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Budget Magic: $98 (20 tix) Mono-Red Devotion (Pioneer, Magic Online)


Halchal ki chho, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Devotion is a powerful mechanic, but so far in Pioneer, black, green, and blue devotion decks have seen the most play. As such, we're going to check out one of the lesser-played devotion colors today: Mono-Red Devotion. While it doesn't get as much hype, Fanatic of Mogis gives us a red version of Gray Merchant of Asphodel that can potentially close out the game with a huge chunk of enters-the-battlefield damage, while powerful three-drops like Goblin Chainwhirler and Boros Reckoner gives s good creatures that also help to flood the board with red mana symbols! Can Mono-Red join black, green, and blue as a competitive devotion deck on a $100 budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Mono-Red Devotion (Pioneer)

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The Deck

Mono-Red Devotion is basically a mono-red midrange deck that plays a ton of cards with multiple red mana symbols to enable the devotion mechanic and power up cards like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Fanatic of Mogis. Unlike Mono-Red Aggro, which is all about killing the opponent as quickly as possible, Mono-Red Devotion is more than happy to play the long game and eventually win with a huge burst of damage from Fanatic of Mogis or by generating an overwhelming board state, with the help of the absurd amount of mana Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can produce.

The Payoffs

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Some of the cards in our deck looks a bit strange because one of the deck's goals is to put as many red mana symbols onto the battlefield as possible. Why are we willing to (somewhat) warp our deck to up our devotion count? The answer is two very strong payoffs. First, we have Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which often taps for six or more mana as early as Turn 4 and can easily end up making 10 or more mana a couple of turns later. While we don't have one specific card we're trying to cast with all of our extra mana, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx allows us to empty our hand at lightning speed and often build a board big enough to overwhelm our opponent almost out of the blue. 

Along with Nykthos, we have Fanatic of Mogis, which is basically the red version of Gray Merchant of Asphodel. While it doesn't offer the lifegain of its black cousin, it makes up for this by being one mana cheaper and having four power, which makes it a much more meaningful attacker. Thanks to a bunch of double-red two-drops and triple-red three-drops, Fanatic of Mogis can usually hit our opponent for seven if it comes into play on Turn 4, which is reasonable enough on its own. But later in the game, it's very possible that we can deal 15 or even 20 damage to our opponent with Fanatic of Mogis's enters-the-battlefield trigger. Two copies are usually enough to kill our opponent with direct damage, and with some luck (and some combat damage), one is sometimes enough to do the trick.

Creatures

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To make Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Fanatic of Mogis work, we need as many red mana symbols on the battlefield as possible. We start off our red-mana-symbol curve with Fanatical Firebrand, which is a way to snipe creatures like Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves on Turn 1 while also adding a red mana symbol to the battlefield. 

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In the two-drop slot are two double-red creatures in Ember Hauler and Wily Goblin. Ember Hauler is basically a bad version of Shock that adds a Grizzly Bears with two red mana symbols to the battlefield when we don't need to use it to kill a creature. In the early game, Ember Hauler can chip in for some damage, and then later in the game, it combines with Fanatic of Mogis (and to a lesser extent, Fanatical Firebrand) to give us a ton of creature-based reach to finish our opponent with direct damage. Meanwhile, Wily Goblin helps ramp us into our powerful four-, five-, and six-mana plays thanks to the Treasure it makes when it enters the battlefield, while helping to keep our devotion count as high as possible with its two red mana symbols.

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The three-drop slot might be the most powerful in our deck, with two triple-red creatures that are incredibly powerful, especially in creature-based matchups. Goblin Chainwhirler offers an on-curve 3/3 first striking body with an enters-the-battlefield trigger that can be devastating against aggressive decks. Even just killing a single copy of Llanowar Elves is fine value, and occasionally, we run into decks playing a lot of small creatures where Goblin Chainwhirler almost ends up a three-mana, one-sided wrath that leaves behind a body. While Goblin Chainwhirler is at its best against small creatures, Boros Reckoner is great against big creatures, which have a hard time attacking into it (or blocking it) thanks to the damage it can generate. Against smaller creatures, Boros Reckoner can sometimes even end up being a two-for-one as we can kill one creature in combat and another with Boros Reckoner's ability to redirect damage. Together, our three-drops make a very intimidating wall of defense against most creature decks while also offering a ton of red mana symbols to power up Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Fanatic of Mogis

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At the top end of our creature curve are one Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and a full playset of Glorybringer. While Glorybringer doesn't do anything super special with our devotion plan, it makes up for this by being one of the best midrange-y red threats in the Pioneer format, coming down to deal hasty damage while hopefully killing a creature along the way, thanks to its exert ability. Meanwhile, Torbran is surprisingly solid in our deck, to the point where I almost wish I had played two or three copies. Apart from adding three red mana symbols to the battlefield, Torbran's ability to add two extra damage to our red sources means that Fanatical Firebrand becomes a Lightning Bolt, Ember Hauler hits for four damage rather than two, and Chandra, Pyromaster's +1 gives us a repeatable Searing Blaze. Combine this with what is essentially a 4/4 body, since Torbran, Thane of Red Fell's ability impacts itself as well, and the Dwarf Noble is perfect for what our deck is trying to accomplish. 

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For card advantage, we have two different Chandras. Chandra, Pyromaster does a lot of what Chandra, Torch of Defiance does but at a fraction of the price. The main reason she is in our deck is for the zero ability, which basically draws us an extra card each turn and is even better than Chandra, Torch of Defiance in some ways, since it allows us to play the lands that we happen to exile. While it might not look like much, Chandra, Pyromaster's +1 is good at dealing with small threats and is absurd if we happen to have Torbran, Thane of Red Fell on the battlefield. 

At the top end of our curve is Chandra, Flamecaller, which also has a 0 ability that draws us extra cards to help refill our hand and find cards like Fanatic of Mogis to close out the game. While drawing cards is great, if we get tired of churning through our deck, Chandra, Flamecaller's +1 of making two hasty 3/1 tokens for a turn is a solid backup plan for closing out the game, often killing our opponent in just a couple of attacks. In the worst case, Chandra, Flamecaller can be a weird sort of Flame Wave, coming down to sweep away the board with her X if we happen to fall behind, hopefully buying us enough time to draw another threat or two and steal the win.

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While most of our removal is attached to creatures or planeswalkers that add red mana symbols to the battlefield to increase our devotion, Mizzium Mortars is too powerful to pass up, even though it doesn't directly support our devotion plan. In the early game, Mizzium Mortars gives us a Lava Coil–esque removal spell to deal with one of our opponent's threats, and then later in the game, it turns into a one-sided Wrath of God against all but the biggest creatures in the format. Overloading Mizzium Mortars is especially powerful in our deck since we generally have a board full of creatures. Clearing away our opponent's blockers often means we can get in an alpha attack and kill our opponent with one or two big attacks!

Wrap-Up

In general, Mono-Red Devotion felt solid. We played five matches and ended up winning four, with our only loss coming to Mono-Red Aggro in an extremely close three-game match, where we got out–top decked (with the opponent getting help from Light Up the Stage) in the end. Otherwise, we took down Mono-Blue Devotion (through Master of Waves, somehow), Vampires, GB Seasons Past, and Hardened Scales. 

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, as I mentioned a moment ago, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell was great almost every time we drew it (which wasn't too often since it's currently a one-of). Finding room for another copy or two seems like a good idea. Moving one Chandra, Pyromaster to the sideboard to make room seems like a good starting point. Otherwise, Fanatical Firebrand was pretty middling. While it is good in some matchups, it's fairly lackluster in others, to the point where we sideboarded it out. In less budget builds, Bonecrusher Giant could be a good replacement—even when it's bad, it's a 4/3 creature. 

All in all, Mono-Red Devotion felt like a good budget option for the format. Our curve and creatures are mostly solid, and the combination of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Fanatic of Mogis leads to some super explosive turns that are difficult for most decks to stop. If you like Gray Merchant of Asphodel but would rather play red than black, or if you're a mono-red fan but are tired of its normal all-in aggro / burn focus, give Mono-Red Devotion a shot!

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There's good news and bad news when it comes to making an ultra-budget version of Mono-Red Devotion. The bad news is that the only possible way to get the deck down near $50 is to cut Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx since the three copies we played in the budget build were $60 of the deck's $98 price tag. This means that the crazy, explosive, dump-our-hand-out-of-nowhere turns will no longer be possible. The good news is that the deck still looks functional with Mountains replacing Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. While it will lack some explosiveness, it still has a solid curve, strong creatures, and the immense damage potential of Fanatic of Mogis. Fingers crossed that Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx gets reprinted in Theros: Beyond Death. It's the only card that's keeping Mono-Red Devotion from being extremely cheap and extremely good in ultra-budget form.

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Our non-budget build doesn't get any huge upgrades but does get some improvements around the edges. Bonecrusher Giant replaces Fanatical Firebrand; Chandra, Torch of Defiance replaces Chandra, Pyromaster; and we get Ramunap Ruins, Castle Embereth, and the fourth Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in the mana base. Otherwise, Chandra, Awakened Inferno replaces Banefire in the sideboard as our anti-counterspell finisher, along with Rekindling Phoenix for grindy matchups and to block against decks with lots of fliers. While these changes do represent an upgrade, they are not a massive one. If you have copies of these cards floating around in your collection, I'd run them, but I wouldn't run out and buy them just to play the deck (apart from maybe the fourth Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx)—the deck is solid enough in budget form.

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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