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Devoted to Theros – A Look at #PTTHS

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If you are devoted to playing this game, you probably know that the hottest story out of Dublin was the new shift towards devotion. Based on the Star City tournaments, we saw evidence that devotion decks were viable in the metagame, but they were not a large part of the field. In Ireland, many pros had an understanding of how much impact the devotion strategies would have.

Certainly the blue devotion deck is getting the most attention and by the time my you are reading this article, many other articles will have been posted about the Pro Tour and how there were four mono-blue decks in the top 8. The real story of the event though is how the metagame shifted based on a variety of teams testing the format extensively. One common thread in the pros' articles was the believe that, unless your last name is Wafo-Tapa, one needs to be proactive in this format rather than reactive. Nearly every pro mentioned this fact in their article.

Even though an abysmal percentage of Esper Control decks qualified for the second day of the Pro Tour, players will look to the one successful top 8 list and continue to play that deck. What you should be focusing on, is how everyone beat them. To do that, you must choose your devotion!

If we are going to talk about your devotion to a color, there is one item of business we must discuss first. The topic? The secret story of PTTHS. Not very many authors have discussed the impact of a certain card that is responsible for the success of many pros this past weekend. It’s almost as if this story were just a whispered rumor in the corners of ancient castles an ocean away.

The story is one of a land, but not Ireland, rather a Theros land. There were ten copies of a card and it was included in three different decks. We have just begun to see the impact Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx will have on Standard.

Make sure you understand one fact. Without Nykthos, many of the pros decks simply would not work. If they failed to identify how powerful this land is, they would have ended up playing the clunky decks we have been seeing in the last couple weeks. The Shrine to Nyx gives decks explosive starts we haven’t seen since Joraga Treespeaker and Lotus Cobra were in Standard. Even if the Shrine isn’t a hot topic this week, I need to emphasize its importance. Let’s look at the Red Devotion deck to break down why this land has been called the second coming of Tolarian Academy.

CFB Red

At first glance, this deck appears to be just a midrange aggro control deck. After all, with cards like Frostburn Weird, how aggressive can your deck be? Maybe that high-pick draft staple should be the talk of the town since it is present in both the red and blue devotion decks.

How can a deck with twelve two drops, ten three drops, nine four drops, and four five drops not be clunky? Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. This land is so powerful that the entire ChannelFireball team was willing to play Burning-Tree Emissary not as a way to dump your hand on the table on turn two, but as a way to enable your Nykthos to put you massively ahead of your opponent. Take this optimal start for example.

Turn 1 – land (preferably one that starts tapped)
Turn 2 – Ash Zealot or Frostburn Weird
Turn 3 – use your Burning-Tree Emissary to activate your Nykthos and then you have four more mana to play any of your powerful spells.

This red devotion deck can have some really explosive draws like that and just crush whoever is sitting across the table. In addition, you are not sacrificing power level in order to make your devotion work.

The fact that you have access to tons of early mana made me want something a little more powerful. Certainly you can just play your Stormbreath Dragon or another four drop, but I felt like there was another powerful play to be made that would utilize more mana than that. I toyed with the idea of running Hellkite Tyrant to try and steal peoples artifacts before I found the most powerful thing you can use your mana for.

The answer ended up being in the sideboard of the Channelfireball deck, but I came to it from my experience with Naya Forgemaster. The card in question is Mizzium Mortars. As early as possible seems like the best time to destroy your opponent’s field. In some matches, if you pull off an early overload, they will not be able to recover. Some of them will have 4/5’s but most of the time, any creature they have played will be dead. With that line of play in mind, here are the changes I would like to try out.

-1 Hammer of Purphoros
-1 Stormbreath Dragon
-1 Mountain
+3 Mizzium Mortars

Cutting a Stormbreath might be wrong but I like the other two cuts. Overall, this deck is very powerful. Even if you do not plan to play it at the next event, make sure you’re prepared for explosive draws and tons of damage from Fanatic of Mogis. This version of red has great matchups against the field so don’t underestimate it.

Maybe you are the type of player that is more devoted to green than red. Check out this version that splashes red in the green deck instead of splashing green in the red deck. Did you get all that? This next deck, while similar in concept, focuses on green as the core of the deck. Take a look.

Makihito Mihara’s Colossal Gruul
Top 8 PTTHS

When I analyze the green and red devotion decks, I find many similarities between the two. The main commonality is that they are both trying to use Burning-Tree Emissary as a way to activate Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx for massive amounts of early mana. The green deck can actually be a turn faster though with this line of play.

Turn 1 – Elvish Mystic
Turn 2 – play a two Burning-Trees, then use your Emissary mana to activate your Nykthos and proceed to spend your five mana.

Because we have a mana accelerant on turn one, we can jump ahead to five mana on turn two! Certainly this will not happen often, but the deck is capable of some insanely fast starts. The ability to have that much mana is not possible by any other deck in the format or in previous formats for as long as I’ve been playing. The moral of the story is “Bolt the Bird,” aka, kill any one mana accelerant you see on the spot.

While that one particular draw is insane compared to what the rest of the format is capable of, I still don’t think the green-based deck is better than the red. The reason why is at the end of the day, you still need to attack with your big green dudes to finish your opponent off. Sure if you draw Nylea all your creatures have trample, but when you don’t, your opponent can sit around and chump block until they find an answer. Outside of a turn two Arbor Colossus, it’s going to take a while to kill your opponent.

The reason I like the red deck better is because while sometimes you do win games by attacking, often you can just play your creatures and they deal damage when they enter play. I have beaten many control players by casting my creatures and not having to attack. As long as the creature resolves, you deal two damage from Purphoros, God of the Forge. That fact is why my devotion will be to red for quite some time. Other players might be focused on building decks around lots of other cards, but my focus will be on building the best red god deck.

Let me say a little more about the Devoted to Green deck. One strength it has is the ability to cast multiple creatures off of your Burning-Tree Emissary. That is an aspect the red deck does not share with the green one. Sometimes, Colossal Gruul plays like the Naya Blitz or Mono Red Aggro decks by playing three two drops on turn two. That blazingly fast start can overwhelm any opponent especially if it’s followed up by other threats.

In Mihara’s interview, he said this green-red deck is a combo deck and you must treat it as such otherwise you will lose one of most powerful ways to play the deck. Basically you have a mana engine designed to put as much of your deck into play as fast as you can. Garruk, Caller of Beasts helps draw the necessary cards to flood the board with threats while Xenagos, the Reveler provides the mana to pull it off.

Overall, devotion to green, Colossal Gruul, or whatever you want to call the deck, is a potent machine built to get huge monsters in play before you are set up to stop them. I don’t see this deck going anywhere anytime soon.

Finally we have the blue devotion deck played by half the top eight as well as many other successful pros. Here’s the winning list.

Jérémy Dezani Mono-blue Devotion
1st place PTTHS

Well that definitely is a lot more blue creatures than I am used to seeing in a deck. Thirty creatures is a lot for any deck, but the fact that it’s blue makes it truly unique. I may not be known as much of a blue player but when you start casting sweet blue creatures, I will jump on board pretty quick.

This list is much more aggressive than the one I spoke about last week and also wracks up the devotion count quickly. One of the most important aspects is the mana curve. If all goes according to plan, you should be casting a spell on turns one through four with relative consistency. Magic often seems to defy statistics, but with such a balanced number of cards at each cost, you should be curving out often.

I must say that I really don’t like the Omenspeakers in this deck. I feel they are out of place and don’t really belong. They would be my first change if I were working on the deck. I want more ways to interact with my opponent and cutting them opens up two slots.

With my Purphoros infatuation, it’s no surprise that the first thing I want to do with the Mono-Blue Devotion deck is to add red mana for an enchantment. Think about it though, dosen’t having the red god in play against many decks seem insane?

Instead of relying on Thassa to sneak your guys through for damage or getting more flyers than your opponent, you can just cast your creatures. I can imagine casting Master of Waves just as a huge Fireball every other game. If you have the double Frostburn Weird draw, you can even attack with two gods!

In addition to Big P., you also gain more firepower for the mirror out of your sideboard. Izzet Staticaster seems well positioned for the mirror as well as helping out in other matchups. I know I will be trying red mana in my Mono-Blue deck very soon.

Whatever color you like to play, there is a devotion deck out there for you. No one was successful with a white version, but I see local players jamming Heliod frequently to some success. The black version seems like it needs updated but it exists as well. There are so many devotion decks for you to choose from. Theros is having a huge impact on Standard, maybe more than any set in recent memory. What color are you devoted to?

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Force of Your Devotion!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

65 thoughts on “Devoted to Theros – A Look at #PTTHS

  1. I am testing Mono White Devotion for upcoming events. It runs like a midrange aggro deck but with the ability to go long into a combo deck with powered Aurelias Fury and Sphinx Revs. Also, i get to untap Nykthos with Ral Zarek.

    this is still raw but a great deal of fun.

    3 Soldier of the Pantheon

    4 Precinct Captain

    4 Boros Reckoner

    2 Fiendslayer Paladin

    1 Angel of Serenity

    1 Ajani Caller of the Pride

    1 Spear of Heliod

    2 Heliod

    3 Detention Sphere

    3 Sphinxes Revelation

    3 Mizzium Mortars

    1 Cyclonic Rift

    2 Aurelias Fury

    2 Elspeth

    2 Ral Zarek

    4 Sacred Foundry

    4 Steam Vents

    4 Hallowed Fountain

    2 Azorious Guildgate

    2 Temple of Triumph

    3 Plains

    3 Mountains

    4 Nykthos

  2. Not many Esper control decks made it because the play field in Pro Theros was still full of stuff like RDW and Naya, and decks that were geared towards beating control in general, and they all got beaten by devotion decks but not before they took out almost all the control decks. This is also why the lone Esper control made Top 8; not many of its toughest matchups made Day 2. Now that more people are playing devotion, (and exactly how do you beat devotion? Supreme Verdict, that’s the answer.) control decks seem to be in a good spot right now.

  3. Not a lot of love in paper so far for the mono black devotion deck, but it’s been slowly getting more attention on MTGO and seems to be pretty strong as well.

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