Aggressively Devoted to Red

Feature Article from Conley Woods
Conley Woods
1/27/2015 11:01:00 AM
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Fate Reforged is finally upon us which means it is time to start brewing! A few weeks ago, I mentioned an old deck of Standard that had faded away with the rotation of Return to Ravnica in Monored Devotion. The pieces necessary to make the deck consistent were just not there. But at the same time, Fate Reforged was fast approaching and within it were a couple of gems almost hand-picked for the archetype.

You see, while Monored Devotion is very much a big mana deck looking to abuse the power of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, it is also an aggro deck. Everyone remembers the games where a single Stormbreath Dragon comes down on turn three or four and is monstrous the next, but when those big mana draws do not happen, what did the deck look like?

Usually, it was leading on an Ash Zealot or a string of Burning-Tree Emissaries. It would follow that up with Boros Reckoner and then curve that into a Fanatic of Mogis or Purphoros, God of the Forge and if you did not have an answer for some amount of that, you were probably dead on turn five or six. The ability for the deck to function without its most explosive draw was one of the selling points of the archetype.

Over time, Monoblue and Monored both rose up which knocked Monored back a peg. It would continue to ebb and flow in popularity, but once Boros Reckoner and Frostburn Weird left the format, there simply were not enough mana dense cards early on to fuel Nykthos anymore and the deck faded away.

Conveniently, as I mentioned in the past, I think that Fate Reforged plugs those two holes quite nicely.

We cannot get the type of quality two-drop that Burning Tree Emissary or Frostburn Weird were; both of those cards were incredible in this deck. That said, Mardu Scout is a very serviceable two-drop, even if we have been spoiled over the years. First off, this attacks through Sylvan Caryatid which is already quite big. Course of Kruphix is certainly a wall, but only a few two-drops cannot say the same thing. This is going to be relevant for a turn or two, get in its damage, and then it feeds Nykthos in a way that is lacking right now.

Dash is a keyword that will certainly come up at times. Top decking this while an opponent is at low life and whatnot. One cool trick in devotion lists is to pay for the Dash on this just to pick it back up again and again to trigger Purphoros and give you some direct damage, along with devotion lasting just long enough for Purphoros to attack and then fade back away.

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Beyond just another two-drop though, we are looking for something to fill the shoes of Boros Reckoner. Now Reckoner is a very strong and unique card, so doing exactly that is impossible, but I do think Flamewake Phoenix does a pretty good job.

Being a flier in this format has proven to be quite strong. For the last Pro Tour, our team spent a lengthy amount of time looking for, and testing, any flier that even looked remotely playable. Outside of Arbor Colossus and Mantis Rider, the skies were pretty free. If you look at the potential flight squad for Monored Devotion, you actually have an immense amount of unblockable damage:

Flamewake Phoenix
Ashcloud Phoenix
Flame-Wreathed Phoenix
Stormbreath Dragon
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

While you might not run each of those, any number of them combined with the direct damage of cards like Purphoros, Fanatic of Mogis, and Eidolon of the Great Revel, you can kill people pretty quickly and even through a stalled board state.

And if you take a look at that list from above again, you see quite a lot of four power creatures. Fanatic of Mogis and Purphoros, God of the Forge are also all four power, meaning that rebuying this for the small price of a single red mana will happen pretty frequently. When combined with Ashcloud Phoenix in particular, you end up with a very difficult to kill 4/1 flier that is constantly refreshing the life on its smaller brother and Shocking each player in the process. Resilience like that is not something that a Monored Devotion list necessarily had access to before Fate Reforged.

Here is a rather simple but effective place to start when looking at this more aggressive take on Monored Devotion:

Monored Devotion by Conley Woods
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Ashcloud Phoenix
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Fanatic of Mogis
4 Flamewake Phoenix
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Mardu Scout
4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
4 Stormbreath Dragon
Creatures [32]
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Planeswalkers [2]
2 Purphoros, God of the Forge
Spells [2]
20 Mountain (262)
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]







Click for full deck stats & notes!

I actually shaved a land off of the list I was messing around with a few months ago due to a lower curve, but it could be the case that without Generator Servant anymore, we still want access to 25 mana.

This particular list has a healthy mix of ground based damage as well as air damage, thanks mostly in part to Goblin Rabblemaster. I am most unsure about him as a card here because while he is clearly strong, his features do not compliment what we need a ton. A single red in the mana cost means less Nykthos fuel. Ground based attackers that get blanked by Caryatid and Courser are not exactly the best for us, since we really don't have a way of getting them through.

Prophetic Flamespeaker manages to get by because his upside is so huge when he does connect even once and he contributes two mana to our needs. Perhaps Rabblemaster makes the same argument in regards to his upside though. It does have some nice synergy with Purphoros, for example. In the end though, I can easily see it being correct to cut one of our three-drops. Whether that should be Flamespeaker or Rabblemaster, I am not sure on, but I think both have similar matchups where they shine and where they are weak, so perhaps the decision is not as difficult as I am making it out to be. The cut is probably getting pushed to the sideboard anyway.

If we do want to focus on the air assault coupled with direct damage, there is a nice card to pair with Nykthos that we have not talked about yet. Crater's Claws scales really well with this deck but also gives us additional ways to interact with the likes of Courser before we are already winning. Those same four power creatures that back up the Phoenix also improve Crater's Claws. While I would want the 25th land back in this set up, here is how that deck might look.

Monored Devotion by Conley Woods
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Ashcloud Phoenix
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Fanatic of Mogis
4 Flamewake Phoenix
4 Mardu Scout
4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
4 Stormbreath Dragon
Creatures [28]
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Planeswalkers [2]
3 Crater's Claws
2 Purphoros, God of the Forge
Spells [5]
21 Mountain (262)
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]







Click for full deck stats & notes!

Again, it might not look fancy, but we are not trying to be fancy. The goal is to bring the opponent from 20 to zero as quickly as possible and this shell looks to do just that.

When looking at sideboard options, it can be difficult simply due to us sticking to a single color. How does red deal with enchantments? Or graveyards? We can use a few tricks to solve some of these, but for the most part, we are relying on our proactive gameplay to be fast enough and powerful enough that our opponents will be bending to deal with us, rather than the other way around.

Realistically, we get to have a few departments covered when it comes to the board. We get some form of aggressive creature stopper. This can be Anger of the Gods if we are willing to lose a creature or two in the process, or we can turn to a one-sided effect like Arc Lightning. One card from Fate Reforged that might work here is Arcbond, although I still need to test that card more.

Here is a sample sideboard, obviously from a list not running more than one copy of Goblin Rabblemaster in the main.

3 Goblin Rabblemaster
1 Hall of Triumph
4 Staff of the Flame Magus
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
2 Harness by Force
2 Burn Away

Rabblemaster, Chandra, and Sarkhan all come in to help out against control. You have a very relentless game plan with recursive threats and constant sources of damage. Additional planeswalkers and single-card threats come in to help stretch the answers thin and to add up enough life points for our burn to finish the job.

Hall of Triumph is an interesting card that I considered including in the main, but I think that is only appropriate if Rabblemaster is there alongside it. The theory here is that drawing your Triumph boosts most of your threats out of Drown in Sorrow range while also just increasing your clock. Synergy with Prophetic Flamespeaker and Goblin Rabblemaster are noteworthy, but realistically, it is pretty awesome with your fliers and Mardu Scouts too.

Staff might be slightly too slow, but I have to imagine that landing that on turn three is going to give you an edge in most aggressive matchups. Fighting against the all-in red decks that want to win on turn three or four will not allow it to shine, but once it is online for even a turn, you can easily begin gaining two to three life every turn. If you pair that with our own clock, we should be able to win most races. There is the potential that taking our turn three off to cast Staff simply slows the deck's proactive game down too much to be worth it, but that mostly depends on the speed of our opposition, which will cement itself here in the next few weeks.

Chandra is another one of those cards that could make it into the main deck. With our more aggressive look, I think that Phoenix, Fanatic, and Purphoros are all more important to our deck, but Chandra is right behind them in the fourth position I think. If the metagame ends up having enough one-toughness creatures that Chandra is more than just a mediocre draw engine, I will certainly be giving her another shot in the main. But coupled with the additional walker in the board, that pushes us up to five against control.

Harness by Force is mostly just a sweet dream, but with Nykthos fueled turns, stealing an entire enemy army is actually a thing that can happen. This should come in against big dork matchups, such as the monogreen matchup, where you need to get through an opposing force and that force would add some damage to your side of the field.

And lastly, Burn Away just gives us a way to interact with long term graveyard strategies,

I would like to fit some form of Shatter effect to deal with Whip of Erebos though, as that is one of the more problematic permanents for us, but currently I have left it out. Part of this is because I wanted to give some other cards a shot but the other part is that Shatter effects are pretty bad right now. In fact, if we want one, we are very likely turning to actual Shatter as our tool of choice.


Wrap Up

As more and more cards are added to the Standard card pool, the chances for any mono colored Nykthos deck making a comeback increases. I think that with Fate Reforged, we now have both red and green as viable options for the land, although the two decks do play out very differently.

While I think you could build the Monored Devotion deck to be slower and “more powerful” I do not think you would be using the available cards to their best of their ability and as a result, the deck would be much less consistent every time plan A does not come together. For now, I would go dig up those Fanatic of Mogis and give them another go! Thanks for reading!

--Conley Woods--




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