Dear Azami: When A Good Soldier Goes To War

Join Levi Byrne as he helps a reader in need perfect their latest Commander project in the latest war torn edition of Dear Azami!

SCG States April 23-24!

Hello all. I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks. I wound up going undefeated at the Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease, thanks to Goldnight Castigator and an epically murderous Timber Shredder. The prize packs I got didn’t have anything interesting in them, but I did trade for a Tamiyo’s Journal for my Bosh, Iron Golem deck. I’ve also spent far too much time dying over and over in the new Dark Souls and spent Saturday at the third Clark Con. But now it’s time for me to turn back to Magic for a while.

Dear Azami,

Angels are my favorite tribe in Magic and whenever I play with my Aurelia, the Warleader EDH deck I feel like I’m bringing divine righteousness to my opponents. My deck contains a strong theme of justice and honor with cards like Baneslayer Angel, Godsend, Brimaz, Odric, Angel of Jubilation, Gisela, and of course: Avacyn, Angel of Hope. In my ideal world I summon my powerful angels and then have Aurelia lead them into battle.

Mother of Runes

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Stoneforge Mystic

Brimaz, King of Oreskos

Boros Reckoner

Banisher Priest

Frontline Medic

Odric, Master Tactician

Iroas, God of Victory

Firemane Avenger

Tajic, Blade of the Legion

Brion Stoutarm

Angel of Jubilation

Marton Stromgald

Solemn Simulacrum

Avacyn, Guardian Angel

Herald of War

Serra Angel

Baneslayer Angel

Zealous Conscripts

Anya, Merciless Angel

Herald of the Host

Linvala, the Preserver

Soul of Theros

Aegis Angel

Exalted Angel

Sun Titan

Angelic Skirmisher

Archangel of Strife

Luminous Angel

Angel of Serenity

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Akroma, Angel of Fury

Razia, Boros Archangel

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

Chandra, Pyromaster

Gideon, Champion of Justice

Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Elspeth Tirel

Aggravated Assault

Outpost Siege

Angelic Destiny

Concerted Effort

Assemble the Legion

True Conviction

Sol Ring

Boros Signet

Lightning Greaves

Mind Stone

Sword of the Animist

Sword of Feast and Famine

Coalition Relic

Boros Cluestone

Commander’s Sphere


Darksteel Ingot

Moonsilver Spear

Gilded Lotus

Swords to Plowshares

Gift of Estates

Aurelia’s Fury

Martial Coup

Entreat the Angels

Warleader’s Helix

13 Plains

9 Mountain

Needle Spires

Boros Garrison

Reliquary Tower

Clifftop Retreat

Boros Guildgate

Temple of the False God

Slayers’ Stronghold

Temple of Triumph

Command Tower

City of Brass

Rupture Spire

Mishra’s Factory

I have a high curve, which is fine with me because my playgroup plays a lot of ramp/big spells and I want to be able to match their power once they hit 5+ mana. The issues I’m having are that I’m running out of cards if I draw a lot of artifact mana and/or I get stuck with expensive angels in my hand and have to mulligan because I don’t have a hand that can support casting them. How do I fix this? Should I lower my curve and cut some of the expensive angels? Please heed my prayer!

(P.S. – no Heliod. He’s banned from my decks after he killed Elspeth)

If there’s anything I love about writing this column, it’s seeing deck like this that I’d never be able to come up with myself. I’m a big story buff, but I’m also too much of a Spike to limit what cards I’ll play for flavor reasons. I’m usually the guy playing Phyrexian Processor in a Trostani deck and hang the weirdness. For that matter I played Heliod, God of the Sun in my own Angels deck before eventually taking it apart, so tuning a deck like this is an interesting experience for me.

There is one mechanical issue that I want to talk about before we get into the individual cuts and additions, and that’s the mana. You noted the high curve of the deck, which isn’t ideal but is fine in the metagame that you described. I’ll be adding some more ramp to help you get to the endgame, but that’s not the issue I want to talk about. That would be the number of lands that you’re running, because 34 isn’t enough lands for anything resembling a fair deck in Commander. It’s easy to justify shaving lands for more action as you’re making edits, but unless you’re on an extremely off-the-wall plan that needs almost no mana to get started, you can’t go below 37 or maybe 36. When I’m building my own decks, I usually start with 40 lands and then start thinking about spells, which I realize is a little high but has rarely disappointed me.

Given you high curve I’ll be upping the land count to 38 plus the additional mana rocks, and I’d seriously consider looking for room for one or two more.

Now, let’s get on to the changes:

The Creatures


There are some themes that barely have enough cards to make a deck. Anyone who’s tried to execute Snake tribal knows what I’m talking about here. Angels aren’t one of those themes, which means there’s absolutely no need to run the cards that are actually bad. Razia, Boros Archangel, I’m looking at you. Overcosted by two mana and unexciting even then, Razia is a product of a different time and was a bit of an unusable clunker even back then. This also applies to Luminous Angel, which gives you underwhelming stats and a trickle of little tokens for seven mana. You can do better.

Similarly, Exalted Angel and Serra Angel just aren’t good anymore. Both were genuinely great in their time, but they scale poorly to Commander and are pretty clearly outclassed by the threats that any other deck is packing.

Avacyn, Guardian Angel is getting cut because this deck is fairly mana-hungry. You’ll almost never be able to actually hold up seven mana for her second ability, and she can’t even protect herself from damage. Couple that with the fact that I’ll be adding both more card draw and more things to do with your mana when you do run out of cards, and Avacyn 2.0 just isn’t what you want.

Linvala, the Preserver is very much a card that wasn’t optimized for Commander. The ceiling of what she can be is a 5/5 and a 3/3 for six that gains you five life. In Standard or Limited, that’s enough to completely alter the battlefield and pull you out of almost any situation. In Commander it’s a speed bump.

Is Linvala a fine creature? Yes. The problem? In a R/W deck you don’t have the luxury of drawing through your deck and burying your opponents in card advantage, which means that you have to evaluate your threats with the idea that one of your threats will have to be powerful enough to equate to three to four cards from the U/G decks if you want to. Can anyone seriously see Linvala fitting that description?

Looking at it this way, Herald of the Host is great when you’re on the attack. But on defense it’s just a Serra Angel and most players will have a blocker that completely trumps it once you get to the mid-game. Sun Titan is leaving because the cards you want to bring back are all five-plus mana, while Firemane Avenger’s ability is too slow and too small to make a meaningful difference.

There are a grand total of three Equipment cards that Stoneforge Mystic can search for, which isn’t a lot. My assumption is that it’s here as a second copy of Sword of Feast and Famine to make infinite combat steps with Aggravated Assault, but that’s not an interaction I’m interested in building around and the card is otherwise underwhelming here.

Boros Reckoner is a card that looks great until you remember just how common trample is in this format. Returning eleven damage is great. Returning three is mediocre. Marton Stromgald is the closest thing you can get to an Overrun in these colors, but the fact that he doesn’t give trample or buff himself makes it a fairly uninteresting effect, more so because you have relatively few token makers.

Finally, Banisher Priest is a fine removal option, but it also means that any Wrath will give your opponents their best creatures back on an empty battlefield. I’m usually fine with Oblivion Ring effects because most battlefield wipes leave enchantments alone, but creatures are vulnerable.


Wraths are important, and Sunblast Angel and Angel of the Dire Hour let you blow up the battlefield while leaving your own creatures unscathed. They’re a long ways away from Plague Wind, but they’re still powerhouse cards that often go overlooked despite the fact that they often translate to massive amounts of card advantage.

Basandra, Battle Seraph rarely gets any credit because she’s largely outclassed as a commander, but the ability to keep spells from being cast in combat is exactly the kind of lock piece you need to keep from getting blown out. The ability to force attacks will sometimes be relevant, but mostly she’s here to make sure people play fair during combat.

Emeria Shepherd and Reya Dawnbringer add recursion to you bag of tricks, meaning that your opponents can never count on something staying dead. This is extremely important since it’s one of the best ways to gain card advantage in the deck.

You said Heliod was off limits, but Angelic Field Marshal also gives the team vigilance and is a relatively cheap threat that keeps the pressure on.

The last three additions all play into the idea that you want to simultaneously limit what your opponents can do while beating down with your Angels. Angelic Arbiter forces each opponent to choose between aggression and developing their battlefield presence on every turn. Angel of Finality can be a surprise cannon that wrecks a graveyard deck’s plans and gets rid of a huge chunk of their deck permanently. Archangel of Tithes taxes attacks against you when you need that and blocks on your creatures when you want to get into the red zone…or both, if you have Angelic War Marshal.

The Artifacts


It might be weird to cut mana rocks in a deck that really wants to ramp, but Darksteel Ingot and Boros Cluestone are most useful when you need color fixing, not when you actually need to ramp. Since you’re only in two colors, your access to red and white should be relatively stable, and I want to focus on mana rocks that tap for multiple mana.

Moonsilver Spear is on-theme, but without a power buff built in, I’m always going to be underwhelmed by the card. It’s just too slow to matter, most times.


There are basically two categories here, ramp and card draw. These are often cited as the weaknesses that keep R/W at the bottom of the food chain in commander, so it makes sense to turn to artifacts to cover the gap.

Hedron Archive adds onto the Mind Stone camp of ramp in the early-game that turns into cards later. I considered Dreamstone Hedron, but you don’t really need to jump from six to nine mana. Worn Powerstone and Thran Dynamo are both just efficient ways to ramp and easily push you into the five-to-seven range that your deck needs to operate.

I’ve mentioned Book of Rass before, but it’s been a while. Instead of me trying to convince you that the card is good, just let me ask you this: how much would a fair R/W deck pay to be able to play Greed?

Staff of Nin and Tamiyo’s Journal will both draw you an extra card every turn, although sometimes you’ll want to save up Clue tokens to tutor. Slate of Ancestry isn’t at its most broken here, but sometimes you just need to ditch the last card in your hand to draw five or six cards.

Finally, we have Temporal Aperture. It’s a bit of a pet card of mine, and it looks really weird on paper. Now, you don’t have any deck manipulation, so the shuffling is irrelevant, which means that drawing a card is just as random as activating this. And the Aperture lets you play that card for free. Five is a bit much to pay and still do other things sometimes, but with a little practice you’ll figure out when it’s worth it.

The Enchantments


Don’t get me wrong; I love this card. You are in a bit of a weird place with it, though. Almost all your creatures have flying already, and the other keywords are a little hard to find. Both Akromas are of course beasts with the card and Aurelia has vigilance, but other than that, you struggle to get more than the occasional instance of first strike out of it.


When you really need to hit six to nine mana, Endless Horizons give you a steady stream of lands. It also turns Emeria Shepherd into an insane machine, since it guarantees you a Plains every turn.

And then we come to Worship. This is literally the first card I decided to add when I sat down with the list. It’s wonderfully on-theme and keeps you alive against damage for as long as you have a creature. Just keep in mind that commander damage will still kill you, as will loss-of-life cards.

The Planeswalkers


Gideon, Champion of Justice is a very strange planeswalker. His plus doesn’t actually do anything, while his zero ability gives you a massive beatstick. He’s also one of the few planeswalkers that can plausibly reach his ultimate, but really, who would want to exile all lands? That means there’s ever one mode you want to use with him, and it’s one that I’d rather use a creature for.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant is one of the best planeswalkers to date, but she doesn’t scale well to Commander and doubly so in a deck where everything has flying already. Add on the fact that people are absolutely paranoid about that emblem and she won’t stick around for long.

Elspeth Tirel, on the other hand, is the closest we’ve ever gotten to a bad Elspeth. She works best in a tokens deck so that the lifegain can scale well, the 1/1s she makes are relevant, and her ultimate leaves your battlefield unscathed. You’re not set up to get the most out of her, so I don’t want to open you up to the vulnerabilities of planeswalkers.

The Spells


Aurelia’s Fury does a lot of things, from preventing blocks to locking your opponents out of spells for the turn. The more important part of that is preventing spells from being cast, and Basandra does that every turn. Martial Coup is a good Wrath, but you already have two selective Wraths that come with creatures attached. Warleader’s Helix is simply unimpressive. There isn’t that much more to say about it.

The Lands


I said I’d be upping the land count, and I opted towards more basics. I also skewed more heavily towards Plains, both because you’re heavily in white cards and because having as many Plains as possible is good for Emeria Shepherd.

Here’s the finished decklist.

Aurelia, the Warleader
Levi Byrne
Test deck on 04-19-2016

And the additions, sorted by price:











Book of Rass


Hedron Archive


Sunblast Angel


Basandra, Battle Seraph


Emeria Shepherd


Staff of Nin


Reya Dawnbringer


Tamiyo’s Journal


Angelic Field Marshal


Worn Powerstone


Slate of Ancestry


Angelic Arbiter


Angel of Finality


Temporal Aperture


Angel of the Dire Hour


Endless Horizons


Thran Dynamo




Archangel of Tithes




The changes add up to $61.41. To help with that and for having his deck featured, Marcos will receive $20 in store credit to StarCityGames.com.

There is one card that would have fit perfectly into the deck that I couldn’t suggest because of budget concerns. Linvala, Keeper of Silence is an amazing Angel that puts a hard lock on most creature-based shenanigans for as long as she’s on the battlefield, but she also has a price tag that recently crept above $50 thanks to being good in both Commander and Modern, and it didn’t seem fair to mandate her inclusion. If you happen to have one or the ability to trade for one, go for it. If not, the deck will function perfectly fine without her.

Working on this deck was a lot like a throwback to my old Avacyn/Akroma deck, and it was a lot of fun to revisit my days of stuffing a deck with the biggest haymakers you can find.

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SCG States April 23-24!