Commander Deck Review – “Heavenly Inferno”

Posted by zach - June 15, 2011 - Blog - 1 Comment

To check out the full decklist for “Heavenly Inferno” look here.

Malfegor

Overview – Of all of the Commander decks that we’ve been previewing over the past few weeks, none are generating more buzz (or Google traffic) than “Heavenly Inferno”. Angels, dragons, and demons are three of the most beloved creature types, especially among casual players. “Heavenly Inferno” is a W/B/R deck that focuses on heavy-hitting aerial assaults with many creatures whose abilities will increase the strength of your assault or destroy your opponents defenses.

There are few players who won’t be excited about “Heavenly Inferno”, and it’s a great option for players who are more or less new to the game. The strategy is straightforward – no counters or tokens – just destruction to clear the way and gigantic creatures to deal the killing blow. Many creatures, such as Malfegor and Angel of Despair
Angel of Despair
, will both clear the way and be able to deal some serious damage, especially if Anger
Anger
, Boros Guildmage
Boros Guildmage
, or Lightning Greaves
Lightning Greaves
is available to give them haste.

Shattered Angel
Shattered Angel
, Congregate
Congregate
, and Lightkeep of Emeria
Lightkeep of Emeria
provide a bit of life gain if you’re in a fix, but in general you should be able to eliminate threats before they become dangerous with a plentiful removal suite including Terminate
Terminate
, Mortify
Mortify
, Path to Exile
Path to Exile
and board-wipers like Akroma’s Vengeance
Akroma’s Vengeance
, or the more advantageous Earthquake
Earthquake
and Cleansing Beam
Cleansing Beam
.

Commanders – “Heavenly Inferno’s” representative dragon is Oros, the Avenger, whose conditional combat ability deals 3 damage to each non-white creature. Unlike some of the other dragons, his ability jives really well with the overall focus of “Heavenly Inferno” which is basically “Go big or go home”. Oros is one of several ways to clear the battlefield of your opponents creatures, but he’s also heavy damage in the air and a dragon and therefore works well with Kaalia of the Vast and Bladewing the Risen
Bladewing the Risen
.

Kaalia, the primary commander of “Heavenly Inferno”, is cheap enough to hit the board early in the game and her ability, like Preeminent Captain
Preeminent Captain
, brings one of her friends out to play every time she attacks. This means that as early as turn four or five you can swing with Kaalia and Malfegor, or another fatty of your choosing. The problem with Kaalia is two-fold. First of all, she isn’t an angel (or demon). Secondly, she’s only a 2/2 which makes her vulnerable to almost every elimination spell your opponent might have, as well as a few of your board-clearers. 

While Kaalia’s ability is pretty straightforward, Tariel, the secondary commander, is a little more interesting. Tariel, Reckoner of Souls has a significantly larger body (4/7) and his vigilance allows him to swing and still use his ability during your second main phase, or even during your opponents turn to bring out a surprise blocker. I think I prefer Tariel to Kaalia on account of the flavor of the card. Tariel has a traditional angel name (Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel), though I’ll need someone to help me with the Hebrew. He also combines his component colors really well. From white he takes flying and vigilance (and of course his subtype), from black he takes a reanimator ability, and red throws in the chaos factor by making his reanimation of a creature random.

I think that, in the end, Kaalia is the best choice for a commander on account of her casting cost and ability, but if you’re going to search out a companion for her using Diabolic Tutor
Diabolic Tutor
, I recommend finding Tariel.

Akroma, Angel of FuryOld Favorites – Where to begin? “Heavenly Inferno” has a lot of oldies but goodies. I think the creature that most people will be excited about is Akroma, Angel of Fury. Her catalog of abilities is almost laughable, though not nearly so much so as Akroma, Angel of Wrath, which is a card that I will say right now NEEDS to be in your first “souped up” version of “Heavenly Inferno”. Of course, we would have liked to see her in the stock version, but you can’t have everything…

Bladewing the Risen
Bladewing the Risen
is another blast from the past that is guaranteed to please. No only does he bring a dragon from the graveyard back into play when he enters the battlefield, but his secondary ability will give you the ability to use mana in the late game to pump up every dragon you have on the field.

While the dragons, angels, and demons are fun they also have some great support from their more mundane companions. Duergar Hedge-Mage
Duergar Hedge-Mage
eliminates an artifact, enchantment, or both when he enters play. Mother of Runes
Mother of Runes
hands out protection to keep your threats on the board, forcing your opponent to use two spells to eliminate one fatty. Orzhov Guildmage
Orzhov Guildmage
, which probably warrants replacement, provides a way to chip away at your opponents’ life totals if your creatures have somehow been locked down and is a decent mana-outlet in the late game.

Boros
Boros Signet
, Orzhov
Orzhov Signet
, and Rakdos
Rakdos Signet
Signets will provide you with a bit of mana acceleration, as will Darksteel Ingot
Darksteel Ingot
, Sol Ring
Sol Ring
, and Armillary Sphere
Armillary Sphere
, and if your creatures still aren’t hitting the board fast enough there is plenty of creature elimination in this deck as well. 

New Hotness – In addition to the Commander standards (Vow of Malice
Vow of Malice
, Vow of Lightning
Vow of Lightning
, Vow of Duty
Vow of Duty
), there are a couple of powerful new spells that appear in “Heavenly Inferno”. Soul Snare
Soul Snare
is Swords to Plowshares
Swords to Plowshares
in enchantment form, with no additional drawback beyond the fact that your opponent can see it coming. Stranglehold is a red enchantment that curtails your opponents from taking part in the funny business that “Heavenly Inferno” shuns, that is, it prevents them from searching their libraries or taking extra turns.

Of course where “Heavenly Inferno” really shines is in its high-power creatures and the new additions are no exception. Archangel of Strife forces players to choose between “war or peace”, meaning they must choose to receive the angel’s universal offensive or defensive bonus. While this may not seem like a great aid to give your opponents, it is easily nullified by the fact that the greater part of your forces are airborne. Another good way to mitigate your opponents use of Archangel of Strife’s ability is to hardcast a Dread Cacodemon
Dread Cacodemon
which will destroy all of your opponents creatures. Alternatively, an Avatar of Slaughter, which gives all creatures double strike, will greatly benefit any player aggressive enough to choose war over peace.

Finally, the new two-color legend in “Heavenly Inferno” is Basandra, Battle Seraph
Basandra, Battle Seraph
, who prevents all players from playing spells during combat. This ability will ensure that your opponent “play it honest” and cast any instants during their first main phase if they want to pump their creatures in preparation for combat. For one red mana Basandra can also provoke one of your opponents creatures into attacking.

Suggested Alterations – “Heavenly Inferno” is built to please, but will allow you to switch up any angels, dragons, or demons for your personal favorites. Since Worldgorger Dragon is newly legal, he might be a fun one to experiment with. Also, there are certainly cheaper or more effective ways to clear a board than the options you’re given in “Inferno”, such as… Inferno
Inferno
… Adding a Wrath
Wrath of God
or Day of Judgment
Day of Judgment
plus a reanimator spell or two wouldn’t hurt either.

Verdict – This has probably been the most popular Commander deck during the spoiler season and for good reason. It’s a great deck for a beginner to play and it’s got a great nostalgia factor for the veteran players. To me it seems like “Heavenly Inferno” might have some problems if games go long and you are unable to topdeck a threat. However, the odds of a game going long with such an aggressive bunch of creatures is unlikely.

I’ll be interested to see how “Heavenly Inferno”‘s speed compares with the other decks and how well cards like Pyrohemia
Pyrohemia
will be able to stop token-driven assaults from “Counterpunch”.

Even if this deck doesn’t quite live up to its hype, it’s surely going to be a lot of fun to play, and it’ll provide new players with a lot of fun cards they may never have been able to experience before.

 


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