Welcome to Monday Tuesday at GDC, folks.  It’s nice to be back in the land of the living today!  It’s funny how you tend to take things like keeping food down and having enough energy to move until you catch the plague.  Good times!

Today, we’re talking angels.

RADIANT, ARCHANGEL = 0.  AVACYN RESTORED = 4.

I knew the time was coming someday. As I said in my reflections on my current decks, my mono-white angels tribal deck, currently helmed by Radiant, Archangel, is terrible like you read about.  I’ve discovered that it mysteriously shines playing against the Horde, but otherwise just sucks in a big way. 

When she was designed, she came into being based on three things:

-A desire to try my hand at a tribal decklist
-My usual attempt to stick to rarely-seen generals.
-A goal of making a mono-colored deck.

Angels seemed like a solid, iconic choice for a tribe, and since normal design constraints (read: using, you know, cards that are good…) can be tossed out of the window in favor of adherence to theme, I figured white was a good choice for a color.  (At the time, I didn’t play much white at all.) 

Add to that the fact that no-one in their right mind would should be willing to shell out close to $50 for a foil version (go ahead…look it up for yourself.  I’ll wait…) of a card that, if we can be honest (and polite), hasn’t exactly aged well in the face of new offerings , and I figured I was in rarified air choosing Radiant.  We were off and running!

…nearly straight into the trash bin.  This gets us to where we are now; I’ve since built better mono-color decks, so I’m no longer forcing myself to keep her around as proof of concept.  With Avacyn Restored, I have a selection of new choices that keep me on-theme and will allow me better utility and staying power.  And as far as rarified air…

…well, I’m an EDH player.  Pretty, shiny, new…what’s a Radiant, again?

MY ANGEL (IS THE CENTERFOLD)

In keeping with my attempted adherence to the GDC mantra of “Quick, dirty, irreverent, and hopefully spelled correctly!”, let’s look at our four potential replacements.

AVACYN, ANGEL OF HOPE

Mono white.  Moving on…

What’s that?  You want more than that?  Let me see…for starters, her ability.  Is it good?  Yup.  I love me some Darksteel Forge shenanigans.  Is it going to get me targeted unreasonably for the entirety of the game because someone assumes I’m going to drop her and follow up with infinite board wipes/Armageddon/some other irritating thing?  Yup.

Plus she costs eight.  And doesn’t trample.  And looks like she’s trying to join an emo band.

BRUNA, LIGHT OF ALABASTER

Okay.  We’re moving in the right direction here. 

THE GOOD:

Blue.  We’ll never again tap lands to pay for Candles of Leng.  We can run counterspells.  We can…er…bounce lots of things in various ways. 

Cost.  I can get behind paying six mana for a 5/5 vigilant flier.

Utility.  She’s a giant aura magnet.  I’m a huge sucker for things that allow me to skirt casting costs, and she lets me do it from three zones every time she attacks or blocks.  Also note that she doesn’t say “Auras on the battlefield you control.  Screw over that Uril player all day long with this one.

THE BAD:

Utility.  Unfortunately, that cool ability does three things:

1.      Make everyone groan and expect you to be packing Eldrazi Conscription.
2.      Make everyone groan and expect that you’re playing some form of Zur 2.0 combo.
3.      Make for a general that forces you to build her a specific way.

That last one is the killer for me.  There are enough of these already.  Heck, I play one already (Kaalia*), and she’s an angel as well.  I want a general that opens up new and interesting options, not re-treading ones done to death already, and not ones that scream “BUILD ME EXACTLY LIKE THIS OR I’LL SUCK.”  Mr. P and I have been discussing recently how there needs to be a white/blue general that opens up a good aggro strategy for the color combination, and while this is certainly a step in the right direction, it doesn’t quite get there.  I was looking for something more like “Bruna, Light Of Alabaster gives each other creature you control +1/+1 for every enchantment on the battlefield”, or “Bruna, Light Of Alabaster gives each other creature you control trample and a ham sandwich”, or something that opens up packing thirty-five creatures into your deck and swinging every turn.  Bruna suggests combo or a Voltron strategy sitting behind a W/U ‘Draw, Go’-style deck. 

Pass.

GISELA, BLADE OF GOLDNIGHT

Okay…yeah, she’s pretty bad-ass.  At first, you look at the cost, and go, ‘Waitaminute…no hasty, too damn expensive.”  From there, you realize that she effectively is twice as big as she looks due to that ability and she has first strike and can take down almost everything in her path, plus she protects you and your other creatures and makes them all twice as threatening to boot.  By now, your mind is reeling under the weight of the possibilities.

Of course, you’re not alone.  Every single person who plays EDH and reads up on spoilers has also begun crafting a Gisela deck.  It’s “the danger of awesomeness”…no way around it. 

So there’s that.

I applaud the design here…I really do.  Gisela is a monster, and she’s so heavily in red/white flavor that in my opinion she’s one of the best-designed cards to come down the pike in a long time.  Nothing combines the aggression of red and the saving graces of white with the love for combat both colors share this well, bar none. She really is that good.  Almost too good.  There are a lot of Basandra players out there that will be combing their pre-releases for a copy of this card.  They’ll be competing with the Kaalia players (myself included) doing the same thing.

The flip side of that coin for me is that, like I said, I’ll be playing her in my Kaalia deck already, plus the whole ‘rarified air’ thing I like in my general selection… 

…Which I know I already said I was discarding when I ditched Radiant.  Yeah, I get it. 

I’m a big hypocrite.  Deal with it.

SIGARDA, HOST OF HERONS

Okay..the name is a little goofy for those of us not entrenched in the mythos of the Innistrad story.  My immediate take was that her first name made me picture a large Norwegian woman who sings opera and can caber-toss with the best of them –

and the second part made me think:

She’s a birdwatcher?

Getting past that, though, she hits on all the right levels for me.  Let’s take a look at the details:

COST – Spot-on at a five for a 5/5 flyer.  This is a general that you can run out and not fear a sweeper or two over the course of a game.  She flies, she has enough power and toughness to hang with bigger threats and do some damage…this is a good bargain.

COLOR – I’ll take green every time.  The amount of utility that opens up is mind-blowing, from the unlimited mana acceleration (something that mono-white really lacks) to superior card draw. (something that white completely lacks)  I get improved recursion and ability to deal with problem permanents.  Couple this with white, and I can deal with anything. 

ABILITY – Hexproof is amazing.  If I had to rate keywords, it would slot third, behind ‘indestructible’ and ‘trample’.  She’s not eating spot removal, and she can still figure out how to pick up a Sword of Light And Shadow. 

ER…OTHER ABILITY – And then there’s this.  This is the money. 

The low-hanging fruit is that once she hits, nothing is getting rid of Sigarda save a board sweeper.  That’s pretty awesome.  It shuts off a viable chunk of the removal spectrum, neuters some generals, and most importantly, gives annihilator the finger. 

I’m sold.  Completely. 

Prepare for a retooling shortly, folks.  If anyone comes across a foil copy at their prerelease, let me know.  I’m in the market.

àDJ   

* – Well, she almost is.  (See comments)  You win this time, Viperion!  Damn you!  😉