Angel of Grace barely caught my attention the first time I scrolled past
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
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
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
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