Exclusive Hour of Devastation Preview: Angel of Condemnation

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
6/21/2017 11:01:00 AM
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Here at TCGplayer, we pride ourselves on knowing our way around white cards (okay, maybe that has something to do with Craig Wescoe). While I may not be known for my prowess with white creatures, that doesn't mean I can't recognize a powerful Angel when it hits me in the face.

Angel of Condemnation has multiple abilities, and has solid stats herself, so we need to take a bit of time in evaluating her. We are talking about a four-drop flyer that has a ton of potential.

Once we realize that Angel of Condemnation already is reasonably costed threat without her additional abilities, we might expect the abilities to not be all that powerful. That simply isn't the case, and the fact that she has vigilance means you can attack with her, and then use one of her two abilities as well, which is huge. Both of the two activated abilities require tapping her, and both of these effects have been proven to be staple effects in white throughout Magic's history.

The ability to exile a creature and then return it to the battlefield at the end of the opponent's turn is exactly what we see on Flickerwisp itself, and cards like Otherworldly Journey. Both of these cards do present the flicker effect, but as a one-time use. With Angel of Condemnation, you can use either activated ability as many times as you want over the course of a game. Traditionally, exiling a creature and then returning it to play later in the game is not an effect you only want to be using on the opponent's creatures. After all, exiling a creature of your own can be extremely beneficial if it has an enters-the-battlefield trigger, or can be used as protection from opposing removal spells.

The next ability on Angel of Condemnation is in many ways even more impressive than the first one. We are talking about straight-up exiling an opposing creature. We are used to creatures having exert only when attacking, but here you can exert Angel of Condemnation at any time, even during the opponent's turn. Of course, not being able to untap and use the ability immediately the next turn is unfortunate, but the ability would be way too good if Angel of Condemnation didn't exert in this case. The second ability on Angel of Condemnation is going to tend to be better against decks with lots of creatures and little removal, as you don't want to get blown out if the opponent is able to remove your Angel of Condemnation from the battlefield.

I want to talk about where Angel of Condemnation may fit in from Limited to Constructed. I don't think Angel of Condemnation is quite good enough for Legacy, though if it were to see play it would be in Death and Taxes. However, Angel of Condemnation is clearly good enough to warrant Constructed attention in both Standard and Modern.

Modern

There are some white midrange decks in Modern, though not an overwhelming amount of them. Since Angel of Condemnation costs four mana, it isn't going to fit well in a Collected Company deck. Most of the white midrange decks tend to incorporate Collected Company so that rules out many of the decks that would otherwise be interested in Angel of Condemnation.

On the flipside, Angel of Condemnation happens to be very strong against the Collected Company decks as they tend to have lots of creatures and very little removal. Therefore, Angel of Condemnation can get out of hand if able to stay in play and exile a couple of creatures. The natural home to play Angel of Condemnation is Aether Vial decks like Hatebears or Eldrazi Taxes. These decks often are looking for a top end threat, and don't have many other great options. Some Hatebears decks are green-white and do play Collected Company like Craig Wescoe's latest build, but there are also other directions to go, like straight up Mono-White Hatebears, which just finished in second place of Grand Prix Vegas, which is a pretty impressive result for a deck that doesn't see a ton of play.

This deck plays four copies of Restoration Angel as its top end. Restoration Angel is actually in many ways very similar to Angel of Condemnation. Restoration Angel provides the immediate blink effect, but Angel of Condemnation will have more of an impact if the game goes long. Personally, I would like to see a mix here. Oftentimes, this deck wants something to sink mana into later in the game, especially since creatures can be Aether Vialed into play for free. Blade Splicer and Thraben Inspector are good creatures to flicker out of play, so Angel of Condemnation will be fighting with Flickerwisp and Restoration Angel, as another way to provide that effect.

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Angel of Condemnation is going to provide more versatility than a card like Flickerwisp because it can also permanently exile opposing threats. That said, Flickerwisp and Restoration Angel are well established Modern staples. I don't expect to see a full playset of Angel of Condemnation in Hatebears because the effect is redundant, and having a second Angel of Condemnation generally will not be as good as the first one. Playing a couple copies here seems very reasonable though.

Let's take a look at Eldrazi Taxes as well.

This is similar to Hatebears as it also has a lot of the same disruptive creatures. However, there are also Eldrazi like Wasteland Strangler, Eldrazi Displacer and Thought-Knot Seer mixed in. Angel of Condemnation works well with Wasteland Strangler, as you can exile something with Angel of Condemnation and then use Wasteland Strangler to put the exiled card from Angel of Condemnation in the opponent's graveyard. This would make the ability of Angel of Condemnation permanent removal and provide fodder for Wasteland Strangler.

This is another spot where the activated ability of Angel of Condemnation is similar to cards like Eldrazi Displacer that are already in the deck. Displacer costs one less but Angel of Condemnation provides a much better attacker, and a bit more versatility by having two abilities. On the other hand, Eldrazi Displacer can be activated multiple times in a single of turn, so there's pros and cons here.

Standard

Personally, I'm very excited for Standard without Aetherworks Marvel, and this is exactly the type of card that can benefit in this type of environment. Before, midrange creatures that didn't immediately impact the board did not match up well against Aetherworks Marvel. Now, there should be more play to games in general, and Angel of Condemnation provides a lot of room to maneuver, and outplay the opponent. Think about Angel of Condemnation with a Gearhulk in play. I'm having dreams of continuously blinking a Noxious Gearhulk to kill off the opponent's board, or something similar.

Angel of Condemnation may help make two-color white decks that are more or less a bunch of good cards mixed together. I don't see it as much of a Mardu Vehicles card because that deck only wants so many creatures, though it is possible it fits in there somewhere. A deck like White-Blue Flash that won Grand Prix Manila in the hands of Ryoichi Tamada seems like the perfect fit for Angel of Condemnation.

Unfortunately, it is tough to make the argument that Angel of Condemnation is better than Gideon, Ally of Zendikar as that has been a Standard all-star for a while now. However, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar will be rotating out soon, and that will allow other four-drop threats like this one to shine. We can blink out cards like Thraben Inspector for value, or just use Angel of Condemnation to disrupt the opponent. Remember that if the opponent does have creature tokens in play we can flicker them out permanently. Outside of White-Blue Flash, hopefully other white midrange decks will start to appear.

Limited

This is the easiest format to evaluate Angel of Condemnation in. For Modern and Standard, the question of whether Angel of Condemnation is strong enough to see play over other cards is legitimate. Once we get to Limited it is obvious this is a slam dunk, first-pick bomb. Traditionally, Limited decks don't have a ton of removal spells that can answer a three-toughness creature, and this card demands an immediate answer or else it will take over the game.

Even as a big flyer Angel of Condemnation would be a card worthy of first picking, so sometimes it feels a little unfair to have a card in Limited that does so much. If the opponent has no removal spell for Angel of Condemnation, it is going to be almost impossible for them to win outside of the most aggressive of draws. Over the course of a couple turns Angel of Condemnation will be able to exile multiple creatures of the opponent's, and imagine how strong Angel of Condemnation is alongside untap effects.

Angel of Condemnation should be on par with Glorybringer right now in Amonkhet Limited, for those familiar with how games tend to go when Glorybringer is involved. Besides the cards we already know about in Standard, there may be other new cards in Hour of Devastation that synergize well with Angel of Condemnation to keep an eye out for!

Thanks for reading,
Seth Manfield




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