I'm back this week with more Standard videos. My weapon of choice is Monoblack Devotion. Over the past few days I've played a bunch of Magic Online tournament matches and recorded the results. I've picked out some select videos to create a Standard video gauntlet.
The deck I played has seen minor changes since last week. Since I was testing for the metagame at large and not solely the mirror match I have turned to a more well-rounded sideboard. Monoblack has also lost some of its metagame share so the sideboard need not be so extreme. I've replaced the fourth Dark Betrayal and the third Erebos, God of the Dead for two copies of Doom Blade, a powerful tool against creature decks. This brings the list to:
Last week I focused on the Monoblack Devotion mirror match, one of the most intricate and difficult matchups available in Standard. Today I venture further and share matches against the two most popular variations on Monoblack Devotion: Orzhov Control and BG Devotion.
Orzhov Control had its first high-profile finish at Grand Prix Vienna, where it reached the Top 16 in the hands of Andreas Ganz. This was followed by a Grand Prix win the following weekend in Dallas.
Since Dallas the Orzhov deck has gained popularity on Magic Online and has evolved further. Here is the current list and the version that I most likely played against in the coming video.
This deck has deviated quite a bit from the original monoblack deck by doing away with the devotion element altogether. The explosive Gray Merchant of Asphodel is replaced by the more level-headed Blood Baron of Vizkopa. While Gray Merchant of Asphodel is powerful in the mirror, Blood Baron of Vizkopa is one of the best cards imaginable and poses a serious threat to Monoblack Devotion. Nightveil Specter, no longer powering devotion, has been removed in favor of more disruption. The most recent variation includes two maindeck copies of Elspeth, Sun's Champion: an extremely potent card against Monoblack Devotion. This combination of changes gives this deck a more controlling slant, and this slant is meant to make it favored against the monoblack version.
Enjoy the following match as I navigate the Orzhov Control matchup with Monoblack Devotion.
Monoblack Devotion vs. Orzhov Control
In my mind the most interesting decision of this match was in game one, around the 6:20 mark. When he cast Ultimate Price on my Pack Rat, I declined to make a Pack Rat token and instead chose to draw a card with Underworld Connections. In this situation my logic was that it was probable that my new token would be met with removal immediately, leaving me without a Pack Rat and down an Underworld Connections activation. By letting Pack Rat just die and drawing an extra card, I gain the card advantage necessary to overwhelm his removal. In my eyes if I did not use the Underworld Connections I would be one less card deep for the rest of the game, seeing everything one card later.
I think it is interesting because it may be entirely possible that I should have just made a Pack Rat anyways. I would have discarded Pharika's Cure, which was actually relatively weak at that point. While making a Pack Rat does not dig me deeper, it allows me to convert a useless hand resource into a highly valuable board resource. If he does have the removal spell, I have drawn out a precious removal spell. In the monoblack mirror raw card advantage is important, but certain cards are more valuable, particularly the removal spells. Monoblack threats hit extremely hard and cannot really be left alone for even one turn, so the game often goes to the first player who can make a creature stick. It is possible that the effect of drawing out his removal spell was a more subtle form of card advantage even greater than drawing an extra raw card.
For students of history, think back to Carlos Ramão winning the 2002 World Championships because he realized that in the Psychatog mirror, Counterspells were by far the most valuable cards, particularly because games often came down to one critical all-in Counterspell war over a key spell: Upheaval. He would let opposing Fact or Fiction resolve, opting to hoard his Counterspells instead.
The Monoblack Devotion mirror is a back and forth attrition affair revolving around who can make threats stick. Trading my situationally weak removal spell for his highly useful removal spell is an excellent transaction that may be worth more than drawing a card. I must also consider the case when he does not actually have removal. In this case Pack Rat puts me into a highly advantageous position.
Before Orzhov started to gain popularity there was BG Devotion.
This deck retains the Devotion moniker because, unlike Orzhov Control, it maintains the devotion package of Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Nightveil Specter. This deck branches out into green in order to upgrade the removal package, but much like the adaptations in Orzhov Control, the changes in BG help against Monoblack Devotion. A full set of Abrupt Decay in the maindeck serve as a surefire answer to Underworld Connections, Nightveil Specter, and Pack Rat. This subtle change has huge ramifications and vastly broadens the decks ability to destroy permanents.
The BG Devotion deck was my one Standard loss at the TCGplayer MaxPoint Championship last year, and the deck has always got ardent supporters in my article comments. Watch the following match as I battle against BG Devotion.
Monoblack Devotion vs. BG Devotion
My testing would not be complete without a Mirror match for good measure. In the following video I navigate the intricacies of the Monoblack Devotion mirror match.
Monoblack Devotion vs. Monoblack Devotion
Sitting alongside Monoblack Devotion on the top rung of the Standard ladder is Monoblue Devotion.
Matches pitting Monoblack against Monoblue are very common at all levels of Standard tournaments; tier-one decks against other tier-one decks is the bread and butter match of any Standard format. Monoblack against Monoblue will continue to be this matchup in Standard until Born of the Gods shakes things up a bit next month. Monoblack against Monoblue is a competitive battle over board position that can go in either direction. This makes for lots of tough decisions and technical play.
Enjoy the following slugfest as I combat Monoblue Devotion.
Monoblack Devotion vs. Monoblue Devotion
GW Aggro has seen a resurgence in popularity on MTGO.
GW has adapted from months past to fight the online metagame. GW Aggro is strong against Monoblack Devotion because it is an aggressive deck with card advantage elements. Voice of Resurgence and Chronicler of Heroes generate card advantage that is powerful against the attrition strategy of Monoblack. The assortment of flash creatures are also quite effective for maneuvering around removal spells. In a recent premier event I faced two of these GW decks in a row, which served as a wonderful playtesting opportunity. Enjoy the following two matches against GW Aggro.
Monoblack Devotion vs. Selesnya Aggro
Monoblack Devotion vs. Selesnya Aggro, Match 2
Those six games were great examples of some of the common situations Monoblack finds itself in. Making correct mulligan decisions is of the highest priority. When playing with or against Monoblack control many games are decided before the first turn. Pack Rat posed some interesting questions and always required considerable thought to play properly. Underworld Connections is another card that always requires a decision in regards to card advantage versus board development. The discard package of Thoughtseize and Duress require Foresight to play effectively. The Monoblack deck can be a challenge to wield, but it promises incredible potential.