Avacyn Restored: Angelic Might Review (Part 2 of 2)
At last, the much-anticipated moment has arrived, and we’re ready to crack into the Avacyn Restored Intro Packs and take them to battle. We’ve given Angelic Might a once-over, and it’s time to see how it holds up in practice. Playing the opposition’s role today is Jimi, who has enthusiastically grabbed for the Boros deck Fiery Dawn.
I’m on the play for our opening tilt, and begin with a Gideon’s Lawkeeper off of a Plains. Jimi plays a Mountain and passes. I attack in for 1 with the Lawkeeper for some opportunistic early damage, then add a second. That’s a strong start, but Jimi decides that two is one too many and burns one out with a Pillar of Flame.
Now turn 3, I attack again for 1 with my surviving Lawkeeper, but have no other play and pass. Jimi finally lands a threat with her Riot Ringleader, but I counter with a Seraph of Dawn. Over to Jimi, she plays Kessig Malcontents, damaging me for 2 when they come into play. With no profitable attack, she ends her turn.
I miss my first land drop on turn 5, but still manage an Angel’s Tomb and 2-point attack from the Seraph. This drops Jimi to 16, and puts me back to full health. Next, I tap Jimi’s Malcontents during her upkeep to blunt her offense. Undeterred, she blasts my Seraph with a Fireball, then attacks in with her Riot Ringleader for 3. Next turn, I claw back to 20 with the Cathedral Sanctifier, which lets me animate my Angel’s Tomb and attack for 3 in the air to put Jimi at 13. Back to Jimi, she has her Ringleader tapped down again from the Lawkeeper, but simply plays a Devout Chaplain and passes.
Now turn 7, I’m hitting my stride with the deck and replace my Seraph with a Serra Angel. This lets me attack again with the Tomb, and Jimi’s now half dead. Still, she gets the upper hand with an answering Zealous Conscripts, taking my Serra for a ride. She swings in with everything except the Malcontents, whose brittle 1 toughness would simply draw an unprofitable trade with my now-spent Sanctifier. Just like that, I go from 20 to 6, and the game is flipped on its axis. Stunned, I Defang her Conscripts, then attack for 4 with my Serra Angel drawing the both of us level on life. Back to Jimi, I tap down the Ringleader during her upkeep. Jimi takes a moment to regroup, activating her Chaplain’s exiling ability to remove my Tomb from the board. She next plays a Kruin Striker and passes.
Trying to race, I play a turn-9 Timberland Guide and put the +1/+1 counter on my Angel, just as added protection against burn. Attacking for 5, Jimi’s now at 1 and dead next turn if she can’t find answers. At the end of my turn, she Incinerates my Lawkeeper, then plays a Vigilante Justice. This lets her kill my Sanctifier with a ping from the enchantment when she next adds a Somberwald Vigilante, and that’s just enough of a crack in the defenses to let her swing for lethal. A close one!
It’s back to the drawing board for our second, and I’m on the play yet again. My opening drop is a Plains, while Jimi springboards a Somberwald Vigilante off of her opening Mountain. I’m in good defensive position, however, as I answer with an Angelic Wall. Jimi simply plays a Kruin Striker and passes. Back to me, I improve my position with a Gideon’s Lawkeeper, while JImi plays Kessig Malcontents. They blast me for 3, then she follows up with an attack with both creatures. My Wall takes up the brunt of it, but the Vigilante still gets in for damage to leave me at 16.
Sadly for me, my turn 4 is a blank, without even so much as a land drop. Still, once it’s back to Jimi I do tap down her Malcontents with my Lawkeeper. She then attacks in with the Striker and Vigilante. I block the Vigilante with the Wall and kill off the Malcontents with a Righteous Blow. I take no damage on the round, though it lets Jimi Incinerate my Wall to finish it off. My next turn is another blank, though I do draw and play a Plains. Back to Jimi, she has her Malcontents locked down with the Lawkeeper again, but Incinerates them too in response. She then attacks with her Vigilante, and I’m now at 15 life.
Now turn 6, I deploy a Herald of War, but Jimi’s ready with an answering Pacifism, opening up a 4-point attack. Down to 11, I next try a Serra Angel. This one sticks, as Jimi next plays a Vigilante Justice and passes.
I finally land my first damage on turn 8 when I swing in with the Serra. I then land an Angel’s Tomb and pass. Back to Jimi, she plays a Benalish Veteran, directing the 1 point of damage to my Serra Angel. This lets her attack in with her Marauders, forcing me to choose between my Angel and my life total. I take the 3, going down to 8. Back to me, I counterattack with the Serra for another chunk of 4, then play a Rampant Growth to get a Plains before Defanging the Benalish Veteran. Fangs or no, the Veteran still is a Human and when Jimi’s Kessig Malcontents touches down, I get blasted for 4 life. The damage from the Vigilante Justice again gets thrown at my Angel, letting Jimi get in for 3 with the attacking Malcontents as I take a gamble and let it through. That puts me down to 1 life- dangerous territory.
It’s now turn 10, and Jimi has the numerical advantage. I need two creatures just to block everything she can throw at me, and luckily the one in my hand is an Angel of Glory’s Rise. When she enters play, she pulls the Lawkeeper from the graveyard back onto the board, shoring up my defense. That lets me attack with both the Serra and the Tomb for 7, and Jimi goes down to 5 life. Still, I’m teetering on the precipice, and with the Vigilante Justice in play all she needs to do to win is draw either a burn spell or a creature. Going right down to the wire, Jimi draws- and hits a Cathars’ Crusade. Unable to penetrate my defenses, that’s the game lost and she scoops.
It’s Jimi’s turn to be on the play, and she wastes no time getting started with a Somberwald Vigilante. We trade land drops, and next turn she’s in for the game’s first blood. I plug the defensive vulnerability with a turn-2 Angelic Wall, and pass turn.
Now turn 3, Jimi adds a Riot Ringleader and passes. Back to me, I play a Triumph of Ferocity. Not to be outdone, Jimi adds an enchantment of her own with the Vigilante Justice, then swings in for 5 with both creatures. I block her Ringleader, taking 2 off the buffed Vigilante to go to 17. I follow up with a Seraph of Dawn.
Jimi keeps the pressure up on turn 5 with a Goldnight Commander, a very threatening card in a deck that can drop multiple creatures in a turn. In a repeat of her old trick, she uses the point of Justice damage to ping my Seraph, removing it from blocking consideration. I again use the Wall to thwart the Ringleader and take 2 from the Vigilante. Passing to me, my Triumph then kicks in thanks to my Seraph, and I draw an extra card. I then attack for 2 with the Seraph, putting Jimi at 18 and me back up to 17, and finally close out my turn by dispatching her Commander with an Oblivion Ring. It’s a fine enough use of the card, and should she drop something any worse I can always use the Emancipation Angel in my hand to get it back.
Now turn 6, Jimi plays a Benalish Veteran, pinging me with the Justice. She then sends in the the same duo, and I block with the Wall to reduce my incoming damage to 2. Over to me, I’m up another card from my Triumph. I lead with an attack from my Seraph, then follow by adding a Goldnight Redeemer. Between the lifelink and the lifegain, I find myself ending the turn back at 22 life. Next turn Jimi adds an Elite Vanguard, sending another point of damage my way. She then orders the assault, sending her Veteran, Ringleader, and Vigilante in on the attack. Again, I block her Ringleader with the Wall, but still take a further 6 damage. Jimi ends with Angelic Armaments, and passes. As I’ll do for the rest of the game, I draw an extra card from my Triumph, helping me keep pace with Jimi’s deck and hit all my critical land drops. I then attack again with the Seraph and conclude with the Angel of Glory’s Rise.
Jimi uses turn 8 to equip the Veteran with the Armaments, but is biding her time. She knows that with the board state as is, she’ll only have one good strike left to cripple me, as mot of her creatures won’t survive the assault thanks to the size of my Angels. It gets no better once it’s back to me, as I attack for 4 with my Redeemer and then plug the defensive hole with a Serra Angel. I end the turn with a Rampant Growth for a Plains, seeing Jimi at 10 life and me at 17. Jimi’s next turn is a blank, so I continue my assault in the sky. This time, thanks to the Serra’s vigilance, I can safely swing for 8. Jimi takes it all. I then put the game firmly out of reach by summoning a Cathedral Sanctifier, returning it to hand to satisfy my Emancipation Angel, and recasting it for a +6 life swing.
Now turn 10, Jimi drops an Elite Vanguard and Thatcher Revolt, but the window has closed. We run through damage scenarios, but she can’t kill me or all of my creatures. With regret, she concedes the loss.
Thoughts & Analysis
Two immediate points jumped out at me from my experience playing Angelic Might, a deck quite different from the ones I normally most enjoy. The first thing was that through all four of our games (the friendly and the official three), these games felt exceptionally balanced. Sure I ended the last one at 23 life, but I owe a lot of that to the Triumph of Ferocity. Jimi’s change Pacifism of my Herald of War in the second clash likely sealed my fate in that game as well. Both decks were a match for one another, and seemed almost like a Duel Deck experience in pitting them together. Superb!
The second point I noted was that this big, fat tribal Angel deck, with its stalling tactics and bloated mana curve, was in actual fact a blast to play. If it was able to take one of the set’s more aggressive decks to task, then whether you like a slower environment or not it’s hard to argue that the deck doesn’t work within it. To be certain, in a faster environment the strategy would make a fine meal for many an aggressive number, but early indications are that this environment is well-crafted to allow a “battlecruiser Magic” deck to stand a fair chance at victory. It wasn’t a walk- I often found myself quite outnumbered and well fearful of some removal that would finish off a wounded Angel, but on the whole they did what was asked and perhaps a touch more.
And therein lies the strength of the deck. It’s straightforward in its execution. Stall the game, develop your manabase, drop your Angels and win. With fewer stalling options you’ll often fall before getting far enough along to have a chance, and with more stalling options you’d risk having too few Angels to make the tactic worthwhile. Angelic Might hits the right balance, and we’re hoping that today’s match was what we can come to expect from the rest of the set.
That said, it’s not a deck for everyone, for reasons touched on above. Like Rise of the Eldrazi’s battlecruiser decks, it’s made possible by the right environment. If you’re accustomed to playing your decks against people using decks from other sets, you might not find the same level of success. Still, it wouldn’t take a lot of tuning to adjust the deck to your own meta, simply adjust the level of stall to fit and go from there.
One card of note in the deck is Defang. My knee-jerk response to the card was “not as good as Pacifism,” since it still leaves a blocker behind on the board. However, a closer examination reveals a much more intricate design at work. Innistrad block has a number of creatures which have sneaky ways of dealing damage which Pacifism wouldn’t touch, such as Hellrider. There’s a niche purpose for Defang, and it does what it needs to- what more could you ask?
Hits: Strikes a solid balance between stalling your board and resolving credible endgame threats; good variety of Angels keeps the games fresh while the fact that they’re nearly all bomb-sized and similarly-costed makes them reasonably reliable analogues; high fun factor in the archetype
Misses: Removal a bit tepid; deck carries risk of “too many eggs in a basket” with its Angels (this made Jimi’s Zealous Conscripts an absolute blowout)
OVERALL SCORE: 4.40/5.00