Voice Of The Blessed Is A Worthy Successor To Ajani’s Pridemate In Innistrad: Crimson Vow Standard

Some MTG lifegain cards are just too strong for even a past World Champion to ignore. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa shows the strength of Innistrad: Crimson Vow preview Voice of the Blessed in Standard and Historic.

As a general rule, lifegain cards have a stigma of being for inexperienced players. To an extent, this is true; newer players will value lifegain cards way more than experienced players, who know that you have twenty life to work with and gaining a lot more life sometimes just doesn’t get you anywhere. When my relatives who didn’t understand Magic watched my tournaments, they’d often think that whoever was ahead in life was winning the game, but we know that a lot of the time this is simply not true because life is not that important unless you’re about to lose it all.

Because of this, cards that gain life and cards that interact with lifegain can be a bit overlooked and dismissed by the pro community. Even then, sometimes Wizards of the Coast (WotC) releases a lifegain card so powerful that even the people who are not naturally inclined to like it have to pay attention. The newest card from Ajani’s Pridemate’s lineage, Voice of the Blessed, has such power.

Voice of the Blessed

If you’re new to Magic, your Ajani Pridemate experience might be exclusively on the Arena Ladder in Best-of-One, as these decks haven’t managed to make many waves in Best-of-Three yet. However, this hasn’t always been the case, and Ajani’s Pridemate actually has a long competitive history.

Ajani's Pridemate

I’m not sure if this was the origin of the deck, but the first iteration of the deck that came to be known as Soul Sisters that I can recall came from U.S. Nationals in 2010: 

Soul Warden Soul's Attendant

This deck included both Soul Warden and Soul’s Attendant (hence the name Soul Sisters) as the main ways to power up Ajani’s Pridemate, including the very turn you cast it. If you cast a Turn 1 Soul Warden and a Turn 2 Pridemate, the Pridemate will immediately turn into a 3/3.

This is a dedicated lifegain deck, but you don’t even need to go this far to play with Ajani’s Pridemate. Most recently, Luis Scott-Vargas got second place in a Pro Tour with a Boros Aggro deck featuring four Pridemates and very few ways of gaining life. 

Sometimes, a 2/2 turning into a 3/3 or potentially a 4/4 down the line is all you need for two mana. It’s not necessary that Ajani’s Pridemate becomes a 10/10.

Now that we’ve established Ajani’s Pridemate has a competitive pedigree, let’s look at our actual Innistrad: Crimson Vow card, Voice of the Blessed.

First, the downsides: Voice of the Blessed costs double white. This is undeniably worse than one white and one generic, but, historically speaking, most decks that want this sort of effect are mostly in the color white, if not Mono-White. You might run into trouble with, for example, Faceless Haven, but this seems to be a minor setback more than anything else.

And… that’s it! That’s the only drawback. Voice of the Blessed is not legendary or anything.

Now, the upsides – and there are many!

The first upside is that the card gains two bonuses at certain thresholds. At four counters, it gains flying and vigilance, and at ten counters, it gets indestructible. Now, the ten-counters bonus is mostly flavor text – not because it’ll never get to ten counters, but because if your opponent was going to destroy it, they would have done it sooner. This is never going to be a surprise 12/12; it’ll gradually grow into indestructibility, which means your opponent will have many windows to remove it. That said, it does stop them from topdecking removal or triple-blocking or what have you, so it could matter.

The flying and vigilance, however, are very much not flavor text! In fact, the thing I want the most on my creature when it grows is for it to suddenly gain flying. One of the issues with Ajani’s Pridemate has always been that it could be chump-blocked forever no matter how big it was, and Voice of the Blessed has a built-in mechanism to bypass that. This is an incredible improvement that makes this card significantly better than its predecessor.

The second upside is that it’s not called Ajani’s Pridemate. This means you can play eight copies of the card in any format where they’re both legal, which is awesome because this is the type of card that rewards building around it. Maybe with four Ajani’s Pridemates it wasn’t worth playing this style of deck, but eight might push it over the top? Magic Arena users had Hallowed Priest as a fallback, but that was just a 1/1 and not legal in paper play.

The third upside is the creature type line: Spirit Cleric. I’m a big fan of felines, but the Cat subtype wasn’t doing Ajani’s Pridemate any favors, and both Spirits and Clerics are meaningful now. I don’t expect Spirits to be a big thing with Voice of the Blessed because Spirit decks are not usually lifegain decks, so you won’t be interested in running it in those anyway, but Clerics is very much a lifegain deck. I think this is where Voice of the Blessed has the biggest chance to shine in Standard.

The Clerics deck hasn’t really been a powerhouse so far, but a lot of the elements are there. We have enough enablers and payoffs to build a deck already, and Voice of the Blessed could push it over the top. Let’s take a look at the current Clerics in Standard:

Lunarch Veteran Luminarch Aspirant Cleric of Life's Bond Elite Spellbinder Nullpriest of Oblivion Silverquill Silencer Skyclave Cleric Professor of Symbology Trelasarra, Moon Dancer Righteous Valkyrie Orah, Skyclave Hierophant Angel of Destiny

That’s a fair amount, and some of them are cards that naturally see play in other decks, even outside of being Clerics. The three Cleric tribal cards – Cleric of Life’s Bond, Righteous Valkyrie, and Orah, Skyclave Hierophant – are also all quite powerful. On top of that, there’s also Cleric Class.

Cleric Class

The second ability on Cleric Class is quite expensive, but this deck is overall relatively cheap and the lifegain buys a ton of time, so this could have legs as well. Right now I’m not going to include any, but this could change down the line.

Let’s take a look at a Clerics deck that user JeetKuneLo took to Mythic in the past season (in Best-of-One):

The numbers here seem a bit unrefined, but this is the exact type of shell we’d want to play Voice of the Blessed in. Once we add that card, we might want to move to a more streamlined aggressive deck rather than relying on Pyre of Heroes for combos, but that’s also a possibility to keep in mind.

Besides what already exists, we might also gain some new tools in Innistrad: Crimson Vow. One potential addition is Ollenbock Escort:

Ollenbock Escort

Ollenbock Escort is much worse than Selfless Savior, but it is a Cleric, and some of the creatures you want to protect will have +1/+1 counters anyway. It gives the creature you’re protecting lifelink, which can be pivotal in race situations as it’s likely to be a big creature, but it’d be much better if it had lifelink itself, as that would then trigger the lifegain creature.

Then, of course, there’s the new Orzhov slowland, Shattered Sanctum, which will be a powerful addition to the deck. 

My first attempt at Orzhov Clerics would probably look like this:

In Historic, we already have some established lifegain decks, in part because Ajani’s Pridemate is already a legal card there. With eight copies, we now get even more rewarded by the lifegain synergies, and we eschew the Clerics theme altogether and become Mono-White. Here are some of the additions:

Heliod, Sun-Crowned Daxos, Blessed by the Sun Soul Warden Serra Ascendant Legion's Landing Leonin Vanguard Linden, the Steadfast Queen Speaker of the Heavens Alseid of Life's Bounty

Interestingly enough, the fact that Voice of the Blessed costs double white is actually a benefit in some Historic decks, since it makes it easier to trigger Heliod, Sun-Crowned. Here’s my first sketch:

This deck is designed to trigger your Pridemates as soon as possible. There are fourteen one-drops with the ability to immediately turn them into a 3/3 and they should only go up from there. It’s a bit one-dimensional right now, and might need more interaction moving forward, but I like pushing the concepts to the max to start with and then scale back appropriately.

Another potential home for Voice of the Blessed is the Selesnya lifegain combo deck. This deck is not as focused on the aggressive component, but in return it gets an infinite-life combo with Scurry Oak, Soul Warden, and Heliod.

Scurry Oak Soul Warden Heliod, Sun-Crowned

The combo is quite simple. You cast a creature, which results in gaining life with Soul Warden or an equivalent piece (or you simply gain life directly in some other way). This results in Heliod adding a counter to Scurry Oak, which results in getting a 1/1 Squirrel, which will trigger Soul Warden again to restart the loop. The end result is infinite life and infinite power worth of creatures. To help enable the combo, you also play Collected Company to find your pieces. 

Here’s a list that made Top 8 in the Hooglandia Open a while ago:

This deck doesn’t run Ajani’s Pridemate (instead it runs Trelasarra, Moon Dancer), but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we want to build a more aggressive version of this deck that actually runs all the two-drops. Something like:

With eleven “Soul Wardens” and eleven “Pridemates,” this deck should be able to assemble this combination practically every game, and then it has the infinite combo to fall back to if things fail. The mana is not as good, since it’s a two-color deck, and you’re not gonna be as good at animating Heliod organically, but Collected Company is a hell of a card and it might be worth going down this route for the ability to just win the game out of nowhere.

I’m not sure what the best home for Voice of the Blessed will turn out to be, but I’m excited to find out if it’s capable of finally turning Orzhov Clerics into a competitive Standard archetype. Regardless of whether it can do that or not, the card is clearly powerful and will be a cornerstone piece of the lifegain archetypes in both Historic and Standard moving forward.