The Grace of Angels

Posted in From the Lab on July 22, 2013

By Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon started writing From the Lab at the end of 2012 after two years with GatheringMagic. He is an ardent casual player and loves finding uses for bad cards.

With Magic 2014 having just hit shelves this weekend, it's prime deck-building season. Players across the globe are experimenting with the new cards, trying to discover the next big thing. Of course, here at the Lab, experiments are our specialty, and I've suspended a couple of the set's rares in a plasmatic oxidative solution for further testing. My experiments yielded some intriguing results, and I'm happy to share them with you today.


One-Trick Arcanist

Elite Arcanist follows in the footsteps of Soul Foundry and Prototype Portal, letting you exile a card from your hand and then cast it every turn by paying its converted mana cost. The Arcanist, however, works with instants. This brings to mind a different imprint card: Isochron Scepter. The Scepter has historically been used with cards like Orim's Chant to prevent the opponent from doing much of anything, and Elite Arcanist can be used in the same way. Although I also considered using Turnabout and an array of mana-producing creatures to produce infinite mana, in the end, the fact that Silence is also in M14 and the ability to use both the Scepter and the Arcanist pushed me in the other direction.

Elite Arcanist
Isochron Scepter

Silence and Orim's chant will prevent your opponent from casting any spell that's not an instant, and if you pay the kicker cost, Orim's Chant will also prevent your opponent's creatures from attacking you. Since Elite Arcanist and Isochron Scepter cast a copy of the exiled card, you'll be able to pay the extra white mana each time you activate them.

Angel's Grace takes a different route from the other two cards, simply preventing you from losing the game. Your life total will stay at 1 while your opponent bashes away uselessly. Of course, all of these cards have one weakness: instants. If your opponent can cast spells on your turn, or with the Arcanist's ability on the stack, you might be in trouble. I'll throw in some Lightning Greaves to protect the Arcanist from instant-speed removal, and Witchbane Orb will protect your face from Lightning Bolts.

Angel's Grace
Witchbane Orb

The win condition for this deck is going to be your opponent running out of cards, but there's no harm in helping to speed that along. Jace, Memory Adept can get rid of ten cards every turn to accelerate you toward victory. Fabricate can be used to find Isochron Scepter, a pair of Lightning Greaves for the Arcanist, or Witchbane Orb, and Counterspell will help you deal with... well, pretty much anything. It can stop your opponent from progressing too far before you get the lock set up or protect you from instants.


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Deathbringer of Thune

Archangel of Thune has been the center of much discussion with regards to its playability in Standard. This creature can certainly create a lot of potential value, but it might surprise you to find out it has combo potential as well. The key is finding a way to translate putting a +1/+1 counter on each of your creatures into gaining life.

The conduit I found for making this happen was Triskelion. If you give it lifelink, you can remove a counter to deal 1 damage to your opponent, which causes you to gain 1 life, which triggers Archangel of Thune, putting a new counter on the Triskelion. Deathbringer Thoctar serves as backup, with the small drawback of not entering the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter ready to go.

Archangel of Thune

To give the creature lifelink, I included a few different cards. Basilisk Collar requires the most mana, but it grants deathtouch as well, allowing Triskelion to shoot down a couple creatures if you don't have Archangel of Thune yet. When equipped to Deathbringer Thoctar, it allows you to kill all of your opponent's creatures, since the Thoctar gets a new counter whenever something dies.

Nearheath Pilgrim is vulnerable to removal, but doesn't require any mana the turn you want to use it. By spending the two mana to cast it beforehand, you can combo off as soon as you get the other pieces on board. Lifelink is the straightforward option, giving you a no-frills way to complete the combo for just one mana.

Nearheath Pilgrim

To tide you over until you get the combo together, I'll include Mephidross Vampire, which can team up with Triskelion or Deathbringer Thoctar to gun down all your opponent's creatures. You can remove a counter from Triskelion to deal 1 damage to a creature, and Mephidross Vampire will trigger, giving it a new counter with which to deal 1 more damage, and so on.

Diabolic Tutor will allow you to search for whichever piece of the combo you're missing. If you're missing more than one, remember that you have ten cards you could draw to fill the lifelink part, eight that deal the damage, and only four Archangel of Thune. It's best to tutor up the one you're less likely to draw.

Oblivion Ring can get rid of problem permanents, either creatures that are in danger of killing you, or things that can stop you from killing your opponent with your combo. Finally, Rebuff the Wicked can protect your creatures from removal, ensuring that your infinite damage chain won't be cut short by a timely Doom Blade.

Life & Death

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Creatures and Spells

We're gearing up for an epic battle here in the arena, with two diametrically opposed decks battling it out for the title. Will the instant-based deck win the day, or will the creatures prove victorious? Let's head down into the pits and watch the carnage unfold.

Game 1

Silence opened up with a land, and Life & Death cast Basilisk Collar to get things started. Silence cast Lightning Greaves, and Life & Death played a land and passed the turn. Silence cast Isochron Scepter, imprinting Angel's Grace. Life & Death once again played a land and passed the turn, and Silence passed back with no play. Life & Death cast Diabolic Tutor, and Silence played a land and passed. Life & Death cast Archangel of Thune, and Silence ended the turn with no play.

Life & Death cast Triskelion, but Silence used Counterspell to stop it. Archangel of Thune attacked for 3, putting a counter on itself. Silence cast Fabricate, getting Witchbane Orb, and passed the turn. Life & Death cast Deathbringer Thoctar and enchanted it with Lifelink. Archangel of Thune attacked for 4, and Silence cast Angel's Grace before the Angel put a counter on the Thoctar. Life & Death dropped Silence to 1 life before ending the turn.

Deathbringer Thoctar

Silence cast Witchbane Orb, and Deathbringer Thoctar removed a counter for 1 damage in response. Silence activated Isochron Scepter, and without another counter to remove, Life & Death was forced to let it resolve. Silence passed the turn, and Archangel of Thune attacked for the win. Silence was prepared with an Angel's Grace from hand to stop it, however. Life & Death cast Mephidross Vampire, and used the Thoctar to ping itself until all three creatures were arbitrarily large thanks to Archangel of Thune.

Silence cast Fabricate, searching up another copy of Isochron Scepter and casting it, imprinting Orim's Chant. Life & Death cast Oblivion Ring, targeting Witchbane Orb. Silence activated Isochron Scepter in response, and after Angel's Grace resolved, the Orb was exiled. Life & Death passed the turn, then during Silence's upkeep, removed a counter from the Thoctar to deal 1 damage. Silence activated Isochron Scepter in response, but with the Scepter's ability on the stack, Life & Death used the Thoctar again for the kill.

Game 2

Silence started off with a land, and Life & Death cast Basilisk Collar on turn one again. Silence cast Isochron Scepter, imprinting Angel's Grace, and passed the turn. Life & Death played a land and passed. Silence cast Fabricate, finding a Witchbane Orb. Life & Death played a land and passed the turn, and Silence cast Elite Arcanist, imprinting the deck's namesake card.

Basilisk Collar

Life & Death cast Oblivion Ring, exiling Elite Arcanist, and Silence cast Jace, Memory Adept, milling ten cards. Life & Death cast Diabolic Tutor and passed the turn. Jace got rid of another ten cards, and Silence cast Witchbane Orb. Life & Death cast Oblivion Ring to exile Jace and passed the turn. Silence played a land and passed back. Life & Death cast Archangel of Thune, and Silence cast Lightning Greaves.

Triskelion hit the battlefield, and Archangel of Thune attacked, putting an extra +1/+1 counter on it. However, Silence cast a second Isochron Scepter, imprinting Orim's Chant. With its combo one card short of completion, and without the ability to cast spells or attack, Life & Death conceded.

Game 3

Both sides started off with lands until Silence cast lightning Greaves on turn two. Life & Death played a land and passed the turn, as did Silence. Life & Death cast Diabolic Tutor, and Silence cast Elite Arcanist, exiling Silence and equipping the Arcanist with Lightning Greaves. Life & Death's Oblivion Ring could only hit the Greaves, and with nothing on board and no chance of casting spells, Life & Death conceded.

Lightning Greaves
Oblivion Ring

Too Thune?

I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the combos enabled by Magic 2014, and if you have some ideas of your own, be sure to send them in by clicking the email link at the bottom of the page. Also be sure to join me next week for something a bit different from the usual From the Lab fare and, until then, keep brewing up those awesome new deck ideas! See ya!

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