Legacy Mono-Black Devotion Primer – Switching Formats, by Christopher Cooper

Legacy Mono-Black Devotion Primer – Switching Formats by Christopher Cooper

Legacy Mono-Black Devotion Primer – Switching Formats

Legacy is often viewed as an expensive format to get in to. Fetch/dual manabases, Force of Will, Wastelands and the big Papa Jace can all seem like scary barriers to entry, but it doesn’t have to be so. There are many routes into Legacy that will take their roots from ported standard decks. Look at decks like Merfolk, Jund and Stoneblade, all of which started out as highly successful decks in their own right and Merfolk and Jund both have parallels in Modern.

So let’s take a look at some of the Standard decks of today to try to find the Legacy decks of tomorrow. A good place to start when looking at cheaper decks is with mono-coloured, as they tend to have a less expensive manabase giving us more to play with when we come to the fun stuff!

Lets begin by taking a peek at a mono-black offering from the Top 8 of a recent GP:


Mono-Black Devotion, Haibing Hu

5th Place at Grand Prix Dallas Fort-Worth on 8/12/2013

Creatures (17)

4 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Pack Rat
1 Erebos, God of the Dead

Spells (17)

4x Underworld Connections
2x Devour Flesh
1x Doom Blade
4x Hero’s Downfall
2x Ultimate Price
4x Thoughtseize

Lands (26)

19x Swamp
4x Mutavault
3x Temple of Deceit

Lets start by dissecting the creature base:

4x Nightveil Specter – This is a cute card in standard but lacks a little in Legacy, where it gets stymied by Insectile Abberations and is just a little bit too slow to have any real effect on a game that its card advantage might bring. This is getting cut.

4x Desecration Demon – This is better. A 6/6 for 4 mana is a little bit more of what legacy likes. Its a good high end finisher with evasion, but can be bad when you’re behind and is a little bit win-more when you’re ahead. Tombstalker might be a better finisher in this role.

4x Gray Merchant of Asphodel – The big daddy of limited devotion decks, this chap is the reason we play this deck in standard. It can provide huge tempo swings, can block small creatures with ease and puts you, hopefully, out of burn range. BUT… it does cost 5 mana. Now, we can ramp into it with Nykthos, so maybe all is not lost with Gary.

4x Pack Rat – I do like this card. It turns irrelevant cards into relevant ones and gives a good, fast clock. It’ll also make people wary of attacking in to you with mana open and cards in hand if they’re playing a deck with similar small creatures. It also works nicely against control decks as once one has resolved you should be able to ride the rats all the way to victory.

1x Erebos, God of the Dead – I’m not quite sure how to evaluate this in the deck. On one hand it turns into a huge indestructible beater that still dies to Swords to Plowshares. On the other it can provide extra cards for your Pack Rats and provides a not insignificant anti-life gain clause (useful with the amount of Deathrite Shamans around). It isn’t terrible but I don’t think I’d want more than two, one may well be the right number.

The spells is a fairly simple section to work through. Underworld Connections turns nicely into Phyrexian Arena. Thoughtseizes are still good. The removal package is still a little weak though as having nearly a sixth of your deck turn in to blanks against non-creature decks is a Bad Thing.

A little more discard would be good, Hymn to Tourach can help with that, whilst a few Hero’s Downfall can take out Jaces and Lilianas. Speaking of the lovely lady, Liliana of the Veil is a VERY strong card and one of the more potent plays in legacy. However, she does lead us to want to have some cards that interact with the graveyard in some way.

Bloodghast is a nice recursive threat that can do this whilst adding BB to our on-board devotion, so comes in for the Nightveil Specters. Tombstalker can also make use of the extra fodder in the graveyard to ramp himself out, and is likely a nice replacement for the Desecration Demon. He was also reprinted recently in Modern Masters so should be fairly obtainable right about now.

My final thoughts for this section would be Call to the Netherworld, which, when discarded to Liliana of the Veil or Pack Rat, can give a nice little bit of card advantage. As always, Deathrite Shaman would be ideal to take advantage of all this graveyard filling, and is another standard-based card that you’re likely to have around or that will be relatively attainable.

This nicely rounds out the list and leaves us with this:

Creatures (21)

4x Bloodghast
4x Deathrite Shaman
4x Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4x Pack Rat
4x Tombstalker
1x Erebos, God of the Dead

Spells (17)

1x Call to the Netherworld
4x Hymn to Tourach
4x Thoughtseize
2x Hero’s Downfall
2x Phyrexian Arena
4x Liliana of the Veil

Land (22)

4x Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
18x Swamp


The Matchups

Now, I’m sure that this list could be improved upon a little with Wastelands, fetches, possibly some other form of ramp, maybe Chrome Mox? But I am fairly confident that this deck will be able to hold its own against most top tier Legacy decks with a good gameplan against most archetypes.

In terms of matchups, I haven’t had a chance to thoroughly test the deck yet, but I’ll try to give you an idea of gameplans and possible sideboard cards for some popular decks:

Shardless BUG: This is a grindy matchup with them trying to gain card advantage upon card advantage through cards like Shardless Agent into goodstuff, discard of their own and simply out-removing you. Bloodghasts will be important here to blank their Lilianas and removal, though you will need plenty of removal of your own to deal with their threats like Tarmogoyf.

Early game spells like Hymn to Tourach will help you to maintain a parity with your opponent and your copies of Deathrite Shaman can help to blank theirs. Their lack of strong countermagic (Force of Will is likely to be sideboarded in this matchup) will mean your Gray Merchant of Asphodels can resolve with ease and do their thing upon entering the battlefield.

Pack Rat will also be difficult for them to deal with as whilst it is vulnerable to Abrupt Decay you can always leave up mana to activate its ability in response. This deck isn’t very vulnerable to Wasteland so that angle of attack shouldn’t be a problem for you.

RUG Delver: RUG has a lot of threats that are difficult to deal with. Leyline of the Void is a castable answer to some of them (as long as you can get it down fast enough), though Deathrite Shamans will do some work here too. Relic of Progenitus can also help with selectively keeping types of cards of your choice out of your own graveyard, as well as indiscriminately shrinking your opponent’s graveyard when needed to turn of threshold.

I always like to vary my graveyard hate anyway, as only playing one type of card leaves you vulnerable to specific counter-hate from decks like Dredge. It doesn’t play a huge number of threats, so having a lot of ways to deal with them is good. Their Lightning Bolts are good against your Pack Rats early on as are their Stifles, so although it blocks a Nimble Mongoose nicely, they’re easy to sit on the bench after game one.

If you manage to survive the early game though, the oodles of mana (techincal term) means you should be OK once you can start to land your Merchants. Once again, early game discard will help you out here (you’ll see a theme occuring with this), allowing you to pre-emptively hit your opponent’s threats and letting you develop your lands out.

U/W Miracles: Dropping threats and fast is key in this matchup, however you have to be careful not to over-extend as this plays into their Terminusses.

Pack Rat is good for this as it helps you to create a quick clock without disposing of all your threats. Tombstalker is great at flying over pesky Moats and applies good pressure. The Phyrexian Arenas are good at keeping up the card advantage and this allows us to keep applying pressure even after board wipes.

Hero’s Downfall gets rid of Jaces but Liliana isn’t great against a deck with so much good card selection and so few creatures. Whilst you do want threats in this matchup, Bloodghast is far from optimal as his recursion capabilities are less relevant due to the exile/tuck nature of most of Miracle’s removal suite.

Storm Combo: Discard. Lots of discard. This is a matchup where speed is highly relevant, and you need to be able to apply pressure whilst still disrupting your opponent.

An active Liliana is pretty much game over pre-board (unless you’re ridiculously slow and they manage to Ad Nauseam or Past in Flames for a bajillion, in which case, shame on you!) and both Thoughtseize and Hymn to Tourach are great for slowing them down. Gray Merchant, whilst good at providing you with an additional buffer against the drain of Tendrils of Agony is just too slow to come out within a relevant time.

Omniscience combo/Sneak and Show: Again, discard is strong in these matchups, with both of them requiring 2 cards to go off. Sneak and Show has a little bit of a better matchup as we have the creature removal to deal with Griselbrands, but not an Emrakul. This can be fixed in the board by the addition of some dedicated hate if you feel that your metagame warrants it, but I think that a disruptive tempo based plan would be better. Again, I think the Gray Merchants could come out for more discard or other dedicated hate.

Elves!: Some cheap removal is key here, trading one-for-one and shutting off their key early plays. If you can keep up the attrition they will struggle to deal with your bigger threats like Tombstalker.

You can also throw a one or two of Perish in the sideboard if you see a lot of green decks, this also deals nicely with other problem creatures like Tarmogoyfs, Knight of the Reliquarys and Nimble Mongoose. It does hit your own Deathrite Shamans though so you do have to be careful sometimes.

So with all of that in mind, lets look at a possible sideboard:

1x Disfigure
1x Duress
2x Perish
1x Hero’s Downfall
2x Rotting Giant
3x Leyline of the Void
2x Relic of Progenitus
2x Geth’s Verdict
1x Big Game Hunter


This should be able to give you some game against most match ups, with plenty of relevant cards to bring in. Hopefully I’ve given you some food for though. Please bear in mind that I’m not just trying to create a budget deck here, far from it, but instead am offering options through recently printed cards, mostly in Standard, to build a deck that can compete well.

know that a lot of the cards here are far from budget friendly, but if you’ve been playing Magic, particularly Standard, often within the last few years then you shouldn’t have too much trouble putting it together.

I really hope that this helps you get in to Legacy.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing,


Legacy Mono-Black Devotion Primer - Switching Formats, by Christopher Cooper
So let's take a look at some of the Standard decks of today to try to find the Legacy decks of tomorrow. A good place to start when looking at cheaper decks is with mono-coloured, as they tend to have a less expensive manabase giving us more to play with when we come to the fun stuff!

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