fbpx

Silvestri Says – PTQ’ing with UW Devotion

With the cancellation of SCG Somerset and Magic Online just getting Born of the Gods there won’t be a ton to talk about for Standard this week. There were however a number of PTQs, including one here in California. Some may remember that last week I said I’d likely play a UW Ephara deck. This is what I played at my PTQ this past weekend:

[ccdeck]4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple of Enlightenment
3 Azorius Guildgate
3 Mutavault
1 Island
10 Plains
2 Brave the Elements
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Judge’s Familiar
4 Precinct Captain
2 Imposing Sovereign
3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
3 Boros Reckoner
4 Detention Sphere
2 Spear of Heliod
2 Ephara, God of the Polis
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
—–Sideboard—–
1 Negate
1 Syncopate
2 Essence Scatter
2 Glare of Heresy
1 Revoke Existence
2 Supreme Verdict
2 Domestication
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
1 Boros Reckoner
1 Bident of Thassa
1 Jace, Architect of Thought[/ccdeck]

While it may resemble some of my earlier designs of the deck, credit goes to Caleb Durward for this particular build since he shared it with me last week. While I didn’t necessarily love everything in the deck, it looked well put-together and I believed Caleb when he said it tested well. I only got to play a handful of games with this exact build before the PTQ, but I was happy with how it played out.

So why did I switch away from the Mihara build? Two simple reasons. The first is that I was scared of playing against aggressive decks that aren’t currently in style. It’s all too easy to dismiss decks as being unplayable and then face them in the first few rounds. So the idea of playing against Mono-Black Aggro or Mono-Red with a mana base consisting of nearly all shocklands and scry lands didn’t fill me with confidence. While everything except GR Monsters gives you plenty of time to sort out your mana, being delayed against typical aggression is just asking to give them an extra attack step for free.

The second reason I moved away from the Mihara build was that the gains made by [ccProd]Obzedat[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Whip of Erebos[/ccProd] didn’t feel irreplaceable. While what they do in concert with one another can’t be made up for, on their own Obzedat is just a strong 5-drop and Whip of Erebos is a planeswalker stand-in. Jace can save you a good chunk of life and/or gives you the same or more cards as an active Whip when Obzedat isn’t involved.

Outside of the mana, one major upside about taking on this configuration over the Esper build is that you have room for Jace and Elspeth in the main deck. If you run black you really can’t afford to sacrifice the space for more late-game inclusions such as Jace and Elspeth. Adding black pretty much requires the Obzedat or [ccProd]Blood Baron[/ccProd] addition to justify the mana and [ccProd]Ultimate Price[/ccProd] should get in there as well. Without that added strain you now have non-Ephara ways to draw cards and hang around in the late-game.

What Worked

• Curve out draws were good enough to win games on their own or position me to win games.

• Ephara, Jace, and Elspeth are an excellent team and provide a steady stream of cards, or creatures to pressure with. Jace and Elspeth’s auxiliary abilities both come in handy, whether it’s ensuring you can’t be attacked effectively or destroying [ccProd]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/ccProd].

• [ccProd]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/ccProd] is excellent and one of my favorite cards in the deck. It also reminds me that while the card isn’t quite as unstoppable as some make it sound, with the proper support it’s still the best 3-drop threat in the format. It dominates most other 3-drops and with Spear it becomes very difficult to deal with via normal means.

• Sideboarding into a controlling role without losing power or consistency.

• Taking an aggressive role is definitely what this deck wants to do game one, but one of the key points is that after sideboarding you can control the game better than any non-control deck in the format. Between [ccProd]Supreme Verdict[/ccProd], planeswalkers, [ccProd]Glare of Heresy[/ccProd], [ccProd]Revoke[/ccProd], and the smattering of countermagic you can become a solid midrange deck against any opposing creature plans. Your opponent also has to respect your curve-out draws into Spear as well, so they can’t just board out all their own removal. Instead they get stuck with the worst of both worlds since they don’t know how passive you’ll be playing games two and three.

Most of this can happen because Ephara and Jace are both very good at keeping you in business. The only problem that I constantly ran into was that there wasn’t quite enough gas to flip from being in a game to dominating one. While I didn’t mind giving up Obzedat, two Elspeth are the only real dedicated finishers you have, and even she has great auxiliary uses. Otherwise, if the board gets cluttered, you’re relying on raw numbers to carry the day or setting up an alpha strike via [ccProd]Brave the Elements[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Lavinia of the Tenth[/ccProd].

What Didn’t Work

• [ccProd]Judge’s Familiar[/ccprod] is still a miserable Magic card under most circumstances. It remains a necessary evil in Mono-U Devotion and here we can do better. It does play well against Mono-Black and both [ccProd]Spear of Heliod[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Ephara[/ccProd] make it slightly better, but in the end you’re still playing a 1/1 flying creature in your deck. I like having one or two as additional one-drops since they do provide some action and are good against black decks, but they definitely don’t deserve four starting roles in this deck.

• [ccProd]Brave the Elements[/ccProd] lands on the crap side more often than the game-winning side in this deck. I don’t mind having it as an option, but drawing two is complete misery. My other issue is that often times against control game one you can’t afford to draw this when digging for another planeswalker or Ephara to keep the gravy train flowing. This will be going down to one and possibly could be cut altogether as some of my other builds have done. It is wacky coco puffs bonkers in the mirror though which could become a pressing concern over the next few weeks.

• While the curve-out draws will win games, everything under three mana is borderline irrelevant after turn five in this format. [ccProd]Imposing Sovereign[/ccProd] holds value the best since it could potentially buy another attack phase down the line, but otherwise you suffer from the same issues befalling all aggressive decks. You have 12-16 cards that just stop being relevant and are best used as devotion and cycling via Ephara.

• The deck needs a big finish when going into the controlling route, which means sometimes you get dragged into a long game where you can’t reach devotion to attack with Ephara and your Elspeth’s get picked off. Heliod and [ccProd]Archangel of Thune[/ccProd] are my immediate considerations for late-game help that can turn a game around. It may be correct to just run a singleton [ccProd]Aetherling[/ccProd] in the sideboard, but I think that’s likely incorrect unless we plan on a complete transformation post-board.

• We lack answers to [ccProd]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/ccProd] when BW is getting more popular. It’ll only get worse if Daniel Unwin’s PTQ winning list catches on—UW Control splashing a set of Blood Baron and Doom Blade in the sideboard.

Here’s how I want to tweak the deck after battling with it.

[ccdeck]4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple of Enlightenment
3 Azorius Guildgate
3 Mutavault
1 Island
10 Plains
1 Brave the Elements
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
1 Judge’s Familiar
4 Precinct Captain
3 Imposing Sovereign
3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
3 Boros Reckoner
4 Detention Sphere
2 Spear of Heliod
3 Ephara, God of the Polis
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
2 Archangel of Thune
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
—–Sideboard—–
1 Syncopate
2 Essence Scatter
2 Rapid Hybridization
2 Glare of Heresy
1 Revoke Existence
2 Supreme Verdict
1 Domestication
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
1 Boros Reckoner
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Jace, Architect of Thought[/ccdeck]

I talked with Caleb about [ccProd]Rapid Hybridization[/ccProd], and the general idea was that we weren’t beating it even if we blasted it. I don’t disagree that hitting a Blood Baron with Rapid still leaves us in an awkward spot, but it feels a lot better than just getting crushed outright. Another Elspeth may also help by giving us another planeswalker and way to deal with Blood Baron coming out of BW Control.

Moving forward, I could see continuing to bash this deck against the format and continuing to tweak it, especially my sideboard. I definitely think there’s room for improvement in my sideboarding plans and a few tweaks to the sideboard could make this one of the best post-board decks in the format. For right now these are my current plans with the caveat that they will most certainly change moving forward.

Sideboarding

MBC

Remove:
2 [ccProd]Archangel of Thune[/ccProd]

Add:
1 [ccProd]Jace, Architect of Thought[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/ccProd]

BW Control

Remove:
1 [ccProd]Brave the Elements[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Detention Sphere[/ccProd] 4 [ccProd]Soldier of the Pantheon[/ccProd]

Add:
2 [ccProd]Rapid Hybridization[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Essence Scatter[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Jace, Architect of Thought[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/ccProd]

UW Control

Remove:
4 [ccProd]Soldier of the Pantheon[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Brave the Elements[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Judge’s Familiar[/ccProd]

Add:
2 [ccProd]Glare of Heresy[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Revoke Existence[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Jace, Architect of Thought[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Syncopate[/ccProd]

Mono-Blue

Remove:
4 [ccProd]Soldier of the Pantheon[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Brave the Elements[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Judge’s Familiar[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Imposing Sovereign[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Spear of Heliod[/ccProd]

Add:
2 [ccProd]Supreme Verdict[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Revoke Existence[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Domestication[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Lavinia of the Tenth[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Essence Scatter[/ccProd]

Mirror/Esper Devotion

Remove:
4 [ccProd]Soldier of the Pantheon[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Detention Sphere[/ccProd]

Add: 1 [ccProd]Domestication[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Lavinia of the Tenth[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Glare of Heresy[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Boros Reckoner[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/ccProd]

GR Monsters

Remove:
1 [ccProd]Judge’s Familiar[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Brave the Elements[/ccProd] 4 [ccProd]Soldier of the Pantheon[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Imposing Sovereign[/ccProd]

Add:
2 [ccProd]Supreme Verdict[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Boros Reckoner[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Lavinia of the Tenth[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Jace, Architect of Thought[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Essence Scatter[/ccProd]

Right now I think this deck is the closest thing to an actual Rock deck available in the format. You have reasonable draws for the early and late-game, legitimate board plans for every matchup, and no match feels unwinnable so far. Of all the current decks in the format, I feel that BW Control and Esper are definitely the worst matchups by a fair margin, because of the tag team Blood Barons backed by disruption, specifically [ccProd]Lifebane Zombie[/ccProd]. Against normal MBC you tend to have too much redundancy and Brimaz gets into play before Lifebane on the play.

Originally I assumed UW Control would be the toughest matchup, but Ephara and Jace go a long way toward keeping you in the game. Even against [ccProd]Sphinx’s Revelation[/ccProd] you typically can keep up in terms of cards drawn and you can overload [ccProd]Detention Sphere[/ccProd] with threats they have to deal with. Revoke Existence evens it up post-board, but you still have 6-7 major draw threats against their 6-7 answers and Glare/Revoke devalues their Detention Sphere plays.

In general the deck has two modes of attack, you curve out and beat them to death utilizing a variety of 1s and 2s backed by Spear of Heliod or you Brimaz while keeping the way clear for a turn or two. The second way is simply trading threats and then pulling away by utilizing Jace and Ephara as a stream of cards that can’t really be matched effectively except by other Jace/Revelation decks. Mixing the two isn’t too awkward thanks to Ephara bridging the gap and post-board you can sculpt your openers.

What this deck lacks is that one bit of card filtering to pull it all together. The numbers in this deck are never going to be quite spot on due to the nature of the beast, and history has shown us how important a cheap filter spell can be for aggro control. This may not be the best example as it falls into many midrange tropes, but the shell does resemble an aggro-control plan thanks to the additions of Brimaz and Ephara. Without that [ccProd]Preordain[/ccProd], [ccProd]Ponder[/ccProd], or even [ccProd]Serum Visions[/ccProd] to sculpt early, you’ll have a number of draws where you simply run out of things to do after turn three and are stuck waiting to cast a 6-drop instead. This is something that careful optimization can minimize, but it’s yet to be seen if we can hit a happy balance without some sacrifices to playing both roles.

Of course, maybe you want to take the road less traveled and go all-out midrange with control elements sprinkled in. This is where I am for UW Devotion since [ccProd]Thassa, God of the Sea[/ccProd] is a fair and balanced Magic card and definitely not one of the hardest-hitting threats printed since [ccProd]Geist of Saint Traft[/ccProd].

[ccdeck]4 Tidebinder Mage
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Thassa, God of the Sea
4 Nightveil Specter
3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Master of Waves
2 Ephara, God of the Polis
4 Detention Sphere
1 Domestication
2 Nullify
1 Rapid Hybridization
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Azorius Guildgate
2 Godless Shrine
1 Temple of Silence
8 Island
2 Mutavault
—–Sideboard—–
1 Rapid Hybridization
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Bident of Thassa
2 Domestication
2 Revoke Existence
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
3 Negate[/ccdeck]

That’s all for Standard this week and I’ll take a break from talking about Ephara for a bit. Next time we’ll take an early look at Theros draft with Born of the Gods added with some sweet data action from the BNG Prerelease drafts. Until then.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at [email protected]

Discussion

Scroll to Top