March 24, 2015

Back in Blue

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New cards can bring all kinds of excitement to the table. New decks, fresh strategies, and all kinds of innovation are all things to be expected when a new set hits Standard.


However, often overlooked and just as exciting are the doses of vitality new sets can provide to older archetypes. Searching for what new piece of technology might bring a "dead" deck back to life can be plenty thrilling in its own right.


Today, we're going to take a look at one of the latter. There's a much-loved archetype that fell by the wayside when Khans of Tarkir came out and Return to Ravnica and Magic 2014 went away—and now it's poised to make a comeback thanks to a few choice cards from Dragons of Tarkir!


The deck? Mono-Blue Devotion! Let's hop into our TARDIS to combine old and new. Take a look:




The Battle Plan


Mono-Blue Devotion was a strategy that was popular back in early Theros block, but when cards like Nightveil Specter and Tidebinder Mage rotated out it lost a lot of its oomph. Now, thanks to some new friends like Shorecrasher Elemental, it is back again with Dragons of Tarkir!



How does it work? Well, by setting up a lot of blue mana symbols early, you get to take advantage of the extremely powerful Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves. It is fairly common for the Master to generate a whopping 10+ power on his own! Multiples are particularly deadly, as they begin to double pump all of the Elemental tokens.


Your other creatures generally help set up for this by looking for your devotion cards…or by just having blue mana symbols!


It tends to be a disruptive aggressive deck at heart, so some light countermagic is also something you might expect here, as well as some tricks like bounce.


The core of this deck is already established, so in working on this deck the key part is going to be to figure out how to tune it and maximize its best draws.


Ready? Let's move ahead!


Deck Breakdown


Which cards can stay and which should be hung out to dry? Let's go through this deck card by card and see!


Shorecrasher Elemental



As the new bit of spice that has helped bring life back into the archetype, Shorecrasher Elemental is exactly what this deck is looking for. It fits right into the much-missing-after-Nightveil-Specter-left triple-blue creature slot, and the great news is that it packs quite a punch on its own! Unblocked, it can hit for 5—and if it tangles with a creature, you can make it the perfect size.


It dodges removal, fights well, and is even an Elemental to get pumped up by Master of Waves! I definitely want all four here.


Master of Waves



Speaking of non-negotiable four-ofs, here is the Master! By far the most game-changing card in the devotion deck, this is the card you want to draw as many of as possible. It very quickly gets out of hand and should cause a ton of trouble for your opponent. All four, for sure!


Thassa, God of the Sea



The other half of the Master of Waves engine is this Theros god. She digs you closer to your key cards like Master and Shorecrasher, while also quite relevantly making them unblockable. Oh—and she is quite often an indestructible 5/5 to boot! While I have seen some people only play three because Thassa, God of the Sea is legendary, you really want to draw one, which makes me okay with four copies. Plus, one Thassa, God of the Sea can help scry away the others.


Gudul Lurker



A new blue one-drop, the idea here is that it can help fuel your devotion early or be a 2/2 unblockable later on in the game in a pinch.


While I generally I like the idea here, the power in something like Judge's Familiar was that it also did something else. Here we still have Hypnotic Siren, and that does a better job in this role—and the deck doesn't really need all eight one-drops.


However, there is still a new card I want to add to the deck. While it serves a bit of a different role, it still evasively hits while working toward what else the deck wants. The card? Stratus Dancer!


Not only can it come down as a two-mana 2/1 flier to start bringing the beats efficiently, but its ability to flip up and counter spells is incredibly relevant. It makes for a great way to help set up to protect Master of Waves or your other threats. Plus, it is a 3/2 flier once megamorphed up! I'll take all four over these Lurkers.


Hypnotic Siren



While a one-mana 1/1 flier isn't incredible, it can be good enough in some hands for getting your devotion started and building up toward Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves. It also passes where Gudul Lurker failed: whereas the Lurker is at best a 2/2 unblockable, the upside on Hypnotic Siren is a better Mind Control—and thanks to Nykthos, you can power it out fairly early.


Having one in your opener or drawing one late is perfectly reasonable, especially with Bident of Thassa and Military Intelligence in the deck. I'd like to play all four copies.


Frost Walker



On the surface, this seems like a great fit for a blue aggressive deck. A 4/1 for two mana is certainly aggressive stats! However, in Mono-Blue Devotion, you want permanents that stick around on the battlefield and provide devotion—and Frost Walker is poor at doing that. You can't even Thassa, God of the Sea it to get it through! It trades with basically everything. I'd much rather have something evasive.


Fortunately, there's a new card in Dragons of Tarkir that is another excellent fit for devotion: Silumgar Sorcerer! It has two blue mana symbols and is evasive, so that's a good start. But it also does something that this deck struggled with: deal with opposing threats. It can serve as a three-mana Essence Scatter if it needs to.


The beauty is that you can just pass with three mana untapped and do whichever works best: if you want to Essence Scatter you can, or if you want to flash in a 2/1 at the opponent's end step you can. It's the kind of flexible trickiness this deck really wants.


While the deck is getting a bit heavy on three drops with Thassa, God of the Sea and Shorecrasher, I'm happy rolling with three copies here.


Omenspeaker



While it didn't quite make the cut in the prior Theros-block version of this deck, Omenspeaker is a great fit this time around. There are fewer two-drops this deck wants to play, and you really want to dig for your best cards. This is an easy four-of to me. Plus, you can always sacrifice it to Silumgar Sorcerer in a pinch.


Icefall Regent



While one copy might seem like an odd choice, this is a great one-of. You don't want to draw a bunch of them, and it doesn't fit into the deck's low curve that well. However, if the game goes long it is a great card to draw, and if you do find your one copy early you can build your game state around it. I would like to keep the singleton here.


Singing Bell Strike



I'm all for having some removal in this deck, and blue doesn't get a lot of removal. Singing Bell Strike is a bit awkward, though. First of all, your opponent can just buy out for six mana, which will happen often enough. Second, think about some of the big threats you would put this on. Cards like Polukranos, World Eater; Courser of Kruphix; Goblin Rabblemaster; and Whisperwood Elemental still do plenty while locked down with this.


Now, that isn't to say it is ineffectual—it can be great in the right places. I just don't want a ton of them.


I'd rather split it with other pieces of removal. Reality Shift, while it does give the opponent a creature, is still usually preferable to the alternative. Encase in Ice is going to be better than Singing Bell Strike most of the time in the main deck, considering what you want to target. Sidisi's Faithful is even a card you could talk about, since it generates tempo or adds a devotion.


In the end, I want to go with one Encase in Ice, one Singing Bell Strike, and one Reality Shift. Each has its pros and cons, and I'd rather draw two different ones than two of the same in most cases.


Stubborn Denial



I love Force Spike. I really do. However, this is so situational in the current Standard format and we're not going to be ferocious that often without Frost Walker. I'd rather use these to make room for something else.


Military Intelligence and Bident of Thassa



Both of these are great card drawers for this deck, allowing you to have a fistful of cards and run away with the game as it goes long. Bident is stronger—but also twice as expensive and also legendary. Digging toward your powerhouse cards is definitely something this deck wants to do, so I'm fine going up to four total of these. The number I want is two of each. I'd rather draw one of both, and they are both plenty strong.


Hall of Triumph



Not only is the Hall great in a monocolored aggressive strategy, but it also has some great synergies. For example, it keeps all of your Master of Waves tokens alive even if your opponent kills the Master!


While its legendary nature plus being a three-drop means I can't really play a bunch of them, I am happy playing one.


With all of those changes in mind, that brings us to:




If you've been waiting to dust off those Master of Waves, now is the time! With really strong new additions like Shorecrasher Elemental, Stratus Dancer, Silumgar Sorcerer, and more, build this and give it a try!


If you wanted to try a new direction, I could also see a one-dropallooza version of this strategy that played three Hall of Triumph and all the Military Intelligences to try and swarm with blue creatures early. On the other hand, you could also try a more controlling version with Thassa's Rebuff.


Whichever way you take it, have fun! It's great to see this deck on the scene again—there's nothing quite like playing Master of Waves for five or more tokens.


Honorable Mentions


What were some of the other fresh and exciting decks sent in this week? Check them out:





Bryce Stonehouse's Mono-Black Pact






































Ato Shingai's Black-Red Zombies



































Erwann Burguière's Azorius Control



































Preparing for the Professionals


A new set is about to come out, and you know what that means: it's nearly time for another Pro Tour! Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir is only a touch over two weeks away. Let's submit some seriously competitive decks for that week.


Format: Dragons of Tarkir Standard


Restrictions: Your deck should be aimed at competitive play. You are encouraged to provide a sideboard.


Deadline: Monday, March 30 at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.


Submit all decklists by emailing me at reconstructeddecks@gmail.com .


Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:


12 Mountain


4 Firedrinker Satyr


3 Ash Zealot


4 Lightning Bolt


…and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)


I'm excited to see how everything with Dragons of Tarkir shakes out! This set is poised to really modify the metagame—show me how you think it will be done.


In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or feedback on this article I'd love to hear from you. You can always ask me a question on my Tumblr or send me a tweet and I'll be sure to take a look.


I'll be back next week with another look at the fresh Standard format. Talk with you again then—and have fun with Dragons! May you combine new and old in interesting ways.


Gavin


@GavinVerhey


GavInsight






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