Some preview cards show an obvious strength that blows you away. Others make you pause and wonder what the hell is going on:
This may look like a present for any Commander SuperFriends deck, but in Constructed, it’s something completely different: a combo enabler that had Twitter buzzing immediately:
Devoted to Combo
Devoted Druid Combo has been an occasional feature of Modern since the printing of Vizier of Remedies in Amonkhet. On its own, Devoted Druid is a fine mana creature for less powerful formats that can lead to explosive turns if you can boost its power. Vizier lets you aim higher, removing the cost on Druid’s untap ability and letting it generate infinite mana. Assuming you can find a good use for that mana and assemble those three pieces (two specific cards and one wildcard), you have a fragile but powerful combo that can race even the fastest decks in Modern.
You can imagine the problem with trying this in the face of Fatal Push or Lightning Bolt. Devoted Druid succeeds when fighting fair is out of style in the format and you need to race other linear decks that are light on interaction. A fast combo with the ability to search for specific hate cards is the perfect recipe there. It’s no surprise that the deck experienced a brief resurgence when Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis devoured everything in its path.
Once Upon a Broken Card
Devoted Druid’s most recent turn in the limelight was driven by Once Upon a Time, which not only made this deck more consistent but vaulted its natural prey in Amulet Titan back to the top tier. When that story ended, so did Devoted Druid’s. Even Laplasjan, its most dedicated standard-bearer on Magic Online (MTGO), eventually switched to Mono-White Hammer and never looked back.
Once Upon a Time was a boon to decks like this across the board, yet gave this deck in particular a unique boost in speed. The various creature tutors in Modern, from Eladamri’s Call or Finale of Devastation to Collected Company and Chord of Calling, can find Devoted Druid in their own way and are perfect for finding Vizier of Remedies or a use for infinite mana, but none of them slot into the ideal curve of Turn 2 Devoted Druid into a Turn 3 kill. If you don’t draw Druid naturally, you’re looking at a Turn 4 win with several moving parts that relies on untapping with a fragile 0/2 creature.
- 2 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Spike Feeder
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Viscera Seer
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 2 Vizier of Remedies
- 4 Ranger-Captain of Eos
- 4 Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Some lists addressed this by splicing other combos into the deck and using the same cards to assemble them. You might not go off with Devoted Druid ASAP, but you were likely to go off with something.
- 2 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 4 Vizier of Remedies
- 1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
- 4 Giver of Runes
- 1 Ranger-Captain of Eos
- 1 Skyclave Apparition
You could also embrace the challenge of fighting through interaction in any number of ways. Giver of Runes and Teferi, Time Raveler are Modern all-stars in a wide range of decks, and both fill that same role in current builds of Azorius Hammer. Postmortem Lunge is more of a deep cut but lets you break the colour pie to win out of nowhere with a hasty Devoted Druid.
Another route is to decrease your emphasis on this combo or combos in general with a fair backup plan. Stoneforge Mystic was a natural candidate for this, as it shares Druid’s description of a creature that just needs to survive for a turn to take over the game, and the tools that protect Druid can do the same for Stoneforge. If your main Druid combo is online, Stoneforge Mystic can translate Druid’s ability to untap itself endlessly into an immediate win via Mirrodin Limited standout Viridian Longbow.
The Missing Link
The missing link here was an Equipment that you were happy to have in your hand even if Stoneforge Mystic died. If all you need to do is find Colossus Hammer or you can suit up something else with a Cranial Playing or Nettlecyst, you don’t care about your Mystic. If you need it to survive to cheat in a Batterskull or Kaldra Compleat, you have just recreated the same play pattern as Devoted Druid without addressing its fundamental weakness.
With Luxior, Giada’s Gift in the mix, Stoneforge Mystic can also find a second combo piece as a replacement for Vizier of Remedies. The first Vizier is still important for your Eladamri’s Call variant of choice, but Stoneforge Mystic is now an equivalent two-drop in many combo scenarios and a much better one otherwise. As in the Hammer decks, Stoneforge Mystic is now a strong enabler and your best backup plan, all in one card.
The most exciting development is unlocking this same versatility from Urza’s Saga. Saga shines in an impressive range of archetypes across the spectrum from fair to unfair, but decks like Hammer or Amulet Titan benefit greatly from Saga finding their key combo card while providing its own reinforcements if that isn’t enough. Consider this simple sequence:
Turn 1: Play Urza’s Saga.
Turn 2: Land. Cast Devoted Druid.
Turn 3: Urza’s Saga’s final chapter triggers, finding Luxior and floating a mana. Equip Luxior to Druid and generate infinite mana, winning however you please.
(Alternatively, if you already have Luxior, you can use Saga to find Viridian Longbow.)
Saga’s promise of a reasonable backup plan is a big selling point for any combo deck, and one that Devoted Druid has mostly lacked in the past.
The Construct Factor
Is Saga enough by itself? In Hammer, your Ornithopters and Springleaf Drums that are now obsolete can help your Constructs to dominate the battlefield. Here, they only have each other. Giver of Runes is still excellent at protecting your threats, but that doesn’t help if they aren’t worth protecting.
My experience with Amulet Titan is that even a ‘bad’ Saga deck can force the opponent to respect its Constructs, and it’s easy to work some other threats into your Druid deck to finish the job. Between Urza’s Saga and Stoneforge Mystic, you stand a much better chance than previous Druid lists of winning without your namesake combo or slogging through several removal spells.
Urza’s Saga also gives you another toolbox of hate cards against the linear decks that threaten to race you. Devoted Druid as a card is oddly well-suited to fight Living End, as it can ‘sacrifice’ itself in response to ensure it sticks around, but access to graveyard hate via Saga and Endurance via Eladamri’s Call solidifies that matchup even further. This isn’t a deck that can support a large box of narrow tools, but that flexibility is appealing.
Luxior and Planeswalkers
We shouldn’t forget about the ‘intended’ use for Luxior either. What if there was a cheap, dominant planeswalker that naturally had an absurd amount of loyalty?
Some relationships were never meant to be, I suppose…
Luckily, we have another strong candidate. Teferi, Time Raveler has a high starting loyalty and protects itself as it picks up Luxior and heads into combat.
The real star here might be Karn, the Great Creator. Equipping Luxior to Karn isn’t quite as flashy as fetching Liquimetal Coating, turning Karn into an artifact, and having it animate itself, but it does the job just fine.
More importantly, Luxior gives the same upgrade to Karn as it did to Stoneforge Mystic and Urza’s Saga: it can now find your second combo piece and act as an infinite mana sink as well as its usual roles as a unique prison/toolbox card and scourge of artifact-centric strategies. Karn also stood out previously as a way to actually use the acceleration from Devoted Druid and your other mana creatures in a deck with relatively few finite mana sinks.
This planeswalker-heavy build of Devoted Devastation from a very different era is a useful template for how the archetype might look in a few weeks.
A New Approach
Luxior opens up the intriguing possibility of a new generation of Devoted Druid decks. Vizier of Remedies is a generally useless card in a second colour, and you needed enough actual or virtual copies to pair it with Druid consistently. If you already want to play Urza’s Saga and have incidental ways to convert infinite mana into a win, you now have the option of a small combo package that grafts a realistic Turn 3 kill onto your existing strategy.
Why not Hardened Scales or something similar?
Hardened Scales is capable of these quick kills in its own right if everything aligns perfectly, but it isn’t easy. Devoted Druid speeds you up against a deck like Hammer that is generally advantaged in that pseudo-mirror as a faster deck operating in a similar space. Druid is out of place as a regular card here, but it can still power out large Hangarback Walkers or Walking Ballistas, and dumping counters onto it via The Ozolith gives you another route to a big Ballista turn. Meanwhile, Luxior can actually check for counters in a more mainstream way here. Note the use of Lair of the Hydra as a way to win with infinite mana that slots seamlessly into your manabase!
Although these decks are much stronger now, they also face much stiffer competition. Modern Horizons 2 filled the format with amazing interactive tools and compelling reasons to put those in your deck. Your plan for a Turn 1 Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer probably gives you some coverage against a Turn 2 Devoted Druid.
Another Luxior Combo
This isn’t even the only infinite combo on the table now! An equipped Saheeli Rai can use its -2 ability on itself (as a creature) to make a new Saheeli that’s an artifact and can coexist with its newly nonlegendary sister. The artifact Saheeli can use its own -2 on itself (as an artifact) to make a new, legendary copy; keep this one around and repeat this process. If you have something that cares about permanents entering or leaving the battlefield – like Altar of the Brood, also conveniently in range of Urza’s Saga! – you have an elaborate but realistic infinite combo. As a three-drop, Saheeli welcomes the reduced cost of Luxior equipping a planeswalker.
In keeping with the theme of this set, there’s a lot more to this card than meets the eye – and you quickly learn that it’s up to no good.