Hey everyone! I’m krowz, creator of the Mardu Angels deck that you’ve probably seen popping up in Standard recently! For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been known to force this color combination at a highly competitive level for a few years now, notably creating decks like Mardu Doom Foretold and Mardu Angelfire Ignition Combo.
This time around, it would seem I’ve actually struck gold as this deck has skyrocketed to take the top of the Standard metagame with a whopping 65% win rate. I myself am currently at 80% win rate in Mythic with over 60 Best of Three matches played, going on multiple long win streaks the likes of 15-0 and 13-0 and peaking at rank #43.
Anyway, buckle up as we jump right into this beautiful deck of cards!
This deck is essentially a more aggressive + creature focused version of Grixis Midrange. Your aim is to develop creatures and deal chip damage to your opponent while controlling their side of the board, ending the game with some big flyers or with direct damage.
Think about this for a moment, what decks are at the top of the metagame? In my opinion: Grixis and Azorius Soldiers. Archangel absolutely DESTROYS a variety of crucial cards for both of those decks. For Soldiers you usually get to destroy any 2 of their creatures, whilst against Grixis you get to destroy Bloodtithe Harvester, the goblin token from Fable, the Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, or you can use both instances of damage on Corpse Appraiser.
That’s just on the surface, you also have to think about the fact that it makes their blocks much more awkward when you can finish off any of the creatures that take damage, especially Sheoldred!
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! Since you can go face with the damage as well, this deck gains an incredible amount of reach when you combine the flyers + Sheoldred + Archangel. As such this deck topdecks incredibly well when you are ahead on board or when your opponent is low on life. Most of the time you will find yourself being 1 good draw away from winning the game directly from hand with Sheoldred and Archangel!
I also have to mention that Archangel of Wrath has won me many games I thought were unwinnable, where I fall behind on board early while taking a lot of damage (sometimes going down to 1 life). Then proceed to use its kicker to destroy 2 creatures, leaving me with +4 life immediately and also a flying lifelinker with good stats, completely shutting down most of your opponents potential attackers unless they have a removal spell in hand.
Fly Little Angels
This is where we have to talk about the cards that support Archangel of Wrath with damage and additional stats, mana, and card advantage!
Giada, Font of Hope is an incredibly well stated 2 drop that can tap for 1 white only to cast other Angels. The key thing about Giada is that it has vigilance, allowing you to attack and then tap it for mana during your second main phase. But that’s not all, you have to keep in mind the Reflection of Kiki-Jiki (Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Chapter 3) in the midgame, when you have Giada out, copying any other Angel will generate a token with a lot more stats than its baseline. This allows you to swing for huge amounts of damage in the air, or create a big blocker on your opponent’s turn.
Giada also proves very useful to kick Archangel of Wrath earlier than your opponent wants to see it come down! Now the reason I’m not playing all 4 copies is because I found myself stuck sometimes with multiple copies in hand, and since it’s legendary that can prove to be a problem, since this deck wants to develop permanents every turn if possible.
Inspiring Overseer, a very subtle common that fills its role perfectly. It’s another 2 power flyer that can scale up with Giada, gains you life and draws you a card upon entering the battlefield, and has incredible synergy with Reflection of Kiki-Jiki.
Sanctuary Warden, with its incredible stat line and incredible card advantage effect and self-protection. When it enter the battlefield or attacks, you can remove a counter from a creature or planeswalker to create a 1/1 token and draw a card. This is incredibly powerful especially against invoke despair decks. Furthermore, with Giada giving counters to Angels, it’s a beautiful combination, not to mention Reflection of Kiki-Jiki of course. You can see the trend.
You might be thinking about the Angel that everyone’s talking about: Steel Seraph and more importantly, why I’m not playing them. Well, it’s simple really – I feel like it simply doesn’t do enough for this type of strategy. Steel Seraph is a fantastic 3 drop that really pressures your opponent, but it is best used in a deck that can leverage its ability right away, notably a deck with many 2 drops, which this deck lacks. The flexibility of having a potential 6 drop as a top deck is very nice in the midgame, which is its main appeal for me. However, when you think about 3 drops, there are many that seem to just be more powerful and more resilient.
Steel Seraph is at the end of the day, a creature with no ETB that goes 1 for 1 with a removal spell, which is fine but when you consider cards like Wedding Announcement and Anointed Peacekeeper, it’s difficult to justify playing it. Now if you are looking to play more 6 drops that can flexibly be played as a 3 drop, that’s totally reasonable, I would rather lean harder into the resilient aspect of the deck by playing Wedding Announcement.
The Terrifying Trio
There’s not much to say about these 3, but they are simply the best Black Red permanents you can play, and will be an auto-include in any decks with those colors. It is what it is. Bloodtithe Harvester acting as potential removal and also looting for 1 with the Blood token is an incredible amount of value for a 2 drop that has fantastic stats.
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is the most absurd card you can play on turn 3 on the play, as it dominates your opponent with an extra mana boost from the Treasure Goblin, card selection thanks to the looting, and an absurdly powerful 2/2 in the end, that essentially requires removal. It’s also good no matter when you draw it, for a 3 drop, it’s just unmatched.
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is an all-in-one win condition, with incredible stats, deathtouch to top it off, and a ridiculously oppressive static effect that slowly or quickly crushes your opponent while padding up your life total, creating a larger and larger gap the longer it says on the board. It’s just nonsense at this point, hence why I’m playing it.
Just a Touch of Removal
The thing with this color combination, is that most of its removal is tied to other permanents. Bloodtithe Harvester and Archangel of Wrath are incredibly good at controlling low toughness creatures. Just in case though, we have the 1 copy of Brotherhood's End, a card that can dominate a bad situation and is simply too versatile not to play, as artifacts are being played in many of the top decks. Furthermore we have looting in case it truly is a dead card.
Go for the Throat is a no brainer – now yes, it doesn’t hit artifacts, but at the moment there aren’t that many decks playing a lot of artifact creatures, and the alternative Infernal Grasp is extremely painful even with the lifegain in this deck. As you have to consider the fact that we are playing A LOT of Painlands, and that damage can add up fast.
The Wandering Emperor is the only planeswalker in the deck, and it’s just too good to pass up. Acting as either a combat trick with its +1 giving first strike or a situational removal spell with its -2, exiling a tapped creature. All of this at instant speed of course!
Brotherhood's End is a card that seems a bit counterproductive at first, but completely shakes off that feeling once you actually see it in action. There are some decks that get absolutely destroyed by it, the likes of Soldiers and Oni-Cult Anvil decks. Even a deck like Grixis is vulnerable to it in some positions involving Fable + a few creatures, or even if you’re on the draw and they curve out Harvestor and Fable, you can use it to catch up on board on your turn 3. Not only that, but decks like Mono White control also play Reckoner Bankbuster so you can also use that there! In a situation where it isn’t useful, we have some insurance with Blood tokens from our own Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, that can loot it away if necessary.
The Rest of the Main Deck
Now for the rest of the spells, starting with Tenacious Underdog, which is the replacement for the fourth giada, just a solid 2 drop with recurring value in the midgame, as we gain life relatively easily in this deck, taking 2 damage isn’t a big deal for the Blitz costs! Also lining up with the theme of potentially finishing your opponent off from hand (or the graveyard in this case).
Wedding Announcement is my 3 drop of choice when it comes to the additional permanent I want in that slot. This is notably for the Grixis matchup, as it really sets you up for success when you slam it turn 3 on the play, and even sometimes on the draw. Combined with Fable of the Mirror breaker, which naturally does that, you have more overall cards that can take over the game on that turn. This makes the deck more consistent. Now going back to why I specifically chose this over something like Anointed Peacekeeper or Steel Seraph.
Wedding Announcement is actually pretty flexible, as it can either draw you a card when you play it in the mid game, or generate 1/1 tokens when you draw it early. Not to mention that it has incredible synergy with flyers as those creatures already have high evasion, you can draw more reliably if needed by attacking with 2 of them. The anthem effect you get after 3 turns ramps up those flyers, making them all the more threatening since, as mentioned prior, this deck can close out the game from hand once you deal enough damage to your opponent. But it’s also very relevant on blocks, since we have Lifelink and vigilance creatures, as well as sanctuary warden that will essentially create a 2/2 every time its effect activates!
Back to Grixis, essentially it boils down to card advantage and more specifically the card Invoke Despair. Wedding Announcement gives you tokens and an enchantment early on, which means that Invoke will only be drawing a single card and will not force you to sacrifice a more important creature! Grixis is also vulnerable to go wide strategies, especially game 1, so creating tokens is naturally powerful, combined with the anthem effect if they don’t deal with it, you will quickly overpower their board and start swinging for good damage. Since you have the flexibility of drawing when needed, it makes Wedding a no Brainer for that matchup.
Another perk of creating board presence without actually playing a creature is that you get to potentially delay their Corpse Appraisers, as they need a creature to exile from a graveyard.
In the end, the card just does too much, hence why it’s played over the other contender: Anointed Peacekeeper, which provides way more disruption on turn 3, but becomes weaker later on while also being much more vulnerable to removal and Invoke Despair.
Ao, the Dawn Sky is an extremely powerful 5 cost creature that can deal immense damage very quickly if not answered. And if it does get answered, your opponent better hope that answer is an exile effect otherwise you can look at the top 7 cards of your library and put nonland permanents with total mana value 4 or less onto the battlefield, or you can pump your board for +2/+2 if you are close to lethal. The vigilance on Ao is what makes it truly monstrous, since it is extremely effective on blocks as well and thanks to the flying, it can almost always attack without repercussion.
Starting with the straight forward interaction, Duress is here to help against decks with extremely powerful noncreature spells, as we don’t have access to blue for countermagic. Taking away cards like Fable, Invoke Despair and Farewell can prove crucial for those matchups.
Destroy Evil is just another good removal spell against bigger creatures also doubling as enchantment destruction if needed. Mainly there for Mono White Control and Esper Raffine.
Soul Transfer is an incredible spell that exiles a creature or planeswalker while often also bringing back a creature from your graveyard to your hand when you have an artifact and enchantment in play. Or you can use it simply for the latter effect in some rare situations. This card is crucial in the mirror match, while also being good against Mono White control and creature decks in general.
2 artifacts are present in the board, Unlicensed Hearse is paramount in a few matchups such as the Haughty Djinn decks, Grixis and other random graveyard decks.
Reckoner Bankbuster is another source of card advantage that can double up as an attacker/blocker when necessary.
To round out this sideboard we have an extra copy of The Wandering Emperor and Sheoldred. The former is important against decks with sweepers and against aggressive creature decks. The latter is just… Another Sheoldred? I mean, why wouldn’t you play another copy of the best 4 cost creature in the game!
Now for the spice, the ultimate mirror match tech spell: Gix's Command. A card that has overperformed in a few matchups, but especially the mirror match. It’s essentially a 3 for 1 in most spots, but the flexibility is what sets it apart from other card advantage spells. Most of the time though, you will lean towards the sacrifice effect and bringing back 2 creatures from your graveyard to your hand. The sweeper can be devastating for your opponent and the +2/+2 and lifelink has been useful in a few spots. The beautiful thing about this spell is the sequencing on its effects, as they are ordered perfectly. You can +2/+2 and THEN sweep; sweep and THEN bring back 2 creatures, sweep and THEN sacrifice their highest power creature, +2/+2 on THEIR creature and THEN sacrifice it (although that last option isn’t useful in 99% of situations 😁). Anyway you get the point, it’s actually quite a powerful spell in the right matchup.
The Mana Base
Time to talk about this deck’s only weakness, the mana base. The problem is that you do not have a Savai Triome in Standard unlike other powerful decks in the format. As such we have to rely on playing every dual land we can find, up to 26 lands total. That means pain lands, which tap for one of 2 colors in exchange for 1 life each time. These can become quite “painful” as we are running 10 total, on the off chance that you draw multiple early, you can tax your life total quite a bit. This can be devastating against aggressive decks or decks running Sheoldred and/or Invoke Despair. But there simply is no other choice as we are playing many cards that require a lot of different colored mana to be cast. At the very least we have some lifegain in the deck, which in turn becomes a much needed effect.
Those Painlands are combined with 12 Slowlands, dual lands that come into play untapped only if you control 2 or more other lands. These can be quite annoying to play early when they do come in tapped, sometimes putting you in a situation where you won’t have 2 mana on turn 2 if you have only slow lands in hand.
But I Don’t Have This Card
Alright, it’s finally time to talk about replacements. Unfortunately there is no way to build a budget version of this list, as the manabase is expensive and each card serves a specific role. A lot of the cards are core to this build, but there are replacements to some cards in case you are missing a few.
There are a few cards that can be swapped out, and while not optimal you should still be totally fine replacing any of these cards:
These can be replaced with:
- Serra Paragon
- Steel Seraph
- Anointed Peacekeeper
- Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
- Ao, the Dawn Sky
- Sanctuary Warden
I understand this is a bit confusing, since some cards are present in both lists. Let me give you an example so it becomes more clear: Let’s take Ao. Now imagine you don’t own a copy of Ao, I would say you can replace it with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse or Sanctuary Warden. So it’s a card that can be replaced. However, if you own multiple Ao’s and are missing a Sheoldred, it can replace Sheoldred. So it’s a card that can be replaced and can also replace other cards if necessary.
Make these replacements within reason. If you’re cutting a 3 drop, try to replace it with cards within a reasonable mana range that can fill in a similar role.
- Wedding Announcement to Anointed Peacekeeper, Steel Seraph or Serra Paragon
- Sheoldred, the Apocalypse to Ao, the Dawn Sky or Sanctuary Warden (replacing a win con with another win con)
Keep in mind that replacing Wedding Announcement does change the way the deck plays somewhat. You will have to play more aggressively since you won’t be able to fall back on the amount of value this card brings to the table.
Best of One
Now, keep in mind I don’t play this format, so you can improve the list as you see fit. As far as I know, Soldiers and Grixis are very prevalent, so I truly believe you can take the main deck from the Bo3 version, and simply play that!
I believe you would also want to cut a Sanctuary Warden since being on the play or draw is a reality of the format and you might not want another expensive creature. You could probably replace that with Steel Seraph, which would give you the flexibility of being played on 3 or 6.
I would also consider cutting a Wedding Announcement for that same reason, since the card can be too slow on the draw. If there isn’t much graveyard hate, maybe playing Serra Paragon is good here instead.
All in all, these are just suggestions, and I hope you Bo1 players are still able to enjoy playing this deck despite my lack of help! And I would love to hear from you about what you would do, or have already tested!
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|-3 Giada, Font of Hope||+4 Duress|
|-2 Brotherhood's End||+2 Unlicensed Hearse|
|-1 Tenacious Underdog||+1 Reckoner Bankbuster|
|-1 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse|
The key for this matchup is to remove creatures that aren’t good on their own, a creature like Giada simply doesn’t do enough unless you play it turn 2. It gets destroyed way too easily with opposing Harvesters as well.
The overall strategy is simple, develop your threats over and over while removing theirs until they run out of removal or find themselves too low on life, leaning into your noncreature permanents like Wedding and Fable which are difficult for them to deal with efficiently.
Take note that Brotherhood's End can be quite good, especially on the draw. So that is also a consideration, though I would probably not play more than 1. The card I would cut for it would be another Sheoldred or The Wandering Emperor
Azorius and Mono White Soldiers
A simple matchup that is extremely favorable for you, as you have creatures that can act as removal the likes of Harvestor and Archangel. Brotherhood's End Completely “Ends” their board most of the time and your spot removal is efficient enough. Wedding Announcement comes out for interaction as it is vulnerable to Thalia, Guardian of Thrabenand can be quite slow.
Mono White Control
|-2 Giada, Font of Hope||+4 Duress|
|-2 Brotherhood's End||+1 Destroy Evil|
|-3 Wedding Announcement||+2 Reckoner Bankbuster|
|-3 Go for the Throat||+2 Soul Transfer|
|+1 The Wandering Emperor|
This matchup can be difficult as Farewell is extremely strong against our very permanent heavy strategy. So we need to diversify our threats and add as much disruption and card advantage as possible.
Swapping out Go for the Throat for better interaction like Destroy Evil and Soul Transfer. Duress to take sweepers and removal. The Wandering Emperordodging Farewell and acting as a combat trick, and Reckoner Bankbuster for draw and mid game attacks after it activates 3 times.
Always be mindful of potential sweepers and try not to overcommit to the board while still keeping up the pace. It’s a tough balance unless you find Duress to check out their hand.
Mono Blue Djinn
This matchup can go either way, but most of the time it’s going to be a blowout for either player. If you draw Hearse/Bankbuster early and it resolves, you probably win. If they find Haughty Djinn and you don’t answer it, you probably lose. This is a very play/draw dependent matchup. In an even game, you will most likely win since you have a good amount of interaction and good creatures that can pressure them.
Most of the time you will have to slam permanents, but keep in mind if they are mana screwed you can afford to play a bit slower. The key thing is if they miss a land drop and don’t have any draw spells, then you can take it slow 100% of the time and win as long as you hit your lands.
|-3 Giada, Font of Hope||+1 Brotherhood's End|
|-1 The Wandering Emperor||+1 Soul Transfer|
|+1 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse|
|+1 Gix's Command|
For the most part, these decks are extremely easy to beat. As you have 2 Brotherhood's End main deck and 3 total post-board. But it really depends on the exact build, for example if they are playing Invoke Despair you will most likely have to board in Duress instead of Sheoldred/Soul Transfer and Gix's Command. If they are playing Corpse Appraiser in Grixis Anvil, you will have to board in Hearse instead of one of those cards and Tenacious Underdog. Otherwise, just play the game as you normally would and you should almost always win.
|-1 Tenacious Underdog||+1 Destroy Evil|
|-3 Wedding Announcement||+1 Unlicensed Hearse|
|-2 Brotherhood's End||+2 Soul Transfer|
|-1 Archangel of Wrath||+1 The Wandering Emperor|
|+1 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse|
|+1 Gix's Command|
Esper has 2 different builds, the Legend version that doesn’t play many noncreature spells, and the “normal” version with Wedding Announcement and Make Disappear. Against the latter, you will board in 4 Duress instead of Unlicensed Hearse, Gix's Command, Sheoldred and a Giada.
This is another relatively straight forward matchup, also very dependent on play/draw unfortunately. Remove their threats and develop your own, that’s the name of the game.
|-3 Giada, Font of Hope||+4 Duress|
|-1 Tenacious Underdog||+1 Soul Transfer|
|-2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||+1 The Wandering Emperor|
Now this matchup is an interesting one, as they usually play much more aggressively than Grixis, as such you need to keep the 2 Brotherhood's End. However, since they also run Invoke and Fable we have to respect those by bringing in Duress. Boarding out non-ETB creatures is your best bet as they have a plethora of removal at their disposal.
Reckoner Bankbuster is always a consideration when you are on the play, you can cut an Inspiring overseer for it.
Now all that’s left is for you to just play a normal game of Magic against them, leaning heavily into your enchantments and Archangel of Wrath to push your advantage with controlling their board.
|-2 Giada, Font of Hope||+2 Reckoner Bankbuster|
|-1 Archangel of Wrath||+1 Soul Transfer|
|-2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||+1 The Wandering Emperor|
|+1 Gix's Command|
Mono Black can be frustrating, as they are much more creature centric than Rakdos or Grixis, but they also play Invoke Despair. Despite this I would still recommend boarding in 3 Duress when you are on the draw. For this, you would cut 1 more Giada (leaving you with 0) and not board in the Bankbusters. Although you could just cut another Archangel for the last copy of Duress, as some Mono Black players run Liliana of the Veil.
|-3 Giada, Font of Hope||+1 Destroy Evil|
|-3 Wedding Announcement||+2 Reckoner Bankbuster|
|-1 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||+2 Soul Transfer|
|+1 The Wandering Emperor|
|+1 Gix's Command|
Now, I tend to approach this matchup differently than most players I’ve seen. I like to go the controlling route. On its face, whoever draws more Fables and/or Archangel of Wrath will win the game, as these cards generate an incredible amount of board presence and value. Archangel can destroy pretty much anything in the matchup as long as it’s case for 6. So my goal is to reduce the amount of creatures that get demolished by it.
That’s not to say there isn’t a valid strategy that doesn’t involve controlling the board. When you are on the play, Wedding Announcement can be quite strong as it boosts your weaker creatures up so they don’t die to a single Archangel Kicker. But the tokens it generates are fairly useless early on and some players run many copies of Destroy Evil. Either way, both strategies work, I just prefer to become the control player.
This is where cards like Soul Transfer and Gix's Command truly shine. Getting back any of your creatures will prove difficult for your opponent to overcome, as they almost all have powerful ETB effects.
Wrap It Up Already
I know… I know… It was a long one. But I hope this was all helpful in some way shape or form. For those of you who are already playing the deck, I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am! And for those who aren’t… Well.. I’m not sure why you’re still reading this! But I appreciate it nonetheless! This was my first article and I hope I did the deck justice.
Anyway, I hope you come check out my YouTube channel as I have many videos where I pilot the deck there. And you can find me on Twitch if you want to ask any questions while I’m playing live, or just want to chill with some good music!