Tournament Report: Top 16 at GP Tampa with Devoted Evolution

An alternate title for this article could have been “How I Stopped Worrying About Phoenix and Dredge and Decided to Play a Degenerate Combo Deck”. This article comes from Chris Minor who had arguably the most interesting decklist among the recent GP Top 32s. He managed to take his Devoted Evolution brew all of the way up to a 13th place finish with a 12-3 record at Grand Prix Tampa. Today he will give us his decklist, his thoughts, and a round-by-round breakdown of his run at the event.

Decklist
Lands (19)
1 Breeding Pool
2 Forest
3 Horizon Canopy
1 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
2 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills
Creatures (25)
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Devoted Druid
1 Dryad Arbor
3 Duskwatch Recruiter
1 Eternal Witness
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
4 Vizier of Remedies
1 Walking Ballista
Spells (16)
4 Chord of Calling
4 Eldritch Evolution
4 Incubation // Incongruity
4 Postmortem Lunge
Sideboard (15)
2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Knight of Autumn
2 Path to Exile
2 Stony Silence
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Tireless Tracker
75 Cards Total

For those unfamiliar with the deck, the main combo you are trying to assemble is having Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies in play. This combo produces infinite green mana that you can use to play a Walking Ballista for infinite to shoot your opponent, activate your Shalai to infinite your board and attack for lethal, or activate Duskwatch Recruiter to cycle through your deck till you find one of those infinite outlets. Now the deck is in theory very simple to play’ assemble the combo and use a payoff card to win. In actuality it is more complicated because you have to interact with your opponent, play around removal, and not get trapped by certain situations. The easiest way of dodging Path to Exile for instance is to play Druid first. If they Path it you can just have it kill itself via the -1/-1 counter ability. This will allow you to Postmortem Lunge it into play later. If you have a Vizier in play already when you play out Druid, you will not be able to use this trick and it will be exiled for good. It is a surprisingly difficult deck but it treated me well throughout the tournament. 

The Rounds
Rd 1: Bye (1-0)

Rd 2: Bye (2-0)

Rd 3: 2-0 over Dredge (3-0)
This matchup can be tricky and winning the die roll is very important as you have your third turn to combo and they do not have Conflagrate mana up yet to stop you. As my opponent was shuffling he bled me a Narcomoeba so I knew what I was playing against. Game 1 he cut me to the nuts. I went Turn 1 Noble, Turn 2 Druid, Turn 3 Eldritch Evolution noble into Vizier before playing the Ballista in my hand. Game 2 was also quick. I led off with Noble into two Birds of Paradise while he used Faithless Looting and hit a Narcomoeba, Amalgam, and Chill. I proceed to Evolution a Bird into a Scavenging Ooze and proceed to do an imitation rest in peace as I eat everything relevant out of his graveyard before killing him through combat damage.

Rd 4: 2-0 over Grixis Death Shadow (4-0)
Game 1 was an anomaly. My hand was two lands, Noble, Druid, Vizier, Duskwatch, and Lunge. I go Turn 1 noble. He Thoughtseizes me and takes my druid, which sets me up to kill on Turn 2 because the Druid has Haste. My opponent might not have been familiar with the deck but I proceed to kill him on my Turn 2 and we shuffle up for the next game. Game 2 is more of a slogfest as he Thougthsezies my Evolution and Chord. I play an Eternal Witness to buy back Chord while holding Path in my hand. He ends up Thoughtseizing my path and then jams an Angler against my three lands and Birds. I end up top decking Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and proceed to take over the game, making a large board and being able to swing for lethal in a couple turns.

Rd 5: 1-2 loss to Mono Blue Faeries (5-0)
Game 1 was pretty easy as I end up comboing Turn 3 while he has the wrong countermagic for my stuff.

Game 2 and 3 were pretty similar. He countered all of my spells and slowly beat me down with flyers. This matchup is very difficult to win because they have very efficient counterspells as can provide a tempo clock similar to a Delver deck.

Rd 6: 2-0 over Burn (5-1)
Game 1 he kept a very aggressive one lander and ended up putting me to three before Shalai took over the game. He could not find his second land to be able to double Bolt the Shalai which bought me enough time to combo out. Game 2 I end up playing Druid on Turn 2 with lunge in hand so when he tapped out to kill it I knew I was in the clear to combo out on my turn.

Rd 7: 2-0 over Spirits (6-1)
Game 1 was very weird. I mull to five and keep a one lander while he keeps his seven. However, he has no white sources so all he has are three Mausoleum Wanderers and an Image as a fourth. So when I draw out of my terrible hand and go to Evolution to win he has to sacrifice all four to stop me which lets me Chord the following turn to win. Game 2 was a little more of a game. We each keep seven and my hand is nuts. I have the full combo with Lunge and Path to play around his paths and spell quellers. His first two turns are shock lands tapped while I play Birds into Druid. He tries to Deputy of Detention my Druid, but I kill it off and Lunge it back for the win the following turn; locking myself in for Day 2.

Rd 8: 1-2 loss to Izzet Phoenix (6-2)
Game 1 was quick, he kills a Turn 2 Druid and Surgicals it so I quickly scoop it up so he does not get any information about my hand or deck. Game 2 I surprise him by casting Lunge to get Druid back on Turn 3 and kill him quickly. Game 3 was a grindfest where I either have Pathed or Incongruity’d the majority of his threats and he has Surgical’d my Druids. However I had a Gideon, Shalai, and Eidolon in play slowly beating him down. I however misplay and Surgical on his draw step to exile his Crackling Drake; putting myself down to three. I completely forgot he still had Phoenixes in his deck and he hardcasts one to kill me. Sometimes tunnel vision is the real killer in this game.

Rd 9: 2-0 over Dredge (7-2)
Like in Round 3 this matchup was uneventful. They do not interact with you well until Turn 3 if they hit a Conflagrate, and I just comboed out against him in quick succession on Turn 3 in Games 1 and 2.

Day 2
Rd 10: 2-0 over Burn (8-2)
Much like the first Burn matchup, Shalai is a powerhouse against his deck and my opponent did not have two bolts to kill her. I was able to hold on to her long enough to combo in Game 1. Game 2 was really close as he starts off aggressive with Monastery Swiftspear into Bolt on Druid followed by Eidolon of the Great Revel. I end up having to go to two life to Lunge my Druid and play Vizier that turn to kill him. He ended up having a Path in hand but since he did not understand the combo, I was able to make infinite mana and win when we should have gone to Game 3.

Rd 11: 2-0 over Storm (9-2)
I go Turn 1 Horizon Canopy into Noble Hierarch which makes my opponent think I am playing Humans, so he bolts my Noble. I play Druid the following turn and combo off on Turn 3. Game 2 he plays Serum Visions into Baral, while I go Noble into Evolution into Eidolon of Rhetoric to stop him from storming off Turn 3. I follow it up with a Scavenging Ooze and play a Druid on Turn 4. He proceeds to Anger of the Gods, so I kill off my own Druid and then eat my Druid and Noble with Scooze so it can survive. I slowly beat him down with Scooze while eating his yard until he Gifts for three cantrips and another Gifts. I give him Gifts and a cantrip because on the following turn he will Gifts again. This time I Chord for Shalai to give myself hexproof which effectively counters the Gifts which causes him to scoop.

Rd 12: 2-0 over Izzet Phoenix (10-2)
Game 1 is uneventful as I combo off on Turn 3 because he tapped out on Turn 2 for Thing in the Ice. Game 2 he plays Turn 2 Thing and I go Turn 2 Druid. He goes Manamorphose into Thought Scour into Faithless Looting, but forgets to take the counter off until after Looting resolves. A judge rules that the counter stayed on for missed trigger which caused his Thing to not flip that turn and allowed my to combo kill the following turn. Sometimes its better to be lucky than good.

Rd 13: 2-0 over Jeskai Control (11-2)
Game 1 I play very carefully and find a spot to make him Cryptic my Chord on his endstep so I can Lunge my druid on my turn to kill him. Game 2 I end up playing guy after guy making him struggle to keep removing my things. I play both Trackers and after he kills one, I Witness it back to provide a lot of resources. However Gideon and Shalai are what won the game, because Shalai prevented my opponent from casting Settle the Wreckage to blow out my board.

Rd 14: 1-2 loss to Izzet Phoenix (11-3)
This round was against Eli Kassis and the winner would more than likely be able to draw into Top 8. Game 1 he ends up killed and Surgical’d my Druid so like before I scoop to not reveal any information. Game 2 I play a Turn 2 Druid which does not get killed and I proceed to fetch for Dryad Arbor to Evolution it into a Vizier and then Duskwatch for Ballista to take it easily. Game 3 I mull to six and end up using Incongruity and Path to answer three of his things before using Surgical on his Phoenixes. However, I am not drawing any of my combo pieces so he has all the time in the world and ends up finding all four Bolts to send at my face thus winning the game and crushing my dreams of Top 8.

Rd 15: 2-1 over RG Valakut (12-3)
Game 1 was heartbreaking as I assemble Druid with Recruiter and dig twelve deep with Recruiter for a Vizier but could not find one before getting Scapeshifted out of the game. Games 2 and 3 were the same. I play Druid on Turn 2 and find Vizier for the win on Turn 3. Like other opponents, my opponent did not understand the combo and waited until I had Druid and Vizier in play to Bolt something which caused him to lose the game.

Overall I had a great time, the deck performed well, but has some issues with variance. Sometimes you just have the nuts and sometimes you just draw dead. The biggest pro of this deck over the Company version is that you can assemble the combo faster and can recur it with Lunge. I will continue to play the deck and make some changes as I see fit when the meta requires it or when Modern Horizons comes out, but for now I feel that it is at its most optimal list. Thanks for reading, hopefully I will see some of you guys at SCGs Cincinati Team Open if any of you want to talk to me in person.
Editor’s Note: Chris and his team went on to win the SCG Cincinnati Open with Chris in the Legacy seat. Stay tuned for a report on that tournament next week.

Wrap-Up
We hope that this tournament report was of some interest to you. We have seen Devoted Vizier decks perform well in the Modern format in the past but not quite like this. Do you think that Eldritch Evolution over Collected Company is the way to go forward with the archetype? Do you think is has staying power or did it take advantage of unfamiliar players? We would like to hear what you think in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow to provide a guide to Modern Bogles. Until then my friends.

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