The Utopia Sprawl / Arbor Elf engine has made some inroads into Modern, most notably in R/G Land Destruction or “Ponza” decks, but the much sweeter use of the engine is in powering up Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in a devotion shell.
Previously, such decks relied on going big with cards like Tooth and Nail or Genesis Wave, thus acting like traditional ramp decks with the backup plan of getting aggressive with small creatures, particularly those that gain card advantage like Eternal Witness or Wistful Selkie alongside Kessig Wolf Run as a mana sink.
But those decks also incorporated an interesting element that may go unnoticed at first glance. They incorporate Primal Command as a utility spell, but it does much more than that. In conjunction with Eternal Witness, you can cast a Primal Command every turn, putting a land on top of your opponent’s library. That’s a reasonable, albeit expensive, facsimile of three or four successive Time Walks, at the end of which you can use the last Primal Command to find a lethal Craterhoof Behemoth.
That sequence is facilitated by Knight of the Reliquary, which can either search for the necessary copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to power it out or for a Kessig Wolf Run to similarly set up a lethal attack.
All of this gives this version of Devotion a more aggressive tilt, which leads to the final innovation. It’s green, plays well with creatures, and creates a lot of devotion for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. It’s everyone’s favorite all-star of last Standard season turned Modern staple, Collected Company!
We know from Abzan Company how awesome the card is with Eternal Witness, and putting in Knight of the Reliquary, Wistful Selkie, or even more mana creatures is an easy way to lead to a quick victory. Plus, the turn 1 Arbor Elf, turn 2 Utopia Sprawl curve creates exactly four mana. A turn 2 Collected Company could easily set you up to start casting Primal Command on turn 3, with no signs of stopping until Craterhoof Behemoth shows up.
One card I’d like to experiment with here is Gavony Township. Turning your cheap value creatures into huge threats is always exciting and it fits perfectly into a Knight of the Reliquary toolbox. It’s not as explosive as Kessig Wolf Run but will be better in longer games.
A little aggro. A little combo. Plenty of card advantage so you don’t fold to removal. I don’t know what else you could want from a deck. Unless you prefer control, but that’s so 1999.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Eternal Witness
- 2 Wistful Selkie
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 1 Primeval Titan
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 1 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Woodland Bellower