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Initial Technology – UW Baneslayer (the other Angel Deck)

I have been having a pretty good time attacking with Baneslayer Angel recently, and am surprised at how few people choose to run it. I understand that people like Cascading with Bloodbraid Elf, or playing a 2nd turn 4/4, but have they not read Baneslayer? Even if they kill the first one, or even two, if there is ever an attacking Baneslayer on the board the game is usually over. I really think it is one of the best cards to be printed recently, and will only get better once Lorwyn leaves. It is so good that a deck built completely around it is viable, and that is my subject today.

I spent a while playing 5-Color with 4 Angels, although I have talked about that deck quite enough. Since you will soon be able to read about how Josh Utter-Leyton won a PTQ last Saturday with that deck, I will leave it to him to expand on it. That leaves me with the other Angel-driven vehicle I have been piloting online: the UK Nats deck. At the PTQ I was birding last Saturday, there weren’t any UW Angel decks that I saw, although plenty of UW Lark. I suspect the shortage of Baneslayers might have something to do with it, although that probably didn’t apply to everyone.

The decklist, as taken from the coverage:

UW Baneslayer

As usual, I made the stock list online, then changed it after getting in some matches. I don’t usually like to change things right off the bat, unless they seem really obviously wrong. For example, Knight of the White Orchid isn’t a card that I have ever liked, but was willing to try before cutting, especially since the Borderpost + Knight engine seemed like it was important. As it turned out, Knight was in fact quite good. Anyways, I settled on a list I like, and since a lot of people seemed to be interested in this deck, I figured it was worth talking about.

This deck has a lot going on, at least more so than most decks. Not really a Lark deck, not really a control deck or even a beatdown deck, this is mostly just an Angel deck. It can play the control or beatdown role, but it is most interested in just dropping a Baneslayer and protecting it with various support cards. That may seem one-dimensional, but it plays out pretty differently against each matchup, unlike Five-Color Control (which shares a lot of the same cards).

It is pretty cool how the deck is really built around Baneslayer, as just about all of the cards help protect it in some fashion. Meddling Mage names the most common removal spells (although that didn’t stop me from axing the Mage in the end), Vendilion provides some hand disruption, and Glen Elendra Archmage, Cryptic Command, and Broken Ambitions directly counter any opposition. This is a disadvantage though, since the “protect the Queen” plan kind of falls apart if you don’t actually draw Baneslayer. That isn’t to say that your cards don’t stand on their own, but the deck definitely can feel underpowered when you are missing the Angel.

Here is the list I have been using:

UW Baneslayer

The maindeck change is just to cut three Meddling Mage and a Vendilion Clique for 4 Kitchen Finks, but the sideboard is pretty different.

I never have liked Meddling Mage in pretty much any deck or format. It belongs to the class of cards that don’t actually do anything, but people seem to love anyways. Thought Hemorrhage, Pithing Needle, Extirpate, Cranial Extraction, and of course the original do-nothing, Jester’s Cap are other good examples. These cards are not good, and do a really bad job of answering the cards they are supposed to be good against. All of them have to be played pre-emptively, so if they don’t draw the offending card you just wasted a card, and just about all of them cost you significant resources. I could go on about this, but I will stick to my specific complaints about Meddling Mage.

The only deck where Meddling Mage is awesome is against Elves. Naming Regal Force and stopping their draw engine lets you kold their entire deck with a single Baneslayer, since their beatdown plan can almost never handle even one Angel. Against non-Elves, there is no deck that rolls over to one Mage, and even multiples don’t solve much. They mostly just make opposing Lightning Bolts good, since every other guy in your deck interacts favorable against Bolt. Proponents of Meddling Mage might suggest naming Bolt, but then are playing a 2/2 that shuts off a card that isn’t even actually good against you!

Stopping Volcanic Fallout is decent, but you don’t have many guys that you care about that die to Fallout, and it is pretty easy for the Mage to die if they actually have a Fallout they want to cast. On the other hand, Kitchen Finks is a great card right now. It might be pretty bad vs Elves, but it is sick against Jund and surprisingly good against 5-Color. You don’t even care that much if they ambush it with Plumeveil, since it just makes Finks a little smaller and gives you a free shot to drop an Archmage. Finks is also good against Faeries, and overall I have been very happy with it.

The sideboard is quite different, mainly because I don’t actually like Wraths in this format. My Five-Color deck plays none, and I don’t think this deck should either. The only deck you really need Hallowed Burial or Austere Command against is Kithkin, and with four Sowers you should be more than good in that matchup, not that Kithkin really is that popular anymore. Sower is also awesome in the mirror or vs UW Lark, both of which are becoming much more heavily-played.

Essence Scatter is also quite good in the UW Mirror, and helps a lot against Elves. Having a two-mana spell that can stop Ranger, Archdruid, or Regal Force is pretty unexpected, and makes tapping low a much safer proposition.

Jace and Negate are for 5-Color, although I find myself bringing in Jace a lot. I like drawing cards, and it seems pretty sweet. I kind of want to fit it main, although I don’t know where I could get the slots.

Canonists are a concession to the Elves matchup, and honestly might not be completely needed. Siding into a bunch of counterspells works pretty well there, since you crush their beatdown plan so easily. All you need to do is stop the 2 or 3 important spells they play per game, since their assorted morons won’t actually kill you through Finks, Angels, and Paths. Even Oversoul and Stag aren’t even close to being good enough.

Sideboarding and Matchups

5-Color Control

This is a pretty close matchup, and can vary wildly depending on the configuration of their deck. There are many ways to build 5-CC, and they all play a little differently. Angel is really good against most 5-CC decks, particularly ones that don’t play Doom Blade or Path to Exile. Even if they do have cheap answers to Angel, it isn’t that hard to protect her. Your main plan is to resolve a Glen Elendra Archmage, as that blanks their biggest threat, Cruel Ultimatum. Once you successfully get an Archmage on the board, it can often chain into other Archmages, although you do have to watch out for Volcanic Fallout. Finks, Knights, and Vendilions can usually help you force them to tap out at some point, and often do a good job of making them burn Volcanic Fallout.

Sideboarding:

+2 Jace, +2 Negate

-2 to 4 Path to Exile, depending on their creature count (if they don’t play Baneslayer, cut them all)
-2 Kitchen Finks

You would rather tap out for Jace than Finks on turn 3 when given the opportunity. Always +2 the Jace so he doesn’t die to Fallout or Bolt.

Elves

You really just want to land a Baneslayer, since once she is on the board they really have to fully combo out to beat you. Regal Force and Primal Command are their obvious threats, although if it looks like you can control their mana early than by all means try and do so. Slowrolling Vendilion Clique is pretty important, since often you can get out an Archmage to blank their Primals, so you would rather save Vendilion to hit Regal Force.

Sideboarding:

+3 Essence Scatter +3 Ethersworn Canonist +2 Negate

-4 Knight of the White Orchid –1 Reveillark –1 Kitchen Finks –2 Glen Elendra Archmage

Negate is cheaper than Archmage, so it lets you play turn 4 Canonist with Negate up instead of waiting until turn 5. Path to Exile is their most likely out to Canonist, although you have Essence Scatter to stop Qasali Pridemage as well.

Jund

Jund is also a somewhat broad title, but most Jund decks play pretty much the same. They try and beat you down with Putrid Leech and Ram-Gang, even if some people think they are clever and play with cute Mannequin tricks instead. Jund is one of the reasons I like Baneslayer so much, as the board they would need to attack through an Angel is ridiculous. The number of Bloodbraid Elves and Ram-Gangs necessary to make progress borders on the absurd. The only card that really scares me out of a Jund deck is Shriekmaw, which is also the most underplayed card in Standard. Shriekmaw is their only out to Turn 6 Angel + Archmage, and it drops an unblockable 3/2 on the board to boot. Luckily, most Jund decks don’t run it, so a protected Angel should just be game.

Sideboarding:

Creature-heavy Jund:

+3 Essence Scatter +1 Reveillark

-3 Vendilion Clique –1 Broken Ambitions

Mannequin Jund:

+2 Negate +2 Essence Scatter +1 Reveillark

-4 Kitchen Finks –1 Broken Ambitions

Mannequin Jund doesn’t have any low-drops you can battle besides Bloodbraid Elf, so Finks loses a bit of value. They also tend to have a lot more spells, and Vendilion is better against their more expensive curve. If you know they are boarding in Puppeteer Cliques, you can also cut all your Mulldrifters and your Larks. Instead, use a combination of Jaces and counterspells, and keep in all the Finks. Without Mulldrifter to steal, Puppeteer Clique goes from being awesome to being overpriced.

Faeries

The Red version plays about the same as the normal one against you, and neither are decks you particularly want to face. It isn’t as terrible as the Lark matchup used to be, but you still aren’t that heavy on instants, and your gameplan still revolves around a five-mana sorcery. Even Glen Elendra Archmage isn’t as awesome as normal, since Faeries is full of spells that are really creatures.

Sideboarding:

+2 Essence Scatter

-1 Reveillark –1 Glen Elendra Archmage

Hey, sometimes you can beat them down with Knights and Finks! The fact that Faeries almost never plays Sower anymore is pretty good, although if they are boarding them in you may want to swap your Archmages for more Sowers.

Kithkin

Not really a deck anymore, you should probably be fine just Sowering and/or Angel’ing them to death.

Sideboarding:

+4 Sower +2 Negate +2 Essence Scatter

-4 Knight of the White Orchid -1 Reveillark -3 Vendilion Clique

Black-Red

Another great matchup. You are virtually immune to Anathemancer, and Archmages, Finks, and Baneslayers are all ridiculous against them. Even them mising a bunch of Demigods isn’t that bad, since you have Path to Exile and Baneslayer Angel as answers.

Sideboarding:

+2 Negate +1 Reveillark

-3 Vendilion Clique

You can also cut Brokens for some Sower of Temptations, although Sower dies pretty easily. Sometimes your Sowers plus Larks overwhelm their removal, but it is mostly just easier to Archmage plus Angel them or just play a bunch of Finks and counterspells. Either way, you shouldn’t lose to this deck very often.

Mirror / UW Lark

Both of these decks are close enough that the matchup plays the same way. It is kind of weird, since Archmage no longer is a big trump, even though having it out is really good. Still, just because you drop an Archmage doesn’t mean they can’t, and often both players are locked out of playing non-creature spells.

Sideboarding:

+3 Essence Scatter +4 Sower of Temptation +2 Jace Beleren

-1 Reveillark –4 Kitchen Finks –2 Knight of the White Orchid –2 Glen Elendra Archmage

I might be too greedy in cutting the Orchids, but I like almost all your cards in this matchup. If you don’t feel comfortable cutting all of them, cutting some Broken Ambitions is probably fine as well. Essence Scatter is really efficient, and you should be able to pull ahead between Jace, Scatter, and a bunch of Sowers. I don’t actually like having Larks in the deck after board, since them Sowering and then Path’ing your Lark is really bad news. Instead, you should just do that to them.

I don’t honestly know if this deck is superior to UW Lark as the deck to play, but my experience with the deck has been quite positive. I still like 5-Color Control a lot, but this deck is certainly more consistent. It might be on the whole a little less powerful, as it doesn’t have access to Cruel Ultimatum, but the Archmage plus Baneslayer plan defeats so many decks. I would recommend against playing anything without 4 Baneslayers, so whether you pilot this or 5-Color, having Protection from Demons and Dragons is advisable. The card is just so powerful, and particularly in a PTQ setting actually gives you Protection from Random Decks as well.

32 thoughts on “Initial Technology – UW Baneslayer (the other Angel Deck)”

  1. Hey LSV, I was playing this deck at the PTQ, but I was at the middle tables (36 most of the time) so that’s why you didn’t see it.

    It was a great meta call, with 4 of the 5 rounds I played in being a Cascade deck. Unfortunately, I ended up losing to a few lucky cascades and some mana flooding. I’m trying to convince my friends to attend the PTQ in LA – I want to give the deck another go.

  2. So i played at a PTQ last week and was 5-2 with R/b burn. Then I played this monster and spent the rest of the day drafting…

  3. Nicely written, and I love the deck. If only the good permission were sticking around, I could definitely get behind it, and likely play it online once I make the switch. It feels a lot like the old-school UW Control, playing the pure control game until it just taps out for its 5 mana angel. This Angel is much better than the original, so I can understand the powerful feeling of her resolving and attacking in any format.

  4. thanks LSV, i am too trying to build a UW baneslayer deck, and yes, i think the reason why ppl dont play this deck is that not a lot of ppl have baneslayers. ( i only have one lol)

    my question is,
    i find that having a wrath effect is a must in the main. i know you said that its only good in the Kithkin match up, but there is so many match ups that i just get over run before i can play my big guys.
    if you are not going to put a wrath effect in the main, how do you bounced back in the game when you have an army facing down on you?

    thanks, and keep up the good work.

  5. You failed to mention losing to said UW Baneslayer deck after you used Ajani’s ultimate online last week =P

  6. I tried finding this deck list when I first heard about it(but sadly couldn’t find it. . .thanks lsv!). Switching out Broodmate Dragon for Baneslayer Angel is something I’ve been pondering for a while in my 5CC deck. . .so much so that I almost want to just play Esper Control with the Angels. But I have tested the Esper Control deck and it doesn’t seem to be any more stable or quicker than standard 5CC(except that you aren’t saving up for a Cruel).

  7. That is an excellent point about Shriekmaw. I predict that a large amount of decks will start running it (or at least sideboarding it) because of what you said — it gets through Archmage. This is especially true when U/W Angel favors Negate over Essence Scatter.

  8. Yea, I did actually ultimate Ajani then cast Cruel against this deck online last week, and somehow still lose that game. The other games weren’t too close though, if I recall correctly =)

  9. This is true. After mulling to 5 g2 I took out my notes on how to mulligan based on your draft videos for g3 and proceeded to get crushed hahah. But it was worth the story…maybe our match will be better in Austin

  10. Well after reading your article how to go infinite with playing standard I am having quite a success online with my R-G beatdown deck having a 4-0 4-0 3-1 record atm and I just hope people dont use baneslayer which just wrecks me.But I think most people dont use her cause well 15 tix online and more $ dollars in card is quite an investment ^^(I would although try this deck cause its absolutely my style if i had the cards but look at it its quite expensive to build,well not that a pro should be concerned with such things)

  11. Merfolk is getting really popular, and kind of crushes this deck. Any tips on that matchup?

  12. I played against a version of this deck on Magic 2010 Game Day. Similar list that also ran Wall of Reverence. I was playing finest hour aggor and dealing 20+ in two consecutive turns but couldn’t overcome the life swing of Baneslayer and Wall together. Never drew the needed path, and had my Bant charms negated, so that was all she wrote. The pilot went on to win the top 8 of our local.

  13. Casey fatguy_poolshark

    she is going up online atm. If you can get her for 15 JUMP. By the end of the week I expect her to be around 20.

  14. I played against this deck at the PTQ last saturday. I was piloting 5cc with a MD path and maelstrom pulse along with 2 lightning bolts for his meddling mages. The first game took 48 minutes for me to win…
    I pulsed targeting his 3 borderposts which drew his cryptic so i was then able to cruel ult him. Ajani held it down as i finally got a baneslayer of my own out along with my gargoyl castle to beat him from his like 45 life…
    I actually wanted to play this deck (UW baneslayer) but didnt have time to play test it and feared i wouldn’t do well picking it up cold so I went with the familiar 5cc… I would def. say they are my two favorite lists atm.
    glad to see josh win with 5cc.
    later
    -john

  15. p.s. on wrath effect. (this is more for 5cc lists). fallout and firespout are doing less and less against elves. With combo now running wilt-leafs and perfects to get around none wrath sweepers. also coat of arms is amazing at beating fallout and firespout and makes elf beatdown pretty obsurd if it can combo…
    -john

  16. just played 5cc this past saturday in ptq birmingham and got 2nd place; lost to fae in finals. I of course ran 4x baneslayers in my list, the card was just sick for me all day! Nice article LSV, baneslayer gettin luv it deserves 🙂

  17. Nice to see your take on my deck LSV, tho the timing with both our articles going up on the same day (mine is on the ‘other’ site) is a little awkward 🙂

    I will try out Kitchen Finks as Meddling Mage is the card, together with Broken Ambition, that we liked the least in the maindeck. Im a bit surprised that you take out KoTWO so much, as we pretty much treat it as one of the key cards to the deck. I don’t really agree with cutting Austere Command, tho i can see cutting Burial, as the Command is so back-breaking vs Kithkin and is useful vs any random creature heavy decks you may encounter at a ptq. Your sideboarding against Kithkin in particular is a bit odd as it leaves you with quite a clunky deck post side.

    If you have the time, check out my article on the ‘other’ site and lmk what you think!

    Marco

  18. Also @Adam: youre doing it wrong if you want to play this deck as a traditional UW control deck, because it really isn’t that. It is, as LSV says, an out and out Baneslayer deck which doesn’t really have a clearly defined aggro or control role. If anything you are more often an aggro-controlly fish type deck rather than a control deck.

  19. @MarcoOJ
    Fair enough. Given the short-lived nature of the current format, I don’t plan on doing much practice with cards like Vendilion Clique or Sower. I’m not a very good player unless I have some kind of edge. As such, practice with a deck in an upcoming format will be very valuable for me.

  20. Great deck, great summary and explanations. I had to face the Deck with UBR Faeries in a Daily Event yesterday and winning it was no easy task. You need at least one Bitterblossm and a good draw to beat the UW Deck. Even with Doom Blade the amount of Baneslayer protection this Deck has it is very hard to get rid of it once it resolves.

    I wish you would write more articles faster because they are very informative and very good. 😛 Nice read every time.

  21. I was playing a build very similar to this at the PTQ San Jose. Ended up going 6-2 with it. I played 5 5cc matches there got both of my losses from that MU. My sideboard wasnt really how i would have liked it. I was packing Sowers and Essence Scatter in the board but did not make room for Negate, which would have come in handy considering what I ended up getting paired against.

  22. How would you modify this list in order to deal with Kithkin? Kithkin is a huge part of the metagame here in the northeast where we have 9 round PTQs. There were like 3 Kithkin decks in the top 8 this past Saturday, and I know a ton of excellent players who refuse to abandon the deck.

  23. @Adam

    If kithkin is prevalent, I would try the 4 sowers if you haven’t already. When I played Faeries, my plan was always to just keep Sowering them, and I never bothered with Infests. You could try playing a couple Wraths (Burial or Austere) if you want, but I think all the Sowers + the rest of your deck (Finks buy a ton of time, they have to have a Path for Baneslayer, etc) seems like it should be enough.

    @Marco

    I’ll check it out.

  24. @rwilliams

    Merfolk is certainly a tough matchup, but if you have enough instants you should be able to pick fights on their turn and then untap and do something. Plumeveil, Vendilion Clique, Path, and cheap counters like Negate or Essence Scatter help you to resolve Baneslayer, Sower, or Hallowed Burial (which is good against them).

    I don’t think the matchup is going to be great regardless, but if you have enough stuff that interacts with them on their turn you can avoid being locked out by their counters.

  25. sneakyhomunculous

    i won my ptq this weekend with the real fairies (red isn’t good everyone, you can’t lightning bolt baneslayer, cruel, or cryptic command and they happen to be the only 2 cards that are as good as any card in fairies), and luckily i played against this deck twice, my opponents obviously didn’t have much of a chance, but i just don’t see how this deck could be any better than 5cc, whenever you have perfect mana why wouldn’t you just play good cards instead of meddling mage knight of the white orchard and punt to exile? thoughts

  26. @sneakyhomunculous
    3 reasons why people may play this deck over 5cc:
    1) It’s different which can throw some players off who haven’t tested against it.
    2) It doesn’t die to Anathemancer (yes, 5cc doesn’t either if it has Runed Halo stick)
    3) It has more flexibility in game play as you can either apply early beats or save up for Baneslaya + protection which of course makes it harder for opponents to play against

    Not saying this deck is better than 5cc by any means. Just answering your question.

  27. I think this deck is very good in the Meta both PTQ and online. The only thing is trying to fit in a swing to Merfolk. I was thinking of cutting the Ethersworn can’s for Plumveil with the drop of elves decks lately.

  28. I played this deck to a 2nd place finish in a 244 person ptq last saturday. Good breakdown of how the deck works.

    I actually like meddling mage a lot in ptqs, I find that most information is very easy to gather against average ptq players. Finks is fine, but I like having maximum protection for my angel. The angel is the only card that matters in most matchups.

  29. Hey LSV,

    I like this sort of article for its specificity; this is a big reason why I’ve been coming to your site, so please keep it up.

    This may be a question for a different forum, but I wanted to talk about your comments regarding Extirpate, Cranial Extraction, etc.

    Perhaps you were referring to the Standard format when you said that these cards “do nothing?” I’m curious because, in other formats, such as Legacy, Extirpate and Cranial Extraction seem to be remarkably effective cards.

    If you play discard in the same deck as Extirpate or Cranial Extraction in Legacy (which is likely, considering that it’s one of Black’s best weapons), then it can be devastating. Think about the most common decks. CounterTop, Goblins, random combo decks. If you Thoughtseize + Extirpate you can give yourself a huge advantage. Or if you resolve a Cranial Extraction. Imagine a CounterTop deck trying to kill you without Tarmogoyf. They can put a soft lock on you as much as they like, but with one Extirpate or Cranial Extraction you can significantly reduce their ability to deal you lethal damage. And against Goblins, if you remove all the Piledrivers from their library, they are seriously crippled. The same applies to every deck in the format; they run 4 copies of cards because they need them to win, and if you take that away, it can really seal the deal for you.

    I’m not trying to call you out or anything, but I was just interested in your statements about “do nothing” cards. Do you really think library control is bad in all scenarios? In my experience, some decks rely so heavily on certain cards that if you remove them from the matchup, they can’t beat you. I just wanted to ask for qualifications and explanations you might offer.

    Thanks again,

    Mike

  30. Sneaky- just because you beat it doesn’t mean it’s not a good deck, and just because 5CC is better against you doesn’t mean it’s a better deck either. I could play and crush you with a deck that is good against faeries. Does that mean faeries isn’t a good deck and that you should have played something else? UW Baneslayer has a better Jund and RB matchup by far, and is slightly favored against 5cc. It’s also MUCH better against the new grixis deck than 5cc is. Any deck with Anathamancer basically has a terrible matchup against UW baneslayer, with the exception of Grixis Faeries.

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