One of the more popular Theros residents, Gray Merchant of Asphodel was always a card with a high deck-building cost, yet one that offers a great rewards. Sure, at first glance, you're just creating a Standard monocolored deck that doesn't look too flashy. However, if you do it right, you're getting a consistent midrange monster with an awesome mana curve and a very powerful win condition.
Fortunately, each set, including Forgotten Realms, has a strong black card or two in store for us. This means that, just ahead of a Standard rotation, the deck should have reached its peak power level now. In any case, Magic Online mastermind Mazuku94's work is proof of power, having earned both Top 16 and Top 8 finishes at recent Standard Challenges.
The biggest news, monoblack finally got a reasonably costed planeswalker, Lolth, Spider Queen, who plays to the board. She works well with the deck's sacrifice aspect and also serves to diversify the threat base. Having something stick around after mass creature removal is quite a big deal for a strategy focused on devotion.
Another great addition is Shambling Ghast, which is already making waves in Standard for a reason. It's the perfect turn one play and can take down pesky attackers like, say, Robber of the Rich all by itself. If you don't need it for combat, though, the deck has twelve ways to crack it for its Treasure, for example Woe Strider, that all allow the Ghast to ramp into Lolth on turn four.
The best sacrifice outlet always was and still is Ayara, First of Locthwain of course. This card does it all: drains a bit, massively boosts your devotion, and serves as a veritable draw engine. In fact, this deck is full of draw engines. In addition to Ayara and Lolth, you got Erebos, Bleak-Hearted and a full set of Castle Locthwain too. To that end, both Ayara and Erebos are also happy to feed on Serrated Scorpion or to slaughter the occasional Spider token. (Note that Ayara cannot sacrifice Goat tokens.)
The whole machine kicks into overdrive when Nightmare Shepherd joins the party and when you can make full use of Fiend Artisan's ability later on. Search for "Gary" and/or sacrifice it so that it returns as a token copy (including mana cost!) and you'll have drained your opponent to death in no time.
All in all, I'm very impressed with this build because it has so many synergies. I probably didn't even get to cover them all. It's fascinating how much more powerful the deck is now than it was at the time of Theros Beyond Death. Perhaps it will finally get some long overdue recognition.
|Mazuku94's Monoblack Devotion, 6th at Standard Challenge|
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