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Budget Magic: $50 Underworld Abyss Black Devotion (Standard)


Hyvää päivääBudget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading back to post-ban Standard to take advantage of another extremely powerful card that simply couldn't see play in a world of Teferi, Time Ravelers and Wilderness Reclamation: Nyx Lotus! Today's deck—Underworld Abyss Black Devotion—is partly a midrange mono-black creature deck and partly a Splinter Twin–esque combo deck looking to win the game by playing Underworld Dreams into Peer into the Abyss to kill our opponent in the kindest way possible: with card draw. Not only is the deck sweet, but it's also completely rotation proof, so if you end up building it on Arena or in paper, you'll be able to use it not just for the next month until rotation hits with Zendikar Rising's release but also for a whole year after rotation! Oh yeah, and the deck is ultra-budget in paper, only costing $54! How good is the combo of Underworld Dreams and Peer into the Abyss in Standard? How broken is Nyx Lotus when Teferi isn't around to bounce it? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Underworld Abyss Black Devotion

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The Deck

Underworld Abyss Black Devotion is a midrange combo deck. We can win like a typical Mono-Black Devotion deck by adding a bunch of black mana symbols to the battlefield and then attacking with random creatures and draining the opponent out of the game with Gray Merchant of Asphodel. But our main plan is the two-card combo of Peer into the Abyss and Underworld Dreams, which should win the game in almost any situation if we target our opponent with the Peer into the Abyss, with a combination of Peer into the Abyss draining half of our opponent's life total and Underworld Dreams pinging our opponent for the rest as they draw half of their deck!

The Combo

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The main plan is to kill our opponent with the combo of Underworld Dreams and Peer into the Abyss, which, thanks to a combination of life loss from Peer into the Abyss and pings from Underworld Dreams, is essentially the Splinter Twin of Standard: a two-card combo that wins the game on the spot against almost any deck in almost any situation. The good news about our combo is that Peer into the Abyss is actually a pretty great card-draw spell if we don't have an Underworld Dreams, drawing us half of our deck and likely finding us enough action to close out the game the next turn. While losing half of our life total can be painful, thanks to cards like Gray Merchant of Asphodel, we have ways to gain back the life if we need to. The bad news is that outside of the combo, Underworld Dreams is fairly underpowered in most matchups (although it does add three black mana symbols to the battlefield to power up Nyx Lotus and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which is a nice bonus). That said, it does occasionally and hilariously beat control decks now that Teferi, Time Raveler isn't around, by slowing pinging them out of the game as they cast their card-draw spells.

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While Nyx Lotus isn't technically necessary to pull off our combo, I mostly think of it as another combo piece because it greatly speeds up the combo and gives us a legitimate nut draw. If we cast Underworld Dreams on Turn 3 and Nyx Lotus on Turn 4, then even without any additional black mana symbols, we'll have enough mana to cast Peer into the Abyss on Turn 5, target our opponent, and win the game. Outside of the combo, the main value of Nyx Lotus is that it allows us to play multiple spells in a turn by making a lot of our creatures free. A good example is Deathless Knight. With Nyx Lotus on the battlefield, we can spend four mana to cast Deathless Knight, but since Deathless Knight adds four black mana symbols to the battlefield, we immediately get that mana back with the help of Nyx Lotus. This allows us to quickly flood the board with black mana symbols and set up a huge Gray Merchant of Asphodel to win the game.

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Wishclaw Talisman is in our deck to find our combo pieces while also adding a black mana symbol to the battlefield, although we do occasionally find cards like Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Just be warned that activating Wishclaw Talisman before we are ready to win the game is usually a bad idea since we'll have to give it to our opponent and let them tutor as well. Instead, it's usually best to let it sit on the battlefield until we draw half of our combo and then use Wishclaw Talisman to find the other half and win the game immediately. 

The Creatures

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Gray Merchant of Asphodel is our backup win condition. Thanks to all of the black mana symbols in our deck, it often drains for five or even 10 when it enters the battlefield, which, combined with some other damage (or another copy of Gray Merchant of Asphodel), is usually enough to win the game. The other important role of Gray Merchant of Asphodel is that it gives us another payoff for playing a bunch of black mana symbols in our deck. With Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Nyx Lotus, we're likely to have at least one devotion card in most games.

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Deathless Knight, Ayara, First of Locthwain, and Tymaret, Chosen from Death are our free creatures. As we talked about a minute ago, if we have a Nyx Lotus on the battlefield, we can use our lands to cast any of these cards and immediately get that mana back thanks to the additional black mana symbols powering up Nyx Lotus. The cards also work really well together, with Ayara, First of Locthwain and Tymaret, Chosen from Death gaining us life, which allows us to return Deathless Knight from our graveyard to our hand. 

Apart from devotion shenanigans, Deathless Knight is a fairly effective surprise attacker thanks to haste. Ayara, First of Locthwain occasionally generates extra value by drawing us some cards (although we aren't really built around her sacrifice ability, so we mostly use it in response to one of our creatures being targeted by removal or after chump blocking). Meanwhile, Tymaret, Chosen from Death gives us some main-deck graveyard hate, which is especially important in a format where Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is one of the most played cards.

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Kitesail Freebooter and Murderous Rider are both essentially utility spells—with Kitesail Freebooter being a Duress and Murderous Rider being a Hero's Downfall—that also add black mana symbols to the battlefield to power up Nyx Lotus and Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Removal

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Rounding out our non-land main-deck cards are a couple of removal spells. Grasp of Darkness has become my go-to early-game removal spell for heavy black decks, since every time I play Heartless Act, I end up disappointed by the number of important threats it can't kill and the number of random creatures that end up with +1/+1 counters. While Grasp of Darkness loses some late-game utility and doesn't kill all of the biggest threats in the format, it does deal with everything in the first few turns of the game. Meanwhile, Erebos's Intervention is a removal spell that gives us another payoff for all of the mana we make with Nyx Lotus. One of the awkward aspects of Nyx Lotus in our deck is that, apart from Peer into the Abyss, we don't have any expensive spells, which means we occasionally have more mana than we can use. Thanks to Erebos's Intervention if we have a bunch of mana with no purpose, we can at least gain a bunch of life while also killing our opponent's beat threat. The graveyard-hate mode is also occasionally helpful against Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath.

The Mana

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There isn't much to say about the mana of Underworld Abyss Black Devotion other than to not cut Castle Locthwain. Card advantage is essential to mono-black devotion decks, and outside of drawing half of our deck with Peer into the Abyss, Castle Locthwain is our main way to draw extra cards. While it might be tempting to try to save a few rare wildcards by not playing the utility land, this is a bad idea. Castle Locthwain is an important aspect of the deck's success. 

Playing the Deck

First off, the build of Underworld Abyss Black Devotion we played today was designed to be completely rotation proof. While I didn't set out to build a post-rotation deck, after building the deck, I realized I wouldn't have to change much to make it survive rotation. The main downgrade is Kitesail Freebooter over Yarok's Fenlurker. While both are good options, in our deck, Yarok's Fenlurker is likely a little bit better thanks to the extra black mana symbol, so feel free to play it over Kitesail Freebooter until rotation hits in a month. 

As I mentioned early, don't forget that Peer into the Abyss can be a very powerful card-draw spell if we target ourselves. Often, it's best to spend the first copy of Peer into the Abyss to refill our hand, trusting that we'll find an Underworld Dreams when we draw half of our deck, and then Peer into the Abyss can combo-kill our opponent the following turn. 

Underworld Dreams is usually bad outside of the combo, but there are some control matchups where it essentially wins the game all by itself now that Teferi, Time Raveler isn't around to bounce it. As such, the value of Underworld Dreams varies greatly based on the matchup. Make sure to think about how good is it against your opponent's deck before deciding how much effort to put into resolving it early in the game. While we eventually do want a copy for the combo, one damage a turn doesn't do much against aggro or midrange decks, so playing other stuff while we set up the combo is usually better in these matchups if we have the option.

Don't be afraid to trade off Deathless Knight aggressively. We have a surprising amount of incidental lifegain, so it will return to our hand sooner or later, making it a good source of strange card advantage.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished 3-2 with Underworld Abyss Black Devotion, losing to Mardu Winota in a really close match (it felt like whoever was on the play had a big advantage) and to Sultai Ramp, which is pretty impressive, considering we were playing with the handicap of being a rotation-proof deck while our opponents were casting cards like Narset, Parter of Veils and Nissa, Who Shakes the World, which will be banished from the format next month. 

In general, Underworld Abyss Black Devotion felt like a reasonably competitive option and will likely get even better after rotation, when some of the most powerful (and hardest for our deck to beat) cards will leave the format. Mono-Black Devotion has a decent track record in Standard, and having access to an instant-win two-card combo adds a really powerful dynamic to the deck that past builds didn't have. If you're looking for something fun and at least semi-competitive to play in Standard, not just for the next few weeks until rotation hits but for the next year, Underworld Abyss Black Devotion seems like a pretty solid option!

Ultra-Budget Underworld Abyss Black Devotion

In paper, the build we played for the video is already in the ultra-budget price range at just $55, so let's focus on Arena. How can you get the 21-rare-wildcard cost of the deck down a bit more? The easiest rares to drop are Wishclaw Talisman and Erebos's Intervention, which could be replaced with additional removal like more copies of Grasp of Darkness or a couple of Heartless Acts. The same is true of Eat to Extinction in the sideboard. While it is a solid removal spell since it exiles Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and kills planeswalkers, it isn't 100% necessary. Beyond this, it's really tough to bring down the deck's cost any more. Nyx Lotus and Peer into the Abyss are important parts of our combo, Castle Locthwain is an essential card-draw engine, Murderous Rider is our best removal spell, and Ayara, First of Locthwain is just a one-of anyway. Still, changing up the removal can get the cost of the deck down near 15 rare wildcards, even if you don't have any of the cards in your collection already. This is a pretty solid deal for a deck that survives rotation, especially considering that both Castle Locthwain and Murderous Rider go in a lot of different decks, so you'll probably want them in your collection regardless.

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Sticking to the deck's rotation-proof theme, there really isn't a ton to change in the non-budget version of Underworld Abyss Black Devotion, although this is subject to change after we see what new black cards we get in Zendikar Rising. Meanwhile, if you don't care about being rotation proof, Liliana, Dreadhorde General is a very powerful planeswalker for the deck, which probably deserves a couple of slots in the main deck and maybe another slot or two in the sideboard. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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