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Valuable Lessons – The Best Deck (Not Close) In Standard

Welcome back to Valuable Lessons. I’ve been home from the Pro Tour for a week now. I’m currently en route to Louisville, Kentucky to do commentary at the Standard Grand Prix. It may sound crazy, but after two weeks of solid Magic, sandwiched between another coverage gig, I pretty much spent my whole week battling Standard on Magic Online.

I started playing my Junk deck and experienced some incredible heaters, but I often found myself dead before there was a game when I lost the roll to red decks and I learned that the deck doesn’t perform well when it mulligans. Sure, it’s not as bad on six or five cards as the mono-blue devotion deck, but it’s still pretty miserable and you’re forced to mulligan a reasonable amount being on three colors.

I decided to put together a green devotion deck, splashing red, like the one that Top 8’d the Pro Tour. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the exact numbers in Makihito Mihara’s deck, but the concept seemed very strong to me. The deck has the best possible nut draws, which is definitely worth noting in a format where most people are trying to build a board. [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card], [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card], and [card]Domri Rade[/card] all make the deck somewhat mulligan resistant. (I’ve played turn three Garruk, Caller of Beasts after going down to five cards. Yes, I won.)

I was instantly hooked on Mihara’s deck. It seems like the deck is significantly more powerful than any of the other Standard strategies, it’s just miles ahead of anything I’ve played with since the days of Caw Blade. Trust me, if you’re not playing Gruul devotion, then you’re not doing it right. The deck is legitimately better than anything else in the format. It can be difficult to play, but once you have a bit of practice it should be very easy to win any matchup.

[draft]Scavenging Ooze[/draft]

[card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] was great for me in my Junk deck, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that I was playing [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and a lot of spot removal. When playing Gruul devotion, I found that Ooze was only good when I drew it very late, or when I was playing against a deck with a lot of creatures and [card]Thoughtseize[/card], which isn’t very common right now.

[draft]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/draft]

I was having a bit of trouble with [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card]. The card provided a lot of blockers that were difficult to power through without [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card] or [card]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/card] with another big dude. Nylea was very weak against [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]s and spot removal that often went hand-in-hand with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. I shared a room with Brad Nelson at the Pro Tour and I got to spend two nights listening to him drone on about [card]Skarrg Guildmage[/card]’s strength against Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Skarrg Guildmage seemed particularly strong in this deck because of [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card] and [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card] in conjunction with [card]Voyaging Satyr[/card]. Against decks that don’t play much spot removal we can often dump our hand and still animate most of our lands to attack. Against Elspeth, we can just jam into the big ‘walker and trample over to seal the deal.

[draft]Reverent Hunter[/draft]

[card]Reverent Hunter[/card] may seem a little bit cute, but the card has been very good for me in early testing. I’ve already had two games where I cast Elvish Mystic on the first turn and followed it up with a Burning-Tree Emissary and 5/5 Reverent Hunter on the second turn, that’s a huge game in a lot of matchups.

[draft]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/draft]

I absolutely hate the second copy of [card]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/card] in this deck. It seems fine, but once the deck gets a Garruk, Caller of Beasts online it becomes really easy to just start sifting through the whole deck.

Mihara’s sideboard was for an unknown format, but he got a lot right on his first swing. That being said, there are definitely some changes that could improve this sideboard.

[draft]Mistcutter Hydra[/draft]

Mistcutter Hydra needs to be a 4-of. The deck makes massive amounts of mana very quickly, and Mistcutter Hydra can get a lot of work done when he’s coming down as a 5/5 on the third turn. Mistcutter Hydra is very good as a 3/3, or 5/5+. We don’t want our opponent to be able to trade a [card]Mutavault[/card], and if they already have a Mutavault in play then we don’t want to let them trade a pair of Mutavaults for it.

[draft]Chandra, Pyromaster[/draft]

Chandra, Pyromaster is a very good card, but I found myself only bringing it in against control and it was difficult to cast and not as high impact as [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card] in a deck like this.

Here’s the list I ended up with.

[deck]Main Deck
9 Forest
3 Mountain
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon
3 Arbor Colossus
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Skarrg Guildmage
2 Reverent Hunter
4 Voyaging Satyr
2 Domri Rade
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
Sideboard
1 Xenagos, the Reveler
3 Burning Earth
4 Mistcutter Hydra
4 Nylea’s Disciple
3 Wasteland Viper[/deck]

I may be a master of hyperbole, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the best deck in Standard. If you want to win, then this is definitely the deck you need to be playing.

Mono-Blue Devotion

Gruul devotion demolishes the other devotion decks. You go bigger faster. Polukranos is the best possible card against their best card, [card]Master of Waves[/card]. Mihara didn’t have access to a playset of [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card], we do. This should be a very easy matchup.

Out
[draft]2 Xenagos, the Reveler
2 Reverent Hunter[/draft]

In
[draft]4 Mistcutter Hydra[/draft]

Esper

We really want to stick a planeswalker in this matchup. This is the only place where our [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card] doesn’t actually eat worlds. That being said, we want to keep a little bit of fat in our deck to keep our Garruk, Caller of Beasts at its best. [card]Skarrg Guildmage[/card] is great here as an effect answer to Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

Out
[draft]2 Arbor Colossus
3 Polukranos
3 Voyaging Satyr[/draft]

In
[draft]4 Mistcutter Hydra
3 Burning Earth
1 Xenagos, the Reveler[/draft]

Green/White, Green/Red, or Naya Midrange

We are faster, we go bigger. Wasteland Viper blocks and kills everything and turns our Polukranos, World Eater into a machine gun.

Out
[draft]1 Xenagos, the Reveler
2 Skarrg Guildmage[/draft]

In
[draft]3 Wasteland Viper[/draft]

Mono-Black Devotion

See Mono-Blue Devotion. We’re the more degenerate deck. They can win if they have a draw with a lot of removal/[card]Lifebane Zombie[/card]s, but a single resolved copy of [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card] will usually be enough to smash their face in. Just drop your hand on the table and watch them squirm as they try to hit their fifth land drop.

Out
[draft]1 Skarrg Guildmage[/draft]

In
[draft]1 Xenagos, the Reveler[/draft]

Black/White or Junk

These decks can pose some problems if they’re able to chain removal spells into [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card]. Sticking [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card] is extremely important here.

Out
[draft]2 Reverent Hunter[/draft]
2 Arbor Colossus

In
[draft]1 Xenagos, the Reveler
3 Burning Earth[/draft]

Mono-Red

They can win some games on the play when they curve out, because they do that red-deck-wins thing that happens with the creatures and the burn and stuff. It’s pretty hard for them to win this match without a nut draw, and things get even better for us post-board when we have [card]Nylea’s Disciple[/card].

Out
[draft]2 Xenagos
2 Skarrg Guildmage[/draft]

In
[draft]4 Nylea’s Disciple[/draft]

The Mirror

Wasteland Viper!

Out
[draft]2 Skarrg Guildmage
2 Reverent Hunter [/draft]

In
[draft]3 Wasteland Viper
1 Xenagos, the Reveler[/draft]

Go forth, minions! Win every Daily Event. Crush every live Standard tournament. This deck can be difficult to play at times, but the deck is far and away the strongest strategy available in the current Standard format.

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