This week is going to be a bit different from my normal deck-editing columns. For the past few months a friend of mine named Erika has been learning to play Magic, primarily by borrowing EDH decks from a few different people in our playgroup. She recently decided it was time to build her first deck and turned to me for help.

Since we’re starting from scratch, I don’t have a decklist to build on. Instead I’ve got a strict hundred-dollar budget to stay within, knowledge of the decks she’ll be competing against, and a simple mission: Build a disruptive R/W creature deck with lots of Angels.

The first step was choosing the commander, and I’m not going to beat around the bush. (You all read the title after all.) The simple matter is, Aurelia is hands-down the best commander within the admittedly narrow parameters of Red and White Legendary Angels. Razia is unplayable, Basandra and Anya are fairly lackluster, and while Gisela is indisputably powerful she’s comparable to Aurelia in terms of the damage increase you get, and seven mana’s just a bit more than I want.


Unfortunately the place where budget restrictions hit us hardest is the manabase. There’s just no way I can justify six dollars for Clifftop Retreat, let alone some of the more expensive dual lands. Instead I’ll be using common/uncommon duals for a manabase that’s a little slower but hopefully just as consistent:

Evolving Wilds, Wind-Scarred Crag, Terramorphic ExpanseBoros GuildgateStone QuarryBoros GarrisonVivid Crag, Vivid Meadow, Naya PanoramaSunhome, Fortress of the Legion, Command Tower, Ash Barrens

Nothing here really needs explanation. There’s a few dual lands (and two quasi-duals in the Vivid lands), some fetches that find whatever basic lands we want, and a solid utility land in the form of Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion. Double strike is way to much value to pass up on, and I felt it was a good use for our one utility land.

I want 37 lands in the deck, so with 12 slots filled the rest will be filled with basics. The Angels will bias the deck towards white but we still need to be fairly balanced on colors, so 13 Plains and 12 Mountains are perfect.


This is a creature-based deck that’s aiming to win in combat, so we want to spend most of the budget on creatures and play as many of them as we can. As such I’ll go through them in several sections.


Something I knew going in is that I wouldn’t be able to build a deck that’s objectively faster or more powerful than the competition with the available budget. Instead, I’ll be aiming for a style similar to Death and Taxes, with creatures that disrupt the opponent while providing a quick clock. This first group of creatures all do something to shut down, tax, or punish a particular strategy or type of card:

Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Archangel of Tithes, Angel of JubilationBlinding AngelAngel of FinalityAngelic Arbiter, Ryusei, the Falling StarSpirit of the LabyrinthSunblast AngelHushwing GryffToctali Honor GuardGuardian SeraphGuardian of the GatelessFlameblade Angel

Big Bodies

These are included to be big bodies for the cost. The first three grow insanely large over time, while Anya starts as a reasonably costed flyer and eventually grows into an indestructible abomination:

Sunscorch Regent, Taurean MaulerHerald of WarAnya, Merciless Angel

Better Combat

This section is loosely based around things that change how combat works:

Angelic Skirmisher, Mother of RunesForgestoker DragonIroas, God of Victory, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

Angelic Skirmisher grants keywords every combat—note that it triggers during each combat, including your opponent’s combat step and Aurelia’s secondary attack phase. Mother of Runes plays merry havoc with combat math, removal spells, and damaged-based sweepers. Forgestoker Dragon is an often overlooked gem that easily suppresses blockers and lets you punch damage through whatever air defenses your opponents may have. Iroas means you never lose creatures while attacking while Gisela essentially means you take four times less damage than your opponents. (Or they take four times as much as you, either way.)

Card Advantage

Our last two creatures are included to combat the fatal weakness of R/W: Card advantage.

Dragon MageDream Pillager

Now I’ll be including more on this topic in a later section, but for the longest time Boros was a basically unplayable color combo. That is because aggro is hard to pull off in a multiplayer format and anything with Blue, Black and to a lesser extent Green could bury decks without them under a mountain of drawn cards. However, that just isn’t the case anymore. A lot of the cards are clunky and more expensive than the versions other colors have, but Red has no shortage of card advantage engines now. Dragon Mage and Dream Pillager cost a hefty seven mana apiece, but they each have to potential to keep you well ahead on cards.


A side effect of having “Angels” be one of our main themes is that the curve of this deck is quite high. With the exception of a few hate bears we don’t have many creatures below four mana, so I wanted to include a sizable ramp package so we can start casting relevant spells faster:

Sol RingMana FlarePalladium MyrWorn PowerstoneBoros SignetFire DiamondMarble DiamondGold MyrIron MyrBoros Cluestone

For the most part these are simple mana rocks ranging from mediocre to broken (hello Sol Ring), but it’s worth talking about Mana Flare.

Since Mana Flare doubles both your and your opponents’ mana, it’s an extremely high risk, high reward card. At the same time, I know that Ericka usually plays in 1v1 games and many of the decks she plays against don’t fully benefit from such a boost in mana. It’s still a dangerous tool, but not one that will immediately backfire.

Card Draw

These are the card advantage engines I was talking about earlier:

Outpost SiegeOracle’s VaultVance’s Blasting CannonsSunbird’s Invocation

None of them technically draw cards, but all four of them dig deeper into your deck, giving you a turn to cast the exiled cards. For a deck with very few reactive cards like this, that’s good enough. And in the case of Oracle’s Vault and Sunbird’s Invocation, you can cast the cards for free. It’s worth noting that it’s nearly impossible to transform Vance’s Blasting Cannons in this deck, but even if the three-spells condition is somehow met it would be smart to decline the transformation trigger in most cases.

Removal & Combat Tricks

Here’s a list of cards you don’t see me include too often:

ComeuppanceEthereal HazeHoly DayReflect DamageBoros Fury-ShieldRootborn DefensesLegion’s JudgmentReprisalImmolating GlareShattering PulseAllay, Disenchant

Anyone who’s read my articles in the past knows that I usually don’t like playing cards like Fog or Naturalize. I prefer dedicating those resources to strengthening a deck’s primary gameplan. Here, however, there are a few factors that made me take a different approach.

The big one is our budget. As much as I would like to cram the deck full of Baneslayer Angel and the like, there simply isn’t a way to make that work when you need to be averaging a dollar per card. Even as it is, our best handful of threats take up about a third of our budget, and I had to scrape for every cent to make Linvala, Keeper of Silence fit in the deck. Utility cards get you much greater relevance for their price tag.

The other reason is Craterhoof Behemoth. Green decks are everywhere, they’re strong, and they usually aim to crush their opponents in one massive turn fueled by the aforementioned Beast, Overwhelming Stampede or a similar effect. A well timed Holy Day or Ethereal Haze can completely negate the best turn your opponent is capable of for minimal cost, and Comeuppance can straight-out kill the person attacking you. What’s more, once they get used to you having access to these cards, you can make your opponent play more cautiously by holding up a single white mana.

Since we’re a creature-based deck, I included Rootborn Defenses to keep our board through a Wrath. I didn’t have the budget for Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile; but Legion’s Judgment, Reprisal, and Immolating Glare are kill spells with low cost and minimal limitations. They should be able to take out most creatures we care about.

When it comes to artifacts and enchantments, we’ve got no such limitation. Disenchant is a fine and simple card that deals with a huge variety of problematic permanents, but the real gems are Allay and Shattering Pulse. They’re more limited in their targets as Allay only hits enchantments and Shattering Pulse is limited to artifacts, but the inherent card advantage of Buyback can’t be overstated. In one-on-one games it isn’t hard to use these to make sure your opponent can’t keep a single artifact or enchantment on the battlefield.


We are building a white deck, after all:

RoutDescent of DragonsDay of Judgment

I needed the deck to have several ways to deal with opponents who get out of the gate faster than us or simply develop an overwhelming battlefield. A trio of Wraths do the trick. Day of Judgment and Rout are pretty simple and self explanatory. Nuke the field, start over.

Descent of Dragons works a bit differently. Essentially any creature your opponents have that’s better that a 4/4 flyer gets turned into a Dragon, while and creatures you control weaker than that benchmark also become 4/4s. It’s a card that fares poorly against token swarms, but gives you the unique ability to deal with all of your opponents best threats at once without harming your own.


And finally we have a group of five cards that don’t quite fit into the other classifications I’ve been going over:

Sulfuric VortexAlways Watching, Assemble the LegionGhostly PrisonGratuitous Violence

Sulfuric Vortex shuts down lifegain decks and makes Wellwisher useless. Assemble the Legion seems pretty innocuous, but if left alone it can take over a game with an endless stream of tokens. Always Watching pumps almost every creature in your deck and means you never have to choose between offense and defense. Ghostly Prison makes swarming you all but impossible and buys you a ton of time to win a race with your flyers.

And finally we come to Gratuitous Violence. This has been one of my pet cards for years, and a recent reprinting has dropped the price a lot. Unlike Furnace of Rath, Dictate of the Twin Gods, and most other cards like this; Gratuitous Violence only doubles the damage that your creatures deal, meaning it can never backfire on you. It isn’t as important in this deck, but it’s worth noting that it doubles noncombat damage as well, as long as the damage is being dealt by creatures and not spells or other permanents. Even with limited use in this deck, with it in play Firemane Avenger shoots creatures for six whenever it attacks, which is pretty scary to think about.

Adding it Up

Normally I’d say it’s time for the decklist and additions here, but since the two lists are the same this time, here’s the full decklist, with every card sorted by price.

13 Plains            0
12 Mountain            0
1 Evolving Wilds        0.15
1 Wind-Scarred Crag        0.15
1 Boros Cluestone        0.15
1 Boros Fury-Shield        0.15
1 Allay                0.15
1 Disenchant            0.15
1 Legion’s Judgement        0.15
1 Terramorphic Expanse    0.25
1 Boros Guildgate        0.25
1 Stone Quarry            0.25
1 Marble Diamond        0.25
1 Guardian of the Gateless    0.25
1 Boros Keyrune        0.25
1 Gold Myr            0.25
1 Iron Myr            0.25
1 Reprisal            0.25
1 Boros Garrison        0.29
1 Vivid Crag            0.29
1 Vivid Meadow        0.29
1 Naya Panorama        0.29
1 Fire Diamond            0.35
1 Boros Signet            0.35
1 Shattering Pulse        0.39
1 Firemane Avenger        0.49
1 Flameblade Angel        0.49
1 Guardian Seraph        0.49
1 Shattered Angel        0.49
1 Outpost Seige            0.49
1 Dragon Mage            0.49
1 Dream Pillager        0.49
1 Forgestoker Dragon        0.49
1 Palladium Myr        0.49
1 Worn Powerstone        0.49
1 Sunscorch Regent        0.49
1 Oracle’s Vault            0.49
1 Tocatli Honor Guard        0.49
1 Hushwing Gryff        0.49
1 Immolating Glare        0.49
1 Holy Day            0.49
1 Sunblast Angel        0.59
1 Taurean Mauler        0.59
1 Angelic Skirmisher        0.69
1 Gratuitious Violence        0.69
1 Rout                0.69
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion    0.75
1 Rootborn Defenses        0.15
1 Spirit of the Labyrinth        0.79
1 Sulfuric Vortex        0.79
1 Vance’s Blastinc Cannons    0.79
1 Always Watching        0.89
1 Angelic Arbiter        0.99
1 Ryusei, the Falling Star    0.99
1 Reflect Damage        0.99
1 Ethereal Haze            0.99
1 Sunbird’s Invocation        1.25
1 Assemble the Legion        1.49
1 Comeuppance        1.75
1 Command Tower        1.99
1 Angel of Finality        1.99
1 Anya, Merciless Angel        1.99
1 Herald of War            1.99
1 Mother of Runes        1.99
1 Descent of Dragons        1.99
1 Ash Barrens            2.49
1 Mana Flare            2.49
1 Day of Judgment        2.49
1 Angel of Jubilation        2.99
1 Blinding Angel            2.99
1 Ghostly Prison        2.99
1 Sol Ring            3.99
1 Iroas, God of Victory        4.99
1 Archangel of Tithes        4.99
1 Aurelia, the Warleader    5.99
1 Gisela, Blade of Goldnight    7.99
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence    12.99
Total                98.57

The whole deck adds up to $98.57, a dollar and some cents under budget. I’m pretty happy with where it wound up. It’s far from being competitive, but it’s capable of powerful plays and should be able to put up a fight against almost every deck it’ll be put up against. In short, it’s just about the perfect place for a new player to start, without breaking the bank.

If you want your deck to be featured in a future Dear Azami, send the decklist to, along with a brief description of what issues the deck is having and what budget you want me to work with.

Levi Byrne has been with the game since Worldwake and has a rabid love for fantasy writing that goes back decades. Despite some forays into Legacy he plays Commander almost exclusively, and has a love for the crazy plays and huge games that make Magic what it is. He was the go-to advisor of his playgroup on deck construction for more than five years before joining Dear Azami.

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