Insider: Retooling Red Devotion

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The funny thing about Magic tournaments is that when the event is over, all that you want is to play the next tournament.

After bubbling out of GP Minneapolis, I traded stories with some friends and took a look at the side events schedule. The most appealing option was the Super Sunday Series Qualifier. There was a sealed deck and a Standard event with the top 4 of each advancing to a top 8 draft.

With a Standard Grand Prix in Chicago looming, I opted to play the Standard event. I wasn't sure whether to just jam Burn or to try a different deck, but either way I knew I would need four of these:

Eidolon Burn was clearly a powerful option, but I figured that I'd learn more by trying out Eidolon Devotion. I mean, somebody had to. It may as well have been me.

Bile Blight, Searing Blood and Drown in Sorrow all worked to push me off of the deck previously, and while Eidolon doesn't help much at all against any of those cards, it does add consistency to the deck. Oddly enough, Pyrostatic Pillar is about the worst ability a Burning-Tree Emissary deck could hope to have tacked on to its RR body, but it did fit the bill of "a RR 2/2 without defender" that I was hoping for.

Seeing as the maindeck changes being implemented were only going to hurt the Burn matchup, I thought that Nyx-Fleece Ram was worth testing as a sideboard option. And while we're dipping into the Journey into Nyx well, there's really no reason that a deck with white mana sources should completely eschew Banishing Light.

I didn't see any reason to change the core of the deck, that of course being two Hammer of Purphoros and four of all of these:

What I needed to figure out was the exact removal suite and whether or not to Mana Confluence.

I opted against the Confluences due to the fact that I would already be beating myself up with Eidolon. That and the fact that RW Devotion starts on two anyway, so tapped lands don't really hurt all that much.

I decided on three Chained to the Rocks, one Banishing Light and one Mizzium Mortars for removal. Mortars is generally the worst of the three, but I still wanted one for the random blowout factor, and I opted to only play four non-Banishing Light spells as a hedge against potential Esper opponents. In hindsight, it just made more sense to maindeck more removal spells, but I'll get back to that later.

Rw Devotion

Fated Conflagration is a card that I was interested in as soon as it was spoiled, but I never really got the chance to play with it. Having an answer to Advent of the Wurm as well as a sideboard option against control decks that kills Jace, Architect of Thought, Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Archangel of Thune is valuable.

With the event cutting to top 4, that meant that the 68 players in attendance would play Swiss plus one, making eight rounds. My tournament went like this:

Round 1: 2-0 Vs. Esper
Round 2: 2-1 Vs. GB Devotion
Round 3: 1-2 Vs. Adrian Sullivan on Naya Aggro
Round 4: 2-1 Vs. UR Devotion
Round 5: 2-0 Vs. GB Devotion
Round 6: 2-0 Vs. Naya Hexproof
Round 7: 2-0 Vs. Ryan Hipp's RUG Midrange
Round 8: ID into top 4

For the record, I tanked the top 8 draft.

I certainly wasn't expecting to be able to take any IDs after losing round 3, but in round 6 the two remaining undefeated players decided to ID. Their logic was that a 6-1-1 record would be a lock for top 4 in such a small event and that would leave both of them with two win-and-ins. This line of thinking neglects to address the fact that if they play it out the winner will be a lock, whereas if they draw they could both miss top 4. Anyway, they both lost in round 7, one to me and one to the player who I was then able to ID with in round 8.

As for the matches, the deck was just gas. I lost game three after mulling to five in round 3, but even then the game was pretty close. Eidolon of the Great Revel was insane against Black Devotion and Esper, though it does feel like a bit of a liability against faster decks.

Access to Banishing Light proved to be pretty awesome. Extra answers to Master of Waves and Desecration Demon are exactly what the doctor ordered. The Nyx-Fleece Rams are as of yet under-tested, but the Burn matchup seems bad enough and I don't think there's another deck I need to address with the sideboard space.

The sideboard Purphoros, God of the Forge, on the other hand, is a total waste of space. I only want it against control decks and there he just loses to Detention Sphere and Banishing Light. Meanwhile, the rest of the deck either operates at minimum on mana parity with the O-Ring effects or is Fanatic of Mogis or Stormbreath Dragon.

For now I'm experimenting with one Rest in Peace in my sideboard to randomly trounce the "Dredge" deck, as that matchup can actually be pretty close--even unfavorable.

If you've been following Gerry Thompson on Twitter, then you're aware that he has been working on his own version of Red Devotion. If you're not following him, then you probably should be. His list is quite a bit different than mine, as he favors a lower curve and some more aggressive card choices.

I've already said my piece on Mana Confluence, and the decision to play Boros Guildgate is definitely pushing me away from Firedrinker Satyr. I also just prefer pushing the deck toward being more midrange than aggressive. Firedrinker Satyr is pretty good at attacking into Sylvan Caryatid, but I'd rather have Stormbreath Dragon against Courser of Kruphix.

Gerry has Mogis's Warhound slotted as his way to break through on the ground, but after playing a couple matches with and against it, I was extremely dissatisfied with the card. Basically, "kill your guy and block when your hound has to attack" has proven to be an excellent strategy.

I will grant that I haven't played a single game with or against Prophetic Flamespeaker, but I don't believe the hype. If you're not taking advantage of the double strike with some kind of pump effect, then I really can't fathom trying him out. Flamespeaker could very well be excellent in a Ghor-Clan Rampager deck, but I just just don't see him here.

One thing that I have liked about Gerry's lists are his decision to trim Nykthos. There are way fewer "Battlecruiser" mirrors going on now then when I played the deck pre-Born of the Gods, and with more removal spells being thrown around and less "let's see who goes bigger!" competitions, Nykthos loses quite a bit of value. I'm completely on board with trimming one or two for more colored lands.

Moving Forward

With all of this in mind, I'd make a few changes to the list that I played in the SSSQ. I've since moved the Eidolons to the sideboard in favor of playing more maindeck removals, which helps against everybody except UWx control decks, and I don't mind taking the hit in game one of one matchup if it means being excellent against every other matchup. This is my current list:

I'm still wondering how much I need those goats. I played a couple dailies with Searing Blood in that slot and I completely embarrassed all of the aggressive decks that I played against, whereas Ram was fairly mediocre against non-burn aggressive decks. A split could be possible, though if I were playing fewer than three Rams, I would be playing zero. Cutting one Ram and the Rest in Peace for two Searing Bloods works, though it comes at the cost of some free wins against the Golgari Graveyard deck.

Some minor kinks aside, the deck has been performing very well. When I previously retired the deck, Burn was by far the worst matchup, and, Rams in tow, I feel confident playing against anything. Big Red isn't often a viable deck, and I for one think it's awesome when it is.

If you're into Dragons, too, then I couldn't recommend the deck enough.

Thanks for reading.

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