Conditions Allow - Archangel Avacyn EDH
Avacyn, the Purifier by James Ryman
Embrace the Dark Side
Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the article series where I take a card with a drawback and build a deck to turn it into a strength. I'm thrilled to once again be on Innistrad, so to follow up last week's article on Jerren and Ormendahl, I thought I'd tackle one of my favorite Innistrad legends this week. For a long time I wasn't sure what to do with her, but I think I've finally settled on a deck for Archangel Avacyn.
This particular version of Avacyn represents the angel after escaping the Helvault, restoring the hope of the humans of Innistrad. But the hope that that Archangel Avacyn brings is fleeting, just like the indestructible she grants. Once a turn has passed, and one of your non-Angel creatures dies, she flips into Avacyn, the Purifier. When she does, she deals three damage to each other creature and each of your opponents. This mini board wipe deals with opposing tokens and utility creatures, but my real interest here is that free Lightning Bolt to each of your opponents. If you can transform Archangel Avacyn enough times, she will slowly burn your opponents' life totals away.
That is easier said than done, though. While un-transforming Avacyn is as simple as blinking your commander, continually finding creatures to sacrifice is more tricky. Boros isn't known for its necromantic abilities, but does still have a trick or two up its sleeve. Dealing only three damage is a bit slow, as well. Luckily, Red and White are very good at increasing and amplifying damage.
The center piece of this deck is a core of flicker effects that ensure you can transform and re-transform Archangel Avacyn. Instants are great for this because of their flexibility, and because they can be found with Sunforger. As a bonus, they can also protect your other creatures from Avacyn's purification. Flicker of Fate and Cloudshift both return your commander to the battlefield right away, giving your team indestructible before the damage is applied. On the other hand, Eerie Interlude simply exiles all your creatures until the danger has passed, retriggering your Wall of Omenses and Dockside Extortionists for extra value. The printing of Ardent Elementalist even makes it possible to immediately return Eerie Interlude to your hand, and keep the loop going.
Sometimes, though, simplest is best. If your goal is to flicker a creature, then look no further than Teleportation Circle and Conjurer's Closet. Need to flicker Avacyn, the Purifier? They can do it. Need to flicker Wall of Omens to draw removal? They can do it. No need for extra cards, they just get it done. Which isn't to say that they don't have some additional synergies. Teleportation Circle can also flicker artifacts, potentially untapping Arcane Signet so you can keep Swords to Plowshares on defense. Resetting Tome of Legends is also really good, letting you draw two cards per turn.
To round out the flicker effects, I have one more enchantment and two creatures. Eldrazi Displacer is particularly strong, because it can also blink Archangel Avacyn in response to her transform trigger to give itself indestructible with Avacyn's effect. Gift of Immortality is slightly less intuitive. When a permanent transforms, it doesn't actually leave the battlefield so equipment and aura's attacked to it will stay attached. This means you can enchant Archangel Avacyn with Gift of Immortality, transform her, and then sacrifice her to bring her back on her front face once more. Or, if you've already got Teleportation Circle in play, you can enchant another creature, and use Gift of Immortality to bring it back and transform Avacyn again and again.
A Grim Betrayal
Not all of your creatures need a gift of immortality, though. Neither Squee, Goblin Nabob nor Squee, the Immortal appear on Archangel Avacyn's EDHREC page, but both should. They each return themselves from your graveyard, and are this deck's most consistent source of sacrifices. To find them as often as possible, I'm also including Imperial Recruiter, Recruiter of the Guard, and Search for Glory. You can swap in Thalia's Lancers as a budget alternative, or for an additional search effect.
Another way to find creatures to sacrifice is to create them. Blessed Sanctuary and Genesis Chamber both give you a token creature whenever another non-token creature enters the battlefield. Genesis Chamber also gives your opponents tokens, though, so be careful against other, more focused blink decks. Blessed Sanctuary is much stronger, as it also prevents all non-combat damage dealt to your creatures. This lets you continue blinking Priest of Ancient Lore, and keep Mentor of the Meek in play. Combined with Teleportation Circle each lets you transform Archangel Avacyn on each of your turns.
Finally, I have to mention a few ways to actually bring creatures back from the grave. Sun Titan is the premier piece of white recursion. If you look through the creatures in the decklist below, you'll notice that almost every one has a mana value of three or less. With Avacyn, the Purifier clearing away blockers, Sun Titan can attack to bring back Wall of Omens for card draw, or Charming Prince to blink Avacyn. Cheap creatures also synergize well with Sigil of the New Dawn, so you can cast them and still pay to return them to your hand when they die.
Burn it to the Ground
Now that you have a way to blink Archangel Avacyn and a steady stream of creatures to sacrifice, the final step is to increase the damage she deals when she transforms. Three damage at a time simply won't end the game. The classic approach is to simply multiply all the damage you deal. Fiery Emancipation triples your damage output to nine damage to each opponent every time Avacyn transforms. It also stacks with other damage multipliers, like Dictate of the Twin Gods. With both in play, Avacyn, the Purifier will deal eighteen damage to each opponent every time she transforms.
One problem with dealing that much damage is that it kills your own creatures that would otherwise survive. Sun Titan is a key piece of recursion, and Flumph is an adorable and amusing draw engine. In order to keep them alive, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell only increases the damage dealt to your opponents, and creatures they control. Even better is Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. Combine Gisela with Fiery Emancipation, you can limit the damage Archangel Avacyn deals to your creatures to three. Gisela reduces the initial damage by 2 (1.5 rounded up), which is tripled back up to three. Meanwhile, your opponents and all their creatures will be taking the full eighteen.
It's also worth noting that combat damage dealt by either face of Archangel Avacyn counts as commander damage. And with three damage being dealt to each opponent on your turn, you can spread your attacks around, rather than having to focus on one player at a time like most Voltron decks. The goal is to win with Avacyn's transform trigger, attacking is an important element of keeping life totals low.
Rounding out the deck with ramp and a some interaction gives us this final list.
Archangel Avacyn EDH
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Archangel Avacyn is one of my favorite legendary creatures, and I think this deck does her justice. It skirts the line between a blink and sacrifice deck, and may surprise anyone more familiar with Angel tribal versions of the deck. Those tend to focus on using Avacyn to protect their big creatures, while this list really just wants to transform her as many times as possible. Because of the timing restrictions on that ability, Archangel Avacyn won't ever be as fast as traditional aristocrats decks, but she can be explosive enough to make up for it.