Devotion to Gray

Posted in Feature on October 18, 2013

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

Last weekend, Kentarou Yamamoto made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Theros, and I have to say that I enjoyed watching him make a pack of Rats while there. He ultimately lost in the first round, but I liked what was going on with his deck, even the non-Pack Rat part.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

As the title implies, devotion is a big part of this deck. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is the headliner and, once it starts draining for 5 or more, becomes a game-ending play. Erebos and Nykthos also reward you for accumulating black mana symbols, but Gray Merchant is where the real deal is. The first Merchant can stabilize the board for you, with the second or third finishing the opponent off, and all sorts of permanents are in the deck to further that cause. Underworld Connections works perfectly here, letting you trade life for cards and putting two black symbols on the board in a hard-to-kill package. Lifebane Zombie and Desecration Demon are also , although those tend to die or kill the opponent slightly more often. It's also funny that Pack Rat actually works well for devotion, as the copies keep the mana cost of the original.

Besides the actual devotion cards, Kentarou's deck plays much like a midrange black deck, with a giant pile of discard and removal teaming up with some solid sources of card advantage. The full amounts of Doom Blade, Hero's Downfall, and Thoughtseize mean that most opposing threats won't have a very long life expectancy, and there aren't many cards that dodge this particular gauntlet. As for card advantage, four Underworld Connections; one Erebos, God of the Dead; and two Whip of Erebos give you plenty of ways to restock your hand, as well as both gaining life and letting you spend it for value. Pack Rat is also a great way to handle cases of mana flood, as it turns any number of Swamps into vicious Rats.

I expect to see this deck or versions very close to it continue to compete in Standard, starting with Grand Prix Louisville this weekend!

Kentarou Yamamoto

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