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Top 4 Split with Devoted Devastation


Hey everyone!

I'm back today with more about Devoted Devastation. In case you missed my last article, you can read it here for some background on the deck.

I put Devoted Devastation to the test last Sunday by competing in an SCG IQ 1K. There were 83 players including many of the top grinders in the state. This meant seven rounds with a cut to Top 8. I had my work cut out for me, but I wanted the practice for Magic Fest Columbus.

Here's the list I played:

The list performed perfectly. My only changes to the deck are to cut the third Misty Rainforest and second Snow-Covered Forest for a Flooded Strand and fourth Razorverge Thicket.

In my last article I discussed the power of White mana on combo turns. Moving forward the fourth Razorverge and fifth White fetch will make comboing even easier. I recall fetching a Forest on turn one and then regretting it because I have enough Green mana from Devoted Druid on combo turns.

The fourth Once Upon a Time continued to allow me to keep land-light hands and never be punished. I also felt five mana dorks was plenty as I occasionally side down to just four Noble Hierarch in favor of interaction.

I faced more removal and Red decks at the IQ; Giver of Runes overperformed. She protected Devoted Druid from Pyrite Spellbomb and allowed an Elk to attack through a Thought-Knot Seer for lethal. Don't even get me started on Giver plus Shalai. That's basically a hard lock against Burn.

I have received plenty of questions about the deck this week; Jace, Vryn's Prodigy's inclusion was a popular topic. He comes out against linear decks because it's more important to stick an early Devoted Druid. It's a way to find multiple pieces of the combo if you're starting from nothing. I don't tutor for him often because I typically have some piece of the combo already, but is a good role player. Not a silver bullet, but another two-drop.

Ranger-Captain of Eos has also been a topic of intrigue. This creature shines particularly against combo decks in hands without a turn two Devoted Druid. I can start with Noble Hierarch into Ranger to find Ballista. The following turn I search and cast Devoted Druid to threaten a kill and Silence them on the next turn. Storm and Tron matchups are greatly improved without sacrificing points against removal-heavy decks.

Eladmri's Call was interesting. I found more success treating it like an Expedition Map in Tron. Unless I knew what I was looking for, usually Devoted Druid, I would keep it in hand. This is particularly helpful if you're missing both the Vizier and the mana sink.

The upside of Finale of Devastation was I could threaten to search for Vizier of Remedies, but find something else in case Devoted Druid died in response. I have had multiple games where I made x=4 to find Shalai as a backup plan if millions of mana didn't work out. It's also wise to sometimes make x=3 to play around Spell Queller even if you just want to get a Vizier of Remedies.

Postmortem Lunge, Neoform, and Eldritch Evolution are in some lists these days. The Lunge helps you combo versus removal-heavy decks, but fall short against other linear decks. Neoform and Eldritch Evolution are card disadvantage which makes them good against linear decks and bad versus removal. There are enough good cards that are matchup-agnostic that I prefer to stay in the middle of the road.

The sideboard philosophy has evolved. Rather than thinking of Burrenton-Forge Tender and Collector Ouphe as tutor targets they are just the most hateful creatures I can play. My primary plan against nearly every deck is to combo early with Devoted Druid so I don't want to waste the tutors.

I could play a single Kor Firewalker as a tutor target against Burn, but Forge-Tender is critical against Titan Breach and Dredge. Anger of the Gods and Conflagrate are no joke. It's another card to make Eternal Witness and Ranger-Captain of Eos even better after sideboarding.

Here's the report from the 1K:

Round 1: Mono Red Prowess WIN

This matchup felt pretty good. Lava Dart is surprisingly mediocre against the deck as killing Devoted Druid requires sacrificing a land. Be cautious untapping Devoted Druid before Vizier enters the battlefield as it then dies to a Dart. Noble Hierarch is the only creature to die to the Dart straight up since if you cast Vizier they're likely dead.

Sideboarding made the matchup feel very strong as I can play a long game and slow them down with Forge-Tender and Path to Exile. Kiln Fiend can be scary if given trample, but Forge- Tender can prevent the damage if it gets out of hand. The tutor spells are great when you have a high impact 1-drop in the Forge-Tender.

Round 2: Burn WIN

This is one of the few matchups where I am indifferent to comboing. I never want to fully cut the combo, but I'm all right shaving the maximum amount. This is because Shalai plus Giver of Runes is such a powerful interaction. I try and ramp out Shalai and use my tutors aggressively to find her.

I'm all right blocking their creatures with Shalai as Finale of Devastation can search the graveyard for a creature. Boros Charm giving double-strike is a common scenario when you block with Shalai. Remember they cannot even cast Searing Blaze because you are also a target. Their burn spells also can't hit planeswalkers because they also have hexproof with Shalai.

This is another matchup where you can cast Finale of Devastation for greater than two to play around Eidolon of the Great Revel. Burrenton Forge-Tender can also shut off Eidolon for a turn if you need to combo with multiple spells.

Path to Exile is important because a rush of early creatures is the primary way to lose with Oko on the battlefield. Birds of Paradise stays in despite adding so many cheap threats because I want Shalai as soon as possible and take less damage from my lands. I need plenty of White mana because Ranger-Captain of Eos will get Forge-Tender. Remember Skullcrack turns off the damage prevention from Forge-Tender and counters a food activation.

Round 3: Bant Spirits WIN

Oko came in handy as I was able to exchange a food token with a Supreme Phantom. This gave me just enough time to pull off the combo. I need to play around Path to Exile, Spell Queller, Collected Company, and Rattlechains.

Oko is good here, but Teferi can mitigate many of their tricks. Since Birds of Paradise won't die I want to ramp into a powerful planeswalker if the combo isn't an option. Jace is good in the matchup because he can flash back Path to Exile.

You may notice that I typically cut a three-drop in each matchup. This is because Teferi or Oko will be added and I can't make the curve too high.

Round 4: Whurza WIN

This matchup felt closer than Simic Food because they can combo more reliably. Pithing Needle on Devoted Druid needs to be answered with a planeswalker or Deputy of Detention in Game 1.

Oko can steal Urza just in case you need a way to dump all of your Green mana. This is also relevant because the main way to lose is them going infinite.

There are theoretical cases where your Ballista with millions of counters needs to square off against millions of thopters. Since your Ballista can ping Urza four times and shut off their engine you win that exchange. In practice they will be able to draw their deck and find lock pieces and interaction to prevent you from doing anything. If they don't you can win the game.

The post board games become less about the combo and more about sticking and protecting Collector Ouphe. This is another matchup where Shalai plus Giver of Runes can prevent most interaction. When this is combined with Collector Ouphe you don't have to be afraid of Engineered Explosives or Thopter Foundry.

Round 5: Eldrazi Tron WIN

Chalice of the Void for x=2 can be mitigated by Finale of Devastation finding two-mana combo pieces. Karn prevents Walking Ballista from activating, but I can find Deputy of Detention to exile it on the turn I go off. A Finale in the graveyard can be found with Eternal Witness to put Shalai or Deputy of Detention on the battlefield to win, too. This happens when you're finding creatures off Duskwatch Recruiter.

I like Giver of Runes in the matchup because I can buy time blocking with creatures that have protection from colorless. You don't have all the time in the world because of All is Dust. Oko is quite good in the matchup as he shrinks large Eldrazi to a reasonable size.

The main way to win is still the combo. I cut the Birds because I'm adding interaction. Finale gets cut because they likely bring in Grafdigger's Cage and I don't want to be caught to two copies in hand.

Vizier of Remedies doesn't get cut to one copy because I don't want to be unable to combo if she is exiled to Thought-Knot Seer.

Ranger-Captain is good here as it finds Giver of Runes and prevents All is Dust on a critical turn.

Round 6: Humans WIN

I was 5-0 in a seven round event which meant I could double-draw. There were only three players with an undefeated record and I was paired down. I offered a draw so he could essentially mulligan his win and in round. He declined and we played it out. If seeding wasn't a factor I would have offered the draw being up a game, but there isn't much value in that anymore. The draw may be accepted in Game 3 with me on the play.

The Humans matchup felt shaky at first, but Kitesail Freebooter and Meddling Mage can't stop all of the card names that put together trillions of mana at once. The most important thing they can do is Meddling Mage Devoted Druid on the play. This requires knowing the matchup ahead of time as all of my 1-drops don't fully give away my strategy.

It seems like Reflector Mage is the best way for Humans to have a shot. Without it the damage plan likely won't be fast enough. Thalia can be annoying, but it's hard to not have enough mana on the combo turn as Devoted Druid makes two Green to kick things off.

Plague Engineer is likely coming in post board. If they name Humans it kills Eternal Witness, Vizier of Remedies, and Noble Hierarch. You cannot combo with it in play. Oko, Teferi, and Path can help.

Giver is less important to protect against Reflector Mage and Deputy of Detention after board because Path to Exile can slow down the game.

Round 7 Intentional Draw

I enter the Top 8 in first place at 6-0-1.

Top 8 Simic Urza WIN

I began the game with Giver of Runes into Devoted Druid on the play. Surprisingly, the game lasted more turns due to an early Engineered Explosives. I kept deploying threats in a tight game where losing the artifact by sacrificing the explosives took away key mana. That stopped him from being able to go off for a turn.

Gaddock Teeg is a powerful creature that shuts off Cryptic Command and Engineered Explosives. As a result I want to mitigate the downside by cutting two Finale of Devastation.

Birds of Paradise stays despite this being a semi-grindy matchup; I want to cast Devoted Druid on the second turn with Veil of Summer as backup. This is different than Jund where I can cast Veil more proactively against discard.

Veil is the preferred way to interact because it stops Cryptic Command and Metallic Rebuke. I cut some Giver of Runes because she can't interact with counters and gets swept by an early Engineered Explosives.

Jace comes out because I'm cutting Finales and not adding Path to Exile. He can preemptively flash back Veil of Summer on a crucial turn, but the game isn't about going all-in as you can play a longer game with Collector Ouphe and Gaddock Teeg. Teferi performs a similar job, too.

The top four players agreed to split the remaining prize for $200 each. Since I'm already qualified for the Invitational and not playing it, I conceded to my opponent.

That's all I have this week. Devoted Devastation feels like a great choice as Simic Urza pushes out the removal-heavy decks. It's nice to have the cheesy wins and still grind. Magic Fest Columbus, here I come.

Thanks for reading.


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