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Cavalier of Thorns (M20) Art by Jehan Choo

Explorer Mono Green Devotion Deck Guide: The Terror of Pioneer Is Here

Nykthos is finally in Explorer, and Skura wasted no time porting one of Pioneer's most feared decks into Explorer! Find out the best build for Mono Green Devotion and the best tips to approaching the most popular matchups in Explorer!

With Explorer Anthology 2, multiple decks get new toys and come closer to their Pioneer counterparts. The deck that I believe got the biggest boost is Mono Green Devotion which now has Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx! Earlier this year, I posted a guide on Mono Green Ramp, but it is completely different from this build here. Notably, at this point, the only cards that differ between the two formats are Oath of Nissa and The Chain Veil, everything else overlaps.

This deck is a linear, combo-esque ramp deck that cares about the green colour pips in order to make copious amounts of mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. The creatures in question are also very strong in their own right, and just attacking the opponent to death may prove viable in some games. It’s the best deck in Pioneer and it’s certainly a front-runner to become tier 1 thanks to Nykthos coming to Arena.

Green Devotion
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $435.37
best of 3
4 mythic
29 rare
8 uncommon
19 common
Creatures (20)
Llanowar Elves
Elvish Mystic
Sorceries (4)
Enchantments (4)
Lands (22)
60 Cards
15 Cards

Deck Tech

First, let’s look at the ramp aspect of the deck.

The deck has eight one-mana Elves and all your best hands contain at least one copy. The games where your Elf survives are going to go vastly different from those when it dies or you don’t have one. I suspect that with this deck in the format, there will be more removal running around as players won’t be able to afford not to be able to kill an Elf on the other side of the table. A turn-one Elf means there is a three-drop coming down on turn two, and if you’re starting down an Elf into a three-drop when you’re on the draw, the game is already almost decided. That’s why I will happily mulligan almost every seven-card opener without an Elf.

In practice, in Explorer Elvish Mystic is literally the same as Llanowar Elves and it does not matter which you play. However, you *may* encounter effects that care about the names of cards played akin to Bile Blight In such a case, you should play out the Elves with different names at any one time if possible e.g. Legions to Ashes.

Wolfwillow Haven is great in that it both provides you more mana, counts towards devotion, and most importantly, cannot be killed. Once you play Haven, you are almost certain to have it survive which affects the way you plan out the turns. One important type of sequence is playing a Haven onto an untapped land to immediately produce an extra mana – which essentially means the Haven cost a single mana. While Elves have summoning sickness, Haven does not.

In some extremely dire spots when you haven’t drawn payoffs, you may need to sacrifice Haven to get a Wolf token. You’re rarely happy to do it, but you may have to.

This is the most flex slot. To start with, I’d play Lovestruck Beast as it’s individually a very strong card. Early in the game, the token you make may just act as a chump blocker to help you maintain a high life total. The Beast itself is a huge body that canonly be killed by very few cards that are played in the format which makes it reliable defensively. It’s especially good against creature decks where it being unable to attack is irrelevant, as you want a blocker first and foremost. If your Elf survives, it hits the board on turn two and roadblocks it completely.

Usually cards with such difficult mana costs are not played, but in this shell, it’s an actual upside. Troll provides a sizeable body and triple devotion to green. It’s also quasi-immune to removal as it comes back as an Aura that enchants a land – which both ramps you and still provides devotion. Because of that, removal that does not exile barely matters. Getting Troll Fatal Pushed is quite insignificant.

Another beefy creature with a good devotion count. Cavalier’s Reach ability is key in stopping threats that could otherwise ignore our board and fly over, especially Arclight Phoenix decks. Its trigger ramps us further but can also help find Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx that we’re missing. Last but not least, when it dies, it can stack a powerful spell on top to make sure that we can have a powerful next turn. In some cases, you can immediately draw that card off the top e.g. thanks to Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner‘s trigger. The mill itself may bring value as well e.g. by milling over Storm the Festival which can be cast from the graveyard.

Secretly one of the strongest cards in the deck. It has two main uses – untapping Nykthos to produce truly absurd amounts of mana and drawing cards. One classic curve would include:

It’s really hard to beat such draws when facing a fair deck. With Kiora on the field, you may just keep casting beefy creatures every turn and win purely because you’re putting pressure on the opponent whilst getting a steady stream of fresh cards. Kiora also works great with the lands enchanted by Old-Growth Troll and Wolfwillow Haven.

The trickiest card in the deck which adds a few layers to it. Karn is a card that enables a combo – more on which later. Our whole 15-card sideboard is devoted to Karn’s wish targets so we can adapt game to game depending on what we’d need. While technically your sideboard is very customisable, 10ish cards will always overlap between versions as they are just the best tools in the format. The most complex situations when playing will always involve Karn, counting mana, and deciding which Wish target is the best in a given spot, given the mana and other resources.

Another threat that you wouldn’t see in a Pioneer version. It’s both a payoff and another ramp piece that makes achieving the requisite mana for the combo truly trivial. It can be played off Storm the Festival as well which is a huge boon. Its plus ability also works as an untap to make even more mana with effects like Wolfwillow Haven for huge mana swings. The ult might come online, but I suspect you will have won by the time you’d ult.

Our version of Collected Company. Every single card in the deck can be played off of it and it’s our pure 2-for-1 mechanism to overload our opponent. You can Storm into, say, Karn and Nissa or Cavalier and Troll, which is pretty tough to beat. Thanks to its flashback ability, you only need a single copy to really start going off. However, it’s not always clear that you should slam it when you can – you may need to play Cavalier of Thorns as it’s a certain way to affect the board while Storm could only hit a couple of lands and ramp.

This deck has a proper combo finish to close the game immediately. As there is no The Chain Veil on Arena yet, we will have to go with the most basic and quite demanding version of the loop. For the loop you need:

Basically, you want to produce a lot of mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and cast Restorative Burst on Kiora and Karn in the graveyard. The new Kiora can untap Nykthos and the new Karn can grab Restorative Burst again from exile. The old Kiora and Karn are put into the graveyard thanks to the legend rule. You add more mana with Nykthos again, target the two walkers in the graveyard – rinse repeat. The outcome is that you’ve gained, say, 200 life. Now, you want to play the front half of Restorative Burst, Pestilent Cauldron, and use the second ability to mill out the opponent as you have gained 200 life this turn.

There is a twist though! You need black mana to cast Pestilent Cauldron! The only way to do it in this version is finding Reckoner Bankbuster with Karn, using it and untapping it with Kiora to finally produce a Treasure – which is our single-use black source. Now all is good and you can win.

The amount of devotion will vary depending on otherwise mana you’ve got available but you need enough produced by Nykthos to pay for Restorative Burst, Kiora, Karn, and later activate Nykthos again which is 5+3+4+2 = 14. Any number above 14 will start netting you mana with each iteration.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Storm the Festival Art by Yigit Koroglu

You do not sideboard with this deck at all as the whole sideboard is your Karn wishboard.

Rakdos Sacrifice

No changesNo changes

Karn, the Great Creator stops Witch's Oven and Oni-Cult Anvil which is already huge. Mayhem Devil is very annoying as it can ping off your Elves and Planeswalkers. However, the beefy creatures in tandem with Shadowspear are going to take over the battlefield. On top of that, they can’t interact that well with the big spells when we resolve them so the strategy is often going to be going over the top of them.

Azorius Control

No changesNo changes

You need to be ready for a wall of counterspells and their exile effects actually trade well with our creatures. On the flipside, they have a hard time interacting with our Planeswalkers. I like exhausting their resources with the creatures and then play a walker or Storm the Festival to actually stick a threat they will have problem dealing with. If they keep holding up mana to play a counterspell, you need to set up a situation when you can multispell to circumvent that.

Mono Red Aggro

No changesNo changes

Tough-ish matchup as we may not have time to go off and they will almost always have a removal spell for the Elf. The creature hands with Old-Growth Troll and Cavalier of Thorns are going to be exponentially better than those planeswalker hands. Blocking with your big creatures is the best way to stay alive, and then eventually, we can pull ahead with Storm the Festival or Shadowspear out of the sideboard.


No changesNo changes

Karn, the Great Creator shuts down their combo, so if we slam it on turn three on the play, we are safe. However, it’s too slow on the draw. The only other tool is a single Boseiju, Who Endures which I’d play more copies of if I saw a ton of Greasefang. When I get Karn on the board, I like Pithing Neede-ing their Parhelion II anyway to have double insurance as they are not winning with their medium creatures beats against our 4/4 and 5/6 creatures.

Mono Blue Spirits

No changesNo changes

Arguably the toughest matchup. Even though they don’t have a way to remove our Elf, they can get on board fast, start drawing cards with Curious Obsession, and counter every relevant threat. There are not many relevant threat from their perspectives – it’s mainly Cavalier of Thorns purely thanks to Reach and Storm the Festival as it may put the previously mentioned Cavalier on the board. The best option is to dodge the matchup.

Tips and Tricks

Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner Art by Jaime Jones
Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner Art by Jaime Jones
  • In some spots, you should immediately play Lovestruck Beast without putting it on Adventure in order to have a blocker, especially against aggressive decks.
  • Normally, you want to stack up Wolfwillow Haven and Old-Growth Troll Aura effect onto a single land to maximise the mana you get when you untap it with Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner or Nissa Who Shakes the World. However, you may find yourself in a game where you’ll want to sac the land to make a 4/4 Troll. If you can plan it ahead, you may come to the conclusion that it’s better to put the Troll aura on a different Forest, for that reason specifically.
  • You may want to take Restorative Burst with Karn even if it’s not a combo turn. It may be because you want to combo the following turn, cast it as a value card, or gain 4 life to stay alive.
  • Cityscape Leveler destroys a permanent upon casting so any countermagic won’t help the opponent.
  • You *cannot* use the channel ability on Boseiju, Who Endures on a permanent you control in order to ramp up.
  • Always mull hands without early ramp.
  • With Cavalier of Thorns trigger on the stack, you should add mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Otherwise if you hit another Nykthos, you won’t be able to add mana with both Nykthoses as one will immediately be sacrificed due to the legend rule.

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Also known as Skura or IslandsInFront on Twitter and YouTube, Filip started his career upon the release of Gatecrash and has been passing the turn in all formats ever since. He coaches and creates written and video content, mainly centered around the control archetype. He is passionate about Magic game theory and countering spells. Outside of Magic, he is a fan of snooker/pool, chess and Project Management.

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One comment

  1. The deck feels amazing, I’m struggling with 2 things, first if we take a look at the pioneer list we’re missing sylvan caryatid, perhaps we can replace it with paradise druid?, second how do we play against mirror?

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