Hello everyone! Today I’m going to go over a deck that seems extremely well positioned right now: Orzhov Angels. Angels was a deck created at the beginning of Standard 2022 that utilized a few cards that many probably didn’t even know were Standard legal. Youthful Valkyrie? Rampage of the Valkyries?
Although I’m mostly unfamiliar with the supplementary products, apparently these came in the theme and set boosters of Kaldheim. These cards are generally legal in Standard, but 99% of the time they aren’t good enough to actually see play. Well, it turns out both Youthful Valkyrie and Rampage are linchpins of the deck.
I digress, Orzhov Angels was always a solid option in 2022 as it had some really polarizing matchups: it was excellent against the creature decks, but struggled against Control. Seeing the absolute dominance of Monogreen last weekend with a sprinkling of Monowhite, I figured it may be time to break out the big guns in order to defeat it. Before I continue, let’s take a look at my latest iteration of the deck.
For those who are unfamiliar with the deck, as said before, it’s mostly designed to absolutely stomp on the creature decks.
Starting with the two drops, we have the aforementioned Youthful Valkyrie which begins the stonewall of the opponent’s board. A 1/3 Flier is far from amazing, but even that stat line will blockade most of Monowhite and a bit of Monogreen. Of course, we wouldn’t play her if she always was a 1/3. Even after a single trigger, Youthful Valkyrie becomes an extremely difficult blocker to contend with for any creature deck, and of course this will only get worse for them the more triggers you get.
Still in the twos, all our removal resides at this cost. Vanishing Verse is one of, if not the best removal spell in Standard as it has unbelievable versatility and the exile clause is extremely relevant with cards like Old-Growth Troll. Infernal Grasp is the newest removal spell to enter Standard and although versatile, the 2 life can add up which is why I limit it to 2 copies. Finally, we have Flunk which can miss some creatures later in the game, but we have so many other ways to deal with large creatures I think the risk is worth it for a removal spell that will nab what we want a majority of the time.
Next up on the curve, we have the 3 drops. Righteous Valkyrie is probably the scariest card in our deck in functionally every matchup. It has a good stat line, gains a lot of life, and will eventually buff your board if left unchecked. Whenever this is out, your opponent will almost always have to prioritize killing it rather than developing their board so you can use that to your advantage. Despite looking like one, Reidane, God of the Worthy is the only non-Angel in the deck, but is just a particularly well positioned card right now with how many expensive non creature spells there are and the amount of Snow decks in the metagame.
For our fours, we have two heavy hitters. Starnheim Unleashed is technically a 4 drop, but will more often be foretold. Nevertheless, a 4 mana Serra Angel that can also be a bunch of Serra Angels later in the game is quite the potent threat. Firja's Retribution is also a 4 mana Serra Angel that also allows you to interact with the opponent’s board and/or kill them with only a few creatures with the final chapter!
Finally, we have the 5 drops. Liesa, Forgotten Archangel is a new addition from Innistrad that has played out really well. It’s like a Baneslayer Angel that gave up 1 power for a greater ability to grind, and while we don’t necessarily use that to it’s full effect, is still very powerful. However, the glue that really holds this deck together is Rampage of the Valkyries. Grave Pact effects are extremely powerful, but always required a lot of set up to work. Rampage of the Valkyries requires you to play all (or mostly) Angels, but rewards you with a Grave Pact on top of a 4/4 Angel! Realistically, this is the card that makes the creature matchups so good. When every creature you play is a 2 for 1, it becomes extremely difficult for opposing creature decks to keep up a solid board state. If you ever manage to get multiple down, it just becomes impossible to fight through.
For the sideboard, I tried a lot of different configurations, but going completely polarized seemed to be the best option. Angels is already excellent against the creature decks and they can’t do much boarding to make it better, so we don’t need many cards to bring in since we don’t want to take out cards that are actively good against them as well. However, as I said before, the real trouble is with the Control matchups. This may be an awkward time to bring a deck with a weaker Control matchup in a metagame filled with Izzet Turns, but there are two saving graces. one, in the short term Monogreen and Monowhite are going to lord over the format making Angels a better choice. Two if we have an effective sideboard plan, we can make the matchup reasonable. The issue with Angels against Control is that the deck is too clunky, so if we lean down in the post board games and add meaningful interaction, it’s way more tenable to win those. Even hard Control decks like Dimir that used to be impossible for Angels is still reasonable since we just have so many board cards dedicated to them. I wouldn’t say that Angels is going to be a great deck in every metagame, but this looks like a really nice time to break it out.
NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS / POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS
I don’t love Curse of Silence in general, but it is quite good against the Izzet Turns deck. Delaying their ability to combo by minimum 2 turns can put you in quite the advantageous spot, but I think hand disruption is generally better.
Better when Control cares more about instant speed interaction.
I was playing Warhound initially and liked it as this deck is quite top heavy, but I found I just didn’t have space at the end to justify it’s inclusion.
Some old lists played Luminarch Aspirant as a proactive 2 drop, but unfortunately it isn’t good enough for this deck. It doesn’t trade well against the creature decks and doesn’t pressure the Control decks fast enough.
My old 2022 list played Professor and it was really good, but unfortunately the deck doesn’t really have room anymore to include this, much less lessons in the sideboard as well.
I was really hemming and hawing between this and Reidane, and honestly, I still don’t know which is better. Both have their advantages so it can really come down to choice of preference.
Yes this is an Angel, but it’s not a great one. You don’t need your Angels to be bigger and it’s hard to get the triggered ability to be relevant at all stages of the game.
If this always had lifelink, I would consider it over Liesa, Forgotten Archangel, but there’s no real point to it if it’s a worse blocker than Liesa and it makes beating down more awkward.
I was stuck between Doomskar and Crippling Fear for the board wipe of choice I think both have their advantages and disadvantages so I wouldn’t fault anyone for preferring this. My issue with Doomskar is that it can make your hands really awkward against creature decks and force you to wrath earlier than you may want so you can start playing your threats, but it does kill everything and will likely surprise the opponent so it’s hard to say.
Cool card, but too niche and too restrictive of a mana cost.
Although I love Duress, I think Check for Traps is slightly better right now. It can tag the errant creatures that Control has tended to play and even ping them which can be relevant. Furthermore, this deck is already not the best at double spelling so 1 versus 2 mana is generally not the most relevant. Even with all this in mind, I would say Duress would normally be better, but the exile clause on Check is what pushes it over for me. Izzet plays creatures and a few cards with Flashback, so I thin Check is slightly better positioned right now in specifically this deck.
Although this misses on Dragons and the all important Angels mirror, this may be better positioned than Flunk right now. I think playing either is reasonable.
I’m a big fan of this card, but it’s not the time to play it when a lot of the best threats dodge it reasonably well.
This deck is already pretty clunky, but if you want to make the creature matchup even better, I can see going Snow to play this broken Wrath. The main issue is that you don’t have too much to recur, so the deck would need to be reconfigured to make this more tenable.
This could be a solid one of as we tend to have a lot of mana and large creatures, but I wouldn’t know what to cut or if it’s really necessary.
Strong card, but the plus ability isn’t great in our deck that plays a lot of Token creatures.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
Unlike many other decks in Standard, the sideboarding with this deck is pretty mechanical. We want Crippling Fear in (functionally) all the creature matchups and the rest of the sideboard in against (functionally) all the Control decks. Here’s some examples.
MON OWHITE / MONO GREEN / GRUUL
As I said, very simple boarding. The best and worst part about Angels is that it’s functionally already preboarded for creature decks, so all the boarding we’re doing is taking out good cards for slightly better ones. Reidane, although solid against the Snow creature decks, is worse than a Wrath and Starnheim Unleashed is just a bit clunky. Keep hands with a strong curve as you don’t want your first play to be turn 3 on the draw which is just begging to get run over.
|+4 Skyclave Shade||-4 Youthful Valkyrie|
|+4 Check for Traps||-3 Reidane, God of the Worthy|
|+1 Go Blank||-2 Flunk|
If we’re talking a more traditional Izzet Dragons build, you don’t need to go all in on the sideboard plan. You still want enough removal to kill their threats as they can’t win without them and Go Blank is worse when exiling the graveyard isn’t as relevant. This matchup isn’t great, but far from terrible as Rampage of the Valkyries is quite potent here and they struggle with a lot of x/4 creatures.
IZZET TURNS / HARD CONTROL DECKS
|+4 Skyclave Shade||-4 Vanishing Verse|
|+4 Check for Traps||-2 Flunk|
|+3 Go Blank||-2 Infernal Grasp|
|-3 Rampage of the Valkyries|
If they’re not playing creatures, we’re obviously not looking to keep in the cards that are good against creatures. Try to be as fast and disruptive as possible to stymie their ability to grind you into the dirt.
Here’s an example of a matchup that doesn’t fall into the aggro or control paradigm so it’s a good matchup to go over. Your main game plan is pretty good as you have a nice mix of threats and interaction so you can just take out your worst threat for better interaction.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Although Youthful Valkyrie wants to stick around to accrue counters, don’t dismiss the idea of trading early, or even just chumping. This deck is all about getting to turn 5, do whatever it takes to accomplish that.
- Keep in mind that after you play Righteous Valkyrie the opponent is likely going to devote their turn to killing it if they can. Use this to your advantage by planning a really strong follow up that will punish them whether or not they can kill it. For example, playing this turn 4 into a Starnheim Unleashed on x=2.
- You’re going to play the front half of Reidane, God of the Worthy most of the time, but don’t discount the strength of the Valkmira side, especially against smaller creature decks.
- Try to save your Vanishing Verse for last in terms of removal spells as it’s going to be your most versatile one in nearly every matchup.
- I very aggressively foretell Starnheim Unleashed as getting 2 Angels on 5 is a really tough board state for aggro decks to contend with. However, getting one Angel on 3 or 4 can still be fine depending on your curve.
- Be careful with your land sequencing, I try to save basics in hand for as long as possible to reveal off of Shineshadow Snarl.
Thanks for reading!