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Budget Magic: $94 (24 tix) Wizard Devotion (Modern)


Fakaalofa atu, Budget Magic lovers, and happy holidays! This week, we're heading to Modern for a deck that mashes together a sweet mechanic with one of my favorite tribes. The mechanic is devotion, and the tribe is Wizards, which means we're playing a deck I'm calling Mono-Blue Wizard Devotion. The basic idea of the deck is pretty simple: we play a ton of creatures with lots of blue mana symbols to up our devotion to blue, which allows us to add oodles of mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and supports our finishers Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea. It just so happens that many of the best creatures for adding blue mana symbols are Wizards, which allows us to access a couple of powerful tribal synergies as well. The end result is a deck that can go long by disrupting the opponent with Wizards while also picking up some free wins by making tons of Elemental tokens with Master of Waves thanks to our devotion plan. Can the mashup of Wizards and blue devotion compete in Modern? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Wizard Devotion (Deck Tech)

Wizard Devotion vs. UW Control (Match 1)

Wizard Devotion vs. Martyr Proc (Match 2)

Wizard Devotion vs. Merfolk (Match 3)

Wizard Devotion vs. GR Ponza (Match 4)

Wizard Devotion vs. Death's Shadow (Match 5)

The Deck

Wizard Devotion is basically a Mono-Blue Devotion deck that also takes advantage of a handful of Wizard synergies. How the deck plays mostly depends on the hand and the matchup. We can be the aggro deck in a matchup, curving out from one mana to four mana and then closing out the game with a huge Master of Waves, or we can be the control deck in a matchup, using our Wizards to disrupt our opponent and Voidmage Prodigy to counter all of our opponent's relevant spells before eventually closing out the game with Thassa, God of the Sea or Cyclonic Rift bouncing our opponent's board. Probably the easiest way to look at the deck is to break it down by devotion cards, Wizards, finishers, and utility cards. Let's start with the cards that are in the deck mostly to fuel our devotion to blue.

Devotion Enablers

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Judge's Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer are essentially the same card in our deck, and both do three very important things. First, they give us an evasive one-mana play that allows us to start chipping in for damage while also adding blue mana symbols to the battlefield to up our devotion. While it might not seem like much, the damage adds up over the course of several turns and is often important. The second thing that Judge's Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer do is give us some game against fast combo decks by giving us a spells-only Force Spike on a stick. At worst, having a Judge's Familiar or Mausoleum Wanderer makes our opponent play off-curve, which buys us a turn or two against decks like Storm or Ad Nauseam, while at best, we can stack up two or three copies of Judge's Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer on the battlefield and lock our opponent out of playing spells altogether. Third, Judge's Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer give us some protection against sweepers, making it difficult for our opponent to wrath away our creatures with Anger of the Gods, Damnation, and the like. All around, Judge's Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer are great in our deck, even though they don't really support our Wizard synergies.

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Nightveil Specter is mostly in our deck because it offers three blue mana symbols for just three mana, which makes it a great way to up our devotion to blue while also curving perfectly into Master of Waves to make a ton of Elemental tokens. Getting in for two in the air is nice, and every once in a while, Nightveil Specter generates some card advantage, but it happens less often than you'd think, since we actually need the right color(s) of mana to cast the cards we exile from our opponent's deck, which means we are usually hoping to exile and play lands first and then exile some meaningful spells. 

Wizards

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Voidmage Prodigy is our primary Wizard payoff, and while it probably looks a bit strange, it's actually amazing in our deck. On level one, we can use it like an expensive counterspell from the battlefield, sacrificing itself to pay the "pay UU, sac a Wizard" Counterspell cost, but Voidmage Prodigy is even scarier when we have a bunch of other Wizards on the battlefield. Thanks to the ability to make tons of mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and the tons of Wizards we have in our deck, by the time we reach the late game, Voidmage Prodigy can occasionally lock our opponent out of playing Magic altogether, since we can just keep playing and sacrificing Wizards to counter whatever they play while also beating down with our evasive creatures to close out the game. Of course, Voidmage Prodigy also works well with our devotion plan, putting two blue mana symbols onto the battlefield. Plus, many of the other Wizards in our deck do something when they enter the battlefield, which means we don't really mind sacrificing them to Voidmage Prodigy, since they have already served their purpose.

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Take, for example, Harbinger of the Tides and Venser, Shaper Savant. The main power of both of these creatures is that they can bounce something when they enter the battlefield. For Harbinger of the Tides, this is a tapped creature, often at instant speed, since Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx gives us enough mana to pay the extra two mana to flash it in, while for Venser, Shaper Savant, this can mean anything, including spells on the stack. Combined, these creatures give us a bunch of removal spells that also help fuel our devotion by adding multiple blue mana symbols to the battlefield. Plus, since most of the value of Harbinger of the Tides and Venser, Shaper Savant comes from their enters-the-battlefield triggers, we can turn them into Counterspells once they are on the battlefield, with the help of Voidmage Prodigy

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Azorius Guildmage and Dimir Guildmage are just one-ofs, but both offer a lot of value in the right situation while also meeting the criteria for being in our deck by being Wizards and putting multiple blue mana symbols on the battlefield. Dimir Guildmage is pretty straightforward. Even though we don't have any black mana to make our opponent discard, we can use it to draw a couple of extra cards each turn in the late game with the mana we make from Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which keeps us moving through our deck to find more Wizards and eventually our finishers. Meanwhile, Azorius Guildmage is very matchup dependent. In some matchups, the Stifle ability does nothing, while in others, it is close to game winning, keeping our opponent from cracking fetch lands or activating planeswalkers. It's also worth mentioning that both of these cards have value as mana sinks. One of the strange aspects of our Wizard Devotion deck is that we aren't really trying to ramp into anything huge, instead using Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to cast multiple Wizards on the same turn or activate abilities several times. Both Azorius Guildmage and Dimir Guildmage help make sure we always have something to spend our Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx mana on if we don't have anything better to do.

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Wistful Selkie is basically the perfect Wizard for our deck for two main reasons. First, it adds three mana symbols to the battlefield, so it helps power up our devotion finishers Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea. Second, it gives us another Wizard that generates value when it enters the battlefield (by drawing us a card), which makes it a great sacrificing option for Voidmage Prodigy. While not all that powerful as a standalone threat, the combination of multiple synergies makes Wistful Selkie the perfect three-drop for our deck.

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Meloku the Clouded Mirror is just a one-of, but she can do some really powerful things. First, while picking up all of our lands is painful, we can spend all of our mana (and lands) to make a bunch of 1/1 fliers to close out the game. Even better, we can do this on our opponent's end step, which makes it hard for our opponent to ruin our plans with sweepers and other removal. Second, Meloku the Clouded Mirror has some sneaky synergy with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, since we can tap Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx for a bunch of mana and then use Meloku the Clouded Mirror to pick up and then replay Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to add even more mana, essentially doubling up our devotion mana! Plus, while Meloku the Clouded Mirror isn't a super-fast clock on her own, she is pretty hard to kill thanks to being five mana (to dodge Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay) and also having four toughness (to dodge Lightning Bolt), which means our opponent pretty much needs Path to Exile or a rare hard-removal spell like Terminate to get Meloku the Clouded Mirror off the battlefield.

Finishers

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While we can occasionally win games just by beating down with our random creatures, we have a couple of dedicated finishers as well. Master of Waves is the most powerful card in our entire deck and can do some incredibly explosive things. If you think of a typical curve in Wizard Devotion, we play a one-drop on Turn 1, a double-blue two-drop on Turn 2, and a triple-blue three-drop on Turn 3, which means if we play a Master of Waves on Turn 4, our devotion will be seven, giving us a massive 16 power split across eight bodies for just four mana. Of course, if our opponent can kill our Master of Waves, we lose all of our Elementals too, but having protection from red limits the number of removal spells that can actually kill Master of Waves. More importantly, if our opponent can't kill Master of Waves immediately, we are likely to be able to kill our opponent as soon as we untap by beating down with a huge board full of creatures.

Meanwhile, Thassa, God of the Sea is just a casual 5/5 indestructible for three mana, since we have so many blue mana symbols in our deck, which is already very strong in a format where Fatal Push is one of the primary removal spells. Plus, Thassa, God of the Sea does much more than just be a random 5/5. Scrying 1 every turn might not sound like much, but it actually really helps smooth out our draws by finding us more lands when we need them and pushing lands to the bottom of our deck when we need action. More importantly, the ability to make creatures unblockable is one of our best mana sinks and best ways to close out the game. With the help of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx making a bunch of mana, we can often just make our entire board unblockable and kill our opponent in just one or two attacks after we get Thassa, God of the Sea on the battlefield!

Utility Cards

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While most of our deck is creatures to fuel devotion and our Wizard synergies, a couple of spells sneak in as well. Mana Leak just gives us another counter to help keep us alive against unfair decks and stabilize in the early game while we get our Voidmage Prodigy lock online. As for Cyclonic Rift, it gives us some early-game bounce while also often just winning us the game later on once we can cast it with overload thanks to Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, to bounce all of our opponent's stuff and get in a huge attack or two while our opponent doesn't have any defense.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we played five matches and won three, which is a fairly reasonable record for a budget deck. Of our losses, one came to Merfolk, which feels like an unwinnable matchup. Having endless lords that give islandwalk means our opponent's stuff is pretty much always unblockable, making it really hard to win the race. Our other loss was to Death's Shadow, and while Death's Shadow is always a tough matchup due to the oodles of disruption the deck presents, in game three, we flooded out to the extreme (10 lands in 14 draws) in a game that otherwise felt winnable. 

As far as changes I'd made to the budget build of the deck now that we've played some matches, I'm pretty happy with the main deck. Azorius Guildmage was a surprise all-star in some matchups, so finding room for another copy or two might be worthwhile. Otherwise, we probably should have some sort of graveyard disruption in the sideboard, so toss in some Relic of Progenituses or Tormod's Crypts, likely over the Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir (which is strong against Control, but our deck is already strong against control and doesn't really need the extra help) and maybe a counterspell or two.

In sum, Wizard Devotion felt surprisingly competitive. It has a strong curve, some sneaky disruption, and great finishers, which gives the deck enough power and flexibility to compete in a lot of different matchups. If you like devotion or the Wizards tribe, I think the deck is certainly competitive enough to bring to an FNM, and perhaps with more tuning, it could compete at an even higher level.

The biggest change to the ultra-budget list of Wizard Devotion is that we lose Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. As weird as it sounds, the land actually isn't all that necessary for the deck, even though we are built around devotion. While having extra mana for free is always nice by allowing us to activate a bunch of abilities or play multiple creatures in the same turn, Mono-Blue Devotion isn't really like Mono-Green Devotion, where our primary plan is to make as much mana as possible with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Instead, we are looking to curve out—Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is just a bonus. Cutting Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx also allows us to cut Cyclonic Rift, since it's unlikely we ever get to seven mana without Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. We also trim back on a Thassa, God of the Sea, which is painful but needed, since the God is the only other expensive card in the deck. Otherwise, we add in another Azorius Guildmage and an additional Venser, Shaper Savant, change a couple of small things in the sideboard (mostly to add graveyard hate), and we're good to go! This build of the deck should play pretty much like the one in the videos but loses a bit of explosiveness thanks to the loss of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, although it should still be fairly competitive. 

The main changes to the non-budget build of Wizard Devotion come in the sideboard, where we get a ton of powerful options, including Relic of Progenitus and Surgical Extraction for graveyards, Wurmcoil Engine for life gain, and Vendilion Clique for hand disruption. Speaking of Vendilion Clique, it's the one Wizard that I really wanted to put in the deck but couldn't because of the budget, so we get a couple of main-deck copies as well, replacing the two Mana Leaks. We also get an additional copy of Cyclonic Rift as another devotion payoff and some Spreading Seas, which help against Tron while also adding devotion. Otherwise, there really isn't too much to bring Wizards Devotion from the world of budget decks to the non-budget world. Overall, the deck will play exactly like the one in the videos, just with a touch more power and more game in a wide range of matchups, thanks to the sideboard improvements.

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. Happy holidays!


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