With Protour Rivals of Ixalan in the books, we all witnessed the power of precision control elements that can deprive opponents from playing normal Magic. Ensnaring Bridge together with a hand-less strategy and milling your opponent off of key cards that can remove the Bridge was a solid game plan against a meta filled with Anglers, Tasigurs, Tarmagoyfs, Delvers, Humans and man-lands. I am not a fan of Lantern Control because it’s doesn’t play like normal Magic but I won’t deny it of its power either.
Unfortunately we don’t have the same power level cards available in standard but we can adapt the same lock-out strategy in standard by stripping the opponent of their hand, destroying most of their nonland permanents, and win via a Planeswalkers or a permanent clock.
Angrath, the Flame-Chained was just waiting for a shell he can call home and I think I have something that will fit him nicely. Angrath’s ability is not something you go crazy over and he also fails the ‘Planeswalker’s Test’ which is its natural ability to protect himself.
Cards like Dovin Baan and Gideon of the Trials have tick-up abilities that mute an opposing threat to save them from damage, while cards like Liliana leaves a body behind to block. Angrath does have a way to steal an opposing creature and sacrifice it if it’s small enough but doing so takes away loyalty counters so in effect, he doesn’t save himself from losing loyalty counters.
Angrath doesn’t come down before turn 5 which means we can focus on the first 4 turns to make sure the opponent doesn’t get a board presence that will attempt to take Angrath off the table.
We will fashion five 1-drop removal and do a 3-2 split. Fatal Push remains the best 1-drop removal which hits a lot of targets regardless of their size as long as they are cheap to cast. Magma Spray is becoming better now with Scrapheap Scrounger, Dread Wanderer, Adorned Pouncer and Champion of Wits rising in popularity.
For 2-drops, we will play 4 copies of Abrade to deal with Vehicles and a new artifact that people are trying to break: Azor’s Gateway. It’s also a great answer to Torrential Gearhulk and GPG in game 1. Lightning Strike is preferred over Harnessed Lightning in this deck since we don’t have any effective ways to generate a surplus amount of energy to deal more than 3 damage and Lightning Strike also allows us to hit Walkers.
At the 3-drop slot we will play 4 copies of Doomfall. It’s the best control card that will never be a dead card regardless if the opponent is playing creatures or not. Exiling hexproof creatures like Carnage Tyrant is a plus as well. Unlicensed Disintegration is another clean answer to anything even if we can’t reliably deal the 3 bonus damage.
Our last removal is Vraska’s Contempt which sits on the 4-drop slot. By far it is the best answer in Standard for creatures and Planeswalkers. The 2 life is very much relevant with the prevalence of Mono-Red and RB Aggro in this format. It’s also a way to take down Rekindling Phoenix which is getting all the hype.
Speaking of Rekindling Phoenix, we will also play all 4 copies. The ideal scenario here is that the opponent should either choose to play threats which will just die to our removal, or force them to block with it and soon run our of things to put in front of our Phoenix who never gets tired of coming back to life turn after turn.
Together with Torment of Scarabs, the opponent is ideally low of cards and will be forced to make a decision either to keep a card and save himself 3 damage, play it and take 3, or use a removal to kill our bird and save himself 4 damage but still take 3. The entire principle behind this deck is to give our opponent a really difficult time making one bad decision after another.
We can further pressure the board with Glorybringer which curves really well after Rekindling Phoenix. Taking down a potential blocker thanks to Glorybringer’s exert ability will make your opponent’s blocking strategy useless. Once the opponent is relatively low in life, Torment of Scarabs should be able to close the game in a few turns.
Let’s now discuss Angrath. I like his +1 ability very much. It’s like Liliana Vess of old where the opponent has to make a choice on which card he can give up for that turn in response to an unknown follow-up play. If he chooses to discard a removal spell, then it gives you a signal that either he has more in his hand which should stop you from playing a creature this turn and play something else. If he discards a control/counter spell, same principle and maybe playing a creature to play around a Negate might be a better next step.
Angrath’s +1 ability also presents a solid clock on top of the disruption. Unlike Chandra’s +1 ability of exiling a card or having the opponent take 2 damage, you need to choose which benefit to take. But for Angrath, you get both hand disruption and 2 damage in.
The shell of this deck will almost always not need Angrath to tick down for his second ability. We have so much removal in the deck that it’s not worth going down on Loyalty unless you’re about to steal a Ghalta, Primal Hunger and have enough removal in hand to make Ghalta punch through 12 damage and win the game.
After a couple of turns into the game, the opponent’s graveyard should be filled with dead stuff thanks to the sheer amount of removal we packed into this deck. Not including the cards that Angrath himself discarded with his +1 ability, after 4 tick ups and 8 damage in, and finally activating his -8 ability, it is not unrealistic to deal at least 10 damage. With Torment of Scarabs, 1 swing in with Rekindling Phoenix or Glorybringer, this should be enough to deal lethal damage.
For card advantage, we will play 3 Treasure Map and 1 Azor’s Gateway to make sure we don’t run out of cards and we always have the right cards for every match-up.
Here’s the list I ended up with:
3 Treasure Map
1 Azor’s Gateway
3 Torment of Scarabs
3 Angrath, the Flame-Chained
4 Rekindling Phoenix
3 Fatal Push
2 Magma Spray
3 Lightning Strike
2 Unlicensed Disintegration
3 Vraska’s Contempt
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Canyon Slough
2 Field of Ruin
4 Trespasser’s Curse
2 Lost Legacy
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
The sideboard I included in the deck is an attempt to answer decks that we don’t really have strong answers to like Tokens.
Trespasser’s Curse gives us the life buffer to set up our wins against Token and go-wide decks like Vampire Monument. This is where Torment of Scarabs is not very good because go-wide decks have so much permanents to ditch.
Our deck usually loses in game 1 against straight control decks that have mainboard Negate, Spell Pierce, Disallow and Torrential Gearhulk. Duress allows us to hit their hand quickly and it takes the place of Fatal Push which doesn’t do much against creature-light decks. Together with Doomfall, we now have 8 cards that attack the hand, on top of Angrath’s +1 ability.
Against control we also side in Chandra, Torch of Defiance to have a back-up clock in case they only have 1 counter magic reserved for Angrath, they now need to choose to either counter Chandra or Angrath.
Going back to Token decks, there are archetypes that rely on core cards to make the deck work. Cards like Anointed Procession, Hidden Stockpile, Approach of the Second Suns are still showing up in the top tables and Lost Legacy helps us strip those out and have less things to worry about.
We will also include the 3rd and 4th copy of Abrade in the sideboard particularly against GPG decks, Mardu Vehicles. The modes on Abrade remains very relevant in today’s varied standard format. Having this flexibility makes cards like Vraska’s Contempt great additions to our deck.
The deck isn’t cheap and its position in the meta is still speculative – I myself am trying to build this deck and see if it’s going to get some love once Dominaria comes out. I hope they reprint cards like Doom Blade, or Phyrexian Arena, or Stupor or Hypnotic Specter to give this deck a wider array of options to build with.
Until then, see you guys around! Like this page, like our Facebook page too!