If you've been following the fantastic @Arenadecklists Twitter account, you've been concerned that Standard would come down to a sea of creatureless decks like Nexus and Esper Control, as well as Mono-Red aggro decks, which all exploit the best-of-one format, and people have been using them to climb the ranks on Magic Arena. Now that we've had a weekend of tournaments, we can verify what we probably could have expected - that sideboarding makes these decks much easier to beat and the format starts to look like its starting point is actually a sea of midrange decks trying to grind each other out with Hydroid Krasis.
This leads to the very valid question of how you beat Hydroid Krasis. Too many of them are backed by Wildgrowth Walker to make it easy to go under them. The cast trigger can make them hard to beat with the "inevitability" of a control deck--if you want to do this, I recommend attempting to resolve Unmoored Ego on Hydroid Krasis; I feel that Unmoored Ego is wildly underplayed at the moment. Currently, there's a lot of "if you can't beat them, join them" going on, but I want to try going bigger. Not spending more mana but making plays that ignore all the resources Hydroid Krasis gives them. I want to overwhelm all these midrange decks with Angels.
Divine Visitation is extremely powerful. In fact, its biggest problem is that it's too powerful. It wins games by too much. When you look at this card, you should ask yourself if it's really worth going through all these hoops to make Angels rather than just casting Lyra Dawnbringer.
You don't get extra points for overkill, so in most games you just don't need to go to a card that goes as big as Divine Visitation, and you'd prefer a card that's faster, more consistent, and requires less setup. However, in this Standard format, when you spend five mana on a threat, you can't expect it to end the game. Everything can be answered and everyone will keep grinding through whatever you spend five mana on.
Divine Visitation, left unchecked, should go bigger than whatever your midrange opponent is trying to do, though it will be completely worthless against anyone who's trying to beat you with Nexus of Fate. The problem is that Wilderness Reclamation is already forcing people to respect enchantments. Vivien Reid is a card people put in their decks. Mortify is a card people put in their decks. So, can we really get away with playing a five-mana enchantment? I think we might be able to, but we need to understand that we might have to protect it.
I want to explore a variety of shells that take advantage of Divine Visitation to try to go bigger than the opposition.
- 4 Hunted Witness
- 4 Legion Warboss
- 4 Orzhov Enforcer
- 4 Priest of Forgotten Gods
- 4 Tithe Taker
- 3 Judith, the Scourge Diva
The goal of this deck is to cast Divine Visitation and immediately take advantage of it either by sacrificing afterlife creatures/Hunted Witnesses to Priest of Forgotten Gods or by triggering Legion Warboss. Drill Bit helps protect your Divine Visitation to let you set this combo up, and Orzhov Enforcer is particularly good at connecting for the spectacle trigger and also good at gumming up the ground to get to the point where you can take over with Angel tokens.
My biggest fears with this deck are that without Priest of Forgotten Gods it might be difficult to make tokens on command; and without Divine Visitation, everything else might be too small-ball, especially if you don't have Priest of Forgotten Gods active. I'm not sure what the best way to solve these problems is.
You could attempt to solve the problem of not having enough ways to make your creatures die on command by adding additional outlets. Weirdly, I could actually see cutting Judith for Bloodmist Infiltrator as the best way to sacrifice a creature for free, though that certainly isn't helping your overall card quality or helping with the problem that your deck is too low impact without Divine Visitation. You could also add Pitiless Pontiff, though requiring mana to sacrifice your creatures makes it very hard to do the same turn that you play Divine Visitation, but maybe it's okay to wait a turn.
Seraph of the Scales would be my first instinct for adding more individually high impact cards to the deck, and it might just be right to do something like cut two or three Tithe Takers for Seraph of the Scales.
The sideboard is kind of all over the place. I think Basilica Bell-Haunt is a more impactful card against red than any other card is in any other matchup, which is why I have the full four copies. I have a wide variety of enchantments that let you play a longer game that basically come in against control decks instead of creatures to reduce your exposure to sweepers, especially Cry of the Carnarium.
Notably absent from this list is Hero of Precinct One, who should be a good fit in a Mardu Tokens deck, but I think the deckbuilding restriction of maximizing multicolored cards actually leads away from what I want to be doing, and it doesn't actually play well with Divine Visitation since it will be mostly done making tokens by the time I cast Divine Visitation.
Here I'm playing Hero of Precinct One even though it's not exceptional with Divine Visitation because it's so good with Dovin, Grand Arbiter. Deploy, Dawn of Hope, and Memorial to Glory offer additional ways to take advantage of Divine Visitation.
This deck borrows a lot from Wyatt Darby's Esper Midrange , but the larger end game means that it needs to devote fewer cards to closing the game out and gets to play a little more maindeck interaction in the form of Absorb.
Dawn of Hope makes its way into the maindeck here, as it has very good interactions with both Divine Visitation and Dovin, Grand Arbiter and plays well with Absorb both in that it lets you do something if your opponent doesn't play into your Absorb and it lets you draw a card off Absorb if you have five mana.
This deck plays as kind of a hybrid between Esper Control and Esper Midrange, and the goal is that the additional Dovins position you well against control, and the presence of Divine Visitation lets you go bigger than other midrange decks.
Next, I want to look at some green options:
- 4 Deputy of Detention
- 4 Hero of Precinct One
- 3 Hydroid Krasis
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 3 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
- 2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
- 1 Trostani Discordant
This deck makes a lot of tokens and can use Song of Freyalise to get mana from those tokens for a big Hydroid Krasis, which can help set up a huge March of the Multitudes, making Angels, and the instant speed convoke Entreat the Angels should easily end basically any game on the spot.
This deck is really great at going wide and great at spending large amounts of mana, thanks to March of the Multitudes and Hydroid Krasis, so this might finally be a good fit for Song of Freyalise, which is pretty exciting for anyone who saw the power of the card in Dominaria Limited and was frustrated that it could never quite translate to Standard. Shalai, Voice of Plenty is another great way to take advantage of all the tokens and mana.
Another card I considered is Wilderness Reclamation because it's so good with March of the Multitudes and it makes it particularly easy to cast Divine Visitation, untap at the end of your turn, and immediately make a lot of Angels. The problem is that as constructed, this deck doesn't have enough other ways to use mana on your opponent's turn, but it's possible to try to find some balance between tokens and a flash strategy to incorporate a few copies of Wilderness Reclamation (which I think is underplayed in Bant Flash).
Divine Visitation looks a little weird at the top of the curve of a dedicated aggro deck, but it offers a way to go over the top of the green decks that are trying to brick your aggression. It's not hard to imagine having a Legion Warboss, a Haazda Marshal, and a Dovin, Grand Arbiter on the battlefield, casting Divine Visitation and immediately making three Angels. If that isn't good enough, a Heroic Reinforcements for two 5/5 flying, haste Angels certainly should be.
The sideboard focuses on Spell Pierce over Negate, because the deck is trying to play short games, and Disdainful Stroke to answer opposing Angels like Lyra Dawnbringer and Angel of Grace as well as any other big play that might catch the opponent up. Deploy and Venerated Loxodon come in against red decks, and Tajic, Legion's Edge is great against damage-based sweepers.
This deck plays a lot of mana sources for an aggro deck, but that just helps smoothly curve into Heroic Reinforcements. For an aggro deck like this, missing a land drop can be much more dangerous than flooding out, especially against midrange decks.
This is actually an important general principle that I think doesn't get talked about enough, so try to make note of this: If you're playing an aggro deck in a control format, land-light draws and low curves are great; the threat-heavy draws tax control decks' removal and allow you to punish them for taking time to draw more cards to keep lining answers up with your cheap threats. However, a land-light draw is a death sentence against a midrange deck, where the mana constraint will mean that you're casting cards that get embarrassed by the cards they're casting and then you're too far behind, and the threats that get left in your hand are too low impact to matter by the time you can cast them. An aggro deck trying to go under a midrange deck needs to hit land drops to curve out and stay ahead of them, and an aggro deck can potentially grind out a control deck with a land-light draw.
So, there we have several different ways to try to attack the format with Divine Visitation. The key to the card at this moment, I think, is to understand that you can't count on untapping with it, but if you build your deck properly, such that you can get some number of Angels out of it the turn it enters the battlefield, you may not need to untap with it.