Listen To Todd Anderson!

If you’re still undecided on a Standard deck to play at SCG Open Series: Indianapolis featuring the Invitational, be sure to check out GerryT’s thoughts about the current format.

"I wish I had taken Todd Anderson advice."
-Things I rarely say

Nothing makes me regret skipping a tournament more than a group of my friends absolutely decimating it. Congrats to Brian Braun-Duin, Brad Nelson, Todd Anderson, and Chris Andersen for dominating Grand Prix Louisville with Mono-Black Devotion. I’m sad that I couldn’t be there to root for you guys in person.

Apparently I should have listened to Todd’s midnight ramblings before Pro Tour Theros about Mono-Black Devotion. The only problem was that I thought my deck was good also, so what was the difference? In truth, if he would have told me Anger of the Gods was going to be bad or was unnecessary, I would have been more than likely to listen to him.

Sorry, but you’ve got to use a stronger argument than, "My deck is good. You should play it."

Anyway, the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Indianapolis featuring the Invitational is this weekend, which I’ll hopefully be able to play in (but I’ll get to that later). With Mono-Black Devotion being the talk of the town, what should you be playing?

Honestly, it’s probably Mono-Black Devotion. Last week I posted a U/B Control deck that I thought would be well positioned against the Mono-Blue and G/R Devotion decks, which was true. However, Master of Waves and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver don’t line up well against Thoughtseize and Hero’s Downfall. If they have Underworld Connections to keep the gas flowing, you’re probably dead.

So despite winning with U/B on Magic Online, I’m already off it. U/W is probably better anyway.

This list looks pretty sweet, as Nykthos into Sphinx’s Revelation is one of the coolest things you could be doing right now.

The only cosmetic change off the top of my head would be considering some amount of Temples over the Plains because casting Nightveil Specter on time is the difference between winning and losing. I would also consider adding another land or two, especially if you added scry lands. Typically the third or fourth Nykthos should be considered a spell. Other than that I think it’s safe to assume that Glare of Heresy doesn’t do much good right now.

Earlier this week Patrick Chapin pointed out the pillars of the format: Thoughtseize; Sphinx’s Revelation; and Thassa, God of the Sea. I think it’s closer to Thoughtseize; Jace, Architect of Thought; and Burning-Tree Emissary. That covers Mono-Black Devotion, B/W Midrange, Esper Control, Mono-Blue Devotion, G/R Devotion, and Mono-Red Devotion. Right now you need a pretty great reason to play anything other than those decks.

For example, if your deck is good against a combination of Mono-Black, Mono-Blue, and Esper, you’re probably off to a good start. I have a feeling that a tuned Mono-Red Aggro list has what it takes, but you probably have to go a little bigger in order to beat Mono-Blue and Esper. From my experience the "small" version of Mono-Red is quite good against Mono-Black, and by slowing down you’d be losing a lot of percentage points.

Do you actually want to play Mono-Red against Frostburn Weird and Master of Waves though? My guess is no, although there are playable answers available. For starters, Mizzium Mortars is a clean answer to Frostburn Weird, and if you’re playing the big version of Mono-Red, you will almost certainly have time to overload it against a Master of Waves.

I don’t think it’s time to start Dynachargeing people, but a Mono-Red Aggro deck similar to the one Owen Turtenwald used to Top 8 the SCG Standard Open in Worcester would probably beat the crap out of Mono-Black Devotion. Hammer of Purphoros has looked so good out of that deck’s sideboard (and in the maindeck of Mono-Red Devotion) that I wouldn’t mind seeing a pair in the maindeck.

The Fires of Yavimaya ability is surprisingly good even if your biggest creature is a lowly Gore-House Chainwalker. I’d likely go slightly bigger with Fanatic of Mogis, which makes Hammer even more insane since you have a strong devotion enabler that is difficult to remove and provides a lot of value. On top of that, it’s insurance against flooding, and the Golems are colorless, allowing you to attack past Master of Waves (assuming you killed all their water horses).

So is Mono-Red Aggro where it’s at this weekend? Possibly, as most Mono-Black Devotion decks are skimping on hate and hoping to dodge the matchup entirely. However, there are numerous hurdles to overcome. Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers.

Perhaps kb3 does.

As I’ve said before, I have a weird affinity for midrange red decks even though I never end up playing them myself, and this one looks beautiful. From the maindeck Assemble the Legions to the Firedrinker Satyrs in the sideboard, I love this decklist.

Assemble the Legion and Hammer of Purphoros are like planeswalkers that have protection from Hero’s Downfall and combat steps, which is exactly what a red deck needs right now. Chained to the Rocks is one of the most perfect answers to Master of the Waves as well—just be prepared for Cyclonic Rift!

Adding another land to the maindeck doesn’t seem like the worst idea. After all, your second Nykthos is either a dead card early or a Dark Ritual late, and neither of those functions like a normal land when you need it most. You probably wouldn’t play the above decklist with 24 lands so adding another makes sense, especially when you consider how top heavy the deck is and the fact that you have multiple Hammer of Purphoroses.

For the Invitational, I’m going to play Mono-Black Devotion. It’s great against Esper, reasonable against G/R and Mono-Blue, and has disruption and removal for any weird stuff that might pop up. I definitely prefer it to something like B/W Midrange since Mono-Black Devotion has the capability of going over the top.

B/W has weaker cards in Soldier of the Pantheon and Precinct Captain, but they also have cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Obzedat, Ghost Council that can cause problems if you don’t have the right answer. Aside from those (and maybe Whip of Erebos, which is deadly in conjunction with Obzedat), B/W kinda stops there. Mono-Black Devotion does not.

It has Pack Rat to make an army off of one card, which is surprisingly good; it has Gray Merchant of Asphodel for reach and to gain back the life lost from Thoughtseize or Underworld Connections; and nearly each of its cards are good at any stage in the game. B/W will get into a situation where it can start presenting threats, but Mono-Black has more card draw, more removal, better threats, and a better mana base.

Those who continue to play B/W are likely doing themselves a disservice by not playing Mono-Black instead.

That rationale isn’t just applicable to B/W versus Mono-Black either. G/R Monsters is likely a worse deck than G/R Devotion, mostly because the devotion-based deck has explosive draws with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Garruk, Caller of Beasts.

A deck like G/R Monsters might play Boon Satyr into Polukranos, World Eater into Stormbreath Dragon, threatening lethal damage, but G/R Devotion threatens a lethal board state by developing their mana and deploying planeswalkers. They might not have you on the same clock damage-wise, but I assure you there is a clock in place. The fact that they don’t necessarily need to eke out points of damage in order to win games (and they have a strong capability of coming back from behind) means that it too is another case of the devotion-based deck being stronger than not.

I don’t agree with the notion that the beatdown deck gives you more "free wins" because both decks can capitalize on an opponent who stumbles. On the flip side of that coin, G/R Devotion can stumble early and still come back from behind with explosive turns, whereas G/R Monsters doesn’t have that capability.

Consider this:

This deck takes the explosiveness of G/R Devotion but cuts down on the value cards like Domri Rade, which I like. The mana is worse, but you have Cyclonic Rift and Prime Speaker Zegana as additional cards to utilize with Nykthos and your overabundance of mana. As always, consider adding the 24th land.

I can’t tell if Prophet of Kruphix is going to be insane or mediocre in this deck. The upside is certainly there, but you should be careful about including cards that are "win more." Often you just need to make that first push with something like Garruk, Caller of Beasts or an overloaded Cyclonic Rift and then snowball them there, putting your opponent in an awful spot.

Prophet of Kruphix is either another way to create a snowball effect or only does something when you’re already winning. Consider which one it is before you actually register it.

The last pillar, Jace, Architect of Thought, encompasses Mono-Blue Devotion, Esper Control, and their spinoffs. Despite Esper being everywhere and Supreme Verdict supposedly being the problem card for Mono-Blue, two copies of Mono-Blue still made Top 8 of Grand Prix Louisville. I’m thinking that matchup isn’t as bad for Mono-Blue as everyone makes it out to be, especially if Esper is low on Detention Spheres.

Bident of Thassa fell out of favor last week, but I can’t imagine that it will stay that way. Esper Control is supposedly a bad matchup, and the Mono-Black Devotion matchup is at least close. Bident is the best card in both of those matchups. It might seem like Bident is worse than Jace, especially against Esper. But Hero’s Downfall is everywhere, and Bident turns your weakest creatures into threats.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa lost a game in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Theros because he didn’t take Bident with his Thoughtseize, and Todd Anderson lost in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Louisville because his opponent drew his one-of Bident twice. I’m sure there are even more scenarios on top of that.

While Bident isn’t as good as Jace in the mirror or against aggressive decks, it’s by far the best card against Mono-Blue Devotion’s worst matchups, and that alone should earn its spot in the deck. Mono-Blue needs something that is a continuous threat, not something that can Impulse for a creature and then die to Hero’s Downfall.

From the Mono-Black Devotion perspective, I’m far more worried about Bident than any amount of Jaces. If you choose to eschew Bident altogether, I’ll certainly be happy about it once we’re paired versus each other.


As I said earlier, I may or may not be making it to the Invitational this weekend. I am trying my damndest, but life might get in the way. Starting on November 4th, I’ll be interning at Wizards of the Coast for Magic R&D. That means no more tournaments, no more writing, and a helluva long drive to Seattle. I’m scrambling to get everything packed up and ready to go, but it wouldn’t be surprising if I don’t make it in time.

As much as I’ve enjoyed my time competing in tournaments and creating strategy content, it’s time to try something new.


@G3RRYT on Twitter