There's a big difference between four and five damage.
Five toughness has been the gold standard for a while; a creature with this coveted stat survives the ubiquitous Mizzium Mortars and can spar successfully with Boon Satyr, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and even a couple of weaker Gods. Fated Conflagration has gotten slighted in favor of Warleader's Helix for its flexibility and its ability to recover life. Also, 1RRR is a fairly difficult cost to splash, while Warleader's Helix lightens up on the commitment, albeit by using two colors.
I'm not here to bring you a Fated Conflagration deck; that spell's been included in a couple of my previous list, and it's performed very well for me. I'm after my favorite Font this time.
Lava Axe has always been fun, but being able to store one for 3R to release at any time is fairly unusual. Explosive Impact, legal even now, has emulated it, also adding the flexibility to smash a creature. Font of Ire is neat because it lets you store five damage to kill Fated Conflagration's other target: planeswalkers. Elspeth, Sun's Champion; Jace, Memory Adept; Ajani, Mentor of Heroes; and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver all wither in one shot even after using their +X ability. Font of Ire provides a red devotion too, giving it in an edge in today's Nykthos-driven world. The ability to watch your opponents' moves and respond accordingly is terrific, and the five damage this stores up can descend on an opponent's dome, too.
The red devotion kick got me thinking; most red-centric these days have one of two focuses. The first red-centric deck we see is filled with creatures built to smash (e.g. Ash Zealot, Gore-House Chainwalker, Firedrinker Satyr) while the other focus involves burn spells and incremental advantage (Chandra's Phoenix, Mutavault, Lightning Strike). I felt both had some merit, but I wished to take a third path: a noncreature permanent path.
Although there are some creatures that had to make the cut, I wanted to insulate my plan in cards that many decks cannot interact with while I sweep the board, generate noncreature advantage, and finally pop Font of Ires for the kill.
What would a deck like this look like?
In the planning stages, I had more critters, but I kept slashing them away as I found other NCPs I wanted room for until only three sets remained. Burning-Tree Emissary will be a devotion staple until the moment she rotates out, providing two free devotion on a 2/2, which is a deal we just can't beat in Standard these days. Despite the fact that creatures aren't at the center of this list, I still like a set here. Her trigger can cast a Font of Ire, a Mizzium Mortars, or a Hammer of Purphoros on turn three. There's no reason not to wait, either - your Emissary now has haste if you want to bash. Eidolon of the Great Revel is up next. The Eidolon is still one of my favorite cards from Journey into Nyx, but I understand why people are a bit apprehensive to use it. Even though twenty-five spells trigger the Eidolon on my side, there's one critical difference between this deck and others; we take no damage from our lands. Other decks are playing shocklands and Mana Confluence, and this will punish them for their land power. Ever seen someone pay 4 life to Doom Blade something (Snuff Out doesn't count)? It feels pretty good.
Fanatic of Mogis is an apprehensive four-of; I've found I either have infinity of these in hand or zero in hand, but the power level the Fanatic exhibits is hard to shake. With just one RR permanent, this is a Lava Spike on a Nether Cockroach. Each other permanent makes this a regular win condition. Anyone who's been smacked down from a dozen life or more by one of these puppies knows what's up.
Although Boros Reckoner seems like a shoe-in, I've been disappointed with it lately, thanks to black and Esper's non-damage ways of cleanly eliminating it. It's still a house against aggro, but I'm not convinced that's where we are right now in the metagame.
Mizzium Mortars, despite my typical "no mainstream" attitude, has still proven to be the flexible, go-to creature burn in the format. Naturally, the potential to overload it for ultimate value isn't bad either. The devotion nature of our deck allows us to reach this point more easily than sticking six lands and hoping they don't have the counter for it. You know they always do. Anger of the Gods is a safety for either hyper-aggressive white and/or red decks, and the green ones floating around can get scary too. Regardless, Anger of the Gods sweeps them up. Because I'm not relying on my creatures to get there, it rarely proves to be a problem to cast my own aside.
Wild Guess is one of those "looks-good-but-the-additional-requirement-makes-it-a-terrible-topdeck" cards. Red's Sign in Blood is a far cry from its black-hued counterpart, but I chose it for a couple reasons. As you'll notice, there are a couple legendary cards in the list, Hammer of Purphoros among them. They tend to be pretty terrible in multiples, especially because it and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx are particularly tricky to kill. This allows you to cycle it away without a problem. The deck itself, which can be a bit top-heavy, might also strand some other cards in your hand, and this lets you fish for lands, a Fanatic of Mogis, or the sweeper you need to stay on top. Wild Guess helps keep the deck clean; I found in testing that I always had something to toss. You're red; you can't be afraid of disposing of what isn't immediately useful! Finally, Wild Guess is a neat way to spend some of that extra Nykthos mana. You may not need twelve red mana off your Nykthos, and the RR cost helps you refine your hand with a healthy activation without costing you too much of your battery. In conclusion, Wild Guess isn't a bad card, but its applications are limited. When you're mono-red, though, you adapt.
Awaken the Ancient was a card I was excited to use. The presence of Doom Blade, Hero's Downfall...well, any removal, really, makes this a risky choice. Awaken the Ancient provides three red devotion for four mana, which is about as good as it gets for the color (Rubblebelt Raiders is the only card to match it, and I'm still not sure on that front.) If you're able to wiggle it through, it's a pretty big bruiser, and a seven-toughness creature is a tough nut to crack on defense. Play it wisely; if you're up against a heavy removal deck, it might be the perfect Wild Guess discard.
Chandra, Pyromaster is welcomed here for her devotion, her ability to let one of my 2/2s slip by, or the fact that she can give me an extra card, digging me closer to the clutch burn I need to undo my opponent. Like Wild Guess, Chandra shines best when her application supports a slow, deliberate game. Finally, Dictate of the Twin Gods has been a blast for me in other decks, and with Font of Ire threatening ten damage a piece, it can quickly close the game with little to no combat. With just the Dictate, a Fanatic of Mogis' trigger deals six, and Anger of the Gods can kill almost every creature in Standard. Eidolon of the Great Revel becomes a continual Flame Rift, too.
The land base is as clean as a devotion deck can be; no Mutavaults (I'm not really planning to win in the red zone) and no Temples (I want to be on time with my spells more than I want to scry away an occasional dud.)
Ratchet Bomb, red's only answer to enchantments and, in this deck, artifacts, comes in here as a full set. Three is a common converted mana cost, and this deck is fairly paltry there, so it might behoove a pilot to park one there. Otherwise, it's still great at sweeping away Voice of Resurgence tokens and Pack Rat tokens (on two, of course.) Burning Earth, which has fallen to the side lately, is still vicious against a three-color deck that is ill-equipped to deal with enchantments. If they don't have their Banishing Light or Detention Sphere at the ready, they're in for a world of hurt. It barely affects you! Frostburn Weird, who originally lived in the maindeck, found its calling in the board, ready to come in against aggressive decks of all colors without sacrificing the devotion plan. Staff of the Flame Magus seems like a reasonable choice against a burn deck or a Gray Merchant of Asphodel deck, and nearly every card I play triggers it. Three singletons of maindeck cards allow me to diversify dependent on the maindeck. Anger comes in against aggro, and the other two against anything where a full set of Mizzium Mortars is embarrassing.
How'd it play?
I took this one to the grinder and suited it up in four matches, and, well, it did fine.
Esper Control (0-2)
Mono-Red Aggro (2-1)
Red-Blue Instant (2-0)
Mono-Black Devotion, which is still very much a bone-crushing deck, slaughtered this deck handily - Thoughtseize was disastruous, even with a pretty good keep. Going to six on the play was devastating in Game 2. I never got enough devotion to undo just one Gray Merchant of Asphodel trigger, and I found myself completely at the mercy of a Desecration Demon.
Against Esper, I had two good games, but I couldn't draw impactful cards enough to do much. In Game 2, I had trouble drawing my significant sideboard additions, and Esper's consistency and lifegain kept me away from a match point.
Mono-Red Aggro was vicious in Game 1, and the horizon looked grim for this deck. After a Game 2 rally behind drawing all three Weirds, I was able to pick him off more effectively. Eidolon of the Great Revel did very well there, and I hardly had to cast anything else. In game three, my opponent mulled to five and, despite putting up a good fight, Anger of the Gods back-to-back forced his concession.
The red-blue instant deck a la Goblin Electromancer, Guttersnipe, and Spellheart Chimera, proved to be a small challenge. My opponent got stuck on one blue mana and was not able to interact with me in game one (I assume he or she was holding counterspells.) After a slightly tweaked deck for game two, Chandra, Pyromaster kept his Young Pyromancer from causing much trouble, but his burn kept my creatures off the board. Eventually I stuck a Dictate of the Twin Gods as he cast his Keranos, God of Storms. I made a Hammer of Purphoros token the following turn, used Chandra's +1 to remove his Goblin Electromancer from the blocking order (and deal two to him) and swung for six, exactly lethal.
I can't complain, but it seemed that this deck lacked the consistency and early action needed to make a competitive deck nervous. As is, this deck is a really fun excursion at Friday Night Magic, but it is ill-suited for the tournament table. I liked it because the burn felt very purposeful; I've played my share of burn decks where you say, "what are you at?" every turn as you figure out whether to Magma Jet or Lightning Strike them or their creatures, but this one felt very singular in its purpose. Mizzium Mortars is for smashing creatures, Font of Ire is for smashing faces. Eidolon of the Great Revel is a really fun card to resolve, but it is admittedly a bit tough to play with in practice. It did as much work on my opponent as it did on me. Wild Guess turned out to be a really critical card. What it felt like, most of the time, was Think Twice on your main phase. Folks playing over the last two years remember Thinking Twice on your main phase to hit your third (or fourth land, if you flashed it back), and Wild Guess did that, too. On turn three, I found myself tossing nearly anything in my hand to undoubtedly draw another Mountain. I'd cast the spell before, but it felt right at home in this list.
I'd make these adjustments if I wanted it to hold up better at a competitive scene:
Awaken the Ancient was just poor, and the other two I didn't need in such quantities to prove my point. Boros Reckoner would have been great maindeck choices in the black or mono-red matches as additional removal targets to insulate my Eidolons, which had to block uncomfortably often. From the sideboard, Ratchet Bomb was far too slow and low-impact to matter for me; I could just ignore the enchantments a lot of the time. Both Frostburn Weird and Burning Earth (If I'd drawn one) would be excellent in their given matches, and Staff of the Flame Magus would have helped me outlast an aggro or life drain deck much more effectively, even at the cost of board presence and devotion.
What would you change? Does Font of Ire entice you? Maybe Dictate of the Twin Gods is your favorite card in this list. Can this list be salvaged and refined into, at the very least, a fun list without devolving into a traditional red deck?