Home Strategy Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012: Dark Heavens Deck Strategy

In my last Magic article about this deck, I pretty much just dropped two Dark Heavens strategy videos into a post and said, “Watch and learn, kiddies.”

Because, you know, that’s exactly how I speak.

But it turns out people want actual, actionable information. Players from YouTube, this site, and a few forums said something to the effect of “Get off our forums, spammer.” But I took it to mean “Bring us more content with even more detail.”

So let’s talk about Dark Heavens, shall we?


Actual discussion begins here

When players look at Dark Heavens, they’re often left scratching their heads. There’s a lot of cheap, mediocre creatures, a slew of powerful angels and demons, and what appears to be a fairly persistent token-generation theme. After all, who’d ever put three copies of Field of Souls in a deck if they weren’t planning to haunt the fuck out of the battlefield?

field of souls magic the gathering card art dark heavens

If you play it, they will come. And by "they" I mean "a metric ton of lost games."

Well, mainly me. Because Field of Souls pretty much sucks. Sure, if you have one out you could trade your middling Bog Imp for the exact same thing, but what if you don’t have a creature out? Or your whole board is flooded with 1/1 tokens that are useless fodder for an enemy pinger like Niv Mizzet, the motherfucking Firemind?* And while having two or three Field of Souls on the board generates a lot of tokens when you cast Damnation, wasting two early game turns to play these enchantments will leave you without any creatures to use with them.

Once I removed Field of Suck from the deck, my objective became clearer. The whole sacrifice mechanic was pretty much a gimmick, so we’d be ditching Proper Burial, Demonic Appetite, Woebringer Demon, and the crappy, overcosted imps. We were left with essentially two types of cards: early game stall and late game fatties.

Just as with Strength of Stone, I find this type of deck has potential in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012‘s rather simple metagame. The most dangerous decks put out a constant stream of semi-threatening creatures, mixed with some utility spells. Since Dark Heavens can clear the board with Damnation, Black Sun’s Zenith, and Living Death, the whole “getting overrun” thing is much less of a problem.

Of course, sweeping the board isn’t always practical, so a large amount of spot removal and shutdown handles the rest, up until turn five or six. It’s at this point you can begin dropping game-winning bombs: Baneslayer Angel, Ob Nixilis, Sunblast Angel, and Angel of Despair. Each of these cards poses a major “deal with this quickly or lose” kind of threat, while the inclusion of Desolation Angel outright wins the game in most instances.

Some players will quarrel with a few of my choices, and that’s fine; Dark Heavens is new and there’s still a lot to determine. I decided to stick with Fallen Angel, for example, because she can recycle early game chumps, cause enemy spells to fizzle, and combo with Living Death for the most unfair trade since the Louisiana Purchase.

Likewise, I kept Wall of Essence and Wall of Souls but ditched Souls of the Faultless because its mana requirements were simply too strict for my blood. Three mana for that effect? Fine. Three specific mana? Not in this environment.

Ultimately, I play Dark Heavens fairly conservatively, biding my time for sweepers and big threats, understanding that early game life loss can be shrugged off, only to be gained back later. The deck certainly has its share of instant-speed tricks, but I find careful consideration of when/where to use Pillory of the Sleepless or Faith’s Fetters to be substantially more important. Once large concerns are put to rest, it’s just a matter of dropping a gigantic bomb, protecting it, and laughing as your shackled opponent gets slashed over and over by your sexy/undead angel army.


WiNGSPANTT’s Dark Heavens Deck List

  • 3x Terramorphic Expanse
  • 1x Basilisk Collar
  • 2x Doomed Traveler
  • 1x Black Sun’s Zenith
  • 2x Darklit Gargoyle
  • 2x Doom Blade
  • 2x Sign in Blood
  • 1x Wall of Essence
  • 1x Wall of Souls
  • 2x Cadaver Imp
  • 2x Midnight Haunting
  • 2x Pillory of the Sleepless
  • 1x Vindicate
  • 1x Angelic Destiny
  • 1x Damnation
  • 2x Faith’s Fetters
  • 1x Lightkeeper of Emeria
  • 1x Voice of All
  • 1x Baneslayer Angel
  • 1x Desolation Angel
  • 2x Essence Drain
  • 2x Fallen Angel
  • 1x Living Death
  • 1x Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
  • 1x Sunblast Angel
  • 1x Angel of Despair


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* This is his actual, official name. Scout’s honor.

19 replies to this post
  1. I’m amazed you took out all the token/sacrifice theme in the deck, I was actually expecting you to try and maximize on it, shows how much I know about good MtG decks! But then again why else am I here? Haha.

    I completely understand your deck design here but, I honestly don’t see the deck as being very good.. Which is a huge shame since B/W is probably my fav colour combination!
    It stalls very nicely, having alot of shutdown or field clearing.. But, for the whole “late game beaters” and “game-winning bombs”, don’t other decks just do this better?

    Love all your MtG stuff and really look forwards to seeing more.
    (Might I suggest you try and make Dragons Roar viable now it has afew extra cards? Haha, I hear taking out all the black use to make it ‘okay’ but now it has more cards added (some B/R ones) I’d be interested to see an upto date list).

    • 1. Almost every “bomb” card here can win the game by itself, which is pretty much the point. Cards like Fallen Angel or Ob Nixilis can even be powerful if they’re Pacified.

      2. Dragon’s Roar is not fixable, the deck is terrible without the luckiest draw possible. The cards added in the DLC are almost all bad, unfortunately.

      • Yeah upon trying to unlock the cards from Dragon’s Roar iv noticed that the deck is totally based upon your first hand, it’s a terrible ‘Rush’ theme.. Just makes me sad :'(

    • I’m just a noobie :P But Ancient Depths is my absolute favorite deck, it’s all about using your spells to empty your deck of land and get a huge mana advantage, plus whilst your doing so you are clearing your deck so most of your draws will be epic monsters to slap down.
      Most of the monsters have really great abilities too like Shroud or Flying/Unblockable etc, it takes afew turns to get set up but once the deck starts rolling it’s very strong indeed.

    • It’s a fun deck, my only problem with it is that there’s not a lot of strategy really. You pretty much just get out a giant creature and attack until you win. That said, it’s fun as hell and I feel like a mad scientist using it!

  2. I think you are missing this deck’s (Dark Heavens) point. All the stall and control are designed to control the field until you can put out Fallen Angel as your game finisher and power her up with like a kagillion tokens. Your strategy, from what I have read on your other deck builds, is beatdown/control and this deck is not primarily (spelling?) beatdown. This is a combo deck, it may have aspects of control and beatdown but, in the end this deck will only work effectivley if you use the control to protect the combo.

    • I certainly “got” the point of the deck, but I don’t think it works. It’s like how I “got” the point of Cloudburst (throwaway creatures) but ultimately removed almost all of them. The deck just isn’t focused enough to deliver on its promises.

      Ultimately I don’t trust Fallen Angel to single handedly win games, especially when relying on Field of Souls. The most dangerous decks in the metagame are all very fast, and building up a token army is very slow by comparison.

      I also feel Field of Souls is underpowered when the rest of the deck has a distinct lack of decent low costed creatures. Why doesn’t Dark Heavens have Soul Warden? It would be perfect for a token generation deck. Things like that are a big letdown.

  3. good edit, as far as i can tell but i’m no expert. the deck isn’t good enough at building a token army quickly so it’s probably best not to work on tokens at all. i’m on the fence about fallen angel, but you make some good points, for example using it with living death.

    i’m curious what your explicit intents behind removing such cards as pestilence demon, akroma, deathless angel, and even tormented angel are. having a 1/5 with flying for 4 mana is a good staller if you ask me. and akroma, though expensive, is very powerful. pestilence demon i can sort of understand, but it is a 7/6 with flying and has a great ability for the right time and place. deathless angel i can also sort of understand because it’s hard to use it’s ability very often, but it is a 5/7 with flying for 6 which is relatively decent in and of itself.

    your reasoning behind this deck edit seems strong, i’d be interested to hear explicitly about the above cards.

    • The main reason I removed Pestilence and Akroma are twofold. First, they both cost a LOT of mana, so if they are drawn before the 11th-12th turn they’re essentially dead cards. Second, they both require very specific mana, so they can be dead cards even IF you have 8+ land in play. It’s not likely, but it’s not a risk I like taking in a deck with very limited color fixing.

      Deathless Angel I have toyed with keeping in or out. I might put her back in instead of an Essence Drain. 6 mana for a 5/7 is quite good.

  4. I actually just submitted a deck guide, for review to a channel on YouTube which does pretty much nothing but Magic, of Dark Heavens and how I run it since I seem to do quite fairly well with my setup. My comment relates to your choice of ‘Fallen Angel’. After watching your into videos to this deck, I can see your point on how she is an amazing creature. However, it seems very situation based. I mean the Living Death pre-board clear was amazing, but at the end of the day it was really only a single win and, I believe you said an hour long match. Who really won there. I think I would rather take a loss than wait an hour to maybe win. Plus if he were smart I would have Fettered that B***h before I tried the clear. So either was it was a loss to him for being stupid. If you want I can share more of my thoughts on the subject, but I guess a question is more likely in order. What are your thoughts on keeping Darklit Gargoyle in? I think Souls of the Faultless would make at least a better choice because in the end they are both really fodder, and Souls has a more devastating special to draw some fire away from bigger drops. The specific land drop hasn’t ever really been an issue for me. The only real differences we have in our builds is
    1x Souls of the Faultless
    1x Woebringer Demon
    1x Deathless Angel
    1x Akroma, Angel of Wraith
    In place of your
    2x Darklit Gargoyle
    2x Fallen Angel

    • Fallen Angel is ultimately far more useful than just with Living Death. For instance, you say you would cast Faith’s Fetters on Fallen Angel, but this is largely impossible. I could sac the angel in response. Sure, I wouldn’t have every creature in my graveyard, but you’d be down a card, 4 life, and I’d have 1 more creature to bring back with living death.

      I can definitely see Deathless Angel being in the deck, but I feel Woebringer is too situational. If you have fewer creatures than your opponent, you pretty much can’t play him at all.

      Akroma is a great card, just as an old school player I am so hesitant to run an 8 cc card in a deck without mana ramping. If it’s drawn before turn 10-13, it’s pretty much a dead card.

      I still contend that Souls of the Faultless kind of sucks. As far as being a wall, it’s not bad, but having a very specific WBB casting cost, it will almost never be cast on turn 3. As such I think of it as a card that will realistically come out on turn 5, 6, or 7, which is not really acceptable for a 0/4 wall.

  5. Forgive me, but I have to weigh in on the faults this deck has.

    The first thing that struck me is the limited flexibility the card set provides. There is plenty of early game options but there is little synergy with the overall concept. There is a lot of token generation, which frankly won’t help you in late game. Your targeted creature removal is pretty balanced, though you might benefit from favoring Vindicate over Doom Blade. The 1 mana difference for the ability to remove a PERMANENT is well worth the cost, and it will make your opponent pause if they know you have more than one. Get rid of Angelic Destiny. The boost you get from it isn’t nearly as attractive as adding some other cards. Pillory is a good card to mess with your opponent’s game.

    You have limited draw abilities, so unless you get what you need before turn 10, you are in for a long slog. Take a look at Conjurer’s Ban, which might be an option, and another safeguard to boot. Otherwise, add two more Sign in Blood’s. Does anyone know of a method he can use to mill himself without the obvious?

    You have a LOT of board wiping options….why not just stick with Damnation? Or better yet, since this isn’t a T2 deck, why not shop for cheaper and far more potent options like Vengeful Dreams, which will help you make your Living Death a far more nasty play? Or if you want to add insult to injury, why not investigate Vampirism on the SB? There is not greater bane to weenie decks and token generators than that card.

    I’m trying to understand why Ob Nixilis is here, considering the company it keeps. Don’t get me wrong, he presents a major threat, but him and a Desolation Angel don’t really work. And while I am on that creepy little devil, I think you should consider yanking her. The answer is simple; reanimating her will kill you. I once had her in an angel reanimator, until I realized that bringing her back from anywhere means you cannot pay the kicker, which means unless you have your opponent down to hardly nothing, you have signed your own death warrant. If anything, Side Board her for games where it is necessary to have land wiping.

    Dump the Terramorphics. If you really need the landgrabbing that badly, then you have an issue with land balance. Swap then out for a dual mana generator like Godless Shrine or Caves of Koilos.

    Your selection of angels is alright. Sunblast and Baneslayer are decent choices and will provide a decent coverage and some added oomph. I’m not impressed with the Lightkeeper or the Angel of Despair. The Lightkeeper is only useful if you in a pinch and you multi-kick the crap out of her, but you won’t get much mana to achieve that until later in play. At that point, if you haven’t won or aren’t about to, you are lost. As for Despair, she is basically a flying Vindicate, but she is seriously overpriced for what she does. Unless you know of a way to bounce her and make the destroy effect worth it, you should consider removing her. Some better options for you instead would be :

    Admonition Angel- her effect would cause some real havoc in late play.
    Akroma- Seriously, you left out the single most aggressive angel in the game?
    Emeria-she would have some great synergy with Admonition Angel, and feed your Fallen Angel to boot.
    Iona- While expensive, her effect would be devastating in late game, especially if you have your Baneslayer out and swinging.
    Angelic Arbiter- her ability can be chaotic, but not as good as some of the others listed above.

  6. Oh my Fallen xD Laughing my ass off overhere xD
    On the deck build… Well tbh, I admit that token/sac theme of the deck could be better, but I still use it just for the fun of it :) Enjoy it and oddly enough I actualy win quite a few games with it. Havin a few fields out with a woebringer and some cannon fodder is just fun fun fun :)

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