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Reaping the Graves: Monsters in Standard!

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Since Theros made its way into standard there has constantly been some form of a green-red deck in the format. When Theros made its debut it was the red-green monsters deck that featured cards like Ember Swallower and Stormbreath Dragon paired with planeswalkers like Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler. I spent most of my time during the early format trying to find a blue deck for myself to play. I don’t think the majority of people were trying to play with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx yet.

That changed after Pro Tour Theros. Makihito Mihara made the top eight of that event with a green-red devotion deck taking advantage of the power of Nykthos when paired with small green mana accelerators. Voyaging Satyr made it’s debut in this deck. The powerful interaction between it and Nykthos had me spending a lot of time working on green devotion decks.

My first big tournament with a green devotion deck was at the Star City Games Invitational in Indianapolis. At that event I decided to give the green-blue devotion deck a chance. I am a big fan of Prime Speaker Zegana. I spent a lot of time playing with Prime Speaker Bant in the previous format.

At the Invitational, I managed a 7-1 record in the standard portion. Without such a weak Legacy performance I might have made the top eight. In the weeks following the event I played a lot with the deck at local events in Louisville.

I liked having Prime Speaker Zegana to effectively have more Garruk, Caller of Beasts. Garruk was the star of the deck in my mind, and having access to more of them seemed excellent. In practice it was often not as good I hoped. Double blue was not always easily available. There were also a lot of times when you would only have small creatures like Burning-Tree Emissary and Voyaging Satyr.

Cyclonic Rift also seemed to be a way to fight decks that was both very powerful and very unfair. With the exception of the Esper decks that were somewhat popular at the time, Cyclonic Rift did a good job of taking a normal game of Magic and making it one-sided. The drawback to Cyclonic Rift are the situations when the temporary removal of a card isn’t good enough. Playing with just green and blue I found myself wishing I had access to actual removal spells.

Bident of Thassa was a way to keep up with Esper and the black devotion decks. With that card in my deck I wouldn’t have to commit as much to the board. Making all of your creatures draw you cards is a good way to stretch their removal thin and make all of the normally underwhelming mana creatures into something to build you an advantage. I found that too often the Bident plan was clunky. I was playing too many non-creatures to take advantage of it. Other times my mana creatures would be unable to attack because of bigger creatures my opponents would play.

Prophet of Kruphix was probably one of the biggest reasons to play that deck. The card changes the rules of how you play the game. When unanswered, the deck was capable of a lot of very unfair powerful things. The only problem I’ve ever had with Prophet is keeping up a stream of cards to play with it. Not being able to flash in Planeswalkers was never much of a problem because you could just cast the creatures you get from Garruk on your opponent’s turn.

After starting to struggle with the deck I became envious of the cards red versions of the deck had, such as Domri Rade and Mizzium Mortars. I started playing with the green-red version of the deck again. There was a lull of events I could attend during the recent holiday season, but I was playing the deck locally still. I liked how powerful the deck was but I felt it was not as consistent as I wanted.

At Grand Prix Shizouka, Keisuke Sato made the top eight with a green-red deck that had forgone the devotion plan and focused on the big monsters like the decks from Theros’ entry into standard. After looking at his decklist I spent some time thinking about how I wanted to change my own deck. I decided to try combining the green devotion deck and the green-red monsters deck by taking the pieces I liked most from each of them. I played this deck at a Pro Tour Qualifier in Columbus.

My event went like this:

Naya 2-1
Black Devotion 2-1
Mono Blue Devotion 2-0
Rw Devotion 2-1
Black Devotion with Blood Barons 2-0
Mono Blue Devotion 2-0
Blue-White-Red Control 2-1

Mono Blue Devotion 2-1
Mono Blue Devotion 1-2

One of the more important switches I felt I made was replacing Arbor Colossus with Stormbreath Dragon. Arbor Colossus has always been a fine creature but I wanted to be able to play more aggressively with the deck. Stormbreath Dragon seems like a powerful card to have right now as well. There are a lot of creatures around and having some evasion seemed important without Nylea in my deck anymore. There are also a lot of white creatures in the format so protection from white is often relevant.

Clan Defiance was a great card during the course of the tournament. Having access to so much mana from Nykthos and Xenagos I was able to use it to finish off a lot of games. It was also very good against all of the blue devotion decks I was paired with. They have a pretty good mix of flying and ground creatures giving you more of a chance to use all three modes.

Ruric Thar was also very impressive. Reach and Vigilance are two abilities that work really well when you get into a position where you want to race. He also has a sort of effective haste when you’re playing decks like Esper and black devotion that will take six damage to get him off of the battlefield.

I moved away from so many Garruks in the deck because I found that a lot of your games he would not impact the board enough when you played him. He is great when you are in a stalemate or ahead, but he simply didn’t do enough when you were trying to catch up on the board.

Despite a solid record against blue devotion in that event, I decided I wanted access to a few more cards that could remove Master of Waves. My top four loss was almost solely to that card because I wasn’t able to find Polukranos in any of our games. After discussing the deck with some friends, I ended up deciding to play the following list at the Star City Open in Indianapolis.

Here is a summary of my matches in that event.

Black Devotion 1-2
Rakdos Aggro 0-2
Izzet Control 2-0
Black Devotion 2-1
Selesnya Aggro 2-0
Black Devotion 2-0
Blue-Black-Green 2-0
Black Devotion 2-0
Green-Red Monsters 2-1
Blue Devotion 2-0
Blue Devotion 0-2

I only made a few changes to the deck before this event. Ratchet Bomb was the card I selected to fight Master of Waves. It can sweep tokens away, or you can charge it up to remove Master and/or Bident of Thassa. It also has uses against cards like Pack Rat from black devotion.

Ruric Thar was so good the week before I decided to move the second copy to my maindeck. Garruk felt like the obvious choice for the switch. I didn’t want to overload myself with expensive cards.

I added a third Xenagos, the Reveler to the deck. I wanted slightly more action spells so I cut a Voyaging Satyr. Xenagos proved to be one of the best cards in the deck at the Open. It nearly won several of my matches against the black devotion decks on it’s own.

The only card I did not cast this weekend was Destructive Revelry. I liked having access to them the week before but with the inclusion of Ratchet Bomb I am considering taking them out of my sideboard. Desecration Demon is probably the card I’m having the most trouble with now so I was considering adding some Plummets to deal with that problem.

I am happy with the list I have reached now. If you are looking for something to play in Standard I can confidently say I think this deck is a good choice. Give this deck a chance, a lot of solid work has gone in to it, changes made, metagames analyzed, and it has some solid results behind it. Good luck in your quest for Pro Tour Atlanta!

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