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Evolving Orzhov Angels in Standard


Welcome back, everyone!

Boy, Standard is shaping up nicely (outside of all the Mono-Red decks, that is), and I'm pretty excited about some of the cards that have been seeing play. One of the most fun parts about new sets is watching the $3 mythics spike to $40 once people realize they're great (Hydroid Krasis) and watching the $30 mythics fall to a few dollars. I'm not sure the latter has really happened yet, but the former has happened to a couple cards, most recently God-Eternal Kefnet.

But we're not here to talk about that! This past weekend on Facebook, my buddy Chris Higashi was talking about how he won 90 packs with an Orzhov Angels deck on MTG Arena, and Iā€‰.ā€‰.ā€‰.ā€‰ was pretty surprised. There was a Competitive Metagame Challenge going on, which was single elimination, and if you managed to get seven wins, you would win 30 packs. I assume he either went 7-0 three times, or pieced together the prize equivalent of 90 packs. Either way, any deck that could do that had my attention. A couple other people were asking about it, and he posted the following.

In my first Metagame Challenge I lost in the first round to Mono-Red. It was unpleasant, especially considering Chris mentioned that Mono-Red was a solid matchup for the deck. In a way, it makes sense. There are tons of blockers, removal, and four Lyra Dawnbringer in the main deck, which is a headache for Red at the very least. We made a few tweaks and jumped back into another event.

The next one we managed a 1-1 finish, losing this time to wg Tokens in round two. Our matchup felt okay, but it got to a point where Cry of the Carnarium didn't cut it, and we didn't have enough sweepers that did.

In our third attempt we landed on the final list here, and went a satisfying 6-1. Take a look.

Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord
There were a few issues I felt with Chris's initial list. The first of which was that it didn't feel like Tithe Taker and Orzhov Enforcer really did anything. I imagine the former would be solid against the control decks, but we just didn't happen to face any. Sure, both 2-drops have afterlife, but that's pretty much all they have going for them.

Meanwhile the eight knights we brought in have hexproof from things like Mortify, Cast Down, and any other Black or White spells. The first strike is also extremely relevant in combat, especially when these guys are 3/2s. While you can't make them indestructible the same way you can with Adanto Vanguard, they're attacking for the same three damage a lot of the time, and they're much better on defense.

I also think in a deck with Resplendent Angel, Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord really shines. One nice play is having a 2-drop Knight, and a three-drop Resplendent Angel, allowing you to attack for six with lifelink on turn four (thanks to the Sorin), and creating an angel for us. Short of having a wrath effect, I'm pretty sure this is often going to be game. Conversely, one frustrating thing is dropping a Lyra when you have Resplendent Angel and only being able to gain four life off of its attack. It's a first world problem, for sure, but it's still an annoyance.

The more I played with the card, the more Sorins I kept adding. Giving your first striking and flying team lifelink is just great, especially when it's possible to make 4/4 angels because of it. The +2 ability is just so-so. It's the static ability and the -X ability that really shine. Being able to return any one of your Knights, a Resplendent Angel, or a Seraph of the Scales as needed is fantastic. And with only one uptick, Sorin can also return a Lyra Dawnbringer and survive. This was a card I wasn't initially sold on, but has steadily grown on me.

Chris's list also had 61 cards and 26 lands. Not sure if that was intentional or not, but we went down to a reasonable 25 lands when the top of our curve is a single six-mana Liliana, Dreadhorde General; a card I added because it's simply too good not include in a midrange deck that's playing Black.

Spawn of Mayhem
Spawn of Mayhem was a card I was mostly just trying out, but with eight two-mana Knights, I figured we had a good shot at being able to cast it on turn three. It's also possible that this could be better suited as something like History of Benalia, but don't underestimate a 4/4 flying trampler for (potentially) three mana.

I really, really, like Profane Procession. It might be one of my favorite cards from Rivals of Ixalan. That being said, I don't think it's great in the MTG Arena metagame. Against the control decks it does very little. Against a card like Hydroid Krasis it does very little. Against the Wilderness Reclamation decks it does very little. Against the Red decks it does very little. Do you see my point? It's kind of a narrow card right now, and it costs eight mana for a single activation.

Similarly, Ixalan's Binding is a super versatile card, but there are a ton of answers for it right now, including both versions of Teferi, Mortify, Assassin's Trophy, etc.

Profane Procession
The sideboard was just tweaked some. I realized we definitely wanted more ways to punish the decks that went wide, but also decks that were able to go wide with creatures that had more than two toughness. I also felt like two Moment of Craving would help with the life gain (and things like opposing Adanto Vanguards) more so than an extra two Cast Down would. Again, I didn't deal with much control, which is where I think the Despark would fit best, but I also think it's somewhat narrow and we already have four Duress to fill a similar role when it comes to noncreature permanents.

Ultimately, I think a lot of my changes helped the deck flow a little better (because of course I do), and that the deck is actually in a pretty decent position right now. It has a few flexible slots as well, like cutting one Sorin, the two Spawn of Mayhem, the single Liliana, etc., so there's a lot of customization that can be done depending on the situation. I didn't feel like I was in very much control with the initial versions, but I feel like the Knights and the Sorins, along with the Angel package, really kind of unlocked something. Ideally you guys can give the deck a try and let me know what you think!

Thanks so much for reading. I appreciate all of you, and be sure to leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments! I'll catch you all next week!

Frank Lepore



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