Theros Beyond Death is finally here and the new set has already had an impact on the Magic meta game. New decks are springing up as new cards filter their way to players the world over. I myself have been tinkering with a few new brews in an attempt to come up with some crazy new jank and, so far, the results are promising.
While there is a lot of hubbub around the new decks that are now possible, sometimes you don’t want to try something new. Sometimes you don’t want to innovate. Sometimes you just want to try to rank up on MTG Arena as quickly and as efficiently as possible. That was the position I found myself in recently, as I had been neglecting my Standard practise in order to focus on Pioneer for MTGO, and I was only really playing Limited on Arena. As a result, I was further down the rankings than I was used to, and I wanted to do something about it.
So I needed a deck that could win games consistently, handle Mono Red and Control match ups, and that I could put together quickly. The answer was simple. The Rolling Stones said it best. “I look inside myself and see my heart is black”.
Mono-Black Devotion is a deck that, on the surface, looks really simple, but has some subtle tactics that really make it a fun and interesting strategy. The key player in the deck is the returning Gray Merchant of Asphodel, known by his friends as “Gary”. This five-drop zombie has long since proven its worth in original Theros and in eternal formats like Pauper. By maximising your Devotion to Black, Gary can produce some of the biggest life point swings in the game.
Many players believe themselves beyond the threat range of their opponent, only for the table to quickly turn and force them onto the back foot as their healthy life total suddenly bolsters their opponent. It can break stalemates, help you fend off aggro, and win games out of nowhere. Suffice to say, no one should underestimate Gary.
But one card a deck does not make. We need other cards that will compliment Gary that are also good enough to contribute to the win if we happen to never draw our ace in the hole. To start off, we are running a playset of Knight of the Ebon Legion. A solid creature that can block 1/1’s for days, this evil knight is also a powerhouse on the offensive thanks to its pump ability. It also helps that it gets bigger if we are able to deal enough damage in a single turn.
Moving one we have the now classic combo of Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven. Draining our opponent for one as it enters the battlefield is ok but being able to sacrifice it only to return it again using its ability and do it all over again is just so satisfying. Additionally, if you do it after blockers, you can mitigate a lot of damage coming your way. Next we have a playset of Yarok’s Fenlurker. Casting for double Black means that it helps with our Devotion total, but it also forces our opponent to exile a card from their hand. While it doesn’t pump as big as the Knight of the Ebon Legion, the ability to increase our damage with spare mana is always nice.
Speaking of two drops, we are also running two copies of Tymaret, Chosen from Death. A great blocker, Tymaret also acts as a mainboard answer to graveyard strategies. Next, we have four copies of Murderous Rider. Solid removal for both Planeswalkers and Creatures, it also gives us a 2/3 life linker that adds to our Devotion count. These all work wonderfully with our next card, Ayara, First of Locthwain. Making all of our creatures into Cauldron Familiars, this grand queen also allows us to sacrifice other creatures to draw additional cards.
This ability works wonders with our final creature, a playset of Nightmare Shepherd. Picture the scene. Turn one you play a Cauldron Familiar, draining your opponent for one. Turn two you strip a card from their hand with a Yarok’s Fenlurker, followed up with a turn three Ayara, First of Locthwain and a turn four Nightmare Shepherd. Even if you haven’t attacked, your opponent will have already been drained down to 17 life. Now you play a Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
With a Devotion of ten your opponent will be down to 7 life, but still alive. Then, you sacrifice Gary to Ayara, triggering Nightmare Shepherd‘s ability. You then get a copy of Gary and drain them all over again for the win. Sure, the above scenario is magical Christmas land, but thanks to redundancies like Witch’s Oven and Tymaret, you still have a more than reasonable chance of pulling it off. Additionally, if the game goes long you are more likely to draw into what you need, and since you have been gaining life the whole game, I would say the odds are in your favour.
The last two nonland cards we have in the deck are some extra removal with two copies Drag to the Underworld, and a single Bolas’s Citadel for the chance to go nuts and play most of our deck. Since we are a mono coloured deck our mana base is very simple. Twenty Swamps and four copies of Castle Locthwain for additional card draw.
4 Cauldron Familiar
4 Knight of the Ebon Legion
2 Tymaret, Chosen from Death
4 Yarok’s Fenlurker
3 Ayara, First of Locthwain
4 Murderous Rider
4 Nightmare Shepherd
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Drag to the Underworld
4 Witch’s Oven
1 Bolas’s Citadel
4 Castle Locthwain
And that is my version of Mono Black Devotion for MTG Arena. The deck is a lot of fun and has been doing me well in the new meta that is Theros Beyond Death Standard. But what do you think of the deck? Is it the kind of deck you want to play, or have you been excited by something else from Theros Beyond Death? Why not let us know about it in the comments below. While you’re there, you could like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics.
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