Another Pro Tour, another example of my limitations as a player.
I could blame it on my mind being elsewhere, jet lag, a lack of preparation, or the fact that I overvalued Anger of the Gods in the format. In truth, it was my own fault. I played poorly in spots, sideboarded poorly in spots, and lost a lot because of it. That type of realization is always helpful because it further reinforces the fact that my decisions matter and that I'm capable of winning every single match I play.
It was pretty nice seeing Chris Pikula, Chris Manning, and the Czech team (Lukas Jaklovsky, Stanislav Cifka, and Ivan Floch) all playing B/R and all doing reasonably well with the deck. In fact, if Lukas hadn't made some similar sideboarding errors, he might have won his win-and-in match.
As I mentioned, Anger of the Gods, while fine, ended up not being very good against many of the decks at the Pro Tour. Had I known that (or figured it out, heh), I would have likely gone in an entirely different direction with the deck.
Perhaps something like this would have been better:
The night before the Pro Tour, Todd Anderson was spamming me on Facebook, telling me how well he was doing with a similar deck. I'll admit that it looked good, but it was mostly too late for me to turn back. It was also one of those situations where Todd was doing well on Magic Online but that wasn't necessarily representative of how my matches would go in the Pro Tour. After all, I was doing incredibly well online with B/R Midrange also.
That said, I wish everything were different. I wish that, even if I didn't believe Todd, I had wound up playing this deck regardless. Once Anger of the Gods was a card I didn't want to play, my deck would have looked remarkably similar. However, I doubt I'd have ended up playing off-color scry lands.
I like the maindeck Lifebane Zombies for the expected field at the Pro Tour but likely not for the field after the Pro Tour. Nightveil Specter will probably end up better across the board. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is a great card, especially because life gain is sorely needed in a deck with Thoughtseize and Underworld Connections (or Read the Bones). That stuff adds up, and occasionally the board clogs up. In those cases, the Merchant will likely offer you a deal you can't refuse.
Corrupt is another option that I like as a one- or two-of mostly for the same reasons I like Gray Merchant. Some lists online have taken to using Liliana of the Dark Realms, but I'm not sure I can get behind that option. While Jumping a Mutavault in the late game is pretty awesome, it seems like it would be more than a few turns before Liliana starts paying you.
You could potentially put those scry lands to work and play something like Returned Phalanx, a cheap brick wall that adds to your devotion and might get in some damage in the later stages of the game. With Master of Waves mostly putting the brakes on for any aggro deck, I can't imagine Returned Phalanx being necessary.
Far // Away is another semi-attractive option, but clearing two creatures off the board doesn't seem nearly as appealing as simply killing their best creature or planeswalker with Hero's Downfall. If Blood Baron of Vizkopa were an issue (and judging from the results of the Pro Tour, I'm guessing it won't be), you can play some Devour Fleshes or Far // Aways, but you already have plenty of discard between Thoughtseize and Lifebane Zombie.
Whether or not this deck is good against Mono-Blue Devotion remains to be seen. Kentarou lost 1-3 against Sam Black in the quarterfinals, although just like my match against Matt Costa, he lost because he wasn't able to put Sam under any pressure. Attempting to control the blue deck and grind it into the dust is not a viable option. Cards like Bident of Thassa; Jace, Architect of Thought; and even Mutavault make that strategy a bad idea.
You need to clock them in order to have a shot. The blue deck doesn't have much in the way of creature removal, and it desperately wants some in matchups like this. Claustrophobia, while clearly not a Constructed all-star, would do wonders in these matchups (even if it doesn't beat Pack Rat, heh). Perhaps even something like Rapid Hybridization maindeck would be fine.
Given its performance at the Pro Tour, I think it's reasonable to expect to see a lot of this deck in the future:
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Frostburn Weird
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Master of Waves
- 4 Nightveil Specter
- 2 Omenspeaker
- 4 Tidebinder Mage
- 4 Thassa, God of the Sea
One of my main issues with Mono-Blue Devotion is that aside from Master of Waves; Thassa, God of the Sea; and sometimes Bident of Thassa, it's just a pile of creatures. Granted, those creatures aren't bad, but they aren't going to win many games on their own. At the end of the day, it's a few powerful cards and enablers, which could mostly be anything.
If you want to beat Mono-Blue Devotion, there are a number of options, such as Mistcutter Hydra, Brave the Elements, and Esper Control, that you can utilize. Then again, you could also focus on making the deck better—or at least better suited for the metagame.
If we cut all the garbage creatures, we might end up close to this:
Once again Shouta doesn't disappoint.
For the pre-Pro Tour metagame, Shouta's deck looks fantastic. However, in a post-Pro Tour world, I wouldn't want to play a number of his cards. Opportunity? Domestication? Prognostic Sphinx? Quad Syncopate and only one Ultimate Price? No, thank you.
Despite that I like what's going on here, especially relegating Tidebinder Mage to the sideboard and playing Ultimate Price maindeck. It doesn't look like Tidebinder Mage is going to have a lot of targets in the upcoming weeks. G/R had a reasonable showing, but Mono-Red Aggro should be virtually absent without a good way to deal with Master of Waves. On the other hand, Mono-Red Devotion might have enough game against it, but it didn't perform particularly well at the Pro Tour, so I don't see it garnering a large following.
Before the Pro Tour, Brennan DeCandio sent me a list that was more Team StarCityGames.com than Team Shouta, but I could see it slowly creeping over to Shouta's side.
With all that in mind, this is the deck I'm currently working on:
Right now Master of Waves is the best card in Standard, but that can certainly change. After all, it is just a creature, and all creatures die to some Doom Blade variant. In the short term, I'd look at taking advantage of Master of Waves being awesome, exploiting its weaknesses, or both.
With this list, I'm concerned about three things.
1) Nightveil Specter might not be high impact enough. Frostburn Weird holds the ground well, attacks well, and provides devotion. Nightveil Specter certainly provides devotion and gives you an incremental advantage, but it doesn't hold the ground (or air) as well as I'd like it to. So many cards outclass it that it might not be worth it at all.
That said, I think it's a good card to try from the start, but I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't powerful enough and ultimately is cut for more spells.
2) The mana base might be too painful, have too many shock lands, or have too many lands that enter the battlefield tapped. Four Mutavaults might be too many also. Blood Crypt does a lot of work by allowing you to cast Frostburn Weird on time while also allowing you to cast Hero's Downfall, but that combined with Mutavault and the overall awkwardness of the mana might be too much of a strain.
Cutting Hero's Downfall entirely, shaving the number of Mutavaults, or both might be necessary. Compared to a deck like Mono-Blue Devotion, this mana base is a train wreck. Obviously there is an opportunity cost for branching out into a second color. For the most part it's worth it, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
3) Syncopate (and counterspells in general) might be garbage.
When your deck's optimal draw is curving Frostburn Weird, Nightveil Specter, Master of Waves, what is Syncopate accomplishing? Certainly filling those gaps on your curve is a blessing (and potentially a necessary evil), but when you draw the curve and the counterspell, it can be frustrating trying to navigate.
Aside from a reasonable one-mana removal spell, I really like what this U/B deck is doing. Rapid Hybridization in the Mono-Blue Devotion deck might work for them, but that's not the type of removal spell I'm looking for. Something like Disfigure, Dismember, or maybe Unsummon would work, but everything seems to cost two now.
Ultimate Price is the best removal spell at the moment. Assuming you can beat things like Boros Reckoner, Burning-Tree Emissary, Voice of Resurgence, Frostburn Weird, and Nightveil Specter, Ultimate Price kills everything important right now. Obzedat, Ghost Council might be the most important card that Ultimate Price doesn't touch, but Doom Blade doesn't beat it either.
If there were a tournament tomorrow, I'd sleeve up U/B in a heartbeat. I think it exploits opposing Master of Waves strategies while also utilizing Master of Waves itself. For the next couple weeks, that seems like the best of both worlds.
With all the Devotion decks at Pro Tour Theros, I thought it was strange that no one played the Devotion deck I was working on (and actually thought was pretty good).
Since we have a new metagame, it should be pretty easy to tune this into a winner because I like a lot of what it has going on. For starters, Chained to the Rocks and Detention Sphere are clean answers to Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea, which a lot of decks don't have good answers for. That alone is probably why Mono-Blue Devotion was able to do so well at the Pro Tour.
Going forward, I'd like to trim the deck down a bit, removing cards like Angel of Serenity, which is probably not very good in this fast metagame anyway. I'd like to explore Soldier of the Pantheon and Banisher Priest, although going a slower Sphere of Safety based route might be good also.
As for Mono-Red Devotion? CFB had a nice-looking decklist . . .
- 4 Ash Zealot
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Fanatic of Mogis
- 4 Frostburn Weird
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 3 Purphoros, God of the Forge
They were a land short (if not two) and didn't have a good answer to Master of Waves. Clearly Burning-Tree Emissary into Nykthos, Shrine to Nix is good and gives you an easy way to splash R/G planeswalkers, but R/G is short on ways of actually removing Master of Waves.
Perhaps Ratchet Bomb or Mistcutter Hydra would allow them to race, or maybe they need to rely more on Nykthos-fueled Mizzium Mortars. Maybe Kamiel made Top 8 with his outdated list because his sideboarded Anger of the Gods ended up being really good? The world may never know.
No matter what color you're devoted to this weekend, you should have a blast. This format started out kinda slow but now looks very awesome.
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