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Theros Standard: Devotion to Blue
Feature Article from Ryan Hipp
Ryan Hipp
9/4/2013 10:00:00 AM
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Holy spoiler season, Batman. This new standard is already looking sweet with hardly a third of the set spoiled so far. Let's get right into it.

The cards so far that look fantastic in the best color in magic are Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves. Not only is there a plethora of blue cards that want to be unblockable but scry one every turn on top of that is real sweet regardless of the archetype it's in. With cards to play like Tidebinder Mage, Nightveil Specter, Jace, Architect of Thought, Detention Sphere, and even something like Agoraphobia/Claustrophobia and Archaeomancer. There may be a very fun and seemingly competitive blue deck to play. A tempo list is what comes to mind, as Essence Scatter hits half the format now that gods exist and Cavern of Souls is gone but maybe a much more aggressive list is available.

Bident of Thassa, Omenspeaker, Artisan of Forms, and Curse of the Swine are other cards spoiled so far that may fit into one of these decks. Because we are yet to see any lands outside of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx the mana works much cleaner with a base blue splashing a color, this also makes life easier against Burning Earth (If people will still be playing that card, which is doubtful). This could change, as only 82 cards have been spoiled at the point of writing this, but if we are stuck in the harsh reality of guildgates, I shall make the lists to prepare for the worst.

UB Devotion by Ryan Hipp
Main Deck
Sideboard
1 AEtherling
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Master of Waves
4 Nightveil Specter
Creatures [13]
3 Jace, Architect of Thought
Planeswalkers [3]
1 Bident of Thassa
3 Claustrophobia
2 Doom Blade
3 Essence Scatter
3 Far // Away
2 Opportunity
2 Ratchet Bomb
Spells [16]
4 Dimir Guildgate
13 Island (237)
2 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Watery Grave
Lands [24]
Deck Total [56]







Click for full deck stats & notes!


The black God and his/her weapon are yet to be spoiled, but they could very easily be something this deck wants to be playing. Claustrophobia and Agoraphobia are both decent removal spells once Restoration Angel is out of the format. They also do a decent job making sure our devotion to Blue is as high as it can be for Master of Waves. The singleton AEtherling feels necessary for something to ultimate Jace, Architect of Thought for if that's the way the game plays out. Again, these things may change depending on what is in the rest of the set.

The singleton Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, lets us make our entire team unblockable via Thassa for cheap once we have established a board state. It also can power out the AEtherling or Opportunity with the right draw on early turns. It cannot cast Frostburn Weird or Nightveil Specter however, which makes me never want it early on. Mutavault may not be at its best in this list because it doesn't cast Specter or Frostburn Weird either, but acting as a pseudo Creeping Tar Pit via Thassa seems like a fine deal, and something the list may need against a hard control deck playing mono removal spells.

A more Aggressive list similar to this could be playing Duskmantle Seer. With the scry from Thassa, hopefully we can avoid getting hit for infinite off the Duskmantle Seer trigger as we smash in; just remember to order the triggers properly. With a list like that, I could see BUG Aggro being where we want to be, but the mana is so bad at the moment.

One synergy that seems quite reasonable is Jace, Architect of Thought and Bident of Thassa. Obviously we can force them to attack into a Jace's +1 ability, which seems all fine and dandy but what if they do not have creatures? Is turning all of our creatures into Scroll Thieves a game plan? What about Jace, Architect of Thought? Hes a plan against control by himself. Plus we are playing Thassa, God of the Sea for some resilient, unblockable beats.

Here is a list with a little more burst potential:

UR Devotion by Ryan Hipp
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Master of Waves
1 Nivix Guildmage
4 Ogre Battledriver
3 Purphoros, God of the Forge
4 Young Pyromancer
Creatures [20]
2 Claustrophobia
4 Divination
1 Dragonshift
3 Essence Scatter
2 Izzet Charm
3 Turn // Burn
2 Voidwalk
Spells [17]
8 Island (237)
4 Izzet Guildgate
7 Mountain (245)
1 Mutavault
4 Steam Vents
Lands [24]
Deck Total [61]







Click for full deck stats & notes!


There has to be at least 200 different ways to successfully configure a list similar to this. Purphoros, God of the Forge plus Master of Waves sounds really sweet on paper with something like Frostburn Weird in play for the devotion. The effect of “whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, Purphoros deals 2 damage to each opponent” seems silly powerful with Master of Waves and Young Pyromancer. As does Ogre Battledriver. It's a little worrisome that there may not being enough ways to trigger Young Pyromancer for it to be worth our while, but some reworking of the list could fix that if it ends up being awful. Until we get some more dual lands spoiled (or maybe not even until next set) the mana between Ogre Battledriver and some double blue cards is a little sketchy too.

Yes that is Voidwalk. With Thassa making any creature unblockable for its Cipher, and having Master of Waves as a dirty Flicker target, all while triggering Young Pyromancer multiple times? Heck to the yes, sign me up! If only it helped with devotion too. Warning; be careful about flickering Master of Waves with a large army of tokens, because Voidwalk returns the creature on end step, not immediately, the tokens would die unlike a Restoration Angel Flicker, where state based affects are not checked while the creature is briefly exiled.

Frostburn Weird is something that not only increases our devotion but makes a great blocker for Bident of Thassa and a creature to connect with later to draw some cards off its other line of text. Plus with this list, there is no life gain and less longevity compared to a UW list. Turn // Burn and Ral Zarek may not be worth the trouble, at least until we know what needs to be answered, even if Dragonshift looks sweet on paper too. One thing Turn // Burn can do for sure though is answer opposing gods. Cutting it would also let us move more all-in on a combo shell, but I am not persuaded we need to start the format that way. Plus, in a UW list we have access to Sphinx's Revelation and can still play Frostburn Weird without too much of an issue, which might be the place to play harder control. .

UW Thassa Control by Ryan Hipp
Main Deck
Sideboard
1 AEtherling
1 Archaeomancer
4 Frostburn Weird
Creatures [6]
3 Jace, Architect of Thought
Planeswalkers [3]
3 Azorius Charm
1 Bident of Thassa
3 Claustrophobia
4 Detention Sphere
3 Essence Scatter
3 Sphinx's Revelation
3 Supreme Verdict
2 Syncopate
Spells [22]
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Hallowed Fountain
7 Island (237)
3 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
6 Plains (233)
Lands [25]
Deck Total [56]


2 Blind Obedience
1 Council of the Absolute
2 Dispel
2 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Pithing Needle
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Supreme Verdict
4 Tidebinder Mage
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


While the sideboard is really just spit balling, this list seems pretty sweet. Things like Obzedat, Ghost Council could be troublesome, but having four Detention Spheres and playing Supreme Verdict could be the right place to start the format at. Generally speaking, people tend to play aggressive decks in the early weeks of a fresh format. Monored still has tons of tools, and with Thragtusk out of the picture people will be picking up Burning-Tree Emissary decks again for sure. Boros Reckoner, Ash Zealot and Chandra's Phoenix are all still solid choices for the mono red list. Burning-Tree Emissary decks still have Firefist Striker and the new Satyr Hedonist to cast off the mana too, even with the loss of Flinthoof Boar. Fingers crossed for a cheap red sweeper.

We also have some great sideboard options like Tidebinder Mage to really get our devotion turned on early. One thing worth considering is Riot Control for the sideboard; it gives tons of breathing room when activating Bident to force them to walk into Frostburn Weird and Jace, Architect of Thought while giving us the option of connecting for value on the crack back. A list really abusing that would look different though, featuring Scroll Thief and Stealer of Secrets to keep the cards coming at silly rates after activating a Bident. Again, we're getting into the area of less viable decks, at least until the metagame shapes up a little bit.

With Sphinx's Revelation, we get a little more mana hungry. Something to try for is the Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Adding four to five mana off one land could be enough to push us some early revelations over the top. As stated before, perhaps it's too awkward to cast with Frostburn Weird, but we want the addition to our devotion to blue if that is the case, the cards work together very well once both are in play.

Thassa, God of the Sea has another line of text that is abusable, making creatures unblockable can certainly have some serious upside with the right affects. Consider something like this list:

UW Thassa Cipher by Ryan Hipp
Main Deck
Sideboard
1 Archaeomancer
3 Master of Waves
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Scroll Thief
1 Stealer of Secrets
Creatures [13]
2 Bident of Thassa
3 Claustrophobia
4 Detention Sphere
3 Essence Scatter
4 Hands of Binding
1 Stolen Identity
2 Voidwalk
Spells [19]
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Hallowed Fountain
13 Island (237)
3 Mutavault
Lands [24]
Deck Total [56]







Click for full deck stats & notes!


Man, if ever there were a deck that wanted a Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. This list could also use a one drop, which as of this writing has yet to be spoiled out of Theros. It could be very reasonable for this deck to play some hexproof creatures, or Daxos of Meletis (certainly not a Geist of Saint Traft) as it really just wants to gain some life against aggressive decks, something that suddenly became a premium.

One thing that would not be surprising in the least is that if some amount of enchantment hate made it into the maindecks of many lists. With so many silly powerful enchantments and enchantment creatures it may be reasonable, similar to how artifact hate was viable maindeck back in Scars of Mirrodin. Detention Sphere gets us there in the U/W list, but it is another good thing to keep an eye out for in the rest of the spoiler. However, if this is the case, playing Detention Sphere may become a liability, making us need to move elsewhere for our devotion and removal spells.

Artisan of Forms may not have the support in these lists but could end up being sweet for cloning things if we are looking for that effect. Targeting him with our own Agoraphobia then returning it to our hand after gives a repeatable Clone effect. This costs quite a bit of mana, but could be abusable if the right creatures to copy exist. One thing that seems rather sweet is that if we have an active Progenitor Mimic, as the clause of “is this a token” is returning as false, giving us another copy of whatever the mimic was on. Now all we need is a Thragtusk to be cloning right? Har, har, har. Only joking, but what about Biovisionary? Adding to our devotion to blue is never bad and randomly winning the game seems sweet. Even though green is for chumps, consider this list.

RUG Visionary by Ryan Hipp
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Artisan of Forms
4 Biovisionary
3 Clone
4 Master of Waves
2 Progenitor Mimic
Creatures [17]
3 Agoraphobia
3 Claustrophobia
2 Hunt the Weak
4 Prey Upon
2 Ratchet Bomb
3 Simic Charm
Spells [17]
4 Breeding Pool
3 Forest (249)
9 Island (237)
2 Mutavault
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Simic Guildgate
Lands [24]
Deck Total [58]







Click for full deck stats & notes!


Pumping and copying with Artisan of Forms, or Fighting and copying seems like a good time. Cloning Master of Waves for the buff effect also seems reasonable too once we have a critical mass of 1/0s. There is always the win of Biovisionary against a deck that is lacking removal too, but perhaps this is too cute and we should focus on a Master Biomancer build abusing the Voidwalk combo via Thassa.

What about something more tangible (and perhaps more playable) than Biovisionary. There should be a 3+ color build that's viable even given terrible mana. Something slower with Prophetic Prism and/or Shimmering Grotto is a place to start, using Chromatic Lantern or something similar to cast the sweet X spells from RTR is a decent game plan if in need of one. A RUG list similar to the one above could exist as well, playing Young Pyromancer as another copy target. But we aren't here to talk about silly nonsense like non-base blue decks today.

With so much set left to be spoiled, keep an eye out for uncommons that fit the devotion theme, not just this deck, but any deck running gods, which one can only imagine there will be many decks playing them from here on out. What the list could really use is a two drop creature that costs double colored mana that isn't Tidebinder Mage. Or maybe Tidebinder Mage will be maindeck material. Time will tell.

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Something that will ruin many people's day (including my own) is the return of Thoughtseize. Even without Snapcaster Mage to really take control of the format, that card goes far when wanting to punish midrange and control decks that don't take advantage of the slight life advantage. Duress wasn't the end-all because it left Obzedat, Ghost Council, Thragtusk or another such threat in their hand. Appetite for Brains wasn't maindeck material due to how much it missed against aggressive decks and control decks alike; missing Sphinx's Revelation was brutal. Thoughtseize however is only really punished by hyper aggressive decks that can fully function being a card down, as trading one-for-one while taking a small chunk of life is a fine exchange for them. How often will the correct play be “Thoughtseize turn one, take their Thoughtseize”? Non-black or on-the-draw Sphinx's Revelation decks may have to resort to the lowly Archaeomancer to find some resilient love, at least he still works in the Voidwalk shell.

Scavenging Ooze and Thoughtseize are two things that will be played together until the end of time, so making sure any list has multiple outs to Ooze, or doesn't scoop to Ooze is a priority, as that combo has been played in legacy alongside Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman, even though fetches exist in that format. Life is still going to be hard.

Top 10 Cards Rotating

1) Geist of Saint Traft
2) Thragtusk
3) Pillar of Flame
4) Cavern of Souls
5) Unburial Rites
6) Restoration Angel
7) Thundermaw Hellkite
8) Bonfire of the Damned
9) Kessig Wolf Run
10) Snapcaster Mage



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