Matt Higgs took a break from brewing to attend the SCG Standard Open in Indianapolis this past weekend, where he chose to play G/R Devotion.

Time for a wardrobe change! This week I’m taking my brewing cap off and putting on my Spike helmet.


Yeah, something like that.

I pride myself on the ability to build around bizarre and fun cards to a level where the deck is playable even if it’s not terribly good in a real-life tournament setting. On occasion, though, I like playing a deck that has actually enjoyed success. I played such a deck a few months ago at a local Friday Night Magic and managed to dodge a match loss, and I considered the deck a viable option should I ever head to another large tourney.

I’m usually pretty up to date on when large Standard events wander nearby, but the SCG Open  in Indianapolis kind of snuck up on me. With a small break between the holidays and the return to graduate school, it felt like the right opportunity to grab this familiar successful deck and see how it fared in the grinder. Would it be made of unbreakable diamond or brittle dough?

Since my last large Standard event, Grand Prix Louisville, I decided that unless I had sufficient testing to bring one of my brews it would be better to stick to something more refined. Although I love playing rogue decks, I rarely have the time to concentrate on high-level tweaking and metagaming for them exclusively. Between coming up with new decks for you each week and the rest of my life’s demands, I rarely have time to put my own builds through the paces necessary to garner a reasonable finish at a high level.

If I’m going to spend the time and effort to attend a full-size tournament, though, I want it to be worth it. I take it on the chin a lot during tournaments as a brewer, but I wanted to see if I could actually do well with a known deck. I hadn’t taken a real deck to a tournament in years, and I figured this one had a good chance to take me to the top. I’d made Top 64 of an Open a brew, but maybe this list could land me a Top 8 with proper piloting and favorable matchups.

Next thing I knew I had the deck in tow and was tootling up I-65 to Indianapolis. While I was certain of the archetype and the core cards I was playing, the final composition of the deck and its sideboard wasn’t solid until about 30 seconds before the mandatory players’ meeting.

Here’s where I landed.

The deck is not an unknown list, and most people guessed what I was playing after one or two cards. Nykthos fueled creature and Garruk activations power out endless powerful creatures. Choosing the right moments to attack, trade, and advance the board is critical in leading this deck to success, and it’s within these intricacies that I derive enjoyment from this otherwise straightforward creature deck. The sideboard provides some matchup-specific all-stars and a few utility spells to make control matches a bit easier.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of last-minute changes weighing on your head after you’ve turned in your decklist. I mulled it over in my head as they called round 1’s pairings.

Round 1: Corey (G/R Devotion)

As the crowd (an impressive 700+ players) rushed to their seats, I found mine right near the aisle across from a pleasant-looking gentleman. A bit of shuffling and we started battle.

I quickly discovered I was up against the mirror, and after a bit of faltering on my side, he clenched a lengthy game 1. A rally from a bunch of Nykthos mana and solid Polukranos action gave me the next two games, taking us nearly to time.


Round 2: Jason (W/B Aggro)

After crossing the first hurdle of the mirror match, I sat down across Jason, who gave me another heavy aggro matchup. His turn 1 Boros Elite game 1 attacked into my Elvish Mystic, and I chose not to block despite having another one in hand and nothing that benefited from the ramp. This ended up costing me the game, along with forgetting to play the other Elvish Mystic and keeping me one turn back on Garruk, Caller of Beasts.

Game 2 gave me a lucky break; he tapped down for a handful of creatures, I powered out a ritual style double Nykthos Mizzium Mortars overloaded, and he picked up his cards with a frown. I got a better draw in game 3 and was able to overwhelm him with muscle and life gain with my singleton Scavenging Ooze, one of my last-minute additions.


Round 3: Thomas (G/W Aggro)

Thomas, clearly a confident player, was equally excited to be in the X-0 bracket. He mulled to five on the draw game 1, but after a loose Forest + Nykthos keep, I didn’t draw another land, casting only a Sylvan Caryatid. In game 2, I was able to get on the other side of him, but not as effectively as I would’ve liked.

Game 3 his Ajani, Caller of the Pride made a nuisance of himself, going to work raising a Boon Satyr. I was at about twelve life, and I secretly hoped that he would give his Boon Satyr flying and attack me. I had the miser Gruul Charm in hand to shoot it down, and it was just a 5/3 at the time. He decided to pump it once more, pushing it out of Charm range. None of my creatures were large enough to be sent into the ring against it with Domri Rade, and the following turn he Boon Satyred his Boon Satyr after Jumping it. I was done quite suddenly.


I have a bad habit of losing my third match of any large tournament, but this loss was mine alone; a better keep game 1 could have given me a better chance to win the match.

Round 4: Jon (Mono-Blue Devotion)

Another aggro matchup, Jon and I exchanged pleasantries and went to battle. The first game was neck and neck the entire time. He assembled a couple Cloudfin Raptors and a Judge’s Familiar with a Frostburn Weird to block and started beating down. Domri Rade was on fight duty every chance he could, smashing Nightveil Specters before they did too much damage. Jon opted to aim at me instead of the kid planeswalker; with an extra evolve trigger, he brought me from five to one. With him at thirteen, I had to plan my final turn carefully. My topdeck was irrelevant, as I recall, so I had to kill him on board with Nylea, a 7/7 Polukranos, and a Burning-Tree Emissary. Bringing them all in, he opted to block the Hydra instead of Nylea. I pumped Nylea to an 8/8 and hit him for exactly thirteen.

Game 2 gave me the opportunity  to overload Mizzium Mortars thanks to a pair of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, the first giving me the red mana I needed and the second giving me the more plentiful green mana. I happily paid the Judge’s Familiar tax with my floating green, and his team hit the bin. Shortly after he picked ’em up.


Round 5: Todd (Mono-Green Devotion)

Todd, a very polite and good-natured opponent, brought a solid mono-green deck to the event, and although I swallowed game 1, he thundered back with an enormous force game 2. In game 3, I was able to get Nykthos online for double digits, and it was over as quickly as you’d expect.


Round 6: Tobias (Mono-Blue Devotion)

Tobias, another smiling opponent, was on the blue plan too. Game 1 brought him nothing but Islands and a game loss however. Game 2 brought an on-time Thassa, God of the Sea to the table for him, though, and it was my job to make sure that his devotion remained low enough to stop the indestructible and potentially unblockable 5/5 from crashing in. Boon Satyrs made my team hard to block effectively, and a lethal swing came on the back of a Boon Satyr’s bestow.


Round 7: Levi (U/W Control)

The X-1 bracket was brimming with the SCG all-stars you all know and love; Chris VanMeter sat across and one seat over from me, Brian Braun-Duin was a couple tables down, and Andrew Shrout was up the row a few spots. Admittedly, I felt a bit out of place. The player across from me, Levi, a focused and genial player, piled his deck out for battle.

His Divination in game 1 gave away his non-black control list, and with a couple bruisers out to battle, I got him to single digits, finally ticking him down to a single life point. Even after resolving a creature a turn, Jace, Architect of Thought kept my Elvish Mystic irrelevant, and Azorius Charms tossed my threats away. Once he had a moment to breathe, he cast Sphinx’s Revelation for six, went to seven, and used Jace’s -8 ability a turn later for my Stormbreath Dragon and his own Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

I looked through my board disheartened; Burning Earth is not super against U/W, hurting me as much as it hurts him. After a potentially disastrous sideboard, we shuffled, and I went first. Although I got an effective start again, Detention Sphere and Supreme Verdict kept me from making much of a mark. Blind Obedience kept my Mistcutter Hydra and Stormbreath Dragon in check, and back-to-back Elspeths flattened Stormbreath Dragons one and two. Without much chance to beat his wave of 1/1 Soldiers with a handful of lands, I scooped up game 2.


Although I certainly had a chance to earn some money with three wins, I was there to make it to the Top 8; with that presumably out of reach, I decided to head home before the weather got bad. Levi, on the other hand, made it to Top 8 himself, so congratulations to you!


A couple parting thoughts about the deck. Although its matchup is stronger against Esper, this deck struggles with planeswalker control. Levi’s deck was the only control deck that I played all day, but barring a bad draw/keep on his side, I couldn’t defeat him with the deck in this shape. I’m very soft to Supreme Verdict, especially when followed up by Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Aetherling would be equally challenging to answer. This deck is also a bit weak to Thoughtseize; because the deck relies heavily on mana dorks, a turn 1 Thoughtseize can pluck either the mana dork you were relying on to curve out or the ramp target for which you kept the hand. I was fortunate to face the beneficial aggro matchups most of the day; if I had faced more control, I might have packed it up a lot sooner.

This deck is nearly unbeatable in an aggro-heavy setting, as you create way too much power in your creature base for them to attack through or to defend against. Polukranos and Domri Rade are surprisingly effective removal, and the trample Nylea offers is essential to making your victory inevitable. Garruk, Caller of Beasts is crucial in midrange and control matchups, providing you two or three creatures a turn on average. You just can’t run out of gas against control.

The changes I’d recommend are metagame specific—more planeswalkers if you play against a lot of control at your shop and another Mizzium Mortars if your opponents are soft to it.

The maindeck all-star is definitely Polukranos, World Eater; with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, it’s a very stupid Magic card. Without Nykthos, it’s about as efficient a creature as you could find. From the sideboard, Mizzium Mortars obviously pulled its weight all day. Underperformers from the maindeck include Xenagos, the Reveler for sure. It’s a very awkward draw unless the board is empty, which is rarely the case in aggro matchups. He’s excellent against control, providing a steady stream of threats that little but an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion can effectively answer (besides removal of course). Burning Earth gathered dust in the sideboard. When I’d tested it before, it was excellent, but without relevant matchups it will just rot there. It’s an easy cut if you find yourself facing more aggro than three-color decks.

This deck is very strong, especially in the myriad of Nykthos matchups present right now. The power of the creatures you present makes blocking (and losing devotion) a must for most matchups, giving you a significant advantage against the majority of aggro decks. This deck is a bit skill intensive, but I’ve certainly played simpler and more complex decks. The price tag on the deck could make it prohibitive for some (and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx are getting more and more difficult to find as people grab four at a time), but this deck has lots of potential and with some proper control-centric tweaking could be a well-rounded contender at the local and national level.

Even with an early out, I thoroughly enjoyed the event this weekend. I hope you get a chance to attend large events in your area too!

Next week I’ll be back on the brew plan with a really fun intriguing take on an archetype that’s a complete departure from the current metagame. I brewed it up in my head on the drive back from Indianapolis and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Until then, don’t forget to untap!

– Matt

CaptainShapiro on Magic Online

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