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The Return of Mono-Black Devotion

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He's back and he's better than ever!

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Gray Merchant of Asphodel, one of the original gangsters for the devotion mechanic, has returned in Theros: Beyond Death and he is looking even better now than he did then. The old Mono-Black Devotion deck he featured in was one of the best decks of the original Theros Standard format, but was a bit more of midrange deck than a deck based around permanents.

Thoughtseize
Hero's Downfall

The best two spells in the deck were Thoughtseize and Hero's Downfall, which both don't add to devotion, and Pack Rat was the primary threat that also wasn't heavy on Black mana symbols. Still, Gray Merchant of Asphodel filled a nice role in the deck as a way to stabilize life totals behind Underworld Connections and finish people off when needed. Here in the year 2020 however, Gray Merchant has some very powerful new friends.

Ayara, First of Locthwain
Nightmare Shepherd
Bolas's Citadel

With an insane amount of Black mana symbols across a whole host of great cards, Gray Merchant is much more likely to hit for huge numbers as early as turn five, and enablers like Ayara, First of Locthwain and the amazing new Nightmare Shepherd only increase that output. Put it all together and we get this:

Time Stamps:

Match 1 - 00:08:05

Match 2 - 00:39:57

Match 3 - 00:59:51

Match 4 - 01:25:15

Match 5 - 01:41:56


While we faced off against two pretty awesome decks we weren't necessarily prepared for, the power of the deck was on full display.

Nightmare Shepherd

Perhaps the most exciting card in the deck, as well as one of the biggest sleepers in Theros: Beyond Death, is Nightmare Shepherd. Nightmare Shepherd allows you to double up on all the effects of your creatures, so with a sacrifice outlet in play you get double Gray Merchant triggers or Yarok's Fenlurker triggers, making already good cards great. A curve of Ayara on turn three, Nightmare Shepherd on turn four, and Gray Merchant on turn five yields a very simple and easy turn five kill with only three spells cast. Just attack with Nightmare Shepherd, play Gray Merchant to drain eight life (seven from devotion one from Ayara's trigger), sacrifice it to the Ayara to make a copy with Nightmare Shepherd, and drain for eight again. Sixteen plus the four from the Nightmare Shepherd attack is lethal!

There's still tuning to do here and the metagame will need to settle before we are exactly sure what interactive tools we need, but there's no denying the power of the Mono-Black Devotion engine.