For those of us not going to Atlanta this weekend for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, Spring States is happening across the U.S.A. It's Standard and a good opportunity to qualify for the SCG Invitational, as first place receives an invite automatically.
Being a State Champion used to hold great weight in terms of bragging rights and overall accomplishment. Over the years, States became diluted. I used to drive 4-5 hours across the state of Louisiana to play. In the last few years I haven't wanted to travel an hour or even go across town. For the first time in a long time, I'm excited to play this weekend. Where before I was hemming and hawing whether to go or not, now I can't decide which deck to bring.
Not because the format is stale, but because I like quite a few decks.
- 4 Ash Zealot
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Firedrinker Satyr
- 4 Foundry Street Denizen
- 4 Gore-House Chainwalker
- 3 Legion Loyalist
- 4 Rakdos Cackler
- 17 Mountain
Ol' Trustworthy. Good for finishing rounds quickly so there's plenty of time for McDonald's runs, chilling out to your iPod, or rail-birding you friends/future opponents. Perfect for metagames where people damage themselves too much with shock lands and Mana Confluence or try to go too far over the top to win a longer game. Terrible in metagames full to the brim with really cheap removal (i.e. Burn) or Master of Waves.
This version is as straightforward as it gets. No Akroan Crusader + Dragon Mantle shenanigans. We're going with a higher number of two-toughness creatures to hedge against some expected Golgari Charms. The full four copies of Ash Zealot make an appearance while Eidolon of the Great Revel awaits in the sideboard. This is due to R/W Burn likely being a big player at States following its win in SCG Knoxville.
It's been a tough road looking for a perfect fit for Prophetic Flamespeaker and none of the shells that I've seen or tried seem to fit. Prophetic Flamespeaker is missing an important something to go along with it and I don't believe that thing exists in Standard. It's clearly a card that is inherently powerful and pushed, but it's a card that doesn't quite push through on its own either.
Mono-Black Devotion, U/W Control, Brave Naya
Mono-Blue Devotion, Burn, Naya Hexproof
The good matchups are really good and the bad matchups are really bad. Boss Sligh takes some finesse to play and the tougher matchups can be overcome with proper sequencing, but will be a headache trying to pick it up and go. The good news is that your good matchups will be quick and effortless. Given the cheap cost to build Boss Sligh, I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to play in Spring States without committing too much into the tournament itself or into Standard in general.
- 1 Archangel of Thune
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 4 Keening Apparition
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 2 Nyx-Fleece Ram
- 2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 3 Ephara, God of the Polis
- 1 Heliod, God of the Sun
The most complex deck and the one that has been fresh on my mind lately, as I wrote about it last week. I like it for the fact that it uses cards that I've never played with before, including ones from Journey into Nyx. Its biggest weakness is its lack of development. The other two decks are more established, but being an unestablished deck has never stopped me before. A certain surprise factor exists with a deck that hasn't seen much spotlight. It's likely for people to walk into Dictate of Heliod still for example.
I still like the underlying reasoning behind having Nyx-Fleece Ram in the maindeck but keep finding myself wanting to shave them. The problem is that there's no other two-drop that I want to play. Perhaps Precinct Captain and Keening Apparition are enough, but I'd like a couple more. The sheep and the Archangel of Thune are somewhat of a package and likely need to adjusted as a whole.
I've gotten a lot people suggesting Brave the Elements. I've played with and without it in Mono-White decks in the past and have rarely found four to be the correct number. Because we're a devotion deck that has permanents, I'm mostly of the belief that instead of having a situational counterspell for removal or a spell that mimics Falter, I'd rather be proactive and just play a threat in that slot in the decklist. That said, I don't think playing zero is correct either and am currently liking one maindeck and one in the sideboard.
I've become a bit more open-minded to the idea of one Mana Confluence. Although the decklist is running one I still don't like it, but it's likely a necessary evil. Between Mana Confluence, Azorius Guildgate, and basic Island, none of the options are great. Ten blue sources is what I'm content with at the moment to support the seven maindeck blue spells and a few more in the sideboard. It's possible that an eleventh source should be in the sideboard for when the countermagic is sideboarded in. In that case, it'd likely be another Mana Confluence, since the matchups where you want to keep in Detention Sphere, Ephara, and want the counterspells are UWx Control or similar slower decks.
Burn, Creature decks, Enchantment decks
Abrupt Decay is annoying when it can remove a Detention Sphere mid-combat, but that's a fact that you have to get used to and play around. The same goes for any type of enchantment removal, really, which includes Golgari Charm and Deicide as well. Mono-Black Devotion doesn't feel like a good nor bad matchup, it's mostly about the timing. If they have Nightveil Specter instead of Lifebane Zombie, you're in much better shape.
No Abrupt Decay. No Blood Baron of Vizkopa. No Rakdos's Return. I understand that we're already playing these Temples and that the natural step is to play the color that you could add. In a world where R/W Burn is on the rise to punish slow decks and Mana Confluence decks, I don't want to be playing shock lands if I can avoid it. Or having to look at uncastable spells in my hand and lose because I'm unable to curve-out well because of all the tapped lands.
It goes back and forth between whether Nightveil Specter or Lifebane Zombie is the correct call for the three-drop creature slot. Originally, Kentarou Yamamoto's Top 8 deck from Pro Tour Theros had four copies of Lifebane Zombie, before Mono-Black Devotion mirrors became so commonplace that Nightveil Specter became preferred.
Again, as a concession to Burn's recent success, we see an adjustment from the current flavor by both going back to more basic Swamps and revisiting the sideboard tech of Staff of the Death Magus. Duress finds its way into the main deck to fight off the presumed number of mirrors and Burn players. Underworld Connections has been feeling progressively slower and clunkier as the format has progressed, and I like going down to three of them.
I think Mono-Black Devotion was a good deck for the first week that Journey into Nyx was released, before the new set and its possibilities had really sunk into people's minds. I think overall the format has gotten faster, which has made Pack Rat weaker. Once people start doing the really smooth and efficient things that a complete Standard should be able to do, then we'll see a decline in Mono-Black Devotion's reign. That said, for now it's still the best archetype and will exist to keep people honest. Any deck wishing to become competitive in Standard will have to at least hold its own and be able to defend itself against Thoughtseize into Pack Rat.
Mono-Black Devotion with Lifebane Zombie, Synergy-dependent decks, Underpowered decks
Burn, Midrange and control that can go "over the top", Hyper-aggressive strategies
It may sound obvious that an "Underpowered deck" is a good matchup, but in a tournament such as States, you may come across a wide range of decks and having a consistent and notably strong deck will be a good choice against a broad field. For example, a deck like Burn can lose to an "Underpowered" lifegain deck and there's little they can do about that. No matter what matchup you face with Mono-Black Devotion, you ought to be able to have a reasonable degree of interaction with them with Thoughtseize and the removal suite.
As much as I'd like to be playing in the Pro Tour this weekend, I'm happy to play in Spring States and keep on the hunt for Open Series points, as I didn't have any byes for the Season One Invitational in Charlotte. That tournament was exhausting and I recognize the advantage that one or two byes give a player over the competition. At the time of writing this, I'm in 18th place on the Season Two leaderboard and am looking forward to break into the Top 16 soon. It's awesome to have a local tournament that gives Open Series Points and another tournament that gives out invites so I have more people to go with.
I wish the best of luck to those playing in either Pro Tour Journey into Nyx or Spring States this weekend!