Angel of Grace is a 5/4 flying, flash creature for five. Let's just get that out of the way.
That's already enough to have me signing up in some spots, and that it has two other abilities is icing on the cake.
Why am I so bullish on a 5/4 flying, flash creature for five?
Archangel Avacyn obviously has a lot else going on, but so does Angel of Grace. What's more, a 5/4 flying, flash creature is generally meaningfully better than a 4/4 flying, vigilance, flash creature.
Don't get the wrong idea, though. I don't think Angel of Grace's abilities live up to Archangel Avacyn's. Making your team indestructible is way more commonly tactically relevant, and her transformation was game-winning more than Angel of Grace's "exile and pay six to set your life total to 10" ability. Still, Archangel Avacyn was historically strong, and Angel of Grace isn't even a legend.
When you face someone with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in their deck and you have Angel of Grace… Wow, do you have some great plays you can make. Obviously, the joke is that Teferi comes down on turn 5 and ends up at five loyalty. Before the lands get to untap, you can flash down Angel of Grace, avoiding stuff like Essence Scatter or Syncopate. Then all you have to do is have a plan for any potential Seal Away type action.
That could take the form of permission or discard, of course, but it can also be a bit fancier, like Tithe Taker or some such.
Drop a Tithe Taker precombat, and the coast will definitely be clear.
Okay, so Angel of Grace is a planeswalker killer. What about those abilities?
While the enters the battlefield trigger is no Angel's Grace (not avoiding losing the game from other means, nor having split second), it's definitely a fine option for surviving an alpha strike or surviving an Electrodominance for lethal. Just be careful.
Banefire damage can't be prevented this way when it's for five or more.
As for the exile ability, it's actually kind of a deceptive in true application. On the surface, it's like, okay, now that I've survived at one, it's kind of nice to have a way to get back up to something a little safer. If your opponent's attack was for lethal, you may even arrange a block with Angel of Grace specifically selected to ensure it dies, letting you exile it on your next turn (and before your opponent can untap).
In reality, however, Angel of Grace's ability is actually kind of awesome with surveil and discard effects, like Chart a Course. A lategame finisher is one of the more common cards we might want to get rid of early, and with this one, it's kind of like drawing a free card (4WW instant Your life total becomes 10).
Both abilities sort of start out pointing us at Azorius Control, despite Angel of Grace costing five, alongside Teferi.
We could easily end up wanting to play a bunch of creatures, but if we do go the creature-light route, Angel of Grace works great there. Having flash means there's such a good chance we'll get a clean hit in or get some other utility out of it before they can kill it, even if they have a kill spell.
Search for Azcanta, like surveil cards, can naturally end up in spots where we can get a little extra value by moving Angel of Grace straight to our graveyard. Chemister's Insight is even more exciting, letting us discard an Angel we don't need, regardless of when we drew it.
It's possible that Chemister's Insight is enough better or that we get enough mileage out of Angel of Grace's exile ability to warrant maxing on Insights, before branching out into Perceptions; however, there's also some appeal to having a powerful five-cost card draw spell to threaten, to help hide when you're saving five mana to play Angel of Grace.
Despite Sinister's Sabotage's synergy with Angel of Grace, Absorb seems enough better for what you want to be doing to start with it maxed. The extra life boost seems like it could really add up for trying to buy us enough time to bridge into our lategame. There's still a real limit on how many three-cost counterspells you can play, but it might not be five.
At least it counters artifacts!
Maybe I'm being too hard-headed. It might be fine to play one or two of these, but I just don't believe in the rate and think it's going to fall off in utility early enough often enough that I wouldn't want to start here.
Seriously, Hallowed Fountain alone is just so many points for this archetype. It's not just getting to use a shockland over Evolving Wilds (though that is awesome). It's also especially important to have good mana early for Absorb, and in fact, we're going to be a little cooler on cards like Arch of Orazca because of how much it doesn't cast Absorb.
As a two-cost removal spell, Warrant isn't that different than Seal Away. However, it does offer a couple advantages. First and foremost, it can be used as a 4/4 flying backup victory condition. It's not the greatest ever at that, but that's a lot better than Seal Away is in some matchups. Besides, there might be something to limiting just how many white enchantments we stack up on the battlefield, waiting to have destroyed in some sideboard matches.
You know, there is a part of me that wonders why not play a bunch of Sky Tethers? Like, isn't this just a one-cost slow removal spell that answers most threats, even having strength against stuff like Rekindling Phoenix?
Yeah, we already have In Bolas's Clutches, but an enchantment that can be destroyed or bounced isn't quite as reliable, to say nothing of making whatever we steal legendary. Besides, the real sauce comes from being able to steal two or more cards when we "kick" Mass Manipulation.
Having one Dragonlord Silumgar added a powerful alternative dimension to a lot of decks in formats gone by, and I think the same is true for Mass Manipulation. The implications of it as an option for stealing a Planeswalker (possibly about to go ultimate) are huge, and you'll have something to steal from most everyone. I know the card is expensive, but I'm not convinced we won't eventually end up with more. I think this one may turn out surprisingly good, compared to other six-mana Control Magics.
I hope it doesn't come to this. That said, playing two copies of Clear the Mind (whether main or board) adds an inevitability that might make the difference in long, grindy matchups.
Once we're playing an Azorius flash game, one can't help but consider Raff Capashen. The problem, though, is that if we replace Lyra Dawnbringer with Angel of Grace, we're getting a lot less value out of Raff. That said, we might just want to play stuff like History of Benalia anyway.
Once we open the door to fragile creatures, we have to more seriously consider playing even more and some of the great cards that require them. For instance, what about Deputy of Detention?
We don't really want to open up opposing Lightning Strikes, but if we start playing enough creatures, Deputy of Detention certainly is quite high impact. Even if they kill it, the ability to sweep up tokens seems incredible. I would guess we'd want to try a bunch of these in the sideboard, if nothing else.
Michael Flores tells me I should be playing some of these maindeck, even in a creature-light build. I'm skeptical but willing to try it, and I could see the rate turning out to be worth it. Dovin does look a lot better in a much heavier creature build, ideally with lots of fliers. For instance:
Maybe this is a little extreme, but Dovin sure works great with cheap fliers, getting to increase his loyalty quickly and efficiently; and Curious Obsession, Favorable Winds, and Chart a Course all look excellent here. Sky Tether is also particularly well-suited, knocking the threat out of the air, and the savings in mana is much appreciated.
Highly speculative, but I do want to try one, if only because of how much I like Ice.
Sadly, Depose//Deploy can't tap land; however, it might still have enough tactical implications to get it over the finish line, if we realistically appreciate a Midnight Haunting for a mana more than gains a bunch of life.
As I said, I don't have the highest hopes, but it's not a zero-percenter.
The Orzhov mechanic, afterlife, kind of suggests an army of fliers that we might be able to incorporate; but so far, they haven't really jumped out at me suggesting a legit skies experience.
Instead, my Orzhov thoughts are a little closer to Azorius Control decks, but with black instead of blue in order to get Kaya's Wrath and great spot removal.
Kaya's Wrath is unreal. I mean, just a four-cost Day of Judgment is already a paradigm-changing new addition to the format. That it also gains a couple points of life in some spots (maybe with History of Benalia, or whatever), that's just extra, in much the same way Supreme Verdict being uncounterable was just extra.
If we can live without the permission (maybe with a little discard, whether main or board), it's not like we are without options for card advantage.
As for the other card advantage engines, that's not a lean selection. Besides, that doesn't even speak to Revitalize smoothing draws, History of Benalia being a two-for-one, and so on.
Ethereal Absolution is technically a source of card advantage, itself, but it's also so much more. For just one mana more than a Curse of Death's Hold, you get a powerful token-maker, an anthem for your team, and graveyard interaction. I could definitely see playing more than one, and it's not even legendary. I'd rather not start there, however, as the second one is a lot less versatile of an added option, since having multiple instances of the activated ability isn't really worth anything. Besides, we have so many good late game cards as it is, and we're not even to stuff like Tetzimoc, Primal Death (yet).
Mortify looks good, but I'd be careful not to go overboard. It's not so much better than Murder that we immediately want to max out in every deck that can, particularly if we have Vraska's Contempt and/or Ixalan's Binding. That said, Mortify might really shakeup just how reliable white enchantments are as removal.
If we want serious card advantage, Ravnica Allegiance has enough new stuff to offer that we might want to revisit Lich's Mastery.
We already weren't that far off, and the addition of Godless Shrine is hardly the full story. The lifegain rider on Kaya's Wrath really shines there, but isn't the only intriguing new four-cost option for Orzhov.
This card seems to be flying under a lot of people's radar. I realize it's not as straightforward as Siege Rhino, but most things aren't. Isn't this basically a Loxodon Hierarch that sacrifices one point of power and one life gained in exchange for making your opponent discard a card? Isn't that a fantastic deal? I mean, what if that card is a Lightning Strike or whatever? That seems worth way more than a life and the fourth point of power.
Besides, isn't the problem with Loxodon Hierarch how mediocre it is against non-aggro decks? A two-for-one threat sounds way better.
I was already interested in slamming these in the sideboard of the above Orzhov list, but the more I think about it, the more I think they should be main. Nevertheless, they certainly rock with Lich's Mastery.
Okay, there's a couple things to like here, but the creature situation needs work. I wish we wanted to play a bunch of creatures, but I worry if we start packing Mares for days, we won't have enough game in non-Mastery spots.
The thing is, I really want to take advantage of Revival//Revenge.
If we had enough creatures that cost three or less, so that we could really just play this as a fine card early, that would be huge. Going late, the card has wonderful combo implications with Lich's Mastery, giving us a massive card draw boost (as long as we're not in the negatives). Costing six is brutal in a deck with so many other attractive six-cost options, though, so we've really got to find a way to make the front side work. That said, I guess we could just play one in the sideboard, if we had a couple Mastermind's Acquisitions. We're always so overloaded on fours, though.
I know it looks unassuming, but Orzhov Enforcer is actually a pretty efficiently distributed package. A 1/2 deathtouch is a real game piece we'll be able to trade up in a lot of spots. That it is also an implied two-for-one (with minor lifegain utility) is where we might start to get interested. It's not like it has a crazy rate or anything, but I don't think this card is a joke, at all.
While Kaya, sadly, cannot be revived, she is a reasonable source of lifegain, with a little interaction for one-drops and graveyard strategies while also giving us another potential road to victory.
While I think both paths have potential, the Orzhov deck that might use Angel of Grace the best might just be an update to Orzhov Knights, loving Godless Shrine and all the new cards that are black and white.
I don't think there's anything at all wrong with maxing on Angel of Grace in such decks. If you can put your opponent on the backfoot, she makes such a fantastic way to keep pressure on.
Lyra Dawnbringer presents quite the challenge for playing alongside Angel of Grace. Afterall, how many five-drops are you looking to play?
- 4 Adanto Vanguard
- 2 Angel of Grace
- 4 Rekindling Phoenix
- 3 Resplendent Angel
- 4 Tocatli Honor Guard
- 3 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
- 3 Lyra Dawnbringer
Maybe this sort of a deck reemerges, but we're not actually getting all that much out of Angel of Grace here. She's fine, but I mean, the value over replacement compared to Lyra Dawnbringer can't be that high (if it is even right to play any over any number). Additionally, the flexibility of flash isn't quite as attractive when we are already a tap-out deck with access to haste.
One final option I'd like to consider is in Selesnya, a color combination that has historically been extremely good at using Archangel Avacyn.
- 2 Angel of Grace
- 4 Hero of Precinct One
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
- 4 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
- 3 Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
- 3 Trostani Discordant
While we don't have the ability to save our creatures from sweepers, Angel of Grace is still a great threat to hold up against opponents looking to clear the battlefield. The real gain here is probably Hero Precinct One.
If you make even a single token off Hero, you're already in good shape, and it's just not that hard to make a bunch. This list is also not pushing Hero of Precinct One as much as it could. With seventeen other mono-white cards, we might just be leaving money on the table.
Obviously, a third color makes it easier to play more gold cards, but even if we stay Selesyna, are we supposed to look closer to cards like Sumala Woodshaper, Assure, Knight of Autumn, Conclave Cavalier, and Camaraderie? That said, we could also just lightly splash a third color. For instance, Integrity//Intervention or Revival//Revenge could be played as a white card most of the time but also supported as a gold card with relatively minimal disruption to our manabase.
Now about that Lich's Mastery...