September 5, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 4.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
There was a period in the middle of Magic’s first reboot of core sets – M11 and M12, just to be clear – where the predominant design philosophy seemed to be that six-mana creatures needed to have a whole bunch of comes-into-play abilities to be any good. The existence of cards like Pristine Angel should have told us all something different. She’s less blatantly powerful than M11 and M12 creatures in some ways, with no abilities that generate card advantage so aggressively. Yet there are decks that simply can’t beat her, and there are decks that have enough instants to make sure she’s always untapped even without the benefit of equipment or other cards that grant vigilance. There are decks that can’t attack when she’s in play, and there are decks that can’t block her when her controller is on the ascendancy. The fact that no competitive decks play her is more of a statement on competitive Magic than anything else – Pristine Angel will always be a great card.
Pristine Angel is a card that can be deceptively hard to answer, due to its two abilities. It normally has protection from artifacts and all colors (and flying), but it can untap whenever you cast a spell. This means that, as long as you have spells, you can thwart attempts to answer Pristine Angel with kill spells or the like. While a 4/4 isn’t normally insurmountable, a 4/4 that’s nearly impossible to kill is a taller order!
Of course, Pristine Angel isn’t completely unkillable; protection doesn’t shield it from non-targeting effects (like Day of Judgment), and its protection does fall in the absence of instant-speed spells. The addition of colorless spells that aren’t artifacts (like the Battle for Zendikar-block colorless and devoid spells) is another thing that can make her life harder. You can use things like Always Watching to make it always vigilant, which helps, and you can still make her work in an imperfect set-up. Six mana is a bit slow for Constructed, especially for a 4/4 that needs time to win, but she does rude things outside of Constructed formats (and would likely dominate Standard).
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