I know that in the past I have basically said that whatever I was writing about was the coolest or second-coolest deck in Standard, so I won't lie to you guys here, I'll just come right out and say it:
THIS IS THE THIRD COOLEST DECK IN STANDARD!
Mono-Blue Devotion has been one of the top Standard decks for several months. Ever since the release of Theros, Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea gatecrashed Ravinca for their friend Nightveil Specter, joining forces across two blocks to make one heck of a deck. The deck is very powerful and able to generate card advantage in multiple ways - opposing players would often find themselves looking back on the match wondering where things went wrong, with blue creatures flying over first for a fresh grip worth of cards and then finally to take the match. Everything was great for the aggressive blue players; the deck played somewhat similar to the very powerful Delver of Secret deck in Standard from a couple years back. Recently, however, decks like Esper Control and Mono-Black Devotion made it much more difficult for Mono-Blue Devotion to succeed. With Journey into Nyx, I feel that instead of just basic Mono-Blue Devotion being the deck to play, it would be a far better option to push things that extra bit further and play U/W/R Devotion instead.
With the upcoming Star City Games Standard Open in Knoxville, I wanted to create something I thought would tackle the new metagame from multiple angles. As I mentioned earlier, this deck features a similar shell to most of the Mono-Blue Devotion decks we've come accustomed to, but it also serves as a home for some of the cool new Journey into Nyx cards. Every card in this deck has a specific role, and I think it's important to know why each card is represented. With that being said, I want to give a breakdown of all the card choices I made so let's get into it!
- 4 Frostburn Weird
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Master of Waves
- 4 Nightveil Specter
- 4 Tidebinder Mage
- 2 Ephara, God of the Polis
- 3 Keranos, God of Storms
- 3 Thassa, God of the Sea
This deck features a total of twenty creatures, still enough to consistently get aggressive draws, but cutting back some of the traditional Devotion creature slots to give us enough wiggle room for some of the other powerful spells in the deck. Since each creature is very important and synergistic, we want to maximize our chances of drawing as many of each card possible, making them four-ofs as these are the backbone of the deck that makes it work. Looking over the list, you'll see many of the usual suspects are there. With the addition of Journey into Nyx, there simply are not many appealing options to add to the original roster of mono-blue creatures. The one card I suspect may see some play is Dakra Mystic. This cheap merfolk provides a small addition to the devotion factor of the deck while also potentially giving you late game-fuel to keep the deck firing on all cylinders, putting a card back into your hand every time the deal is in your favor instead of your opponent's. Perhaps in a more aggressive blue build this card can shine, but I decided I would leave it out here and focus on Gods instead. Even though we are plenty familiar with many of the creatures in this deck, I want to break down the advantages of each.
Nightveil Specter is card we have come to known for months now, and it doesn't seem like that is going to change anytime soon. The card is still as good as it was before, and fits this deck perfectly. The devotion he provides for each of the Gods is worth it alone, while the ability to steals your opponent's spells will keep you filled up with gas for the game. Many times when this is cast and does not get answered it quickly takes over and dominates the game. The Specter is also essential in beating opposing blue and black decks featuring their own copies of Nightveil Specter. When you are on the draw in these matchups it is very important that you are able to stop their Specters from running off with the game, and at the very least playing your own Specter can stop theirs from connecting if you don't have the ability to kill it outright. In this deck, our Specters also game some added value from the fact that we're playing multiple colors and thus will have a higher chance of being able to immediately cast whichever cards you flip off the top of your opponent's library.
Tidebinder Mage is also a four-of because it is both another card that helps feed the devotion factor of the deck and is naturally aggressive as a potentially-disruptive 2/2 for two, right in line with the deck's natural progression as it advances the board early in the game. With the format being somewhat new, it's very possible we will see a breakout performance from many aggressive decks the first few weeks of play - the new control and mid-range decks tend to still tweak and tune themselves over the first couple of weeks. Given that, you want to be able to have cards that can stave off other aggressive decks and Tidebinder does a good job of doing just that: many of the aggressive decks will have at least one of the two colors if not both, letting us slow down their draws considerably in the early stages of the game.
Master of Waves is another awesome card we have seen plenty of since Theros was first introduced. Master of Waves is the driving force of Mono-Blue Devotion and one of the very best reasons to play this strategy. An unanswered Master of Waves will naturally dominate a game with as little as two devotion to help set him up, which in this deck is a piece of cake. The deck would have a hard time breaking through opposing decks without this card, and it really is the main blowout card this strategy leans heavily on. Running four copies of Master of Waves has been pretty much proven to be correct, cementing our game plan firmly around him when making our design choices.
Judge's Familiar is a card we have seen off and on throughout the past year and a half of the Standard metagame, and here I think he is a staple that works well with our overall plan – enough to choose him over any of the other one-drops. This little guy is cheap, is going to get in there for some damage, and has a very relevant ability that can change how games are played out to your benefit, pushing our opponents' responses out of the way while we drop Gods and other power cards into play. Most decks like this would jam in four copies of Cloudfin Raptor as well, but in this version I think we get better value out of Judge's Familiar first and want to spend our other slots on bigger cards rather than relying heavily on one-drops in a deck that is going to play a considerable number of Temples. This deck features considerably fewer creatures than Mono-Blue Devotion does, so Cloudfin Raptor is less likely to evolve early and becomes significantly worse here than in the usual builds. That is not to say he can't get big, but I don't think he would be big consistently – which leaves us with too many one-drops that don't work at full strength, taking away the power draws and trying to push this deck in a direction that is not what it wants.
Last but not least, we have four copies of one of my favorite blue beaters, Frostburn Weird. I'm sure we've all stared down a Frostburn Weird before, whether in Sealed Deck, during a draft, or at your last Standard event. This card is another reason to play the deck, and being able to shift readily between offense and defense makes it as flexible as a creature comes. Beyond the fact that it adds to your devotion while providing a solid card on the table in any matchup, it has the ability to be both aggressive and defensive - it is a card that will be generally useful in any match you play and will quite often be a very strong card in your worse matchups. Four toughness is something that very aggressive decks generally have a hard time breaking through, and this is a card that control decks will have to kill quickly as it puts them under immediate pressure, providing a fast clock that threatens to end the game before you know it. All of these creatures are what I feel makes up the perfect base for this deck, but what makes it really interesting are the other spells - so let's go over what we have.
You'll notice there are three different Gods being played in this deck, and each one has a role that gives it more reach in the mid- and late-game while potentially providing additional support as potentially aggressive cards. First up we start with three copies of Thassa, the classic blue devotion enabler. Most standard builds play four copies, but I feel having too many copies of the same God can clog up your hand and we have three different Gods to work with that can all manipulate our draws in different ways, so we're better off drawing differently-named Gods than consistently drawing even the most powerful one. Thassa is one of the most important cards in the previous versions of Mono-Blue Devotion... it's cheap, powerful, and being able to Scry every turn helps us to straight-up draw better than our opponent, which will take over games based on that fact alone. Did I mention is attacks? How about makes things unblockable? Yeah, this card is another big reason to run heavy blue-based decks.
The next God on the roster is Ephara, God of the Polis. She hasn't seen very much play yet, but I think this card helps fill a very important role in this deck. Although it cost four mana and does not have an immediate effect, this card can safely and easily take over the game by itself against control decks should you sneak one in play. With Ephara around, each creature you play replaces itself and mass removal spells or one-for-one trades become a moot point as you'll always have more gas in that tank – thanks to Ephara's somewhat endless stream of cards you will just keep playing action until they run out of answers. There are only two copies of this at present as you don't want to strand multiple copies in your hand against an aggressive opponent, as the first copy is already pretty slow in these matchups. Instead of drawing multiple copies of Ephara, we'd rather draw one of her and one of Keranos, letting us double up the card advantage instead of leaving us with cardboard stuck in our hands.
Keranos, God of Storms is the last of our three Gods and at first glance he seems a little slow, but don't be fooled - Keranos is pure gas. Once Keranos hits play, he basically becomes a planeswalker that cannot get attacked, Dreadbored, or Hero's Downfalled. Every card you are drawing for your turn is turning itself into another card or a Lightning Bolt, so you're either getting a free three damage shot somewhere or a second chance at drawing action whenever you'd draw a land for the turn. Against control decks, this card will dominate a game – for the most part, once it's in play there isn't much they can do about it but sit there and shrug. I highly suggest giving Keranos a try before you judge him too harshly, as this card is the real deal and currently my favorite God of Theros Block.
Outside of the Gods, we have a few other spells that help round out our list. Two copies of Turn / Burn gives the deck early removal against cheap creatures like mana accelerators or early agro drops while providing an out for harder-to-kill creatures like Desecration Demon, Stormbreath Dragon, or opposing Gods. It has flexibility to go to face as well and can be cast for two, three, or five mana based on how the board is shaping up and what your needs are.
Next we have four copies of Detention Sphere, our ace in the hole card and one of the main reasons to have white in your Blue Devotion deck. This is the list's be-all removal spell, as it answers anything from a Pack Rat to an opposing Thassa on the creature spectrum and can also handle an Underworld Connections or Planeswalker that would ruin your day. Detention Sphere lets you build the deck to tap out without fear of them casting something you can't deal with, because most likely Detention Sphere will be able to handle it after the fact.
Lastly, we have a single miser's copy of Catch / Release. This was a card I wanted to try out for a couple of different reason. First, having a Threaten ability in somewhere in the deck can just randomly win you a few games. You can easily plan out the game in such a way that this card will squeak in those last few points of damage by turning their blocker into your attacker – and if they are red, white, or blue, stealing their guy can also turn on your God's devotion and make an even crazier damage swing that your opponent's not very likely to have played around. This is the reason that was most appealing to me, but the other half of the card has its merits too. Being able to cast Release can devastate control decks, taking out a huge chunk of their permanents, costing them far more than it costs you for whatever you happen to sacrifice. Both halves can act as another out to any random Planeswalkers floating around, and how nice of a feeling would it be to steal an opponent's Elspeth with seven counters on it! Overall, I think the spell package this deck has assembled gives it the tools necessary to be able to handle a well-rounded metagame.
Looking over the manabase, the fact we are heavy blue splashing two other colors gives us some options. First and foremost is the newly released Mana Confluence, the first land I added to the list – its inclusion just made the most sense to me, as it gives you whichever color you need at the low cost of a single life to use. Missing the opportunity to play one of our multi-colored Gods 'on time' is something you don't want to do, so we need to build the mana correctly in order to make sure we can consistently cast them.
Next up, I chose to include both Temple of Epiphany and Temple of Enlightenment for the deck. Though they come into play tapped, Scry gives each Temple a considerable late-game value, helping you keep up pressure and dig for gas, while at the same time also allowing you to keep openers you might not otherwise because of the ability to manipulate your deck and smooth over a rough draw. The temple lands open up options with the deck both early and late game, and I think eight is the right number we want in order to maximize the benefits without slowing ourselves down too much. They aren't free, however, and they effectively fill up the one-drop slot that Cloudfin Raptor was forced to vacate.
Rounding out the manabase is five Islands and eight shocklands for a total of twenty-five lands, and since everything still taps for blue instead of trying to fix both white and red at the same time the is very deck consistent for every aspect of play. One thing missing from this deck is the absence of Mutavault, which was very good in other Devotion-based decks but comes at a much higher cost for us as playing three colors is much harder on the mana. Despite how much I love it and how good it has been in other builds, for this deck it is a land I don't think we want any copies of. Colorless mana is fine with Gods but can only throw a monkey wrench in the works for too many of our early creatures, leading to more mulligans and worse draws in general that I feel outweighs the benefits of threatening damage from time to time.
The sideboard is geared towards helping you with some of the more well-known Standard decks. Another copy of Turn / Burn is there for matches where you are facing either big or little critters, as given enough time it plays a dual role in handling either. Two copies each of Glare of Heresy and Gainsay pays our respects to opposing white and blue decks; both of these are the sort of classic sideboard cards we would hope to use against opposing decks of those colors. Domestication is another two-of, at its best against other small aggressive creature decks... and in blue aggressive mirror matches this card is very key as it can take some of the better creatures like Frostburn Weird, Nightveil Specter, or Courser of Kruphix. Dispel is a random one-of against decks featuring multiple instants like Azorious Charm, Sphinx's Revelation, Bile Blight, or Lightning Strikes since keeping a threat in play while still being able to develop your board for the turn is a huge tempo swing.
I wanted a Planeswalker against other control decks, and Ral Zarek's non-ultimate abilities can help push through creatures when needed as well as provide a steady stream of free burn which can be particularly useful in slow matchups. Assemble the Legion was included specifically for beating up on control decks like Esper, and was paired with another long-game card that would potentially give me serious inevitability for including just the one copy of Aetherling – suddenly we have a card that is able to dodge all removal spells while providing a very powerful threat no matter how far ahead of us on cards our opponent may get – if it resolves, it'll take over the game and threaten to kill them. Then there is one copy of Boros Charm to help fight off Supreme Verdicts and keep people honest, threatening to make our team indestructible or potentially giving us a four-damage burn spell that is not likely on their radar as they try to decide what the 'safe' life total to end up at is. It's also not out of the question to be able to give double-strike to a God, even if that doesn't sound especially likely. If this happens, it will usually be game on the spot and let me tell you first-hand, it is something they won't ever see coming. Lastly, two copies of Mizzum Mortars gives the deck an interactive early-game removal spell that can also become a sweeper if needed, and is able to handle high-end monsters like Blood Baron of Vizkopa or Stormbreath Dragon that we would otherwise have very few ways to deal with.
To sum things up, this is a great deck that I look forward to playing at an upcoming Star City Games Standard Open as well as at a local Standard tournament since it provides a lot of the same aggressive starts you can get with Mono-Blue Devotion while providing the deck with more card draw and extra reach later in the game through the Gods, each of whom has an ability that helps push the deck to the next level. The flexibility of the deck strongly appeals to me, and I'm going to be sure to jam more games while continuing to tweak it as the new Standard metagame unfolds. If you want something a little different, this may very well be the deck for you – I promise you won't be disappointed. If you have any questions or comments about the deck, feel free to ask and I'll be more than happy to answer in the comments thread below.