Here we are again, in a more defined metagame. We all suspected it would happen after the Pro Tour, as it typically does. When teams of pros get together to bounce ideas off one another great things often happen. They do a lot of work testing different ideas and while they don’t always break the format, they do often shift it in a new direction.
For Pro Tour Theros, they gave us devotion decks. Mono-Blue seems to be the big bad wolf right now because there are not many answers to Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves. The deck is not overly powerful but the synergy between cards is something decks have been missing for a couple seasons of Standard.
We were also granted Green-Red Devotion which let everyone know Arbor Colossus was actually playable in Standard. That deck is capable of some insanely fast starts, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx calls back to the power level of some old cards. You can drop your whole hand extremely quickly and refuel with Garruk, Caller of Beasts.
Finally, we all discovered that Mono-Black is actually playable once more and all the MBC players around the world simultaneously rejoiced.
I imagine I’m not the only one who questioned the integrity of the seemingly-underpowered deck in the top eight, despite it being a Pro Tour. I told myself he must have gone undefeated in the draft portion to reach the top eight with a deck like that. Then GP Louisville happened and the Star City crew destroyed the event with their updated version. Guess my theory was wrong.
There was one mono-red deck in the top eight of the Pro Tour but although it was called Mono-Red Devotion, it did not seem like a devotion deck to me at all. It was just mono-red with more of a midrange curve. Mono-white was nowhere to be found, but all four other colors were represented well at the event.
Devoted to Red
There was an actual red devotion deck that did well at the event though, which everyone seems to have forgotten about. The Channel Fireball team developed a mostly red deck splashing green which, while similar to the green devotion deck, plays completely differently.
Why has this deck not gotten more press? I have been wondering this since the Pro Tour ended.
I think the first reason is a lack of coverage at the actual event. None of the members were asked to do a deck tech and I don’t recall many of them being on camera playing the deck. None of them made the cut to top eight so people were naturally more focused on other decks. In the couple weeks since the event, the Channel Fireball team has been oddly quiet about their Pro Tour deck.
That brings us to today, when I plan to break open the door sealing this sweet deck. Here’s the deck.
Maybe players are unexcited about this deck because it looks so innocent. After all, it’s basically just a mono-red midrange deck, right?
That statement could not be further from the truth! This deck is explosive and extremely hard to race. In addition, you don't sacrifice anything to keep your red devotion because every enabler is already great on its own.
One cause of the decline in red decks is the inclusion of Tidebinder Mage in thee maindeck in Mono-Blue. Their strong sideboard card is not waiting for game two, he is on the starting squad! While that may be annoying, it is not much of a problem for this deck. Certainly there are some things we can do to overcome a two-mana 2/2.
In the maindeck we have Domri Rade as our main way to dispose of problematic creatures. I suggested last week that we also include Mizzium Mortars. Once we get to sideboarded games, we will also have access to Anger of the Gods. Finally, I have found Xenagos to be a bit underwhelming in this deck so I have been running Chandra, Pyromaster in his place. Here’s the version I’ve been battling with.
Red-Green Devotion 1.5
Both Xenagos, the Reveler and Hammer of Purphoros are great cards but not quite what I am looking for against the majority of decks. Although the sideboard is not set in stone, both of those threats will probably still keep their place there.
I know I definitely want a third Anger of the Gods to bring in against faster aggro decks and Mono-Blue. In some matchups we need to be more controlling so Anger of the Gods plus Aether Shockwave seems like a great sideboard plan. The other eight cards in the board are up for debate and may well be changed, we'll see what happens after testing it some more.
Playing the Deck
This deck has a lot of possible draws which play out in a number of ways. It is your job to figure out the best way to win each game given the specific set of resources at your disposal.
It is equally important to be able to switch to a new plan if the opportunity presents itself. Don’t be stubborn and continue to carry out the first plan if you come up with a new better one partway through the game.
There are three main plans I have identified for winning with this deck.
The Beatdown Plan
Some games your plan is to just beat your opponent down. This deck is capable of some extremely fast starts. A draw like turn two Ash Zealot, turn three Boros Reckoner, turn four Purphoros, turn five Fanatic of Mogis is hard for many decks to beat. There are plenty of hands with double Ash Zealot or double Burning-Tree Emissary into Mizzium Mortars that leave your opponent too far behind to catch up.
Curving into an active Purphoros is also a great way to win. Sure any guys you play after him do damage, but if your opponent does not remove your creatures, you are going to be attacking for a ton of damage on turn five. The fifth turn of the game is often when I find myself winning or setting myself up to win the game.
When you come out of the gates quickly, it is easy to follow up with one or two Fanatic of Mogis to finish off your opponent as well. Fanatic reminds me of Flametongue Kavu, but instead of killing a creature it just kills your opponent. Almost every deck in the format folds to a solid draw with multiple Fanatics.
The Defensive Plan
Not every game will be about attacking at every possible moment. Some games will be more about timely blocks and using Purphoros, God of the Forge to grind your opponent down.
In these games, having access to Mizzium Mortars is a huge boon. This card allows you to play games so much differently than a deck without it. You can cast it early to deal with something at the beginning of the game, or you can overload it in the midgame to blow out your opponent.
Your planeswalkers are key factors in winning these types of games as well. Domri Rade’s fight ability makes him a force to be reckoned with, especially because you have Boros Reckoner to throw the punches. As long as these two cards are legal in Standard, I will be finding more and more decks to play them in together because they are an aggro crushing force.
In games where you are primarily defensive, focus on cautious attacks when the opportunity presents itself, but be patient while you fill the board with threats your opponent cannot deal with. Fanatic allows you to be both defensive and proactive all at the same time. He can block a number of creatures well but because he has already done a huge chunk of damage upon entering play, you can afford to use him defensively.
In these types of games, I often finish my opponent off with damage from Boros Reckoner. Many players do not realize that you can fight your own two creatures. Here’s a rules quote for you. “The second target of the second ability can be another creature you control, but it can't be the same creature as the first target.”
What I like to do is to fight my own Purphoros with Boros Reckoner and blast my opponent for the final six points of damage. Rarely do my opponents realize this is a line of play they should be aware of.
The Big Mana Plan
There are also games where the most important part is generating an obnoxious amount of mana and playing as many threats as quickly as possible. What may not be obvious is that Burning-Tree Emissary is a key part of this plan.
Some of your best starts begin with Frostburn Weird or Ash Zealot on turn two and then a Burning-Tree Emissary on turn three so that when you play your Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx you can activate it for four mana.
Deploying a four-mana threat a turn early is quite powerful. The earlier you can play your red god, the more damage you can squeeze out of your creatures. If your opponents do not disrupt your board, you will be generating six mana on turn four to overload Mizzium Mortars and playing out the rest of your hand soon after.
Chandra, Pyromaster can be an important piece to the ramp puzzle because she provides you with more cards to use your mana on. You also have mana sinks in Purphoros as well as Stormbreath Dragon. Monstrousing your dragon for massive amounts of damage in the air or pumping your team multiple times with your god ends games quickly.
As you can see, there is a much more going on with this deck than is apparent at first glance. I would recommend playing with the deck a bunch before bringing it to an event because there is such a variety of ways you can win. In order to play this deck well, you need to be aware of all the potential routes to victory. Red-Green Devotion is still a great deck designed by one of the greatest teams of all time.
Until Next Time,
Unleash the Force of Your Devotion!
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