Winning MOCS with Mono Green devotion: deck primer & sideboard guide
09/08/2022 · 18 min read
Who am I?
My name is Kiran Dhokia but I am better known as Cherryxman on Magic Online and twitch, where I occasionally stream. I almost exclusively play MTGO and enjoy all constructed formats with a focus on Modern , and more recently Pioneer .
This past week I won the Pioneer Showcase Qualifier which qualifies me for the pro tour and the Magic Online Champions Showcase, and I took it down with a staple of the format, Mono Green Devotion .
This article was proofread and assisted in writing by HarryMTG . Cohost of Midweek Metagame, Twitch Streamer and YouTuber.
Together we both tested for the event to determine what would be the best deck and configuration for our expected meta game.
The evolution of the deck
This deck has existed throughout the format's existence, initially dominating to the point where Leyline of Abundance, Once Upon a Time, and Veil Of Summer were all banned. Over the past few months it has seen a resurgence due to the raw power level of various newer cards like Old-Growth Troll and Storm the Festival.
The deck has moved away from cards like Vivien, Arkbow Ranger and Nissa Who Shakes the World, and various other more aggressive cards like Burning-Tree Emissary, in favour of a stronger, more resilient, value oriented game plan, with a potential combo finish.
During our testing we explored some vastly different Green lists featuring cards like Werewolf Pack Leader, which aimed to be more aggressive, but we found them to be too weak in any grindy games, whilst the list we played in the Showcase was the more common Storm list which has a far more powerful late game, and can still reach it’s top end in a similar time frame.
We believe the deck is now perfectly positioned to dominate the format, due to it’s high power level and it’s large number of strong matchups which greatly outweigh it’s bad ones.
|1 Polukranos, World Eater||$0.99|
|1 Shifting Ceratops||$0.35|
|1 Sylvan Caryatid||$9.99|
|4 Old-Growth Troll||$2.79|
|4 Llanowar Elves||$0.39|
|4 Elvish Mystic||$1.29|
|4 Cavalier of Thorns||$21.99|
|4 Storm the Festival||$1.99|
|4 Oath of Nissa||$6.49|
|4 Wolfwillow Haven||$0.59|
|1 Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God||$12.99|
|3 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner||$0.79|
|4 Karn, the Great Creator||$18.99|
|1 Boseiju, Who Endures||$42.99|
|2 Lair of the Hydra||$1.99|
|4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx||$34.99|
|1 Damping Sphere||$2.79|
|1 God-Pharaoh's Statue||$0.59|
|1 Pestilent Cauldron||//||$0.25|
|1 Meteor Golem||$0.25|
|1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship||$1.99|
|1 The Chain Veil||$29.99|
|1 Transmogrifying Wand||$0.35|
|1 Unlicensed Hearse||$20.99|
|1 Heart of Kiran||$1.29|
|1 Pithing Needle||$0.59|
|1 Tormod's Crypt||$0.99|
|1 Treasure Vault||$7.99|
|1 Esika's Chariot||$6.99|
|2 Voracious Hydra||$4.99|
What is the gameplan?
From the start of mulligans the decision making begins, as the most powerful openings in this deck all revolve around playing either Llanowar Elves or Elvish Mystic on turn 1, so hands with these in are of high value. That said, opening the first few turns with Oath of Nissa and Wolfwillow Haven is also acceptable, especially once you know what deck your opponent is playing as against removal heavy decks it can often damage their curve to play difficult cards to remove like Wolfwillow Haven or Old-Growth troll. So overall the goal of the first couple of turns is to develop some form of mana advantage over the opponent, or to at least force them to spend their turns answering your plays.
As the game progresses we look to cast planeswalkers like Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner and Karn, the Great Creator which can generate large amounts of card advantage, and in the case of kiora often a large mana advantage too, synergising well with Wolfwillow Haven, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
The true powerhouse of the deck is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx as it can generate obscene amounts of mana in combination with Old-Growth Troll and Cavalier of Thorns. All of the nut draws in this deck either involve Nykthos, or Kiora and a land with multiple Wolfwillow Haves on it.
Continuing into the late game (with this deck can be as soon as turn 3-4) we look to cast our top end, being Cavalier of Thorns, Storm the Festival, and the expensive cards from Karn, the Great Creator. As it is common to play a Karn, and then play a premium the next turn we consider it to be a late game card, unless you are aggressively casting it for it’s static ability. These include God-Pharoh’s statue vs a control or combo deck, or Skysovereign, Consul Flagship vs an aggressive deck.
Storm is incredibly strong when it hits two cards which cost three or more mana. However sometimes Storm hitting even two lands can be decent in setting up for the flashback. Cavalier is often used in finding Nykthos whilst stabilizing the board or threatening a lot of damage.
One thing to not forget going into the late game is that Wolfwillow haven can make a wolf token. Similarly, Old-growth Troll attached to a land after being removed can make a 4/4 token too, so if you are heavy on mana and need board presence these abilities are flexible and worth remembering. Another thing to remember is that Storm the Festival has flashback and whilst ten mana appears expensive, especially after resolving one, this is very achievable.
How does the combo work?
Mono Green has various win conditions. A common win is from attacking with our creatures and it is frequent to make a large Lair of the Hydra with all the access mana the deck can produce.
The combo option is to assemble the combination of Karn and Kiora, which using the Chain Veil to activate your planeswalkers repeatedly and the back half of Pestilent Cauldron, Restorative Burst, allows a wide variety of lines to gain infinite mana, infinite life (for each player as Burst gives life to both players) and then mill the opponent using Pestilent Cauldrons front half.
Another option which we found to be faster is using Nicol Bolas to destroy your opponents legendary creatures and planeswalkers and then ultimate it to win the game from extra activations with The Chain Veil.
There are so many different boards on which it is possible to combo from that it is not feasible to cover them all. The shell of the combo is 2 Karns, one of which must be in hand or on board, whilst the other can also be in the graveyard, along with at least one Kiora, one Nykthos and at least ten devotion. It is also not essential in most scenarios to win the game immediately using the combo so if this is not possible then gaining enough life to not die, removing your opponents creatures using Skysovereign and Meteor Golem, or casting statue, will suffice. Another trick with this combo is that Kiora can untap the chain veil so you can continue to loop this and then when you play a fresh Kiora you can activate it 7 times if needed and this applies to Nicol Bolas then too, as the chain veils ability applies to planeswalkers which come into play later in the turn. Then as said before you can win with Bolas ultimate.
The Power of Karn
The majority of the deck functionality is relatively simple once you get to grips with it, with the exception of Karn, the Great Creator which has a huge amount of decisions associated with it.
Firstly, deckbuilding is the primary method to adjust to the evolving metagame. For example, in anticipation of opposing Thing in the Ice’s, one can play Transmogrifying Wand to allow opportunities to prevent the card from flipping and bouncing your board.
Treasure vault is strong in a pinch, as you may play karn with all four of your mana, hoping to cast Cavalier of Thorns the next turn, therefore taking the land ensures casting another threat.
Tormod’s crypt is strong against Greasefang and decks playing delve cards like Phoenix. Pithing needle has huge utility in most matchups, naming planeswalkers, lands like Den of the Bugbear, or even Boseiju, Who Endures against Lotus Combo, which in combination with a damping sphere in play is challenging for them to remove.
Heart of Kiran has combo lines allowing planeswalkers to be sacrificed and then reused with cauldron, and the card also has utility as a flying blocker against spirits or phoenix.
Hearse has similar use cases as tormod’s crypt, with the ability to also be more threatening and persistent. Esika’s chariot is also a must in our opinion as it is very potent against RB Midrange and UW control.
Chain Veil and Cauldron as stated already are combo cards, but Restorative Burst is still strong as a source of card advantage. Skysovereign and Meteor Golem act as removal whilst Statue makes our opponents spells cost two more which is strong against decks which play less to the board, or when the opponent has less of an established board.
The Flex Slots
There are 4 cards in this deck left which we have not discussed, those being Sylvan Caryatid, Polukranos, Nicol Bolas and Shifting Ceratops.
These are able to be altered at your discretion:
Sylvan Caryatid: Acting as the “5th wolfwillow haven” is a strong blocker vs aggressive decks and also another difficult to remove ramp source. We believe this to be great against RB, Mono-Red and RW Heroic. However we found it to be not great against UW.
Polukranos, World Eater: This along with ceratops is valuable for it’s ability to draw a card upon entry with Kiora, along with being able to clear up huge boards with a large devotion count. It is also not trivial to remove for basically every deck in the format, making it a powerful one of that I would strongly recommend.
Shifting Ceratops: One of this decks weaknesses is the Spirits deck due to it’s ability to cheaply interact with us, on an axis we struggle to fight back on. Ceratops acts as a potential answer in the matchup, whilst also lining up nicely against Ledger Shredder and UW Control. This is the least recommended of the four in our opinion, and depends strongly on which decks you want to beat.
Lastly Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God: This card stands out as odd, being the only card which isn’t castable from our green manabase. Despite this, it has an important role in being a premium hit off of Storm the Festival, whilst also being castable from Oath of Nissa, which allows Bolas to be cast using our green mana whilst Oath is in play. It acts as our only immediate removal spell whilst also being a must answer for any control or midrange strategy and steals all planeswalker options from its static ability.
More General Advice
Play Lair of the Hydra early when you can early to avoid it entering tapped but remember you need a forest in play to get Old-Growth Troll back after it dies.
You will often have to decide between casting a Cavalier or a Storm. Deciding which is better greatly depends on the board. If the guaranteed Cavalier is good enough to stabilize then we would lean towards that as Storm has the risk of hitting irrelevant permanents. So if the risk is not worth the reward we try to take the safer option.
Know your good and bad matchups. Against Spirits and RW Heroic we will keep more risky hands as these matchups are so unfavoured. We will keep one land with high payoff as you need a powerful draw to beat them. Against decks like Red Black or UW Control hitting land drops is very important so we will keep slower hands and try to not mulligan a lot as every card counts. You win the topdeck war in midrange matchups.
The Sideboard Guide
Due to Karn being in the main deck, a lot of the sideboard is devoted to making Karn useful in a variety of situations. This means unfortunately we are very unlikely to ever want to board in 13 of our cards. Fortunately this makes sideboarding relatively easy, as we are only ever going to consider boarding in up to two copies of Voracious Hydra. There are still many options for cards which we can board out depending on the matchup, and we will also discuss here which cards with Karn are strong in each matchup.
- Out:-1 Ceratops
- In: +1 Hydra
Hydra is not very powerful in this matchup being weak to fatal push, however it is very strong against Fable of the Mirror Breaker, which is one of their strongest cards, being able to kill either the token to deny them mana, or the flipped 2/2 which acts as Kiki-Jiki. Ceratops’ abilities are also clearly not very useful here.
Cards that are strong with Karn are Chariot and Skysovereign, though needle for Reflection of Kiki-Jiki (flipped Fable) or a creature land is also valid. It is also worthwhile getting Heart of Kiran or Unlicensed Hearse if you have only two mana available as mana efficiency is valuable here.
- Out: -1 Polukranos
- In: +1 Hydra
Another matchup where hydra isn’t great but better than a main deck card. While being expensive to kill their threats, it is still cheaper than polukranos so we prefer it.
Transmogrifying Wand can kill Thing in the Ice so it is strong, as is Tormod’s Crypt for denying Arclight Phoenix and delve spells like Treasure Cruise and Temporal Trespass.
God-Pharaoh's Statue is also powerful as they want to cast many cheap spells so this card hurts them a lot, and meteor golem can be better than wans if you have the mana for it.
- No changes
The main deck is good as is.
We often cast most cards from the board throughout the match as games go long and many Karns are used. However, forcing a statue to be answered is a good starting point when a Karn lands. Chariot is resilient through board wipes. Pithing Needle is a cheap answer to the Wandering Emperor, which is often worth playing around, or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. In this matchup Restorative Burst (Cauldron) can act as a two for one, and if they counter it, you can’t combo (without the use of Cavalier dying or exiling it from Crypt or Hearse to get back with Karn), but that’s not too important in this matchup.
- Out:1 Ceratops 1 Caryatid
- In: 2 Hydra
This is a large part of why hydra is in the sideboard, on the play elf into hydra is a very strong sequence with the flexibility of being a massive threat late game. The two cards we board out are strong because they are resilient through removal but that doesn’t matter in this matchup and these cards don’t contribute to the overall game plan.
This matchup is a pure race, with aggressive mulligans to turn one an elf and trying to have powerful follow up. The only times we would not keep a hand without an elf are if it has everything you want except an elf, likely including a haven, or if you have already mulliganed to five or lower. The board will often stall so creatures like Troll are less valuable than hydra, Polukranos and Cavaliers' potential to find storms to flashback. Karn and Storm are premium spells as the matchup overall revolves around trying to combo or prevent your opponent from doing so.
- Out:-1 Ceratops -1 Oath
- In: +2 Hydra
This is our toughest matchup.We board in two hydra and remove a ceratops and an Oath of Nissa.
Karn is overall clunky in the matchup but Skysovereign, Wand and Golem all act as removal which is the strongest angle to attack the deck on. Statue can also be lights out if they haven’t developed a strong board yet.
- Out: -1 Caryatid -1 Storm
- In: +2 Hydra
We opt to cut storm here due to Mausoleum Wanderer making it difficult to resolve, and Caryatid is unable to block and spirits lacks removal. Hydra is a very strong card here for obvious reasons that they play many must kill threats.
Cavalier is very strong in the matchup and one possible karn fetch is Pithing Needle for Shacklegeist as it prevents them tapping down Cavalier or Elves on upkeep. Skysovereign is also the other high priority Karn card, and Heart of Kiran can be decent. Overall in this matchup we just try to assemble a big board which they cannot attack through and you will naturally draw big threats they cannot answer with the time you have bought.
A possible card if you expect to face a lot of spirits is Skylasher which helps in being difficult to remove and a great blocker to buy time.
Mono Red Aggro:
- Out: -1 Bolas -1 Oath
- In: +2 Hydra
Here, Nicol Bolas is too expensive as 5 mana to only kill one creature is not good. Oath of Nissa is weak as it costs two life to play with Eidolon on board and also does not impact the board in the early game. Hydra is powerful again because they play many high impact creatures.
Karn is good when getting Chariot, Skysovereign or Heart of Kiran, but also don’t be afraid to needle Den of the Bugbears or Ramunap Ruins to slow them down. Troll is one of the best cards in this matchup as it stabilizes the board quickly, as is a resolved Cavalier. Don’t be afraid of them killing your elves as it means they are not playing a creature to pressure you or directing that damage at you, so turn one elf is still very valuable here, especially with Haven follow up if they kill the elf.
In conclusion with this guide you should have the tools to start playing the deck with a good understanding of the overall game plan and the role of each of the cards in the deck. Hopefully you also understand the basics of how the combo works though this can require some practice to fully understand the variety of lines which you can take to win through the combo.
If you liked this article maybe you will also find interesting on of the following ones Pioneer Azorius Control Sideboard Guide, Getting ready for the Vintage Qualifier: Doomsday Cheatsheet & Sideboad Guide, Hardened Scales In-depth & sideboard guide
Published: 2022-08-09 00:00:00