On Make the Play Monday - Analysis Paralysis we took a look at one of the most powerful and popular decks in the current Standard format, GW Devotion:


While GW Devotion looks like a straightforward deck (after all what is it beyond mana and creatures?) its individual choices are actually quite nuanced.

Take our scenarios from Monday. I chose both of them because they give the GW player a ton of different things to do; a ton of options from what lands to play to which of almost any threats or potential blockers to deploy. What is GW but mana and creatures? Turns out which mana you drop and which creature(s) you play can have a substantial impact on your results.

To consult on our GW Devotion choices I tapped one of the architects of GW Devotion's recent success (as well as one of the most decorated players on the Pro Tour + arguably the strongest Standard player in the world)...Brad Nelson!

Brad might have missed Top 8 at Grand Prix Miami, but that is only because he conceded to his brother (and eventual GP finalist) Corey Baumeister in the last round of Swiss, guaranteeing his bro's qualification on the PT.

On a personal level I love chatting with Brad about plays. He is one of the few players whose skill is so up there, whose Convictions are so strong, that he actually makes me feel like a rookie. I hope that you enjoy Brad's takes on these plays half so much as I do in general.

Scenario One

"Playing Polukranos, World Eater seems like the obvious choice, but one I don't like too much. We won't be able to block with it due to Stoke the Flames being able to take it out and I don't want to risk losing both of our best cards in back-to-back turns. Instead I would play Genesis Hydra for three since at worst we will be getting an Elvish Mystic and have a chance of having a relevant card on top of our deck after we shuffle. There is an argument to play it for two so we can try to get another land off the top if we hit, but the 3/3 body may become more relevant down the road.

"I would have played the Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx on an earlier turn so we will have it in play if the top card of our deck is a land until the end of the game. I would also have played Polukranos, World Eater over the Courser of Kruphix on turn three. It's always important to force them to play Chained to the Rocks or Valorous Stance before they get a board position. We would have also been in trouble if they also had Stoke the Flames to go with that Hordeling Outburst."

Brad Nelson's Play: Genesis Hydra for three into Elvish Mystic (or better) [presumably with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx]

While Scenario One this week actually asked us to play Turn Four, Turn Three in this scenario itself offered a pretty interesting set of decisions. Brad said he would have played Polukranos, World Eater on the previous turn where I played Courser of Kruphix.

In Make the Play Monday - Analysis Paralysis I called that play "interesting, possibly questionable, but reasonably defensible" What I meant there is that Courser of Kruphix bumps up a bit against The Danger of Cool Plays. Courser of Kruphix on turn three didn't maximize our mana, but did give us the opportunity to get some card advantage (which we did).

Now that we are scoping out turn four we have some more questions to answer.

Do we want to maximize our mana on this turn? We can make a follow through play consistent with last turn. We can tap four lands for Polukranos, World Eater and leave up multiple blockers against the opponent's multiple attackers.

Or we can push our mana into the Genesis Hydra. Like Brad said, we actually have a few different choices here. We can use the lands (and probably Elvish Mystic) we already have to make a small Genesis Hydra, but because we know we have an Elvish Mystic on top, even the smallest Genesis Hydra will hit a two-for-one.

What is probably better in the Genesis Hydra realm is to play one of the lands in our hand (probably the Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx) in our hand and make Genesis Hydra where X=3. This will definitely hit at least the Elvish Mystic, and might hit something more powerful. One of the things that I like about the current incarnation of Green Devotion is that Genesis Hydra is at an all-time level of efficiency. Cards like main deck Fleecemane Lion and Mastery of the Unseen increase the chances of hitting two-for-ones at low X.

The downside of playing a land out of our hand, of course, is that we will miss the opportunity to play a land off the top of our deck. But that is probably a small consideration given a fully bigger body on Genesis Hydra; we're getting the life from Courser of Kruphix regardless.

All that said, I went with a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx out of my hand into Polukranos, World Eater. The desire there was to leave up the maximum number of blockers, just in case. I think this is one of those spots where many plays might be close in value, and can totally see Polukranos being weaker than a 3/3 Genesis Hydra, especially since we will just be getting another Elvish Mystic (at least) for free anyway.

Mike's Play: Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx into Polukranos, World Eater

Scenario Two

"This time playing Polukranos, World Eater is the correct choice. It may seem safer to just get the Hornet Nest into play, but Goblin Heelcutter could put us in a tough spot. I would rather get the best card against Monored down as early as possible to potentially fight down the board before it is too late. This also utilizes our mana for the following turn of Courser of Kruphix and Voyaging Satyr. This board state is exactly why Hornet Nest is a wasted sideboard slot in my opinion."

Brad Nelson's Play: Polukranos, World Eater

I'll admit it.

I was dazzled by the bright lights and flashing neon of the rarely-seen sideboard card.

Sure, Polukranos, World Eater is an available play. We can even get it out ahead of the curve...but the opponent has already got three creatures, and if he moves to block any there could be problems on the Stoke the Flames front. That's the thinking, anyway.

I get it.

I get Brad's comment that Hornet Nest might be a wasted sideboard slot in GW Devotion. But we're already here; we're in a version that has wasted that slot; and we have that slot in our hands right now.

Plus, it's dazzling, shiny, not-often-played, and has flashing letters in pink lights blinking "p-l-a-y m-e" "p-l-a-y m-e" across the top.

Or, provided we already have the Hornet Nest; this really does seem like one of the spots where you would drop it.

The upside of Hornet Nest on this turn is pretty sizable after all. Provided you can block (and I get if he has a card like Goblin Heelcutter that is not a guarantee) that might keep the opponent off of attacks at all. Large creatures from Goblin triggers...direct damage...coming in low for non-lethal blocking; most routes have Hornet Nest buying us some time.

...that's the thinking, at least.

In terms of the three mana plays running out a land and the Hornet Nest seems stronger than the Courser of Kruphix here. This is in particular the case because there is no way we are going to play the Courser with the Sylvan Caryatid in the hopes of getting a freebie; not against a Monored Beatdown deck.

I went with Hornet Nest.

Mike's Play: Hornet Nest

Troubling signals from the Celebrity Guest front this week!

It's been a while since I had zero overlap with the Celebrity Guest, and that's especially concerning given the pedigree of this week's as one of the top GW Devotion players in the world.

But rules are rules! For agreeing with YT on "Polukranos, World Eater" and "Hornet Nest," Josh Campbell receives a $25 TCGplayer.com gift certificate. Spend it well Josh!

And for syncing up with the great Brad Nelson's "Genesis Hydra for three" followed by "Polukranos, World Eater" Jon Ohliger earns himself a $25 TCGplayer.com gift certificate, too. You are a better man than I, Jon.

Make sure you send a message (not a wall post) to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prize!

Thanks to Brad, and thanks to everyone who participated this week. Y'all make me blush.

Make the Play Monday and Flores Rewards Friday are taking a breather next week -- you can enjoy the Dragons of Tarkir Set Review musings of one Conley Woods instead -- but we'll be back the following one.

See you then!


Brad Nelson is one of the most decorated players in the world. A former Pro Tour Player of the Year, Brad has multiple Pro Tour Top 8s under his belt, as well as countless Grand Prix Top 8s (including a win in Washington, DC back in 2010). Brad is the first ever, and reigning, titlist at the StarCity Players Championship. You can follow Brad at @fffreakmtg