Shivan Devastator may seem slightly below par at every point on the mana curve, but the flexibility is worth a lot, and it’s never far from playable:
- For X=2 you get Skyknight Legionnaire, which has won a Pro Tour.
- For X=3, it’s reminiscent of Hellrider, which has featured in a Pro Tour Top 8, except Shivan Devastator has evasion instead of a damage trigger.
- For X=4, it’s like Goldspan Dragon, Stormbreath Dragon or Glorybringer – other cards that have made it to the Sunday competition of a World Championship or Pro Tour – though without their extra abilities.
Shivan Devastator can even be fine for X=1 as a follow-up to Kumano Faces Kakkazan, and it’s great flood insurance when you can cast it for X=5 or more. As a 5/5 flyer or bigger, it’ll break any board stall.
While Shivan Devastator is never going to be better than any particular creature at a certain point on the mana curve, its main benefit lies in its versatility. We’ve seen similar benefits in modal double-faced cards like Spikefield Hazard: both of its sides are bad on their own, but because you get the choice between multiple options, it turned into a Standard staple. Shivan Devastator is similar.
Due to its X cost, Shivan Devastator makes it more likely that you’ll be able to spend all of your mana and curve out in the crucial early turns of the game. In that sense, it reminds me of Mistcutter Hydra – a card that has proven itself at Pro Tours in the past. As a spell whose main purpose is to fill gaps in your mana curve, you generally want to draw one but not multiples, which suggests that three copies is an adequate number for 60-card decks, but it’ll still be a valuable addition.
Shivan Devastator also has favorable interactions with various cards. First, since it has mana value one, you could consider it as a tutor target for Ranger-Captain of Eos or Ranger of Eos in Historic. Second, as a creature with flying and haste, you could exploit its abilities with Eater of Virtue or Soulflayer. Third, as a Dragon, you could use it to enable Draconic Roar or Orb of Dragonkind.
But I think the most important thing for post-rotation Standard is that Shivan Devastator enters the battlefield with +1/+1 counters, as there’s an entire mechanic that cares about that.
Even before Shivan Devastator was previewed, I had already started working on a post-rotation Mono-Red Aggro deck. As I highlighted in this Magic.gg article, the Pathways will rotate out of Standard in about a month from now, and we may be left with a bunch of tap-lands that don’t support aggro decks on turns one or two. Accordingly, monocolor seems like the place to be for Standard aggro players after the release of Dominaria United. Out of all colors, red has a great combination of early drops, burn spells and spicy modified synergies.
For this Mono-Red Aggro deck that I already had in mind, Shivan Devastator looks like a perfect fit: It fills out the creature curve while ensuring proper support for Kami’s Flare and Thundering Raiju.
Post-rotation Standard Mono-Red
4 Kumano Faces Kakkazan/Etching of Kumano 3 Rabbit Battery 2 Falkenrath Pit Fighter 3 Bloodthirsty Adversary 2 Flame Channeler/Embodiment of Flame 2 Lizard Blades 4 Reckless Stormseeker/Storm-Charged Slasher 3 Shivan Devastator 4 Thundering Raiju 4 Kami's Flare 3 Play with Fire 2 Strangle 2 Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance 2 Roadside Reliquary 20 Mountain (466) Sideboard 2 Chandra, Dressed to Kill 2 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker/Reflection of Kiki-Jiki 1 Reckoner Bankbuster 1 Volatile Arsonist/Dire-Strain Anarchist 1 Pithing Needle 2 Strangle 1 Rending Flame 3 Seismic Wave 2 Torch Breath
Shivan Devastator is not yet available on MTG Arena, but I gave this build (with extra copies of Rabbit Battery, Bloodthirsty Adversary and Play with Fire instead of the Shivan Devastators) a whirl on the MTG Arena ladder. I’m happy to report I went 5-2, slaying Esper Midrange, Boros Aggro and other top-tier decks that had access to the full current Standard pool. I’d say that this bodes well for a modified Mono-Red deck after the rotation.
I’m looking forward to running a deck like this, with Shivan Devastator, after next month’s Standard rotation. Mono-Red looks solid, and the flexibility of an X-spell is worth a lot!