The following article was written by Nick Schirillo (aka @bobinchese) and posted with his permission.
Devoted Druid combo has been a niche player in the modern for a while. The deck always sported a fantastic combo and big mana matchup due to its fast and consistent combo, but lacked a reliable way to beat aggro and heavily interactive decks consistently.
The latest Banned and Restricted Announcement was fantastic for Devoted Druid. First, faithless looting was banned dramatically weakening Druid’s worst matchup, UR Phoenix. Second, Stoneforge mystic gives you incredible tools vs both hyper aggressive burn decks and midrange interactive decks. Additionally, big mana decks seem to be on the rise to combat other SFM decks. Put it all together and you have a deck ready to take over a new modern world.
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Noble Hierarch
4 Giver of Runes
4 Devoted Druid
4 Vizier of Remedies
4 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Duskwatch Recruiter
1 Eternal Witness
1 Ranger-Captain of Eos
1 Deputy of Detention
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 Walking Ballista
4 Eladamri’s Call
4 Finale of Devastation
1 Viridian Longbow
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
4 Windswept Heath
3 Wooded Foothills
2 Temple Garden
1 Breeding Pool
1 Stomping Ground
4 Horizon Canopy
3 Razorverge Thicket
- Untap with a Devoted Druid in play
- Cast Vizier of Remedies
- Tap Devoted Druid for mana
- Untap Devoted Druid, it will not gain a -1/-1 counter due to Vizier’s static ability
- Repeat 3 and 4 an arbitrarily large number of times
- Kill your opponent by either
- Casting a giant Walking Ballista and pinging your opponent
- Casting Shalai and activating it an infinite number of times, then attacking with your creatures
- Put a Viridian’s Longbow on your Devoted Druid and tapping/untapping it for infinite pings
- Cast Duskwatch Recruiter, get every creature out of your deck, cast them and win (important if your opponent has something in play like a Leyline of Sanctity or Karn the Great Creator that you need to remove with Deputy of Detention before you can kill your opponent)
This combo is made incredibly consistent due to the number of tutors in the deck. You have 12 virtual copies of Devoted Druid, 12 copies of vizier of remedies and 13 copies of an infinite mana payoff (14 if you have a tutor or payoff in the graveyard to get back with Eternal Witness). Because of this, you’re able to win the game on turn 3 the vast majority of the time you untap with a devoted druid you played on turn 2, making this deck one of the most consistently fast decks in the format if your opponent is not interacting with it.
Comboing Through Interaction
While this deck can goldfish incredibly fast kills, devoted druid is not a resilient combo piece. Giver of runes is helpful here, adding a second threat that your opponent is forced to remove before they can touch your druid. Additionally, a stoneforge mystic on turn 2 often demands an answer, increasing the chances of your druid living. Especially in pre board games, your opponents will often not have the critical mass of removal necessary to deal with a game ending threat every turn while also advancing their gameplan.
Knowing When to Prison:
Unfortunately, sometimes your opponents are not going to give you the time to combo. Maybe they’re playing tron and have the key piece of early interaction so you know your second druid is unlikely to live into 7 mana next turn. In these situations, your goal is to pivot into a lockout prison deck. Devoted Druid requires a full turn cycle to win the game. Playing a Collector Ouphe vs Affinity is basically a one card combo, especially if you have protection or your opponent already used up their interaction trying to stop you from comboing off early. The exact lock you are trying to create varies a lot by matchup and will be discussed in greater detail below in sideboarding.
Knowing When to Grind:
If your opponent shows up to battle with esper control or jund, it’s unlikely you are going to be able to fast combo or lock out your opponent. In this situation, your goal is to slow your opponent down by forcing them to respond to your initial SFM/devoted druid threats and then set up behind either a Shalai, Voice of Plenty + Giver of Runes or a random creature with Sword of Light and Shadow buying back creatures every turn. Combining protection from white, protection from black and +2/+2 is very close to giving any creature hexproof and many control decks will be unable to overcome the value of getting a creature like Ranger-Captain of Eos back every single turn.
Running 8 creature tutors in your maindeck makes sideboarding correctly incredibly important and powerful with this deck. If you board in collector ouphe, you are incredibly likely to be able to put it into play on turn 3 despite only running a single copy. For this reason, many of this deck’s sideboard plans involve finding a specific bullet and then protecting that bullet with giver of runes/Shalai. I will not be able to go over every matchup in modern in detail, so here’s the short version regarding how to think about the cards you’ll be boarding in and frequently be boarding out.
- Path to Exile: comes in vs very aggressive creature decks(burn, the mirror), decks with spell queller and decks where you’re trying to grind but they also have creatures (jund)
- Veil of Summer: Any midrange/control deck running maindeck discard or countermagic
- Tocatli Honor Guard, Collector Ouphe, Gaddok Teeg, Eidolon of Rhetoric, Linvala Keeper of Silence, Magus of the Moon: board in when the static ability will directly stop your opponent from being able to execute their primary game plan and win the game. Beware of overboarding here
- Burrenton Forge-Tender: board in when your opponent has 4 Lightning Bolts or have red damage based sweepers
- Meddling Mage: Bring in when naming a single card shuts off your opponent’s ability to win (Primeval Titan decks, Ad Nauseum), or where your opponent is playing a lower interaction deck with one very damaging sweeper
- Scavenging Ooze: Bring in when lifegain is relevant, where the game is going to go long and you want a large sized threat, where you want graveyard hate (doesn’t have to be a hard graveyard matchup, making goyf smaller is often relevant)
- Goblin Cratermaker: Bring in when your opponent has creatures it can kill or artifacts it can kill (yes, this card is boarded in often)
- Vizier of Remedies: Cut 3 in all interactive matchups, trim when you aren’t sure which care to board out. With 8 tutors and games often slowing down post board, it’s rare that you won’t be able to find a copy when you need it.
- Stoneforge Mystic: A couple of copies come out in faster matchups where none of your tutor targets are fantastic against your opponent (big mana, fast combo). You usually trim either Sword of Light and Shadow or Batterskull depending on how relevant buying back your lock pieces is in the matchup.
- Shalai: Board out whenever battlefield positioning or protecting creatures isn’t relevant.
- Ranger-Captain of Eos: Board out when the tutor targets aren’t impressive and your opponent doesn’t have expensive non creature spells.
- Giver of Runes: You can trim a few copies if your opponent is insanely light on interaction, but I don’t recommend it often. Most decks have a decent amount of removal post board and you want to protect your lock pieces
- Deputy of Detention: Heavy interaction matchups where you’re unlikely to be able to protect him
- Noble Hierarch: Board out when your black based midrange opponent is going to cast plague engineer against you.
These guidelines should give you a general idea about how to board. I will go over the more popular matchups in the next section, but remember to be constantly reevaluating your sideboarding plans as decklists often change and you may need to adjust based on how your opponent is boarding.
In: +1 Burrenton Forge-Tender, +2 Path to Exile, +1 Goblin Cratermaker, +1 Scavenging Ooze
Out: -1 Viridian Longbow, -1 Deputy of Detention, -2 Vizier of Remedies, -1 Breeding Pool
You goal here is to present a must kill threat every turn, whether that be giver of runes, devoted druid or stoneforge mystic. One you’ve both traded low on resources, land either a Shalai, Scavenging Ooze or Batterskull to take over the game. Be aware that Ranger-Captain of Eos can both fetch Burrenton Forge-Tender and lock out your opponent’s Rift Bolts by saccing in the upkeep before they are able to come off suspend. Shocking for your land is very bad in this matchup and there are no blue cards left in the deck, so Breeding Pool gets cut.
Mono red prowess is the same, but cratermaker is worse than Deputy of Detention, so swap those and the appropriate shocklands.
In: +2 Path to Exile, +1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence, +1 Goblin Cratermaker, +1 Meddling Mage, +1 Scavenging Ooze, +1 Collector Ouphe, +1 Tocatli Honor Guard
Out: -1 batterskull, -3 Vizier of Remedies, -1 Giver of Runes, -2 Stoneforge Mystic, -1 Eternal Witness
The key card to this matchup is Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Urza is by far their most important engine piece and what they primarily use to pull ahead once they have pithing needle on your Devoted Druid. Meddling Mage is important here to combat Dead of Winter which you are otherwise defenseless against. Tocatli comes in as a secondary was to stop the thopter sword combo as well as turn off the ETBs of Urza and Goblin Engineer.
In: +1 Magus of the Moon, +1 Goblin Cratermaker, +1 Collector Ouphe, +1 Gaddok Teeg, +1 Meddling Mage
Out: -1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty, -2 Stoneforge Mystic, -1 Eternal Witness, -1 Batterskull
Your primary goal is to fast combo before they are able to assemble tron. Luckily some of their payoffs (Wurmcoil Engine/Karn the Great Creator) don’t efficiently stop your combo so you’re able to win the vast majority of games 1s even though they will always have the chance to play a haymaker turn 3 on the play. Post board, they will usually kill your first Devoted Druid, forcing you to pivot to Collector Ouphe, Magus of the Moon and Gaddok Teeg to lock out their haymakers and give you time to rebuild.
In: +2 Path to Exile, +3 Veil of Summer, +1 Scavenging Ooze
Out: -3 Vizier of Remedies, -2 Noble Hierarch
For all the hype Jund gets around being the “kill everything” deck, I often find myself plowing through their removal in game 1. Their creatures are largely irrelevant, and your mana dorks often allow you to get to a stage early where any tutor is going to put them under a large amount of pressure. Post board, they have to overload on interaction both for your creatures and for your equipment while you get to board in the hyper efficient Veil of Summer and can often beat down their threat light draws. Most Jund opponents will bring in Plague Engineer naming humans which is why it’s important to board out Noble Hierarch.
In: +1 Tocatli Honor Guard, +2 Path to Exile, +1 Goblin Cratermaker
Out: -1 Ranger-Captain of Eos, -2 Vizier of Remedies, -1 Eternal Witness
They have limited ways to remove a Devoted Druid, allowing you to combo them cleanly in game 1. Post board, their deck doesn’t function under a Tocatli Honor Guard, and batterskull makes it difficult for them to aggro you out early.
In: +3 Veil of Summer, +1 Gaddok Teeg, +1 Goblin Cratermaker
Out: -2 Vizier of Remedies, -1 Deputy of Detention, -2 Finale of Devastation
Game 1, their deck does not have much spot removal, so early combo is often viable. Finale can be awkward into force of negation, so a few copies are trimmed post board. Generally, you want to set up a sword on Gaddok Teeg, turning off most of their deck. Goblin Cratermaker is our best answer to their stoneforge plan and can be bought back with Sword of Light and Shadow Triggers.
Creature Based Stoneblade:
In: +2 Path to Exile, +1 Tocatli Honor Guard, +1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence, +1 Goblin Cratermaker
Out: -3 Vizier of Remedies, -1 Ranger-Captain of Eos, -1 Eternal Witness
In: +1 Magus of the Moon, +1 Goblin Cratermaker, +1 Collector Ouphe, +1 Meddling Mage
Out: -1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty, -2 Stoneforge Mystic, -1 Eternal Witness
Similar to the green tron matchup, but they have many less answers to Magus of the Moon. Meddling mage should almost always name Primeval Titan in this matchup.
Grixis Death’s Shadow:
In: +3 Veil of Summer, +2 Path to Exile
Out: -3 Vizier of Remedies, -1 Viridian Longbow, -1 Finale of Devastation
Devoted Druid wins very few of its matches through racing. Grixis Death’s Shadow is the exception. They are going to deal a lot of damage to themselves and you have a sword of protection from their deck as well as Giver of Runes. Tutoring for Walking Ballista to do those last few points of damage also comes up often.
In: +1 Goblin Cratermaker, +2 Path to Exile, +1 Magus of the Moon
Out: -1 Batterskull, -1 Sword of Light and Shadow, -1 Duskwatch Recruiter, -1 Eternal Witness
Both decks are approximately the same speed, but Devoted Druid has much more interaction. Giver of Runes + blockers, Viridian Longbow, Vizier of Remedies stopping your creatures from receiving the first -1/-1 counter when blocking. Put it all together and this is a nightmare matchup for the infect deck. Magus makes it difficult for them to produce all the green mana they want as well as turns off Inkmoth Nexus. Eternal Witness is generally too slow.
In: +1 Eidolon of Rhetoric, +1 Gaddok Teeg, + 1 Meddling Mage, +1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
Out: -2 Stoneforge Mystic, -1 Sword of Light and Shadow, -1 Vizier of Remedies
Eidolon of Rhetoric and Gaddok Teeg stop them from comboing you. Meddling mage usually names grapeshot because a value grapeshot can easily decimate your board. Forge-Tender is another protection spell for lightning bolts and other red creature removal. Leaning into the combo is also an option in this matchup.
In: +2 Path to Exile, +1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence, +1 Goblin Cratermaker
Out: -1 Ranger-Captain of Eos, -1 Batterskull, -1 Giver of Runes, -1 Stoneforge Mystic
Mostly a straight race as both sides are low on interaction. If one player does not combo for some reason, Linvala locks down all mana dorks and the combo while Goblin Cratermaker stops both the combo and opposing Plague Engineers if they’re splashing back. Viridian Longbow is also excellent in this matchup, killing about half the deck or 90% if you put it on a druid.
Devoted Druid Going Forward:
Devoted Druid is a powerful deck with a number of very good matchups in the current modern metagame. That’s the spike reason to play the deck. But honestly more important than that for me is that the deck is just fun. Your tutors give you an incredible amount of versatility both in regards to sideboard construction and in game decision making. I’m constantly finding new lines, new interaction and new situations while playing with enough free wins thrown in there that the deck is actually a contender in the format. It’s the kind of deck where you can play it for days and weeks on end and you’re always discovering new puzzles to solve. There’s no way I could cover everything I know regarding this deck in one article, but honestly figuring the intricacies out for yourself is most of the fun.
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Throughout his tenure in Magic: The Gathering, Gerry has worn many hats. Tournament grinder, content producer, professional player, game designer, teacher, and broadcaster are part of the ways he’s made MTG part of his life. Rather than flying to a tournament each weekend, Gerry enjoys his time trying to help the next generation of Magic players hone their skills and be positive members of the community.