Angrath, the Flame-Chained
– Rivals of Ixalan
January 23, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 3.67
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
If you’re the type of player who’s ever wanted to call out something like “Avast!” or “Trim the mainsail!” while you activate a planeswalker loyalty ability – and if you haven’t, why the heck not? – Angrath is the guy for you. He’s also notable as a new planeswalker who’s just black and red, a color combination that is rather underserved in the planeswalker department, and for attacking along interesting lines. Repeatable hand disruption is one thing that recent sets have been lacking, and Angrath’s +1 ability goes well with various older cards by helping keep opponents’ cards-in-hand count low for things like Nyxathid or The Rack well into the late game. His ultimate not only feeds off that same +1, it also punishes other kinds of decks that want to use their graveyard. Granted, forcing a graveyard deck to discard on the way there may play into their plan to a certain extent, but it also means they have a pretty hard time limit for that plan.
In addition to a variation on Magic’s well-known Threaten effects, Angrath’s -3 ability is probably a reference to the common Age of Sail practice of press-ganging, or forcing people to join a pirate or navy ship’s crew. The fatality rate of people who had been press-ganged was probably comparable to the average fatality rate of Angrath’s -3 ability.
After several clues we finally get to see Angrath. Red – black was long overdue for a new Planeswalker. His cost and initial loyalty are pretty average. His first ability is a mini “Blightning”. By turn 5 most players wont have many cards left to discard but at least it hits all opponents. The second ability is a bit odd. Its “Act of Treason” with a sacrifice clause. I get that you want things to die to build up to a big ultimate but I guess Wizards thought it was too powerful as a strict kill spell. Although not an instant game win, If you somehow manage to get to 8 loyalty, Angrath will likely be dealing 8 – 12 damage when he pops. Multiply this several times in a multiplayer game. The biggest downside I can think of is that in a multiplayer game Angrath is going to generate a lot of hate and Rakdos isn’t good at protecting its cards against several threats.
Our first minotaur planeswalker, and he looks pissed. As an aside, I appreciate when we get those sort of “out-of-place” planeswalkers that hearken to old worlds or ones yet unseen: Tamiyo in both Innistrad blocks, Tezzeret in Kaladesh, Vraska in Ixalan, and now Mister Sunshine.
As I’ve said a whole ton of times, five mana is an awkward place for planeswalkers, their power ultimately being a bit low for their mana cost. Angrath is…not going to immediately confute that. Make no mistake, he’s pretty decent overall, but he still pales in comparison to other planeswalkers with higher mana costs.
His +1 is a weakened Blightning that scales well to multiplayer games, but his -3 is the major attraction. Yank one of their creatures for a turn…but they don’t get it back if it’s a weaker creature. The value is that it’s both a Threaten effect and removal in the same effect, giving Angrath a way to protect himself, but only binning creatures with converted mana cost 3 or less is awkward, as you would hope that your five-mana spell could answer a lot more. Still, that you can use this to take out a blocker and go for an alpha strike is very nifty, and there are enough small tribes in Ixalan block (everything but Dinosaurs) that you can find something to kill. And repeatable Threaten effects are nice, even if Angrath’s starting loyalty makes repeating it a bit awkward.
His ultimate folds to any and all graveyard removal, but it can definitely end the game if you get him that high. Don’t count on it, though.
I feel like Angrath will be okay. His effects are decent, but he’s crippled by a high mana cost and merely acceptable power overall. Pirates may try to make him work, since he’s a natural fit for the deck, but whether or not they succeed with Mister Sunshine is still up in the air.
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