The Japan Metagame Diaries – Burning Devotion

Grand Prix Shizuoka is less than a week away now. Last weekend, a BW control deck using 4 Blood Baron of Vizkopa’s took down GP Dallas Fort Worth. The deck was remarkably similar to black devotion, but it was stripped of the Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Nightveil Specter in order to power up their removal package. While it might seem like something new, it’s just another take on mono black control without the devotion. Could it possibly take over the metagame next week at Grand Prix Shizuoka? In my opinion, no. There will be an increase of BW players, but I don’t think it’s worth completely changing your deck for. You should have some plans to battle it in your sideboard, but at the same time you should also have a plan for mono blue, black, and esper control. If I’ve learned one thing, the moment you drop something from your deck or sideboard, you usually play against somebody it would have been great against. Cover all your bases and make sure you’re prepared for any of the top decks.

The final GP Shizuoka Metagame Round-Up

I’ve been continuing to use my black devotion deck and I’m finally getting used to it. I’ve been sideboarding better with it, and the deck doesn’t have a lot of bad match ups. Playing with green has helped me win mirror matches, and it also is great to have that splash when I play against a golgari or GBW deck. I went 4-2 at a 37 person standard event this Saturday, 12/15 for 11th place, and my friend finished 4-2 for 8th place with the Orzhov Aggro deck that made waves at Grand Prix Dallas Fort Worth. I’ve made a few changes, such as adding 3 Devour Flesh to the main board instead of Ultimate Price, and I also moved Erebos to the sideboard. I’ve also decided to switch out Mistcutter Hydra for Scavenging Ooze to help me against decks using Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Blue is still around and very popular, but the card always felt like a win more card instead of something that will flat out win me the game. If I want an unblockable creature, Lifebane Zombies should do the same work, even if they don’t hit anything in the player’s hand.

On Sunday I faced some rough competition in a Esper saturated 41 person tournament at Big Magic(25% of the decks were Esper or Azorius control). I finished 3-2, beating Esper control in my first match 2-0, then losing to Mono blue and Esper control in rounds 2 and 3, before beating Junk midrange and Jund midrange to finish the day strong. Esper is tough, especially if you don’t have Underworld Connections early to offset their card advantage. I probably could have kept better hands in the 3rd round, and I’ll make sure I do so next weekend in Shizuoka.

Esper control seems to be on the rise in Nagoya, but I think mono black devotion and its variations are still the deck to beat. A quick look at HappyMTG.com’s shows that mono black has been absolutely dominating the events around Tokyo. Overall, it seems like mono blue devotion has the most wins in December, but UW/Esper control have 37 combined top finishes so I would expect at least 20% of the field at GP Shizuoka to control. Mono black would probably be another deck in high concentration, and not too far behind black is red devotion. Simply put, your deck should be able to deal with black’s removal, blue’s overwhelming numbers, and red devotion’s insane starts. Esper/UW seems like it would be a good choice for the metagame, but I think if you’re creative with the other main decks of the metagame, you can build in some resistance and gain an edge over the others. Case in point, splashing green into black. Instead of playing a stock list, I suggest playing a few cards in the main deck so that you’re not totally caught off guard in game 1 of your match.

If I had to post a final metagame round up before the Grand Prix, this is what it would look like:

  1. Mono black (which includes B/g, B/w, B/u)
  2. Esper Control
  3. Mono blue Devotion
  4. Red Devotion (R/w and R/g)
  5. BW Midrange
  6. BG midrange
  7. UW Control
  8. Junk Midrange
  9. Orzhov Aggro/White Weenie
  10. Mono red/Boros aggro

Black is going to be big, as well as Esper control. I think those decks alone will make up 50% of event, or probably about 700+ players. Blue should make up 15%, Red devotion 10%, and then the rest will be everything else.

Last time I promoted a B/g deck that I thought would do well in the current metagame, but I think there is another deck that can do just as well and catch a lot of people by surprise.

Burning Devotion
75 cards, 15 sideboard
Temple of Triumph
Sacred Foundry
12 Mountain
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx


24 lands

Legion Loyalist
Boros Reckoner
Fanatic of Mogis
Stormbreath Dragon
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Ash Zealot
Frostburn Weird
Burning-Tree Emissary


26 creatures

Boros Charm
Chained to the Rocks
Mizzium Mortars
Chandra, Pyromaster
Hammer of Purphoros


10 other spells

Sideboard
Glare of Heresy
Boros Charm
Warleader’s Helix
Assemble the Legion
Chained to the Rocks
Wear // Tear
Anger of the Gods
Mizzium Mortars


15 sideboard cards

To those of you that haven’t tried out Red devotion yet, you absolutely should. It’s a BLAST to play. If you’re a fan of G/r devotion, then you’ll like this one too. Green devotion has recently been hated out of the metagame by black devotion and Esper control decks, but Red devotion has a fighting chance in this meta. As I stated in my previous posts detailing the strategies for the major decks in Theros standard, red devotion is all about flooding the board with red symbols, activating Nykthos and playing a turn 3 Stormbreath Dragon or hurting your opponent with a Fanatic of Mogis. What Red devotion does that Green devotion can’t is give you more reach against control. Boros Charm stops Supreme Verdict, Chandra, Pyromaster gives you card draw (of sorts), and Hammer of Purphoros will keep making Golems to throw at your opponent.

I’ve been testing this deck out on the side in between matches with my B/g deck, but on the odd chance that I don’t make Day 2 next weekend, I might play this on Sunday at the Super Sunday Standard tournament. I’ve tweaked it and changed it from most red devotion decks you’ll see to give it an edge over Esper control which I believe will be heavy at GP Shizuoka.

Most red devotion decks don’t play one drops, but I decided to play Legion Loyalist. Why? Well, aside from being great against Elspeth tokens, it gives all your creatures first strike and trample which is great if you’re attacking with a 4/1 Frostburn Weird or a 6/5 Purphoros, God of the Forge. Chump blocking just won’t do against this deck! I’ve also decided to run 2 Purphoros main to give the deck another layer of attack. Most of the time, red devotion decks won’t attack unless they have a clear advantage, but Purphoros lets you keep the pressure on your opponent. He can also keep pinging Jace, Architect of thought and Elspeths all day. I decided to do a 2/2 split of Chained to the Rocks and Boros Charm, because I don’t want to be caught off guard against control or against a G/r devotion or black devotion deck with Desecration Demon. It’s risky, but I don’t think I’d want to drop one for the other right now. The other card you don’t see too much in the main is Chandra, Pyromaster. Again, this is because I want to have a good game against Esper and she gives me reach. She’ll also help me get devotion to red for Purphoros if my board was wiped with a Supreme Verdict.

In the sideboard I have Wear/Tear for Detention Spheres, Underworld Connections, and other nasty enchantments, Glare of Heresy for white enchantments, Elspeth, and cards like Boros Reckoner, Anger of the Gods against mono blue and other fast aggro decks, Warleader’s Helix for the mirror (though you could probably change this), Assemble the Legion for control (especially mono black), Mizzium Mortars for decks using Blood Baron of Vizkopa like BW midrange or Junk midrange, and 2 more Chained to the Rocks if you’re playing against G/r devotion other other deck with numerous large threats.

Why I think this Deck will win

The thing I like about red devotion is that it works as both aggro and control. If you’re playing a deck like Esper control or Mono black, you can play the aggro game and hit your opponent over and over again. This deck is fast and will punish decks that miss a land drop, have insufficient removal, or don’t use a Supreme Verdict on turn 4. While it doesn’t have the card advantage of Green devotion, it does have the removal that green doesn’t, namely Mizzium Mortars and Chained to the Rocks. Aggro decks will get wrecked against this deck. Red devotion can sit back and block creatures all day with Frostburn Weird and Boros Reckoner, and then chip away at the opponent with Stormbreath Dragon or Fanatic of Mogis until they are dead. While you will have problems against mass removal spells such as Cyclonic Rift and Supreme Verdict, this deck has the ability to get insane draws and just flat out win a game with little effort. If you haven’t chosen a deck yet for GP Shizuoka, I recommend proxying this deck up with whatever cards you have and play 15-20 hands. You might just find what you’re looking for!

Bundle Up

It’s going to be cold in Shizuoka next week, so come prepared for both the weather and the metagame. I should be able to post one more article before the GP for those of you still waiting on information about Shizuoka City and what changes I’ve made to my B/g devotion deck. Look for it by Thursday. I’m sorry I can’t be more help to those of you coming from out of town or out of the country, but working full time has its price. Please check my Current MTG Vocabulary in Japanese tab to prepare for the event, and if you have any other questions about the city or anything else before Friday, let me know. I plan on talking a little bit about the city itself, give rough directions to food and night life, as well as to give rough directions to the event hall as well. If there is anything else you’d like me to cover, let me know! Thanks for reading. 

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