The Joy Of Brewing With Angels

The midrange flying tribe that could is something Emma can embrace, especially once Core Set 2019 is out! Get her brew sketches for crushing red in the near future!

My RPTQ went terribly.

Despite putting hours into deck selection, skipping the last day of SCG
CON, missing one of my best friends

win the Invitational

, and feeling good about my play in Standard, things just didn’t line up.
The team of myself, Jadine Klomparens, and Dylan Donegan got the second
best result you can possibly get in an RPTQ: 0-2.

Not everything in the weekend was bad! Cashing the Invitational is
nice–even a min–cash is $500; one of my best friends won the main event,
I loved the take on

B/U Midrange my team had come up with

, and honestly, I loved the deck I played at the RPTQ:

It’s fairly easy to recognize this as very close to Craig Wescoe’s deck
from Pro Tour Dominaria (be sure to check out his write up on the


). I only won a single game at the RPTQ, but my matchups seemed fairly
horrendous and it felt as if the deck had legs. The entire car ride home, I
couldn’t help but feel like the deck was close: it was just missing

This is nice.

The biggest issue that I’d had with the deck was that it had the
traditional problems that mana accelerant decks tend to suffer from,
including that it was sometimes hard to draw the proper mix of ramp and
threats. On top of that, it could sometimes draw a good mix of Llanowar
Elves and Shalais, only to be met with Goblin Chainwhirler effectively
undoing turns of development.

Resplendent Angel changes that dynamic on its head, particularly in the red
matchup. Before you point out that it dies to Lightning Strikes and Abrade,
I’m gonna stop you right there.

Lightning Strike and Abrade kill things. That’s just the way it is. This is
another form of the “dies to Doom Blade” truism that people have been
repeating for as long as Terror variants have existed. The big shift that
Resplendent Angel creates is in the fact that if we have a deck that
doesn’t have to lean on Llanowar Elves, we can build our deck in such a way
that Goblin Chainwhirler’s efficacy is markedly reduced.

Most of this deck is fairly well-insulated against the game that red is
trying to play, but still has a pile of things that die to the Searing
Spears of the world. Why?

We’re banking on red decks casting removal spells.

Here’s a lineup of creatures that gain a significant amount of power the
turn that their controller untaps with them. Each turn that a red pilot
lets these stay on the battlefield increases the likelihood that they’re
outclassed on the table, and with the low-to-the-ground configurations of
red that are seeing more and more success, that’s not a winning

I spoiled it a bit in the previous paragraph, but the mentality here is
similar to what led players to including Gifted Aetherborn in their B/U
Midrange decks over Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. Even if the red deck has Abrade
to kill it, Gifted Aetherborn stymied the red deck’s development for a
turn. That’s incredibly valuable when playing a deck full of four- and
five-drops that win the game by themselves.

The thing that we have to realize about these types of cards is something
that Gerry Thompson
brought up about
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and its relationship with Goblin Chainwhirler: they
don’t always have it.

Obviously we try to build our decks in such a way that our cards line up
well against our opponents, but there comes a point that a card’s power
level is high enough that we just stomach the times that it’s suboptimal. A
single card being able to create ten-point life swings and generate tokens
as a result is probably the point that we should start saying “Maybe dying
to Lightning Strike sometimes isn’t actually so bad a downside.”

This deck isn’t even the best place to try and abuse Resplendent Angel’s
text box. In G/W Angels, she’s merely a “good card.” Taking a route a bit
more akin to the Sam Black approach of using every part of the buffalo:

The most basic form of the lifegain deck more or less involves cramming as
many sources of lifegain into a single deck as we can. The deck’s naturally
unfocused, but using Prepare as an enabler and removal spell in one seems
particularly attractive.

The biggest issue with this particular deck is that it leans on the Angel a
little bit too hard. It’s something that can be doubly embarrassing to
cover when it’s on the heels of describing play patterns of her profitably
being killed by widely-played burn spells.

Other than Lyra Dawnbringer, the cards that gain larger chunks of life
don’t exactly do anything. Renewed Faith and Implement of
Improvement are the lifegain spells in the deck specifically because they
can be cycled into something else, but it’s more than slightly inelegant.

It’s a tough problem to solve, because there aren’t exactly a ton of cards
in Standard that gain chunks of five or more life:

Okay, there may be several “Standard legal cards,” with the ability, but
you sure aren’t gonna catch me registering Krosan Druid or Life Goes On
without some sort of major upheaval in the expected rules of engagement.

Rather than putting so much work into just triggering the Angel, we can
look to create an aggro deck with a bunch of incidental lifegain synergies
that uses Resplendent Angel as a good old fashioned 3/3 with the ability to
put the game out of reach if left unanswered:

The original idea stems from a tweet
made by Liam Cahalan, feverishly exploring build-arounds in the new set.
It’s a baseline for a synergistic aggressive strategy that is going to have
some embarrassing pieces that enable some absolutely busted draws.

There are a lot of pieces in this deck that play to make Diamond Mare count
as a card. Between Harvester needing a crew, Karnstructs wanting artifacts,
and the lifegain synergies, it works as an adhesive that pulls seemingly
unrelated synergies together.

Lifelink? Check.

Generates artifacts? Check.

Plays well in go-wide strategies? Check.

Fountain of Renewal is a lifegain card with the same backdoor “in case of
emergency: cash this in for a real card” clause stapled to it. The
difference between it and the previous pair of lifegaining cyclers is that
it gains life every single turn.

Having a pile of small lifegain triggers is going to increase the potency
of Ajani’s Pridemate and help us be a bit less restricted on how hard our
cards need to work in order to be converted into 4/4 Angel tokens. This
configuration of the deck is much better at playing a heads up game of
Magic, even if it is worse at abusing Resplendent Angel.

Watching the pendulum swing a bit further, we can look at a deck that
relies on a mountain of individual lifegain instances in order to turn on
Resplendent Angel:

This is a more token-y take on the deck, and was admittedly planned to be a
way to say “Look at all this cool stuff we can do in a post-Chainwhirler
world!” if Goblin Chainwhirler were banned, but that obviously isn’t the
world in which we live. It’s incredibly linear and focused on one thing:
attacking. The biggest draw to this style of the archetype is that it
really gets to abusing Ajani’s Pridemate.

Finding the balance between Ajani’s Pridemate and Resplendent Angel is
going to be the key to a successful lifegain deck in the upcoming format.

The biggest misconception that people seem to have is the assumption that
Crested Sunmare is seemingly required to be present in a lifegain deck.
Let’s unpack that for a second.

The Scarab God is barely good enough. Let that sink in for a second.

It’s easy to say the two are different cards and Crested Sunmare doesn’t
require the same type of mana investment that The Scarab God does, but it
suffers from several of the same weaknesses that The Scarab God does, and
the format has already adjusted to compensate for a 5/5 for five that
demands an immediate answer.

I get it; making free 5/5s is nice! This article is written about making
free 4/4s. The difference is in the cost of doing business, so to speak.
Having a 5/5 that can’t win a game without a little help is something that
probably isn’t going to cut it. I’m prepared to eat my hat on this one, but
competing with Lyra Dawnbringer and Angel of Invention is a tough spot to
be, particularly when Lyra is an enabler and a sort of protection
for Resplendent Angel (by putting her out of Lightning Strike range).

It’s ironic, in a lot of ways that several of the cards in this article are
being held back by the de facto red deck of the format, being that lifegain
seems like it would be an intuitive foil to that type of strategy. Abrade
is on the way out of the format in just a few months, as are several of the
incredible cards that hold up the red deck (good riddance, Hazoret).

Several of these decks are going to stay shelved until then, but the point
is that Resplendent Angel is powerful, her drawbacks are fairly small, and
the upside is colossal. She’s more than worth exploring, and with Core Set 2019 cards beginning to circulate this weekend, there’s
no time like the present.