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Against the Odds: Angel(s) of Destiny (Modern)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 263 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had a second-chance Against the Odds poll, giving cards that had some in second or third over the previous few polls another shot at glory. In the end, Angel of Destiny took home the clear victory. While some sort of Soul Sisters or lifegain-based deck is the most obvious way to get the Angel of Destiny win, both of those plans felt pretty boring. Instead, we're heading to Modern today to play Angel of Destiny in a Boros Angel tribal deck, with the lifegain for the Angel of Destiny win being provided by other Angels like Gisela, the Broken Blade and especially Lyra Dawnbringer. Can Angels compete in Modern? How likely are we to win with Angel of Destiny's delayed attack trigger? 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(s) of Destiny

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The Deck

Angel of Destiny is a card that I've been expecting to play for Against the Odds but also sort of fearing. As I mentioned in the intro, the easiest way to play Angel of Destiny is simply to jam a bunch of lifegain cards together (like Soul Sisters, Heliod, Sun-Crowned, etc.) and hope for the best. The problem is that while picking up a win or two with Angel of Destiny itself would be sweet, the rest of the deck would be pretty boring. As such, one of my self-imposed rules for building around Angel of Destiny was to avoid being a dedicated lifegain deck. Since Angel of Destiny clearly needs us to gain life to be effective but decks like Soul Sisters and Heliod were off the table, how could we build around our namesake Angel in a format as powerful as Modern? The answer, of course, is Angel tribal!

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Angel of Destiny is a weird card. Buried in a mountain of text, what it essentially does is prevent all of the damage we'd deal to our opponent (in a weird, triggered way) while also gaining us life equal to the amount of damage we deal to our opponent. Then, if we can get up to 35 life, Angel of Destiny kills whomever it attacked during our end step. As such, the primary goal of our deck is to attack with Angel of Destiny and get up to 35 life. While Angel of Destiny's lifegain ability sort of looks like lifelink, technically, it's not. Instead, it's a triggered ability that happens after we deal combat damage, which is important for our "combo."

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Outside of Angel of Destiny, our most important Angel is Lyra Dawnbringer, an Angel lord that also gives all of our Angels lifelink. While giving our entire team lifelink is obviously helpful in our goal of getting to 35 life to win with Angel of Destiny, there's also some sneaky synergy between Lyra and Angel of Destiny. Let's say we have both on the battlefield and attack our opponent. Angel of Destiny hits for six as a 3/7 double strike with lifelink, and Lyra Dawnbringer hits for five. Because Angel of Destiny's lifegain trigger is not lifelink, we actually gain life equal to twice the damage we deal to our opponent. So this attack, with no other help, ends up gaining us 22 life, which might be enough to get us to 35 and win on our end step with Angel of Destiny.

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If 22 life isn't enough to win with Angel of Destiny, we have one more "combo" Angel to support our deck: Aurelia, the Warleader, which not only comes down with haste but also gives us two attack steps. Considering that Aurelia, the Warleader itself will have lifelink thanks to Lyra Dawnbringer, if we can attack with Angel of Destiny, Aurelia, and Lyra in the same turn, each attack will gain us 30 life. But since we have two attack steps thanks to Aurelia, the total lifegain for the turn jump to a massive 60!

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Rounding out our creature base are a bunch more Angels. Resplendent Angel is fragile, dying to Lightning Bolt, but it's another good lifegain-payoff Angel if it survives, likely making a 4/4 Angel each turn once we get Lyra Dawnbringer or Angel of Destiny on the battlefield. Gisela, the Broken Blade gives us another lifelink Angel to support Angel of Destiny in games where we can't find Lyra Dawnbringer. Meanwhile, the one copy of Bruna, the Fading Light is in the deck mostly for meld potential with Gisela, the Broken Blade

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Otherwise, Linvala, Keeper of Silence is insane against mana-dork decks or other creatures with activated abilities (like Walking Ballista), shutting them down while also adding a powerful Angelic body to the battlefield. As for Shalai, Voice of Plenty, we don't have any green mana in our deck to activate its pump ability, but the Angel offers a strong form of protection to us and the rest of our team by giving everything hexproof, allowing more important Angels like Angel of Destiny and Lyra Dawnbringer to dodge targeted removal.

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If there's a downside to playing Angel tribal, it's that Angels are expensive, with our best and most important tribe members coming in between four and six mana. Considering how fast Modern can be, we need a way to speed up our Angel deployment. For this, we turn to two different two-mana ramp spells. Mind Stone is straightforward, adding an extra mana and maybe giving us a card later in the game when we don't need extra mana. Meanwhile, Cleansing Wildfire isn't obviously a ramp spell, by blowing up a land and replacing it with a basic, but if the land we blow up is one of our four copies of Flagstones of Trokair, then Cleansing Wildfire is essentially a red Rampant Growth that also draw us a card since we'll get one land from Flagstones of Trokair going to the graveyard and another from Cleansing Wildfire itself. Plus, Cleansing Wildfire gives us a natural hedge against decks like Tron, which is a nice bonus.

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Finally, when it comes to slowing our opponent down, we have Lightning Bolt and Oust to deal with creatures. (Oust is especially good in our deck because having our opponent gain life isn't much of a downside since we're planning to win with Angel of Destiny anyway. Plus, it can be a hilarious blowout against Death's Shadow–style decks by forcing our opponent to gain life, potentially killing Death's Shadow and Scourge of the Skyclaves.) Meanwhile, Blood Moon slows down the game, buying us a couple of extra turns to deploy our powerful-but-expensive Angels. Thanks to our Plains-heavy mana base, it isn't likely to hurt us much at all.

The Matchups

The matchups for Angel(s) of Destiny are pretty simple: our deck is great against fair decks. Hilariously, once they hit the battlefield, our Angels are more powerful than just about any creatures that see play in Modern, which means that if our opponent is trying to win with random creature threats, their plan is unlikely to work. We also can gain absurd amounts of life, which gives us a shot against aggro decks. On the other hand, our deck is horrible against unfair spell-based combo decks like Storm, Oops, All Spells, Belcher, Ad Nauseam, and the like. Our Angels are too slow to win before our opponent combos off, and outside of having good graveyard hate in our sideboard, we don't really have the tools to stop spell-based combo decks from doing their thing.

The Odds

All in all, we finished 3-2 with Angels of Destiny, or technically 4-3, if we count the match against control where our opponent closed Magic Online once Blood Moon resolved and a loss to Merfolk that didn't end up in the video, making Angel(s) of Destiny solidly average for an Against the Odds deck. While the record was fine, the more exciting part of Angel(s) of Destiny is that our Angel of Destiny plan actually worked. There's always a fear with Blood Moon decks that we'll win because of Blood Moon rather than the rest of our deck. But outside of buying us time against Tron, Blood Moon was medium to bad through most of our matches. Instead, Angel of Destiny (combined with Lyra Dawnbringer) did the heavy lifting and picked up most of our wins. While the sideboard could probably use a heavier focus on unfair decks (something like Rule of Law might be worth considering), the Angel tribal plan felt oddly effective. We even out-Eldrazied Eldrazi Tron by playing Angels, which are almost as big as the Eldrazi but also have flying and gain us tons of life, which can be really difficult for some decks to beat. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Next week we're heading to Modern to play a janky "win the game" card, but which one? Help us decide by voting here!


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

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