Turn Three Please: Turbo Devoted Druid in Modern
- Thoralf Severin
Looking for a new Modern Deck? Toffel's got you covered with his new version of the Devoted Druid combo deck that got him a top 32 finish at GP Atlanta.
As promised, I'm following up with the article about the Modern deck I played at GP Atlanta to a Top 32 finish. Since I was playing in the Pro Tour, most of my testing time was designated to Standard and I didn't want to waste a lot of time to get to know the post-GRN Modern metagame.
I knew that some Guilds of Ravnica cards would change the format significantly and I wasn't even happy with my deck choice of Krark-Clan Ironworks before Guilds of Ravnica. So, I definitely wasn't confident afterwards. Assassin's Trophy gave other midrange decks extra main deck removal to the artifact combo and Creeping Chill gives Dredge a lot of speed.
These changes don't just affect the decks that claimed these cards, but also everything else as well. With Dredge being highly difficult to interact with, most Modern decks needed to adjust their plan against the removal-proof creatures Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam and that resulted in either cutting specific interaction for speed or cutting speed for general interaction. Both ways seemed pretty unfavorable for KCI.
After some deliberation, I was close to not even playing the GP (or basically playing the same KCI deck with little to no hope). But, fortunately for me, my very good friend and fellow Cardmarket team member Jasper Grimmer hit me with one of his genius deck choices. He was playing around with this deck for a while and after tuning it for weeks, he offered me this beauty.
|2Burrenton Forge-Tender||1Eidolon of Rhetoric||1Gideon, Ally of Zendikar|
|1Kataki, War's Wage||1Knight of Autumn||3Path to Exile|
|1Sin Collector||3Tireless Tracker||2Voice of Resurgence|
This deck, among many advantages, has one extremely huge advantage for last minute deck choices - you don't need to have much knowledge about the format. Since the plan is to kill our opponent as quickly as possible, the deck has nothing really fancy – it just does its thing. This is not like other Devoted Druid decks that have a valid midrange strategy. Besides some very random Shalai, Voice of Plenty interactions, the deck just doesn't have enough ways to even deal damage to bring a Midrange strategy to fruition. All the slots that other Devoted Druid decks use for more creatures are used for Eldritch Evolution and Postmortem Lunge instead and those are exactly the cards, that make the deck so explosive.
Basically, our only priority is to win as early as possible - which is turn 3. That means we need to untap on turn 3 with a Devoted Druid already in play, which only happens from playing it naturally or looking for it with a one-drop mana creature into Eldritch Evolution. Although it seems very risky, searching the Druid with the Evolution is almost always the right play. Again, we are looking to kill our opponent as quickly as possible and this should also affect our mulligan decisions.
Some hands do look promising for a long term plan, but this deck does not really have one. The longer we need, the more time our opponent gets to find game-ending interaction. One key rule, therefore, when deciding whether to Mulligan is: "Does my starting seven have access to Devoted Druid on turn two." If you answer that question with a no, you should probably mulligan. That includes neat looking hands with Noble Hierarch, Duskwatch Recruiter, and Shalai, Voice of Plenty. On the play it's usually fine to keep hands that kill on turn four, but only if they contain every combo piece.
But even with playing a Devoted Druid on turn two, there are plenty of games where it is going to be killed on sight - rightfully so. Since almost everybody knows that the deck can't win with a summoning sick druid, people are very careless when there is no chance for us to untap with a Druid in play. This is where the real magic happens: Postmortem Lunge.
I have killed quite a lot people with hasty druids and everybody needed to read that card. Nobody expected it. This card not only gives us the opportunity to kill them after they killed our druid, it also allows us to give our druid haste, when we have it in hand. By simply playing the druid and killing it off with his own ability, Postmortem Lunge can pick it right back up. Once the druid is in the graveyard, Postmortem Lunge is essentially free, since we get the two mana back, which means, that the druid is essentially free and that leaves plenty of room for an Eldritch Evolution or Chord of Calling to find the Vizier of Remedies.
Once we achieve the luxurious state of more mana than we could ever spend, all we need is either a Walking Ballista or a Shalai, Voice of Plenty, or Duskwatch Recruiter / Krallenhorde Howler to find them. That's all there is to it.
Since the deck already plays Vizier of Remedies, it only takes two slots to add a second combo for effectively infinite life with Kitchen Finks and Visceras Seer. This is also good enough against a lot of decks, but you should watch for the few decks that can beat you without dealing damage:
- Tron can easily deck us with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.
- Any blue control deck that has access to Jace, the Mind Sculptor doesn't really care about our life total.
- Any deck that is able to win via infect damage (like Hardened Scales, Classic Affinity or, you know, Infect).
- Any other infinite combo deck, like KCI.
Four may seem like a lot of decks, but this is Modern we're talking about. There are so many more decks that just lose to a trillion life, like Humans, Dredge, Spirits, Jund, Burn, Storm, Death Shadow, and Hollow One. You get the point. If your starting hand allows one of these combos, it's perfectly fine to keep it instead. Assembling those three cards also means, that we are able to look through our entire library through the scry ability of the Viscera Seer and cut at one specific point (since scry 1 does not allow the deck to be stacked freely) and that usually gives access to the other combo as well.
Pictures: Viscera Seer, Kitchen Finks
But, if we do have a copy of Duskwatch Recruiter in play, we are, in theory, able to freely stack our deck with infinite mana. That is because the recruiter itself can rearrange three cards at one time and, because of complicated math stuff, if the number of cards in our library is not divisible by three, we do see every possible subset of three cards. Doing this arbitrarily long will eventually end up in the deck order we desire. If the cards in our deck are divisible by three, we just use one activation of the Recruiter to make our deck not divisible by three, and thus, we can stack our deck.
Tips and Tricks
- While Shalai does get you infinite damage, it also costs one additional white mana that Druid can't provide by itself. The only way to kill with only green mana is through Walking Ballista. Sometimes, there is no way of getting to the Ballista, if we had to use it already or it was discarded. In these situations, you need to make sure you have the additional white mana to cast Shalai and creatures that can attack on the same turn, which, at the very least, is always true for Devoted Druid.
- Shalai is also decent at protecting our creatures and even our face. She is very effective against Thoughtseize, Conflagrate, Kessig Malcontents, Remorseful Cleric, Grapeshot, Liliana of the Veil, Codex Shredder, Ad Nauseum or generally just the whole burn deck.
- Since we really want our Devoted Druid in the graveyard at least once, it is usually better to kill it off with its own ability in response to a Path of Exile or Reflector Mage
- Quite a lot of people try to interact with our Druid on our turn because they want to stop the combo. That's why it's usually correct to play Eldritch Evolution first, since they need to react to this spell. There is no window to interact with the Druid once the Vizier of Remedies is on the battlefield, because this allows the druid to untap at will and not even a hundred removal spells will do something at that point. If they respond to the Evolution and try to kill the Druid, we can use Chord of Calling in response and then use the Evolution for the Duskwatch Recruiter.
- While Summoning Pact seems a little harsh on mana, it is great to get the first druid, Duskwatch Recruiter or the Kitchen Finks. With a one-drop creature, we can use the pact for a Druid on turn two and then either pay or use Chord of Calling in our upkeep for the Vizier and pay then, which leaves us with infinite mana for our main phase.
- Dryad Arbor seems inconspicuous, but it allows the fetchlands to fuel the Eldritch Evolution. There is no opportunity for our opponent to interact with the 1/1 dryad before we cast the Evolution and at that point it already did its job
- The Scavenging Ooze in the main deck is not super important, but it's a decent piece of interaction against some decks like burn or dredge or KCI and it can actually be a decent plan C. If they kill a lot of our creatures, the ooze might be the last one standing and finish the job. This slot could be something else, but since we do want the ooze in the sideboard anyway, we get one additional slot this way for almost zero cost.
- Since your rounds tend to be over within the first 20 minutes, I advise you to bring a decent amount of entertainment. This is a very good deck choice for smokers, people that like to take little walks outside, that need decent food breaks, or just like to socialize a lot during the matches. Seriously, you will have a lot of time in between rounds.
Sideboarding is also pretty easy. Every card basically tells you when it's needed.
- Burrenton Forge-Tender: It comes in against decks with red removal like Burn, Jeskai, Titan Shift or Storm
- Eidolon of Rhetoric: It comes in against decks that need a lot of spells, like KCI or Storm
- Kataki, War's Wage: It comes in against affinity, Hardened Scales, KCI, and Tron
- Knight of Autumn: Pretty much the same, plus also for burn and random enchantments
- Path to Exile: against creature decks that want to race like Dredge, Humans, and Spirits
- Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Sin Collector, Tireless Tracker, and Voice of Resurgence: A grindy plan against removal heavy sideboard decks
The same goes for taking cards out.
- Against interaction heavy decks, it's good to cut the Evolutions, Pacts, and Chords. Those cards need to be replaced by the value plan, since we can't allow our deck to fail at comboing and producing decent value.
- Against decks that can win through infinite life, we always take out the second combo, meaning Kitchen Finks and Viscera Seer.
- Against decks that want to race us with a combo or very little interaction, cutting one Shalai is good.
- And finally, we can always cut the Scavenging Ooze if the graveyard ability is not relevant enough.
Honestly, there's really not much to this deck. It is not that complicated and does not have many difficult loops for you to remember. It constantly keeps your opponent guessing if they need to keep up one or even two removal spells. The best advice is usually when in doubt to just go for the combo. It is more often correct than not.
If you do want to play this deck at a Unified Modern GP, it does steal some important cards away from some other decks in other slots. Walking Ballista, Horizon Canopy and Path to Exile might a deal breaker, but Walking Ballista can be replaced by Rhonas the Indomitable and that makes almost no difference. Cutting a Horizon Canopy does not really hurt, but the deck definitely needs the Path to Exiles.
As always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.