This is the deck I should have played at PT Brussels. I narrowed it down to Red/Green Devotion and Mono-Red. I liked both decks a lot and spent most of my testing working on them. On the last day I decided that this would be a PT where people were mostly going to be doing their own thing and focus on their own deck instead of interacting with yours too much. I expected a lot of decks like RG Dragons, Mono-Red, and Abzan Aggro and figured I would just go bigger with See the Unwritten and Dragonlord Atarka. I wrote out my deck list and was ready to call it a night. Then I asked Frank if he wanted to play a couple more post-board games against Mono-Red, and then I made probably the worst decision of my entire Magic career.
We played about 10 games and I won exactly 1 of them. The Mono-Red deck was having the best possible draws and even though I was playing first in most of the games, I just had no chance. My draws with the Devotion deck were very good and I still got ran over. The red deck was running hotter than the sun. I had played the matchup before countless times and I knew it was 50-50, but after watching this I started questioning myself. How can I not play something this powerful? I decided to sleep on it but when I woke up I was still undecided, so I decided to roll a die. 1-3-5 I’m playing Mono-Red. 2-4-6 I’ll go with Devotion. The die landed on 3, so Mono-Red it was. I went 2-6 with it in Standard while 2 out of the 3 people on our team playing RG Devotion made Top 8… But that’s a story for another day. Frank already wrote about the Mono-Red deck so I’ll talk about RG.
We had two different versions.
Thomas Hendriks, 7th place
This version is better for a more control-centric metagame. It’s not as explosive but you have Genesis Hydra, which is one of your most important cards against Abzan Control and blue/black-based control decks.
Ondrej Strasky piloted the other version, the version I wanted to play, to a 3rd-place finish, and that’s what I’ll focus on today.
Ondrej Strasky, 3rd place
Your plan is pretty simple: play some mana guys (early game), accelerate into big creatures like Whisperwood Elemental and value creatures like Courser (midgame), and clear the way with Dragonlord Atarka, which you can also find with See the Unwritten.
Deck Difficulty: Easy
Playing this deck is fairly easy, you basically just need to know how to count to 7. Courser of Kruphix requires some time to determine which order you should play your (fetch)lands, and Whisperwood Elemental also has a second ability, which you are going to appreciate against cards like Crux of Fate or Dragonlord Silumgar (don’t let them steal it!). Keeping a hand without acceleration and too many expensive cards is usually wrong, on the other hand drawing a lot of mana guys can let you skip the midgame and go straight to the See/Atarka step. Even a simple start like Elvish Mystic into a morphed Rattleclaw Mystic means you can cast See the Unwritten on turn 3 with another untapped land. The harder part is knowing how to sideboard and what to expect from your opponent, but I’ll cover that with a sideboard guide.
What Is a Favorable Metagame for this Deck?
This deck is well positioned if people are mostly trying to do their own thing, which means aggro decks like mono-red, red/white, other Devotion decks, Jeskai Aggro, and most Abzan variants. Control matchups are very tough though, so if you expect a lot of Esper and UB with cards like Perilous Vault, Ugin, Dragonlord Silumgar, and a lot of counters, then I would suggest waiting a week or two for the metagame to shift again.
Elves and Caryatids are untouchable and Rattleclaw lets you cast See the Unwritten on turn 3. Voyaging Satyr makes more sense in the other version where you are using it in combination with Nykthos to cast giant Genesis Hydras and every mana counts, here all you need is 7.
Boon Satyr is good mostly against control decks and people don’t expect it. If your metagame is more aggresive/devotion-oriented, then switch them for 2 Shaman of Forgotten Ways to make sure you can resolve your Atarka faster. Coursers, Polukranos, and Elementals are all too good to play less than 4. Surrak is good in game 1s and it feels really nice when you See for Surrak + Atarka, but it gets worse in the post-board games when your opponents usually have more removal, so 2 is enough.
This version is focused on See the Unwritten and getting Atarka into play as soon as possible and it’s built to maximize your chances at doing so. If you really want to play some Hydras to make your deck better against control, you can cut the 2 Surraks to make some room for them.
As I mentioned, this isn’t really a Nykthos deck, so drawing 2 and not having another land can end up costing you the game, while not drawing any is usually not a problem, that’s why there are only 3 in the deck. Windswept Heath is just an additional way to shuffle your deck to get the most value out of Courser of Kruphix.
3 Xenagos, 4 Nissa – Your best cards against control. Nissa is especially good because they don’t have many ways to get rid of it and Perilous Vault and Ugin only remove nonland and colored permanents respectively, which means your 4/4s stay in play.
4 Nylea’s Disciple – We expected a lot of Mono-Red and figured Disciple would be better than Seismic Rupture because you can also find it with See the Unwritten.
3 Arbor Colossus – For decks like Jeskai Aggro and RG Dragons, which we actually expected to be the most popular deck. Also very important against cards like Dragonlord Silumgar, Ojutai, and other Atarkas.
1 Voyaging Satyr – The only thing that matters in the mirror is speed and the first person to resolve Atarka will almost always win. We didnt find anything better than boarding in an extra mana guy.
Other Possible Sideboard Cards
Genesis Hydra – To make your deck better against control.
Roast – This card just doesn’t make sense in a deck like this, you are not an aggro deck where you are trying to push damage through, you answer their monsters with even bigger monsters.
Hornet Nest – A fine card against Mono-Red and other aggressive decks, but we expected red decks to have Thunderbreak Regents (and there are even more flying creatures in decks like RG Dragons) and Abzan Aggro has a lot of removal for it.
Reclamation Sage – Good against Sidisi or Abzan Whip, but overall too low impact.
Ugin – Not really what this deck wants to be doing, but if you expect a lot of mirrors or want to play Hydras, you can play 1 or 2.
This is a good matchup for you, you have too many boom booms for them to kill and Atarka will usually be a 2-for-1. Just be careful to not get blown away by Ugin, or Elspeth’s -3 ability. You can also bring in a couple of Xenagos if you expect them to have a lot of Crux of Fate and/or End Hostilities. If you think they will bring in Drown in Sorrow (which normally isn’t very good against you), keep the Caryatids and take out some more Rattleclaws/Elves.
If they have a fast start like 2-drop into Anafenza followed by 2 removal spells, then you are in trouble, otherwise you should be fine. Arbor Colossus is good if they have Wingmate Roc, if they don’t you can keep in a Surrak or two to have a cheaper blocker and ferocious-enabler.
Esper Dragons and UB Control
This matchup is pretty bad but not everyone can pilot the deck like Shouta, Paulo, or Alex Hayne and you still have a bunch of planeswalkers after sideboard. If they have multiple copies of Dragonlord Silumgar then you can keep 1 or 2 Atarka. They should board out their Bile Blights, but if they don’t then keep the Caryatids and take out 1 Elvish Mystic and 1 Rattleclaw Mystic instead so it’s less likely they can 2-for-1 you with it.
Winning the die roll is key, whoever is on the play has a huge advantage. Don’t try to race them unless you really have to and always try to make sure to leave enough blockers back for Goblin Heelcutter. Disciple should keep you out of burn range, although Atarka’s Command can still stop the life gain. If you want to improve this matchup, add 2 Seismic Rupture to the sideboard.
You take out Surraks and Boon Satyrs because this matchup is not about racing, you just need to be the first one to resolve Atarka. Arbor Colossus is very good here because it’s a good answer to Atarka that they can’t kill.
Same thing, except that you have Atarka and they don’t.
Mantis Rider is the card you don’t want to see, but otherwise its a fine matchup for you, as you don’t really care about their 2/2s and burn spells. After sideboard Arbor Colossus stops Mantis Rider and Stormbreath Dragon, which is usually their only way to victory.
Who has the advantage in this matchup depends on what they are bringing in against you and how exactly they sideboard. This is how I would sideboard in the dark, but it all changes based on the cards they bring in. When we tested against Ivan, he took out Caryatids and Coursers for a lot of counters, more removal spells, Treasure Cruises and Dragonlord Silumgar, and he was able to beat us pretty easily, but I wouldn’t expect everyone to sideboard the same way.
Looking at the results from GP Krakow (6 Esper decks in the Top 8), this might not be a good time to play this deck, but I’ve learned that this metagame changes so quickly that I wouldn’t be surprised if the next GP has 8 different decks in the Top 8. As long as you don’t think you will run into too many UB-based control decks, then I think this deck is a fine choice for any tournament.
That’s it for today, thanks for reading!