Nykthos or Mutavault? Questioning My Devotion

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Have you checked the price of Mutavault lately? It was not at all surprising to see it jump right back into Standard playability, but I definitely underrated just how many decks would want it. With as little multi-color support as there is it feels like I'm playing against Mutavault in at least every other match. Meanwhile I had been sticking with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

I was able to win 35 QPs in January pretty by easily chaining Burning-Tree Emissary into Fanatic of Mogis time and again. I had a plan for every matchup and felt favored in all of them- even slightly so against Master of Waves. Then February rolled around and suddenly I can't buy a win with the deck. Perhaps my matchups weren't as good as I thought they were. Perhaps variance is just catching up with me. Either way, if the new removal spells in Born of the Gods weren't already pushing me away from Nykthos, my losing streak certainly is.

I had been interested in trying the R/w burn deck for a while, but with a quality Standard deck I didn't see much reason to pick a new pony. Recent poor results combined with praise for Satyr Firedancer from Brad Nelson and Caleb Durward solidified my desire to try something new. While Devotion and Burn are dramatically different decks, the fundamental difference is that Burn is a Mutavault deck and Devotion is a Nykthos deck.

Nykthos is more powerful than Mutavault when it's on, therefore in Magical Christmas Land one should always play the Nykthos deck.. Nykthos takes big board states and makes them bigger. Mutavault, on the other hand, allows a player to beatdown with their lands even when their spells fail. If a pair of Ash Zealots eat a Bile Blight, Nykthos turns to crap. If Young Pyromancer and his Elemental friends Drown in Sorrow, Mutavault continues to fight the good fight.

While it'll be a little while before I can start getting down to the nitty-gritty on MODO with Burn, I was able to get the deck together for a small Standard tournament on Saturday. I played something very close to Brad's list:

Over the course of the tournament I beat two Naya decks, one Blue Devotion and split matches against both UW control and Black Devotion. The deck felt like gas the entire day, though the list is definitely rough. The fact that the deck seemed sweet despite a number of flaws shows a lot of promise. I find that the best way to analyze a deck is in terms of individual cards, so let's dig right into it.

Satyr Firedancer

This card is incredible against creature decks. It's no secret that Searing Blaze is more impactful than Lightning Strike, and making all of your removals go to the dome- or perhaps more importantly making your Boros Charms hit creatures- makes creature-based matchups a cakewalk.

Alternatively, this card is pretty close to trash against control decks and Black Devotion. Control decks for their lack of creatures and Black Devotion for their ability to kill it any time it's relevant. So, when you have this card that is amazing in some matchups and sucks in others you have two choices- Maindeck it to crush the matchups where it's good or sideboard it to try to gain value in worse matchups.

Lately I've seen far more creature decks than control decks. In particular GR Monsters has really taken off. That said, I fully expect Black Devotion to be the most played deck post-Born of the Gods. The biggest question is how much sideboarding Satyr Firedancer actually hurts the matchups where it's good. If decks like Red, Blue and Green Devotion as well as Monsters are favorable without Firedancers then I would highly recommend leaving it as a sideboard option.

The card is absolutely powerful, I just need to figure out exactly what I want to do with it.

Young Pyromancer

Having any of these on the sideboard was plainly a mistake. Where Firedancer loses value when your opponent doesn't have creatures, Young Pyromancer makes all of your cards more effective simply by casting them. It generates power and chump blockers in racing situations in addition to being a one-man army against control decks. I don't see myself maindecking less than four in the future.

Searing Blood

My first impression of this card did not rate it as highly as most others. My evaluation was off. I must have forgotten that Standard is currently a lot like the current MTGO Cube; under-powered.

Starting with the obvious, it's awesome when it kills something. While it doesn't kill everything, there are actually quite a few played two-toughness creatures as of now. But the real value of Searing Blood is gleaned from the fact that two-spelling a creature with it is like casting Doom Blade and Lava Spike. Is that a great use of two cards? No. Is it better than a 3-4 mana Doom Blade with the text "discard a card"? Considerably.

Searing Blood is obviously at its worst against control decks, but even there most lists tend to be jamming around three Elspeths. When they play and up an Elspeth your Searing Bloods basically turn into Lava Spike. Not the most exciting, but we're talking about a deck that plays four Aether Shockwave. We have to take what we can get.

And the Rest

Then you fill the deck up with burn spells and the obligatory Chandra's Phoenixes. She isn't pretty, but she gets the job done. Going forward the immediate changes I would try would be to move all the Firedancers to the sideboard and replacing them with Skullcrack and Young Pyromancer number four along with a pair of Chained to the Rocks. I'd also consider cutting a Goblin Mountaineer and a Boros Guildgate for a red scryland and a white scryland. The land change is subtle, but a Aether Shockwave deck really can't afford too many dead draws.

The Sideboard

Firedrinker Satyr

At a glance this guy looks awesome against control, and admittedly I did win game three of my top four match against UW by drawing two of these guys on the play, but its quality hinges heavily on variance. If you have one on turn one you get a free two points and a reasonably likely two more. Not bad. However, a single Fiendslayer Paladin or Detention Sphere can put all of your Satyrs to shame. There are some cards worth sandbagging to play around Detention Sphere blowouts, but a 2/1 without haste against a stack of Jace, Elspeth and Azorius Charm is not one of those cards.

With Fiendslayer Paladin being as common as it is out of the sideboard I'm inclined to find a new game plan. Stormbreath Dragon was usually awesome against UW out of Red Devotion, so that's the first thing I'd try. It's a bit expensive for a 23 land deck, so I'd likely only play one or two.

Oracle of Bones

Brad had two of these in the list he posted. I was skeptical so I only included one and I regretted having any. You play it, your opponent pays tribute, you get to resolve one of the burn spells that you inevitably would anyway, your opponent goes to 14 and then blocks with Fiendslayer Paladin. Hard pass.

These notes in mind, that leaves the following remaining in the sideboard:

That leaves three slots. One thing that the list I played was lacking that Red Devotion had was trumps against Black Devotion. Burn can't really support Hammer of Purphoros, but I'm all for jamming some Assemble the Legions.

That leaves one slot. There are a lot of options here. Anger of the Gods or Mizzium Mortars to hose Devotion decks, Warleader's Helix for the mirror, Glare of Heresy for Unflinching Courage/Detention Sphere. I'm going to try a copy of Boros Reckoner for the immediate future. It's a good enough body for attacking, but the real reason I want Reckoner specifically is that in many situations it has potential to invalidate combat from aggressive decks or decks with big green monsters. It might not be a great fit for this shell, but I think it's worth a shot. That leaves us with the following 75:

I'll be sure to keep updates coming as I learn more about the deck. For now, I can say to a certainty that the deck is powerful in this format. I feel like the deck plays worse against control than Red Devotion, but considerably better against Blue Devotion. If the GR Monsters matchup turns out to be favorable and the the control and Black Devotion matchups can be figured out then I will absolutely stay on this deck.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf

7 thoughts on “Nykthos or Mutavault? Questioning My Devotion

  1. Nice article, Ryan. I like the breakdowns you provide. I think I will continue on the mbc theme (which seems most powerful to me) however. As for Muti, I love the card more than any other man land, aside from the original Mishra’s Factory. If you can get them to use up all their removal on your other awesomeness, Muti will swing for win. I just love them. I have been tempted recently to replace the Nykthos with Muti in mbc, as the extra mana just doesn’t seem as relevant to me. Most likely I’m wrong, which is why I still run Nyks.

    On a side note, one of my friends has tried to make the pauper u/r blitz deck on modo. He keeps complaining about post sideboard matches however. Could you revisit your pauper awesomeness and write an article about how to play with or against this deck? It seems to me like a great deck and I would enjoy to build it. I am hesitant as he has repeatedly stated it fails post board to mbc and tron Eldrazi. Any information would be helpful!

    1. I’m glad you liked it!

      Black is definitely very strong right now, and I wouldn’t fault anybody for wanting to play it. It’s mostly just not my style.

      As for the Pauper Blitz deck, it’s one that I’m not sure how to tackle. It was rare that I played a deck and didn’t want to play against that deck- in particular, Kiln Fiend if a very vulnerable card. I was planning on trying out doing Pauper videos sporadically, but I have to figure out some software things before I get back to recording. If/when I get this resolved it’s a deck that I wouldn’t mind visiting for a Daily or two, but I would preface the idea by saying that I’m apprehensive about Kiln Fiend itself.

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