Angel of Grace barely caught my attention the first time I scrolled past it.
I thought to myself, "sure," as I read its abilities so unenthusiastically as if it were merely a part of a Duel Deck product. Nothing about this card screamed "mythic" to me even though the actual reason for my pitstop on the card was the fact that it was one. Surely it does more than this, right? Don't tell me Angel of Grace is just a low-hanging Angel's Grace joke to cleanse the palate before talking about another card from Ravnica Allegiance.
I wanted to move on from Angel of Grace and so I did. "There has to be something more interesting to talk about this week than an Avacyn knock off," I told myself right before I took a break and headed out to my favorite coffee shop for quick pick-me-up. On my way there, though, I just couldn't get this card out of my head. How could I be so harsh to a card with four unique abilities that I've never seen in action?
There just must be something I'm missing…
Angel of Grace isn't as flashy of a mythic as many of the other cards from Ravnica Allegiance, or even the rares we've been conditioned to play with in Standard over the past few years. Sure, it has some interesting abilities, but when compared to other cards in a similar design space, it's apparent that this card is simply worse.
It's difficult not to compare Angel of Grace to Archangel Avacyn and begin thinking about just how much worse the replacement is. You could look even further back to Restoration Angel as another Angel with flash and see how good they used to make these types of cards. This one just doesn't seem to compete with its predecessors, but this way of thinking doesn't actually prove a card's worth. Afterall, we can't play with Archangel Avacyn or Restoration Angel. We can play with Angel of Grace, however, and the card might not be as bad as it looks when comparing it to these old Standard staples.
It's become quite evident that Standard's "power creep" has abruptly 180'd in the last two years as the format is slowly getting powered down with each new set trickling out of Wizards of the Coast. Since this is just fact, it was unwise of me to judge Angel of Grace only on the basis that it's not as good as other similar variants from the past. Angel of Grace is its own card in its own format. To give the card a proper evaluation, we need to try to first understand what it's trying to accomplish, and then imagine the landscape of the format that it will be interacting within.
So, let's try to first draw some conclusions about this card in a vacuum. Angel of Grace has flash, which is a very nice ability for a high-powered creature. It's not like an opponent will always be able to play around this card and often not doing so will result in taking five damage the following turn. Being able to deploy this card at a moment's notice also comes in handy when combining it with other instants that can be difficult to play around when the threat of a flash creature is the alternative of that card being cast.
Settle the Wreckage comes to mind as it's been a rather easy card to play around for some time now given that there's rarely a downside for doing so. I'm unsure whether Angel of Grace will pair well with Settle the Wreckage as they both occupy the same space when an opponent needs to decide attackers, but it's definitely something to consider when valuing this card's flash ability. Even if Settle the Wreckage isn't the card we'll want to pair alongside this powerful Angel, something as simple as addendum spells seem like they'll work quite well with this card. Holding up mana for options is always nice, especially so when one of them could possibly attack for the win!
Angel of Grace doesn't seem like a control card, though, which is where you typically find spells like Settle the Wreckage or value cards with addendum. Its body is just too weak in combat against many of the format's biggest threats to be a control deck's win condition. It also costs the same as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which by now should be the go-to five-drop for any Azorius deck that wants to support instant speed spells.
No, Angel of Grace seems more like a high-end threat to play in a deck that wants to attack and should be willing to race given its enters the battlefield ability. Angel of Grace isn't looking to get into too many skirmishes, but instead feels like an exceptional card for winning tight races. Angel of Grace just has the feel of a midrange card that wants to utilize tempo to gain an advantage.
That tempo theme fits well with its last ability, as sometimes you just need to get another swing in with a lowly flier, and resetting a life total to ten might be just enough to get one more combat. Especially when Angel of Grace helped keep you at one life in the first place!
Now let's take a stroll down Magical Christmas Land for a moment and consider what will happen when we have multiple copies of Angel of Grace. Can you imagine playing back-to-back copies of this card to win out of nowhere?! The look on an opponent's face as they helplessly just attack with giant ground creatures knowing you're not going to die? That's a pretty powerful lategame if I say so myself.
Alright fine, I'm coming around on this card…
Oh yeah, we still must do that whole "compare it to the format" thing I talked about earlier. Does Angel of Grace really compete with "Baneslayer 2.0"? Lyra Dawnbringer has been a force to be reckoned with in this Standard format and has easily been white's best five-drop threat for the longest time. Sure, it's not the best thing since sliced bread, but it's done well for itself in countless tournaments (it got me to the finals of a Grand Prix, anyway!). There's just something to be said about a card powerful enough to win the game every time it's not dealt with, which is something I've seen from Lyra and can't imagine coming from Angel of Grace.
With that said, though, Lyra Dawnbringer is not a strict upgrade to Angel of Grace. Magic just doesn't work like that. Even when one card looks considerably better than another, that doesn't mean there aren't cases for the contrary. The best example for this is Golgari Midrange in Standard. Lyra's almost a blank in the matchup as there's so many ways to deal with the card in such devastating ways. Ravenous Chupacabra can take down the Angel, but so can cards like Vivien Reid and Vraska, Relic Seeker--far more game-changing interactions. In these scenarios, it's difficult to reassemble an aggressive force while also stopping an opponent from running away with the game thanks to having a powerful planeswalker on the battlefield.
Angel of Grace interacts better against these cards as it can be played after their turn has concluded, thus it dodges these sorcery speed removal spells for the turn, much like how we played Archangel Avacyn in previous formats. Yes, Angel of Grace's abilities don't really come into play unless the game is very close, but still having such a high-powered threat to deploy at instant speed can create tempo interactions that snowball into a victory as the opponent just doesn't find the time to catch up.
There's just something to be said about a threat that gained no advantage if it's dealt with immediately. This is a very similar argument I just had when discussing Prime Speaker Vannifar in this week's Fact of Fiction . Primer Speaker Vannifar and Lyra Dawnbringer are both exceptional cards, but only when they live.
Keep in mind I've still compared these two Angels under the idea that Golgari Midrange will be a deck and continue to look similarly to what it does now. Honestly, I don't think that's going to be the case, and I fell victim to comparing a card to a format it's not in. Again. Now it's important to think about how new cards will interact with still legal cards, but what we really need to do is think about what Standard's going to look like when Angel of Grace and the rest of Ravnica Allegiance enters the format.
My first prediction is that things will pick up in speed as they normally do in Standard when more sets get introduced. Decks just get more efficient and those that can't keep pace fall out of favor. Also, Gruul and Rakdos are hyper-aggressive guilds being introduced to Standard that both look like they can really bring the heat.
In my opinion - one I stole from Brian Braun-Duin - haste is the most powerful evergreen ability in Constructed, and Gruul's keyword, riot, potentially provides it to so many creatures. Gruul's going to be able to attack quickly and often. On the other side of the Mountain, we've got Rakdos needing to be entertained, so the entire guild has become a spectacle. This ability needs damage to be dealt, and I've never found a format where the color combination of red and black couldn't do so.
Moreover, we have to begin considering aggressive three-color combinations and what they bring to the table. For starters, three-color aggressive decks will have more impressive starts which means an opposing life total is under more pressure. The cards they have access to are simply better than two-color decks and most likely will have clean removal for powerful threats, like Lyra Dawnbringer. Relying on this powerful contingency plan may not work as often as it previously has with cards like Bedevil and Mortify coming into the mix.
This doesn't come without a cost though. The additional damage these manabases are going to deal to players adds up. It might be just enough to open a window for Angel of Grace to cheese out opponents when they drew too many shocklands and valued curving out over preserving their own life total; that's usually the case.
So what type of deck would we want Angel of Grace in? It seems like it would be best in a deck not afraid to take some damage since the easiest way to utilize Angel of Grace's abilities is to create racing situations, so something midrange and willing to not block. Not just that though, but in a deck that has a route to victory in the air since this card flies. All signs point to Azorius Tempo, but can we really consider building an Azorius deck without Teferi?
Maybe it doesn't need to be the centerpiece of a strategy. A sideboard plan for Selesnya Tokens could be playing Angel of Grace alongside Settle the Wreckage to better win the aggressive matchups. The possibilities are out there, but I feel like we'll first need to understand the other decks in the format a little bit better before trying to strategize with this card.
Angel of Grace might not be the "showstopper" of Ravnica Allegiance mythic rares, but that doesn't mean you should sleep on the card until someone breaks it. I know I won't be ignoring this card and do plan on deploying this unique Angel sometime while it's in Standard.