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Giada's Angelic Escape

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You know, just when I was about to enjoy a nice evening, it should figure trouble rears its ugly head. Here I am, ready to enjoy a little halo and dance the night away. Suddenly the boss is roaring at me about his star performer. I sigh and nod. I knew the job when I took it. It wasn't exactly the most legitimate business. I guess you could say in my youth - only 172 years, just a kid by Elf standards - I was in awe of the Cabaretti. Should've known better, but the upgrade from street punk to socialite was too shiny to pass up. Hunger cast a pretty sizable vote, too. So, I jumped and found myself part of the Family. For better or worse. Doesn't really matter now. It's far too late. When the boss says go, evening plans change. It's not my job to ask questions. Heck, it's probably the reason I've stayed alive so long. When I signed the dotted line for Fat Cat, I took on three responsibilities: protect the family, remove the occasional troublemaker, and try to have a good time.

Giada, Font of Hope by Eric Deschamps

Turns out Jetmir's favorite starlet decided to play hooky from tonight's performance. Despite her young age, Giada had a voice that could make a demon blush. But at present, her dressing room held little more than a bunch of bed sheets dangling outside the window. Skinny little thing must've been light as a feather climbing down. Never really understood what Jetmir saw in the her, but judging by how angry he got at word she was missing, I wasn't sticking around to find out. Besides, it's not like an orphan kid like that is bound to get very far. I came from a rough-and-tumble area, myself, so I had a pretty good idea what direction she'd take. Nasty as these streets are, they can still feel like home. No degree of gilded walls or silken sheets can wipe away childhood memories. The humble times stick with you for life. Anyhow, now's not the time for nostalgia. Not when I've a party to get back to. I finish my drink, make sure my sidearm's loaded, and pick up my coat at the door.

As I transition from the golden lanes of Cabaretti territory into meaner streets, I suddenly feel tremendously out of place. My best pinstripe suit is hardly the right uniform. The attire of the area has shifted from tailored to tattered. I'm now the outsider. Narrowed eyes and sideways glances imply how my safety would be in question if not for the crest on my lapel. No low-level thug's gonna think twice about laying a finger on a member of the Cabaretti family. They'd be bound to lose that finger. But ignoring everything else, my mission takes center stage: find the girl, get her home safe, get back to the party. Sure enough, my instincts prove correct. Not fifteen minutes into my stroll, I spy a skinny little frame wearing a trench coat three sizes too big scuttle into a back alley. I can't help but laugh. Little pixie probably saw me coming from a mile away. I must look like a lost peacock wandering around this dank armpit of town.

Brazen Upstart by Dallas Williams

My relief is short lived, as three Riveteer boys slink into the dark after her. The cocktail sitting in my stomach settles into a heavy pit. She wasn't trying to get away from me. She was being followed. Now, to be honest with you, I'm not really sure what's so special about this kid, or why Jetmir keeps her so damn close, but I don't really need to know. In an instant, my pistol is in-hand and crackling with magical energy. By the time I reach the alley, the poor girl is surrounded. Three thugs in total: a Viashino looking like he might just eat her on the spot, an ogre seemingly more interested in a scabby hangnail than his quarry, and a greasy stick of a human whom I'd swear was half rodent.

The three advance on the girl, and I let out their one warning. I am a decent gentleman like that.

"Evenin', fellas. I'm sorry to interrupt the flirtations, but this gal's family is looking for her. I'm the chaperone sent to ferry the prodigal daughter home."

The gruff trio blink, but otherwise remain motionless. Perhaps I need to be more clear.

"While I've no intention of civil discourse, I'm afraid business obliges me to take action if you don't immediately vacate."

Wow, honestly surprised how eloquently that came out. My usual approach is a couple profanities followed by shot or two.

The muggers snort once and turn in unison, revealing their two-handed arc-casters, humming away with anticipation. The night air crackles around their muzzles. Not ten seconds into the confrontation, and I'm already outgunned. Their firearms make my humble pistol look like a mosquito trying to tackle a dragon. I might be able take one of them down, maybe two if I'm lucky. Close my eyes and breathe deep. No way out. It's either play hero and make a suicidal last stand, or run home empty-handed.

Believe it or not, my odds of survival are higher in the alley.

I raise my weapon, and in the next instant, I'm completely blind. Luminous rays fly in all directions. It's as if a miniature sun just landed at our feet. This is the end, I think. They got me. But no pain. No nothing. In fact, the entire fireworks show only lasts three seconds. As it fades, I look up to see three sets of shoes with sizzling little stumps sticking out of them. At the blast's epicenter stands a quivering Giada, palms outstretched. Faint tufts of smoke ripple around her fingertips.

I can only imagine the look on my face is as flabbergasted as hers. I reach out my hand to say something, but she runs into my arms before I get a word out. Instinctually, I return the hug. We are family, after all. Maybe not by blood, but it hardly matters.

"People will start asking questions." Giada mutters, voice painted with cynicism. "They always do. Will you say anything?"

"No. It's not my job to ask questions. Or answer them."

Her grip relaxes, but only slightly.

"Come on, let's get you home."

Giada, Font of Hope

We all have innate potential, an internal power that helps us endure tough times. It's not easy to tap into, especially with all the world's struggle, but it's always there. A deep-down force that makes us stronger than we realize. Just like us, Giada, Font of Hope has a difficult time recognizing that power, and the responsibility that comes with it. Once that inner light is discovered, however, it has the potential to change everything. For us, the direction of our life. For Giada, an entire plane.

Within New Capenna, Giada, Font of Hope unknowingly heralds the return of angels long since betrayed by demonic deception, used as tools to ward off an ancient Phyrexian invasion. Halo, magical life-blood, was extracted from the angelic founders of the Plane. It's ability to super-charge spells gave city defenders the perfect silver bullet to repel the glistening oil. Since then, angels have nearly gone extinct, with demons stepping up to run the show. What few angels who still exist are old survivors. That is, save for one young woman. At the start of the story, Giada, Font of Hope doesn't yet realize that she's a living Halo conduit, the vital key that could enable the angels to return.

Fitting lore, as Giada, Font of Hope represents similar potential for her tribe in Commander. Angels are unquestionably one of Magic's most popular creature types, with a myriad of Legendary leaders. However, most are quite pricey on the mana front, leaving Angel players with little early-game action other than ramp and setup. Giada changes that, combining an early arrival with immediate Tribal payoff. Under her command, warrior angels not only show up to the party earlier, but quite a bit beefier.

And the more angels arrive, the stronger they get. Let's start by breaking down our Commander:

Twilight Shepherd
Bruna, the Fading Light
Angel of Serenity

1. As noted, angels renown for low cost, with the vast majority running you five or 6 mana. Giada, Font of Hope helps on two fronts. Not only is she an inexpensive angel that can start swinging for vigilant damage early, but she's also a tribal mana to speed up her costlier sisters. The average cost in our deck is 3.5 mana, with much of the top end comprised of expensive angels (Twilight Shepherd, Bruna, the Fading Light, Angel of Serenity, etc.). Having our Commander act as an angelic mana rock is key to hitting to ensuring we curve out on time. The design implies a straightforward strategy: Play Giada, play angel, boost it, another angel, boost it more, and so forth. Angel after angel, each smashing for more damage as our army grows. Satisfying, but simple. Surely, we can find a bit more nuance?

Entreat the Angels
The Book of Exalted Deeds
Resplendent Angel

2. Giada, Font of Hope's +1/+1 counters scale by recruitment, rewarding us the longer we keep adding to the team. The ability is especially potent if we generate multiple seraphs simultaneously (Entreat the Angels, Starnheim Unleashed) or via steady stream (The Book of Exalted Deeds, Resplendent Angel, etc.). Note that because of the 'already'-clause in Giada's ability, a giant burst of angels a la Entreat the Angels won't result in them getting counters off of each other, much as it would a Cathars' Crusade-type effect. They'll only each get a number of counters equal to the angels already in play when the spell was cast. The Angel tribe wields a healthy dose of token-creation, much of it backed by the power of...

Archangel of Thune
Lyra Dawnbringer
Angel of Destiny

3. ...consistent life gain, often the trigger for Angel token generation. Though Giada doesn't provide life on her own, her ability to grow other angels synergies very well with Lifelink, an ability some of our most powerful troops already have (Archangel of Thune, Lyra Dawnbringer, Gisela, the Broken Blade. Altogether, twenty-percent of our deck has the ability to gain us life, opening the door to payoffs like Angelic Accord, Well of Lost Dreams, and Nykthos Paragon. Even better, quite a few of our enablers happen to be payoffs in their own right, such as Valkyrie Harbinger, Angel of Destiny, and Felidar Sovereign. Plan A is to rule the board with Angels, but Plan B could easily see us win the game via high-life total, alone.

Angelic Sleuth
The Ozolith
Heliod, Sun-Crowned

4. While we sit back and gain all the life, Giada, Font of Hope will be busy adding +1/+1 counters to the team. These can really build up over time, so cards like Angelic Sleuth, Sanctuary Warden, and The Ozolith are included to ensure nothing goes to waste. Copious +1/+1 counters turn even the humblest utility creature into a threat, so additional sources of counter-generation like Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Archangel of Thune naturally play well with all our life gain effects. Though our general can only put counters on other angels, cards like Esper Sentinel and Felidar Sovereign are more than happy to accept a stat boost from these other sources.

Guardian of Faith
Eerie Interlude
Akroma's Will

5. Our strategy leans on an ever-growing army. It's our responsibility to not only build it, but also keep it alive, both to attack for max damage and give the maximum boost to the next angels in line. Our high creature count and need for critical mass means we prioritize defensive spells like Teferi's Protection, Guardian of Faith, and Flawless Maneuver. Mass-blink spell (Eerie Interlude) is also included to save either the whole team or select members from removal, just remember you'll be losing those +1/+1 counters. Other defensive spells can easily be turned offensive (Akroma's Will), or recycled for extra cards if not needed (Your Temple is Under Attack).

In total, though our deck appears straightforward, it's actually supported by an array of backup mechanics that synergize directly with Giada, Font of Hope. The result should be an air force that's not only speedier, but also more powerful. Once our counter and life gain engines get going, they should exponentially increase the growth of our evasive warriors. After a few threats are on the table, we have ample means to protect them from harm. Then it's only a matter of smiting your foe and flying off into the sunset.

Angel of Serenity by Aleski Briclot

Giada's Angelic Escape | Commander | Matthew Lotti


Early on, Giada, Font of Hope gets the ramp started, but she's not alone. Catch-up ramp in the form of Knight of the White Orchid, Loyal Warhound, Archeomancer's Map, and a handful of rocks are included to ensure our mana base develops smoothly. Once we've sufficient real estate, additional winged warriors can begin to arrive, each receiving a welcome basket from Giada. Attack early and often, softening opposing life totals so future swings become all the more lethal. Ideally, our army will be comprised of massive, evasive threats, but don't ignore the impact initial chip damage can have. After you've established an offense, keep adding to the arsenal, but be mindful to hold up protective spells. Mass removal is a nightmare for creature-based strategies, especially those who rely on lots of creatures to get the job done. Expand your army, but don't get too greedy, lest your hard work literally go up in smoke.

Battle Angels of Tyr
Righteous Valkyrie
Nykthos Paragon

Calling on Angels: Our troops are equally split amongst life gain enablers/payoffs and utility creatures. Most anything with wings also makes a fine attacker. Starting with enablers, Lyra Dawnbringer, Battle Angels of Tyr, Gisela, the Broken Blade all hit hard, delivering solid bursts of life in the process. Combining both enabler and payoff are cards like Resplendent Angel, Righteous Valkyrie, Valkyrie Harbinger, Archangel of Thune, and Angel of Destiny. These angels both provide life and reward you with a payoff, doubling their impact. That trend continues onto our non-angelic buddies, as Heliod, Sun-Crowned, Archivist of Oghma, Speaker of the Heavens, Bishop of Wings, Nykthos Paragon, and Felidar Sovereign all provide life in addition to a bonus effect.

With all these health points, don't be surprised if a lone Felidar Sovereign or Angel of Destiny pulls off a surprise win.

Sanctuary Warden
Windshaper Planetar
Angel of the Ruins

Moving on to utility creatures, the Angel tribe wields a versatile range of effects. Sanctuary Warden, Angelic Sleuth, and the aforementioned Battle Angels of Tyr all provide card advantage. Twilight Shepherd, Adarkar Valkyrie, and Bruna, the Fading Light offer recursion for fallen comrades. Angel of the Ruins and Angel of Serenity both fire multi-targeted removal upon arrival. And if the enemy attempts an alpha-strike, Windshaper Planetar is on deck to point them in someone else's direction. You might just kill an opponent via someone else's army.

Weathered Wayfarer
Esper Sentinel
Serra Ascendant

Remove the feathers, and the utility doesn't stop coming. Weathered Wayfarer, Knight of the White Orchid, Loyal Warhound, and Starnheim Aspirant all contribute to mana development alongside our general. Guardian of Faith acts as sweeper protection. Esper Sentinel and the aforementioned Archivist of Oghma further contribute to our collection of card advantage, especially when played early. Speaking of which, if you manage to live the dream of Turn-1 Serra Ascendant, bear in mind the ire you'll draw from everyone else. Your monk will have an immediate cross-hair painted onto his bald head. And once he's dealt with, so will you. Fortunately, in the meantime, he's bound to gain you a billion or so life as a buffer.

Angelic Ascension
Luminarch Ascension
Emeria's Call // Emeria, Shattered Skyclave

Heavenly Wrath: The life gain-centric token-generation started by Resplendent Angel and Righteous Valkyrie continues into our non-creature spells via Angelic Accord and The Book of Exalted Deeds, giving us repeated angels, and with them, Giada triggers. If we're able to maintain a solid defensive position (not a stretch, given our team), Luminarch Ascension should have no trouble maintaining enough quest counters to keep angels coming. If we'd prefer to make a bunch of angel tokens all at once, we can eschew the life gain and take the direct approach via Entreat the Angels, Starnheim Unleashed, and Emeria's Call // Emeria, Shattered Skyclave.

Well of Lost Dreams
Scroll Rack
Search for Glory

Maintaining a steady stream of life involves keeping our hand full, so we bring in multiple sources of card advantage to ensure the angel train never runs out of steam. Well of Lost Dreams, Scroll Rack, Treasure Map, and Endless Atlas are tools that'll give our strategy staying power. Our reliance on Snow-Covered Plains allows Search for Glory to fetch land if needed, but that's a worst-case-scenario application. Not only does the tutor gain us life, but it's got plenty of both non-angel (The Ozolith, Nyx Lotus, Shadowspear) and angelic (Lyra Dawnbringer, Bruna, the Fading Light, Gisela, the Broken Blade) targets to choose from. While I have a hard time picturing Giada, Font of Hope being teammates with Brisela, Voice of Nightmares, the inclusion of Search for Glory certainly increases the odds of that bizarre partnership.

Supporting Spells: With so many creatures requiring ample mana, we bring in a surplus of insurance to keep everyone safe. Sweeper-protection includes Akroma's Will, Your Temple is Under Attack, Flawless Maneuver, Eerie Interlude, and of course, Teferi's Protection. If all goes wrong and our team does bite the dust, Ascend from Avernus is included to reignite the party in the late game.

Vanquish the Horde
Hour of Revelation
Flawless Maneuver

Access to copious protective spells also makes inexpensive sweepers like Vanquish the Horde and Hour of Revelation increasingly likely to act as Plague Wind. It doesn't take much mana to drop a Flawless Maneuver and follow it up with Vanquish the Horde. This combo is obviously tougher to achieve with the pricey Ondu Inversion, but the modal card's ability to be a land in is too much versatility to pass up. Don't look at it as an eight-mana sweeper. Rather, it's a land that can reset the board in the late game, no extra spell slot required.

Swords to Plowshares
Heliod's Intervention
Exile

All our targeted removal has the ability to gain us additional life. Granted, not ideally, in the case of Swords to Plowshares and Heliod's Intervention. We'll use these cards as removal 95% of the time, but if an extra 4/4 Flyer is enough to seal the game, then so be it. Exile is less efficient than its counterparts, but it'll both permanently nix an attacker and heal our wounds simultaneously.

Nyx Lotus
Pristine Talisman
Pearl Medallion

Mana Support and Rocks: Even considering the aforementioned creature-based ramp (Loyal Warhound, Knight of the White Orchid, etc.), our mana development continues to extend beyond traditional mana rocks. Snow-Covered Plains do more than net a bit of life off Search for Glory. They allow Extraplanar Lens to double our White mana while denying the same to any opponent running basic Plains. A neat loophole that mitigates a potential drawback. Many of our spells require a hefty infusion of White mana, so in addition to copious Snow-Covered Plains, we bring in Nyx Lotus, which has the potential to go nuts once cards like Twilight Shepherd show up. Smothering Tithe is another obvious include, allowing us to ramp out expensive angels in ridiculous fashion, or power up a gigantic Foretold Starnheim Unleashed. Finally, though nowhere near as flashy as its fellow mana rocks (Sol Ring, Everflow Chalice, etc.), the life provided by Pristine Talisman can be vital toward enabling our payoffs.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Seraph Sanctuary

Just as a heavy devotion to White warranted Nyx Lotus, so too does it warrant its predecessor, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Our high number Snow-Covered Plains also increase the odds of turning on Emeria, the Sky Ruin for repeated value. Much like the aforementioned Pristine Talisman, the life gain provided by Seraph Sanctuary isn't likely to turn heads, but it further fuels our various payoff engines. Being mono color also allows us to take advantage of powerful colorless lands like Ancient Tomb and War Room with little fear that we'll not have enough access to White mana.

The Book of Exalted Deeds by Daniel Ljunggren

Budget Options: While the Cabaretti may be rolling in Halo, most of us 1/1 Citizen tokens aren't so lucky. Even Giada started life as an orphan with empty pockets. Magic the Gathering can be expensive, so here are some substitutes for players who'd rather not break the bank on cardboard. All cards over $20 will be noted and recommended for swap-outs. If anything seems interesting, regardless of price tag, give them a roll in the main! Creativity is an oft-forgotten cornerstone of Commander. One of the aspects that makes it special. Mix and match card choices to your heart's content!

Creatures: Resplendant Angel: $43.00, Archangel of Thune: $29.00, Serra Ascendant: $27.00, Gisela, the Broken Blade: $27.00, Esper Sentinel: $25.00, Heliod, Sun-Crowned: $20.00, Archivist of Oghma: $20.00

Sephara, Sky's Blade
Herald of War
Baneslayer Angel

It's a testament to the popularity of Angels that Resplendant Angel and Archangel of Thune have risen to such heights. Hopefully, the upcoming Double Masters 2022 includes some winged reprints to bring prices down. I've less hope for Gisela, the Broken Blade, as the double-sided nature of the card and reliance on Bruna, the Fading Light reduce the odds of a reprint, but it's certainly possible. Outside of angels, other budget breakers include Constructed-format players (Heliod, Sun-Crowned), card advantage machines (Esper Sentinel, Archivist of Oghma), and the obviously-not-designed-with-Commander-in-mind Serra Ascendant. As more packs of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate get opened, it might bring down the price of Archivist of Oghma a little, but the card's so strong I don't expect it to go down much. I also doubt Wizards is very keen on introducing more Commander players to a Turn-1 Serra Ascendant, I so wouldn't hold out reprint hopes there.

Fortunately, an entire legion of angelic replacements can fill the monetary void. If you're looking for massive threats and sources of life gain, the beautiful Sephara, Sky's Blade, Baneslayer Angel, Victory's Herald, Angelic Skirmisher, and Angel of Invention all fit the bill. Outside of life gain, plenty of angels provide utility to further reduce mana costs (Herald of War), grant mass-protection (Serra Emissary), provide graveyard hate (Angel of Finality), recursion (Karmic Guide, Breathkeeper Seraph, Emeria Shepherd), and mass removal (Angel of the Dire Hour, Sunblast Angel). Whatever talent you're in the market for, chances are there's a budget-conscious angel who's got your back.

Supporting Spells: Teferi's Protection: $40.00, Shadowspear: $22.00, The Ozolith: $22.00

Rootborn Defenses
Basilisk Collar
Resourceful Defense

It's hard to top the protective power of Teferi's Protection, but we've a few synergistic options to fall back on. Our deck has plenty of ways to make 4/4 Angel tokens, squeezing extra value out of Rootborn Defenses. Or, if we'd like to hand out even more +1/+1 counters, Semester's End will do the same trick as Ghostway, only with extra toppings. Basilisk Collar makes up for the Lifelink of Shadowspear, and while it can't remove defensive abilities from opposing permanents, it can turn the lowliest 1/1 spirit token into a great blocker. Finally, though steadily climbing in price, Resourceful Defense does an on-color impression of The Ozolith.

If you're in the market for more card advantage, let me also remind you that angels have a real knack for farming...

Folk Hero

Mana Options: Ancient Tomb: $66.00, Smothering Tithe: $42.00, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: $36.00, Extraplanar Lens: $35.00, Pearl Medallion: $32.00

Keeper of the Accord
Gift of Estates
Karn's Bastion

As usual, our mana base provides a roundhouse-kick to the wallet. Luckily, a recent increase in White-ramp has provided multiple budget options. Keeper of the Accord, Boreas Charger, and Stoic Farmer provide direct ramp, while cards like Gift of Estates, Verge Rangers, and Oreskos Explorer ensure you'll at least have lands to keep up. Artifacts like Herald's Horn and Oketra's Monument further reduce mana costs, or you could opt for Heraldic Banner to further boost your team's offensive capabilities. When it comes to lands, I'd recommend additional colorless utility options like Scavenger Grounds for graveyard hate, Blast Zone for mass removal, Karn's Bastion to Proliferate all the +1/+1 counters, or Ghost Quarter to deal with powerful opposing lands.

Twilight Shepherd by Jason Chan

As our Heavenly host retires for the night, the battlefield falls quiet once again. The clang of Valkyrie steel against enemy armor now exists only as a memory. Hopefully one of angelic victory. Giada, Font of Hope might not be the biggest of angels, but she never had to be. It's her potential to bring out the best in others that's her truest strength. The inner light that emboldens all who follow in her wake, even if they were already powerful to start with. Perhaps that's the lesson: No matter our background or circumstance, there's a strength within that transcends what's on the surface.

Thanks for reading, and my you always have an angel (or two) looking out for you!

-Matt-

@Intrepid_Tautog


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