I have a confession to make.
In 2010, I went down to the Bay Area for Grand Prix Oakland. I stayed with my college roommate at the time, Scott. I played my home brew all the way from Seattle Washington—[card]Living End[/card]. I finished 4th and flew back to Seattle. That was a breakout weekend for me. In only a few more sequences down the chain of events, my CFB column began.
The Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix circuit returns to Oakland this weekend and I will be there. And here is my confession: I have 0 byes, am barely familiar with M14 Limited, and I have plans to hang out with Scott on Sunday (Day 2).
Are you mad at me? Well, here's the deal. I love Magic. It's Sunday night and I'm writing this. Last night I was recording videos. Tomorrow night I'm streaming. And this time next weekend I'll be in Oakland. My lack of competitive fire for this tournament is not for a lack of love.
Maybe my Limited tournament performances don't matter too much to me. Maybe I just want an excuse to see friends. And maybe instead of preparing I have been refining a wild new brew for Standard.
DING DING DING!!
You see, I TRIED to prepare for this tournament. I really did. When M14 came online, I began to draft. And in that very first draft I was granted this masterpiece.
Is it unplayable? Is it unbeatable? Good questions, and the answer was quickly revealed.
Boys and girls, we have on our hands the makings of a Constructed deck!
I figured this was my M14 highlight and it was all downhill from here. Could I do this every draft? Pretty unlikely. The bar had been set too high. So I turned my sights back to Constructed.
Archangel of Thune
[draft]archangel of thune[/draft]
This card is totally absurd. It's like [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] AND [card]Gavony Township[/card].
In another world this card wouldn't be all that. But we live in a world of creatures. There are [card]Thragtusk[/card]s, [card]Restoration Angel[/card]s, [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card], and more. For each [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] there is a playset of [card]Blood Artist[/card]s and [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card]s at the ready. I mean, even [card]YOUNG WOLF[/card] has made a splash this season.
[card]YOUNG WOLF[/card]. Take a look at this card. Is this card good? Well, in this environment it is. An environment of clogged boards that turn into densely overpopulated cities.
If [card]Young Wolf[/card] is good, [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] is something else.
Originally I was going to write about how [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] is wildly underplayed. The reality is Archangel has been seriously picking up steam. I've been bumping into her more and more online and I've seen Archangel lists sprouting up everywhere. The card is Baneslayer plus Gavony Township. It was just going to happen.
We have a lot of options with Archangel. She's pretty absurd with [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]. She pairs well with [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card]. These ideas are great. But I have bigger plans.
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Blood Artist
3 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Lingering Souls
4 Path of Bravery
4 Xathrid Necromancer
4 Archangel of Thune
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Orzhov Guildgate
1 Vault of the Archangel
1 Orzhov Charm
4 Intangible Virtue
2 Doom Blade
2 Fiend Hunter
3 Fiendslayer Paladin
3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad[/deck]
This is a draft deck come to life. Our majority-Humans deck gums up the board with [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card]. [card]Blood Artist[/card] discourages attacks. [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] comes down, and things get out of hand fast.
I realize that there is an already established BW Humans deck. I think that deck is fantastic, although I haven't played with it enough to say that that deck is better or worse than this. That deck is for sure less cute, for better or worse. I will say that the other BW Humans deck can take notes from this deck—[card]Archangel of Thune[/card] is ABSURD, and it should be in the 75.
[card]Archangel of Thune[/card] completely dominates clogged board states, and that's what this deck is all about. [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and [card]Blood Artist[/card] turn the board gross, and cards like Archangel just break stalemates.
Archangel Humans Card Breakdown
Individual card breakdowns for this deck are difficult, as the deck is very much a system of cards. Each card references every other card. I do acknowledge that there are some weird ones in here, so I will explain why I am playing the list the way I play it.
[card]Doomed Traveler[/card] gums up the board. It creates bodies for [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] and [card]Blood Artist[/card] and it is a Human for [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card]. It slows the game down to the point of [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] and provides a nice suicidal attacker for [card]Path of Bravery[/card].
Alright, [card]Soulmender[/card] is going to need a lot of defense, as this card could easily be [card]Champion of the Parish[/card]. [card]Champion of the Parish[/card] is insane. It can grow to enormous proportions and provide a nice attacker and blocker. It is just a big dumb creature without too much synergy, though. It's not the best once [card]Thragtusk[/card]s and [card]Lingering Souls[/card] start gumming things up. Eventually, it just sits there.
[card]Soulmender[/card] is a much less punchy turn 1 play. It never grows to a 6/6. It just sits there and provides a slow trickle of life to keep the game going. It's a body and it's a Human. And it is our best synergy with Archangel.
You see, [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] is a card. [card]Dreadbore[/card] is a card. And so on. [card]Archangel of Thune[/card], your turn, is not the most reliable. [card]Archangel of Thune[/card], tap [card]Soulmender[/card], your turn, is reliable. It grows our team forever. And it puts our Archangel out of [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] range forever.
[card]Soulmender[/card] isn't the strongest card. But it is a synergistic card. It is a glue piece. And I think it deserves a shot. If [card]Soulmender[/card] ends up getting cut for [card]Champion of the Parish[/card], I would understand, but I am rooting for the underdog here.
[draft]Gather the Townsfolk[/draft]
Gums up the board. Humans. Bodies. Blockers. Men. Dudes. Etc. Yeah?
Originally I didn't have [card]Blood Artist[/card] and [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] in this deck, and that was a mistake. [card]Blood Artist[/card] isn't a Human, but it does so much work. It makes combat impossible for the opponent and can give us crucial protection against cards like [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] and [card]Supreme Verdict[/card].
[card]Blood Artist[/card] DOES provide life for [card]Archangel of Thune[/card], but this usually isn't too relevant. We only have true control over gaining life with a [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card], and then only by sacrificing creatures… to grow our creatures? Sure, it comes up, but it's not the best use of the card.
[card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] is a Human and a sac outlet. It's a great and well-established card. And I am only playing 3. I wanted to play 25 lands which means one of our cards is a 3-of, and this is the one. [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] is great, but we really don't need the sacrifice outlet most of the time. We don't have [card]Tragic Slip[/card] or [card]Skirsdag High Priest[/card]. If we need creatures to die we can USUALLY do that through combat.
If you find room for a 4th [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card], I doubt it would be particularly wrong, but I think this list operates just fine with less than 4.
This card is just absurd. It doesn't make Humans, but it's sooo many bodies. Black/white decks play this card, and black/white decks exist because of this card.
[draft]Path of Bravery[/draft]
This is a fun one! I know a lot of people are skeptical of this one, and I understand. There are situations where it does nothing, and that sucks. These situations are less than you'd expect and sometimes it is completely busted.
Most of the time it's just fine, as if you have over 20 life you don't necessarily need the power boost and if you have less than 20 life you'd like more life. It's only really horrible when we have no creatures or are low life and can't afford to attack even with the life bump.
We have so many tokens that it creates a lot of situations in which our opponent just can't race us. If they turn everybody sideways, we turn everybody back. If they turn everybody sideways we might even have a second [card]Path of Bravery[/card] for lethal.
The main benefit of [card]Path of Bravery[/card] is it grows our team with Archangel immediately. Growing our Archangel immediately is really important because of removal. Sure, a lifelinker would do a similar job in this slot, but I think [card]Path of Bravery[/card] is better in this deck than something like [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card].
We play a lot of Humans. We get a lot out of having a lot of creatures. We like to block. We like to attack. Yes.
[draft]Archangel of Thune[/draft]
And this is the reason to play the deck. Whether you believe in [card]Path of Bravery[/card] or [card]Soulmender[/card] or not, you should believe in this card. It is already seeing play in a Standard format filled with the most stacked list of heavy-hitters at 5 mana of all time, and most of those are rotating.
I expect [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] might be dominant after rotation, but until then we have this deck.
I like 25 lands here. It's a lot, but if we're going to play [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] on turn 5 we're going to need a lot.
[card]Mutavault[/card] and [card]Vault of the Archangel[/card] (of Thune??) help a lot. They give us some extra things to do with extra lands. [card]Mutavault[/card] in particular is an extra body and a Human, and [card]Vault of the Archangel[/card] does so much work with our tokens.
I will say one of the biggest weaknesses of the deck is in the mana base. We play a lot of lands and we play a lot of colorless lands to compensate. Sometimes we don't draw the right mana and sometimes we draw too much of it. Is this just a part of Magic? To an extent yes, but I have been playing with [card]Faithless Looting[/card] for so long that I'm not used to it. If this deck draws 4 too many lands we can't turn those into 4 fresh spells. This can be frustrating, but hey, for a lot of decks that's just Magic.
Building a Sideboard and Meta Adjustments
I've played this deck enough to have the makings of a sideboard, although it is still a work in progress.
[draft]1 Orzhov Charm
4 Intangible Virtue
2 Doom Blade
2 Fiend Hunter
3 Fiendslayer Paladin
3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad[/draft]
I've seen [card]Curse of Death's Hold[/card] and [card]Illness in the Ranks[/card] enough to want a card to deal with those. Enchantment removal works, but Intangible Virtue works better, as if they don't have their hate card [card]Intangible Virtue[/card] is still a powerhouse.
It's also excellent in token mirror situations, and it is the one card in the sideboard I would never cut, unless I was adding it to the main!
You might have noticed we have no removal in the main. I end up building decks like this often. I figure we can interact through the red zone more often than not, and I want to maximize our own strategy.
I do like having removal in the board to kill certain creatures, and I have been liking this as the mix, although [card]Orzhov Charm[/card] has been mediocre. [card]Doom Blade[/card] is a clean kill most of the time, and [card]Fiend Hunter[/card] has nice interactions with [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] and [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card].
I haven't been playing [card]Tragic Slip[/card] as I don't want to depend on a sacrifice outlet, although [card]Tragic Slip[/card] is nice for killing [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card], which we are soft to otherwise. If you wanted to play [card]Tragic Slip[/card] here I think that would be okay.
I've found the mono-red matchup surprisingly horrible. They're so fast and our creatures are so middling that usually we're on the back foot until we're dead. I figured [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card] would be of help here, but it's only been okay. It gets crushed by [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] and [card]Firefist Striker[/card]. It only trades with [card]Ash Zealot[/card]. Can we do better?
[draft]Sorin, Lord of Innistrad[/draft]
Sorin has been merely decent. I figured we could use something extra against slower control decks, and planeswalkers are always nice. Sorin also complements our plan nicely, although it is vulnerable to cards like [card]Curse of Death's Hold[/card] the same as the rest of our deck. I like it, but I imagine [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] would be good too.
[card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] is absurd. The card sees all kinds of play in main decks, and for good reason. I love the card and would like to play it, but I'm not sure if 14 black sources is enough to reliably cast it. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but that's the reason I haven't been playing with it.
People have also been asking me about [card]Sin Collecter[/card]. I think the card is fine, but [card]Burning Earth[/card] has shifted most metas to be so creature-heavy that [card]Sin Collector[/card] has lost a lot of value.
Playing with Archangel Humans
I've found this deck incredibly fun to play. It gums up the board so badly and dominates small creature battles. It can be weak to cards like [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] at times, but for the most part you don't get blown out too much and create memorable game states. I highly recommend this deck.
Questions!! Comments!! Think there's something I forgot!?