Today we're going to discuss one of my favorite Standard decks, Monoblue Devotion. I have been playing this deck since Pro Tour Theros back in October but had to put it down a while back for a variety of reasons. Besides the fact that playing the same Standard deck for months can get quite boring, there was also a huge increase in Monoblue hate such as Skylasher and Mistcutter Hydra. Esper Control was also increasing in popularity while aggro decks like Monored and GW Aggro were falling off the radar. It just wasn't the best time to play Monoblue Devotion.
Then PT M15 rolled around. Our team was pretty sure that Monoblue wouldn't be very popular which is why we chose to play Rabble Red. It seemed like many other teams and players had come to the same conclusion as there was a huge amount of aggro decks like Boros, Naya, and Green White. The Top 8 actually consisted of a bunch of decks that Monoblue Devotion is great against! It seemed like an excellent choice for Standard tournaments for the following week.
I wasn't able to attend a big Standard event last weekend, but I did sleeve up Monoblue Devotion for M15 Game Day. I ended up splitting the Top 4 of the tournament and didn't drop a match along the way. You could say that Game Day doesn't really count because it draws a more casual crowd than an SCG or TCGplayer Open, but the next day GP Utrecht was won by Monoblue Devotion there were two more copies in the Top 8! It was clearly the right time to play the deck.
Here's my Monoblue Devotion list:
If you take a look at the Top 8 decklists from Pro Tour Theros, you can see that the deck really hasn't changed much at all in nine months. There have been countless articles written about Monoblue this year so I am just going to touch up on the changes that were made since M15.
Jace, the Living Guildpact
Not many players have given the new Jace a chance, but I did and let me just say that this card is amazing. He is the perfect planeswalker for an aggro deck. Sure, Jace, Architect of Thought is a better overall card. It can stop an onslaught and it draws actual cards, but Jace, the Living Guildpact is better for what Monoblue Devotion is trying to do.
Jace's minus ability is much better in Monoblue Devotion than it is in your average control deck. Bouncing a creature will gain you some valuable tempo which is exactly what an aggro deck wants. Generally you will be playing creatures on the first three turns and your opponent will play something bigger to stabilize, either a Desecration Demon, an Advent of the Wurm Token, a Nightveil Specter, or just anything to block one of our creatures and still live to see another combat phase. Jace, the Living Guildpact puts an end to that.
Jace's plus ability is also very useful. We aren't gaining actual cards with this ability, we are only setting up our draws for the next turn, but that's totally acceptable in this deck. Unlike control decks, we don't crucially need to hit a land drop every turn. If we draw only four lands for the entire game, that's okay. If you've played Standard during the time where Merfolk Looter was around, you may remember how awesome it was in aggressive decks like UG Madness or Monoblue Skies. That's because in aggro decks, card quality is much better than card quantity. If a Monored deck draws four extra cards but three of them are lands, we haven't really gotten ahead at all (and that's why Browbeat was never a great card). If a control deck draws those cards, the extra lands will probably help them win the game.
That's why I think Jace, the Living Guildpact is great in this deck. Every turn we are able to filter our draws to ensure we draw gas. Additionally, we are playing enough creatures to protect our Jace from opposing attackers meaning that going ultimate is a realistic possibility. I doubt we will ever lose in games where we ultimate a Jace.
The other card that M15 gave us is just a one of in the sideboard, but it's still a pretty good one. Polymorphist's Jest is great against any midrange deck that plans on playing bigger creatures than us, like RG Monsters or Green based devotion decks. It allows you to either trade or outright kill creatures that we normally have a hard time dealing with, like Polukranos, World Eater, Stormbreath Dragon, and Obzedat, Ghost Council. Losing all abilities is also highly relevant. Cast this in response to a monstrous activation and the monstrous ability won't trigger. Cast this on your opponent's turn and Obzedat won't get exiled. I also like that you can cast this after your opponent has blocked with Sylvan Caryatid. Usually players block with Caryatid without fear because there really aren't many ways to kill it outside of mass removal or Devour Flesh, but Polymorphist's Jest can kill the Caryatid, potentially crippling their manabase.Monoblue Variants
Many players have tried splashing in the Monoblue deck and some colors were successful while others were not. Out team tried a black splash for Pro Tour Theros for Thoughtseize and Doom Blade but in the end we didn't like it. Scrylands were too slow and we were taking too much damage from our lands. Additionally, there were plenty of times we didn't draw any black mana and were stuck with a bunch of black spells in our hand. We wanted consistency and we wanted to cast our spells on curve, so we scrapped the black splash.
When Born of the Gods was released I was a huge advocate for splashing white in Monoblue Devotion. Detention Sphere was a great removal spell for the deck that was capable of taking care of any of our problem cards and Ephara, God of the Polis was a powerful addition to the deck. I did play that version of Monoblue during Born of the Gods Standard and it was actually the last version I played before putting the deck down for a while.
Last weekend at GP Utrecht, Elliot Boussard piloted a UW Devotion list to a finals appearance. Here's his list:
Elliot's list is almost identical to the UW Devotion deck I was playing before Journey into Nyx came out. Mana Confluence is a great addition to the deck because it's a land that provides you with a splash color but comes into play untapped. Playing Mana Confluence is a bit risky because if you draw too many of them early you could be taking too much damage from your own cards. I definitely had mana issues when I was playing only four Hallowed Fountains and four Temple of Enlightenment and the two Mana Confluence definitely help.
There are some pros and cons for splashing white in this deck. As I've said earlier, Detention Sphere gives you answers to cards that you generally don't have answers to when playing straight monoblue, such as planeswalkers and large creatures. I also like the Reprisal and Deicide in the sideboard.
The downside of playing this deck is that everyone knows about Detention Sphere and everyone packs answers to it. There's Abrupt Decay, Vraska the Unseen, Banishing Light, Golgari Charm, and Planar Cleansing just for starters. It's very risky to play a deck that relies on Detention Sphere for removal when you know that most opponents will be able to deal with it. With UW Planar Cleansing winning the Pro Tour, it's possible that the Detention Sphere hate will decrease. You never want dead cards in your deck against a deck playing Sphinx's Revelation, so the Abrupt Decays and Banishing Lights may be on a decline in the upcoming weeks.
The second weakness that this version of Blue Devotion has is its manabase. Temples will slow you down by a turn which is never something you want when you're playing an aggro deck. The Hallowed Fountains and Mana Confluences deal you damage which will usually not be relevant but it could be the difference between winning and losing when you're up against a deck like RW Burn or anything that's more aggressive than you.
The other splash that this deck sometimes has is red. You don't often see the red splash as it's not as popular as the white or black splash, but I happened to stumble across a sweet UR Devotion list that did well at Pro Tour M15 piloted by Marcio Carvalho.
Okay, this list looks seriously sweet. There are no slow scry lands but instead Shivan Reef, a new addition from M15. This is a much better choice than Mana Confluence for this deck because you only have to take damage when you need to, instead of taking damage every time you tap it. Additionally, all of the red cards in this deck are turn four or later so you don't need to mulligan a hand without red mana and you don't need to play additional red lands like Mana Confluence.
Marcio chose to play red for Turn // Burn, which does pretty much the same thing as Detention Sphere. It can outright kill a creature for five mana but also has the flexibility of using either half or even both halves for a two-for-one. I've always like Turn // Burn and I really like it in this deck.
Marcio was the only player at the Pro Tour with eighteen points or better who chose to play a Military Intelligence over Bident of Thassa. Military Intelligence actually seems like a great choice for the deck going forward. You only draw one extra card a turn, but it only costs two mana as opposed to four. There have been plenty of times where I was never able to cast Bident due to its hefty mana requirement and Military Intelligence gets around that. Even if drawing more cards is strictly better than drawing only one, any extra cards are good and I'll take only one card if it means I can cast Military Intelligence and still attack with my Mutavault in the same turn. Plus, have you ever drawn two Bidents in a game? It's pretty miserable.
The sideboard also has some sweet new additions for Monoblue. The first is Burning Earth which I think is an amazing card in a deck with this many basic lands. Three color midrange decks only play a handful of basics (sometimes none!) and Burning Earth can really punish them. There are plenty of times where you flood out with Monoblue and just can't find a card that closes out the game, and Burning Earth does just that. I would like to see a second copy get in there but I understand Marcio's choice of playing only one. With only 12 basics there will be games where Burning Earth will hurt you more than it hurts your opponent.
The last red card that Marcio played was Keranos, God of Storms. I have played Keranos in a variety of control decks and never really liked him. Keranos always took a while to get going and was never a creature, but in this deck he will be a creature quite regularly. The extra cards and damage are just what this deck needs and Keranos is a great card to help you get back in a game you're losing.
I think that the red splash is more powerful than the white simply because of Shivan Reef. Playing your spells on curve is very important in Monoblue, and the red splash gives you about the same types of options that the white does. If allied-colored painlands get reprinted in the near future, I'd be more than willing to look at both white and black splashes again.
Despite Monoblue not performing as well as at PT M15 as it did at PT Theros, the deck is still a very strong choice for your upcoming WMCQs. It's one of the more powerful and consistent aggro decks in the format whether you choose to splash a color or not.
By the time you read this, I'll be on my way to Gen Con for the best four days in gaming! I'll be at the TCGplayer Booth (#2529) for most of the weekend so be sure to stop by if you want to play a game, get some tokens signed, or just say hi. Thanks for reading and I'll see you then!
Melissa DeTora @MelissaDeTora on twitter www.facebook.com/MelissaDeTora on Facebook