Last updated on March 9, 2021
Firja, Judge of Valor | Illustration by Livia Prima
Well, it seems like angels are suddenly the latest rage in MTG Arena deck techs! I was pretty surprised to hear this news, especially since people want top-tier meta decks most of the time. The good news is that I have an Orzhov Angels deck for you all today! The bad news: it’s BO1.
I know, I know, BO1 is blasphemy, but hear me out! The deck has an average win rate of 58%. When you take the same deck with a typical BO3 sideboard it becomes tough to compete with the amount of tribal hate in the format like Witch’s Vengeance.
I swear MTGA manages to match you up against people with tribal hate in the sideboard or decks with ways to stop Foretell most of the time… crazy Arena matchmaking.
So, for today, a one-off fan favorite BO1 list: Orzhov Angels. I’ve modified the mana base slightly, but here’s the original deck.
Youthful Valkyrie | Illustration by Anna Steinbauer
This deck’s strategy is relatively simple but a bit hard to get used to at first. We run a lot of creatures that all synergize with angels. Once the deck manages to set up, it can even go toe-to-toe with control decks like Sultai Yorion because Rampage of the Valkyries can give it enough firepower.
It becomes impossible for your opponent to set up a big 6/6 shark turn with their Shark Typhoon. And since every token and creature you cast is an angel, they’ll trigger a range of effects upon entering the battlefield. Which ones? I’ll get into it in just a bit.
This deck runs a single 1-drop: Shadowspear. This card is great as a tiebreaker against aggro decks because it gives you another way to gain life. The 1-mana ability also helps to get rid of gods if you need to.
There are lots of 2-drops in this deck, the most crucial being Youthful Valkyrie. Because we create and play so many angels, this card will rapidly increase its power and toughness until decks like mono red can no longer keep it off the board. On top of that it’s a solid blocker early on, buying you time to get your fourth and fifth land drops to reach your big plays.
Heartless Act is a very generic removal spell. There are lots of counter shenanigans in the meta right now, so there may be something to playing Bloodchief’s Thirst in this slot. Having it ready at instant speed is incredibly powerful, though.
Finally, Valkyrie’s Sword. This may be a 2-drop, but you usually want to cast it with its additional effect. Simultaneously being a 2-drop and 7-drop gives this card some flexibility. I like to use my second turn for some foretell mechanics, especially to set up a potential 4/4 angel on turn 3 with Starnheim Unleashed.
This slot is pretty crowded with a lot of different tools.
First we’ve got a couple copies of Banishing Light. Getting to the late game is a must! We also have one copy of Doomskar that’s typically a 5-drop, but foretelling it on turn 2 is an easy turn 3 board wipe.
Righteous Valkyrie will help you gain a ton of life once it’s on the field and will quickly become a +2/+2 anthem effect for all your creatures. In combination with Starnheim Aspirant, that singlehandedly makes the previous card a 1-drop. A cool play is putting the Aspirant down on turn 3 and following it up with Righteous Valkyrie into any of your four or even five mana value angels.
Inscription of Ruin is another flexible slot. It’s sad that it’s a sorcery, but it has so many effects that it can be useful as an early removal, revival, or discard card. It can even push you back into a game you were otherwise losing.
Poison the Cup, yet another removal card with foretell. This card is excellent thanks to the scry effect. If you do it, foretell it.
Now it’s going to get incredibly juicy! The earlier synergy was great, but you’re going to overwhelm your opponent now with your 4/4s.
Firja’s Retribution is such an incredibly nasty card to start with. Not only are you making a 4/4 angel once it ticks up on the next turn, but every single creature you control can also tap to destroy an opponent’s creature with less power. Are your angels still alive after this? Well, now they also get double strike. This creates such an awkward momentum that you can string together some otherwise weird plays, leading us to our next 4-drop: Starnheim Unleashed.
Starnheim is a “4-drop” that lets you create a 4/4 angel, but that’s not what we’re here to do. Oh no, far from it! You’re going to foretell this card on an earlier turn to create two or even three 4/4s for either five or seven mana.
What does this mean? Well, imagine a turn 4 Firja’s Retribution. You get your value with your 4/4 angel and put your opponent in an awkward spot. The next turn rolls around and you cast Starnheim Unleashed for five mana, creating two 4/4 angels. You now have three 4/4s. Then it’s your next turn and you now have 24 damage on the table thanks to double strike. As you can see, this play by itself can be so difficult to deal with for most opponents that it’s just straight-up nasty.
What’s left? Plenty!
Vengeful Reaper, a flying deathtouch hasty angel, is perfect to combo with Righteous Valkyrie to push yourself over that 27-life threshold. This card can be foretold, allowing you to cast it for a mere two mana in a combo turn.
Eradicator Valkyrie is another cool card that lets you sacrifice your weaker angels to force your opponent to sacrifice their essential creatures. Does that sound nasty? Combine that with Rampage of the Valkyries, which creates a 4/4 and forces your opponent to sacrifice a creature whenever one of your angels die. Do this with your Eradicator Valkyrie and that little 2-mana boast becomes a one-for-two trade.
Doomskar | Illustration by Piotr Dura
That must be the last combo, right? Oh no, we aren’t done yet. Firja, Judge of Valor is here to let you restock your hand whenever you cast your second spell. Granted, this is harder than it looks with this deck since we have so many high mana drops but when it works, it works.
And finally, the very last drop: Emeria’s Call, a spell that lets you create two 4/4 angels.
All I can say is that this deck is nuts. It can be tough to get past turn 3 or 4 when facing Gruul or mono red, but you should be able to get there with a half-decent hand with all the removal and excellent blockers this deck has to offer.
Once you get there, though, your opponent will be so busy wasting resources to get those 4/4 vigilant angels off the field that you can quickly grind them out. Like I mentioned earlier, even Yorion decks aren’t safe because all their removal becomes incredibly awkward when almost everything is a 4/4 or even a 6/6 with Righteous Valkyrie. This deck has so much potential that it’s a straight-up shame it can’t be brought into the BO3 format without immensely suffering from sideboard hate.
As for lands, we have some copies of Emeria’s Call that can double up as a powerful spell or a white mana source. Castle Ardenvale and Castle Locthwain are both neat inclusions to keep the tempo going.
There’s a plethora of modal lands and temples, but I think there’s room to run two copies of Fabled Passage. I didn’t add them yet because you don’t want to reduce the remaining lands in the deck, but these are reliable land number 26 and 27 inclusions if you cut something else in the deck.
This deck aims to reach the endgame (quite in flavor with angels, isn’t it?). Follow these rules to get there:
- Have three lands in hand with at least one of each color;
- Have two or three removal spells for the early game.
This deck plays the long game, so not having angels early on is quite okay as long as you have the means to keep your opponent lagging behind. Once you drop a card like Firja’s Retribution, it’ll likely result in your opponent wasting a lot of resources to stop you from getting that double strike turn.
The deck has a lot of complex interactions, so always play everything out in your head before jamming it down. Sometimes the sequencing can be the difference between a win or loss.
Eradicator Valkyrie | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson
I’ve played this deck a lot the past few days to thoroughly test it. While I wanted to keep the list as true to the original as possible, I feel it could be beneficial to drop some of the higher mana angels to get 4-offs of both Rampage of the Valkyries and Firja’s Retribution. I think these two cards are the stars of the deck and it’s a shame to not maximize them. Especially since both also create a strong 4/4 body regardless.
I tried to play this deck in BO3, but it never seemed to work out. It’s a blast in BO1 if you manage to get the lands you need. Even though my overall win rate was around 60%, a large number of my losses happened thanks to either missing the fifth land or not having double the same color for Firja, Judge of Valor or Firja’s Retribution. Part of this is because of the relatively light mana base. Running only 25 lands in a deck that wants its fourth land drop so bad is very greedy!
Starnheim Unleashed | Illustration by Johannes Voss
It’s an incredible feel-bad when your deck is ready to wreck and your lands screw you over. It may be better to tune things down a bit and run more lands. But this a big gripe I have with MTG of late in general, not just this deck.
All formats have become so incredibly fast with high-value creatures that missing a single turn of interaction tends to snowball into a loss. In MTG days of old, missing a land wasn’t optimal by any means, but you more often had freedom and room to breathe and find it in your next draw. The game being how flashy it is now is cool, but it takes away from the interactive aspects a bit.
This deck sort of counters that by allowing us to play a very old-school type of deck. An old-school “feel” at least because all these triggers between creatures, even when not being tier 1, are powerful even by last year’s MTG standards.
All in all, a great deck. I’m enjoying it a lot and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future!
Rampage of the Valkyries | Illustration by Billy Christian
Orzhov Angels is a good deck. It has substantial interaction and even makes Yorion sweat with the swarm of creatures it can bring to the table. The deck lacks a bit of card draw, but Castle Locthwain does fix that a bit. It’s not top tier by any means, but it makes mono red decks cry quite a bit by not allowing them to set up or remove most of our creatures.
A great deck. Super happy with it, but I do want to venture into it further to tune it for a stable BO3 version. If you’re the one that makes it work in BO3, reach out to me! I’d love to see your list. I kind of want a list like this in Historic, too. I can imagine Shalai, Voice of Plenty being incredibly powerful in this line-up.
Inscription of Ruin | Illustration by Zoltan Boros