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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Apr 17 2007 7:42am
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by Nafiz Erman

Episode VII: "A Question of Faith"

Welcome dear readers to the 7th edition of Rogue Play, "A Question of Faith". In this article I will assume the role of an Orzhov Pontiff and I will be questioning your faith; within the boundaries of Magic of course. I will first deal with the faithful ones among you and then I will have a word or two for the faithless ones.

Our topic of the day is angels. Are they real or are they just mythological creatures? Can they be seen or are they some sort of spiritual beings? Or in the language of Magic; are they worth playing or are they just some other overcosted fatties, created to satisfy the Timmy in us?

 As your Orzhov Pontiff, I will answer these questions according to the Code of the Orzhov. We, the followers of Orzhova, the Church of Deals, believe that there can be no pure good or pure evil alone. We believe in the ultimate balance between them. We believe in the existence of both, together and bound to each other. Therefore our answers are never yes or no; they are rather both and none at the same time. What does this means now?

It means that  angels can be seen if you only know how to look. It means that they can be played in competitive decks if only you chose the right one(s) for the right deck. Playing Akroma, Angel of Wrath in combination with Dark Confidant may cause serious problems whereas Serra Avenger might be a better choice in such a deck. Or playing a Serra Angel in a Solar Flare deck will have no meaning at all for Angel of Despair is the right angel for that deck.

So let's get back to our topic. Do you believe in angels? You do? Good. We will see if you think like that after you read this.


I searched this word, Angellessness, on Google and there were only 3 results. So I proudly present you the new word I just created in English. Angellessness. Anyway...

Back to Magic...

After the release of Time Spiral, a three colour deck, known as Angelfire, has emerged.  It is a deck which has Lightning Angel in its core and even though there are many different variants of this deck, they all have this particular angel in their decklist. Lightning Angel and Demonfire give the deck its name; Angelfire.

Some aggro Angelfire variants run Bogardan Hellkite whereas some other more contol versions run Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. And the 3rd variant runs Detritivore and Boom/Bust which is a good choice considering the current meta which is full of 'Tron decks. But no matter which version, they all have 4x Lightning Angel in deck.

Bogardan Hellkite

Grand Arbiter Augustin IV


Aggro Angelfire

Control Angelfire

LD Angelfire

I had the idea of building a Red/White/Blue deck the moment I saw Lightning Angel on the spoiler list of Time Spiral. It was just so obvious. Blue for card drawing and counterspells, red for burn and white for Wrath of God. It was just so plain obvious! I bought my copies of Lightning Angels (the Apocalypse ones), build my deck and started playing it as extended(Time Spiral was not standard yet). Instead of Bogardan Hellkites, I had Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind in deck. I was so eagerly waiting for Time Spiral to be standard legal because I was 100% sure that I had the ultimate deck for the next generation of standard.

Well, it took only a few weeks for me to realize that I was not the only "genius"...

Suddenly all of the well known pros started posting similar decks every day and everywhere under the names of This Girl, That Woman or Those Nice Gulls Over There and after the first big event where this decktype performed very well, it wasen't a rogue deck anymore but it was rather a net deck. And this was a huge problem for me.

If you are following Rogue Play articles, then you know that I have my problems with netdecks. Instead of being one of them, I always try to find a way to beat them. So this was the problem for me. I just couldn't play a net deck. And even though I truely loved my own Angelfire deck, I just deleted the .dec file without hesitation and never ever played such a deck. Well, at least until recently.

As many of you also know, the Blink Riders deck in TSP Block is quite famous. It is yet another deck with Lightning Angel in its center, but other than being a block deck, that deck is also a Land Denial deck with cards like Avalanche Riders and Momentary Blink to abuse the "comes into play" ability of Avalanche Riders. With the additions of new Planar Chaos cards like Shivan Wumpus and Boom/Bust, which is being used in combination with Flagstones of Trokair, that deck is now even more nastier and deadlier than it was before.

And Blink Riders in standard is more or less the 3rd version of Angelfire decks I mentioned above; the LD one. The main idea is the same, Land Denial, but with a much better mana base and better support cards we have in standard like Wrath of God, Compulsive Research and Lightning Helix. I must admit that I like this version of Angelfire. And I was toying with it for some time(without anyone seing me playing a net deck of course!).

After I played the deck for a while within a group of friends of mine, I started modifying the deck. But at the begining it was more like "one copy of this goes out and one copy of that goes in" style. But when I was finished with modifications, it turned out to be something else. The deck still was a Red/White/Blue deck, it still had Lightning Helix, Wrath of God or Compulsive Research but there were no Lightning Angels or Demonfires! So it wasen't Angelfire anymore. It was something else. Actually it was this:


Wumpus Ate The Angel, A STD Deck, by Lord Erman

23 Lands

3x Mountain
2x Plains
1x Adarkar Wastes
3x Battlefield Forge
1x Boros Garrison
3x Hallowed Fountain
4x Sacred Foundry
2x Steam Vents
4x Flagstones of Trokair

11 Creatures

4x Shivan Wumpus
4x Avalanche Riders
2x Detritivore
1x Numot, the Devastator 

6 Artifacts

1x Azorius Signet
3x Boros Signet
2x Izzet Signet

20 Other Spells

3x Lightning Helix
2x Momentary Blink
4x Boom/Bust
4x Compulsive Research
4x Cryoclasm
3x Wrath of God 

15 Cards Sideboard

3x Tormod's Crypt
3x Disenchant
4x Honorable Passage
1x Lightning Helix
1x Wrath of God
3x Repeal

Shivan Wumpus

First of all let's get one thing clear: If This Girl or Gaea's Might Get There or even Soggy Pickles can be deck names, then my Wumpus Ate The Angel is a perfect one! I will accept no criticism on that one, sorry!

I am sure you are already asking yourself this question: Isn't this is a combination of Angelfire and Blink Riders? Yes it is true. I somehow combined the two decks. I didn't do so on purpose but at the end it turned out to be a hybrid deck!

I'm also sure that you have some doubts on Shivan Wumpus. But what did I tell you at the beginning? I said that angels can be played in the right deck. The same is true for wumpuses as well! And I think that this is the perfect deck for Shivan Wumpus.

Shivan Wumpus needs support. It is a useless card when played while your opponent has over a dozen lands in play. But this deck provides it all the support it needs. Avalanche Riders, Detritivore, Boom/Bust, Cryoclasm and even the mighty dragon Numot, the Devastator. When you play your Shivan Wumpus, it is always a lose/lose situation for your opponent, trust me.

The deck does well against all tier 1 decks. It is not like that I won 99% of my games but I wasen't dissapointed with the results either. If you can put your opponent under early pressure, then you will most probably win. But even if you are the defending side, this deck has a lot to offer in terms of protection.

One small piece of advise I may give is this: Do not play all your lands. If you have 6 mana in front of you including signets, that will be sufficent. Do not forget that your aim is to use Boom/Bust to its full capacity. When all lands are gone and you have like 3 or even better 4 signets in front of you and also 2 or 3 lands in hand, victory is inevitable.

So you the faithful believer, what do you think of angels now? You have seen that a deck named Angelfire can also work without angels quite well. You remain silent? Well that counts as an answer for me. And you the faithless one over there, do not laugh for it is now your turn. And I bet that you will not be laughing after you read this.


If it is about angels and if they are everywhere, then this means only one thing; APOCALYPSE HAS COME! It is the end of the world! We're all going to die!!!

Uhm, I'm sorry about that. I lost my control for a second.

Well, let me start again. If it is about angels and if they are eveywhere then this means only one thing; a tribal angel deck! Well of course, why not? If -as your Orzhov Pontiff- I am to convert those non-believers, then what better way is there other than an angel tribal deck? I can think of none.

 I like Tribal Wars and I play it from time to time. But I am nowhere near being a master of this format. But lucky for me, I know someone who is; AJ_Impy of course. I have also the privilege of being his clan mate and when I came up with this week's theme, angels, I talked with him and asked for his opinion about an angel tribal deck. Without his contribution, I couldn't build the below deck, believe me. He also helped me a lot in gathering all the information about the meta of this format. So in front of you all, I thank him again for his help.

The biggest challenge in this format is that no sideboard is allowed. So you have to deal with every single threat with the main deck. And this can be VERY hard in some certain situations. There are tons of different types of decks out there and to deal with every single one of them, one needs to have good skills in deck building and certain knowledge about the meta.

(Some of the) Powerful Decks in Tribal Wars

Martyr of Sands

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

Krovikan Mist

The ugly MartyrTron deck

Mono red humans with Blood Moon

Mono blue illusions

The list, which also includes Angels, is actually longer but I think that those 3 decks are the most important ones. 

Anyway here is my angels deck:

Erman's Angels, A STD Tribal Wars Deck, by Lord Erman

23 Lands

1x Mountain
3x Plains
1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3x Blood Crypt
1x Boros Garrison
4x Godless Shrine
1x Orzhov Basilica
1x Rakdos Carnarium
4x Sacred Foundry
4x Flagstones of Trokair

22 Creatures

4x Angel of Despair
2x Blinding Angel
4x Firemane Angel
4x Serra Avenger
2x Akroma, Angel of Fury
2x Akroma, Angel of Wrath
2x Adarkar Valkyrie
2x Dimir House Guard 

3 Artifacts

1x Boros Signet
2x Orzhov Signet

12 Other Spells

1x Leyline of the Void 
1x Faith's Fetters
1x Hide/Seek
1x Lightning Helix
1x Mortify
2x Persecute
4x Wrath of God
1x Dread Return


The Shuffler
A Lot of Faith
Some Playing Experience


Now you may wonder what those 1 of's are doing in deck. Well, one lesson the mighty AJ_Impy taught me is this: in a format where I am not allowed to have a sideboard, all those 1 of's ARE actually my sideboard. And playtesting proved that he is 100% right.

Angels are so beautiful. And they are so powerful as well. Once they hit the board, nothing can stop them. And exactly this is the problem; making them hit the board! Good things are not cheap and angels are no exception. Therefore the most important thing is that you somehow stay alive until that late phase of the game. And if you for one second look at the deck list above, you will see my definition of "somehow" there under the Other Spells section.

As you see, almost all of my support cards in deck are 4 mana cost spells. Wrath of God, Dread Return, Persecute, Leyline of the Void, Hide/Seek and Faith's Fetters. So I don't think that I must tell you the reason why I added Dimir House Guard to the deck.

During playtest, I almost only played against really fast aggro decks. Some Red/White Boros Deck Wins variants, some Black/White/Blue Knights led by Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, Black/Green Zombies supported by Grave Pact and some mono-green Elf decks. And I proudly tell you that other than a few games in which I had terrible mana problems, my deck was victorious against them all! During almost all of those games, my life total first dropped below 5 and only then I started playing and won those games from that point.

I also played against mono-blue Illusions a few times and only 1 time against MartyrTron and lost none of those games as well. Persecute just simply kills the MartyrTron decks and the "fast and furious" Akroma, Angel of Fury is an uncounterable and unstopable killing machine against Illusions.

So you the faithless one over there, what do... Hey! Faithless one! Where are you?! He's gone! I bet he's off to prey in Orzhova, the Church of Deals after reading this. But he went there without knowing the most important thing about our church. As the flavor text says:

"Unlike most churches, at Orzhova it's best to pray before you arrive."

I bet our beautiful and heartless Teysa, Orzhov Scion will turn him into a Bat Token to serve for our ferocious Skeletal Vampire. Ah well, whatever...

Okay dear readers, that is all for this week. What did we learned in this article? We learned that every card can be useful if only we use them in the right deck. We saw this in the example of a "so-so" rare such as Shivan Wumpus, which turned into a monster in the right deck. We also learned that truely overcosted fatties like Angels can be devastating if played properly with the proper support cards.

And by the way let me remind you that my goal here is NOT to "break" some reject rares and use them in pure Johnny-ish decks, but to show you different and -if possible- interesting and fun ways for having at least a fair chance against those tier 1 decks. This is what  Rogue Play is all about in case you didn't know that already.

Okay dear readers, thanks for reading this week's edition of Rogue Play. I don't know whether this article changed your point of view about angels or not, but let me tell you that I've had great time while preparing this week's edition and while testing those two decks. I enjoyed all my games so much and I can only hope that I was succesful in reflecting my joy through this column to you.

Until next time and never stop believing in... whatever you are believing in!

Take Care,
Nafiz ERMAN, a.k.a. Lord Erman



by jinx_talaris at Tue, 04/17/2007 - 08:06
jinx_talaris's picture

Hey man, great stuff. This article pretty much has everything you can ask for. Useful insight, valid strategy, and an enormous amount of personality. Keep up the good work.

by Kenny4077 at Tue, 04/17/2007 - 08:13
Kenny4077's picture

Great Article! I'm very impressed and its nice to see someone besides me working on ways to beat net decks, not become them. Great names for your decks too.

haunt ability by goose0021 (not verified) at Sat, 10/17/2009 - 16:55
goose0021's picture

how does the haunt ability work in the code of the orzhov work i dont quite understand it

Blimey, this was a long while by AJ_Impy at Sat, 10/17/2009 - 20:01
AJ_Impy's picture

Blimey, this was a long while ago.