Tag: mono-black-devotion

Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - August 27, 2014

UB Devotion Standard by Steve Rubin (1st Place at StarCityGames Washin...

Champion’s Deck


Notion Thief - UB Devotion Standard

UB Devotion Standard by Steve Rubin

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 8/23/2014
It almost feels like a broken record at this point but once again a Black-based Devotion deck has won again. Thankfully we are closing in on rotation for Standard which is going to finally shake this bogeyman that has been haunting the format for almost a year. By now it should be clear to anyone who has given even a modicum of interest into Standard how this deck works, but let’s give it the rundown.
One of the most fearsome opening plays is turn one Thoughtseize into turn two Pack Rat which quickly swarms to take over the game. Now while this is the ideal opening strategy it is not the only line of play. You alternately build up the curve from Nightveil Specter into Desecration Demon into Gray Merchant of Asphodel to create a powerful attack in the air with a potentially huge life swing from the Merchant devotion. There is also a duo of Lifebane Zombie in this build as extra damage to sneak through non-Black decks and incidentally grabs a creature but more importantly information. The trio of Underworld Connections serves not only as the card ‘draw’ advantage for the deck, you could say making useful Rats out of useless cards is also advantage, but also increases the devotion count for the Merchant as well. As is standard in these Black decks the removal suite is robust with this one comprised of a trio of Hero’s Downfall, a set of Devour Flesh and a pair of Bile Blight capable of answering a wide variety of threats. To round up the spells we have a singleton Duress to compliment the Thoughtseize arsenal and ensure access to perfect information. To increase the amount of attacking creatures we have a full compliment of Mutavault primarily for their favorable interaction with Pack Rat as it is also a Rat but also dodges sorcery speed removal from Control decks. The sole addition from M15 is a one-of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth which negates the colorless downside of Mutavault allowing it to produce Black mana. As for the Blue in the title it is merely a splash added to enable sideboard choices to come in and shore up some weaknesses.
As this Standard season is rapidly coming to a close it is apparent that this is not a deck to invest yourself into post-rotation. The majority of its moving parts will be cycling out and it is unlikely that we will find comparable replacement to maintain its viability. If you need a deck to battle at your WMCQ then obviously jump on this proven winner, but if not then wait for previews to start rolling out and get ready to brew anew.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - July 23, 2014

Mono-Black Devotion by Dan Jessup (1st at SCG Baltimore Standard Open ...

Mono-Black Devotion - Urborb, Tomb of Yagmoth

Mono-Black Devotion by Dan Jessup

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 7/19/2014
Once again a new set emerges and we find the usual suspect at the top of the heap. It’s been quite a while now that Pack Rat has been able to grind its way to victory. As the new meta tries to find itself again it looks like it was a good choice once more. Hopefully we will see something new emerge but we do have only a couple months until Pack Rat is gone from Standard, quite likely for good.
Mono-Black devotion is no stranger to the Champion’s Deck and as such hardly needs an explanation. It attacks on two axies  both of which are capable of decisive kills. The ideal opening for the deck comes from turn one Thoughtseize to strip away their answer into turn two Pack Rat which then proceeds to lay down the beats so fast that most opponents need to rely on top decks to stay alive. Alongside the Rat we find a full set of Mutavault which basically act as an anthem for the Pack to gnaw away at the enemies life points, and as a bonus often attack through as well. The other side of the coin has a trio of creatures sliding up the mana curve with Nightveil Specter first as a three drop which contributes all three as devotion and is able to build added value by stealing the opponents options away especially when the Scry and leave the card on top forgetting exactly what Specter will do. Next is huge beater Desecration Demon at four and while it is possible for the opponent to hold him off for a while it is an inevitable conclusion that unless they remove him from the board he will smash in for significant damage. The third creature in at the five drop slot is Gray Merchant of Asphodel that while on the surface not much more then a glorified wall has a very useful draining ability that can be a finishing blow, and as a bonus from Pack Rat its tokens as they are exact copies they add devotion as well. Talking about adding devotion we have Underworld Connections to help draw into more threats and answers along with M15 reprint Sign in Blood, which consequently acts as a Shock to the face to kill your opponent should they be at two life or less. The flipside has a full set of Thoughtseize to strip the opponent of his threats and answers while providing you with information to be sure to have a good defense ready. The remaining spells in the deck form the removal package with a set of  Hero’s Downfall, trio of  Bile Blight, pair of Devour Flesh and a singleton Ultimate Price sure to find answers to many of the problems you’ll find along the way. The other M15 addition to the deck is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth which pair with Mutavault is able to turn the inherent disadvantage from them in this Black mana hungry deck into a non-factor, but as it is legendary the solo copy is fine basically replacing a Swamp.
Now while I won’t argue that this deck is a strong choice as it has been consistently performing above the curve it is certainly not a deck to plan towards the future with. Unless you are planning to compete in FNMs during the summer or are heading to a WMCQ then I would keep away. Once we reach rotation in a couple of months with Khans of Tarkir a huge chunk of the meat from Mono-Black devotion is going to rotate out. But if you do plan on beating face all summer long then this deck is certainly one that will be consistent, but often time boring and repetitive. If you do take the plunge just understand what you’re getting into.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - May 5, 2014

Golgari Devotion by Andrew Tenjum (1st at SCG Cincinnati Standard Open...

Vraska the Unseen - Golgari Devotion

Golgari Devotion by Andrew Tenjum

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 5/3/2014
Here comes the first of the post Journey Into Nyx Standard metagame and while there’s a little tweak to the Mono-Black Devotion it is basically the same old deck that took the first prize. The only Journey Into Nyx addition to the deck is Temple of Malady which is perhaps why the decision was made to dip into Green. And while we do get a couple new weapons in the arsenal it is basically just the same old Pack Rat rush or Gray Merchant Control plans.

Nothing has really changed in the creature department with the requisite Pack Rat followed by Lifebane Zombie, Desecration Demon and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. The manabase also allows for the full set of Mutavault which have the added benefit of being rats as well to pump up the pack. This new version runs a one of planeswalker that hasn’t been seen for a while, Vraska the Unseen as a part of the dabble into Green. She is super versatile as she is able to remove almost any non-land permanent, and will often take down creatures trying to destroy her. Vraska compliments an already very strong removal package, which is extremely common for this style of deck. We start with Hero’s Downfall to rid the board of both creature and planeswalker threats, a trio of Devour Flesh which can skirt protection or hexproof, and with the foray into Green we find the other card added to the list Abrupt Decay which is just a good all around answer to a plethora of problem permanents. In order for the deck to keep ahead we have Underworld Connections for draw which also doubles as additional devotion count when you are draining with a Gray Merchant. The final piece of the puzzle comes with the discard powerhouse Thoughtseize that will not only strip your opponent of the most relevant card but also provide you invaluable information about his game plan.

I’m not entirely surprised by this deck as the printing of a crucial dual land, in this case the Scry land, is often enough to push a good strategy to be great. And while there is really just a bare minimum splash into Green from this deck that little bit could be what keeps this ahead of the simple Mono-Black Devotion deck this evolved from. There is very little risked here as there was usually a suite of Scry lands added to the deck that weren’t really being used for the off color. It remains to be seen though if this deck continues to show dominance, maybe the Control or Midrange decks will find a way to usurp its fetid crown.
Eric J Seltzer
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - April 15, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Mono-Black Devotion by Nicolas Schoolcra...

Mono-Black Devotion
Nicholas Schoolcraft
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 4/12/2014
Lifebane zombie
Yet again we have another victory notched into the belt of Mono-Black Devotion. It would seem at this point that people are hopeful that Journey Into Nyx will be able to offer some variety to a format which while mixed seems to cede in the end to this deck. And while this is a very similar deck to what has been played previously there are some interesting tweaks.


The most apparent difference in this list from those past is the exclusion of Nightveil Specter for a very different evil in Lifebane Zombie. It looks like taking the extra precautions to hedge against Green Monsters and White Weenies paid off. His removal package, which is usually constructed for what you’re idea of the meta calls for, consisted of a full four Hero’s Downfall, a trio of Devour Flesh and two copies each of both Ultimate Price and Bile Blight. The other interesting point of note is that he went for two sets of Temples for the Scry power, which is very handy in conjunction with Underworld Connections when you’re low on life but absolutely need to find something specific.

So with what has been spoiled so far from Journey Into Nyx I’m not convinced that we’ve gotten anything new to bolster this deck. We could stretch and say as a possible 1 of that Hall of Triumph would additionally beef up your already pretty big Pack Rat swarm, but I’d expect it more in the Mono-Blue Devotion instead to ensure your MASTER tokens didn’t disappear along with their Master. There is still many more cards left to come and so we will wait to see if it gets more weapons or if the rest of the field gets a level up to push Mono-Black Devotion back to a more equal footing.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - April 7, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Mono-Black Devotion by Robert Berni (1st...

Mono-Black Devotion
Robert Berni
1st Place at Grand Prix Pheonix on 4/6/2014

Bile blight

And so the song remains, the same as it ever was, playing that same old tune.  Black Devotion has proven itself to be a solid front runner consistently as one of the true tier 1 decks.  It has an array of weapons that make it difficult to beat when it draws it’s threats in sequence.  The deck also has two main lines either through Pack Rat or devoting itself up to Gray Merchant with ample removal and card draw to boot.  It’s no surprise to see it post results week in and week out.

The opening that this deck wants to see everytime it starts a new game is turn one Thoughtseize into turn two Pack Rat.   So often this will rob the opponent of a key defensive piece which will allow the Pack Rat to get to work multiplying itself until it has gotten out of control, which tends to happen very quickly.  The synergy with Mutavault which also happens to be a rat is another factor in boosting the lowly rats to monumental proportions.  The secondary line of attack comes with a curve of threats starting at the three drop with Nightveil Specter a formidable Flying attacker which has the added value of not only stealing life from your opponent but also can steal cards from the top of their deck, which can even be played as long as the specter remains in play.  Then at the four drop we have Desecration Demon which is quite simply a beat stick which you’ll use to grind the opponent to dust.  Finally we get to Gray Merchant of Asphodel which has a very useful Devotion ability that will drain the life from your opponent and add that amount which is based on your total Devotion to Black mana.  To help boost your Devotion count the deck also has Underworld Connections which provides a steady stream of cards at the price of some life and also a misers copy of Whip of Erebos that helps regain lost life point with Lifelink and will raise your dead creatures from the grave for a turn to fight for you again.  As is typical with a Black deck removal is a key element and this deck is no different.  There is a varied spread of spells but the key one is Hero’s Downfall which can deal with problem creatures and planeswalkers alike.  This is complimented by Devour Flesh and Doom Blade to vanquish other creature problems. Then we round out the package with pseudo-sweeper Bile Blight which is capable of removing some very significant threads but you must be mindful of its use in the mirror.  As mentioned before there is also Thoughtseize which not only takes care of any otherwise hard to handle problem but also provides very valuable information about the opponents plans.

I have serious doubts that this strategy will be oppressed come the new offerings of Journey Into Nyx. In fact I shudder to think of what new weapons might even enhance this deck.  One thing is certain, whether you decide to play this deck or not if you aren’t prepared to face it then you should consider yourself not prepared at all.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - February 14, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Mono-Black Devotion by Owen Turtenwald (...

Hero's Downfall

Mono-Black Devotion

Owen Turtenwald

1st Place at Super Sunday Series Championship on 2/9/2014

So the first ever Super Sunday Series Championship has come and gone with no surprise that Owen T was able to walk away victorious. He has become something of the authority on Mono-Black Devotion with previous wins at GP Albuquerque and most recently SCG Indianapolis. This iteration of the deck hasn’t changed much from when we last saw it in action at the SCG tournament with only a few updates from new Born of the Gods offerings.

The creatures all remain the same with Pack Rat into Nightveil Specter into Desecration Demon into Gray Merchant of Asphodel working up the curve. The manabase also remains entirely unchanging with full sets of Mutavault which double in the deck as rats to bolster Pack Rat and Temple of Deceit the chosen Scry land although the deck doesn’t run any blue spells per se. The draw/discard package again is no different with Underworld Connections to not only fuel the hand but also devotion count and Thoughtseize which is perhaps the most powerful turn one play in Standard at the moment. Now where we find the changes are in the removal suite that still has a full set of Hero’s Downfall but has eschewed Pharika’s Cure and scaled Devour Flesh down to two in order to squeeze in Born of the Gods new offering Bile Blight.

Now as the tournament was a multi-format event the win does speak more volumes to the talent of Owen as a whole more then the power of this deck. But you can rest assured that he puts more then the average players time in testing and tweaking so you can be sure that if this is his weapon of choice for his perception of the current meta then you would be wise to take his advise and try to dominate with it yourself.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Bruce Gray - February 6, 2014

Casual Encounters – My Favorite Cards From Born of the Gods

My favorite Born of the Gods cards that have been spoiled

While all the spoilers were unrolling the last couple of weeks my friends and I were looking at the new treats we would get to play with.  Everyone had their own favorite…apart from Brimaz (aka the Lion King), because he’ll be ridiculously good and a standard all-star soon enough. I will go through my pick for best card for Mythic, Rare, uncommon and common slots .  You may not agree, but as with anything in Magic, anyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Mythic of choice:

The first card that caught my eye was one of the minor gods.  Mogis is cool. Xenagos could make G/R monsters absolutely insane and power out bananas monsters that crush EVERYTHING.  However, neither of these got me excited.  One of the gods fit exactly into a deck I already have built, but is missing something…and the fact that she was staring right back, like an answer to a prayer, was tremendous. What caught my eye was Ephara, God of the Polis.  While her ability looks a little underwhelming, for the casual player, she is a bomb and a can’t miss all star.  Here’s what got me excited.

A little over a year ago I wrote an article detailing what is in essence an Azorius deck where I push the detain ability just about as far as I can go.  The deck list is as follows:

Azorius Detain (casual)

Now, this deck list wants to do exactly what Ephara is looking for: play lots of dudes! And with this deck, everytime you do, you’ll be detaining a creature and slowing down your opponent.  The problem that this deck runs into is the need to replenish your hand and while it has ways to this, Ephara is the perfect card draw engine to make things work for you even faster. You’ll cast your guys, slow down your opponent, and then refill your hand with new weapons to tie up your opponent.

Now, people will tell me “Wait! This deck isn’t standard! What are you doing!”.  True…this is not a standard legal deck, but at its heart Magic is game designed to be fun and this casual deck is exactly that.  It is also a deck that I routinely run in a multiplayer free-for-all environment and can be very effective and can shut down the whole table for turns on end. Also, it could certainly be adjusted to be Standard playable and the detain ability is still perfectly valid.  So, for those Standard players out there, with little adjustment, Ephara could play a role for you too.

Basically, at its simplest, this becomes a solid addition to simple decks looking to drop lots of creatures to turn sideways and smash your opponent.  However, it combos really well with Heliod in the Standard environment, or any Bant populate deck (which could totally become a thing with Advent of the Wurm  still running around).  The quiet ability of drawing extra cards for playing creatures is terrific.  It rewards you for doing exactly what we all want to do: play dudes and let them fight.

Rare of choice:

As an avowed Bant (G/W/U) mage by choice, I am rarely excited by cards in Black.  However, in this set one card immediately got my attention.  Pain Seer jumped out at me for the quasi “Bob” wording. Basically, if you can get this guy tapped and then have her live long enough to untap you can build some massive card advantage off of her.

So, while I was at excited, the sheer fact that this card is printed it amazing.  However, couple it with Springleaf Drum now you are a) able to ramp b) tap your Pain Seer without combat and c) get yourself cards.  Imagine this in a Mono-Black Devotion deck.  Turn 1: play a Swamp, cast Springleaf Drum – Turn 2: play a Swamp, cast Pain Seer, tap Pain Seer, play Thoughtseize – Turn 3: untap Pain Seer, draw your card, play a Swamp, tap Pain Seer, tap your Swamps, cast Desecration Demon Turn 4: untap Pain Seer, draw your card, play a Swamp, tap Pain Seer, tap your Swamps, cast Gray Merchant…and you’re off to the races. I’m sorry…Mono-Black just got one more way to accelerate into stuff, draw more cards and frankly, be even scarier than it already was. If this excites me for the impact it could have in a game just imagine what someone who LIKES to play Black will do with it. One word comes to mind: Gross.

Uncommon of choice:

My uncommon is one that grants an ability I haven’t seen in a while.  Noble Quarry is a Bestow creature with Lure on it.  Now, Lure was a ridiculous ability from when I was just a wee lad playing and it was awesome.  I was always so proud of my Thicket Basilisk (the ORIGINAL Deathtouch creature) with Lure that would wipe the board clear.  However, now Lure (I mean Noble Quarry) is back and it is pretty sweet.

This fits nicely in G or G/R creature heavy decks and games where the board state has stalled a little.  This can happen in a multiplayer game because people just can’t force through enough damage to finish off an opponent.  Little Noble Quarry will quickly result in a blow out.  Bestow it on your Sedge Scorpion, or some other innocuous creature (although Deathtouchers are always the most fun!) and watch the rest of your army punch through to your opponent and blow them out.  Sadly, your Scorpion dies, but guess what?  Noble Quarry, because it is now a creature allows you to untap, reload, and take out opponent number 2 with exactly the same maneuver.  This cute little unicorn is a game breaker and I love it!

Common of choice:

I’m going a little out of my comfort zone again and heading into Red for my common of choice.  With Heroic being a solid mechanic and Inspired being a mechanic that in the right deck could also be very interesting, Epiphany Storm is perfectly placed to be very useful and have some surprising impact.

We learned from Theros that cheap Heroic triggers are the way to go in order to take maximum advantage of the mechanic. So, Epiphany Storm being only one red mana is efficient and triggers Heroic on a creature.  A great example is my Akroan Crusader that acts like a little mini Assemble the Legion in a aggressive W/R deck.  I don’t REALLY want to attack with my Crusader, but I do want the tokens, so this is perfect and it can then be used to help me rummage through my deck to accelerate my aggressive deck.

The other ability is finding cheap ways to trigger the Inspired mechanic on…you guessed it…Pain Seer.  In a Rakdos B/R build this is the perfect enabler on a Pain Seer to get him to tap without forcing combat.  So, you’d rummage with the Epiphany Storm (to discard a card you don’t need), and then when Pain Seer untaps draw a card and then take your draw step.  So, for little investment you’ve just dug three cards deeper in your deck and hopefully found the gas you needed to continue to beat down…or find an answer to slow down your opponent.  Either way, this card is huge boon and something anyone looking to play Red should be looking to pick up in order to trigger Heroic or Inspired abilities.

Those are my picks for top cards for each of the four slots.  You may have different picks on your own, but the bottom line is that Born of the Gods looks like it could a very interesting set with lots of neat new tricks, fun choices, and things that continue to make Magic enjoyable and fresh.


Bruce Gray
@bgray8791 on Twitter

Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - January 28, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Mono-Black Devotion by Zach Jesse (1st a...

Mono-Black Devotion
Zach Jesse
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 1/25/2014
Lands (26)

Creatures (16)

Spells (18)


And so with the final SCG Tournament for Theros Standard we have the usual suspect taking down the tournament with Mono-Black Devotion. This was a forgone conclusion by the end of the semi-final round as the last two wizards left battling were both devotees on The Path of the Pack Rat. And while we wait to see if Born of the Gods will shake up a new Standard format we are left to enjoy what was with this weeks offering.

The core of this deck has remained the same for the time it has enjoyed it’s lions share of the spotlight. As it has been mentioned countlessly an opening sequence of Thoughtseize then Pack Rat is often doom for an opponent who will be left crossing their fingers praying for a lucky topdeck to swing the game back in their favour. Once you are able to start cluttering the board with rats you’ve often pulled so far ahead that victory becomes inevitable. To compliment the Pack Rat you also find in this build four Mutavault which also double as rats themselves pushing the power of your army even further. Then we have the remaining creature suite on curve with Nightveil Specter into Desecration Demon into Gray Merchant of Asphodel. As long as you are able to build a board presence even if you are starting to lag behind the Gray Merchant often will be enough to swing a game back around into your favor. There is the full set of Thoughtseize and an additional singleton of Duress which are all key in assuring that any hard to deal with threat is eliminated before it sees play. Then the requisite set of Underworld Connections not only works to maintain your position in the card advantage game but also provide very important and difficult to remove devotion for your Gray Merchant or Erebos out of the sideboard. The rest of the deck is comprised of a rather robust removal package containing a trio of Hero’s Downfall and a set of Devour Flesh complimented by singletons of Pharika’s Cure and Ratchet Bomb, the latter very adept at removing both Soldier or Elemental tokens very handily.
Given the sheer power level of this deck there’s no doubt in my mind that it will continue to find a place in the new meta moving forward. Of the new cards from Born of the Gods I am certain that Bile Blight is the one that will impact this deck the most. Not only will it certainly occupy some slots in the decks removal package it also needs to be accounted for as an efficient way to clear your Specter and even Pack Rat before they grow too large. Another interesting removal spell is Drown in Sorrow which in a pinch is another great way to clear out an army of tokens and other smaller creatures. I would like to see if Pain Seer is able to break through as a viable draw engine but would have to find a role that is somehow complimentary to Underworld Connections. Finally with the printing of Temple of Malice it will be interesting to see if there is a red splash added to this devotion deck, and if so is Mogis, God of Slaughter one of the cards that will find a way into that build. Well, only time will tell and we have just a couple weeks to go before the new face of Standard starts to reveal.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter