From the Brewing Board – Purple Devotion

Gerry Thompson is famous for a few reasons: winning a Standard and Legacy SCG Open in the same weekend, winning multiple SCG Invitationals, finally cracking the Pro Tour top 8 after more than 30 tries. The man has been around Magic seemingly forever, always at the highest level and always finding a way to make a name for himself. One of the things for which he might be best known is his proclivity for writing things down in the digital age. Gerry’s Notebook of deck ideas is something about which he is often asked, and it’s something I find I have copied from him.

Yes, putting decks on something like Evernote or Google Docs is a safe way to store them and have access to them from every computer with an internet connection, simultaneously protecting you from carelessness, spilled coffee and rainfall. It also makes sharing and collaborating on said lists a much easier exercise. It doesn’t feel right though and for me feel is an important part of the process. When you brew you are creating, and feel is very important in any creative endeavor. Sometimes your creative subconscious will take over and bring cards to your mind as you write that you hadn’t previously considered, and I find that flows a lot easier through a pen than through a keyboard.

When I asked Gerry about his reasons for using a notebook, he was a bit more practical than I am: making changes is easier, more organised, technology adds too many options for something that should just be very simple, easy to just carry a book around. I would also add that being able to see a “change log” as you progress and new cards are released is incredibly valuable, especially when things get reprinted.

Journey into Nyx brings us a lot of cards we’ve never seen before; effects on creatures that haven’t been on creatures and unique abilities that might just have slotted perfectly into something in my notebook. While looking through it I realised that I had tried a few times to make UR Devotion work. [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card] is such a natural partner for [card]Master of Waves[/card] that I was sure something could be done to put them together, and having [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] helping to turn Purphoros on made me think it might be a good deck.

It wasn’t. Even at a time where people were adding colours to Blue Devotion to help the deck handle [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card], red wasn’t the option. We had no Temple, no UR God and no really good UR gold card to play. I also tried to force [card]Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius[/card] into the deck because I love it so much. Now as I sit here with brews running amok in my head, I think it might be time to try this idea again, only with some added spice.

This article is going to be slightly different from my normal ones, as I’m writing it basically as I go through the brewing process. I have a basic idea of what I want the deck to do, but other than that this will be a journey of discovery for me as much as it (hopefully) is for you.

The Idea

Mono-blue Devotion is not my type of deck. Half aggro half combo, with a lot of subpar cards that are really only good when drawn in the right order, and two or three really powerful cards that basically make the deck playable in the first place. It exists in a weird limbo between play styles and does not fit into any of my comfort zones.

My initial idea, according to my notes, was to make [card]Master of Waves[/card] even better by playing it with Purphoros. Doming the opponent for 10 or so makes losing your Master a lot easier to handle if it happens, and being able to pump the team once or twice is nothing to scoff at either. Sadly there just wasn’t a good manabase to support the idea before Journey into Nyx, and I made the mistake of trying to splash too many other things.

With the addition of Journey, we not only got the much-needed UR Temple but also the very powerful [card]Keranos, God of Storms[/card]. Kerry (as I have taken to calling him) combos very nicely with [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card] who is an auto-include in any blue devotion deck. This will both smooth out our splash and let us approach the strategy from a different angle, one that isn’t reliant on a few key cards to save us from being a draft deck.

Our plan then is to be more midrange than the mono-blue version, but to be more consistent and less susceptible to a timely removal spell. We also don’t want to sacrifice our strength against red removal-based decks like RG and Jund Monsters.

The Deck

Normally when I brew I start with the spells and let them determine my manabase. As the poor mana was one of my biggest problems last time I tried this, I want to start there. If possible I want to avoid 4 Guildgates, as eight lands coming in tapped is too much in a metagame with a lot of aggression. Fortunately Journey into Nyx comes again to the rescue with [card]Mana Confluence[/card]. With 4 each of [card]Steam Vents[/card] and [card]Temple of Epiphany[/card], we can run 2 [card]Mana Confluence[/card] to give us 10 out of 25 sources that tap for R. They will also help us with [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], which I know we’ll be wanting. As we go on we might need to up the red sources, but it’s likely I’d look to [card]Temple of Malice[/card] before I went with Guildgates or [card]Blood Crypt[/card]s.

There are a few auto-includes here. Thassa and Nightveil Spectre are both 4-ofs with little to no room for debate. [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] is similarly important given the devotion to both red and blue and its early defensive prowess. Between Keranos and Purphoros I think we want 5 copies, maybe 6 at most. [card]Master of Waves[/card] is too good, and although a case can certainly be made for 4 I think we will start at 3 copies. That leaves us with about 20 spots.

As tempting as it is to jam [card]Ral Zarek[/card] in this deck, he doesn’t actually do anything to help our game plan. Sure he can untap a Nykthos, but we might not even be running it. Even if we are, there’s no great mana sink in these colours to make that a game-breaking play. [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] will help us hold off aggro while churning through the deck, so he needs to be present. In the past I have liked both [card]Claustrophobia[/card] and [card]Wall of Frost[/card] in my attempts at blue devotion decks, and although I think [card]Claustrophobia[/card] is good I don’t think we want the wall here. Instead we can look to red for some removal in the form of [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] and perhaps even [card]Anger of the Gods[/card]. Getting the red mana might be a little tough but our alternative is sadly [card]Whelming Wave[/card] or [card]Aetherize[/card]. Actually, [card]Aetherize[/card] might not be terrible.

There’s no way I am playing this deck without [card]Prognostic Sphinx[/card], a card I played in one tournament and promptly fell in love with. While we’re adding 5-drop fliers, let’s go for some [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]s too. With all that evasion, [card]Bident of Thassa[/card] seems like a natural addition as a one- or two-of to refuel our hand. A lot of mono-blue versions are starting to run [card]Hypnotic Siren[/card] at the one slot, and I really like that idea.

Here then is where I’ll be starting:

[deck title=UR Devotion – Chris Lansdell]
4 Steam Vents
4 Temple of Epiphany
3 Mana Confluence
2 Temple of Malice
10 Island
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Hypnotic Siren
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Thassa, God of the Sea
2 Purphoros, God of the Forge
3 Master of Waves
2 Keranos, God of Storms
2 Stormbreath Dragon
3 Prognostic Sphinx
[Other Spells]
2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Claustrophobia
2 Bident of Thassa
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
[/Other Spells]

Sideboard likely has some answers to aggro decks ([card]Anger of the Gods[/card], [card]Wall of Frost[/card] maybe), control (some flavour of Jace, extra Stormbreaths, [card]Gainsay[/card]s) and mono black ([card]Domestication[/card], the other Sphinx). I don’t have any idea how good or bad this is, but I’m excited to find out!

As always, thanks for stopping by. Next time out I will be talking about my own adventures following the Saito Wayfinder. Until then…brew on!

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