Hoof! Hoof! Hoof… and Nicol Bolas?! Am I not devoted to green? What is this monstrosity? Thanks to Oath of Nissa it doesn’t matter what planeswalker I toss into this deck. After a couple turns most of the cards will be on the battlefield anyways. Thanks Genesis Wave!
I’m here to talk about a Mono Green Devotion deck I first saw in the hands of Jesse Ostap at the Face to Face Games Open Series back in May. His list can be found below. I’ve made a few adjustments, but let’s dive right in.
Name: Jesse Ostap
Deck: Green Devotion
It was love at first sight, or close to it. Nicol Bolas? Are you kidding me?! Major props to Jesse Ostap for championing this deck. When the event finished it took me less than 24 hours to scramble around Toronto and complete the deck. After playing it for over a month I’ve made some adjustments.
The land base seemed fine to me, but one land short of spot-on. I prefer to run 22 lands for those times when we just have to naturally cast one of our big payoffs. When I played 21 lands I got off to more than a few suboptimal starts, which the extra land improved. In particular, adding a Stomping Ground gave some insurance against our first one being destroyed. The changes I’ve made to the sideboard also mean we need red a little more than we did before.
When adding a land, something had to go. That something was the Polukranos. The silly hydra that I love in Green Machine just wasn’t up to snuff in my local meta. I relegated him to the sideboard as there are a few matches in which he shines. (Think any opponent that produces an army of low-toughness creatures. Yes, Affinity, I am looking at you.)
After the land base, I made only only one other notable change to the main deck, and that’s the removal of 2 Overgrowths. Yes, the card is fantastic on turn 2 and can accelerate us towards Craterhoof or a massive Genesis Wave, but that rarely wins us the game on the spot. I wanted more security in case of untimely board-sweepers. In come 2 Harmonize. Being able to refuel against control or B/G/x decks if I’ve fallen behind has been a godsend.
Getting Hooked on Green
If the decklist alone didn’t do it for you, perhaps this concept will. Turn one Arbor Elf, turn two Burning-Tree, Burning-Tree, Burning-Tree, Nykthos….. okay, maybe that doesn’t ever really happen, but we can get to a crazy amount of mana quickly. A far more realistic game is to get to 5 or more mana by turn 3 and begin looping Primal Commands. How do we do this? Simple: we cast a Primal Command to return an opponent’s land to the top of their deck and search our library for an Eternal Witness. Eventually we are able to cast Eternal Witness and Primal Command in the same turn, locking the top of our opponent’s deck while we amass an army. Without a way to get to new resources, let alone use them, our opponent is quickly defeated.
Eternal Witness is probably the best card in the deck, as it lets us return a small Genesis Wave from the yard to our hand and often keep going. A Genesis Wave for 7 can result in us flipping over Nykthos, Burning Tree, a bunch of other goodies, and an Eternal Witness, allowing us to just do it again until we find a Craterhoof.
The principal concept of the deck is simple: disrupt your opponent via Primal Commands while you ramp or simply play a massive amount of mana acceleration and cast something big like Nicol Bolas, Craterhoof, or Primeval Titan.
The Changes to the Sideboard and Our Biggest Problems
Pithing Needle, Nature’s Claim, Scavenging Ooze, and Thragtusk were not cutting it in my local meta. There wasn’t enough to name with the Needle so I removed it. The Nature’s Claim started out alright, but I found using a Primal Command to return the problem enchantment or artifact was far better. I know that sometimes we lose to an explosive Affinity start, but a single Nature’s Claim likely wouldn’t have saved me in any of the matches where that happened.
The added Sudden Shock does a great job of picking apart Affinity, but its primary use is against Infect. Dismember was an option to consider, but Infect can just outgrow it or Apostle’s Blessing. Sudden Shock is far better and has become our go-to removal spell in the SB.
Jesse’s list also lacked a way to handle Scapeshift from the board. I tinkered with Blood Moon for a while before deciding that losing our Nykthos was simply too great a cost. As a result, I landed on Crumble to Dust. It makes our already favorable Tron matchup better and is great against Scapeshift. If we can get a Valakut, wonderful; if not, then targeting a Steam Vents or Stomping Ground is often enough to cripple them.
Acidic Slime was upped to 2 as another way to keep Scapeshift down, but it’s come in to help me clear out problem manlands or deny the opponent important resources. Yes, I have brought it in against Affinity. No, I would not suggest relying on a 5 mana 2/2, but sometimes it’s all you need. Keep in mind that with deathtouch this is often your best Wolf Run target as it only needs to assign 1 point of damage to each creature blocking it to clear them out.
Burn has been big in the local meta. Primal Command is a great card to slow the bleeding, but it wasn’t enough and was sometimes too slow. Obstinate Baloth helps us patch ourselves up and has applications in the B/G/X matchup as well as the Zoo matchup.
Dragonlord Dromoka is my current experiment. We can cast it off a Utopia Sprawl naming white. In theory it will allow us to get through countermagic, but I’ve mainly been looking at it as my replacement for Primeval Titan when sitting across from a Burn player. I’d suggest bringing it in against Affinity or in any matchup where Primeval Titan is subpar.
General Tips and Tricks
On turn 1, lead with Arbor Elf so you can produce up to 4 mana on turn 2. This will let you play your Garruk. The only reason not to lead with the elf is if you fear that it will die before turn 2 and your Utopia Sprawl will not. While your first Utopia Sprawl will likely name green, take care to name other colours so you can cast Nicol Bolas later without an Oath of Nissa. Finally, don’t just mass stack your Utopia Sprawls on a single land. Sure, it produces more mana, but if you lose that land you lose big.
All you need to know here is that it costs 2 to activate Nykthos and that Burning -ree adds two devotion and produces 2 mana when it’s played. Play them out before activating.
Kiora’s most important modes are to flip the top 4 of your library when you need a creature or to untap Nykthos. Her ultimate is rarely used and she is the less important walker. Nicol Bolas is a win-condition. Try to Vindicate important lands with him before going Ultimate. Garruk allows you to win early on with an Overrun. He is the only walker who has three always relevant abilities in this deck: -1 gets us a blocker if we play him on turn 2, +1 lets us cast something that will likely have us laughing, and -4 turns all our dead draws of Elves and Emissaries into a quick overrun win.
While I’m still working on the deck, I hope that I have done it justice. If you’re looking for a fun, budget-friendly Modern deck, Green Devotion is a great starting point. It’s not the most expensive deck in Modern and it gives you many possible lines of play to think through. Green Devotion has kept me interested for a month now, and that’s something few Modern decks have been able to do.
I’ll try to convince Chef Tony to play this deck during our next Chef’s Table live stream on Wednesdays at 7pm on Twitch, but he has his own wacky creations to champion.
Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if this is a deck you’d pilot or if I’m completely off my wagon on this one.