Pro Tour Journey into Nyx – Are you Qualified?

Happy New Years!

With the dawning of the new year, it means that we are now in the thick of the next season of pro tour qualifiers. Pro Tour Born of Gods will be happening at the end of February, but before then thousands of players (if not tens of thousands of them) will be vying for a few hundred spots on the Pro Tour Circuit for Pro Tour: Journey into Nyx. The previous season’s format was limited, but now we’re back to the standard format. This change happens at a strange time. Born of Gods, the new expansion, will be released before the second weekend of February. This means that we will be playing part of the PTQ season with Theros standard, and the other half with Born of Gods standard cards. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get yourself acquainted with some of the top decks before heading to your next PTQ.

I wrote two useful articles at the end of last year titled “Mind over Meta” which covered the dominant decks in standard at the moment, but choosing the right one at the right time is important. Depending on your local metagame, you could go undefeated or lose every match and drop. What you should do is choose a deck and become an expert with it. Find something that has good match ups against a variety of decks, that is consistent, and isn’t easily disrupted by what others are using at the moment. I personally would like to once again recommend red devotion.

Burning Devotion
75 cards, 15 sideboard
Boros Guildgate
Temple of Triumph
Sacred Foundry
11 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

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

10 other spells

Last Breath
Glare of Heresy
Warleader’s Helix
Boros Charm
Assemble the Legion
Wear // Tear
Anger of the Gods

15 sideboard cards

I’ve been playing with the deck since the Super Sunday standard tournament at GP Shizuoka, and it continues to put up solid numbers in events around Nagoya. The deck is consistent because it plays only 2 colors, has multiple win conditions, strategies that let you attack from various angles, and it also does well against control. Most people think of it as a combo deck that has to play a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx on turn 3 with a Burning-Tree Emissary in order to play some massive spell to overwhelm your opponent, but that’s not the case. This deck can win well without the Shrine (though having it does make for some great early hands). The trick behind red devotion is knowing when to attack, when to hold back, when to use removal, and when to go all out. If you can master these things, there shouldn’t be a match up you can’t handle. I haven’t gone into much depth about how to play this deck in my past articles, so I’d like to today now that I have about a month of experience with it.

  • Turn 1 – This deck sadly doesn’t have any amazing turn one drops. You’ll rarely get a Legion Loyalist (used against Pack Rat tokens, Elspeth Soldier tokens, Master of Wave elementals, etc), so you’ll most likely be tapping in a Sacred Foundry or at best playing a Temple of Triumph to scry your next draw.
  • Turn 2 – This is where the game really starts. It’s incredibly important to have 2 drops when playing a red devotion deck. Ash Zealot attacks into an empty board (or when your opponent can’t block it), while Frostburn Weird is for blocking against aggressive decks (or for playing when you know they are sitting on a card like Anger of the Gods). If you have Burning-Tree Emissary, it’s a tough call whether or not to play her on your second turn. Usually you want to save her until you have a Nykthos in play so you can explode on turn 3 with a number of options. However, against a deck like mono black I’d probably play BTE if you have no other options. You want to overwhelm black decks so they can’t one for one you with removal. You want to put as much pressure on them as possible. Another play on turn 2 would be to use Mizzium Mortars to kill a Pack Rat or other possible threat, but otherwise it’s usually good to hold back on using it.
  • Turn 3 – How insane your turn 3 is depends on what kind of hand you kept. Usually this is when you play the Nykthos and Emissary combo. With the combo you’re capable of casting cards like Hammer of Purphoros, Purphoros, God of the Forge, Fanatic of Mogis (usually better to play later, but if you need the pressure it’s fine to hit them for 5 damage on turn 3), and in rare cases where you had 2 BTEs, you might be able to cast a Stormbreath Dragon. There is also a chance that you can play a Chandra, Pyromaster on turn 3. She’d be great in control match ups. In a less explosive hand you might not have a Emissary but instead play a Boros Reckoner or Hammer, and that’s not bad.
  • Turn 4 – Now it’s time to start closing out the game (on turn 4, crazy right?). You should hopefully have a couple creatures on the board to help with your devotion, and if you’re lucky you’ll have a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. You have a few choices on turn 4. If your opponent still doesn’t have a solid defense, you can attack with your stronger creature to put  pressure on them. If they do have a big blocker, this would be the best time to use your Chained to the Rocks or to overload a Mizzium Mortars. Turn 4 is also a good time to play a Stormbreath Dragon, and if you played a Chandra last turn, you could use her -0 ability here. If you’re playing defense you can hold back and chip away at a player’s life total with Purphoros or hit them for a large chunk with Fanatic of Mogis. You could probably swing in with Purphoros as well since you’ll have the devotion by then.
  • Turn 5 – The biggest difference from turn 4 is that on turn 5 you should be able to activate the Dragon’s monstrosity on this turn. Do it before attacking if they are tapped out, otherwise it might be a safe to let it deal damage by attacking before activating it. It won’t hit as hard, but at least you can respond to any type of removal they have.
  • Turn 6 and onwards – keep doing the same things again and again. Attack if you have the advantage, block if you don’t. Use indirect damage with your god, make 3/3 Golem tokens with the Hammer and your extra land . . .

If you have a great hand you should kill them by turn 5 or 6, but otherwise you should be able to beat them through attrition thanks to your various angles of attack. As for sideboarding, here’s what I usually do:

  • Last Breath against mono blue to kill Master of Waves
  • Glare of Heresy against UWR, Esper, or UW control to hit Detention Sphere or Elspeth (you could also use it against white aggro decks)
  • Warleader’s Helix against the mirror and fast aggro decks. Also good against decks where you need indirect damage (such as Maze’s End)
  • Boros Charm against UWR, Esper, and UW control
  • Assemble the Legion against black devotion, UWR, Esper, and UW control
  • Wear//Tear against UWR, Esper, and UW contorl to hit Detention Sphere
  • Anger of the Gods against aggro, G/r devotion, mono blue devotion

You’ll usually take out all your removal spells against control which frees up 7 spaces, and in aggro match ups you probably want to drop cards like Hammer or Chandra that don’t put bodies on the table. It’s hard to describe every situation, but I think as you play this deck more you’ll understand what cards are good in which match ups. 

If you’re having problems with your local metagame and want something slightly different, you could also try the R/g version of this deck. 

R/g Devotion
75 cards, 15 sideboard

25 creatures

Clan Defiance

Domri Rade

11 other spells

The deck plays almost exactly the same as the R/w version, but you lose some good cards by switching to green as your sub color. Luckily the land is unchanged, giving you 4 scry land and 4 shock lands, as well as your creatures. The big change comes with Chained to the Rocks. Chained to the Rocks is a great card against mono black (targeting Desecration Demon), as well as a good card when facing gods such as Thassa,  God of the Sea but in its place you get 2 great alternatives: Domri Rade and Clan Defiance. 

The main reason you have Chained to the Rocks is to get rid of flyers or creatures you can’t handle, but why not let Domri handle that for you? Your biggest threat is Desecration Demon, but letting a Boros Reckoner fight the demon does a much better job I think. Sure you lose that devotion, but Domri lets you +1 the next turn to get a creature (well, most of the time). I still wanted more removal to take the place of the Chained to the Rocks, so I decided to try out Clan Defiance in the other 2 spots left open. With 4 Mizzium and 2 Defiance, you shouldn’t have any problem blowing up their ranks. The great thing about devotion decks is that you’ll usually have quite a bit of extra mana floating around, which means that anything with X in the casting cost is going to be pretty valuable. What I like about it is that it hits a creature on the ground (like Pack Rat), a creature in the air (such as Nightveil Specter), and a player/planeswalker (bye bye 2 loyalty Jace!). 

The sideboard is different, but I actually think it’s better than the R/w one. You have cards in GR that do roughly the same thing, as well as some cards that make your deck even better. 

  • Gruul Charm against mono blue (take out Cloudfin Raptor, Nightveil Specter, and Judge’s Familar in one hit) and against the mirror (no flyers to block with once the board is stalled!)
  • Plummet against black and blue devotion (lots of targets in each)
  • Ruric Thar, the Unbowed against mono black, UW, Esper, and UWR control. If he hits the board, opponents will take at least 6 damage to get rid of him. He’s also pretty good against tempo decks like UG flash or Izzet Spellheart Chimera decks.
  • Destructive Revelry against UWR, UW, and Esper control to take out Detention Sphere.
  • Miscutter Hydra against mono blue devotion, as well as any other blue based tempo deck with counterspells.
  • Anger of the Gods against aggro, Green devotion, and Blue devotion
  • Xenagos, the Reveler against black devotion, UWR, UW, and Esper control. 

How does this deck compare to the R/w one?

Big Magic Winnings

Big Magic Winnings

In the first Sunday tournament of 2014 at Big Magic in Nagoya, I went 5-0 (10-2 overall) and won 18 packs of Theros and a SWEET limited edition John Avon GP Shizuoka playmat. I beat a UR tempo/burn deck in round one (2-0), a black devotion deck round two (2-0), a UG Flash/tempo deck round 3 (2-1), a UWR control deck round 4 (2-0), and Esper midrange(2-1) in the finals. There were only 28 players, but there was no shortage of talent at the shop for this tournament. With a PTQ next Monday during the national holiday here in Japan, I’m feel pretty good about this new build. I might change the Plummet to another Mistcutter Hydra and a 3rd Gruul Charm, but I haven’t decided yet. If you’re going into a competitive event, I strongly recommend putting this deck together. 

Why the Change?

When I talked with my friend Chris Wilson of Team MythicMTG the other day about making the change to R/g devotion, he said “why do you want to change a deck that breaks the format?” While it’s true that red devotion is well positioned right now in the metagame, I think it could be better. In the weeks leading up to this 5-0 performance, I’d been playing R/w devotion. I had done well against Orzhov aggro, the R/w mirror, WR burn, RBW midrange, blue devotion, and Naya control, but I had trouble with Esper control and G/r devotion. I wanted to strengthen my position against both of these decks, so I switched to the R/g build. 

R/g beats Esper and other control decks through Domri Rade and Chandra, Pyromaster’s card advantage, as well as the indirect damage from Fanatic of Mogis and Purphoros, God of the Forge. There are simply too many targets for Detention Sphere and they can only cast so many Supreme Verdicts. With 25 creatures, some are bound to stick. With Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, Xenagos, the Reveler, and Mistcutter Hydra in the sideboard, it also puts a lot more pressure on control than R/w did. 

As for G/r devotion, you no longer lose to Domri Rade and Garruk, Caller of Beasts’ card advantage because you have your own Domris now. Most G/r decks lack removal spells such as Mizzium Mortars and Anger of Gods, and they also can’t effectively attack planeswalkers. R/g lets you hit their planeswalkers with Clan Defiance, as well as  Purphoros’ ability whenever a creature enters the battlefield. 

Tis the Season (of Qualifiers)

Before you know it, Born of Gods will be out and we’ll have 149 new cards to throw into  the decks in standard. We should see even more decks thrown into the fray (thanks to the UW, GW, and BR scry lands, we’ll definitely see more UWR and Bant control decks, as well as Grixis control decks), but through it all I think red devotion will be a strong contender at Opens, GPs, and Pro Tour Qualifiers. I actually have one more deck that I think is a solid contender for the current PTQ season, but I’ll save that for another article so you don’t fall asleep. If you have any questions about the deck or anything else, please leave a comment down below. Thanks for reading, and good luck over the winter season!