Big Game Hunter

Posted in Reconstructed on September 17, 2013

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Theros is here! And have you seen the monsters roaming out there in the wilds?

Some have fangs. Others have multiple heads. Some of them are even shimmering with the essence of Nyx, the land of the gods.

As was commonly said in ancient Greece: Crikey!

It's time to tame this ragtag pack of monsters and heroes alike and put them on our side. There's some rather big game out there—are you up to the challenge?

Let's find out.

Today, we're going to be taking a look at Ben Buford's take on a devotion deck. Let's see what he came up with!

Ben Buford's Big Game

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The Battle Plan

Snap! Crunch! Pop! No, it's not the favorite cereal of Theros—unless you count snacking on your opponent as a cereal. (Honey Bunches of O-pponents?)

No, that sound is what this deck's creatures aim to do: produce gigantic monsters that will tear your enemies limb from limb. There's nothing overly coy about it.

This deck can get off to the races early thanks to acceleration like Elvish Mystic—or just starting off with some creatures that are undercosted for their size like Kalonian Tusker. This deck puts opponents under pressure of gigantic creatures quickly, forcing them to remove your forces or quickly fall behind.

One of the key elements to this deck is devotion. By flooding the board with creatures, you're going to hit a critical mass of green mana symbols for Nylea and Reverent Hunter fairly easily. Once that's all ready to go, Nykthos can pump out even more mana to fuel Nylea.

When Ben made this deck, the entire Theros Card Image Gallery wasn't up yet. What gets added now that more cards are known? Well, let's take a look...

Deck Breakdown

How does this deck work, and which cards should stay and which should go? Let's go through each card, one by one, and talk about just that!

Elvish Mystic

One-drop mana accelerators have been a staple of aggressive mono-green decks since Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise poked their heads onto cards during the dawn of Magic. Elvish Mystic is the newest member of that heritage, and certainly no less effective. Pushing you ahead by a turn goes a long way, and this deck would happily play more if it could.

I should note that the fact Elvish Mystic is only one mana here is really quite crucial. Sylvan Caryatid eats up a two-drop spot, making it a little slower than I'd like for this deck, which has numerous other cards it could cast on turn two. There are sadly no other one-mana Elves this deck can play—but it will be plenty happy with what it has.

Experiment One

In a deck full of large creatures, Experiment One is going to grow throughout the course of the game. With some of the tweaks I'm making to this deck it won't be uncommon to get this Experiment up to a 3/3 or 4/4—and for a card you can cast on the first turn, that's a pretty effective use of mana! I'm sticking with all four.

Dryad Militant

One key difference between Mono-Green Beatdown decks like this and something like White Weenie or Mono-Red is that this sort of deck is more focused on producing larger threats rather than flooding the board with small creatures. While a 2/1 for one is great for an aggressive White Weenie deck, here it's not quite as exciting.

Experiment One gets a pass because it will commonly become much larger than 2/2. However, you only need so many one-drops in a deck like this one, and Dryad Militant doesn't quite hit the standard of what this deck wants.

Kalonian Tusker

Undercosted aggressive creatures and devotion are two major pieces this deck is about—and Kalonian Tusker delivers on both. Not only is it a 3/3 for two mana that can put on pressure early, but it has the awesome "upside" of costing instead of . That puts two more symbols toward Nylea and Reverent Hunter. This is a perfect card for this deck.

Burning-Tree Emissary

Speaking of devotion, talk about a card that helps enable it right here! While it might not be immediately obvious, hybrid mana symbols count as both for purposes of devotion. Not only does Burning-Tree Emissary add two mana symbols to your devotion, but it gives you mana so you can spit out another threat and add more to your devotion.

That's not even mentioning what happens if you draw multiples of these. Imagine a draw where your turn two is Kalonian Tusker, and then your turn three is Emissary, Emissary, and Reverent Hunter—as an 8/8. That's 15 points of power on the board on turn three! While a random 2/2 isn't what this deck is really looking for, the insane help with devotion and capacity for robust draws is too strong to ignore: Emissary is a keeper.

Scavenging Ooze

Scavenging Ooze has been one of the most-talked-about cards in Magic 2014—and for good reason. This is a midrange game changer that can quickly grow large. While it's not great on the second turn, a little later on after creatures have traded off it's just the card you want to see.

Because you don't want Scavenging Ooze right away and they're weaker in multiples since the first one tends to gobble up some of the food that the second would want, I'm going to move down to three Oozes—but make no mistake: it's still a fantastic card.

This is one of the flagship green devotion cards in the set. On its own, if nothing else is going on, it's a baseline 2/2 for three. Okay, not the most exciting. But with a single other green mana symbol around, it's already a 3/3. And in a deck like this, that can fill the board with green creatures, it is pretty commonly going to be in the 5/5 and 6/6 range. Even "merely" having a 4/4 on turn three after a Kalonian Tusker is plenty for your opponent to worry about.

While it has no form of evasion itself, in conjunction with Nylea it gains trample—which is perfect. Sam was spot-on recognizing this as a four-of for this deck.

Renegade Krasis

This Krasis promises big things: play a creature larger than it, and everything gets stronger. The trick is just evolving him in the first place! This deck is a little low on ways to evolve him, and especially to evolve him more than once. (It's worth noting that Reverent Hunter doesn't work well with evolve, since it gets its counters after it has already entered the battlefield.)

While Renegade Krasis can work, I'd rather have something a little more consistent. Fortunately, there's a strong green three-drop out of Theros that is perfect for this deck: Boon Satyr. A 4/2 flash for already puts a crimp in your opponent's plans.

But the real strength is its flexibility. Once you hit five mana, it can bestow at instant speed and really put your opponent between Scylla and Charybdis: either your opponent blocks and your creature suddenly takes down the blocker, or he or she doesn't and feels the pain of 4 more damage to the noggin. Even if the creature goes away, you're left with a 4/2! And, to make it even more enticing, it keeps the double green mana symbols to help out your devotion. Sign me up for the full four!

The potential of 6 indestructible power for four mana is plenty enticing on its own—but Nylea has so much more to offer. In a deck full of gigantic monsters without evasion, trample is perfect. Her pump ability also makes combat a nightmare for your opponent: it's exceedingly hard to block well when your opponent has a Nylea and four lands untapped... especially if one of those lands is a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx! As Magic Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas might say, "That's a big game!"

While I want to stick with three, since Nylea is legendary and won't be leaving the board easily, she's still certainly one of the most fearsome cards in the deck. Let your opponents feel her wrath!

While pretty disparate in effects, I am grouping these all together because they fit a common goal of the deck: be long-game cards that take advantage of a lot of mana.

While I'm completely on board with cards like that, the problem with them in this deck is that they tend to be good when you're already winning. Couple that with the fact that devotion is already a snowbally mechanic—when you have high devotion, you tend to be ahead since that requires a lot of nonland permanents anyway—and what I actually want to play here are some cards that are baseline strong and can be good with more mana.

Fortunately, there's just the card in Theros. Welcome to the end of the world. It was all thanks to a hungry hydra...

The World Eater is a 5/5 for four mana, which is already enough to grab our attention. But its ability is quite brutal: it can snap off your opponents' creatures and grow larger in the process... and it all scales depending on how much mana you can put into it!

If you don't have a lot going on, Polukranos, World Eater is a 5/5 for four that can attack and grow larger. And if your devotion count is rolling and you have a Nykthos, then it can sometimes eat your opponent's entire board! It's just what this deck is looking for.

While Polukranos is legendary, the facts that your opponent needs to remove it quickly or lose and that Polukranos has an effect you can use even if you have an extra Polukranos in your hand makes me okay playing four. Not to mention, extras can even be handy in a pinch: you can play Polukranos, activate him, and, if necessary, play another one on a later turn. Thanks to the new legend rule, you can make the original one go away and keep the unmonstrified one ready to terrorize your opponent's creatures.

And speaking of gigantic hydras, to round out the deck, the last card I'd like to add is a pair of Kalonian Hydras. Besides just being a colossal 8/8 trampler on its first attack for a mere five mana, between Scavenging Ooze, Reverent Hunter, Experiment One, and Polukranos, there are plenty of counters in this deck to double. I don't want to play more than two so the deck's curve doesn't push too much higher, but it is certainly a high-impact card you're happy to slam on the table.

With all of those changes in mind, that brings the deck to:

Gavin Verhey's Big Game Hunter

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If you're looking to smash in the new Standard, this deck is exactly what you're looking for. With one of the most fearsomely sized curves out there, this deck puts the pressure on fast. And thanks to a variety of tricky cards like Nylea and Boon Satyr—plus cards like Polukranos that are just huge on their own—you even have reasonable Wrath protection.

If you wanted to move away from mono-green a little bit, something to consider is touching a little bit of red for Domri Rade. The deck is already all creatures, making Domri a great fit for this deck. If you wanted to focus more on the top end of this deck, another route you could go is playing Sylvan Caryatid and serve out big monsters even quicker—although that does make this deck a little less aggressive.

Domri Rade

Have fun attacking with huge creatures!

Honorable Mentions

This is just one of the many takes people sent in on devotion this week. Let's take a look at some of the others!

Ryan Schwenk's Mono-Red Devotion

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Joshua Bader's Return of the Cabal

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David Spindola's Hammer Red

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Kevin's White Weenie

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Sam Pate's Devotion to Smashy Smashy

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Jim Boulter's Manaburst Green

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Kyle's Assemble the Forge

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Brian Geddes's Mono-Black Control

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Devotion to the Future

Ah, the fresh smell of a new Standard. It feels good to dive into a fresh format! Let's continue exploring what the brand new Standard format has to offer for now.

Format: Post-Theros Standard
Restrictions: None!
Deadline: Wednesday, September 18, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time

Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)

YOURNAME's DECKNAME
Standard
20 Land
20 Land
4 Creature
4 Creature
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
4 Planeswalker

No crazy restrictions this week—just show me the coolest post-Theros Standard decks you can. There's a whole new format to explore!

If you have any thoughts on this article or deck, I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to post in the forums or send me a tweet, and I'll be sure to read it over.

I hope you all have a blast at the Theros Prerelease this weekend! (And can trade for all the cards you need for your new decks.) I'll be back next week with another take on Standard. Talk with you then!

Gavin

@GavinVerhey

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