Gr list were with creatures, so adding some removal spells to help me out seemed effective. I started with the list that John Pellman won that PTQ with.
Devoted to John Pellman
This list was interesting to me. It was clearly a devotion based deck, not hedging between monsters and devotion like the deck I had been playing.
Sylvan Primordial seems pretty powerful in this environment. There is almost no deck where there is not something you good for you to destroy. I’d say the blue devotion deck comes the closest, but I’m happy with a 6/8 that has reach against them!
There were some choices I was unsure of. The Underworld Cerberus seemed out of place. Witchstalker was also something most people do not play. His slot is usually taken by Boon Satyr or Reverent Hunter. I decided to keep him in the deck. I like that it added two to my green devotion. Being a 3/3 is also good when you want to fight something with Domri Rade. It allows you to kill Nightveil Specter, which is often something I want to do. Boon Satyr often trades with whatever you want to fight because it has so little toughness, which can be frustrating when you are trying to make your Nykthos actually produce mana.
The lack of Voyaging Satyr was also strange to me considering how many expensive cards his deck was playing. I felt like it would be difficult to win games if I did not draw a Nykthos.
I decided on a slightly different removal suite in my sideboard. I removed the Doom Blades for additional copies of Ultimate Price. I think Doom Blade is a good card for other decks, but I wanted more removal that would kill Pack Rat and Desecration Demon.
Here is a quick summary of that event.
Round 1 – Justin Lyons (Gu Devotion) 0-2
Round 2 – Corey Castelli (Orzhov Midrange) 2-1
Round 3 – Brain Naftzger (Black Devotion) 0-2
As you can see, Columbus did not go well for me. In most cases I would continue to play the event after two losses because I would still able to win something. The games I had played with this deck were just not fun though. I felt like I had too many expensive spells for this many lands and mana-producing creatures. This made my draws clunky and my deck rarely functioned as intended.
The removal I decided to splash was also not performing up to my expectations. I was comically punished for having Ultimate Price instead of Doom Blade in round one when facing down Prophet of Kruphix and Prime Speaker Zegana. In the two matches I did play against Desecration Demon and Pack Rat the removal just didn’t do enough. I don’t think trying to fight the black decks with single target removal is the way I should be trying to beat them.
Just before Pro Tour Theros I had been working on a Prime Speaker deck that was playing blue, red and green with Andrew Shrout. We ended up dismissing the deck idea because there was not enough time for him to tune it. After losing to the Gu variation of the deck in Columbus, I decided to explore that deck again. Here is the list I came to.
There were a couple cards that made this variation stand out to me. The first of these is Progenitor Mimic. Clones are usually fine cards, but this one has an extra ability that is very powerful in this environment. Most of the decks have a creature that is nearly impossible to beat if you keep making it every turn (Master of Waves, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Fanatic of Mogis). Being able to cast it at instant speed with Prophet of Kruphix also makes it far more likely you’re going to get its ability to start happening.
Turn // Burn is the next card I want to mention. It is a removal spell that covers all the problems I wanted to answer. Burn helps with Pack Rat on the draw as well as killing cards like Ash Zealot, and Tidebinder Mage. Turn can remove Master of Waves tokens. Fusing the spell will deal with Desecration Demon, Nightveil Specter, Thassa, Polukranos, Stormbreath Dragon and Purphoros.
In addition to those two cards I was getting access to the best parts of Gr and Gu devotion. The only real concern I had for this deck was whether or not the mana base was going to be a problem.
I took the deck to a PTQ in Richmond, Kentucky. Here is a rundown of my event.
Round 1 – Edgar Tan (Grb Devotion) – 2-1
Round 2 – Desmond Swafford (Rw Devotion) – 2-0
Round 3 – James Cardwell (Rw Devotion) – 2-0
Round 4 – Josh Reeves (Black Devotion) 2-0
Round 5 – Thomas Graves (Black Devotion) 0-2
Round 6 – Jonathon Wright (UW Control) 1-2
Round 7 – Eric Mitchell (Gr Monsters) 2-0
Several rounds into the event I realized I was boarding Domri out a lot. In round one, my creatures were much weaker than my opponents and I was often unable to fight profitably so I cut him. I also felt it was a weak card on the draw against Rw Devotion. Boros Reckoner makes to build him up, and most of my creatures just trade with my opponents, which isn’t really what I want to be doing against them. The only times I really enjoy Domri are when I also have Polukranos.
Normally I am happy to have Domri against decks like UW or Black Devotion. It functions as a way to keep up on cards. In practice, I was hitting a lot less often than I would like. Ultimately I decided I didn’t need Domri against the opposing creature decks, and I would rather play a card that will always draw me cards against the blue and black decks. I ended up cutting Domri Rade from my list, and adding Jace, Memory Adept to my sideboard. In most of the games I played with Jace I would only draw cards. I don’t feel like there is any reason to attempt to mill the black decks. The UW decks are more vulnerable to that plan, unless they have already drawn their Elixir. More often than not I think you will win if you just use your Jace to draw more cards than them.
I gave the decklist that I played above to a friend earlier in the week. He played the deck at our Friday Night Magic event, but with a couple different cards. The only card he was playing that I ended up deciding to try was Ral Zarek. I was excited about another card that could fight early creatures like Pack Rat and Nightveil Specter, as well as being able to accelerate your expensive spells. After making a few changes, I played the following list at a PTQ on Sunday.
RUG Devotion 2.0
Here is how my event went.
Round 1 – Hayden Passarelli (Black Devotion) – 2-1
Round 2 – Chris Simpson (Bu Control) – 2-1
Round 3 – Justin Adams (Black Devotion) – 2-0
Round 4 – Andrew Shrout (UWb Control) 2-1
Round 5 – Joe Fox (Black Devotion) 0-2
Round 6 – Michael Young (Orzhov Midrange) 2-1
Round 7 – Thomas Graves (Black Devotion) 1-2
Round 8 – Eli Vida (Red Aggro) 0-2
Both of my losses to Black Devotion were related to issues with the deck’s mana base. I added several blue cards to the deck and didn’t adjust accordingly. Other than some inconsistency, the deck was very powerful and I was happy I was playing it. Going forward I would probably cut Nykthos from the deck entirely. It very rarely is profitable with this build, and strains the mana base producing colorless mana.
Burning-Tree Emissary and Garruk, Caller of Beasts can also probably be cut. Burning-Tree Emissary was only really included to facilitate Nykthos, and Garruk is often going to be worse than any variant of Jace. I’m not sure where I am going to go yet with this deck, but I believe Born of the Gods may have some interesting cards for it.
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