This deck was submitted by: Dr. Manatee.
With another week of Ravnica Allegiance spoilers under our belt, JB and I are fiercely in "brew, brew, brew" mode. I've got a really interesting list involving treasure tokens to post; however, one of the things that will prevent us from posting our own brews is when we get deck submissions from you, our readers! Such an event happened this week, so I am pleased to introduce you to a decklist submitted by Dr. Manatee!
Let's break this list down, see what the various strategies are and how we can use and abuse them; I'll then follow up with a few suggestions on what I personally would change and give you a sample decklist. So, let's jump right on in.
Mid Game Power.
The absolute power in this deck is absolutely the midgame win conditions. Three Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. For 2WR, we get an extremely impressive mythic angel with power toughness 2/5 with Flying and Mentor. At the begining of our combat, Aurelia can target a creature we control giving it +2/+0 until end of turn, and if it is Red the creature gains trample; if it is white, it gains vigilance. Giving us the option to choose Aurelia or another creature really opens the possibilities for us, considering targeting herself gives Aurelia both additional abilities as well as bumps her power to give us more leeway with her mentor ability.
We also have another mythic angel in Seraph of the Scales. This new 4/3 flying Angel from Ravnica Allegiance gives us the ability to selectively give it a few abilities that are relevant. By paying W we can give it vigilance until end of turn, and by paying B we can give it deathtouch until end of turn. Being able to swing in and paying to give it viliance (or by giving it vigilance with Aurelia) allows us to give the threat of giving it deathouch both on offense and defence. That threat of deathtouch will stall your opponent's attacks long enough for you to take a good handle on the game. Seraph also has Afterlife 2, an effect that allows us to get an additional two 1/1 flyers whenever she dies. Don't over look this effect, it combos great with an attacking Aurelia, as she can mentor these spirits as we move on into the mid game.
Lastly, to top off the bombs in this deck, we have 3 Lyra, Dawnbringer. Lyra combos great with the other top end threats, giving them all +1/+1 and lifelink. On top of that, as this standard's Baneslayer Angel, its a powerful 5 power first striker with flying and lifelink. Lyra has been a dominate mythic finisher in standard since its release, and it has some great power in this deck as well. It also gets that +2/+0 and vigilance from Aurelia, leaving a powerful answer to a crackback.
This deck does run a few early threats that put some great pressure on our opponents. We are running 4 Adanto Vanguard, 4 Knight of Malice, 4 History of Benalia and 3 Midnight Reaper. Adanto Vanguard is still a powerful card from Ixalan, this 1/1 for 1W still swings in for 3 on turn three with the added ability of paying 4 life to give it indestructible. All in all, this is a very powerful effect, one that most control decks hate to see, as it represents a consistent threat that is very difficult to deal with. The playset of Knight of Malice is a great answer to your opponent's early aggro, as well as their white based removal spells, such as Ixalan's Binding, Seal Away, and the new Warrant//Warden that would otherwise put it on top of your library, turning you off from more important spells for a turn, and slowing your assault. For a bit of card advantage, we are also running 3 Midnight Reaper. Midnight Reaper is a decent include in this slot as it will at least cycle itself if it dies, and gives us a payoff for running our early aggro out there into heavy removal, as it will draw us a card whenever a nontoken creature we control dies. It is a decent enough card for the effect. The play set of History of Benalia is in the list mainly as an aggressive 4 power over 2 turns that gets that final +2/+1 anthem on the third chapter, as we don't really have any other Knight synergy within the deck. Either way, having the possibility to drop 2 in a row is positively devastating in game play.
I've been on the receiving end, as I'm sure many of you have, of a double History of Benalia. I have to tell you, it is extremely oppressive and can often feel unwinnable. That's why I can understand wanting to run some decent removal for it and other of the powerful saga enchantments or removal like Seal Away, Ixalan's Binding, etc.: a play set of Mortify. An old reprint, Mortify is 1WB instant that destroys target creature or enchantment. Mortify answers a lot of problems in the standard meta, and I think its a great inclusion to the deck. I especially like that it (as well as the next card) because it is so flexible in what it can remove depending on the circumstance.
We also appear to be running a full playset of Bedevil. This card is a fantastically powerful card. For BBR we have an instant that destroys target creature, artifact, or planeswalker. WOW. An extremely powerful spell, Bedevil can destroy those pesky artifacts like Treasure Map or Azor's Gateway, but more importantly, cheaply and effectively handle the powerful planeswalkers in our current meta, not to mention other powerful creatures.
Lastly, we have a pair of Vraska's Contempt to handle recursive creatures like Arclight Phoenix as well as another way to remove planeswalkers like Vraska, Teferi, Karn, etc. Not to mention, the incidental life gain could be very important in a meta with Rakdos or Gruul in the format.
The deck is running a ton of shock lands. We have a play set of Blood Crypt, a play set of Sacred Foundry, and a play set of Godless Shrine. Its a great thing to have the other half of these in the meta at the same time, but we do need to be careful that we aren't running too many of these types of effects without a more consistent way to gain life. The deck also runs a few of the buddy lands but I think we can do this a little bit better. We also seem to have a random guildgate in the list which is a little questionable. After we touch on the sideboard strategy, lets dive into what changes I would make or some other options that can allow us to better utitlize this life loss.
The Sideboard is running a couple of Banefires, a move that I love, considering that Banefire is a great answer against counter control decks, and can even be brought in as more removal if needed. Most likely though, it will be your finisher against control. Also against control we see 4 Duress, a great turn one play that can help pick apart an opponent's hand, removing their most impactful spells against you.
Against aggro decks that come in hitting hard or against the RB Burn or counter burn decks, we have the new mythic, Angel of Grace. For 3WW we get a 5/5 flyer with flash that will basically fizzle a game winning attack against you, or that final Banefire blast that would reduce your life total to 0. Instead, when you flash this angel in you get the ability to have that damage reduce down to 1 instead, just like the modern staple Angel's Grace. This is a really neat and powerful card, and I think it has some great utility in the deck. The deck also runs a couple more removal spells in Profane Procession, Deafening Clarion, and Kaya's Wrath. Decent includes, but I think we can find something a little better; these would have better play in more of a combo or control deck than the aggro midrange list we have. Lastly, we see a pair of the Immortal Sun, a good answer in the control match up and a match up against a lot of planeswalkers. Honestly, though with as much planeswalker removal as we have we may not need it for that, and instead could be running something like Arguel's Bloodfast for card advantage.
My Concerns and Changes.
I think this deck is pretty close, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention my concerns or changes to the decklist. Let's start with the removal. I personally don't think we need to run a full playset of Bedevil and Mortify. Instead, I'd opt to run a play set of Cast Down and remove 2 of each of the others. I think we can run more of the other spells in the sideboard to fill out slots if we need them, plus it helps lower are curve and give us cheap answers to early aggro or large nonlegendary creatures like Gigantasaurus or Steel Leaf Champion. Cast Down is also way easier to cast than either Bedevil or Mortify. Another card I'd like to throw in as a possibility is the new spell: Font of Agonies. For one B we get an enchantment that states that whenever we pay life (say for an Adanto Vanguard or a shock land) we put that many blood counters on Font of Agonies. Then we can pay 1B and remove 4 counters to destroy target creature. In a deck that we are already going to be paying life, I think running these over cast down instead is a great option, as we often don't need a removal spell right away since we have our own early aggro and can better captialize on our paying life.
I think the lands need to see a revisit. One thing he does well is his land count and distribution. Midrange usually wants to be around 23-25 lands to better facilitate its late game bombs, and in this case the highly mana specific removal spells. I would maybe consider running 3 instead of a playset of all of the shocks (unless you plan on capitalizing on the life loss). Running 12 shock lands is a lot, especially since we have a lot of lands that come into play untapped if we control a specific land type. So, I'd run 3 of each shock, and 4 of each check land.
A potential land spread could look something like this:
4 Godless Shrine
3 Sacred Foundry
3 Blood Crypt
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Clifftop Retreat
This feels better to me as it better utilizes the check lands but still gives you options against Field of Ruin and whether or not you should pay 2 life for a shock.
Lastly, let's take a look at the sideboard. Personally, I'd only run 3 Duress. It's typically a bad top deck and if we run our Font of Agony or Cast Down like suggested above, we could do an easy one for one swap against control decks, while leaving on in for security. In this particular deck, I think we should stay away from Kaya's Wrath. It is a powerful card, but I think a better card for the slot is still Cleansing Nova. Nova is easier to cast, and can be another way to deal with the pesky artifacts and enchantments in the format in addition to the other answers already found in the deck, not to mention it still has that "oh, shoot" switch to reset the board.
Profane Procession is a bit weird for me, I'm going to be honest. I think this better lines up with a combo deck in the format or maybe a ramp strategy, it just feels off here. Instead, I'd rather run 2 Detection Towers as a means of getting rid of some of those troublesome hexproof creatures like Carnage Tyrant. I could also see instead running a spell like the new Unbreakable Formation as a means of giving your entire board indestructible until end of turn in order to stave off a board wipe. Or you can utilize this space by adding an additional Bedevil and Mortify into the list. However, if you are seeing a lot of Niv-Mizzet control decks, perhaps something like Profane Procession could be good, as they will have a very hard time getting rid of it, and the exile ability will be tough to counter. It is your call.
I'm also not sure about Defeaning Clarion. I think its fine, but Ritual of Soot may be better in this deck. My reasoning is that casting a Defeaning Clarion will also kill your Seraph of the Scales in addition to any lower mana cost creature, where as Ritual of Soot will leave behind the Seraph as a way of dealing huge points of damage to a huge board. Sure, casting a Clarion into our Seraph will leave behind two 1/1s with flying, but I'd rather my opponent spend their resources to kill my 4/3 flyer, not me.
Instead of the Immortal Sun, if we are still running the pay life strategy, we can also run Arguel's Bloodfast as an early answer against counter control decks. I just think it is better in this scenario, as it won't be a dead card in your hand as you wait to get up to 6 mana to cast The Immortal Sun.
For that last open slot, I'd consider running the new Kaya. I think she's a decent graveyard hate spell, and if you can find the room, I think you should run at least 2 of her. Arclight Phoenix and Rekindling Phoenix are still a thing, and Kaya is a great answer to those cards, not to mention another way to finish off your opponent if you happen to ult her. She also helps smooth out our life gain for the pay life strategy we've been building. I think she's a decent fit here.