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Angel of Grace: Exclusive Ravnica Allegiance Preview


We're right in the middle of Ravnica Allegiance spoiler season, and thanks to Wizards being awesome and giving us a preview, we've got a super-sweet card to show off for you today. The card has so many layers of awesomeness that I might as well just show it to you, and then we can spend some time talking about why it's both flavorful and powerful. Take a gander at Magic's newest mythic: Angel of Grace!

Before talking about why Angel of Grace is so good, we've got to take a minute to admire the flavor. It's an Angel with an enters-the-battlefield trigger that is pretty similar to Angel's Grace, and it's even named Angel of Grace! Plus, the name works with the abilities as well, since Angel of Grace can theoretically save you by her grace, not just once when she enters the battlefield but twice, after you exile her from your graveyard!

The Stats

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Discounting the awesome Vorthos flavor, the other reason to be excited about the card is that it's good, and potentially really good. Big white Angels with flash and an upside have traditionally done very well in Standard (see Archangel Avacyn and Restoration Angel, both of which ranged from good to "best card in Standard" while they were in their respective formats). Angel of Grace carries on this tradition and actually trumps both Archangel Avacyn and Restoration Angel on raw stats alone. 

A 5/4 flyer with flash for five mana is a solid deal all by itself, especially for decks looking to play mostly at instant speed and leave up mana during their opponent's turns. It's big enough that it can work like a removal spell against creature decks, by flashing in Angel of Grace to block and kill an attacking creature and hopefully have a huge flying body left behind for attacking the next turn. Having the option of leaving up Settle the Wreckage for creatures and Absorb for spells is great, but having the ability to flash in a massive flying beater if you don't need to cast an instant is even better. As such, just based on stats alone, Angel of Grace looks like a Standard-playable card, and this doesn't even include the additional upsides!

The Abilities

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Angel of Grace's enters-the-battlefield trigger is a bit weird—it's almost but not quite Angel's Grace. While Angel of Grace will keep you from losing to damage, you can still lose the game even with Angel of Grace's enters-the-battlefield trigger in effect (to something like loss of life, mill, or a Vraska, Golgari Queen emblem). Here, it's also important to point out that there is a difference between damage and loss of life. 

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Sovereign's Bite and Lightning Strike provide a good example. If you flash in Angel of Grace with a lethal Lightning Strike on the stack, Angel of Grace's enters-the-battlefield trigger will save you, and you'll go to one life. On the other hand, since Sovereign's Bite makes you lose life rather than dealing you damage, Angel of Grace doesn't really do anything to stop it. Thankfully, there really aren't a ton of "lose life" cards in Standard, at least ones that see much play. Other "lose life" cards to be aware of include Sanctum Seeker, Twilight Prophet, Liliana, Untouched by Death, and Angrath, the Flame-Chained.

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Despite these small differences, in the context of Standard, Angel of Grace is basically an Angel's Grace 99% of the time. The ability has the potential to lead to some insane blowouts in the right matchup and maybe even win the game all by itself. A simple example of the power of Angel of Grace's enters-the-battlefield trigger is if your opponent throws a massive lethal Banefire at your face. With the Banefire on the stack, you simply flash in Angel of Grace, go to one life instead of zero, and if it's a tight race, potentially just kill your opponent on the back swing by attacking for five in the air. The same trick works against creature-based decks—if your opponent is attacking you with a lethal board, you can flash in Angel of Grace, potentially eat one of your opponent's attacking creatures, and pseudo-Fog the rest of the damage. 

The downside of both of these examples is that you end up on one life, but this is where Angel of Grace's second ability comes in handy. Let's go back to the example where your opponent is attacking with a lethal board of creatures—you can flash in Angel of Grace to stay alive, block in a way that puts Angel of Grace in your graveyard, and then spend your next turn going back up to 10 life, hopefully enough to survive another turn as well (giving you time to draw another Angel of Grace!).

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Speaking of Angel of Grace's second ability, where you can exile it from your graveyard to go back up to 10 life, this opens up some interesting possibilities in our current Standard format. Thanks to surveil and jump-start, Standard decks are pretty good at getting cards in their graveyard, which means you can use Angel of Grace as a weird lifegain spell from your graveyard without ever casting it by discarding it to something like Chemister's Insight or surveiling it with a Doom Whisperer or Dream Eater. This plan works especially well in control decks with instant-speed interaction, since much like casting Angel of Grace from your hand, you can leave up your mana to counter or kill things if necessary or, if you don't need to interact with the opponent, simply go back up to 10 life by using your mana to exile Angel of Grace at the end of your opponent's turn. 

The Downside

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Despite all of the power of Angel of Grace, there are a couple of reasons to be skeptical about the card's immediate future. Perhaps the biggest is Lyra Dawnbringer, which often occupies the five-drop slot in midrange and some control decks. Combine this with the fact that two- and three-color decks offer even more competition (like Doom Whisperer), and it's possible that Angel of Grace is a really strong card but not quite strong enough to beat out the competition in tier decks. This being said, Angel of Grace offers some advantages over both Lyra and Doom Whisperer. One of the big challenges with cards like Lyra Dawnbringer is that they tend to die a lot, especially against midrange decks like Golgari, which seems to have an infinite number of removal spells and planeswalkers to kill Lyra Dawnbringer immediately. The same is somewhat true of Doom Whisperer, although you do get some value right away thanks to surveil. Thanks to flash, Angel of Grace does a pretty good job of dodging sorcery-speed removal like Ravenous Chupacabra, Vivien Reid, and Vraska, Relic Seeker

Planeswalker Assassin

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Speaking of planeswalkers, one of the biggest upsides of Angel of Grace is that it's a good way to deal with opposing planeswalkers. While the fact that Karn, Scion of Urza, Vivien Reid, and Ral, Izzet Viceroy go up to six loyalty right away if they plus on the turn they enter the battlefield is annoying, a single Angel of Grace attack can take down a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, and Angrath, the Flame-Chained. More importantly, even if you just hit a Vivien Reid or Ral, Izzet Viceroy down to one loyalty, you will turn off the removal option on the planeswalker and make it more likely that Angel of Grace will stick around for a second attack. 

Deck Lists

As far as where Angel of Grace fits into Standard, there are a few possibilities. One of the most obvious is some sort of Angel tribal deck, where rather than competing with Lyra Dawnbringer, Angel of Grace can benefit from the Angel lord. While there is a risk of having too many five-drops, the power level of Angels in Standard is quite high. There are a bunch of different ways to build the deck.

Forgetting about Angel synergies for a minute, another possible home for Angel of Grace is some sort of UWx control / flash deck that's looking to play almost exclusively at instant speed. Once again, thanks to the near-perfect mana coming with Ravnica Allegiance, there are countless ways to build the deck—Esper, Jeskai, Bant—but here's the basic framework for a straight Azorius build. 

In theory, it's possible that any deck with enough white mana to cast Angel of Grace could end up wanting it in their deck, but this mostly depends on the metagame and the other competing options. The five-drop slot is pretty crowded with big fliers, and while having four toughness is an upgrade over Dream Eater's three, it still means that Angel of Grace dies to Lava Coil (although you should get in at least one attack, thanks to flash). For the immediate future, controlling decks that can take advantage of Angel of Grace's flash by untapping to protect it (while also leaving up other instant-speed interaction) seem like the safest bet, while Angel tribal also has a lot of potential, although the curve is a bit clunky thanks to Lyra Dawnbringer dominating the five-drop slot. 

Combo Potential?

That said, Angel of Grace is going to be in Standard for a long time, so even if it's only good right away thanks to the level of competition in the format, it's possible that it will end up being great after our next rotation, when Lyra Dawnbringer and Rekindling Phoenix (along with a bunch of other powerful cards from Dominaria and Core Set 2019) leave the format.

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Finally, the other thing worth mentioning in regard to Angel of Grace is combos. Even though Angel of Grace looks a lot like Angel's Grace, it has a lot less combo potential. In Modern, the most common Angel's Grace combo is to use it along with Ad Nauseam to draw your entire deck, but this combo relies more on the "you can't lose the game" part of Angel's Grace than the damage-prevention aspect. The other problem with potential combos is that Angel of Grace costs a lot of mana—even if it did work with Ad Nauseam, it's hard to imagine a deck getting to 10 mana to cast both in the same turn.

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On the other hand, it's going to be worth keeping a look out for potential combo cards while Angel of Grace is in Standard. While I'm not sure we have the right pieces yet, a simple example is something like Midnight Reaper. With a free sacrifice outlet and some sort of mass reanimation spell, it might be possible to cast Angel of Grace, sacrifice our entire board to something, draw a bunch of cards (while not dying, thanks to Angel of Grace's enters-the-battlefield trigger), reanimate everything to do it again, and possibly add in a way to kill our opponent along the way, like Judith, the Scourge Diva. Lately, Wizards has been moving away from cards like Midnight Reaper making you lose life and toward these cards dealing damage, which means it isn't impossible that we will see some broken combo develop over Angel of Grace's life in Standard. While Angel of Grace plus Ad Nauseam doesn't work, Angel of Grace with an Ad Nauseam that deals damage rather than causing loss of life would work, and 10 mana is a lot more reasonable in Standard than it is in Modern. 

Wrap-Up

So, where does this leave us in terms of Angel of Grace? The card is solid based on its stats alone—the combination of a big, evasive body and flash making it easier to protect and helping it dodge sorcery-speed removal puts it in the conversation for Standard play all by itself. Toss in two abilities that probably won't be relevant in every match but can be game-winning in the right situation, and Angel of Grace has the look of a card that will see plenty of play in Standard. The main problem for the Angel is that we already have a lot of four- and five-mana fliers in the format, which might mean that even if Angel of Grace is good, she isn't quite good enough to beat out cards like Doom Whisperer and Lyra Dawnbringer to develop into a four-of format staple, at least immediately. 

More importantly, the card is going to lead to some massive blowouts in Standard, if your opponent thinks they are attacking for lethal only to have Angel of Grace flash into play, to ruin their plans and potentially steal the win on the backswing! Even if Angel of Grace just misses out on being a true staple of the format, it's a card that's going to lead to some great stories thanks to it's unique life-saving enters-the-battlefield trigger. Oh yeah, and it's possible that Wizards will print a combo piece for Angel of Grace at some point during her life in Standard, and then all bets are off!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Thanks again to Wizards for hooking us up with an amazing free preview card! What do you think of Angel of Grace? What potential combos exist? How good will the card be in Standard? Does it have any chance in Modern? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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