Oh, White Ween...ANGELS?
By edgecrusher on June 28th, 2006 · Filed in Casual · Comments not available just now
I’m a brand spanking new, shiny great, glittering golden, flobbilingly blancmange-shaped writer for this here Magic site. My general purpose is to vaguely attempt to entertain you, and along the way to make some kind of vague point about the game or in some way attempt to change the way you think. About something.
I’m interested in Magic because of the flavour and the art. I am not a player by trade, I’m a novelist and I use Magic cards often as props or mental inspiration when I hit a block or when I’m in the stage of generating ideas for characters, places and sometimes whole scenes. Several characters in my stories began as Magic cards. This somewhat odd approach to magic deck creation and to the game is what I want to write about. I suppose the point of my existence is a writer is to be a shout out for another way to appreciate the game, and to give you little glimpses of what that means from my angle.
As my introduction, I’m going to discuss a recent deck that I created, called ‘Vengeance from the Heavens’ or ‘Oh, White Wee..... ANGELS?’ (to paraphrase the reaction of someone I was playing against). So, let’s get to it.
We’ll start off with the...
Why I built it
The answer to this question is usually simple. People build angel decks either because they’re angels and thus cool, or because they’re Timmies who’ve yet to find green or think green’s just cheatingly good at the whole stompy business. For me, though, the genesis of this deck began with the reprint of that 4-of card in the ‘spells and stuff’ section: Gift of Estates.
I loved the art on this card when I first saw it, and I loved the idea of white land fetching. It’s always interesting when R & D let a colour do something which it traditionally shouldn’t be allowed to. Of course in this case that isn’t entirely true, as of course White has the oh-so famous Land Tax in its history, and good times were had by all when it was around.
The problem, really, was thinking of what to DO with all of those lands. The answer, really, was simple: Play bigger stuff.
What’s it meant to do?
Well, it kills people, Jim.
This is White Weenie, but in some ways it’s an even ‘weenie-er’ White Weenie than those that are regularly played in my area. The deck has two parts, and they’re pretty much unconnected. Think of it as a ‘morphic’ deck, like a power ranger. It’s got its ‘early game’ wherein you hit three mana, do a little jig, and then start playing everything you draw, then its ‘late game’ where everyone gets surprised by those chicks with the wings and then scoops or annoys me with mass removal.
The interesting inclusion is the lands. Most of you have probably worked out why I’ve included lands such as Orzhov Basilica in a mono-coloured deck, but for those who haven’t I’ll explain.
The thing which was getting in this deck’s way for the early part of its career was the fact it had to go second, even if it won the dice roll. This is not what it wants or what it wants to be doing. Early on, it’s an efficient weenie deck, with lots of first strike and protection angled up and up with Glorious Anthem support. This doesn’t work if you give the aggression over to the opponent.
Step in Ravnica bounce lands. The reason they’re in there is simple: they don’t slow down your mana development, as turn 3 is when your early game essentially ends; and they allow you to trigger off Gift of Estates even if you go first, assuming your opponent doesn’t miss his mana drops. But then, if your opponent does miss his land drops, you should have a very strong advantage anyway.
Once you’ve played a single Gift of Estates a lot of things happen. First, Descendent of Kiyomaro essentially has a perma-pump, as most non-blue decks are not going to be able to catch up to 3 cards suddenly entering your hand, and your Angels are online within 3 turns.
Serra's Blessing entered into the deck because I loved the artwork and flavour of Pristine Angel and desperately wanted to find a way to make this card deadly. Blessing does that, taking away the Angel’s only weakness. There are very few ways that don’t involve white that will stop this combo once it’s going, and generally speaking a turn 6 blessed Angel is game, and what the deck prefers to happen. These two cards are 3 ofs for the simple reason that drawing multiple Blessings is not good, and I wanted to include more than 1 kind of Angel in the deck.
Serra Angel isn’t good. In this deck especially she isn’t good or necessary. However, the 9th edition artwork for Serra Angel is among the best artwork in the entirety of MTG history as far as I'm concerned, and even though she rarely does more than block a creature that’s of much higher quality than her, she deserves a spot in the deck for thematic reasons. For similar reasons, any victory caused by her is worth three times as much as a Pristine Angel win.
Akroma, Angel of Wrath, on the other hand, IS good, and by God does she stomp things flat if she hits the table. I can honestly say I’ve never lost a game when I’ve played her. Most times, my opponents have blown nukes on a Pristine Angel/Knight board, then had no answer when Akky swooped into play on the next turn.
Condemn, Otherworldly Journey and Faith's Fetters are a constantly fluctuating living sideboard. The numbers vary at different times as I try different options. The Journeys have obvious applications in frustrating the removal-happy gits who like taunting my angels with Wrath of God (they’ll be back, probably as Fallen Angels, at that!), which has been particularly relevant in a few recent games, where Silver Knight has forced W/R players to use a wrath to get rid of him, only to have him come back in a leaner, meaner, more confused form (if you read the flavour text on Otherworldly Journey, that is, it’s not easy being a servant of a mighty wizard, you know. All kinds of things can happen). Such things are pleasant, and buy time as you build up to the hopeful finishers.
Faith's Fetters may be my favourite Pacifism variant of all time. A toolbox answer to all kinds of things as well as automatically buying you a little time in the form of 4 life. Condemn, on the other hand, is a cheeky little card designed to hoodwink green players. Their creatures WILL be bigger than your Angels, but they won’t fly and they won’t be able to kill a Pristine Angel.
The deck plays out a logical battle strategy, with the well-trained and disciplined Knights tearing up the field in assault or standing resolute in defense, sacrificing their lives to stop attacks getting through or harrassing constantly to dissuade an opponent from trying to attack at all. Meanwhile great incantations are made to summon the mighty Angels from their plane to the fight and song inspires all to fight their hardest. In the end there is a charge across an open plain, of lance-bearing knights under a glittering veil of wings and righteous might, wreathed in magic and trampling the forces of chaos into the dust from whence they came. The force embodies law and order, honour and skill, and crushes any that oppose it.
I’ve yet to attach a character to this deck. Its performance is only so-so, and the only decks with attendant characters are those I deemed good enough or were interested in enough to enter into one of my tournaments. However, if I were to attach a character it would probably be a monk of some variety, a peaceful and wise sort who believes very strongly in the maintenance and creation of order, the kind of good guy/bad guy that Wizards seem to get a kick out of in white these days (you know, people like the entirety of the Northern Order in the Otaria setting).
A darker take upon this would be for a mage to use the angels to enforce a personal order (to the sum of: I R TEH WINNAR) on everything and everyone, creating a fascist state and turning this army on any opposition. The creations show a total lack of interest in life, as these beings are created just to suffer, ultimately just puppets there to die.
As for its performance, most people I play it against give credit for style and surprise factor, as most don’t immediately see the point of the bounce lands or recognise the worth of Serra's Blessing until they see them in action. This deck has only been mana screwed, to the point that it cost a match, about once in its history. Normally it loses due to Descendent of Kiyomaro getting killed repeatedly, Knights being out-classed, and failing to draw Glorious Anthem when it really needs to.
Where the deck’s at now
Since Ravnica’s release I’ve been strongly considering adding red for Firemane Angel and Razia, Boros Archangel. In the end I actually built a deck built around those two angels which is in testing right now. With red in there the deck would of course become angrier, perhaps indicating a life-changing event for the prime-mage, or perhaps even an usurpation of power by another, angrier soul. The idea of the hereditary deck is one I support, and a couple of my decks have been piloted by multiple characters at different points in their fictional histories.
Taking the monk character and the change of life perspective, the addition of red might indicate a loss of faith; a realisation that the ideal of peace and law doesn't work or for some reason cannot be made to stick without force, and hence the adoption of a more violent lifestyle and approach.
Violence becomes the preferred way to enforce law and order, while that law and order becomes personally defined, resulting in our intrepid monk essentially doing whatever he likes ALL OVER YOUR FACE if you don't agree with his way of doing things.
Behind the magic, though, the still prevalent Angels, Knights and song become a quiet hope for a return to a time when life was simpler, and a thread of despondency that won't quite go away. But the mage's disappointment is now reflected in his angels, now bearing flaming swords and seemingly enjoying their work where once before they would just do it, because it had to be done.
Serra Angel would actually become an important thematic part of the deck at that point, as the one shining link to that past, serene and calm.
As a mere player, I like Vengeance from the Heavens for the same reasons I like most of my decks. It can go the distance well, can produce some surprising twists and turns in a game, and features some nice interactions and synergies as well as making a lot of internally consistent sense. It fares a lot better than I thought it would against modern aggro decks, tending merely to lose instead of getting massacred in split seconds, which I consider a minor victory since it runs creatures that simply can’t compare with Ravnica’s aggro gods.
Oh, and it has no birds carrying Jittes in their little claws and, presumably, divebombing people with extreme prejudice to poke them maliciously. I hate it when people put equipment on stuff that clearly can’t carry it...
Until next time.
By edgecrusher on June 28th, 2006 · Filed in Casual · Comments not available just now