Modern – Blue White Angels Primer
With the bannings in modern still being fairly fresh and the last few PTQs and GP San Diego on the horizon, I want to discuss my favorite modern deck: UW Angels, which took me to my first GP Top 8 earlier this season. While the deck flew under the radar for most of the modern season, either being overshadowed by the newer and flashier UWR Version coming out of MtGO which took down GP Bilbao, people opting to run slower, more controlling versions of the deck or just abandoning it entirely feeling they can’t compete with Jund’s power, I was still convinced that even after all this happened in the format that the deck was very good, if not the best choice.
When UWR took over MtGO I initially thought it might be a strictly better UW, as did my teammate Ari Lax when we talked a bit about modern leading up to GP Bilbao a while ago. I thought about it a little more and went over the matchups while discussing which of UW Angels, UWR and my rogue RG GoyfDeckWins (which carried me into a PTQ T8 earlier), I should play in Bilbao. When I have more than one deck I like a lot, it usually becomes near impossible for me to decide which one to play on my own, and I appreciate a friend who’s opinion I trust, to help me decide or even decide for me.
Ari and I noticed that it is actually likely that UW Angels is a more well-rounded deck than UWR and I’ll explain why: UW is more consistant, overall more powerful and has more flexible cards, and also a better manabase—taking less damage, getting to run more spell lands while being less likely to be manascrewed. In short, UWR has a lot more removal and cheap spells where UW has more powerful and flexible spells. This mostly makes the already favorable matchups of UW (such as Jund, Pod, Infect or Affinity) even more favorable for UWR, but the fairly narrow burn spells make the closer and tougher matchups a lot worse. Most of UW’s matchups are around +/- 50%, with some clear stomps against particularly fragile strategies like Storm (before the bannings) or Eggs.
So the conclusion was: why play a deck with more variable matchups in such a wide format unless you know you’re almost only going to play against these exact decks? The reason I like modern and think have been successful in it is because I prefer to play flexible, well-rounded, proactive decks that do not lose to most of the random decks that people end up playing; sure there is some kind of metagame and a couple of heavily played decks, but a GP is 16+ rounds and if you run into one of those tier 2 or 3 decks that your decks strategy is soft to once too often then you are done. UW still has similar, even if less pronounced strength as UWR, while being more flexible and well-rounded across the board and also more stable.
So this is what I played the last time I played the deck in Bilbao to a T64 finish largely due to playing very poorly multiple times and punting at least 2 of my the matches. I was very happy with the list and how it played out. Aside from my poor play it seemed perfectly positioned.
I think the deck only got better with the bannings. Jund losing the card advantage and tempo engine of Bloodbraid Elf on turn four, or even turn three, instead has to do mediocre things that potentially even lose to a Mana Leak, because of the loss of tempo. And to be fair I already liked where I was at versus Jund in Bilbao, pretty consistently beating them 2-1 in matches. Game one seemed dead- even after reasonable amounts of testing and post-sideboard UW gets to improve more than Jund because Jund needs to devote more slots to hate cards to beat the unfair decks in the format that UW is a lot better positioned against. While we lost a good matchup in Storm, our Jund matchup improved further, and in the pseudo-mirror vs UWR we have Spell Snares and Restoration Angels where they have Lightning Bolt. The fact that Modern turned a bit back into wild wild west in terms of decks profits a dynamic, proactive deck like UW which can also tearing through untuned versions of the majority of brews fairly easily.
So where to go from there? I would say not very far but we certainly need some adjustments.
The only maindeck change is swapping the one-of Spellskite for the 4th Spell Snare to adapt a bit to the rise of RG Emissary Aggro and Jund embracing Putrid Leech. It also seems that we might have reached the point where