Over the past couple weeks on Magic Online, a new deck has popped up and gone 5-0 in the hands of three different pilots: Fortini, Bwilli42, and Sletch have each been crushing it with Mono-White Angels. Resplendent Angel has taken the deck to a whole new level and I would not be surprised to see it perform well at the Pro Tour this weekend.

The only variation between the three lists is that one of the lists swapped the third main deck Cast Out with one of the sideboard copies of Forsake the Worldly. As I see it, there are four main appeals to playing this deck right now, in addition to it obviously being the best color in Magic.

The first main appeal to running this deck is that many of the creatures are individually powerful enough to win the game on their own. For instance, an unchecked Resplendent Angel will attack for five points of lifelink and immediately generate a Serra Angel token. Next turn you are then threatening a nine-point attack, five points of life gain and another Serra Angel token. Lyra Dawnbringer is also able to win the game on her own for similar reasons. And Walking Ballista is still able to dominate the board in the late game just as well as it's always been able to.

The second main appeal to running this deck is that many of its cards are synergistic and enhance the power level of each other. For instance, Lyra Dawnbringer pumps up Resplendent Angel, Shalai, Voice of Plenty and Angel of Sanctions. Also Shalai gives all the other creatures hexproof while Benalish Marshal pumps up every other creature, and History of Benalia pumps Knight of Grace and Benalish Marshal.

The third appeal to running this deck is that it can pressure the opponent early while evading late. Turn-two Heart of Kiran followed by turn-three Resplendent Angel into turn-four Shalai, Voice of Plenty into turn-five Lyra Dawnbringer is going to beat most opponents no matter what they are doing. Similarly, Knight of Grace into History of Benalia into Benalish Marshal will usually be lights out. And the Knight theme and the Angel theme have overlap too – for instance, Heart of Kiran into turn-three Benalish Marshal allows the vehicle to attack for five damage or threaten to block as a 5/5 if we somehow are behind.

The fourth main appeal to playing this deck is that you have solid early removal and versatile late removal. Early, we have access to Seal Away main and Baffling End in the sideboard. Later, we have Cast Out and Angel of Sanctions main, which can each exile any permanent. We also have access to bullets such as Settle the Wreckage, Skywhaler's Shot or Thopter Arrest.

Overall the deck has a lot to offer between individually powerful threats, strong synergies, fast pressure, evasive reach, and good removal – not to mention 22 basic Plains! What more could you ask for from a deck?

Possible Changes

There are two main changes I would consider making to the deck.

One change is to add Gideon of the Trials either to the main deck or to the sideboard. Gideon is great at crewing Heart of Kiran because it can crew it on offense and then threaten to crew it again on defense all while neutralizing an opposing threat with its +1 ability. If the deck goes this direction, it would likely be correct to go up to at least a third copy of Heart of Kiran. Heart is already great in conjunction with Resplendent Angel and Benalish Marsh, but if we add Gideon it will likely be worth a third copy. Gideon also improves our green matchup and makes us better against Nicol Bolas, Lyra Dawnbringer, and Hazoret. The main problem is that we already have so many good three-drops in the deck. I would hate to cut History of Benalia from the main, but at least in the green matchup you would want to replace History of Benalia with Gideon of the Trials.

Another change I would consider is splashing black for Scrapheap Scrounger main and Duress sideboard by cutting two Scavenger Grounds and eight Plains for two Swamps, four Concealed Courtyard and four Isolated Chapel. Scrapheap Scrounger is yet another way to crew Heart of Kiran and to pressure the opponent. It doesn't really complement the evasion plan since it attacks on the ground and cannot block, but it crews Heart of Kiran and makes us more resilient to Fumigate. Duress makes us better against Grixis and White-Blue Control since it takes their Vraska's Contempt or their Fumigate. It also would improve our matchups against Blue-Black, Mono-Blue Artifacts, and Blue-White Gift.

There are other directions you could go with this deck, but these are the two that have shown the most promise in my testing. Speaking of my testing, since this is the week prior to the Pro Tour and this is one of the decks I have been testing the most, I have a full sideboard guide and matchup analysis for you that includes a total of ten decks!

Matchup Analysis and Sideboard Guide

Red-Black

+2 Aethersphere Harvester
+1 Authority of the Consuls
+3 Baffling End
+1 Thopter Arrest

-1 Settle the Wreckage
-3 Benalish Marshal
-1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
-2 Knight of Grace

This matchup generally goes one of three ways. Sometimes one player curves out and puts the other on the back foot early, forcing them to play defense, and then usually finishes them off with evasion and/or removal for their blockers. Other times both players have aggressive starts and get into a race. These sorts of games often come down to who can first cast two relevant spells in one turn. The third way games often go is where each player trades resources early with the other, whether that means trading in combat or using removal spells to take out opposing threats. These sorts of games tend to be decided by that last haymaker to stick, such as Lyra Dawnbringer or Resplendent Angel from our side or Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Glorybringer from their side. This matchup is pretty close, as are most against Red-Black, but our threats are individually more powerful than theirs and thus the burden tends to be more on their side to answer what we are doing rather than the reverse.

Steel Leaf Stompy

+3 Baffling End
+1 Skywhaler's Shot
+1 Thopter Arrest

-1 Knight of Glory
-4 History of Benalia

Aside from Heart of Kiran, the green deck doesn't really have a way to stop our fliers, so they must brute force through us on the ground before we can fly over them in the air. This changes when they bring in Vivian Reid to kill our Angels and our enchantment-based removal spells, but most of the time the plan is to play out fliers early and then kill their biggest creature each turn thereafter until we win the race. Lyra Dawnbringer is a big trump in the matchup because it bricks half their attacks while also granting our fliers lifelink. Pumping a Resplendent Angel can have a similar effect on the game. Blossoming Defense can sometimes blow us out since it is so much cheaper than our removal spells and because they have mana acceleration to really capitalize on the tempo advantage gained by this exchange. Generally though, we want to take out their threats early with Baffling End to preserve our life total while also keeping them off Ghalta.

Grixis Midrange

+2 Aethersphere Harvester
+1 Skywhaler's Shot
+1 Thopter Arrest

-1 Settle the Wreckage
-2 Seal Away
-1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty

The versions with a lot of removal spells are tough if they draw the right mix of removal in the right order, because our deck is all about jamming powerful threats each turn but not threats that generate value when killed immediately. So a pile of cheap removal spells backed by card advantage is tough to slog through. The versions with more creatures are easier because our threats outclass theirs and it makes our removal spells live for interacting with their Game Plan. History of Benalia is very good in this matchup while Aethersphere Harvester is great at blocking Glorybringer or Nicol Bolas. It's especially good at fighting in combat with Bolas if you have Benalish Marshal on the battlefield.

Teferi Control

+2 Forsake the Worldly
+2 Karn, Scion of Urza
+2 Sorcerous Spyglass
+1 Skywhaler's Shot

-1 Settle the Wreckage
-2 Seal Away
-4 Lyra Dawnbringer

We are always the aggressor in this matchup, so curving out with pressure and winning with tempo is our main Game Plan. Seal Away can slow us down a bit, but it cannot hit Heart of Kiran or our History of Benalia tokens, so each of those threats are especially good in the matchup. Shalai is also great at combating Settle the Wreckage or Seal Away. The biggest problem is Fumigate, so don't over-commit unnecessarily. Post-board, we get to replace our worst cards with cards that are much more relevant in the matchup. Forsake kills their Cast Outs, Spyglass stops Teferi and the one Skywhaler's Shot kills Torrential Gearhulk and hedges against Lyra Dawnbringer.

Blue-Black Midrange

-2 Karn, Scion of Urza
-1 Thopter Arrest

-2 Seal Away
-1 Settle the Wreckage

This matchup is more straightforward than White-Blue Control because they don't have the sweepers that white has. You can get buried by their card advantage in the late game, though, so tempo is still the key to winning. We don't really get punished for over-committing unless you know they have Bontu's Last Reckoning, and our removal spells are live since they have The Scarab God.

Zombies

+3 Baffling End
+1 Thopter Arrest

-2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
-2 Walking Ballista

Knight of Grace is pretty medium in most matchups, but here it really shines as our best card. They can't kill it, it's always a 3/2 first striker and it bricks all their attacks early. Post-board we get more removal spells, which usually target their lords, but can sometimes target a non-lord if we're ahead on tempo. Much like the green matchup, they can't really block our flying creatures. They have removal spells, but they can't afford to run too many without diluting their deck since they are primarily a linear deck that requires having multiple lords and a horde of Zombies. Cards like Liliana get much worse when the chances of whiffing go up.

Black-Green Constrictor

+1 Skywhaler's Shot
+3 Baffling End
+1 Thopter Arrest

-2 Seal Away
-2 Walking Ballista
-1 Cast Out

A turn two Winding Constrictor can snowball a game out of control, so you want to Baffling End the Snake as soon as possible. Other than that, they have difficulty dealing with our fliers. Without a snake, their Verdurous Gearhulk only does a minimal amount of damage. Shalai absorbs their Vraska's Contempt and protects Lyra Dawnbringer.

Mono-Blue Artifacts

+2 Forsake the Worldly
+2 Sorcerous Spyglass
+2 Karn, Scion of Urza
+1 Thopter Arrest

-1 Settle the Wreckage
-2 Seal Away
-4 Lyra Dawnbringer

This is another matchup that significantly benefits from adding black for Duress, but it's still not bad without it. Lyra Dawnbringer is pretty bad because the lifelink is not very relevant and the flying also is not super important since most of their creatures fly, including Thopter Tokens. You usually name Karn or Tezzeret with Spyglass, and in general you want to use your removal on their Sai, Master Thopterist or their Inspiring Statuary.

Trying to let the game go longer and wait for their Aetherflux Reservoir is generally not the optimal Game Plan. They don't have a lot of ways to slow us down, so curving out can often end the game before they are able to get anything going. Shalai also keeps their Baral's Expertise from being able to bounce our board to buy them time. Karn is not super good in the matchup, but it's better than the cards we are boarding out. If you have Gideon or Duress in your sideboard, you definitely want to bring those in.

White-Blue Gift

+2 Authority of the Consuls
+2 Forsake the Worldly
+1 Thopter Arrest

-2 Seal Away
-1 Settle the Wreckage
-1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
-1 Lyra Dawnbringer

We have instant-speed answers to their God-Pharaoh's Gift, so we can Cast Out or Forsake the Worldly their Gift during their first main phase the turn it enters the battlefield to keep them from ever getting a token. Sometimes that is not feasible and you have to tap out to apply pressure to the board. These games are still winnable if you can remove the Gift the following turn and then remove the token the turn after. There are also some games where I remove the Angel Token and attack for lethal. I like bringing in both copies of Authority of the Consuls because it makes their creatures enter tapped, including the haste tokens created from God-Pharaoh's Gift. This essentially buys us a whole turn to kill them since their Angel cannot attack or block the turn it enters. This matchup and the control matchups are the ones where Scavenger Grounds can really shine.

Mono-Red Aggro

+2 Aethersphere Harvester
+2 Authority of the Consuls
+3 Baffling End
+1 Thopter Arrest

-2 Heart of Kiran
-4 Benalish Marshal
-2 Angel of Sanctions

This matchup is more tempo-oriented than the Black-Red matchup, so Authority of the Consuls really shines here as more than just a Safeguard against the initial hit from Glorybringer. Usually you want to trade early in combat whenever given the opportunity, even if it means trading down with a creature that costs less to cast. The name of the game is generally to land Lyra Dawnbringer and ride her to victory before they can finish you off. Soul-Scar Mage is one of their best cards since it enables their burn spells to shrink our lifelink fliers, so you'll often target that with Baffling End or Seal Away, even if they also have Scrapheap Scrounger or Goblin Chainwhirler. If you can stick a Lyra the game is basically over.

All things considered, I don't think this deck is going to be the defining deck of the format or anything, but as you can see it has a solid plan against each of the decks in the format and it has the tools to keep up with the best decks. It's at least a great deck for FNM or a PPTQ this weekend. And who knows, maybe it will win the Pro Tour this weekend.

Craig Wescoe

@Brimaz4Life