Thursday, 11 January 2018

Devotion Green

Wild GrowthApparently this sort of deck is getting a lot of traction in modern at the moment which I find quite interesting as it has been an increasingly popular direction to go in cube. I added enchantment ramp to the cube a while back and it has helped maintain a bursty ramp style of deck in green that isn't vulnerable to burn and mass removal in the same way as those leaning on Gaea's Cradle and creature ramp. It has also greatly increased the power of Arbor Elf and Garruk Wildspeaker! There are a lot more advantages to using enchantment ramp beyond safety and abuse with untap effects. Those are the main two certainly but you can make use of nice synergies such as Enchantress effects or delirium more easily with so many extra enchantments in your list. That is basically the premise of the deck, enchantment ramp as the core combining with Nykthos to empower delirium and with untap effects to double up on ramp earlier in the game.

The modern shell of this deck is very similar to most incarnations of green ramp decks in the cube. The modern build has a bit more reliance on tutors and a few less old broken cards it can use. The main difference is that I am not running Burning Tree Emissary in this list, you don't have the consistency in cube to merit wasting a card on a 2/2. The extra burst it provides does not offset the power per card cost in cube.

Oath of NissaIt is not all upside, by using the enchantment ramp over creatures you lose some consistency on your Overrun kills via Garruk and Craterhoof which are your main routes to victory. You also lose some general utility in protecting and threatening planeswalkers. The list I have given below is not super refined or tested, it is an example list showing the various cards and ratios you want to be looking at when doing this sort of thing in cube. It is threat light compared to my more classic versions of ramp green but this list makes up for that with more tutor, dig and recursion effects than I normally run. It can get away with less threats overall using only the premium ones it needs in combination with the dig and tutors. While it is space efficient it is a little rougher when you come up against lots of removal and mill effects. 
Arbor Elf

24 Spells

Arbor Elf
Wild Growth
Utopia Sprawl
Oath of Nissa

Magus of the Candelabra
Joraga Treespeaker
Llanowar Elf
Garruk WildspeakerFyndhorn Elf

Sylvan Library
Fertile Ground
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Growing Rites of Itlimoc
Eternal Witness
Courser of Kruphix

Garruk Wildspeaker
Eidolon of Blossoms

Nissa, Worldwaker
Nykthos, Shrine to NyxPrimal Command

Primeval Titan

Hornet Queen

Craterhoof Behemoth

Walking Ballista

16 Lands

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Kessig Wolf-Run

Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Raging Ravine

10 Forests

Eidolon of BlossomsI didn't even bother running Cradle in this list. While it is great it comes with two vulnerabilities, doing nothing until you have dorks and doing nothing again when your dorks get killed. Low land hands with Cradle can often need throwing back where you could have kept if it were a forest. This deck doesn't need the Cradle as much as other ramp versions as it has more things that generate multiple mana and is more focused on safety and consistency.

I ran an Eidolon of Blossoms as a source of card advantage. It is basically a direct replacement for Oracle of Mul Daya that you can do in this build. I like most of the things about it but it does make me want Explore effects more. Getting a load of land clogging up your hand that you can't put to use is annoying and with a decent amount of draw and not all that much pulling lands out of the deck I can see that happening from time to time. Perhaps you can run both the 4 mana 2/2s!? If not I would at least like to find some room for Explore.

Traverse the UlvenwaldAnother mini theme you can run that I did not in this list is a delirium one. Traverse the Ulvenwald is a lovely card in this list finding all the things you want it too once you have delrium. Ishkanah is immensely powerful even with no access to black mana and these kinds of deck have sufficient mana production to go all the way up to Emrakul, the Promised End. Having Ishkanah and Emrakul in your list, especially with a tutor for either, greatly reduces the pressure on your Craterhoof Behemoth as the win condition which in turn reduces the pressure on you to maintain a high creature count. As you can see, green ramp is an immensely deep and diverse deck in how you can build it in cube. Even the different directions you can take it have themselves multiple distinct things you can then do.

Walking Ballista feels a bit like a must in this non delirium version of the deck. My experience of using Nykthos is that it tends to be overkill mana. While it may not have the same burst potential as Cradle it does tend to produce rather more mana, both in one go and over the course of a game. As such you want a powerful mana sink and for that none come better than Ballista. With it being such a significant role filler in the deck I ensured all the tutors I played would be able to find it effectively which sadly does rule out a lot of the exotic stuff that is being abused in modern.

Magus of the CandelabraEarthcraft and Magus of the Candelabra are quite full on. Neither do huge amounts without a land that taps for multiple mana, specifically a basic one boosted that way for the former. These are probably things you can cut for more stand alone cards, likely alongside Growing Rites. I mostly wanted to showcase some exotic and unusual cards! I always like it when a deck lets a card shine in cube these cards have multiple things going on here that make them especially well suited to the list.

I didn't bother adding in too many utility dorks which I likely should have. Acidic Slime and Scavenging Ooze are the most appropriate and appear in most modern lists. The lower threat count and high tutor count makes such inclusions pretty sensible. Failing that a little more utility disruption might well be found in planeswalkers such as Freyalise, Karn and Ugin. Not to mention all the Golgari ones! If the exotic cards like Magus then I would be looking to replace them with some disruptive tutor targets or indeed more dig effects.

Below is a list of many more cards ranging from the exotic to the every day, from the limp to the powerful. The main, if not only thing, they have in common is that they are also suitable cards for this kind of deck. There is no huge logic to this list other than it being cards I considered while making the list which I felt either sad or bad about not having included!

Sylvan Scrying
Elvish VisionaryGaea's Cradle
Voyaging Satyr
Elvish Mystic
Abundant/Unbridled Growth
Karametra's Acoloyte
Dragonlord Atarka
Xenagos, God of Revels
Candelabra of Tawnos
Hope Tender
Elvish Visionary
Wall of Blossoms
Vessel of Nascency
Oracle of Mul Daya
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Scavenging Ooze
Acidic Slime
Chord of Calling


  1. Awesome deck! Though must admit I was expecting Leatherback Baloths and Aspect of the Hydras when I skimmed the title. This seems much more interesting!

    I've also had my eye on aura-based ramp recently. I've always found the Simic section to be very lacking in cube. It's full of 'nice-to-haves' but nothing that really defines a deck. So recently I decided to nudge it in the direction untapping lands for more explosive ramp: Kiora's Follower and BFZ Kiora replaced Edric and Reason//Believe. Green untappers are Arbor Elf, Nissa Worldwaker, Garruk Wildspeaker and Voyaging Satyr, which I'm testing (and Ral Zarek if you go Temur?). The plan is to pair these with Wild Growth, Utopia Sprawl and Overgrowth (has been a solid performer!), as well as 2+ mana producing rocks. I also included Simic Growth Chamber as the only bounceland for this reason. The result is a ramp deck that can accelerate very quickly indeed.

    I tried Nykthos for a while, but it never really produced much mana for us. Our ramp decks include a lot of colourless rocks and finishers, and all the interaction in the format make it hard to accumulate devotion via creatures. Land auras are definitely the way to make the card tick in cube, as you say. I could see Nykthos being good in Mono B and possibly Mono W too.

    I often see Kodama's Reach, Cultivate, Sakura Tribe Elder on people lists. And scratch my head. In my experience these are categorically too slow as ramp tools these days. I guess they're the most low-risk option, there's that. However the fixing component also seems to have little value since manabases are generally good enough to facilitate splashes. I even cut Search for Tomorrow which was the best of the bunch for being a 1-drop. What's your take on spell-based ramp?

  2. Spell based ramp is fine but not great. It is nice and low risk and it affords some good perks like assisting delirium, providing library shuffles etc. I totally agree that cards like Cultivate are far too slow. The only land ramp cards I have had much joy with over 2 mana are Oracle of Mul Daya and Harrow and the latter only in storm decks. Tribe Elder is still decent enough. Two mana is fine and as you say, the options it provides are good compensation.

    I find when I am building a more controlling ramp deck with things like Karn and Ugin and Avenger of Zendikar at the top end then I like a spell heavy ramp build. When I am more aggressive and using the Overrun kill cards I want to be far more creature heavy! In most cases I will end up using some ramp from both camps simply to make the ratios right and hedge a bit, either slightly speeding up my control ramp deck or reducing the risk on my burst ramp build.

    Nykthos is a little hard to work with and isn't an amazing drafting cube card as such. It is pretty easy to get a big mana payoff with the card in any colour but it was finding things to do with that mana that mostly reduced the value of it. It was hard to tutor up your one copy of Nykthos in most colours and that meant it wasn't as worth forcing support for it. Lots of fun and potential but on the inconsistent side. This kind of list is by far and away the best support and payoff for the Nykthos you can do in cube even though many others do work.

    I like your idea to give Simic identity with the untap effects. It is a neat little package but it makes me want to go infinite turns or storm rather than ramp! I had been considering putting in the Voyaging Satyr and Overgrowth myself mostly based off how well the cheaper versions have been playing out.

    I have a mono red devotion list with equivalent cards to Leatherback Baloth if you are curious! It is not as good as this but certainly is more exotic and has a surprising amount of game to it. Firebreathers love a Nykthos.