Of Angels and Confluences

Posted in Perilous Research on November 5, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to the first week of Commander (2015 Edition) previews here on DailyMTG! Today I've got two preview cards to show you, but we're going to start at the top. The top end, that is.

There are a lot of ways that we can go about building Magic decks. Sometimes, we want to be as fast and aggressive as possible with hopes of ending the game before our opponent has a chance to show us their deck's plan. Other times, we're trying to slow the game down to a halt, using kill spells, countermagic, and general trickery to exhaust our opponent's resources so that we can win the game by virtue of simply having more cards thanks to card draw or superior efficiency. Some of the game's most successful strategies in recent years have operated somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, applying fast pressure that forces opponents to react while having the ability to grind through a longer game by generating card advantage or playing a trump card against the most controlling decks in the format. To truly understand the power of today's first preview card, we need to imagine the many roles it can play in this type of strategy.

A few years back, Standard's greatest weapon was a deck known as Junk Rites. Junk Rites used efficient mana creatures to accelerate its way into the format's most efficient threats: Thragtusk, Lingering Souls, Lotleth Troll, and Restoration Angel. Then, as an added plan of attack, the deck could steal games by reanimating huge threats that had the ability to win by themselves. What separated Junk Rites from other decks attempting to reanimate was its simple ability to cast its biggest spells thanks to all of its mana. Let's take a look at a fairly stock build of what would now be known as Abzan Rites.

JVL's Abzan Rites

Download Arena Decklist

People can deflect huge attacks, even those that involve Craterhoof Behemoth. Removal spells abound, and despite the stickiness of threats like Thragtusk and Lotleth Troll, the best control decks will eventually find a way to clear the board. Fortunately, Junk Rites had a long-term plan that ensured an endless stream of cards that would exhaust any amount of removal.

Angel of Serenity!

That's right! One of the best seven-mana creatures ever printed in the history of the game is coming back in Commander (2015 Edition). Angel of Serenity is a jack of all trades. It doesn't matter if we're ahead, behind, or trying to maximize our resource management. Angel of Serenity works beautifully in each of those situations, making it one of the very best top-end creatures available.

Let's discuss what Angel of Serenity does in particular situations:

When we're ahead, Angel of Serenity clears a path to victory. A lot of the time we're able to pressure opponents' life totals with creatures when we're playing white, but things can get difficult against green mages once the board gets clunky. Red decks have burn spells to seal the deal, but white decks need to clear a path, and Angel of Serenity clears a path three deep.

When we're behind, Angel of Serenity removes pressure or helps us catch up in the card-advantage war.

When we're trying to operate with maximum efficiency, Angel of Serenity comes down and offers up a threat that must be dealt with. Once the opponent finds the requisite removal spell, Angel of Serenity fills our hand back up with another three creatures, guaranteeing us a steady stream of cards to continue applying pressure to the game.

Angel of Serenity fits perfectly into Commander decks that need and rely on versatility. In fact, it's quite difficult to find a top-end creature that's better or more versatile than Angel of Serenity.

I've seen Angel of Serenity do great things out of countless Commander strategies, but the deck that's most impressed me is Kaalia of the Vast. With Kaalia of the Vast, we can drop Angel of Serenity onto the battlefield seemingly out of nowhere. Kaalia has always felt like one of the best strategies in Commander, and Angel of Serenity is one of the best cards in the deck.

I decided to put together a Kaalia of the Vast deck. Let's take a look!

JVL's Kaalia of the Vast

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Kaalia of the Vast
Enchantment (1)
1 Phyrexian Arena
99 Cards

This deck takes advantage of the most powerful cards available for the given color combination. Lightning Greaves and Lightning Mauler help us attack with Kaalia the turn she comes into play, powerful disruption and removal help us interact with the most powerful synergies our opponents are trying to put together, and a team of Angels and Dragons play cleanup beautifully.

Angel of Serenity may be amazing in a deck with Kaalia, but the card is also an essential tool for most Commander strategies that play white. Don't miss your chance to wield the incredible top-end power and versatility that is Angel of Serenity!

Mystic Confluence

My next card is a new one that exceeds any and all expectations. Preview season is always exciting: Some cards look questionable, but there are a handful of hopeful brewers waiting to use them in a very specific strategy. Some cards are quite strong, but detractors claim that they don't properly fit in a particular Constructed metagame. Then there are cards like Mystic Confluence!

Check your calendar quickly to confirm that it's not April 1. Then check your internet browser to confirm that you're on the official Magic website. Yep, that's right, this is an actual real card that we'll be able to put in actual real Magic decks.

It's kind of hard to fully quantify how good Mystic Confluence is. The best analogue in Magic's history is probably Cryptic Command. For a long time, Cryptic Command was considered the best four-mana spell in all of Magic. The versatility of the card combined with sheer power level to make a card that generated card advantage, enforced tempo, and established board control by countering a spell that an opponent tapped out for when they only had one threatening permanent in play.

Like Cryptic Command, Mystic Confluence also generates card advantage, maintains tempo, and cleans up the board to establish a solid sense of control. For one more mana than Cryptic Command, we're able to clean up a board two deep while also countering our opponent's big follow-up. What's even more impressive is that Mystic Confluence will often counter a big spell and draw us a whopping two cards. That's Ancestral Recall–level card advantage!

When evaluating a card, it's often important that we ask ourselves three questions:

  • How good is this card when I'm ahead?
  • How good is this card when I'm behind?
  • How good is this card when I'm at parity with my opponent?

With Mystic Confluence, the answer to all three questions starts with a grandiose adverb and ends with "awesome."

In Commander, Mystic Confluence will be rapidly approaching the realm of completely unfair when playing a two-player head-to-head match, but the card is still going to be a welcome inclusion to a player's hand in a game with four people.

I enjoy having fun as much as the next guy, but I'm definitely a fan of winning when I play Magic. Mystic Confluence is the type of card that lets me do a lot of winning. Mystic Confluence practically has a stamp denoting how Spikey it is. I researched competitive Commander decks a bit and found that Keranos, God of Storms was beautifully set up to take full advantage of Mystic Confluence.

Keranos, God of Storms is an awesome commander largely because of indestructibility's synergy with cards such as Wildfire, Obliterate, and so on. With Keranos, God of Storms on the table, we'll be happy to wipe clean any board while our God churns up some delicious card advantage.

JVL's Keranos, God of Storms

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Keranos, God of Storms

Mystic Confluence will be right at home in virtually any blue Commander deck, but the card really shines in a deck like this that has the ability to simply win the game out of nowhere by cleaning up the board and sealing the win with a real-deal board-wiping spell or a Blood Moon effect that might lock our opponent out of the game.

Where will you put Mystic Confluence? Will it be a counterspell that you don't hate flipping into with your Narset, Enlightened Master? Will it be protecting your Azami, Lady of Scrolls? Perhaps it will be getting flashed back by Dralnu, Lich Lord when you lock your opponent out of the game. One thing is for sure, Mystic Confluence is one of the best five-mana spells ever printed, and we can expect it to be a Commander staple for the foreseeable future. I for one welcome our control overlords.

Knowledge is power!

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