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?
Well, for starters, we’ve got Archangel Avacyn as a pretty stellar point of
reference, a comparison Brad Nelson discussed last week.
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.
Okay, so what does Angel of Grace have going for it, besides doing a
passable imitation of Archangel Avacyn?
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
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.
Nope. I’d be hard pressed to want to play Sphinx’s Insight over Chemister’s
Insight, even if it gained two life all the time.
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
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?
Mass Manipulation is kind of a six-cost Dragonlord Silumgar, but you don’t
get the 3/5, and you also don’t risk losing the stolen card to the 3/5
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
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
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.
Yeah, Arch of Orazca isn’t great with Kaya’s Wrath, but having one might
not be too bad, as the card really does work great with what we’re trying
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
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
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 Tocatli Honor Guard
- 4 Adanto Vanguard
- 4 Rekindling Phoenix
- 3 Lyra Dawnbringer
- 3 Resplendent Angel
- 3 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
- 2 Angel of Grace
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.
- 3 Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
- 4 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
- 3 Trostani Discordant
- 2 Angel of Grace
- 4 Hero of Precinct One
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.
With Ravnica Allegiance fully previewed, we’ve got our work cut
out for us. There’s a lot of brewing that needs doing, and I, for one, am
loving the direction this block has been going.
Now about that Lich’s Mastery…