This coming weekend the SCG Tour will be visiting beautiful Knoxville, TN for some sweet Standard action! It’s been quite a while since Standard has been in the spotlight – the last Standard SCG Tour event was back in October in Indianapolis, where Team Cardhoarder put up a dominant performance with R/W Vehicles. However, the Standard landscape has changed quite a bit since then; the format has evolved to a point where two decks are head and shoulders above the rest of the format. For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the format lately, those two decks are U/W Flash and G/B Delirium. These decks have been dominant for good reason; both of them play some of the most objectively powerful cards in the format while maintaining a cohesive game plan. If you are attending SCG Knoxville, I would highly recommend one of these safe, consistent options. However, if you prefer the road less traveled, I have another recommendation. Today, I present to you the deck I will be sleeving up for SCG Knoxville this coming weekend, R/W Angels:
R/W Angels by Andrew Tenjum
To the untrained eye, this decklist probably looks like a pile of white and red cards sloppily thrown together. However upon careful inspection… ok, yeah, it’s a pile of white and red cards sloppily thrown together. While it has a lot going on at once, the deck actually has a cohesive game plan and runs quite smoothly. On a fundamental level, this is a midrange deck with a game plan of sculpting its draws in the early game, controlling the board in the midgame, and finally closing out games with resilient threats in the late game. This plan is quite different from the far more aggressive R/W Vehicles deck that one might mistake this deck for at first glance. More often than not, we are taking on the control role in a given matchup and focus simply on surviving and continuing to hit land drops until we can start casting our powerful, but expensive late game spells.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the deck doesn’t contain powerful cards in the context of Standard. Therefore, the main criticisms one could have come down to inefficiency and consistency. These are valid concerns, as these factors have historically plagued similar midrange strategies. However, this deck’s key to success is its excellent card selection. Between Smuggler's Copter and Nahiri, the Harbinger for looting, Veteran Motorist for scrying, and Thalia's Lancers for tutoring, this deck is great at filtering its draws and ultimately finding what it needs in any given situation. I feel that looting is one of the most underrated mechanics in constructed Magic. The ability to prevent mana flood/mana screw and trade off useless cards in a particular matchup for relevant ones is incredibly powerful. This is especially important in a deck with such a high mana curve such that we aren’t stuck with a bunch of expensive cards in our hand before we are able to cast them. We need to hit all of our land drops in order to function, but at the same time we really don’t want to run out of gas and flood out in the late game. The nine looting effects in our deck ensure we can hit all our land drops, cast our spells on curve, and never run out of gas as the game goes on.
Another aspect of the deck that I value quite highly is the Thalia’s Lancers/Angel package. Thalia’s Lancers is inherently a very powerful card, as the 4/4 first strike body is already a decent threat on its own, but the ability to search your deck for any legendary card really puts the card over the top. This unique ability allows us to play a “toolbox” of legendary cards and provides us with maximum flexibility. Perhaps the most important part of this engine is the Gisela/Bruna combo. The great part about Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light is that they are already inherently good cards on their own. However, if you’re able to assemble the combo, which is a lot easier than you would think and comes up quite often, you essentially can’t lose against most decks in Standard. There are very few ways to remove Brisela in Standard, and it doesn’t leave your opponent much time to find an answer. Because of all the card selection we play, assembling the combo happens quite often. One of my favorite sequences with this deck is to loot away a Gisela early in the game with a Smuggler’s Copter trigger or Nahiri activation, search up a Bruna with Thalia’s Lancers later in the game, then finally, when we have a window to cast Bruna, we have a Gisela already in the graveyard to bring back and assemble a nearly unbeatable combo.
It’s certainly not conventional to play Vehicles and Angels in the same deck, but I think that R/W Angels is a fantastic deck that deserves more recognition from the masses. This weekend, I am hoping to earn the deck that recognition through a solid finish at SCG Knoxville. Very few are bold enough to try such a bizarre looking deck in a high stakes tournament, but I think the deck is currently in a great spot in the metagame. I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is and play the deck this weekend, even if no one else is. Hopefully it will make all the difference.