Sideboarding with R/w Devotion

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Last week I posted my list for R/w Devotion, so this week the natural progression seems to be discussing sideboarding. Sideboarding with Rw is fairly straightforward, but in the game of Magic it’s best not to take anything as a given. Before we get too deep into things let’s take a look at my updated sideboard:

Wear/Tear really wasn’t doing anything for me. I just feel like this deck needs to be proactive as much as possible, and having a strictly reactive card that only interacts with a small percentage of every established deck wasn’t working. With no card draw and minimal card selection Wear/Tear really underperformed.

With the notion against control decks being to just have as many threats as possible, Boros Charm started to make a lot of sense. I initially eschewed the card largely because the color requirement was troublesome- I don’t usually leave home with only ten sources of any of my colors. I’ve found myself wishing I could safely commit more threats into Supreme Verdict on more than one occasion, and there just isn’t a ton that I can do to fix this problem if I stick to only red cards. Having something to kill the Jace, Architect of Thought that is blanking my Assemble the Legion is a nice perk as well.

Last Breath was cut for all the reasons discussed last week. The lifegain tended to matter too much in every matchup where I wanted removal. I mentioned last week that I don’t like Electrickery against Mono U, and that hasn’t change. Rather, the card has made it onto my sideboard for Daring Skyjek decks. I do bring in Electrickery against Mono U, but the card is more of a replacement for Chandra Pyromaster that has splash damage against Mono U, though that splash damage is rather minimal.

Chandra really wasn’t carrying her weight against control decks. Between Pithing Needle, Detention Sphere and Mutavault they’re pretty good at dealing with her. Even when she lives they generate way more card advantage than she does, and her +1 and ultimate do close to nothing. I only really liked seeing her against Daring Skyjek decks, and Electrickery is far more efficient in that role.

Glare of Heresy is new and pretty untested, but the theory behind it is sound. It’s an efficient removal spell against aggressive white decks with some additional utility in specific matchups. In particular it answers Detention Sphere out of the aggressive Esper deck and Unflinching Courage out of GW decks.

With Standard being as diverse as it is and with the strategy of RW being as streamlined as it is, I believe that discussing the usage of specific cards is more useful than discussing specific matchups. Let’s start with what to bring in, where and why:


Chandra's Phoenix and Boros Charm

In almost every matchup where you want one of these cards you also want the other. This is not just because of the obvious interaction between the two, but also because the matchups where you want them you’re just trying to deal as much damage as possible as fast as possible. These matchups are of course any control matchup where your opponent is UW(x).

I bring in Phoenix without Charm only against decks without sweepers that feature quality blockers- such as GB decks featuring Reaper of the Wilds. I can’t imagine bringing in Charm without Phoenix.

Assemble the Legion

Assemble is good against anything controlling and nothing aggressive. It can be too slow against Black Devotion, but it’s an out to Desecration Demon that embarasses their removal-heavy threat-light draws.

I haven’t been bringing it in against the Xathrid Necromancer/Supreme Verdict deck, though this could be wrong. Instead I’ve just been boarding as if they were aggressive while doing my best not to be destroyed by Supreme Verdict. They also have Detention Sphere, which can make playing Assemble just plain bad. That said, I could see trying a sideboard strategy that employs Assemble.

Burning Earth

I’ve wanted this card against exactly three decks- UWx control, Jund and Naya control. They all have answers, but really need to draw them quickly in order to win.

I’ve been paired against the matchups where I want this card less and less as of late, but it’s such a huge trump that I think it warrants inclusion. I wouldn’t fault anybody for cutting it, but I already feel like my list has all of the best cards against its worst matchups.


This card is pretty straightforward in its application. If your opponent has a high threshold of x/1s, bring it in. It’s particularly useful against aggressive white decks, the Akroan Crusader red deck and Master of Waves. I can think of other decks with killable targets, but no other decks where Electrickery is good enough.

Warleader's Helix

Initially I put this card in my board to combat the burn heavy RW deck. The application against aggressive decks is obvious. It has potential use against decks like Green, Blue and Black Devotion, but it’s impact just isn’t high enough in those matchups. I believe that in order to want the card the lifegain needs to be relevant and/or it needs to kill the most relevant card in the matchup. With Desecration Demon, Master of Waves and Arbor Colossus all being immune Warleader's Helix ends up being underwhelming against their trademark cards.

Glare of Heresy

Glare’s uses were all discussed above. While it does serve as an answer to Detention Sphere and Elspeth, Sun's Champion, you just need to be more proactive against control decks.

Mizzium Mortars

Again, this one is an obvious include against aggressive decks. Unlike Warleader's Helix, it’s also good against Black, Blue, and Red Devotion. While it can’t kill Master of Waves or Desecration Demon, it can kill all of the Elemental tokens and everything else at a very good rate. The difference in mana cost makes a ton of difference here, as killing Nightveil Specter and Pack Rat are time sensitive issues.

Having some number of Mortars is also important against Blood Baron of Viskopa. Even though they’re likely to have four Barons, I don’t think you want more than two Mortars. The idea is to kill the opposing player the turn after Baron comes online. Trying to play the control and waiting around to remove every Baron is a losing proposition. There will be games where you might wish you had more Mortars, but there will definitely be more where you wish you had fewer. It’s also important to note that Stormbreath Dragon provides a good foil to Blood Baron as well.


Hammer of Purphoros

These are just too slow against aggressive decks. There are some matchups where the games can boil down to a race, and in some of those games drawing one can be amazing, but it’s bad more often than it’s good. I leave both in against removal-heavy decks and cut both against aggressive decks. I’d consider leaving one in against the Xathrid Necromancer/Supreme Verdict deck.

Mizzium Mortars and Chained to the Rocks

These are pretty easy cuts against all of the UW variants- save the occasional Blood Baron battle. I also trim a couple of the Chains against the burn heavy deck when they don’t have Young Pyromancer. They’re pretty important everywhere else.

Fanatic of Mogis

While Fanatic is one of the best cards in the deck, it also gets boarded out quite often. Your devotion is usually pretty low against control decks and he’s very expensive for a blocker that just trades against aggressive decks. I frequently board out 2-3 against the UW variants and the aggressive decks alike.

Stormbreath Dragon

Dragon comes out entirely against non-white aggressive decks and Black Devotion, and I generally board out two copies against white aggressive decks. Basically, he’s bad when he’s on blocking duty or when he’s likely to just eat a removal spell. It’s true that UW decks have removals and counters, but he’s just too good of a threat when he resolves to not want in those matchups.

While he’s slow to the part against aggressive white decks, the protection ends up being relevant enough to make a couple copies worth the cost. Not to mention that he comes in for the kill very quickly when it comes time to become the aggressor.


While most lists don’t feature Mindsparker at all, I personally only bring any out against Black Devotion. Even there I only bring out two. It’s vulnerable to Pharika's Cure, but it does attack well into a couple Pack Rats as well as Nightveil Specter. Against everyone else it attacks and/or blocks extremely well. I strongly encourage trying it out if you haven’t yet.


It’s a bit unconventional, but I think that guides like this are a lot more beneficial than copy/pasting lists of what to add and cut and where. Having ideas and theories to operate off of instead of just numbers makes it easier to know what to do or not do on the fly. Additionally, knowing the theory behind the idea presents something more concrete with which to agree or disagree. At any rate, I hope this was informative for everybody grinding Standard right now, and I thank you for reading.

-Ryan Overturf

14 thoughts on “Sideboarding with R/w Devotion

  1. I’m really not impressed with Assemble the Legion out of the board – it’s way too slow against Mono-black. I’m thinking a better plan might be Phoenix + Charm + Chandra. That gives more evasion and resistance to 1:1 removal while staying proactive. I really like having Phoenix as a 3-drop on a land/land/nykthos draw.

    1. Completely disagree. Your plan against monoblack is to bring in all your mortars and mortars/chain down all their threats until you can either start sticking threats or assemble. If you get assemble going at a reasonable life total you really can’t lose, and it makes all of their demons close to dead draws. I have, however, had issued with assemble against Jace decks. That +1 really can just wreck you, but black has no such tool.

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