Guardians of the Multiverse

Posted in NEWS on June 26, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

There are dozens upon dozens of creature types in Magic, but there are a few that stand above the rest.

Art by Karl Kopinski

Every color has its iconic big-creature subtype to share:

It wouldn't surprise me at all to see more than one of each color and type in Magic 2015: Most of it has already been covered by Master of Predicaments; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; and Genesis Hydra.

Last week's question revolved around using Angels in Commander, so the shrewd among you should have already guessed I'll be talking about a new Angel today—and I don't mean the returning Aegis Angel in the sample decks and Deck Builder's Toolkit. Let's get what most of you want to see out of the way. Meet the newest Angel on the block, Avacyn, Guardian Angel:

We have a new guardian Angel, and she'll be something you see at Commander tables everywhere.

The Last Line of Defense

Avacyn, Guardian Angel reminds me of two other white Commander choices: Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Eight-and-a-Half-Tails. Like Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Avacyn, Guardian Angel is an efficient body for its mana cost: 5/4 with flying and vigilance. Like Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, Avacyn, Guardian Angel has the ability to interdict on behalf of others and turns extra mana into assured victory.

But there's one key difference that isn't apparent in the mix of abilities between them: Avacyn, Guardian Angel is far less frightening than either of her predecessors.

Avacyn, Guardian Angel doesn't create the frightening oppression of giving your cadre of permanents indestructible. It also doesn't set up a de facto lock against targeting your permanents with spells and effects when you have enough mana hanging around. Her abilities somewhat intersect with these abilities, and they aren't immediately apparent in their power.

Looking closer, you can see a crucial change in wording: It's missing "you control" as a rider on the abilities. Avacyn, Guardian Angel can obviously win combat and protect you against effects like Bonfire of the Damned. But it can also protect others and their creatures against the same things.

I typically eschew "political" effects and focus on singularly powerful and synergistic cards in my decks. Each card is just another cog, all linking together and making the heavy lifting of battling Commander easier as they pile up. Sometimes those effects benefit—or harm—others, but it isn't the forefront of consideration for me.

But that's not how everyone plays Commander.

Some of you enjoy amping up the power as high as it goes, making going to 11 look tiny. Others enjoy messing around with everyone, stopping spells and effects at more random moments and making the best-laid plan backfire spectacularly. (It's this latter method of managed madness that I've come to enjoy in action at Conspiracy drafts.)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel is a strong "basic" Commander that wears powerful Equipment well and can shield you from splashy damage spells. It's also one of the newest ways to make waves in games by intervening in combat between other players, saving creatures that would otherwise have fallen or turning first strike and deathtouch into shadows of what they were meant to be. It's an Angel that won't draw too much attention to you, at least until you turn the tables on someone else's ideas.

I'm looking forward to making it happen at Gen Con this year.

Avacyn, Guardian Angel | Art by Winona Nelson

A Host of Ideas

Of course, the two versions of Avacyn aren't the only powerful Angels in the Multiverse. There are plenty of legendary and nonlegendary to go around, as John covered:

The answer seems obvious to me; most Angels are mono-white, limiting their Commander usefulness. The best Angels are those that merge other colors into their identity.

I've seen others play Jenara, Asura of War; Maelstrom Archangel; and Angel of Despair. I have enjoyed Firemane Avenger; Deathpact Angel; and Aurelia, the Warleader. Magister of Worth is a great recent addition to the Angelic ranks.

However, I believe there are three flying above the rest over Commanderland: These legends beg to be played and built around in this format.

Sigarda, Host of Herons is a frequently tutored legend in my Captain Sisay deck. She is the answer I turn to when up against my friend's Sheoldred, Whispering One deck, and she's one of the few safeguards against Eldrazi Annihilation.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight holds the honor of having led two of my decks. I first built an "ordered chaos" deck around her; its unusual goal: to warp the normal rules of the game as much as possible. Her latest iteration is more about simple beatdown, but she was and is amazing to have around.

Finally, Bruna, Light of Alabaster well and truly shines now that Theros block and its multitude of enchantments and enchantments-matter cards are available. I built this deck as a more-fun, less annoyingly broken take on my friend's Zur the Enchanter deck, but it has really been supercharged by Theros. I often pull Bruna out for duels, but she can also hold her own quite well in a melee.

And as always, thanks for another great article!

—John

John's Aural Might

COMMANDER: Bruna, Light of Alabaster

After a block filled with Auras and things that care about enchantments, it's no surprise Bruna, Light of Alabaster was boosted. I had tried my hand at a deck around her, but it's long past time I revisit the underrated Angel of Avacyn Restored.

Another Angel I haven't played with often is Jenara, Asura of War. Not because she isn't awesome, but because she's a favorite of a close personal friend. I leave the Bant-colored power to his machinations, which looks similar to the deck Ariel sent in:

I'd go with Jenara, Asura of War, mainly due to the casting cost. She gives us flexibility to run three colors, ramp with green, very good removal of enemy commanders and sweepers with white, and counterspells with blue. She also has a low initial casting cost, allowing her to be cast early and repeatedly to get in commander damage when you can. And if you ever layer some protections onto her, such as with hexproof or shroud, her ability lets you dump excess mana into buffing her up and eliminating your foes with commander damage, and excess mana is something you often have in commander with the plentiful ways to gain it.

—Ariel

Ariel's Angelic Defense

COMMANDER: Jenara, Asura of War
101 Cards

Abilities like Jenara's and Avacyn, Guardian of Hope's are great mana sinks to have around. When resources get stretched or you don't have anything else better to do, turning mana into effects over and over is a great way to go.

Of course, any aficionado of Angels knows the best way to play is with many of them. That's what Archie decided to do with Heliod, God of the Sun:

I run a mono-white Angels and Archons deck headed up by Heliod; it's the foil to my mono-black Demons and Minions deck headed up by Erebos. There is something satisfying about just beating people down with huge fliers. While staying mono-white means I miss out on some of the most powerful Angels around (Aurelia and Gisela leap to mind) there are still plenty of great ones out there.

  • Shattered Angel: In a four-player game this thing gains you so much life; I think the only time I'm happy to see a Boundless Realms resolve is if I have this on the table.
  • Angel of Serenity: Removal and recursion all in one package, I generally use it to get stuff back out of my graveyard rather than using it as a removal spell and it is particularly good when combined with the next Angel.
  • Karmic Guide: Returning a creature to the battlefield is a very powerful ability, particularly when it comes with no strings attached and on a blinkable body like in this case.
  • Avacyn, Angel of Hope: Avacyn is one of the most powerful plays you can make in Magic, making all your permanents indestructible is a surefire way to draw the ire of the table. However, she also allows you to win the battle of attrition, as at least a proportion of your opponents' removal is now useless.
  • Sunblast Angel: A conditional wrath to be sure but one that is more like a conditional Plague Wind in this deck when combined with the vigilance that Heliod grants my creatures.

Here's hoping that Khans of Tarkir has some Angels so I can add some more to the deck!

—Archie

Archie's Heliod

COMMANDER: Heliod, God of the Sun

Bobby had the multiple-Angel angle too:

There are oodles of useful Angels available to the savvy Commander player, and since one of my favorite decks is my Angel-packed Mayael deck, picking one is super difficult. Each one brings a different ability to the party and each one has in turn saved my bacon on numerous occasions. I could go with one of the obvious choices like Iona or Avacyn (both of which are awesome), but I am going to eschew raw power and go with something else.

Angelic Arbiter is my favorite Angel for many reasons, one of which is how not highly played it is. I am sure that there are people who do run it, but I have yet to play against them. Angelic Arbiter is one of those cards that people are unfamiliar with, so they usually ignore it until the moment I get to say "no" to someone entering combat.

The neat thing about this card is that your opponents develop this weird love-hate relationship with it. On one side, they essentially lose a phase a turn. But on the other side, their non-me opponents suffer the same effect. This means that Angelic Arbiter gets to stay alive longer than she really should, the goal for annoying global effects. And unlike other global effects, she gets to fly into the red zone every turn.

—Bobby

Bobby's Mayael

COMMANDER: Mayael the Anima
99 Cards

Angels aren't just commanders to consider but are also awesome additions to nearly any deck. Whether it's with the primary color of the host of Magic's Angels (a Heliod, God of the Sun deck) or with a powerful way to spill more than just heavenly bodies onto the battlefield (a Mayael the Anima deck), Angels like Avacyn, Guardian Angel will continue to answer our prayers

Or at least they'll place their divine power between us and the worst the Multiverse has to offer.


Waking the World

One of the newest Planeswalkers to be revealed is Nissa, Worldwaker (one of my favorite cards on the Magic 2015 Card Image Gallery ), and her abilities are after my own heart. I rather enjoy untapping lands and searching them out of my deck, so I'd like to consider the Commander implications she provides: What are the best cards and decks to pair up with Nissa, Worldwaker in Commander?

  • Feedback via email [email link to: commandtowerstybs@gmail.com]
  • 300-word limit to explain which cards, and why
  • Sample decklist is requested (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"—just a space (no "x" or "-") between the number and the card name, without subtotals by card type (submissions that don't follow this rule will be ignored)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

The ability to untap four Forests at once makes commanders like Kamahl, Fist of Krosa even more impressive, and all the cards that care about Forests also seem like a good place to start, too. I'm looking forward to the green-friendly ideas that you'll come up with.

Join us next week when we see the Forests for the trees. Catch you then!