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Archangel Avacyn in Black/White Aggro

Back in the days when I started playing, Serra Angel was one of the best creatures in the game. Now, for the same 3WW cost, you get a bunch of extra abilities for free.

archangel avacyn

This is a Serra Angel on steroids, which is clearly insane for Limited. Since she’s a double-faced card, the entire table will know you drafted her, but that might actually be an advantage—you can convincingly bluff Avacyn when you don’t have her in hand.

While her power in Limited is obvious, you’ll need to go into more depth to evaluate Avacyn for Standard.

Protecting Your Creatures

Avacyn can save all your creatures from Planar Outburst, protect one from Ultimate Price, or aid your creatures in combat. In a creature-oriented deck, I don’t think it’s unrealistic for a well-timed Avacyn to save at least one of your creatures.

In that case, her effect on the game is akin to Wingmate Roc—both increase your board presence by 2 creatures for 3WW. Since Wingmate Roc was a powerful card in Standard, I can see good prospects for Avacyn as well.

But there’s more!

Flash is the Key Ability

It’s just one word among many, but “flash” may just be the most important word on both sides of the card.

An obvious use is to flash in Avacyn in response to an Ultimate Price or Crux of Fate, but her utility goes way beyond that. You could ambush an unsuspecting attacker, keep mana up until you see what your opponent does, transform Werewolves without missing a beat, reduce the impact of Reflector Mage, or make life difficult for an opponent who wields countermagic.

The ability to pass the turn and represent a multitude of cards with different effects (Stasis Snare, Secure the Wastes, or Archangel Avacyn) will especially give your opponent headaches. After all, they have to make their plays under imperfect information while you have the flexibility to choose.

A Powerful Transformation

I don’t know why, but Innistrad’s guardian angel can get quite angry. She even turns red—which means that you can use her as a Boros commander—and damages your own creatures in addition to your opponent’s!

A few rules-related notes regarding her transformation:

  • She doesn’t transform immediately—this is delayed until the beginning of the next upkeep. This could be either your own or your opponent’s upkeep.
  • Your opponent can respond to the transformation by killing Archangel Avacyn before she turns into Avacyn, the Purifier. In that case, the damage trigger won’t go on the stack.
  • Due to a new rules tweak, Avacyn will only transform once no matter how many creatures died on the previous turn. There’s no flippy-floppy for extra damage.
  • If one of your creatures dies in response to Avacyn’s enters the battlefield ability, she will transform on the next upkeep. Otherwise, barring a Hangarback Walker for 0 or a sacrifice, it will be tough to transform Avacyn on the upkeep after she enters the battlefield.
  • If she has transformed and the 3-damage trigger has gone on the stack, you can respond by flashing in a second Archangel Avacyn. This will protect your creatures from the damage, and the legend rule doesn’t apply because the two sides have different names.

Her transformation won’t always be beneficial for a creature deck, and it can be hard to trigger. To break the symmetry on the sweeper effect, you could make a deck with resilient creatures such as Kytheon, Hangarback Walker, or Archangel of Tithes. And to control her transformation, you could run sacrifice cards such as Ayli, Nantuko Husk, or Kalitas.

Nevertheless, for deck building, I wouldn’t focus too much on her transformation because Avacyn still dies to an opposing removal spell relatively easily. The transformation is typically a bonus, but not one you can rely on.

The Many Combos with Eldrazi Displacer

There are all kinds of cool tricks possible with Avacyn, but my favorite interaction is with Eldrazi Displacer, which can flicker her over and over again for indestructibility. In the late game when there is plenty of mana available, a flickered Archangel Avacyn can protect Eldrazi Displacer, and Eldrazi Displacer’s ability can protect Archangel Avacyn. How are you supposed to beat that?

What’s more, if you blink Avacyn, the Purifier with the 3-damage trigger on the stack, then she will return as Archangel Avacyn to shield your creatures from the damage. Awesome!

A Possible Deck List for the New Standard

I brewed up a list that uses many of the cards I’ve mentioned above and that is inspired by Sam Black’s White Devotion deck from last year’s World Championship. I may not have devotion anymore, but with fetchlands leaving the format, I think it makes sense to consider mono-color decks (or nearly mono-color with a small splash) once again.

Black/White Aggro

This is just one possible list, but there are plenty of different homes for Avacyn, so I’m looking forward to exploring her potential in Standard. Where do you see Avacyn fitting in?

Discussion

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