Selesnya Angels Historic Deck Guide: Play The Best Tribe in Historic
Hello everyone! Today we’re going to talk about a deck I thought was a meme, but ended up being a dream, Angels. Angels is a Collected Company deck that utilizes the many life gain cards across Arena’s history to turn into a fast, powerful, and synergistic killing machine. I really thought the deck was just gimmicky, but after a very strong 9-2 run in High Mythic losing only to the mirror and then to double mull to 5s, I can assure you this is the real deal. Let’s take a look at the list.
As mentioned before, this is a mostly tribal creature deck that looks to get on the board fast and run away quickly with board advantage. Since this deck is so linear, it’s generally very consistent in it’s game plan, but at the same time, can be very inflexible. With that, your matchups can be very polarizing as you absolutely demolish creature decks, but can have a lot of problems with something like UW Control. That being said, you have significantly more good matchups than bad in Historic which I think allows this deck to be very well positioned at the moment.
Your 1 drops help get the ball rolling with the surprisingly good Soul Warden and Speaker of the Heavens. Soul Warden is functionally always good and allows you to start accruing life gain quickly. Speaker of the Heavens is a lot more hit or miss as when it’s bad, it’s a 1 mana 1/1, and when it’s good, it’s a better Dragonmaster Outcast. Generally speaking, you want Speaker against decks that can’t block it or remove it easily.
Going up to the 2s, we have one of the best cards in the deck, Bishop of Wings. Bishop is one of the cards that just obliterates creature decks as gaining 4 life with every angel on top of a 1/4 body is a really hard combination for a lot of decks to beat. The Angel death trigger doesn’t come up often, but it’s also quite relevant. Youthful Valkyrie is a new card from Kaldheim that wasn’t even from the main set, but is surprisingly good enough here. Having it be a 2/4 on turn 3 is not bad and it can easily keep growing from there turning it from mediocre filler to serious beater quickly.
Lastly, we have the 3 drop package that makes the deck thrum. Resplendent Angel, like Speaker of the Heavens, is the second high roll card in the deck as it’s not very impressive by itself, but if you can gain 5 life in a turn, it feels unbeatable. With that, Soul Warden, Bishop of Wings, and Resplendent Angel is your best curve and it feels very hard to lose when it works. Righteous Valkyrie has a lower ceiling, but a much higher floor than nearly everything in the deck. It’s well statted, gains you a bunch of life, and becomes an anthem that can quickly kill opponents once you establish a board state. Lastly, we play Skyclave as some much needed interaction as playing an all creature deck with no way to remove opposing permanents is whack.
The power of the deck ends with the top of the curve with Collected Company and Ajani, Strength of Pride. I don’t think I need to explain why Collected Company is here. Ajani has been an absolute house for me as it’s very easy to get his “ultimate” off when the deck gains so much life. I’ve seen Angels lists shaving Ajani, but I think having it to break up board stalls (especially in the mirror) is too important. Secondly, Ajani is a really good tool to beat control as you can produce a bunch of Ajani’s Pridemates to keep the pressure on the opponent. With that, the deck is straightforward and powerful, so if you want an easy grind on ladder without thinking too hard, this is what I would opt for.
Before I go onto the matchups, I quickly want to talk about why I play Selesnya over other combinations like Bant or Abzan.
WHY SELESNYA INSTEAD OF BANT OR ABZAN?
The first iteration of this list I saw is Selesnya which branched into two 3 color iterations, Bant and Abzan. With Bant you get access to Linvala, Shield of Seagate, Glasspool Mimic if you want it, and counterspells in the board. Abzan, so far, really only gives you Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose. For starters, playing a whole color just for Vito doesn’t seem even remotely worth it. I’ve heard arguments that Vito is for the mirror, but Ajani fulfills a very similar role as a mirror breaker so that mostly seems unnecessary. Bant however, is a much more compelling argument. I’m not a fan of Glasspool Mimic, but Linvala and counterspells are very tempting especially since the Control matchup is so bad. I think it’s very close, but personally I like having a cleaner manabase overall. You do gain significant points against Control by adding Blue, but with worse mana, you are losing points in literally every other matchup as the deck is now more inherently inconsistent. That being said, I don’t think the Bant version is bad in any sense and may end up being the standard, but I do know Abzan is not where you want to be.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
SACRIFICE (SLIGHTLY FAVORED TO MODERATELY FAVORED)
|+4 Baffling End||-3 Ajani, Strength of the Pride|
|+2 Rest in Peace||-4 Speaker of the Heavens|
|+3 Fairgrounds Warden||-4 Youthful Valkyrie|
|+3 Yasharn, Implacable Earth||-1 Resplendent Angel|
This matchup is interesting as you would think it would be really bad for Angels, and Game 1 (and it certainly can be), but it has felt quite good. Your creatures aren’t in real danger of getting killed by Mayhem Devil for the most part and they don’t play a huge amount of interaction either. This is compounded by Sacrifice is generally trying to kill you with incremental damage and we have large swaths of life gain. Then when you get into the post board games, it turns into a nightmare for Sacrifice. A bunch of exile, Rest in Peace, and Yasharn all aid to make this matchup as good as possible for you going into the post board. Keep their board clean, land a RIP or Yasharn, and you should be ok.
AURAS (SLIGHTLY UNFAVORED TO MODERATELY UNFAVORED)
|+4 Baffling End||-1 Ajani, Strength of the Pride|
|+3 Fairgrounds Warden||-1 Reidane, God of the Worthy|
|-1 Speaker of the Heavens|
|-4 Youthful Valkyrie|
Unfortunately like many other creature decks, Angels certainly struggles against Auras. My version is probably the best against them since I play a boatload of removal, but one Hushbringer can absolutely destroy you. Don’t keep hands without interaction unless it’s insanely proactive as Auras is more powerful than you are.
ARCANIST (EVEN TO SLIGHTLY UNFAVORED)
|+4 Baffling End||-3 Ajani, Strength of the Pride|
|+2 Rest in Peace||-1 Reidane, God of the Worthy|
|+3 Yasharn, Implacable Earth||-4 Soul Warden|
This matchup is similar to Sacrifice, but they play significantly more removal which can be a headache at times. Unlike Sacrifice, Arcanist really can’t win through a Rest in Peace which can make the matchup feel pretty swingy. If they just have a heavy removal draw, you can still out tempo them with a good curve and a Collected Company, but interaction and Dreadhorde Arcanist can be a tough combination to beat.
UW CONTROL (MODERATELY UNFAVORED)
|+3 Heroic Intervention||-3 Skycalve Apparition|
Unfortunately, this matchup is quite rough. Our game plan doesn’t work well against theirs and we’re relatively soft to a Wrath. However, they are extremely dependent on having a Wrath to beat any reasonable curve from us. If you can have a strong start and hold up Heroic Intervention or they don’t find a Wrath, this matchup is definitely winnable.
|+4 Baffling End||-1 Reidane, God of the Worthy|
|+3 Fairgrounds Warden||-2 Soul Warden|
|-4 Youthful Valkyrie|
This matchup is going to go 2 ways, either it’ll never end or one of you is just dead by turn 5. My list has the advantage in the mirror as I play significantly more removal and the third Ajani goes a long way to winning the matchup. Try to keep strong hands that either have a good amount of interaction or a really good curve, middling hands will likely leave you dead or to an extremely prolonged game.
VARIOUS CREATURE DECKS (HEAVILY FAVORED)
|+4 Baffling End||-2 Ajani, Strength of the Pride|
|+3 Fairgrounds Warden||-4 Speaker of the Heavens|
|-1 Youthful Valkyrie|
This is the reason to play the deck and also the reason Angels is at the bottom of Tier 1. You don’t have an amazing matchup spread amongst the best decks, but you tend to obliterate most other things. Gain life, interact, and it’s really hard to lose these matchups.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Ajani’s primary use is to get you over 35 life so you can “ultimate” him, but making Pridemates is similarly good if you don’t need to wrath the opponent’s board in any hurry.
- Reidane isn’t an Angel despite looking like one. You can play the 2/3 if the opponent plays large non-creatures, but the Valkmira side tends to be what I end up casting.
- Soul Warden triggers off every creature entering, not just your own, so plan around that.
- Speaker of the Heavens ability is sorcery speed only, keep that in mind when planning your turns.
- Righteous Valkyrie triggers off of Angels and Clerics, not just Angels. Beyond Skyclave Apparition and Reidane, every other creature has one of these two types.
- Keep in mind what your life total will be AFTER combat when you have a Righteous Valkyrie out. If you’re below 27 life before combat, but you get to 27 in combat, the anthem will apply before state based effects like creatures dying. For example, if you’re at 26 and you block a 1/1 with a Speaker of the Heavens when you have Righteous Valkyrie out, your Speaker will live and still kill the 1/1.
- Unlike other Collected Company strategies, I tend to Coco on my main phase to potentially hit a Righteous Valkyrie for a board buff or gain me enough life to activate Speaker of Heavens.
- Since we play a lot of non-CoCo hits in the board, if you have to do different boarding from the outlined plan, make sure you don’t go too low on hits. 24 is probably the floor where Coco is still functional in the deck (and even that isn’t great).
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