23, May, 24

Thunder Junction Addition Finally Gives Devotion Deck New Post-Ban Life!

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Article at a Glance

Back in December of last year, an enormous ban announcement shook up the Constructed world. Some formats saw minor nerfs to top-tier archetypes. For example, the banning of Monastery Swiftspear in Pauper did not stop mono-red aggro from being an elite deck choice. However, Pioneer saw a pretty massive metagame shift following the implementation of the bans.

Geological Appraiser getting the axe forced players to adapt, but Quintorius Kand combo is still a perfectly reasonable option in Pioneer. Mono-green Devotion, on the other hand, fell off the face of the Earth. As good as Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is as a card, Karn, the Great Creator brought such a unique angle of attack. Beyond being an elite value engine, the card’s presence was responsible for a neat infinite combo in conjunction with Pestilent Cauldron out of the sideboard.

Since Karn’s banning, the deck has been forced to play a lot fairer and win through Creature combat, making many matchups worse. The deck lay dormant for the most part for nearly five months, but this weekend, it saw a resurgence. Mono-green Devotion won a Magic Online Pioneer Challenge, with two more copies in the top 16. Notably, all three decklists featured a playset of a severely underrated Thunder Junction powerhouse. Let’s dig deeper into the deck’s core gameplan to see how this card contributes to its recent success.

Building Up Devotion

Leyline of the Guildpact

On its surface, this deck functions like a ramp deck. Both Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic give this strategy a significant speed boost, allowing you to play a potent three-drop on turn two. Wolfwillow Haven is a nice two-mana ramp element that pairs quite nicely with Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner. However, the real star of the show is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

Nykthos has the ability to tap for seemingly limitless amounts of mana, and enabling it isn’t that tricky. A common play pattern is to cast Old-Growth Troll on turn two off an Elf. Now, a follow-up Nykthos already taps for extra mana.

Things can get really out of hand if you start the game with Leyline of the Guildpact. Leyline makes an appearance for one reason only: to fuel Devotion. While narrow, adding four Devotion at once is incredible, and leads to some busted nut draws.

Imagine starting with Leyline, then playing turn one Elf and turn two Nykthos. You have access to five mana on turn two, which you can increase even more by playing Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner and untapping Nykthos. Any payoff, and you’re off to the races.

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Top-End

Cavalier of Thorns

Karn may be out of the picture, so this deck relies a bit more heavily on the other two pieces of top-end that have been a crucial part of the deck for a while: Cavalier of Thorns and Storm the Festival. Cavalier is a massive threat that does everything you want. It’s a great blocker. It digs for Nykthos, potentially milling Storm the Festival to Flashback along the way.

Even if the opponent kills it, you get to put the best card you milled on top of your deck, which could be another Cavalier. Thanks to the busted Leyline of the Guildpact start described above, it’s possible to play Cavalier turn two, which many decks will be unable to beat.

From there, Storm the Festival acts as the primary closer. Obviously, you have the potential to high roll off of Storm and hit two copies of Cavalier. However, with enough Devotion, the card is absolutely cracked. It’s not uncommon in the late game to cast Storm with mana floating off Nykthos, find Kiora to untap Nykthos, and Flashback Storm the Festival in the same turn. Kiora’s card-drawing ability comes in handy, too, making sure you don’t run out of gas.

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Adding Outcaster Trailblazer to the Mix

Outcaster Trailblazer

Up to this point, even with access to all of the cards above, mono-green Devotion had faltered. Part of the problem is that, with Karn gone, closing games wasn’t always easy. The deck is naturally filled with a lot of air, especially with Leyline taking up slots. If you didn’t draw Storm the Festival, you’d risk having nothing to spend all of your Devotion mana on. Even casting Storm only digs five cards deep for action, and without Karn, you’re much more likely to brick on something impactful. If either Cavalier or Storm got countered, you could be in rough shape.

Fortunately, Outcaster Trailblazer is here to save the day. Outcaster Trailblazer does a lot of different things for the deck at all stages of the game. First, it’s a strong card to Plot with three mana, greatly increasing your chances of playing Cavalier turn three. Plotting Trailblazer turn two off a turn one Elf lets you follow up by playing a Land and Trailblazer for free, netting a mana, and slamming Cavalier.

Second, just like Kiora, Trailblazer draws you card when Creatures with power four or greater enter. Troll, Cavalier, and extra copies of Trailblazer all keep the cards flowing. In attrition battles, it’s often worth Plotting Trailblazer with the intention of casting Trailblazer and another four-power Creature on the same turn. Of note, unlike Kiora, Trailblazer isn’t legendary, so it works extremely well in multiples.

As such, Trailblazer’s presence makes Storm the Festival much more powerful. Storming into Trolls or other copies of Trailblazer can draw you a bunch of cards. In some cases, the mana Trailblazer provides can be super relevant, too. For instance, if you cast Storm with one mana floating, hitting Trailblazer alongside another Nykthos lets you add a bunch more mana and chain spells together.

Between Trailblazer, Kiora, and Storm, you will see a large portion of your deck in the late game. Eventually, if you find Ulvenwald Oddity, you can transform it and attack with a huge, Hasty, Trampling army. Oddity isn’t a huge piece of the puzzle, but letting you build a board and attack in the same turn can be necessary against Sunfall and the like.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Amalia Benavides Aguirre

Overall, Trailblazer has given this deck new life. Against decks like mono-black Waste Not, getting to recoup some card advantage is critical. When facing control, Plotting it can allow you to cast multiple impactful spells on a later turn, making it more likely you can stick a threat through counter magic. Versus aggro where the card is definitely weakest, it still sets up Cavalier nicely, which is a beating for small Creature decks to get through. Troll and Cavalier have historically been excellent against removal-heavy decks and aggressive strategies, and not much has changed there.

Where things remain dicey is against fast combo decks. Decks like Abzan Amalia combo can largely ignore your board presence. With minimal pressure or interaction, mono-green simply has very little recourse in the matchup.

Fortunately, your matchups against other top tier archetypes are decent. Izzet Phoenix’s damage-based removal isn’t ideal against your beefy threats. Vein Ripper can be scary out of Rakdos Vampires, but without it, you are well set up to grind through anything else. Trailblazer’s role can truly not be overstated, and Devotion’s performance last weekend cannot be denied. Make sure to keep this archetype on your radar, as it has a lot going for it.

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