Beating the Pro Tour Top 8 Decks – How to Beat Mono-Blue Devotion in Standard
Hey, Standard lovers. This week, we’re going to do something a bit different.
Just over a week ago, the curtains came down on Pro Tour Theros with celebrations for Jeremy Dezani, who claimed victory with his aggressive Mono-Blue Devotion deck. The Top 8 was filled with interesting new strategies, things we hadn’t seen before…
…but that was a week ago, dammit!
I’ve never been one to settle for picking up a deck which was already top dog, even if it still smells of wet paint. So I’ve agreed a project with the good folks here at Manaleak:
In today’s article, I’m going to throw together a budget brew which tries to prey on particular strategies from the PT top 8.
I’m going to take another penny-pinching swing on Wednesday.
Then I’ll take a final wallet-conscious crack at toppling these monstrosities on Friday.
Maybe I’ll break the format.
Maybe I’ll just break my head, having bashed it against a wall for a week.
There’s only one way to find out…
In the Cross-hairs today… Master of Waves
The big bad.
[card]Master of Waves[/card], alongside his bosom buddies Thassa and [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], was the major success story of the PT top 8. He even spent the final admiring his own scaly reflection.
We’re going to wipe the grin (gaping roar) off his smug face, or die (spend a lot of time playing cards) trying.
What makes Mono-Blue Devotion powerful?
The strength of the strategy appears to lie in two cards:
In Thassa, the deck gains an under-costed and incredibly resilient threat… and at the same time, a means of pushing through damage and substantially improving the quality of its draw steps, both advantages of exceptional value to an aggressive strategy.
One card which provides three valuable qualities for only three mana? Thassa is quite the lady, make no mistake.
In [card]Master of Waves[/card], the decks gains the most outrageously explosive army-in-a-can ever printed. It used to be the case that if we wanted to present a lethal force of two-power attackers with a single of investment, we’d have to sink eight mana into [card]Army of the Damned[/card]. Now we get a 50% discount and some insurance against red removal. Go figure.
What are Mono-Blue Devotion’s weaknesses?
Well, it’s a strategy that depends on its board presence.
Without Blue permanents in play, neither Thassa nor [card]Master of Waves[/card] do anything. Well, I suppose Scrying for one is a thing, but it’s a whole lot less threatening than swinging for five.
If I’m going to fight this beast, I want a deck which will wreck things.
- It has to start early, so the Blue deck can’t start swinging with Thassa unmolested on turn four.
- It has to wreck things other than creatures, so we don’t find ourselves staring down a board of the Blue God, a Bident and a Jace with nowhere to run.
- It has to have some answers to [card]Mutavault[/card], so the Blue deck can’t push through the final points of damage as we sit, helplessly crying onto our hand of sorcery-speed removal.
Let’s get cracking.
Cards I like against Mono-Blue
First things first: I want to [card]Thoughtseize[/card] these guys. If they can’t play a Master or a Thassa, the deck seems substantially weaker – and [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is a mana-efficient way to strip those key cards out of their hands.
Secondly, I’d like to be able to rid their board of pesky permanents. I want flexibility in terms of what my spells can hit… and right now, there’s one colour combination which offers me that flexibility more obviously than the others:
Golgari spells seem really sweet to me in this context.
- [card]Golgari Charm[/card] kills a Master and his army, plus any X/1s, or it blows up a Bident
- [card]Putrefy[/card], another Bident-hater, kills literally any creature short of a God in the deck, where other options like [card]Doom Blade[/card] and [card]Ultimate Price[/card] would miss on [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] (and [card]Frostburn Weird[/card], in the latter case)
- Vraska can snipe Jaces and do good work against creatures too
- [card]Gaze of Granite[/card] can potentially wipe their entire board for seven mana, or clear out the threat of a lethal token attack for three mana.
Incidentally, I don’t want you to think I have a downer on [card]Doom Blade[/card] and [card]Ultimate Price[/card] – they’re still in the mix, along with the excellent [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card].
Thirdly, I want some solid options for taking over and ultimately winning the game. I have two cards particularly in mind:
Yes, it’s kind of ‘Gorgon tribal’… but if a man can’t get his Gorgon on in a budget brewing column, when can he?
I like the Reaper a lot. If you haven’t already tuned into the low-level buzz about her, let me give you the skinny: she dodges a huge amount of commonly played removal, even when you don’t have mana up to activate her hexproof ability.
As for Hythonia… well, I think a lot of monstrous creatures were slightly underestimated at first. If we can ensure that we have the mana available, her activation should be the nail in the coffin for a Blue Devotion deck attempting to come back from our intial waves of removal.
I won’t lie, she’s the most speculative inclusion in this decklist… but we never learn that cards are surprisingly good, unless we risk them being disappointingly bad. Let’s live dangerously, eh?
This is my starting point:
I don’t think you’ll set the tournament circuit on fire with this deck, but it has some sweet things going on.
The manabase is biased slightly more toward green than the numbers would dictate, simply so that we can rely on hitting our Caryatids early.
We have lots of action around the two and three drop slot, so that we can take advantage of the extra mana we obtain from resolving an accelerator as soon as we untap… and that action is centred around killing things. To complement our kill-’em-all approach, I’ve included a couple of [card]Nighthowler[/card]s, which should be pretty beefy by the time we cast them in the mid-game.
Once we get to the fours, our star player, [card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card], is flanked by a [card]Desecration Demon[/card] (because I wanted some more oomph to hit on turn 3 courtesy of the Caryatid) and a [card]Whip of Erebos[/card], which will provide some welcome life-gain and grinding power.
A single Vraska gives us outs to a range of problems which the blue deck can present, plus an alternative win condition if it all goes wrong.
Finally, Hythonia sits atop our curve like the magnificent badass she is, ready to hold the ground… then get big and clean out everything that isn’t a Gorgon. Feel free to visualise her high-fiving a Reaper at this stage.
Our ultra-flexible sweeper, [card]Gaze of Granite[/card], will make for some sweet moments. The vision of blasting away a bunch of two and three drop enablers, whilst leaving our Reaper untouched, is already bringing a smile to my face.
Now it’s over to you
- Think the list is absolutely terrible?
- Think it’s a remarkable achievement for a 30 minute brew?
- Have a better way to beat the blue deck on a budget?
Let me have it in the comments!
Until Wednesday, get the kettle filled… we be brewin’.