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Mono White Devotion – Theros Beyond Death Standard Deck Guide

Fighting Cats with Bigger and Faster Cats


Introduction

With Theros: Beyond Death’s release, devotion decks in many forms have been running amok. As we saw in the original Theros block, the Gods and direct payoffs like Gary are big enough draws to inspire the building of entirely new sorts of mono-color decks, in order to maximize the potential of those cards. Now, that doesn’t speak to how good those decks are – they were by far the best decks in the original block and remained that way for nearly a year, but we just came off several of the most powerful Standard formats of all time in a row. So far, I can say I’ve been pretty disappointed by the new iteration of Mono Black – you lose to control because you’re a midrange deck that (in classic fashion) is very vulnerable to sweepers, and you lose to aggro because you’re playing a bunch of creatures that are on the small and ineffectual side, at least without their synergies, against Regisaurs and Embercleaves. Your Garies won’t work if you keep losing your creature over and over, or the aggro deck has established a board you can’t beat.

But there is still hope for mana symbol mania, as today we have a completely different sort of deck and we’re going to look specifically at how it combats those problems I just mentioned. Mono White Devotion looks to put the pressure on much faster than a parade of 5 drops, and only needs a couple of creatures in play to generate some truly giant value swings! The colour most regularly shafted today proves that it’s still alive and kicking, so without further ado:

[sd_deck deck=”gJVSFWuYH”]

All Mono White Devotion Decklists

This version of Mono White Devotion is a very all-in aggro/midrange deck that exploits the million synergies its cards have to run over your opponents quickly. It seeks to stick one of its million Pridemates (anything can be a Pridemate with Heliod even!), make it massive, and protect and leverage that Pridemate to quickly cross the finish line. Like Mono Black, sweepers can be a problem but unlike that deck, it doesn’t just die to them – it has a lot of resilient pieces to help recover and Heliod is one of its best cards and is invulnerable to them.

There are more midrange/controlling builds of this out there, that have less 1 drops and more removal, but I think those decks will lose to other midrange decks a lot more than this one will – you are never beating Simic Ramp’s late game here. Nissa, Krasis, and god forbid Agent of Treachery/Mass Manipulation will crush you if you try to play too much on that axis. A deck like this must go under them and kill them before they can recover. It’s possible a slower shell of this could work if Simic Ramp/Titan Midrange/other proactive midrange decks aren’t as present in the meta, but I think that’s quite unlikely with the current pool of cards.

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll mainly be looking at this list from Jeff Hoogland. Nonetheless, as with every deck, there’s a lot of different ways to build so I’ll cover some other card choices too.

Key Cards/Core:

  • Ajani’s Pridemate – Pridemate can quickly grow large enough to run away with the game if given enough time and a synergistic start; there are many decks that have a really rough time dealing with a 6/6 on turn 4, especially one that cost you such a small investment. This deck is all about maximising your Pridemates’ potential and numbers of them.
  • Healer’s Hawk – Everyone and their cat has seen the Pridemate Hawk combo in action, it’s been the aggro “nut draw” that sometimes catches you off-guard ever since the Hawk’s printing. Hawk is a pretty low impact card; it requires the synergies to make it worthwhile, and this deck is all about that. If you have a bunch of Hawks/ways to gain life in your opener and no payoffs, you should mulligan – you really need a little of Column A and Column B.
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  • Heliod, Sun-Crowned – The Hawkmate combo wasn’t that good in those previous Standards, because you didn’t always draw enough Pridemates. The printing of Heliod solves that problem by essentially giving you another four copies that can still come down relatively early, but Heliod isn’t a one-trick Pony – for that extra mana, you get a threat that operates on many axes. He can buff any of your creatures, his counters are especially welcome on the Hawks themselves, and if you just draw Pridemates and no lifegain, his great activated ability will help you out of that bind too! All that and he’s a huge threat by himself if you have enough on the board – but against control decks, you’re not going to want to do too much work to activate him, as then you overextend and die like with the Gary example earlier. Luckily, Heliod survives the sweepers himself, so this powerful and diverse roleplayer increases your resilience against them big time.
  • Daxos, Blessed by the Sun – Daxos is tailor-made for this deck. Two devotion for two mana is a great rate and he promises a lot of lifegain triggers to grow your Pridemates – indeed with Daxos out, they immediately get a counter and are 2 mana 3/3s just to begin with. Despite being Legendary, this deck is running the full 4 Daxos; that’s how well he works in it.
  • Castle Ardenvale – Not much to see in the Lands section, but you’re always going to run 4 Castle Ardenvale. It’s ridiculously free to do so in a deck with 19 Plains, and it adds a lot of late game value to the deck and has synergy with Daxos & Linden. A great anti-control plan is Heliod + Castle late game – Heliod survives the sweeper and then makes every single token a threat with his lifelink ability, and at that point they really need to answer him in all his indestructible glory.
  • Ajani, Strength of the Pride – Ajani is your own personal Pridemate factory, threatening to produce two immediately with no +ing necessary, and then keep going/start growing them himself if he’s still alive. It’s possible you don’t need as many as 4 of him, since that’s some additional Legendary clunkiness and he is pretty expensive, but he’s still Core in some number. Ajani is a fantastic way to recover against Sweepers, and you do want the full 4 against Control.
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Strong Roleplayers/Tech Choices:

  • Alseid of Life’s Bounty – I see this as the deck’s best 1 drop other than Hawk. Like Hawk, having lifelink adds a lot of value for this deck specifically, and Alseid stays relevant at any point in the game as it offers you Gods Willing on a stick whenever you need it. It gives you some much needed reach/direct damage, as you can use it in the late game to push through a ton of damage with Pridemate. Alseid is a fantastic anti-Control tool, forcing them to spend a bunch of mana to merely have their spell countered. Like Hawk, it’s a really low impact card by itself, so don’t keep Alseid Hawk no payoff hands. I could see Alseid just being Core; it is fantastic in this deck but I’ve left it in Roleplayer since I think there are viable builds without it.
  • Linden, the Steadfast Queen – Linden is the perfect 3 drop for a Devotion deck that’s trying to exploit lifegain synergy. She’s fantastic follow-up to the Hawkmate start, provides a full three White Devotion by herself, and can go really crazy with Pridemates and Heliod – when every creature you attack with gives you a +1/+1 counter or two, it’s really hard for any deck to outsize you even with Regisaurs and such. I’ve downgraded her to Strong Roleplayer, because there are quite a few matchups where you board her out and she isn’t great, and she is one of the weaker cards in the deck purely on the basis of being a 3 mana 3/3 that doesn’t do anything the turn it comes out.
  • Giant Killer – Unsurprisingly, Mono White doesn’t have as diverse removal options as other colour combinations, and sometimes you really need to take out that Regisaur. The tap ability is pretty strong in a deck with such large creatures since you can force them to lose real creatures than just chumping your Pridemates, and Giant Killer fills your 1 drop slot and gets you on the board immediately. Chop Down is pretty variable in how strong it is, it’s a pretty situational card and you won’t be able to use it at all against plenty of decks, but you don’t need to as that’s just upside on your okay 1 drop. I see this card as more of a lack of better options than something the deck is especially excited to run, however.

Not having unconditional removal means you really have to mostly ignore what your opponents are doing and go for your proactive plan game 1 against every deck, and that tends to work much better in games on the play than on the draw. You can amend this by trying more cards like Conclave Tribunal main, but that card still requires you to have a board.

Meta Calls/Filler:

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  • Tomik, Distinguished Advokist – Tomik generates you two devotion, hates on Nissa lands for free, and can fly over their blockers. There’s no doubt that Nissa will remain one of the best cards in Standard, if not the best, but Tomik is merely okay and there might be better options for this slot nonetheless. There’s only 2 of him main for a reason (and thankfully, I didn’t want another 4-of Legendary to increase draw awkwardness!).
  • Faerie Guidemother – The Faerie doubles as a weak 1 drop and more importantly a bunch of damage on a stick. With a huge Pridemate, you can kill your opponents out of nowhere or blow a planeswalker away they would otherwise have protected. I see the Guidemother as a pretty winmore card as your primary gameplan has to be working for a Giant Pridemate to be around and breathing, but she is very good in midrangey matchups that don’t disrupt you much. I’m not sure about having the full 4, that’s very much a meta call against Simic Ramp for example, but I do believe she’s right in some number. She’s really bad against Control, and you should board her out completely/seek alternatives if Control is one of the top dogs.

Sideboard Guide

I’m only covering the common matchups right now, and not old ones like Jund Sacrifice, since it’s unclear as of yet how good the older decks will be.

Against Simic Ramp or other slow midrange that doesn’t interact well:
-4 Alseid, -2 Heliod
+2 Tomik, +3 Conclave Tribunal, +1 Elspeth Conquers Death

This matchup is favourable and they struggle to stop your core plan, so you shouldn’t oversideboard and dilute it. I’ll mention later that I don’t really like having Tomiks in the sideboard, but if you have them then this is the matchup. You don’t really need 4 Heliods – he’s not dying anyway, and he’s not really integral to the plan here, you want to be putting on a lot of pressure early not durdling around. I’ve chosen to bring in all copies of Conclave Tribunal, as you’ve mostly preserved your 1 drops and your creatures aren’t dying much.

Against RB Knights/RB Sacrifice
-3 Ajani, Strength of the Pride, -2 Heliod, -1 Faerie Guidemother
+1 Giant Killer, +2 The Birth of Meletis +3 Conclave Tribunal

The aggro matchups are favourable – they struggle with big boards and a lot of lifegain. Therefore, we preserve the main plan but remove a few slower/less impactful cards and bring in our The Birth of Meletis anti-aggro tech. I’m not actually sure how good that card is, since it takes a while to get going and makes Embercleave better by not trading off resources, but it’s going to be better than expensive cards mostly at least, since you’re going to beat their late game easily. I’ve left in most of the 1 drops to make Rankle look bad, fuel Tribunals, and preserve the main plan.

Against Jeskai Fires of Invention (Cavalier):
-4 Faerie Guidemother, -4 Linden
+2 Revoke Existence, +3 Elspeth Conquers Death +2 Gideon Blackblade +1 Giant Killer

Especially on the draw, you need to dilute the plan to avoid getting run over by Sweepers. I’ve chosen not to bring in Conclave Tribunal at all since your creatures are dying, and I don’t want to spend 4 mana to answer cards that we’ve already brought in a bunch of answers to. Linden is really bad against Deafening Clarion so I’ve chosen to cut her completely.

Against Azorius Control:
-4 Faerie Guidemother, -1 Linden
+2 Gideon Blackblade, +3 Elspeth Conquers Death

As I mention later, I find the sideboard a bit lacking for the control matchups and would prefer something like Unbreakable Formation over Revoke. Our maindeck is still decent here, given 4 Ajani 4 Heliod, but I would like to imrpvoe this matchup a bit more and our sideboard isn’t that well prepared for it. I’ve chosen to keep the main gameplan as strong as I can on that basis. Try not to overextend, you only need two or three pieces in play to present a very real threat!

Other Choices/Possible Improvements:

  • I don’t really like having the 2 Tomiks in the sideboard. I think even against Simic Ramp, he’s a bit low impact since he doesn’t attack well into Cavaliers and if Nissa is around and you can’t kill it, that’s not a winning proposition even with Tomik – that means Agent of Treacheries and Hydroid Krasises are going to come down soon, and probably kill you. Tomik being Legendary also hurts, because he’s not likely to die easily in that matchup. I would look to replace Tomik with Control tools like Unbreakable Formation, since I see the Simic Ramp matchup as favourable anyway.
  • I think a major problem in this deck will be draw inconsistency from having so many 4-of Legendaries. On that basis, I would probably look to shave 1-2 Lindens and the 4th Ajani, Strength of the Pride for some combination of Gideon Blackblade (especially to improve the control matchup), Conclave Tribunal and Banishing Light. Some lists have been playing Impassioned Orator or Charming Prince over the 4th copy of Daxos and over some of the other 2 drops, but I think those cards are too low impact to be worthwhile, and I see Daxos as too important.
  • I think this build could use a little help against Control, even if it is much better than Mono Black is. Some lists have been playing Unbreakable Formation main, and I think there should at least be some in the sideboard. Azorius Control has been a big early player so far, so for now I would include those, and see how the meta shakes out.
  • I think Revoke Existence should be Heliod's Intervention in the Sideboard; I don’t think the Gods are that frightening for this deck.
  • If you’re trying to play a more budget build of this, you can shave some number of Heliods and Ajani, Strength of the Prides for Revered Hoplites and Heraldic Banners.

Final Thoughts

Standard is looking bright as the Sun! There’ll be a lot of interesting decisions to be made and fun testing to be had in pinning down the exact list of this Simic Ramp looks very well-positioned, and a deck this strong when undisrupted is a great way to make them eat their Agents of Treachery. Having such a strong and synergistic primary gameplan goes a long way and I think Mono White will be at least a decent deck in the meta, if not one of the biggest players.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear how you get on, and what build you’ve found works best for you.

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Drifter

Drifter is a draft and strategy specialist, with hundreds of articles under his belt! Of special mention are his Limited Reviews and draft coaching service.

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