A New Kind of Blue Devotion

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Last Friday I was excited to play more games with the B/W Humans deck I’ve been working on. After spending many hours tuning the deck and tweaking the sideboard, it was finally time for FNM. As I sat down for round one I was bursting with excitement for the Friday event as well as SCG Columbus the next day.

As the game progressed the air was let out of my sails. Every play I made seemed completely negated by the slightest attention from my opponent. The Big Boros deck quickly dismantled my entire strategy with ease. We were the first match done, which left me staggering and trying to figure out what had just happened.

The rest of the night did not go much better but I stuck with it because I needed to truly decipher the deck's strengths and weaknesses. Even though I felt the deck was strong and I had direction for changes to improve it, I could not move past the fact that it had a hard time defeating random decks. Certainly it was reasonable against most decks in the metagame, but what about everything else my opponents might play?

After FNM I was left with a choice: try to make some changes and run them with no testing the next day, or switch decks.

After spending a short amount of time thinking of potential changes, I dismissed the aggro deck as a possibility and moved on to something else.

My thoughts quickly went to Mono-Blue Devotion. I like the deck quite a bit still and I have a decent amount of experience with it. We all know Mono-Blue consistently does well at events and I feel I play the deck competently, so I set out to rebuild it.

As I was putting it together, I searched, yet again, for additional tech to put into the deck to gain an angle on the metagame. Let me assure you, there is none. The best thing I could come up with was playing Disperse instead of Cyclonic Rift so I could protect something of my own, which is hardly a change at all.

At the Last Minute…

After the deck was built, I closed the shop and headed home. As I was driving, I couldn’t stop thinking about my deck choice. How could I go into the event with a stock Mono-Blue list? Not only was that not my style, but everyone would know exactly how to play against me because certainly they have had numerous repetitions against this exact deck.

Especially after two year-end reviews have proven that I am much more successful with a deck of my own making, how could I play a list that is commonly known by every competitive player? The drive home is not long, but my brain was in overdrive searching for an idea to roll with.

Then it hit me. Like a sack of bricks to the head, it hit me. It almost made me pull over to the side of the highway from the force of it. I could combine the aggressive power of Mono-Blue with the best part of Mono-Black.

By this point in time, I think we can all agree the best part of Mono-Black is the disruption of Thoughtseize and the resilient dominance of Pack Rat. With that thought firmly implanted in my head, I set out to incorporate those two cards into a Mono-Blue Devotion shell.

The main issue I faced in building this deck was of course the mana. How could I expect to cast Thoughtseize early in the game plus also Tidebinder Mage and Frostburn Weird?

My thoughts drifted back to a conversation early in the night about including Omenspeaker instead of Frostburn Weird. Omenspeaker seemed to fix all of my problems. Not only did it cost a single blue but the two scry effect would smooth out many of the possible draws. What came out of my midnight brewing session is something truly amazing. I present to you…

Dimir Devotion

The Rounds

Round one I sat down for my first game with this deck. While this is not normally a good idea, sometimes when you make a breakthrough in deck design, you just have to go with it.

My first opponent was playing Mono-Black Devotion and quickly got ahead of me on the board in both games. In game two, I even made a play mistake by casting Rapid Hybridization on my own turn instead of hers which let her get in three extra damage. That misplay almost cost me the game.

Despite being behind on the board in both games one and two, the power of this deck prevailed and I was able to grind my way back gradually with Omenspeaker, Thassa, and then Master of Waves.

I ended game one at five life and game two at three. In both games, I had been at a low life total for most of the game yet was able to overcome that obstacle and obtain victory. After the match I sat in awe of how powerful this deck was and tried to refocus before the next round.

In round two, I faced some monsters of the red and green variety. The first and second games were pretty one-sided, with each of us showing off the power of our decks. Game three was an extremely close affair that had a huge decision tree to navigate.

One of the most powerful starts my opponents deck is capable of is turn two Domri Rade. The reason for this is because often Dimir Devotion cannot rid the board of Domri before they untap for their turn three. Once they activate Domri again after playing their first huge monster and start fighting your creatures, you are faced with an uphill battle. Eventually I was able to stabilize and finish off the Domri, but at great cost.

The other card that stands in your way of winning is the Ghor-Clan Rampager hidden in their hand. The possibility of Rampager makes all of your blocks potentially disastrous. It was the second Rampager that sealed the second round in favor of my opponent.

There were many plays I could have made that differed from my line, but ultimately any different plays would have still resulted in losing to his second bloodrush creature.

The third round was a stressful affair where I was constantly in fear of my life at the hands of G/W Aggro. Andrew Shrout’s version of this deck is capable of some devastatingly fast draws. Be wary of any opponent sporting this deck.

In the first game I was busy creating a Pack Rat army while my he was searching for lands to cast his spells. Thoughtseize stripped his hand of some early plays to evolve Experiment One. Game two, his army of one-drops overwhelmed me quickly and Selesnya Charm made my blocks fail twice.

Game three was back and forth, but eventually I had an army of blockers that he could not fight through. There were some tricky combat situations, but post-board once I have more removal, pump spells become much less effective. He had Last Breath for some of my guys but the four life I gain is more of a liability than he realized.

Round four I found myself facing Mono-Black yet again. This time went much differently than the first though. Both of the games I lost to this deck featured me mulliganning and him stripping my hand of all relevant plays with Thoughtseize.

In a game where both of those things don’t happen, I believe my deck is favored to win. Game one is a great example of how this deck can play out. When he finished beating me down, he sideboarded like it was a Mono-Black Devotion mirror match.

Some games, it plays like I am just Mono-Black with a couple extra blue mana sources. This allowed for an easy game two where he had no answer to Master of Waves. Sadly, game three featured both a mulligan and then two Thoughtseizes to dismantle any hope I had left in the tournament.

Even though I was 2-2, I still stayed in for one more round but variance overwhelmed me once more. Game one was an easy win against Esper Control as Thoughtseize nabbed Supreme Verdict and my Pack Rat army quickly ended the game.

The second game would have been an easy win but I never drew blue mana, instead I drew all blue cards I could not cast. Game three was a joke of a game as I sat powerlessly drawing all of my lands as he ultimated his Jace. Even though Omenspeaker weakens this matchup quite a bit, it is not as hard to win as this match made it seem.

Reflections and Modifications

Although my tournament was not a success, I loved the deck and would bring the same deck to battle again if I had a do over. The deck has quite a few powerful draws and a lot of synergy.

Think about being able to protect your Master of Waves with Thoughtseize the turn before you cast your army-making machine. You can also have Cloudfin Raptor into Pack Rat with a follow up Nightveil Specter in case they kill the rat. It’s really powerful that every rat you make pumps the Cloudfin too.

Judge's Familiar turn one to protect the Pack Rat turn two is a sequence most opponents won’t be prepared for. And the mere presence of Pack Rat in your deck can lead to some easy wins.

Despite my poor results, the deck is great and capable of winning an event for you. I already made some changes to improve it even more. The main change was cutting the one of Rapid Hybridization. In this version, it is a liability more than it is helpful.

Some may not agree with the next part, but every game I played, I found this card lacking in a major way. I don’t know if it’s just how I play this deck, but Jace, Architect of Thought was unimpressive for me all day. I moved him to the sideboard and since then, I’ve been more happy having some removal main deck. Take a look at the current version.

Updated Dimir Devotion

We may be about to shake things up in Standard, but this deck is worth checking out. Let me know what you think about it in the comments.

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

11 thoughts on “A New Kind of Blue Devotion

  1. Hero’s Downfall over Ultimate Price (and SB Doom Blade) seems better since it’s unconditional removal. I would also rather run Cyclonic Rift over Disperse (unless you find bouncing your own stuff is relevant alot) and then find room for a singleton Nykthos for the potential overload. Your list looks pretty cold to Supreme Verdict (which Judge’s Familiar doesn’t even slow down), what about running the 4th Thoughtseize and some Duresses in the board over the Notion Thiefs and the 4th Gainsay?

  2. How bad would one or two Guildgates be?

    There is a 0% chance that Disperse is correct, especially with black in the deck. I don’t care what you cut it for, just cut it. If you see tremendous value in bouncing your own things, then you’re playing this deck too defensively. If a reactive spell with some proactive potential is what you want just play some counterspells. Post Born of the Gods I’d say Thassa’s Rebuff. As of now I’d go with Dissolve, Cyclonic Rift, minadeck Domestication, fourth Thoughtsieze… There are a ton of better options. You’re definitely not convincing anybody of the card by mentioning it as “hardly a change at all” without much reason to actual play it.

  3. I see both of you talking about cyclonic rift over disperse. My arguement is that overloading rift comes up so infrequently that the option of bouncing your permanents is worth changing the card for. I have been happy with it, but if you would rather have rift, they are about the same. The main reason for a bounce effect is because it lets you interact with every opponent. You can bounce Detention Spheres or a creature. It may not be the best but it does have play against every deck. I have thought about running a counter in this spot also, but I did not think it would be very good. Thassas Rebuff might be worth trying out though.

    Running some duress in the sideboard is one option on my list to try out. The real goal is to take the verdict before they can cast it. Otherwise, just be careful how many permanents you commit to the board so you don’t get blown out by the verdict. Most of the sideboard comes in against Esper but I could see switching to something like this.

    3 Doom Blade
    2 Dark Betrayal
    2 Domestication
    4 Gainsay
    2 Notion Thief
    2 Duress

    or maybe cutting a Gainsay perhaps.

    On the note of black removal, I absolutely loved the Doom Blades out of the sideboard. They let you kill anything from GR or GW or Mono Blue (accept specter). It was the best card in my board by far and its not going anywhere. I would love to be able to run Hero’s Downfall, but the fact is that you won’t have double black enough to reliably cast it. Ryan might be right about adding a guildgate, but that might be too many lands that come into play tapped. Might be worth a try though.

    Thanks for the feedback guys. If you give the deck a try, let me know what you think.

    1. If I was going to play a counter, I would probably play syncopate or maybe dissolve. Once the set it out thassas rebuff might be the best, but I dont think this deck wants any counters to be honest.

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