Can a classic style Angel deck still get the job done? Let's discuss.
I get why combining colors in Magic is good, but I might have a soft spot for mono-colored decks. In fact. If you look back at the deck techs I've posted over course of this last 3 months since we started this thing - this would make my 4th single color deck in as much time.
That might be a testament to my inability to weave multiple colors together and remain competitive? It might be an indication that I am incapable of building high quality, in-depth, or multi-faceted decks? Or, it could be that I prefer the consistency of a mono-colored mana base and wish to leverage the enhanced power of a 75 card list that needs to only build power and function into its curve.
Mana fixing is for nerds (mana nerds).
Frankly, I have been surprised by this list. the creatures we are running are naturally evasive in combat, we get off to the races quickly, and our curve is solid. I may be running too many lands after testing regularly, but I would much rather have it and not need it in terms of being able to reliably cast some of our larger toons.
In simple terms, we have a list that looks on the surface like an aggro plan, but really ends up being a fairly defensive mid-game that is looking to stick an Ajani Ultimate. Let's take to the skies!
Ajani Gets the Job Done
I don't feel Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants get the respect he deserves. Surely as Ravnica Allegiance arrives, and Bant +1 counter strategies begin to solidify, we will see more of him in the mainstream. But, for now, I feel like Ajani is well-positioned to make an impact. Being able to turn after turn pump two of our early game threats in Healer's Hawk and Silverbeak Griffin starting on turn 4 feels pretty good. It creates a substantial clock on our opponent, can gain us untold amounts of life, and plods along toward Ajani's game winning ultimate. In a pinch, against removal heavy decks his minus 2 ability can help us stabilize, and get to some of our larger bombs. Ajani at four copies here creates a persistent power presence for our deck. Ajani wins all by himself.
The 1 - 2 - 3 curve...
Healer's Hawk has been seeing play. It's a 1/1 flyer with lifelink for one white mana. What this creature represents in this list is several fold. We have an early threat that effectively swings for "two" in doing a damage to our opponent and gaining us a point in life total. WHen we throw Ajani into the mix, this one-drop becomes quite powerful, and think about having two in play...pumping both Hawks turn after turn, putting more and more real estate between you and your opponent's life totals. It's glorious, and the bird fits the mold for Ajani's minus two ability.
The Core Set 2019 Ajani Planeswalker deck contains an exclusive card: SIlverbeak Griffin. It is a 2/2 flyer for two white mana. It is a great common, and perfectly fits into our evasive creature strategy. When we turn one Healer's Hawk into turn two Silverbeak Griffin, we draw removal in most cases on our trash mobs. There are times when your opponent will kick themselves for not gripping that Cast Down for just a couple turns more. On our third turn we are dropping an incredibly powerful, potentially game-ending threat in Resplendent Angel. She falls in line with our Angel theme, the bonuses from Lyra, curves perfectly to Ajani, she flies, she's pump-able, and she makes 4/4 Angel tokens under the right circumstances. MMMMmmmmm - Angels...
"You are not alone. You never were."
Lyra Dawnbringer has systematically made her presence known in any deck that can reliably generate white mana. What would an Angel deck be without arguably the best Angel Lord to ever be printed? Lyra adds a tremendous amount of additional benefit to our game plan here. Each other angel we are running gets buffed and gains lifelink. There is an argument to made about potentially running Divine Visitation somewhere in a build like this. Maybe an alternative strategy would be to use our creatures in a defensive manner to get to the Ajani ultimate emblem, resolve and maintain a copy of Divine Visitation, and put three 4/4 Angels into play during each our endsteps?
Or maybe, we just let Lyra & Friends beat face? Yeah, that sounds good.
"It is better to conquer yourself than win a thousand battles." - Buddha
In my original list, I had included Angelic Guardian at two copies. While she is great (and I mean great), she can be difficult to find in paper without special orders online, and this list should be easy to construct and fairly cost effective if you have been cracking packs or drafting regularly. Building it from scratch in paper could be a ding to the wallet, but in Arena totally manageable. Angelic Guardian is not available on #MTGArena. So, Light of the Legion - an angel that mentors and grows the team when targeted with removal. Naturally a 5/5 flyer for 6 mana, she is a 6/6 lifelink flyer with Lyra, and represents real power when we have an active Ajani. The synergies are strong here - out a counter on her from Ajani, and mentor a smaller creature. Go GO GO!
Serra's Guardian is another Angel looking to capitalize on Lyra's power, but also gives all of our creatures Vigilance. It may not seem like much, but when can reliably swing in without exposing ourselves (or Ajani) to damage on the crack back, we are doing pretty well. Serra's Guardian has been super effective in testing. Shalai, Voice of Plenty is an absolute all-star. She is an excellent buffer. I have been testing a version of this deck running 4x Temple Garden and 4x Sunpetal Grove in an effort to capitalize on her ability, but frankly, there are better things in this list to spend 6 mana on when Ajani is constantly buffing the squad. Before you get uppity about the high curve - let me remind you again - 25 Plains.
Angels are Magical Too...
A well-built deck of Magic cards requires a number of different things to be effective: the proper number and types of lands to suit the spells you are casting (check), a reasonable curve and game plan (check), and a pilot who understands the intricacies of the deck (check). Also, creatures strategies need backup. I have chosen several niche cards, and a couple that shouldn't be surprising for our main 60 support:
It's not quite Blessed Alliance (not even close, really), but Gideon's Reproach does "get there." In a deck that relies so heavily on being ahead on creatures, we need combat tricks, Gideon's Reproach is a sleeper here. It addresses Steel Leaf Champion, the Drakes, Tempest Djinn. It's exactly what we need to put the brakes on any opposition presenting a quick threat to the board. Seal Away can do the same, but isn't restricted by the toughness of the target - you tap it and it goes bye bye. Make a Stand is our "get-out-jail-free" card, it does not help us in the face of the Settle the Wreckage (by now you should be able to play around Settle), but it can shut down wipes of all types, and pump the team for lethal. Ixalan's Binding is an auto-include - it's uses are virtually limitless - it is good against every deck.
"A lifetime of keeping up appearances is not enough to earn an eternity of rest."
I will preface our discussion on sideboard options here by saying that there may better choices for you. The cards I play in my sideboard are purposefully included, and I will walk through each, and detail my thought process surrounding their inclusion:
Adanto Vanguard is a one for one swap with Silverbeak Griffin. I almost always drop the Silverbeaks when facing RW aggro or Golgari. We end up gaining enough life to stabilize by swinging in continuously, and there is not a better buddy for Ajani's recursive capabilities. An indestructible attacker or blocker that gets pumped is a fearsome addition indeed, and eventually you may find that Ajani and Adanto can get the job done by themselves. We want our opponents to run through their hand and resources in trying to mitigate the Adanto / Ajani threat, and entirely "miss the boat" in being able to deal with the top of our curve. Experiment with different options and let me know what you think.
Two more copies of Gideon's Reproach; we have our strategy and white removal at instant speed is hard to come by. In cases where we find ourselves outpaced, this can be just what we need to swing the tide of battle to our favor. Settle the Wreckage is a total blowout in our deck. One well-timed Settle can irreversibly set our opponent back in the face of our Angelic Army. USE IT WISELY.
Karn, Scion of Urza is a powerful Planeswalker. He doesn't exactly fit into this deck per say, but I can confidently tell you that the tempo he provides is nearly unmatched. Beyond the initial 4 mana spent to cast him, there is literally not draw back to slotting him in and going wider. Remorseful Cleric is included as a strict hate card to UR Drake and Golgari graveyard shenanigans. He also flies.
I am starting to enter the doldrums with the Guilds of Ravnica Standard meta. As spoiler season for a new set begins my mind starts to wander. I begin to get distracted by the new hotness and forget about remaining competitive in my deck-building processes. On Angels Wings needed a spot in the Sun here on LandSayGo. You should join the site, and let us know what you think about the deck list. You should propose changes.
Until next time, play a Land, play a Healer's Hawk and SAY GO.