September 15, 2015

Angelic Captain

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"They just keep coming," he said to no one in particular, the hopelessness clear in the tone and timbre of his voice.

He wasn't saying anything we didn't all know already; we just preferred not to put it into words. The Eldrazi seemed to come in all shapes and sizes, but if one thing was consistent, it was the sense of inevitability. You could stand and fight them, and even defeat some of them some of the time. The problem was, you knew there were always more. You could deliver a mortal wound and it wouldn't even faze it. The Eldrazi never cried out in pain. They never slowed with the loss of a comrade. Their morale never wavered. They just kept coming.

We all seemed to know this stand was hopeless. Eventually enough Eldrazi would come, and eventually we would be gone, turned to the dust left behind by the Eldrazi. We also knew that continuing to run was hopeless. The Eldrazi just kept coming. Eventually there would be nowhere to hide. So you could run and die, or stand and die. We'd made our choice. But they just kept coming.

We peered over the rock face and sipped on the water we had to share between us. We could see the next wave moving toward us. The arrows were gone, so there would be no ranged defense this time. We tried to shake the despair by tightening our grip on the steel in our hands, but once the helplessness gets in, you are already lost. They just kept coming!

When they were just barely a hundred paces off, the kor noticed the glow first. It grew stronger behind us, and gradually we turned to see what was happening. What new nightmare were the Eldrazi bringing to us?

This was no Eldrazi. At first it was just a glow on the horizon, and it grew brighter as it approached. It seemed the sun had come down out of the heavens and was streaking toward us across the sky. It grew closer and closer until we could finally see its shape moving through the hedron-strewn blue sky. The angel landed in front of us on the rock face, and she was glorious. Bathed in light and flowing linens, her face was a model of serenity, reassurance, and confidence, all in one. She looked over our battered forces, then looked over her shoulder at the Eldrazi closing in. She turned back to us and spoke a single word. She didn't shout or whisper, but the word rang loud and true, with no doubt. She spoke it like the fact it became for us the moment she uttered it.

"Attack."

Each of us leapt over the rock ledge and charged forward, following as the angel raced in front, floating effortlessly on her wings. She had inspired us to believe the Eldrazi could be stopped. That they would be stopped. Here. On this very battleground. By us.

The first Eldrazi fell easily under the angel's early blows, and as more and more of us moved forward, our Angelic Captain seemed to grow ever stronger. My strength came from her, and she in turn appeared to revel in our belief. We moved through that wave of beasts easily and charged toward the next. With our Angelic Captain, this day, and every day after this day, would be ours!

When I first learned about the idea of a guardian angel, it sounded like a great idea. Who wouldn't want an Angel watching out for you? I don't know if my guardian angel saved me from a serious accident, but when I think about the number of essays and assignments I completed the night before the deadline, I like to believe my guardian angel provided me with some divine inspiration at three o'clock in the morning.

In Magic, Angels tend to be a little more tangible than my guardian angel. It's still nice to have one in your corner, helping you out. I know I'd like an Angel as my ally in a fight. Perhaps even leading the charge. Yeah, I think a powerful Angel captaining my team into battle seems like a pretty good idea.

First off, I do love me some red-and-white Angels. These Angels are battle-tested and ready to fight, and Angelic Captain follows that trend. And when the Angel leading the charge has three sets of wings, you know she is not messing around!

As for the card itself, Angelic Captain is not going into every red-white casual aggro deck. Paying five mana for a 4/3 flying creature is okay, but Serra Angel is a 4/4 with vigilance for five, and she has been getting sorely outclassed. Angelic Captain is going to need some Allies to attack along with her to make it worth it for you to include her.

This is where things get tricky. All of you have seen over a week's worth of preview cards. You are saying to yourselves, "This would work really well with X," or "This makes Y broken!" I, on the other hand, at the time of writing, have only seen two new Allies so far: Veteran Warleader (a great card!) and Zada, Hedron Grinder (which promises to be a lot of fun). So rather than go through and show you how well Angelic Captain works with all the cool Allies in the set, I'll ask you to send me your lists. Show me the great interactions between Angelic Captain and another card in the set, or send me a full decklist displaying a variety of Ally interactions.

I'll wait.

Really.

A big part of the joy of casual Magic is using new cards with old cards. While I don't know about all the new Allies being revealed right now, I do have a pretty solid grasp on the older Allies from Magic's first visit to Zendikar! While the Allies now get a benefit for other Allies in play, the previous set of Allies pretty much only provided a benefit when another Ally arrived. For a turn, Allies could gain flying, get protection from a color, give life, and all sorts of other options. Most commonly, Allies would get a +1/+1 counter every time another Ally entered the battlefield. Then I discovered Cauldron of Souls, and things got interesting.

I would attack with all my Allies into bad matchups, just to get a couple of points of damage through or to kill off a larger creature. I would give them all persist, and they would return to play with a -1/-1 counter each. The Allies would see each other entering the battlefield and would each get plenty of +1/+1 counters that would remove the -1/-1 counters and make them eligible for another save from Cauldron of Souls. Suddenly they could withstand board wipes and defend repeatedly against overwhelming forces. Cauldron of Souls eliminated their weakness and expanded their strength.

It seems to me that Angelic Captain, an Ally that encourages attacking, would fit pretty well into a deck like this.

O Captain, Angelic Captain!

This deck has some unusual choices:

Avian Changeling acts as an Ally to trigger the other Allies' abilities. Our Angelic Captains will be bigger with the Changelings joining the attack. I would have made a different choice, but the Angelic Captain is the only other creature in the deck that flies, so cheating the Ally theme with a Shapeshifter seemed fair game.

Join the Ranks isn't exactly great value at four mana for two 1/1 Allies. I wouldn't want to pay two mana for a 1/1 creature, but these Allies can enter-the-battlefield effects at any time, giving your opponents all sorts of unpleasant surprises. If they come in at the end of your opponent's turn, it means two more Allies that they hadn't been expecting will be joining the Angelic Captain's attack. Join the Ranks also gives two instances to your other Allies of an Ally entering the battlefield.

Zada, Hedron Grinder, along with Titan's Strength, gives a serious boost to your team. The repeated instances of scry should guarantee the next draw will be perfect. Zada and Chandra's Ignition work really well with Cauldron of Souls. Sacrificing more than 20 power worth of creatures can kill one opponent, while Cauldron of Souls brings them all back, ready to defend against the others.

Kabira Evangel gives all your creatures protection, which will be handy when swinging in against many opponents. As your play group sees more colorless Eldrazi, the Evangel will be less helpful, but most decks are still very color reliant. One well-timed Join the Ranks and your team will likely be unstoppable!

Murasa Pyromancer is there to up the damage levels, particularly when your attacks are proving useless. With every creature being an Ally, the Pyromancer hits for damage every time you recruit another creature to the battle. Remember Join the Ranks? The Pyromancer gets two activations, since two Allies are entering the battlefield. It also proves to be a big body for attacks led by the Angelic Captain.

Kazuul Warlord is one of the linchpins of the deck. It gives every creature a +1/+1 counter when it or any other Ally enters the battlefield, so Zada, the Angelic Captain, and other Allies that don't give themselves +1/+1 counters can still benefit from the Cauldron of Souls. With a Warlord in play, cards like the Makindi Shieldmate and Kazandu Blademaster can get big very fast.

Even the lands get in on the act! Cavern of Souls works very well in a deck made up mostly of Allies. Sejiri Steppe helps protect your key creature, if only for a turn. Winding Canyons lets you flash your Allies into play, letting all your creatures provide the instant-speed benefits that Join the Ranks offers. Boros Garrison even lets you bounce your Sejiri Steppe or Temple of Triumph to repeat their enter the battlefield effects.

This is a deck that really wants you to attack. Ideally, you'll use the Cauldron to bring your creatures back, and they'll come back untapped and ready to defend.

Angelic Captain offers new hope for Allies in the Battle for Zendikar. I look forward to seeing how each of you uses the Angelic Captain with the rest of the new Allies!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

mtgseriousfun@gmail.com



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