The TCGplayer MaxPoint Invitational is quickly approaching and I am happy to say that I will be one of many taking a crack at the $50,000 prize pool. The format is in an interesting spot, where it has started to stabilize, allowing many different archetypes to exist harmoniously. A few weeks ago I made the claim that Esper Dragons was the best deck in the format, but that was then and this is now. A number of archetypes have adapted to the point that some claim that Esper Dragons has been hated out of the format, but personally I think it is just one of the pack.
There is no clear best deck, but I do think there is one color which is played more than the rest, and that color is green. There are many different green decks that are popular from Abzan variants, to the Green Devotion sort of decks I will be talking about. Green Devotion seems to have recently picked up a good amount of popularity, and it is one of my frontrunners for the TCGplayer Invitational. If I end up not playing Green Devotion then certainly it will be necessary to be prepared for it sideboarding wise.
There are a few different directions that the Green Devotion shell can go in. Here is a Green/Red Devotion list that finished in the Top 4 in Worcester, played by Jared Dimascio:
This list seems to be a bit different from the typical Green/Red Devotion lists but there is certainly some room to be innovative. With that being said if I were playing this archetype there is no way that Elvish Mystic would get cut. There is a draw towards not playing the Elvish Mystic because it can't produce colored mana other than green, as compared to the other producers. There are also six tapped lands in the deck, so a decent portion of the time you will start with one of them, which you couldn't do as well as play an Elvish Mystic. I am surprised to see a version of this archetype without Elvish Mystic do so well, but let's move away from the glaring omission of a certain one-drop.
Another choice that stands out here is that Jared has elected to play a couple of Den Protectors, yet feels no obligation to include Deathmist Raptor as well. Den Protector is a powerful creature, and this deck generally just needs to land a single big whammy card to win. Being able to return stuff like Genesis Hydra or Dragonlord Atarka does give you more redundancy. Jared is also playing two powerful four drops in Surrak, the Hunt Caller and Polukranos, World Eater. Most Green/Red Devotion decks right after the release of Dragons of Tarkir did have Surrak, the Hunt Caller, but more recently these decks have been moving away from him. In fact, the inclusion of Surrak, the Hunt Caller is much more surprising than that of Polukranos, World Eater. Jared has also gone for maindecking Arbor Colossus which is clearly because he is worried about cheap flyers, as there is very little actual removal here, just the Crater's Claws.
Let's look at another Green/Red Devotion list which Magnus Lantto won the MOCS with:
This list is a bit more what I would expect right now, and the numbers are a bit cleaner than those of Jared's, as there are a number of four-ofs, including Polukranos, World Eater. Even though Polukranos, World Eater is legendary I don't mind play four of them because of how powerful of a card it is. Perhaps the most interesting contrast is that Magnus actually has two Deathmist Raptors and zero Den Protector. He has gone the completely opposite direction in terms of which of the powerful green duo to include. It helps illustrate that the two cards don't necessarily need to go together. Since Magnus is playing Elvish Mystic alongside the other standard two-drop ramp creatures, it does mean that he has less business spells when compared to Jared, as one of the big dangers with this sort of deck is flooding out. While there is some debate in terms of card choice for the Green Devotion deck, the deck is extremely powerful whichever direction you take it in, and right now it seems like the most popular devotion deck.
With that said it is important to remember that there are other devotion decks which exist, and Green/White Devotion is definitely under the radar despite continuing to do well. Jasper de Jong took second in the MOCS with the following Green/White Devotion list:
This is the deck that popped up right at the end of the previous Standard format, and while it isn't currently seeing a ton of play, it is still an extremely strong archetype. This deck has now adopted the Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector package, which makes a ton of sense. Remember that this is the deck that plays a full four Mastery of the Unseen and four Whisperwood Elemental. With more manifest, the synergy with Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector is that much more pronounced. The list is so well put together that it almost seems like a strict upgrade to the previous lists without the Deathmist Raptor/Den Protector package. This is one deck that has a great matchup against super aggressive decks like Monored Aggro, but also has a virtually unbeatable late game plan. The best way to attack this deck remains flying creatures, or more specifically racing with dragons.
Both Green/White and Green/Red Devotion are primarily green touching on another color. This is of course what Green Devotion traditionally is all about. The white gives you Mastery of the Unseen as well as perhaps the most format warping card in Dromoka's Command. White also gives you seemingly more sideboard options as we see from Jasper's list. Perhaps the most important of these white sideboard cards is Valorous Stance, as it not only deals with very troublesome creatures, especially in the mirror, but most players won't expect you to be able to give your creature Indestructibility.
So hopefully the point that there are different viable takes on Green Devotion is clear, as it has been this way for quite some time. I want to take a look at an archetype which is labeled as "Jund" but in many ways is just another Green Devotion deck. This was a deck played by Shintaro Ishimura, take a look:
Once again we are seeing mostly green cards in the deck despite it being three different colors. The color requirements are relatively manageable, and Shintaro is even able to squeeze in Haven of the Spirit Dragon and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Splashing two colors in Green Devotion isn't something seen a ton, but it certainly works here. This deck does in fact utilize the Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector package as well. This makes a ton of sense as Shintaro is also playing four copies of Satyr Wayfinder. Satyr Wayfinder does a few different things for the deck. Those non-basic lands can be found with the Satyr Wayfinders, which means you don't need to play as many copies of any one land. Of course dumping cards into the graveyard allows you to recur Deathmist Raptor more often, and return a specific bullet with Den Protector. Beyond this there is also a delve theme, which is the reason for the black.
It may seems like there are so few impactful black cards that it may not be even be worth adding the color. This is definitely a valid point, but the black cards also do play an important role. Murderous Cut allows you to have a cheap catch-all removal spell, which is unlike the other Green Devotion decks mentioned. The Thoughtseizes shore up the control matchup and give you a better sideboard plan, as recurring Thoughtseize with Den Protector can be quite effective. This deck seems to be a Green Devotion deck at its core, but the black cards make the deck a bit more distinctive, and allow you not to be as much of an all-in sort of ramp deck.
While green is definitely the most played of the devotion options there are also other colors to take into consideration. With that said red is another color that seems to have a lot of promise for Devotion. Here is Razian93's 4-0 deck from a MTGO daily event:
This is essentially a big red deck. The deck is aggressive but also has a top end with Dragon Whisperer activations and Stormbreath Dragon. This allows you to go over the top of decks like Green Devotion, which can stabilize the ground relatively easily but also have a tough time dealing with your permanents. This has a dragon theme which makes Draconic Roar in particular very impressive. Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon are well positioned at the moment, and also don't make you take damage when casting them with an Eidolon of the Great Revel in play. Beyond that, having four power creatures means that you can play Flamewake Phoenix, which is an absolute nightmare for a deck like Esper Control.
When looking at the one-drops they may initially seem questionable. Zurgo Bellstriker as a two of seems a bit unusual as a lot of the time this type of deck will just go ahead and play three or four of him because of how powerful he is. The other one-drop is Firedrinker Satyr, a card which many have neglected, and for good reason. Firedrinker Satyr is one of the worst cards in the mirror, but there are other matchups where it is pretty strong. You can also dump lots of mana into activations of Firedrinker Satyr later in the game. With that said I wish there was a better option than this guy, as he is very vulnerable against any deck with burn in it.
While this deck still plays some core creatures that have been proven to be powerful in this sort of deck, like Goblin Rabblemaster, it also plays just a lot of creatures in general. There are only four non-creature spells in the deck, which makes it that much easier to keep the devotion count up. This deck attacks on the ground early, and wins in the air later. Besides the aforementioned Flamewake Phoenixes there are also Ashcloud Phoenix for more redundancy in the air. These flyers are so difficult to handle that your opponents are forced to race you, whether or not they want to, because of how hard it is to permanently answer the Phoenixes.
Monored Devotion seems to be well positioned at the moment, and so while the deck is more of a midrange deck, it does a lot of things very well. It is obvious that while Monored Aggro is a poor game one matchup, there are a bunch of sideboard slots that are devoted to shoring up that matchup. For players looking to go in a direction other than green for devotion, I do recommend the list of Razian93. Devotion decks will creep up on you at the Invitational if you aren't prepared for them.
Thanks for reading,