Trostani: On The Backs Of Angels

Sheldon’s been itching to build an Angel Commander deck for some time now. See the list he’s finally come up with featuring Return to Ravnica’s Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice as its general.

Ever since I took the Angels out of Karador, I’ve been jonesing to once again build an Angel deck. When I saw Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice in Return to Ravnica, I knew I had the right Commander for it. When former writing partner (yep, search the archives) Bennie Smith built his own Trostani deck, the deal was closed. Even though I’m not a fan of 1v1 Commander, I’d be happy to throw down with Bennie in some hot Trostani-on-Trostani action.

Before we get to that, though, there’s a little bit of business. During Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, you may have seen that we added another member to the EDH Rules Committee: Devon Rule. Devon, who you might know as obsidiandice online, has been a long-time contributor to the forums and has always been a bastion of lucid insight and reason (which you’ll agree is much lacking on the Internet). We’ve asked him for a number of opinions on issues over the last year or so, and he’s always come through with outstanding arguments—especially when we disagree on something. The ability to offer the dissenting opinion is extremely important in any governing body, and Devon has shown the ability to handle it quite deftly when called upon.

Devon popped down to the Pro Tour and had a brief discussion (I’d hesitate to call it an interview) with me, Toby Elliott, and Scott Larabee. I’m a big believer in what I call the "measure of the man" (reference also Malcolm Gladwell’s "Blink"), and I’d prefer to meet someone in person—where you can quickly get a far greater sense of them than online or over the phone—before making a personnel decision. We were already impressed enough to ask him to come talk to us, and we weren’t disappointed in the face-to-face meeting. We made the unanimous decision on the spot.

I asked Devon to send me a quick bio in the fashion of the ones we did for the rest of the RC a few years ago, and here’s what he sent me:

NAME: Devon Rule

FORUM NAME: obsidiandice

AGE: 24

OCCUPATION: Current wage slave, future Magic designer

SIGNIFICANT OTHER: Danica, Management Analyst

BORN IN: Bozeman, Montana

LIVES IN: Olympia, Washington (Just moved!)

FAVORITE GENERAL: Hazezon Tamar – He’s got a useful and unique ability with that bizarrely worded Legends charm.

COOLEST CARD LOST TO RECENTLY: Living Death, the turn after I cast Living Death.

I’m a Timmy first and a Spike second. I play games to have fun with friends, but part of that fun is doing my best to win. The best drama and game play come from a spirit of friendly competition.


I immediately set out to be a contrarian with Trostani. I think most folks are focusing on her populate ability, which I’ve made a little room for, but I’m more interested in the life gain angle. The thing that I like about it is that it’s passive—you don’t have to pay any mana or other cost for it to happen. Play Trostani, play dudes, and gain life. Simple.

The Angels provide beefy bodies which get the life gain going while also making a reasonably powerful flying army. We spice it up with some interesting tricks and boom—there’s a deck. I’ve broken down my description of the deck based on functions instead of a raw card list, with the full list at the end.

One of the things you’ll notice is no Tutoring except lands. More and more, I want to play Tutorless Commander, and this is a nod to that. The two biggies that people will miss are Survival of the Fittest and Tooth and Nail. I’ve actually considered playing T&N and using it only for its first ability, but I think the temptation might be too great. That said, there’s really nothing in the deck that would lead to broken resolutions (the best probably being Duplicant / Restoration Angel to exile two creatures), so it might eventually come in. Ok, now I’m actually thinking about it.

Life Gain

The main theme of the deck is getting a high life total. I’m looking forward to a turn that someone battles me after casting Craterhoof Behemoth—without benefit of a Fog effect.

Serra Avatar was the first card I thought of because it will double my life total. Right on the heels of that came Ajani Goldmane.

Rhox Faithmender jumped out to me because if you’re gaining life, you might as well gain twice that much instead! It’s not an Angel, but since it’s a mender of faith, it seemed okay.

Suture Priest turns out to be great life gain as well as some insurance against Avenger of Zendikar / Storm Herd strategies. Nice dual function in a cheap package.

Wall of Reverence can get the re-redouble on Serra Avatar. If Wall of Reverence is out and Conjurer’s Closet is also in play, I’ll have to be careful to stack the EOT triggers in the correct order. Closet has to go on first then Wall of Reverence because the Wall is targeted. If it resolved last, it would find its target illegal because it had Blinked out and come back, which the game treats as a new object.

Congregate seems cute, but I’m betting in the long run I’ll end up swapping it out for something with a little more action to it. Sure, there will be situations when someone else drops a bunch of tokens and I can gain life, but I wonder if this would be better off as that extra Fog effect I can’t find room for.

Other direct life gain cards include Baneslayer Angel, Exalted Angel, Pelakka Wurm, Elspeth Tirel, Fracturing Gust, and Miren, the Moaning Well.


I wanted to build an Angel deck in which I could still play Restoration Angel, and this is it. I started walking down the road of Blink/enters-the-battlefield strategies, but I reined that in just a little. There are still some shenanigans in that regard, but it’s not a full-on part of the deck.

The full list of Angels is: Aegis Angel, Angel of Glory’s Rise, Angel of Jubilation, Angelic Arbiter, Baneslayer Angel, Blinding Angel, Exalted Angel, Guardian Seraph, Herald of War, Karmic Guide, Restoration Angel, Sublime Archangel, Sunblast Angel, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Radiant, Archangel, and Sigarda, Host of Herons. I suppose you can also count Entreat the Angels in that list.


Doubling my life total by casting Serra Avatar is only the first bit of it. Blinking it back in to redouble was the follow-up thought. I’m not playing Conjurer’s Closet in any other decks, and it was a natural fit here even though I have other decks with far more ETBs. Again, this is a subtheme, so there isn’t much else in this regard. Obviously, if blue were involved, Venser, Shaper Savant would be first to the party.

Mana, Acceleration, and Ramp

A few of the usual suspects are here: Solemn Simulacrum, Wood Elves, Rampant Growth, and Skyshroud Claim. Boundless Realms might be too cute, but we’ll see how it goes. Sol Ring is my only mana rock (though I’ve given some thought to Pristine Talisman as well), as I’d prefer to just get extra lands onto the battlefield. Garruk Wildspeaker counts as acceleration in my book, only to be used late game for the Overrun ability. Making a Beast to have something to populate with isn’t likely to happen all that often, but the option is there.

Mirari’s Wake is a great mana doubler, and in the one game in five that it actually survives it will get me rolling—but I couldn’t find one, so I grabbed Mana Reflection instead. The deck seems a little mana-hungry right now, so it might be that I really need this to stay around more often than it tends to. Mirari’s Wake AND Mana Reflection seems a little greedy.

Herald of War is acceleration, I suppose, since it helps cast Angels faster. It combos with Gavony Township nicely.  

Card Draw

This element feels a little weak, so we’ll have to watch how it plays out. Greater Good seems like a nonbo with Angel of Jubilation, but since I have control of which I play, I should be fine. Primordial Sage and Soul of the Harvest are creature-based card drawing machines, although they’re a little pricey to get on the board. Well of Lost Dreams fits the theme perfectly as I’m gaining a fair amount of life all the time, even without Trostani. Masked Admirers is just a solid card, so solid that I found somehow along the way I had put three of them into my Nath deck (which I’ve since rectified).

I’d initially cut Lurking Predators, which I certainly put in the ‘card draw’ pile, but put it back in for two reasons. First, it’s just awesome, and the large mana-cost creature base demands it. Second, I’ve taken it out of a few decks recently (newer, shinier cards have come along), and I’m just itching to play one of my favorite cards of all time again.


It’s been my experience in this format that no matter how good your creature-based deck is, there are times when someone else’s creature collection is better. That’s why there are Wrath effects plus a few extra board sweepers like Austere Command and Planar Cleansing. If I have Avacyn in play when one of those happens, then so much the better. Since most of my creatures are white, Mass Calcify makes sense, as does the highly underrated Crackdown. I imagine to some extent Crovax is also control, as it takes care of one-toughness non-white creatures, which are all the rage these days (here’s to you, Norin the Wary!). I suppose Angel of Glory’s Rise is also control, albeit in a pretty narrow sense.


Artifact and enchantment destruction being important and knowing I’m getting lots of creatures into play, Aura Shards is a given. I’d considered Harmonic Sliver, but it’s not a "may." Imagine the (admittedly unlikely) blowout of there being no other targets on the board and me playing Lurking Predators into Harmonic Sliver. Acidic Slime additionally takes care of problematic lands.

Emeria, the Sky Ruin is the only real utility land. There are enough Plains to make it work. I really want the color production, so Maze of Ith and the like just get squeezed out.

Fog effects are required in the post Craterhoof Behemoth Commander world, and Druid’s Deliverance suggested itself quite nicely. I wouldn’t mind having another, such as Tangle or Spore Cloud, but again we’re getting into space issues.

At first I was going to go with Dauntless Escort to help save my creatures, but I decided to use Faith’s Reward instead, partially because of the issue with Angel of Jubilation, partially because I haven’t played Faith’s Reward before and just watched it help win a Pro Tour, and partially because we all love ETBs.

I’m still a little skeptical about Angel of Serenity, but I imagine that it has quite some flexible uses. I look forward to some interesting decisions with it.


In Commander, most token creation revolves around putting piles of tokens into play with stuff like Avenger of Zendikar, Rith, the Awakener, and Rhys, the Redeemed. There doesn’t seem to be too many big tokens, so I decided to create a few of my own.

The three major cards here are Minion Reflector, Mimic Vat, and Entreat the Angels. I suppose that Decree of Justice could work, but that’s almost always getting cycled instead of hard cast.

Mimic Vat will probably be the most useful of the bunch since it’s a pretty good single-card strategy. For the low cost of six mana, I’ll be able to get two copies of something, one of which won’t go away at EOT.

Minion Reflector worries me a little in that it’s more mana-intensive. Sure, it’s only two to get the token (which is nice if you somehow get a big dude without paying for it—another reason Lurking Predators came in), but you have to also consider the original mana cost of the creature plus the populate mana. The card is really good in my Thraximundar deck, so I’m interested to see if it works here.

Stuff That Didn’t Make It

Eternal Witness: As close to an auto-include as there is in green, it came down to the recursion with this or the utility of Acidic Slime. I opted for the latter but see the arguments for our favorite Human Shaman, especially since Angel of Glory’s Rise brings Humans back.

Galepowder Mage: With the Blink subtheme, the Mage would have made good sense, but there simply wasn’t anything I wanted to cut. If I’d gone with a full-on Blink main theme, it would be in there.

Mirror Strike: It’s a card I really want to play in every white deck, at the very least so people have to really be concerned whether or not to attack me with their giant dude. I guess I’ve missed the opportunity to run some bluffs…or have I?

Iona, Shield of Emeria: I don’t want to be that guy. There’s an evil part of me that wants to play it and just crush the mono-color guy even if he’s not the threat ("That’s what you get for your smooth mana base, sir!"), but fortunately, my more evolved side prevailed.

Reya Dawnbringer: I suppose that with Lurking Predators it’s not unreasonable and the deck is weak on recursion, but I couldn’t really think of what I’d cut.

Stoneforge Mystic / Equipment: Angels carrying swords seems dogmatic, but tough decisions had to be made.

Tooth and Nail: I thought about it some more and decided to wait on it. I am, however, serving notice to any card who might think of underperforming that T&N is waiting in the wings to take your place.

Woodfall Primus: Nearly every green deck wants this guy, but I don’t want there to be so much sameness to my decks.

A bunch of other Angels: There were too many to put into a single deck. There were many it pained me to not put into the deck, like Akroma, Angel of Wrath, not to mention her Memorial. I imagine there might be some Angels you think are better than the ones I’ve picked, so feel free to speak up. I’ll concede that I might have missed an obvious gem.

I’m going to go right from writing this to sleeving it up, and I’ll play it next week. It should be fun to pilot and feels like it can hold its own. We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll let you know what worked and what didn’t.

Trostani and Her Angels
Sheldon Menery
0th Place at Test deck on 10-28-2012