Around the time our intrepid editor was taking down his tournament with Bant Superfriends, beloved former Number One Apprentice (and recent Celebrity Guest) Josh Ravitz was coming inches from taking down a Star City Open. Josh re-bought his Washington State Championship deck (with a small sideboard tweak) and ended up in second place.
Here is Josh's more recent Weapon of Choice:
BG Devotion (and Devotion to Black variants in general) is / are nothing new in Standard. As we've already said, this deck is just a tweak on Josh's own recent build. The main deck he used in the Open was the same, while the sideboard swapped in two copies of Doom Blade over one Silence the Believers and one Drown in Sorrow (so creature removal for different creature removal).
Devotion decks have multiple attractive angles of attack. They can drop Pack Rat and go all-in an ever rising, ever widening army of rodents; the Pack Rat aggro plan will often work well with Mutavault (to sneak in more size) and Underworld Connections (which can help keep the Rats growing).
Lifebane Zombie is a kind of butt-kicking Jack of All Trades. It is a backbreaking card advantage tool against green or white creature decks...but is also surprisingly effective against decks like UW Control. Such creature-poor decks won't be able to block it despite its tiny toughness, and point removal will be underwhelming at best. Azorius Charm? It's just coming back. Last Breath? Won't even hit it. Supreme Verdict? Four against three. Sad face. :(
In addition to having great low disruption with Thoughtseize (as well as Duress out of the sideboard), BG Devotion plays many of the Standard format's most potent threats, from the versatile Mutavault to the game-ending Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
It's also a deck with access to a good array of removal options, with the BG versions adding Abrupt Decay as a key feature over their monoblack predecessors. Abrupt Decay not only answers some of the most versatile and effective cards against this strategy (Detention Sphere can cover any kind of permanent in this deck, including sideboard cards like Erebos, God of the Dead), but it can buy back your Desecration Demon from a Boros Deck's Chained to the Rocks.
Ultimately we have a deck that has no single coherent plan.
With so many reactive cards, what you do will often rely on what your opponent does first. You have a strong end game with Gray Merchant of Asphodel, but getting substantial value out of that big five you will need to do some setup.
Point being, this is a deck that can set you on a particular path with one decision, and a very different one via a small tweak that doesn't seem so different, actually.
Our hypothetical play on this Make the Play Monday offers a small number of acceptable first plays...but which do we pick?
On the draw, we kept:
Desecration DemonGray Merchant of AsphodelLifebane ZombieMutavaultSwampSwampTemple of Malady
...so a clearly keep-able hand, but one without a whole lot of options.
Two things happen before we get to our first actual decision:
1. The opponent plays a Temple of Malady of his own and,2. We draw a second Lifebane Zombie
This is our spot on our first main phase:
There are only three possible plays, here. Which do you pick?
Play your first turn.
It's Make the Play Monday! Put your answer (i.e. "play your first turn") in the comments below.
We'll comb through the hundreds of answers for two winners; one who agrees with Yours Truly, and one who agrees with this week's Celebrity Guest.
On Flores Rewards Friday, we'll publish those answers (and the thinking around them). At which time one responder who agreed with me will get $25 in TCGplayer store credit; and one who agreed with our Celebrity Guest will too.