After taking a few weeks off the Standard grind for the holidays, I found myself in the awkward position of not having a deck prepared for this week. I’ve been brainstorming a UW Control list that eschews Detention Sphere for Planar Cleansing and Essence Scatter but after playing UW for the past few weeks, I wanted to try something different. I went perusing through the MTGO Standard Premiers for an interesting deck to play and found…nothing. Even the decks that weren’t Mono Blue, Mono Black, or UWx Control seemed wholly unexciting. I’ve got nothing against RW Devotion, BW Aggro, or Selesyna Aggro but, well, in the weeks before a new set comes out, even fringe strategies lose their luster for me. I’m bored of Standard, plain and simple. I figured the best solution for my apathy was to indulge it a little bit and just play whatever I had already put together. I found BG Devotion sitting on my table, the same deck my brother played to a top eight finish in a silver event a few weeks ago, and decided to just run that.

The Deck

BG Devotion

Creatures (17) (17)
 Pack Rat
 Nightveil Specter
 Erebos, God of the Dead
Desecration Demon
 Gray Merchant of Asphodel


Spells (18) (18)
 Golgari Charm
 Abrupt Decay
 Ultimate Price
 Devour Flesh
 Hero's Downfall
 Underworld Connections

Lands (25) (25)
 Overgrown Tomb
 Golgari Guildgate
 Breeding Pool
 Temple of Mystery
11  Swamp


Sideboard (15) (15)
Mistcutter Hydra
Devour Flesh
Ultimate Price
Underworld Connections
Dark Betrayal
Erebos, God of the Dead
Lifebane Zombie
Pharika's Cure

The deck is basically just Mono Black Devotion with better removal and worse mana. While I love the maindeck Golgari Charm/Abrupt Decay removal package, I hate seeing opening hands with Breeding PoolMutavault, and no black mana source.  The swampless hands shouldn’t happen all that often, this deck does run 19 black mana sources, but I found myself repeatedly having to mulligan otherwise keepable hands due to awkward mana. Even if the color inconsistencies can be chalked up to variance, this deck has, on average, five fewer lands that come into play untapped than the straight Mono Black version. I didn’t even include shock lands in this count, which you of course you have to pay life to untap. This would suggest that the deck ends up paying more life to cast its spells and has more draws where lands that come into play tapped could create tempo loss. No one likes these things less than I do.

Aside from Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm, BG Devotion is also able to play a few green cards in the sideboard as well. This list, developed by Adam Koska, plays Mistcutter Hydra and Skylasher to shore up the Mono Blue Devotion match-up. I think the match-up is already pretty reasonable with Abrupt Decay to kill everything short of Master of Waves and Thassa, and Golgari Charm to kill off Master and his elemental army, but a little extra insurance couldn’t hurt. Regardless, I find that Mono Blue is underrepresented in my meta, so I never got the chance to side in these cards.

The Games

Round 1—Joe with Boros Devotion (2-1)


Joe is a nice dude who I took a picture of with the flash on, thus blinding him. Sorry Joe. Anyway, this week he was playing Boros Devotion, and while I’m not sure of his exact 75, the deck looked something like this:

Boros Devotion

Creatures (26)
Ash Zealot
Boros Reckoner
Burning-Tree Emissary
Fanatic of Mogis
Frostburn Weird
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Stormbreath Dragon

Spells (9)
Chandra, Pyromaster
Chained to the Rocks
Hammer of Purphoros
Mizzium Mortars
Lands (25)
Boros Guildgate
12 Mountain
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Sacred Foundry
Temple of Triumph

Anger of the Gods
Assemble the Legion
Boros Charm
Riot Control
Wear // Tear

This deck seems like an absolute monster in the aggro match-ups, the same match-ups Mono Black Devotion tends to struggle with. However, Boros Devotion, in turn, seems a little soft to Mono Black and leans heavily on the sideboard Assemble the Legion plan in games two and three.

Game one, I killed back to back Boros Reckoners and resolved a Desecration Demon. Joe didn’t see any Chained to the Rocks and the match was over very quickly.


+2 Lifebane Zombie
-2 Underworld Connections

Full disclosure: I had no idea how to sideboard for this match-up but this is almost certainly incorrect. I knew Joe had Boros Reckoner and guessed, incorrectly, that he had other white creatures in the deck, but of course the deck is just a bunch of red cards and Chained to the Rocks. Also, Joe sided out Boros Reckoner since they aren’t very good in the match-up anyway. Whoops.

Game two, Joe was able to keep me on the back-foot with Ash Zealots and finished me off with the lethal combination of Purphoros and two Stormbreath Dragons. My Pack Rat army didn’t stand a chance.

Game three, I played out some Nightveil Specters and used Gray Merchant to dome him for 12, this put me way ahead of the damage race and the game was over the following turn.

Round 2—David with Orzhov Aggro (0-2)


Ugh, Orzhov Aggro. This deck feels like it was tailor made to beat black based devotion decks. Orzhov Aggo hosts a bunch of efficient creatures, Brave the Elements to protect them, Xanthrid Necromancer to further mitigate removal spells, and a bunch of efficient removal to take out any blockers. This amounts to a lethal combination against most BG devotion draws.

Game one, I felt like I was doing okay after killing his first two creatures and Thoughtseizing a Brave the Elements out of his hand. Unfortunately, I was wrong and David quickly dispatched me with some Daring Skyjeks, Soldier of the Pantheon, and Mutavault.


-1 Erebos, Lord of the Underworld
-3 Underworld Connections
-2 Thoughseize
+2 Lifebane Zombie
+2 Pharika’s Cure
+1 Ultimate Price
+1 Devour Flesh

Here you slide out the slower grindy cards and bring in all available spot removal. Even with the Lifebane Zombies to strip away Banisher Priests and Pharika’s Cure to kill a creature and gain back some life, the match still feels like an uphill battle. Perhaps the “strictly better” Infest card that has been rumored to be in Born of the Gods will help this match-up, but otherwise this match-up just seems bad.

Game two, I kept a disruption heavy hand with two lands and never drew another land. If you’re wondering what desolation looks like, I think it’s something like this:



Round 3—Rob with Orzhov Aggro (1-2)


 Orzhov Aggro…again.

Game one, I managed to win after killing off some early threats and sticking a Pack Rat. We had a pretty ridiculous board stall that would have been over if Rob ever drew a Brave the Elements. Luckily for me he didn’t and I killed him with seven 9/9 Pack Rats.



-1 Erebos, Lord of the Underworld
-3 Underworld Connections
-2 Thoughseize
+2 Lifebane Zombie
+2 Pharika’s Cure
+1 Ultimate Price
+1 Devour Flesh

Games two and three, Rob had more reasonable draws and won both games very quickly. Game one, Rob punished my clunky draw with a curved out turn five kill. Game two, my manabase teamed up with Rob’s creatures to ensure I lost in a similarly devastating fashion.

Round 4—Chris with Simic Flash (2-0)


Chris has a broken leg, or some other injury that requires a cast, and as a result gets his own assigned seat. I have no problem with this, of course, but I secretly hope that his leg has already healed and he’s just rigged the system so that he doesn’t ever have to check pairings or move.

Anyway, Chris was playing UG Flash, you know, that deck that won a Brazilian PTQ last month. I really like this deck and want it to be a contender, but it seems to really struggle with the MonoBlack match-up, which is tough when it constitutes so much of the field.

Game one, I stuck a Pack Rat and started making tokens. I held up removal whenever I attacked and he was forced to respect the rat pack.


+2 Pharika’s Cure
+1 Devour Flesh
-3 Underworld Connections

Pharika’s cure kills just about all of his creatures short of Briarpack Alpha, so I brought it in along with an additional removal spell in Devour Flesh. Underworld Connections seems a bit slow here against the tempo deck, so I’m fine taking it out.

Game two, Chris mulliganed to five and got stuck on one land while I messed around with some Nightveil Specters. After I got to play one of his Boon Satyrs, Chris scooped up his cards.

At the end of the night I had an unremarkable 2-2 finish. Despite the fact that I did play against some bad match-ups, I felt that the deck underperformed primarily because of the manabase. Rather thanrun a BG deck that has to warp its manabase around Nightveil Specter, I’d like to try playing the Golgari Midrange deck that MTGO user manaflood recently played to a 4-0 finish in a Standard Daily:

Golgari Midrange

Creatures (19)
Desecration Demon
Lotleth Troll
Reaper of the Wilds
Scavenging Ooze
Sylvan Caryatid

Spells (17)
Vraska the Unseen
Abrupt Decay
Hero’s Downfall
Read the Bones
Lands (24)
Golgari Guildgate
Overgrown Tomb

Dark Betrayal
Gaze of Granite
Golgari Charm
Lifebane Zombie
Mistcutter Hydra
Primeval Bounty
Underworld Connections

So, yes, I’m planning on going from the Gray Merchant of Asphodel/Pack Rat plan to the Reaper/Ooze plan next week to see if I can grind out some wins. As always, I’ll report back on how it goes.

The Trades

Before I wrap up for the week, I wanted to add an additional section on trades I completed in the past week. Along with the contents of the trade, I will provide a financially based rationale for performing the trade. The purpose of this section is meant to incite discussion, not to suggest that I am a finance/speculation/trading master. I’m certain that some of my trades will yield losses in value, but I’m hoping that more often I can illustrate, through trading, certain trends in the Magic market and how to trade with them in mind. I’m using TCG Mid-price for all values on the trades for convenience.

Trade #1


3 Past in Flames ($5.85 total)
3 Pyromancer’s Ascension ($5.97 total)
2 Bridge from Below (Modern Masters) ($7.98 total)



Grislebrand ($23.66) (Up $3 since this trade was completed on 1/8/14)


Here I’m trading up a bunch of niche cards in combo decks for a format defining card with additional casual appeal. I foresee Grislebrand following a similar price trajectory as  his Sneak and Show companion, Emrakul; both cards are mythics from the third set of a block, enable insane combos, and are banned in Commander. However, Griselbrand could eventually command a higher price because Emrakul was also printed as a prerelease promo, which adds to the supply of the card. The only thing that could really disrupt Griselbrand‘s continual price increase would be a Legacy banning, however this doesn’t currently seem likely as Sneak and Show is hardly dominating the format.

It is worth noting that some of the cards I am trading away, I actually think will rise in price as well. Past in Flames is a card I would feel comfortable speculating on as it is a mythic that sees play in eternal formats with a low barrier to entry ($2). While I believe that Past in Flames will eventually see a price increase, I think of it as a long term spec that will take a while to pick up steam. As for the other cards I traded away, I see them as maintaining a stable price for quite some time barring something crazy like a resurgence of Storm in Modern, in which case Ascension could go up a few dollars.

Trade #2


3 Temple of Abandon ($9.15 total)
2 Temple of Triumph ($7.98 total)
1 Polukranos, World Eater ($7.95)
2 Mistcutter Hydra ($6.50 total)



1 Textless Ponder ($6.59)
1 Sunken Ruins ($12.13)
1 Foil Promo Tendrils of Agony ($2.81)
1 Oblvion Stone ($10.29)


Theros has been drafted a lot and will continue to be drafted a lot after the release of Born of the Gods when the format is Born of the Gods/Theros/Theros. I believe that the cards in Theros  have not yet reached their floor and will continue to trend downward until the packs stop being opened so god damn much. There will obviously be exceptions to this downward trend but I think the scry-lands have a little more room to fall before going back up. In this trade, I was able to trade away some Theros stuff for eternal cards that I needed for decks. I don’t really see a lot of room for the cards I received to go up value-wise but I would rather have a binder full of Modern/Legacy cards that maintain their value over more volatile Standard cards that are constantly in flux.

Let me know what you think of these trades in the comments section.

At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 11 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mindsculptor at PAX, and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and keeps a blog about pro-wrestling.

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