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Against the Odds: Angel of Suffering Lock (Explorer)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 333 of Against the Odds. We didn't have an Against the Odds poll last week. Angel of Suffering is a card I've wanted to build around for a while, but it keeps just missing on the poll, often coming in second place. Well, this week, I decided to pull rank and build around Angel of Suffering in Explorer in an Angel Stax deck. The power of Angel of Suffering is that it's essentially a one-card combo if we put Gaea's Blessing in our deck. If we take damage, Angel of Suffering converts it to mill, but when a Gaea's Blessing gets milled, it shuffles our entire graveyard back into our library, which means we can take infinite damage without losing the game. The biggest problem with the plan is that the lock is broken if Angel of Suffering dies, and we're likely to die as well, which means the rest of our deck is mostly dedicated to finding and protecting Angel of Suffering. Can Angel Stax work in Explorer? How good is the one-card combo of Angel of Suffering?  Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Angel of Suffering Stax

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The Deck

Angel of Suffering is a really unique card to build around. As we talked about in the intro, assuming we're willing to run a couple of copies of Gaea's Blessing in our deck, it's essentially a one-card combo that can lock our opponent out of ever dealing us damage as long as it stays on the battlefield. As such, the challenges of building around the Streets of New Capenba mythic are three-fold. First, we have to find Angel of Suffering; second, we need to get it on the battlefield; and third, we need to protect it because, as a 5/3, it dies to a lot of removal. Thankfully, our deck has a plan for overcoming all of these challenges with the help of Angel Tribal!

The Lock

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The lock itself is pretty simple. Angel of Suffering makes it so if we are dealt damage, that damage is prevented, and we instead mill twice that many cards. By itself, this can save us for a turn or two before we end up dying to milling out. But thanks to Gaea's Blessing, which shuffles our graveyard into our library when it's milled from our deck, an Angel of Suffering should keep us from dying to damage forever. The power of the lock is that all we need to do is find an Angel of Suffering. We don't need or even want to draw Gaea's Blessing—it's better just hanging out in our deck waiting to be milled!

Finding Angel of Suffering

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So, why are we playing Angel of Suffering in Angel Tribal rather than in a generic deck? While there are several reasons why Angel Tribal supports Angel of Suffering perfectly, the biggest answer is Pyre of Heroes, which allows us to find our Angel of Suffering consistently by Birthing Podding into it. One of the quirks of Angel Tribal is that we have a lot of legendary creatures. Pyre of Heroes helps us avoid the downside of playing too many legends by allowing us to sacrifice a legend to find another Angel if we happen to draw multiples. With the help of sacrificeable Angels like Inspiring Overseer, our main plan is to Pyre of Heroes into our one copy of Legion Angel, which can tutor more copies of Legion Angel from our sideboard. On the next turn, we can start turning Legion Angels into Angel of Sufferings with Pyre of Heroes, potentially ending up with all four copies of Angel of Suffering on the battlefield with the help of a single Legion Angel over the course of a few turns. As we talked about before, one of the challenges of building around the Angel of Suffering lock is that Angel of Suffering dies to most removal, and our lock falls apart without Angel of Suffering on the battlefield. One way to get around this is by getting as many copies of Angel of Suffering as possible on the battlefield to overload our opponent's removal.

Getting Angel of Suffering on the Battlefield

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While Pyre of Heroes also solves our "get Angel of Suffering on the battlefield problem," we also have Giada, Font of Hope to ramp us into Angel of Suffering if we happen to draw it. Giada, Font of Hope also helps us protect Angel of Suffering since most of our protection cards are also Angels.

Protecting Angel of Suffering

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By far the hardest part of winning with Angel of Suffering lock is keeping Angel of Suffering on the battlefield. Angel of Suffering isn't a card that most decks play, which means simply playing it will likely arouse our opponent's suspicion that shenanigans are afoot, and they'll probably try to kill it. As a 5/3, Angel of Suffering dies to pretty much everything. Thankfully, our deck is overloaded with protection. Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate can fizzle either a targeted removal spell or a sweeper by sacrificing itself. Shalai, Voice of Plenty gives Angel of Suffering (and all of our other creatures) hexproof, and both are Angels, so we can tutor them up with Pyre of Heroes. Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa isn't an Angel, but its ability to give another permanent indestructible is important to hardening our lock. While we can use it to protect Angel of Suffering directly, the best target is often Shalai, Voice of Plenty, which gives us an indestructible Shalai and a hexproof Kyodai, which means our opponent mostly needs a hard wrath or an exile-based removal spell for Shalai to break out of the lock. We also have Mirror Shield, which might look strange but offers another way to give Angel of Suffering hexproof.

Winning the Game

So, let's say we lock our opponent with Angel of Suffering. That keeps us alive forever, but how do we actually win the game? Well, technically, the lock itself should win us the game eventually. Thanks to Gaea's Blessing, we won't ever mill out (we have two copies, so, worst case, we can keep putting one back into our library with the other) so we can wait until our opponent draws their entire deck and dies to drawing with an empty library. That said, we normally use the lock to stay alive for a while and build a huge board of Angels and win by beating down in the air.

The Matchups

In general, Angel Stax has a shot against all types of decks thanks to its solid curve of creatures and good removal, but there are a few things to look out for. First, decks that are looking to win without dealing damage are tough matchups for Angel of Suffering. For example, some control decks can win by tucking Teferi, Hero of Dominaria into their library. The Angel of Suffering lock does basically nothing against a deck like this, although we can still win by attacking with Angels. Another problem card is Bonecrusher Giant, thanks to Stomp's "damage can't be prevented" clause turning off Angel of Suffering's damage prevention. The same is also true of Questing Beast, although Questing Beast isn't as heavily played as Bonecrusher Giant is. 

The Odds

All in all, we finished 3-2 with Angel of Suffering Lock, which is a pretty solid record. While we did win a couple of games fairly by attacking with Angels, we also got some absurd Angel of Suffering lock wins, with our match against Simic Ramp being the best example. Much like Urabrask, Heretic Praetor last week, I was surprised by how good Angel of Suffering played in practice. While the lock is obviously absurd in the right matchup, we had a couple of wins where Angel of Suffering came down fairly to keep us alive for a turn or two, buying us enough time to find removal for our opponent's big threat or to win by beating down. While it having three toughness is still a problem, especially outside of Standard, in general, I think Angel of Suffering is a lot better than most people give it credit for.

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Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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