When the Fire Nation Attacked

GerryT isn’t eligible to play in #SCGSTATES, but that won’t stop him from influencing the metagame! Get his latest red-based decklists and one wildcard surprise from his extensive testing on Magic Online!

Spring 2014 State Championships

I’ve been working my way through the Standard gauntlet, updating it to my liking and trying to find a deck for the Season Two Invitational in Columbus. As
you all know, the Invitationals are incredibly important to me, and I want my first tournament back to be a good one.

So what have I been working on?

“Mono-Red” Devotion

If you guys have been following me on Twitter (and you should, both so that I have more followers than Bard
Narson, but also because I’ve been posting a decent amount of decklists), you know that last night was an eventful night. In fact, I haven’t been quiet all

Things started with a call to all the Mono-Red Devotion experts out there. I was working on a list and there were a lot of questions I had. Is this the
best Stormbreath Dragon deck? Is white still the “correct” splash color when the black devotion decks have Abrupt Decay to kill Chained to the Rocks?
Fanatic of Mogis or no?

How did I even get to Mono-Red Devotion in the first place?

Well, if you look at Standard through Mike Flores’ Stage Theory, it will be easy to understand why Mono-Black
Devotion variants (most of which should be B/G at this point) are the king. They absolutely own Stage II, have the potential for a devastating Stage III,
and move out of Stage I quickly against non-Stage I decks. Their sideboards generally address that issue, though.

Standard is defined by which cards/decks perform best in each on the Stages. For example:

Stage I: Mana Confluence / one-drops

Stage II: Stormbreath Dragon / Pack Rat

Stage III: Sphinx’s Revelation / Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Alternatively, you could look at it in terms of pillars of the format, which breaks down like this:

Mana Confluence (or one-drops if you’re mono-colored)

Sylvan Caryatid

Vindicates (Banishing Light, Detention Sphere, Hero’s Downfall, Thoughtseize)

No matter what you’re doing in Standard, if you don’t have one of those three things, you are probably not going to do well. That said, I’m sure there are
some exceptions.

I started looking at this deck because Stormbreath Dragon, and Mono-Red Devotion in particular, seemed like they could own Stage II while still being live
in Stage III thanks to cards like Hammer of Purphoros; Purphoros, God of the Forge; Fanatic of Mogis; and Stormbreath Dragon.

For that reason, I felt like a red devotion deck might just end up being a better G/R Monsters deck. You’re still great in Stage II, but are more than
threat-dense, since the enablers like Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid are horrendous topdecks in the late game. That allows you to keep a steady stream
of gas, which allows you to finish off B/G Devotion before they reach Stage III. In that task, G/R Monsters often fails.

Additionally, Mizzium Mortars was always impressive against my Stage II decks, and devotion decks probably have the best Mizzium Mortars because the ground
is likely to stall and because of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Mortars might fall short of killing some of the bigger threats like Desecration Demon and
Polukranos, World Eater, but it cleans up the surrounding stuff rather well.

Initially, I wasn’t excited about Fanatic of Mogis and left him out of my 75 entirely. That all changed when I saw someone play two-drop into Hammer of
Purphoros into Fanatic of Mogis.

I’ve said this before, but I am often drawn to big red decks despite rarely playing with them. I like the idea of being aggressive in certain formats
(which is most Standard formats these days), but I don’t like how I can’t win if I draw more than four lands, or how if I don’t have a one-drop it’s hard
to win, or how things get dicey if I’m on the draw.

Ideally, a bigger red deck gives you the bonuses of playing an aggressive deck (free wins, mostly) while also having relevant things to do in Stage II. As
I mentioned earlier, this deck has plenty of stuff to do with your mana, which is awesome considering we have a ton of mana if we draw a Nykthos, Shrine to

Let’s look at a decklist.

My Twitter followers provided me with a wealth of information, so that was awesome. The most common replies I got were:

– Is Eidolon of the Great Revel good?

– Is Prophetic Flamespeaker good?

– Cut Prophetic Flamespeaker, you can’t pump it.

– Where is Fanatic of Mogis?

– Where is Ash Zealot?

– Is Burning-Tree Emissary still good when you can’t really cast anything off it?

– You have too many dead cards against control. Try R/B with Dreadbore (which doesn’t get killed by Abrupt Decay like Chained to the Rocks does).

Boros Charm stinks.

Boros Guildgate stinks. Try Mana Confluence.

Those responses were all very helpful, so thanks again!

I didn’t start with Fanatic of Mogis because I expected to play against a lot of removal-heavy decks like B/G Devotion and U/W Control. Prophetic
Flamespeaker was fine on its own, since U/W Control basically has to Supreme Verdict just it. Other than that, it was underwhelming. Josh Utter-Leyton
suggested Dragon Mantle, which I thought of, but I figured it would suck. I still haven’t gotten around to trying it, but Flamespeaker-centric builds are
next on my list.

The white splash was intriguing because all of the sideboard cards looked really good. Boros Charm gave me Supreme Verdict protection, but that wasn’t how
I should be approaching the matchup. The threats are so big that any one of two of them demand an answer, so I could slowplay my threats to get around it.
Hammer of Purphoros was also fantastic against Supreme Verdict, as was Assemble the Legion.

Eidolon of the Great Revel was easily the most over-performing card in the deck. Even against aggressive decks, it wouldn’t be as bothersome to me, because
they had to play out more small guys just to get around a single Frostburn Weird or Boros Reckoner, plus I had some four- and five-mana spells. Eidolon
easily dealt them way more damage than me. In a way, it provided a Standstill-like effect, where either player would be punished for playing spells, but
they were certainly more affected than I was. If I had two in play against anybody, it was nearly impossible for them to win.

Burning-Tree Emissary is a weirdo. On one hand, it’s a Grizzly Bear. On the other, you can go two-drop into Burning-Tree Emissary, Burning-Tree Emissary,
Nykthos, Stormbreath Dragon. The only things you can really cast off it are other copies of itself, Hammer of Purphoros, Fanatic of Mogis, or Purphoros
himself (although in that case, it might be better to wait until next turn to get the two damage).

Despite its shortcomings, Burning-Tree Emissary is an integral part of the deck that should not be removed as long as you have cards with devotion in your
deck. Yes, Nykthos counts.

The mana base is solid, but I could see some improvements. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx doesn’t cast any creatures until you already have RR, so it’s important
to not look at a hand of Mountain, Nykthos, and spells and automatically keep. It’s more of a Dark Ritual effect than anything else and the mana base
should reflect that. In future versions, I added an additional land to bring the total up to 26, although it feels more like 22.

As for the Guildgates, I wanted to consistently have white mana, especially considering my sideboard, but I was also aware that I might struggle against
Mono-Red, Mono-White, and Mono-Black aggro decks. Mana Confluence in large numbers did not appeal to me. I eventually tried one and was fine with it but
wouldn’t go higher than that unless I tried a more aggressive shell.

Oh, hey, check out this aggressive decklist that I used to 4-0 a Daily Event!

After testing R/W, I moved onto R/B, which was a pretty normal build with Firedrinker Satyr in the sideboard for slower decks and Fanatic of Mogis in the
sideboard for decks where the board could stall and I’d need the extra reach. Both performed admirably, and I even experimented with siding in both against
B/G Devotion and U/W Control when I was on the play.

It worked pretty well.

Against black devotion decks, you will often play creatures faster than they can keep up with you since they don’t have any one-mana removal. Cards like
their Thoughtseizes and your Eidolons, Burning-Tree Emissaries, Hammer of Purphoros, and Fanatic of Mogis allow you to get ahead and stay ahead once you’re

The major reason for removing Stormbreath Dragon was actually because of the B/G Devotion matchup. While all the cards I just mentioned are fantastic at
keeping tempo on your side, Stormbreath Dragon was a tempo black hole. Games where I drew Stormbreath Dragon, I’d be unable to close. I just didn’t have
enough early pressure, and by the time I got to Stormbreath Dragon, they’d have things well in hand.

With U/W Control, things were a little different. If they showed weakness on turn two or three by Azorius Charming my two-drop or Detention Sphere-ing me,
I would often assume they didn’t have the Supreme Verdict. When they cast those spells, they’d often still be at 18 or 16 and under little pressure, so if
they had Supreme Verdict, they’d be better off casting that on Turn 4.

At that point, I could go all-out and use Fanatic of Mogis for a good chunk of damage. Other than that, it was dealing them three to five damage, which was
solid, but not spectacular. In the future, I will likely not have Fanatic of Mogis in my deck against U/W Control, even if I’m on the play, unless I really
have nothing else to board in.

The black splash has been good, although I’ve been missing the Assemble the Legions as a way to win longer games and have additional threats that are hard
to kill. I subbed in Chandra, Pyromaster to fulfill a similar role, and she’s been pretty good so far. I’m sure Anthony Lowry is not surprised in the

I tried out a few other things in the sideboard, such as Rakdos’s Return, but wasn’t impressed. It was very, very difficult to Return a control deck for a
reasonable amount. Against B/G Devotion, it was a little easier to catch them with just three cards, but as I said earlier, I wanted to be attacking, not
sandbagging expensive spells.

Originally, I had Dark Betrayals instead of Ultimate Prices in the sideboard, since the main thing I wanted to kill was Desecration Demon. However, I found
myself wanting an additional out to Polukranos, World Eater, and the fact that it kills Master of Waves is just an additional bonus. I haven’t played much
against Mono-Blue Devotion as of late, but I’ve beaten it both times with R/B Devotion, in no small part because of Ultimate Price.

The last thing I’d like to touch on are the Angers in the sideboard. I know I have a slight weakness to Stage I decks, and I’d prefer to use some of my
sideboard space against it. Frostburn Weird and Boros Reckoner can only do so much work, you know? Four is almost certainly overkill, but I’m not sure what
else the sideboard needs. It has good transitional plans for each of the matchups and I’ve yet to think of something I’m missing, but I’ll be taking a
closer look soon.

Also, you could very easily swap the Firedrinker Satyrs and Fanatic of Mogis for Stormbreath Dragon and additional lands. It all just depends on what you
expect to play against, what you want to beat, and how consistent you want to be. Regardless, there is something in this shell. While I’m still unsure if
it’s a better G/R Monsters deck or not, I do know that it still has a place in the metagame.

And last but not least, I’d like to show you one of the most fun decks I’ve played with in a while.

I played against MTGO user KWay and he destroyed me with a version of the deck similar to this. I like the eight accelerators, the eight Vindicates, and
the potential to be threat-dense against control decks. Saito’s original G/W Enchantress deck had a lot of issues against control decks, but I feel like
with Assemble the Legion and Banishing Light/Consign to Dust to kill their Detention Spheres, you might have a shot.

Sphere of Safety could be in or out of the deck, and I’m not sure which I want yet. The mana base is also a little rough and the whole package could be
improved dramatically.


Spring 2014 State Championships