Recently, caught up in the grind of playing a bunch of matches with Jeskai Fires and various other major decks in Standard, I felt a deep, burning desire for something a little different. Something that would get all 5 of the holy emotes out of the opponent in one game. Something… angelic.
I present to you: Mardu Angels… err… Mardu Combo… err… let’s go with Mardu Angel Combo.
Mardu Angel Combo by Jonah Gaynor
So there’s a lot going on in this deck, but fundamentally it’s a Mardu Midrange deck that has a combo finish, and most of the deckbuilding decisions come out of that.
The combo is: Bishop of Wings + Woe Strider + Divine Visitation. With this combo, every creature token you make becomes an angel, which gains you 4 life. Then, you sacrifice that angel token, which triggers the Bishop of Wings to make a 1/1 (which turns into a 4/4 angel), which then triggers the Bishop. This combo gives you infinite life. A second copy of Bishop of Wings also makes infinite 4/4 fliers.
The Angel Package
Bishop of Wings is a card that was always supposed to make an Angels deck viable in Standard. While that never happened, it does have considerable power if you are playing enough Angels.
Seraph of the Scales is undoubtedly the best Angel for this deck. It’s a good midrange beater, it makes tokens by itself to start the combo, and it can help play defense while the combo is set up. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is considerably less exciting, but it’s another midrange Angel that plays offense and defense well. Angel of Grace is a bit mediocre here, but we needed more Angels in the deck, and this one can help us turn the corner from defense into attack when needed.
The Sacrifice Package
For the combo, we already had these copies of Woe Strider hanging out, so it makes sense to try to take advantage of the text on the 3/2 a little more. Witch’s Oven and Cauldron Familiar is a very powerful 2-card combo that is a nightmare for decks that are looking to play on the front foot. We’re generally looking to slow the game down against most decks, and this is a great way of doing exactly that.
Now that Witch’s Oven and Woe Strider are both in the deck, it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of them by playing Claim the Firstborn. A Standard format with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, Hydroid Krasis, Edgewall Innkeeper, and many more cheap creatures has made Claim the Firstborn + Witch’s Oven a legitimate plan of attack in this format.
Cavalier of Dawn
Cavalier of Dawn is a very interesting card in this deck. The dying trigger on its own can return a Divine Visitation or a Witch’s Oven in a format filled with artifact and enchantment removal. Adding in Omen of the Dead makes a powerful 2 card loop with a sacrifice outlet like Woe Strider, turning your opponent’s strong permanents (or even your own in certain cases) into much less threatening 3/3s.
Cavalier also gives this deck a much grindier angle of attack that plays well in the longer games of this format. This is crucial in a format is dominated by meaningful permanents such as Lucky Clover, Fires of Invention, Wilderness Reclamation, and Nissa Who Shakes the World.
I think there is certainly some potential in this deck, and even if there isn’t, it’s a very nice departure from the current mainstream decks in the format.
Here is another version of this deck that I’ve been toying with:
Mardu Angel Combo (v2) by Jonah Gaynor
3 Bishop of Wings
4 Woe Strider
3 Murderous Rider
4 Kaalia, Zenith Seeker
4 Seraph of the Scales
1 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
2 Angel of Grace
2 Doom Whisperer
2 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
This version is certainly very different. Instead of playing the sacrifice game, this deck is looking to play a midrange card-advantage game that has the ability to go over the top with Blood for Bones and Drakuseth, Maw of Flames.
Doom Whisperer is a particularly powerful way to find the cards you need using the life you’ve gained off of Bishop of Wings. Blood for Bones, while usually used to reanimate a Kaalia to draw more cards or a Drakuseth to try to close games out, can also reanimate a Bishop of Wings or a Woe Strider to get the combo going. Bishop of Wings and Woe Strider both make expendable creatures to sacrifice to Blood for Bones as well, so there’s certainly some nice synergy there.
Finally, it wouldn’t be very characteristic of me to not give some thoughts on the current state of the Standard metagame.
Going forward, I expect the Standard metagame to shift slightly less than it has been week-to-week. Fortunately, there are roughly 8 decks that I would consider viable deck selection choices to make if you were aiming to win a big tournament in the coming weeks. They are:
- Jeskai Fires
- Temur Adventures
- Temur Reclamation
- Jund Sacrifice
- Azorius Control
- Mono-Red Aggro
- Sultai Ramp
- Bant Midrange
I’ve been talking down Azorius Control for weeks now, but good players keep winning with it so if you’re one of those great players, it seems like a great choice! In all seriousness, the metagame can be largely split into two categories: Present something powerful or Beat something powerful.
The latter four decks in the list are trying to beat those decks in different ways. Azorius Control attempts to go over the top of them, Mono-Red Aggro tries to go underneath them, Sultai Ramp takes advantage of all 4 of the aforementioned build-around cards being artifacts or enchantments, while Bant Midrange tries to present a fast and powerful board state that accrues meaningful card advantage turn after turn.
All of these decks are good choices for the coming weeks, but I’m likely to stick with Jeskai Fires for now.
Until next time,
@jonahgaynor on Twitter