For the last five years, I’ve wanted to qualify for the Pro Tour. It’s been my biggest goal since I first traveled out of Michigan to play in a tournament. I had a lot of near misses in online tournaments during the pandemic when there was no paper play. I was always disappointed after the semis and finals losses, but each time, I tried to rally and change something about my process to give myself a better chance for the next time. There were a few times when I was way too hard on myself after throwing matches, and I’ve tried to take a longer view of things and recognize that those mistakes are part of a larger process.
At this weekend’s U.S. Regional Championship in Atlanta, I have a chance to realize that dream.
I’m beyond excited, both because it’s the largest, highest-stakes tournament I’ve ever played, and because I get to see friends I haven’t seen this year, all as part of my first convention experience.
I’ll break down my decklist and then talk a little bit about my team’s process. To nobody’s surprise, I’m registering Mono-Green Devotion in Pioneer. I have a pretty simple philosophy about deck selection. If you think that a deck is going to be banned, play it until they take it away. That’s what I did with Hogaak, Faithless Looting and Oko in old Modern. That’s what I plan to do with Green until one of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or Karn, the Great Creator is no longer legal. As of now, 27 hours before my flight, this is my decklist:
Green is a relatively easy deck to build. I view the core of the deck as 56 cards that are locked in. My choice for the four flex slots are 2 Lovestruck Beast, 1 Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God and 1 Lair of the Hydra. For the 21st land, I don’t think there’s a great argument one way or the other to go with the 13th Forest or the 3rd Lair.
The reason I’m going with 3 Lairs is because the addition of The Stone Brain (which I’ll break down later!) makes it so that Karn, the Great Creator, ends up getting named with Pithing Needle more often in the mirror. This means that one player will often need to win with combat damage, and so I want to make sure I have more Lairs than my opponent. I chose Nicol Bolas because if Karns get hit with The Stone Brain, I still want to be able to access my sideboard in a fair game.
Lovestruck Beast helps in some of our bad matchups, by providing blockers against decks that play to the board such as Mono-White Aggro, Mono-Red, and RB Midrange and giving us time to build to our top end. The other choice I considered for the flex slots were Skysovereign, Consul Flagship over Nicol Bolas, but I think the advantage that Bolas gives when you don’t have Karn in your deck (or when it gets Pithing Needled) is impactful enough that it will be the only card that can win some games, which is rarely true of Skysovereign).
WHAT CHANGED WITH THE BROTHERS’ WAR
Not only do I think Green has been the best deck for most of this year, I think it also gained the most with the new set. We got six new artifacts that have the potential to be excellent in the Karn sideboard and radically alter how several matchups play out. Not all of them made my deck, but I still think they will be able to make the cut in different metagames.
This is the most impactful card for Mono-Green Devotion. It changes several things. Firstly, you don’t need to cast the front side of Pestilent Cauldron to win the game anymore. Because Brain exiles itself, you can repeatedly grab it with Karn and use it to extract every card in your opponent’s deck. This frees up the Reckoner Bankbuster sideboard slot because you don’t need to end your combo by making black mana.
Secondly, if you can ever activate it in the mirror, your chances to win the game skyrocket. It’s very difficult to win a mirror with combat damage, so if you have access to Karn and your opponent doesn’t, you’re in excellent shape to win the game. This is what the mirror is about now, before anything else.
Thirdly, it’s excellent in a game against fair decks where you know they have several high-impact cards but you can beat the rest of their stuff. Against UW Control, being able to remove Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Farewell from your opponent’s list of outs is massive. Against RB, their Extinction Events are great against our sticky creatures which may be unkillable otherwise.
This is going to be a must-have as long as green Karn decks are around. A common place people were turning to beat green lately was the combination of Temporary Lockdown and Leyline Binding, whether that be in UW Control decks or Keruga Fires decks. Haywire Mite solves these problems and makes it much harder for those decks to stay ahead of you. I’ve also had games come up when it allows a Lovestruck Beast to attack, or that I grab it just to block something big and gain 2 life. One of people’s top picks to beat green? A mono-white deck that tries to give it’s 2/1 creatures protection from green. Karn often underwhelms in that matchup, but he just got an upgrade!
When I first saw this, I thought it was just going to be a slight upgrade to Meteor Golem. Golem was good for its flexibility, but Leveler will just win the games where it goes unanswered. I’ve found myself getting it even when my opponents have no permanents and I don’t have 8 mana, because I know it’s going to be great down the road. The fact that it triggers on cast and on attack is absurd.
This is one that I don’t have any games with yet. I think it’s going to be good, and I could hardly believe that casting it for its cheaper cost adds 2 devotion to your Nykthos. There will be times when you don’t have two Kioras when comboing, so letting a Karn activation make mana could be a gamechanger. The ability to make 2 bodies from one creature also has strong implications against aggressive decks. I still have Esika’s Chariot in my deck, but I could see Woodcaller being the only card filling that role down the road.
This is one that I decided not to play. I know that it was pretty hyped up at the start, but after playing some games, it felt pretty low-impact. The only thing it was doing was acting as a fog, which may be a fine place to be in some metas, but against most of my opponents they were just able to attack down my planeswalkers and kill me the following turn.
This is the artifact that I’m most unsure about. I’m planning to play it this weekend, but I could see a world where it’s supposed to be a Ratchet Bomb or a Karn’s Sylex.
My team prepared mostly on Magic Online, although we did a little bit of Cockatrice testing when the full spoiler got released. I was always pretty sure I would play green, but my teammates wanted to try other things. We never got close to “breaking it” and didn’t spend much time looking for the new combo decks we knew were out there. We talked about a few including Rally the Ancestors, but the conclusion we usually came to was that the creature combo decks that hadn’t broken out yet folded pretty hard to either creature removal or a resolved Karn, the Great Creator in one way or another.
Several of us were pretty high on Rakdos Sacrifice. The consensus was that it beats the field pretty consistently, but struggles a lot against Green and Karn. Ivan tried a few different things to get the green matchup to an acceptable place, but ultimately couldn’t make it consistent enough
I played a few sets of Green against Nam on Keruga Fires with the assumption that if it’s 4 Temporary Lockdowns and 4 Leyline Bindings could get the Green matchup to be favorable, it would have an edge on the fair decks in the field. I lost most of the matches, but we determined that because he was only winning the games where he drew multiple pieces of enchantment-based removal, the addition of Haywire Mite would make the matchup too difficult, so we scrapped it.
Some people are choosing to go with UR Phoenix, expecting lower numbers of RB Midrange in this field and some are going with GW Angels after it won the NRG 5K in Fort Wayne. I don’t have much insight into either of these decks, but I know that my teammates have built their sideboards to target Mono-Green Devotion.
The deck people have been most excited about this week is Big White Control. It’s a midrange Yorion deck that Will used to top 8 a 10-round Magic Online RCQ a couple months ago. It looks pretty mopey on paper, but is excellent at going over the top of people with Yorion, Elspeth Conquers Death, Karn, and a whole host of 2-drops. My NRG teammate Adam made Top 4 of the Indy 5K the day after we lost the finals of the team tournament. He was playing a red splash for Chained to the Rocks and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, but some new cards from the set have made that unnecessary.
The Brothers’ War added Lay Down Arms as a one-mana removal spell that has felt very similar to Swords to Plowshares (albeit at sorcery speed). We’ve also found Kayla’s Reconstruction to be a great way to go over the top during your fair games, and it both provides an excellent way to make your Nykthos tap for more mana as well as giving you a mana sink if you already have a board. Personally, I think the deck is a slight dog to Mono-Green, but it’s been beating me far more than I thought it would in our testing. It does very well against the fair decks and I think it may be a strong choice for my teammates who choose to play it this weekend.
I’m looking forward to a great weekend in Atlanta. Seeing friends, having my first convention experience, and playing a high-stakes two-day tournament should make it a memorable one. I hope that the work I’ve put in, the things I’ve learned in testing, and a little bit of luck will add a Pro Tour qualification as one more thing on a memorable list.