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Boxborough TCG Player 5K tournament report: In-depth with B/G Devotion

I have problems playing this guy.
Wizards of the Coast

This past weekend, May 10, was the first time in a long time where I played in a competitive Magic setting. For the most part, it's been mostly FNMs. However, lately, and I don't really know what it's been, but I've been itching to get back into the competitive circuit.

With that in mind, I decided to take a go at the TCGPlayer.com 5K tournament this past weekend. It was held in Boxborough, Mass. and was hosted by TJ Collectibles. I have to say, at the end of the day, I was really impressed with how things were ran, and how quickly we transitioned between rounds. We had finished nine rounds of magic by 8:00 PM. I want to say it may have been earlier, but I'm not sure.

Alright, by now you're mostly wondering what I played and how I did. Well, here's what I played:

Main board:

  • 4 Desecration Demon
  • 4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
  • 4 Pack Rat
  • 4 Nightveil Specter
  • 4 Thoughtseize
  • 4 Underworld Connections
  • 4 Hero's Downfall
  • 3 Devour Flesh
  • 3 Abrupt Decay
  • 1 Vraska the Unseen
  • 4 Temple of Malady
  • 4 Overgrown Tomb
  • 4 Mutavault
  • 2 Golgari Guildgate
  • 11 Swamp

Side board:

  • 4 Duress
  • 4 Lifebane Zombie
  • 2 Dark Betrayal
  • 2 Erebos, God of the Undead
  • 2 Golgari Charm
  • 1 Doomblade

As you can see, it's very similar to the deck that Andrew Tenjum played to win the Starcitygames.com Open Series in Cincinnati, OH last weekend. The big difference is that I decided to play the Nightveil Specters in the main board over the Lifebane Zombies. Later on, I'll talk about what kind of an impact this made on my overall gaming experience.

Round 1

In round one, I sat across from Jon who was playing RG Monsters. My initial impression was that I wanted to be friends with this guy. While he put a beating on me during games two and three, it wasn't as bad as it should have been because he seemed so genuinely happy as he played.

Gm. 1

I was on the play in game one and started off with a Thoughtseize. His hand consisted of Forest, Mountain, Stomping Ground, Ghor-Clan, Ghor-Clan, Elvish Mystic, and an Elvish Mystic. I took the Mystic because I didn't want him accelerating into anything funny. On my second turn I played a Pack Rat and ran with it the rest of the game. It's funny, because this will be the only time I'll have success with Pack Rat for the rest of the day.

In: +1 Doomblade, +4 Lifebane Zombie

Out:- 4 Underworld Conection, -1 Vraska the Unseen

Gm. 2

His turn one he played a land and passed the turn. I started again with a turn one Thoughtseize. I saw a Mizzium Mortars, Courser of Kruphix, Xenagos Planeswalker, Mountain, Forest, and Polukranos. Of course, I took the Courser. That guy can be such a problem if left unattended. He eventually would drop a Witchstalker. This was something I didn't expect. I couldn't find a Devour Flesh to save my life. I would be able to play a Desecration Demon, but Xenagos would hit the table shortly after and his tokens would keep my Demon tapped for the rest of the game.

Gm. 3

No side boarding for me. I thought it was ample enough to play against RG; I had just caught a bad break in game two. In game three, I saw the start of my Pack Rat issues that would haunt me the rest of the day. At one point, I Thoughtseized my opponent to see a hand of Mortars, two Xenagos Planeswalker, Domri, and a Ruric Thar. I took the Witchstalker as I only had one real out against it. I would then Thoughtseize again to take away the Ruric Thar because my hand was well equipped to handle the Planeswalkers in his hand. I was absolutely incorrect.

The big mistake I made was playing a Pack Rat with no mana to make another rat. What's the issue here? Well, I did mention I had Thoughtseized him, and there was a Mortars in hand. I'm an idiot.

According to my score sheet, I put on some beats. However, he would soon have both Xenagos the Planeswalker and the living God on the board and it would make my life a nightmare. What I thought was a good start to the day, ended up being my first lost. On to the loser bracket.

0-1

Round 2

It's funny. I had this initial thought of the loser's bracket come to mind. I thought to myself, "I wish I was on that side of the room." That side meaning the winner's side. I guess you had to be there to really understand things. At one point, a player at the same table as me pointed at the Pokemon players on the other side of the hall. He laughed and said, "Are they playing Pokemon? That's ridiculous!" Ironic, since he was shuffling a pile of Magic cards in front of him.

In round two, I played against Sam. He was a nice guy. He was playing, what seemed like, a UG home brew. It played things like Kiora, Polukranos, and Courser. However, whatever the goal of the deck was, I wasn't able to see it as he had mana troubles both games.

Gm. 1

Game one got off to a fun start as I had to Devour Flesh two Polukranos, and Sam got to head start of 30 life. However, it didn't matter much as he got stuck on two land that game. I dropped a Desecration Demon on time and it ended the game.

In: +4 Lifebane Zombie, +1 Doomblade

Out: -4 Underworld Connections, -1 Vraska the Unseen

Gm. 2

I may not know what he was playing, but that doesn't mean I wasn't going to side board. I saw green, and that was good enough to bring in the Lifebane Zombies. I got a little lucky in this game. I started with a turn two Pack Rat, and here is the first example of how I learned I can't play Pack Rat.

When you play Pack Rat turn two, you've committed to it and making more rats for the rest of the game or until death do you part. Well, I had an affair in the middle of the game, and stopped committing. I had stopped to try to remove a creature. Well, it left me wide open to an activation of Polukranos and he hit my rats who would then die to it.

I got lucky because I was able to recover with another removal spell, and Polukranos bid adieu. He would then get mana flooded and the game ended soon after.

1-1

Round 3

Round three was against Odin. Yes, his name is Odin. How cool is that? Odin was playing a deck that I really thought about playing: RW Burn. His deck, though, splashed black just for the black half of Toil/Trouble.

Gm. 1

I started the first game like every other game thus far, with a Thoughtseize. That's when I found out I was playing against RW Burn. I dropped a Desecration Demon on turn 4 and began to hack away. Things got a little close when I was in a Lightning Strike away from losing game one, but Odin experienced every burn player's worst nightmare. He got land flooded when he needed a spell the most and my Desecration Demon swung for the win and game one.

In: +4 Duress, +1 Doomblade

Out: -4 Underworld Connection, -1 Vraska the Unseen

Gm. 2

Game two didn't go so well for my opponent. Once again, I cast a Thoughtseize to see what I was dealing with. My opponent had kept a very interesting hand. He was on the play and had already played a Mutavault. His remaining hand had consisted of two Chandra's Phoenix, two Toil/Trouble, a Boros Charm, and a Blood Crypt. I didn't think I had a stand-out choice, so I took a Toil/Trouble because, early in the game, if he could manage to get to three mana , I didn't want to get hit with a big Toil/Trouble. Unfortunately, for him, he wouldn't see anymore mana as he got stuck on two land. However, he still managed to get me as low as nine life. This just comes to show how silly burn decks can be and how they don't need much to kill you.

2-1

Round 4

My fourth round opponent, Jake, was a familiar face. I couldn't remember if I had seen him from other big events, or from another store I had played at. This would be the first time I would play the mirror match. This time I didn't fall victim to my terrible rat playing, but they were close, and, in the end, the winner was decided who could draw better.

Gm. 1

I actually didn't Thoughtseize on my opening play, but I did cast a turn two Pack Rat. I felt good about this one. I was going to commit. However, my commitment didn't last long as Jake cast Devour Flesh making me sac my sad rat. He went the Nightveil Specter route, but I played my own Devour Flesh and put him up to 23 life. I like giving my opponents head starts. Things got a little dicey as he got a Desecration Demon out and got to hit me with it. Luckily I had two Underworld Connections going to eventually find me a Gray Merchant. I would then be able to cast it, hitting him for a nine point life swing. The Gray Merchant would then be joined by his brother, promptly ending game one in my favor.

In: +2 Dark Betrayal, 2+ Erebos, God of the Undead

Out: -3 Devour Flesh, -1 Vraska the Unseen

Gm. 2

As you can see, my downfall, my inexperience really made an appearance in this game. I took out Devour Flesh because I honestly didn't think they were that good of a removal spell for me in this situation. Also, I really did not want to have it be my only option in removing a Desecration Demon my opponent was controlling. Even though I had this very conversation the night before, I still took them out. It didn't matter as the game came down to who could draw the most, and that was my opponent with two Underworld Connections. I just couldn't find any of my Abrupt Decays. That's a lie, actually. I had to use one on a turn two Pack Rat that Jake had played. It was the only way I could remove it at the time. I got him as low as three life, but his ability to draw more found him an eventual game winning Gray Merchant.

Gm. 3

I didn't side board, thinking that I had nothing else to bring in. I'm sure I could have, but I didn't know at the time. That didn't stop me from having a pretty good start. I Thoughtseized twice and landed a Desecration Demon. At this point in the story you'd think I had won already. However, he Thoughtseized me and killed my demon. Now it came down to the Underworld Connections we both had in play. He landed a second, while I didn't. A Gray Merchant would hit the table on his side causing a nine point life swing. I landed one of my own, but for not nearly as much. He would eventually win the game because he found answers and I didn't.

2-2

Round 5

My round five opponent was Evan. I had sat near Evan in a previous round and had overheard him talk about his "limited" Magic experience. When I say "limited" I mean that he hasn't been playing competitive Magic very long. Still, I've learned my lesson from many moons ago to never let this get to your heard. In fact, these are your worst enemies.

Gm. 1

Evan was playing a version of Mono Black Aggro and started the game with a turn one Tormented Hero. I played a turn two Pack Rat and actually committed myself. Now why couldn't I have done this during all the other games? The rats would eventually overrun him.

Gm. 2

I'm not going to lie. I didn't side board this match. If game one was any indication, then there was nothing I had to worry about. In game two I dropped a Desecration Demon. He was able to keep it tapped for a few turns, but he would soon run out of creatures to sacrifice to it. The Desecration Demon would then help me win the game. A win is a win. On to the next round.

3-2

Round 6

With two loses, I was hoping, at best, for a finish in the Top 32 to money the event. With two loses in a nine round event, it was very likely, but I had to win out. My next opponent would be Joe. He and I would meet after a re-pairing of the round. I'm sure if he could turn back time, he would have found a way to stick to his original opponent.

Gm. 1

Game one really set the tone for the entire match. Per usual, I cast Thoughtseize on turn one. As soon as I did this, Joe's reaction was, "Well, good game!" His hand revealed Grisly Salvage, Whip of Erebos, Angel of Serenity, Swamp, two Godless Shrine, and a Temple Garden. As it turns out, my opponent was playing Reanimator. I quickly dispatched him of a Grisly Salvage and left him with a giant creature that was not coming out any time soon, an artifact that had nothing to bring back from the dead, and a bunch of lands. I then played a Desecration Demon that would eat him up in the end.

In: +4 Duress, +2 Erebos, God of the Undead, +2 Golgari Charm

Out: -4 Underworld Connection, -3 Abrupt Decay, -1 Vraska the Unseen

Gm. 2

I really freaked out over the Whip, and, in hindsight, I probably didn't have to bring in Erebos, but I just didn't want my opponent gaining life. I never saw it, but there was always the potential for Obzedat to hit the table as well. If anything, the Golgari Charm was good enough.

The second game started with another Thoughtseize by me. It revealed a Sylvan Primordial, Ashen Rider, Lotleth Troll, Grisley Salvage, Courser of Kruphix, and land. I took his Salvage again. However, he would then be able to land a Lotleth Troll and Courser. The Courser would reveal Obzedat's Aid on top of his deck, but I had a Duress in hand waiting before he had enough mana to cast it. I got rid of the Courser and then got rid of the Troll. I would then drop a Desecration Demon that would later end the game for him. GG, Joe.

4-2

Round 7

Time to start feeling good about my chances to make the Top 32. With only two losses, I'd definitely be in the running to make money. I mean, if you're not going to win, it would be nice to, at least, make your entrance money back. Sadly, that feeling didn't make it out of this round as I went up against Eric who was playing Mono Blue.

Gm. 1

According to my score sheet, it says "I half committed to Pack Rat." Then in big letters it says, "NOOB." I got him down to 10 and couldn't get him to go any lower. It's times like this when I had Bile Blight. He had ran out multiple copies of Cloudfin Raptor with no fear that they would be both wiped out in one swoop. What gave it away? Maybe the green.

In: +2 Erebos, God the Undead, +2 Golgari Charm, +1 Doomblade

Out: -4 Underworld Connection, -1 Vraska the Unseen

Gm. 2

I remember this game clearer than any other game that day. Mainly because I made the biggest blunder of the tournament. I, again, played a Pack Rat on turn two and was committing well. My hand was even prepared for his Master of Waves with a Golgari Charm in hand. However, for some reason, I felt it was important to save one of my pack rats from dying. Why? That's a good question. Well, it resulted in my destruction as he cast Master of Waves the following turn. I remember when he did this I immediately looked at my graveyard. In it, right on the top, were the two Golgari Charms I had side boarded in. I thought to myself, "Hmph. This is not good." Eric now had a million blockers for my rats and one Desecration Demon on the board. To add insult to injury he played the new artifact Hall of Triumph. Ouch.

4-3

Round 8

People had been dropping like flies from the tournament. So while I had 3 losses I still had a slight chance to make it into the Top 32.

My next opponent was a guy named Fran. He was playing RG Monsters, but splashed black for cards in the side board. It was a close match that went to three games.

Gm. 1

I figured if I'm going to get better with Pack Rats, I have to keep playing them and get used to them. So that's how this game started. Unfortunately, I don't know how to add. During a tense moment in the game, I had swung with my Pack Rats. My opponent had a Scavenging Ooze in play and set up a block. I had already made a rat that turn before the attack making them 3/3. My opponent had two Forests open meaning his Ooze could only get to a 3/3 which I was fine with as I had no other removal in my hand. However, I forgot his Elvish Mystic can make green mana and I paid dearly. His Ooze lived and I lost a rat. Needless to say I would lose this game.

In: +1 Doomblade, +4 Lifebane Zombie

Out: -4 Underworld Connection, -1 Abrupt Decay

Gm. 2

Fatigue was starting to get to me. I took out an Abrupt Decay rather than the usual Vraska. I didn't think it was working as much for me. Looking back on it, I shouldn't have because it hits so many things in his deck: Domri, Courser, Elvish Mystic, Ooze. Well, consider myself lucky because it didn't matter this game. In fact, after removing his entire board and leaving him with almost nothing in hand, Vraska went off making her little assassins. Too bad Fran scooped before I could actually kill him with them.

Gm. 3

I didn't side board because of how game two went. A quick Thoughtseize revealed that he had two Stormbreath Dragons in hand along with plenty of his own removal such as Abrupt Decay, Dark Betrayal, and Mizzium Mortars. This was not looking good for me, and I have to admit, I was already dreading my loss. With one Dragon already on the board, he played the second one and immediately swung. However, in, what I'm assuming was his excitement, he forgot that I had a Desecration Demon on board.

At this point, we both have forgotten about the Desecration Demon trigger that has been missed, and I quickly point to my Demon. Fran is now in slight shock at his mistake. He can't believe that he swung so quickly, but doesn't try to go back. I take four damage from one Dragon and he sadly puts the other in the graveyard. The following turn I destroyed the other Dragon and left him with nothing in hand and an Elvish Mystic.

5-3

Round 9

The ninth and final round was my last chance to make Top 32. This was a solid match, and I learned a lot from it. My final opponent was Zach, and he was also playing BG Devotion.

Gm. 1

We started with a Thoughtseize. Zach's hand consisted of two Pack Rats, Nightveil Specter, Thoughtseize, Swamp, Temple of Malady, and an Overgrown Tomb. Dealing with one Pack Rat is hard enough, I didn't want to see another in his hand and chose one of the rats. On my second turn I played a Pack Rat of my own. To no one's surprise, he played the other one in his hand and thus began the war of the rats. This is where things got interesting. All tournament long I had been trying to really commit to the Pack Rat whenever I played him. When I didn't commit, bad things happened to me. Strangely enough, there was a turn where Zach didn't make an attack with his rats nor make one and it really through me off. It had confused me so badly I had hesitated attack with my rats. I would learn later on that my hesitation would be my downfall and his opening. He would kill one of my rats and catch me off guard. By making the right blocks and removing rats at the right time, he had managed to leave me with a clear board. I was able to gain life at one point with a Gray Merchant, but it didn't matter since he still had his rats. They ended the game soon enough.

In:+2 Dark Betrayal, +2 Erebos, God of the Undead, +1 Duress

Out: -1 Vraska the Unseen, -4 Pack Rat

Gm. 2

At this point, I had had enough of Pack Rat. Maybe I just wasn't cut out or smart enough to run this guy. I certainly did not have the experience. I had slightly given up at this point and wanted to try something new. I don't think I was in much contention, so I don't think there was anything wrong with it.

I opened up with another Thoughtseize on the play. Zach had kept a much slower hand. It consisted of a Devour Flesh, an Underworld Connection, and lands. After taking the Underworld Connection, he began laying the beats with his Mutavault. I was able to stop it when I played a Desecration Demon. He would just pass the turn over to me afterwards. After checking the trigger for the Demon and I went to swing. He responded by trying to killing it. However, I responded with a Devour Flesh targeting me. I figured if the Demon was going to die, I might as well gain the life. He struggled to find anything else relevant afterwards and I would eventually kill him with another Demon I had played.

Gm. 3

No side boarding for me. I liked not having Pack Rat. For some reason I didn't feel any more pressure, whether I was wrong or not. This game was as tight as it gets when these two decks meet. While it was a long game according to my score sheet, it was rather straight forward. He started by casting a Nightveil Specter using his two Mana Confluences, but I would end up casting Devour Flesh to get rid of it. Another Specter would later hit the board and hit me a couple of times. I got lucky as nothing major came off the top of my deck. It was just land. He would then land an Underworld Connection and the massive card drawing began. This is what would win him the game as I didn't get a Connections online until it was too late. By then he had enough answers on the board to swing for the win.

I have to mention that the game had gotten so close that a Gray Merchant could have won me the game, but I just couldn't get there. Thus ends my tournament run.

5-4

Now what do we do?

I was asked afterwards if I would keep playing this deck. I had to really think about this. One thing I do know is that I would definitely run the Lifebane Zombies in the main board. Reason being is that I didn't have enough options in my side board. By putting the Zombies in the side, I had four fewer slots to play with.

As for the four slots, I'd play more removal. I would definitely add another Doomblade, another Ultimate Price, and move the Decays into the side board. Before I changed the deck to splash green, I was playing with the Whip main board and it was great. It was really fun to be able to bring back a Gray Merchant from the graveyard, especially for the win.

In the main board, there were quite a few times that Abrupt Decay was a dead card in my hand. Let's face it. The real reason it was put in there was to be able to blow up Underworld Connection in the mirror match. However, it doesn't get rid of Dragons, it doesn't get rid of Xenagos, it doesn't get rid of Desecration Demon, and it doesn't get rid of Gray Merchants. After having said that, I would cut it down to two. Vraska is a fun card, but at five mana and another color splash, I don't feel it's worth it.

After my match with Zach we had an interesting discussion over the use of the Golgari Guildgate and other things. Are the Guildgates necessary? He doesn't think so, and I agree. Why play a land that comes into play tapped when players were just given a land like Mana Confluence. Not only does it come into play untapped, but it makes more than two colors. This is great if you still play Nightveil Specter. Another thing we talked about was my lack of skills with Pack Rats. He caught on early when I would hesitate with my attacks. He also had suggested taking out Hero's Downfall in the mirror saying it was the worst removal spell.

So now we come down to Pack Rats. What about it? I am too dumb to play it. It stresses me out. I guess that could be considered a cop-out, but that's how I feel. So let's replace it! It you had to replace it, I think the best card would be Brain Maggot. It has a similar effect as Mesmeric Fiend which is nice. Of course, I do understand that it is still vastly different from the fiend, taking a card out of your opponents hand is still not bad. You also get to look at their hand again. Can't complain there.

So here's what I propose:

Main board:

  • 4 Desecration Demon
  • 4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
  • 4 Brain Maggot
  • 4 Lifebane Zombie
  • 4 Underworld Connection
  • 4 Thoughtseize
  • 4 Hero's Downfall
  • 4 Devour Flesh
  • 2 Bile Blight
  • 1 Ultimate Price
  • 4 Mutavault
  • 4 Temple of Malady
  • 4 Overgrown Tomb
  • 13 Swamp

Side board:

  • 4 Duress
  • 2 Dark Betrayal
  • 2 Doomblade
  • 2 Erebos, God of the Undead
  • 2 Abrupt Decay
  • 1 Ultimate Price
  • 2 Golgari Charm

As you can see, I made a few additional changes while I wrote out the list. I went back to a Mono Black list in the main board. However, I didn't scrap the splash in the side board. You'll notice I really packed on the removal. I think the reintroduction of Bile Blight should help the deck. It'll definitely help against multiple rats in the late game, and against decks like GW Aggro where there is a flood of tiny creatures, this will be one of your best removal spells.

Finally, I'd like to talk about the removal of Nightveil Specter. In the end, I think having Lifebane Zombie in the main board is for the best. Will we miss the Specter? Maybe, but I think you kill two birds with one stone here. It frees up slots in your side board, you should have a slight advantage on RG Monsters in game one since your Zombies are main, and they still have evasion via the "intimidate" mechanic.

So, that's it. What do you think? Am I crazy? Maybe. Am I an idiot when it comes to Pack Rat? Slightly. Do I like Magic? Yup. Whether or not you agree with what I have to say, I hope that my experience helps you on your way to winning the next tournament.

Let me know what your thoughts are on this deck and if you'd play it at your next FNM or major tournament. If you like what you read, then hit that like button. And, if you want more, don't forget to subscribe. You can also find me on Twitter as well as Facebook for more news.