Devotion to Combos

Posted in From the Lab on December 2, 2013

By Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon started writing From the Lab at the end of 2012 after two years with GatheringMagic. He is an ardent casual player and loves finding uses for bad cards.

Welcome to the Lab, folks! We're kicking off Devotion Week here on DailyMTG, and I have a pair of decks built around the mechanic for your viewing pleasure. With devotion having only been in one set so far, there aren't a huge number of cards to choose from, and there are a few ideas I'll be saving for later. (Celestial Dawn, I'm watching you.) However, there are some powerful tools available already.


Black in particular got a sweet deal with Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and to a lesser extent Abhorrent Overlord. Blue might have the most powerful devotion card in Master of Waves, but having two strong finishers makes the deck more consistent. Additionally, black has access to better devotion enablers than any other color by far.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Abhorrent Overlord

To start out with, Necropotence is a card that's not only absurdly powerful, but also happens to have three black mana symbols in its cost, making it excellent for devotion. Although we're not going to be running a ridiculous Drain Life engine, Gray Merchant of Asphodel can give your life total a nice boost, making it easier to continue drawing cards.

Gravestorm is another card-drawing enchantment with three black mana symbols. Although your opponent can exile cards from his or her graveyard to stop you from getting an extra card, it's likely that he or she won't have enough cards there to keep it up for long, especially early in the game. It's also nice that Gravestorm's ability happens during your upkeep rather than your draw step, so it won't be affected by Necropotence.


Murderous Betrayal also gives you a lot of for your buck with that good ol' triple-black mana cost. Although less useful than the other two, it's mostly here to enable devotion. However, sometimes the ability to get rid of a certain creature can be crucial. Although much of the time it won't be worth the high cost Murderous Betrayal charges, when it is, you'll be glad to have the option.

So far, this is just a plain old devotion deck. I still need to add that little bit of Johnny flair. I considered a few options, such as reanimation and cloning, but in the end, flickering seemed like the best way to go. With cards like Cloudshift, Momentary Blink, Otherworldly Journey, and—of course—Flicker, you can trigger the devotion abilities repeatedly. Gray Merchant of Asphodel can easily drain all your opponent's life in a single turn, and Abhorrent Overlord can pump out a vast army of Harpy tokens.

Abhorrent Overlord and Gray Merchant of Asphodel both require a fair bit of mana to cast. Fortunately, there are some lands that can handle that problem without costing precious deck space. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is an obvious choice. Its ability breaks even with just one enchantment on the battlefield, so with a second you're getting three extra mana out of the deal.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Cabal Coffers can't reach such heights so quickly, but it's also more consistent, giving you extra mana even if you only have that one enchantment, so long as you have enough Swamps. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth allows Cabal Coffers to count both itself and Nykthos, and also makes each of them tap for black mana. This reduces the strain they can put on you early in the game, when you might not have enough Swamps to get started.

Finally, I'll include a few copies of Path to Exile. Although Murderous Betrayal gives you removal in a pinch, it's nice to have a way to deal with creatures that doesn't cost half your life total. I considered Swords to Plowshares as well, but since this deck is trying to deal a large but finite amount of damage all at once, giving your opponent extra life seemed risky.

Gray Area

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It's Not Easy

Red's devotion card is pretty similar to Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and white and blue both have token-makers, which felt too similar to Abhorrent Overlord. Therefore, I turned to green for the second deck. Green actually has the most devotion cards at the moment. Nylea's Disciple can give your life total a boost, although Gray Merchant of Asphodel does it better. Reverent Hunter can become a very large creature, but with no other abilities it's not very promising for a combo deck.

Karametra's Acolyte, on the other hand, can make enormous amounts of mana. It's usually worse than having Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in a normal deck, but being a creature comes with its own set of advantages. The biggest one is that creatures are much easier to untap than lands.

Freed from the Real and Pemmin's Aura have served me well over the years. You'd be surprised at how often the ability to untap a creature repeatedly comes in handy. The only problem here is that they require blue mana to do the job. Karametra's Acolyte produces green mana.

Karametra's Acolyte
Freed from the Real

As usual, however, there's a card for that. With Mycosynth Lattice on the board, your cards stop being so prejudicial. Green mana is just as good as blue mana, and vice versa. Therefore, you can tap Karametra's Acolyte for however much mana, then use one of that to untap it, repeating the process indefinitely. Although the Lattice also makes all permanents colorless artifacts, it doesn't fiddle with the mana costs of those permanents, so devotion still works the same as it normally would.

Worldly Tutor and Sylvan Tutor can make sure you have Karametra's Acolyte, and with both Freed From the Real and Pemmin's Aura, that bit shouldn't be a problem. Mycosynth Lattice, on the other hand, could use a backup. Prismatic Omen won't give you infinite mana, but it will give you a lot of it. With each of your lands tapping for blue, you should be able to activate Karametra's Acolyte enough times to exceed twenty mana, provided your devotion is high enough.

I'll also include a copy of Realmwright. It's not as effective as Prismatic Omen, but you can find it with Worldly Tutor if you need to. You do have to be careful here, since Realmwright only allows you to choose one color of mana to produce. If you choose blue in order to get the mana, you'll need to have a Stomping Ground in order to cast your win condition.

Mycosynth Lattice

Speaking of win conditions, I selected Banefire as the primary method of victory. With Mycosynth Lattice and Prismatic Omen making color less of an issue, Banefire becomes not only possible, but rather easy to cast. It kills your opponent on the spot, and it can't be countered. This makes it far better than anything green can muster.

I also wanted a win condition that you can search for with Worldly Tutor. I selected Maga, Traitor to Mortals, since he can also win the game on the spot. He does require three black mana, however, so you'll need to have some extra lands to cast him if you're using Prismatic Omen.

Prismatic Omen can provide a little devotion, but not nearly enough for Karametra's Acolyte to make twenty mana without the infinite combo. Therefore, I included two devotion-boosters. The first is Gaea's Touch. It can accelerate your mana significantly if you have a basic Forest or two in your hand, and it has two green mana symbols in its cost. It can also be sacrificed later on, giving you two extra green mana to work with.

Prismatic Omen
Gaea's Touch

Finally, Briar Patch was my other devotion pick. As an enchantment, it's less vulnerable to removal, and it has an ability that can be quite valuable depending on what deck you're facing. Although it doesn't come near the power level of the black devotion-boosting enchantments, nothing really does. This is unfortunately about as good as you're going to get in green.

Green Lyte

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Devotion Commotion

Our two devoted decks are ready to rumble, so it's time to take it down to the arena. Whose zealous idealism will provide the strength to prevail? Will the Merchant's devotion to capitalism buy him the win, or will the Acolyte's devotion to nature let her grow to overcome the challenge? There's only one way to find out.

Game 1

The Merchant won the roll and led off with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. The Acolyte used Misty Rainforest to find a Breeding Pool and ended the turn. The Merchant played Godless Shrine and passed the turn, and the Acolyte fetched another Breeding Pool before passing back.

The Merchant played a Swamp and cast Gravestorm, then ended the turn. The Acolyte cast Worldly Tutor during the end step. She put Karametra's Acolyte on top of the library. The Acolyte played a Forest, cast Briar Patch, and ended the turn. The Merchant's Gravestorm triggered, and the Acolyte exiled Worldly Tutor. The Merchant cast Murderous Betrayal and passed the turn.

The Acolyte used Verdant Catacombs to find Stomping Ground, paying 2 life to put it onto the battlefield untapped. She cast Karametra's Acolyte and ended the turn. The Acolyte exiled a land to the Merchant's Gravestorm, and the Merchant passed the turn.

The Acolyte played a forest and cast Sylvan Tutor, finding Realmwright. Karametra's Acolyte tapped for three mana to help cast a second Karametra's Acolyte. She then cast Freed from the Real on the tapped Acolyte and passed the turn.

The Acolyte exiled Sylvan Tutor to Gravestorm. The Merchant played a Swamp, then cast Flicker on the enchanted Acolyte, making Freed From the Real fall off. He passed the turn. The Acolyte cast Realmwright, choosing Island, and ended the turn.

The Acolyte exiled a land to Gravestorm, and the Merchant used Marsh Flats to find Godless Shrine. He passed the turn. The Acolyte cast Prismatic Omen and passed back. The Acolyte exiled another land from the graveyard, and the Merchant passed the turn with no play. The Acolyte cast a third copy of Karametra's Acolyte and passed the turn.

The Merchant used another Marsh Flats to get a Godless Shrine and ended the turn. The Acolyte tapped the three Karametra's Acolytes for a total of eighteen mana, then used lands to cast Banefire for 23, ending the game.


Game 2

The Merchant fetched Godless Shrine with Verdant Catacombs to start things off, and the Acolyte played a Breeding Pool. The Merchant played a Swamp and passed the turn. The Acolyte used Misty Rainforest to get another Breeding Pool, then cast Sylvan Tutor, searching up Karametra's Acolyte. The Merchant played Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and ended his turn.

The Acolyte found a Forest with Verdant Catacombs, then cast Briar Patch and passed the turn. The Merchant used Marsh Flats to find another Godless Shrine, paying 2 life to put it onto the battlefield untapped. He cast Gravestorm and passed the turn. The Acolyte played a Forest, then cast Karametra's Acolyte and passed back.

The Acolyte exiled a land to Gravestorm, and the Merchant cast Necropotence, paying 5 life before ending his turn. The Acolyte played a Breeding Pool, then cast two copies of Prismatic Omen. She passed the turn, exiling another land to Gravestorm. The Merchant played Cabal Coffers, then paid 4 life to Necropotence and passed the turn.

The Acolyte played Verdant Catacombs and sacrificed it to search for a Forest. She cast Briar Patch and attacked for 1 with Karametra's Acolyte. She then passed the turn, exiling the land to Gravestorm. The Merchant played Godless Shrine and cast Gravestorm and Murderous Betrayal. He paid 3 life to Necropotence, dropping to 2, then dropped to 1 to activate Murderous Betrayal, killing Karametra's Acolyte. He passed the turn, and The Acolyte cast Worldly Tutor, finding another copy of Karametra's Acolyte.

She played the new Acolyte and passed the turn, exiling Worldly Tutor and Sylvan Tutor to the Gravestorms. The Merchant played a Swamp and cast Necropotence before passing the turn. The Acolyte attacked for 1, and the Merchant cast Flicker to stop the creature. She cast Pemmin's Aura on Karametra's Acolyte and passed the turn.

The Merchant drew a card from Gravestorm, but was still strangely unable to find an Abhorrent Overlord or Gray Merchant of Asphodel, despite having gone through half the deck. Karametra's Acolyte finished it with an attack for 1.

Karametra's Acolyte

Ready, Set, Combos

Last week, I asked you all to send me suggestions of sets to work from for next week's article. The results are in, and they are far more varied than I anticipated. Make sure to tune in then to see which sets won the vote, and what crazy decks I decided to build from them. See ya!

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