When it comes to Redemption sets, Angel Wars is not high on most players’ rankings. From varying opinions on the artwork to a lot of concepts that may have been before their time, there are several things about the set that make players largely avoid most of the set when it comes to deckbuilding.
Aside from the Romans 3:23 “Revealer” Lost Soul and I am Holy, there are few cards from the set that routinely make top deck lists – certainly few if any characters, good or evil. For awhile at least Michael from Angel Wars was the preferred option for people that wanted to use Silver, but ever since the Daniel theme began with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and on through Nebuchadnezzar (TP), Daniel (P), and up to now with The Foretelling Angel, the Kings version increased in popularity. And even in decks that wanted to use an NT Mike, but where it didn’t make a big difference whether he was warrior-class or not, people would often elect to use the much-cooler artwork version from Warriors.
The Panic Demons and Obsidian Minions were intriguing but it was less than 2 years after Angel Wars was released that the Priests set introduced the orange brigade which reduced the value of most non-orange demons. Any intrigue provided by the aforementioned characters was diminished considerably.
People may have used some of the Panic demons individually to help out the theme of whatever defense they used (the gold Panic Demon in a deck discard deck, or the pale green Panic Demon to combo with Death of Unrighteous for paralyzing plays, etc.) but the idea of using them for the band abilities was just not common. Small numbers and a negatable band ability just made them largely unappealing. One of the common phrases associated with a small Evil Character playing a soul-manipulation enhancement (such as Death of Unrighteous) is “chump block”. So in essence, the best use for Panic Demons was literally to be “chumps”.
In 2008 the promo Panic Demon was released and may have piqued the interest of a few players. But even to me it just seemed like another gimmick designed to add some flair to a non-popular theme. Then, in 2009, The Gates of Hell and Wandering Spirit were introduced. Still, all of these primarily benefited orange demons, so while by this point a Panic Demon defense could be certainly be viable I think they were mostly looked past because, as I said, Angel Wars as a whole was never given much of a chance aside from the few ubiquitous cards I mentioned near the beginning. The game continued to develop new ideas and new themes and few gave the chumps more than a passing thought.
A Seed is Sown
Fast forward to post-Nats in 2011. I can’t recall exactly who started the topic, or why, but someone brought up the idea that Panic Demons were not really used and wanted to see what ideas people could come up with to make a deck from them. A few ideas were posted but I didn’t see anything that really stuck out. However, the topic got me thinking: While a Type 1 deck probably wouldn’t be able to utilize Panic Demons very effectively, Type 2 might provide a much more interesting format.
Individually, none of the Panic Demons were all that intimidating. But if you could get a bunch of them together, with 4 copies of the orange Panic Demons around to make their band abilities CBN, they might be somewhat imposing. Add in a few copies of Wandering Spirit to keep them around (or at least on the bottom of your deck where they could be retrieved by Wandering Spirit and/or The Gates of Hell) and you have the beginning of a pretty nice defense. Most commonly used battle winners only targeted one or a few ECs at a time and even the ones that could target more, such as Authority of Christ (P) and Trumpet Blast, would only end up putting the demons on the bottom of deck for later retrieval.
However, there was one major problem I saw initially: the T2 meta at the time was dominated by Disciples. They were fast, powerful, and the longer game with more time for setup that T2 consists of made Thaddeus even more of a powerhouse in T2 than T1 (where he was pretty popular as well). Thaddeus with only 3 of his pals would protect the demons from banding to each other so they couldn’t get high enough numbers. And it was when trying to solve that problem that I stumbled on the key to moving the defense from one with good potential to a great defense: Covenant with Death.
And This is Why We Read the Cards
Covenant with Death was introduced with the 2011 release of the Faith of Our Fathers/Rock of Ages tin sets. It was intended to shake the game up and boy did it ever. For the last several years prior to its release, people had been relying more on character abilities and pre-block playing of enhancements (via Jacob, Hidden Treasures, or Territory Class Enhancements) and less on playing Enhancements in battle to win. The battle phase was, in some cases, being phased out. And at first glance it seemed to me like I would have to work to avoid Covenant with Death using a Panic Demons defense, as the orange Panic Demon could be negated by evil cards.
But then I read its ability again: “…cannot be negated by good cards or artifacts.” Covenant with Death, when activated as an Artifact, is an Artifact! (Thank you, Captain Obvious.) Hence, not only would Covenant with Death be a great way to stop the likes of Thaddeus, or other Heroes that could play pre-block Enhancements such as Jacob or Ethiopian Treasurer, but it didn’t affect the banding ability of my demons at all. After realizing that I didn’t waste much time in putting together my initial deck list.
The first iteration of my Panic Demon defense used 26 EC’s and 8 Enhancements. I had 4x Wandering Spirit, 2x Fallen Angel (Wa), and 2x King of Tyrus (helpful for early blocks, and also for Wanderings to Fallen Angel to KoT to get a nice FBTN band going when CwD wasn’t active). And after that I had 18 Panic Demons of all colors (I believe except for brown Panic Demon or black Panic Demon, as neither of their abilities seemed very helpful). The distribution was 4x orange Panic Demon, 4x crimson Panic Demon, 4x pale green Panic Demon, 3x gray Panic Demon, and 3x gold Panic Demon.
My enhancements consisted of 4x Midianite Attack (which I could use on the Fallen Angels and crimson Panic Demons), 2x Worse than the First (to recur demons that were lost in initial battles before Wanderings came out), and 2x Destructive Sin (to stop Thaddeus before CwD came out). I wasn’t worried about traditional battle winners, since my numbers would be so huge that I figured it would be rare for them to be beaten; and even if it happened once or twice the band would always come back next time.
I tested the deck out in a few tournaments and it performed decently well but not great. I mostly chalked that up to experimenting with the offense, which needed to be the engine for the deck by being fast enough. The only way most people were beating me was that I wasn’t getting a large enough band fast enough.
For the 2012 Type 2 Only tournament I decided on a Judges offense to pair with the Panic Demons. Judges was by far the most popular offense of the day with its speedy characters and powerful Enhancements and I couldn’t deny that the speed it provided was really what I needed. It performed well but there were a few notable games I played that revealed its weaknesses.
The first was a fast Prophets/Angels deck with banding characters that could not be negated. My opponent was able to get a band of Seraph, Daniel, and Michael a lot faster than I was able to get the requisite number of Wandering Spirits and Panic Demons to combat them and while I made it pretty close toward the end the numbers just didn’t show up.
The second game, my opponent was using a Garden Tomb deck. I did have Golgotha, and plenty of characters for each of my brigades, so it wasn’t really the ignore that did me in; rather it was the CBN band with the 4 Garden Girls (Mary, the Mother of James, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Salome) that got bigger with every successful rescue due to experience credit that made it so that once again I never got the numbers I needed.
My opponent also had the benefit of ‘He is Risen!’ on the few attacks where my numbers were big enough and while I was able to use Worse than the First to bring my demons back or Midianite Attack to negate it on some occasions it ended up just being too big for my little chumps to overcome. I still managed to win 4 out of my 6 games, so it was not a complete disappointment, but it still wasn’t the performance I had hoped for. Don’t worry, the story gets better for my little friends…you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to read it.
Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!
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