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Avacyn Restored First Thoughts – April 09, 2012 Spoilers

April 10, 2012

Avacyn is back. She’s been freed from the Helvault, along with Griselbrand and his demonic desciples. And she brought us new cards to consider for our cubes!

First up, the big ones: Avacyn and Griselbrand. I’m not personally looking to include these huge finisher creatures in my cube, but boy are they flashy.

Avacyn, Angel of Hope makes your permanents so difficult to remove by giving them all indestructibility. Being indestructible, she turns off much of the removal in cube. Bounce spells, edicts, exiling, and clone effects are the most consistent ways of dealing with her. Essentially, green and red get hard and even black has a difficult time if your opponent controls another creature. Also, a flying 8/8 is a quick clock.

Griselbrand has an equally massive 8-mana casting cost. You get your standard 7/7 flying demon with a drawback…. wait, it’s not a drawback? It’s an ability? An ability… that’s free, as long as you have life! And lifelink, so you can always have life available to draw cards with. This monstrous Necropotence with wings is very impressive.

If you’re looking to switch up the top-end of your cube (say, instead of running Akroma, Angel of Wrath; or Sheoldred, Whispering One), these could be a blast to play with.

We have also seen two more angels, both of which are pretty impressive:

Restoration Angel looks really efficient, as a 3/4 flier with flash for 3W is already a decent price. This one does more though, as it can flicker another (non-angel) creature you control when it enters the battlefield, and it is exactly the kind of card I like to have in my cube. I really like what Galepowder Mage and Flickerwisp do for white battlefield tricks, and Restoration Angel is another card in the same vein. If you like blink effects in your cube, do not pass this one up! I myself will probably be removing Emeria Angel from the crowded white 4-drop slot. Emeria Angel is a cool token producer, and I just finished my cycle of fetchlands in the cube, but the interactions with other creatures re-entering the battlefield, larger body, and instant-speed tricks are simply much better.

Sigarda, Host of Herons is yet another efficient flier – 2GWW gets you a 5/5 flying hexproof legend, and it prevents your opponent from making you sacrifice creatures. It’s got the body of Sphinx of Jwar Isle and is arguably harder to kill, since only clone effects can reliably take it down. This may prove to be an un-fun card in cube, and somewhat comparable to Invisible Stalker in traditional limited with respect to its effect on the board state. Also Green-White is a very crowded section in most cubes, and mine is no exception. I don’t foresee many people removing Qasali Pridemage, Kitchen Finks, Mirari’s Wake, or Loam Lion from their cubes to fit this in. I’m not keen on doing so either, and I’m also still testing Gavony Township as a token (and general aggro) enabler.

Rounding out white, we have new aggressive knight and two utility spells:

Silverblade Paladin, and the new mechanic Soulbond, are really interesting. Giving an early creature double strike, with the option of upgrading it later (once it dies) with your midrange curve-topper can be very strong. The ability doesn’t target, so you’re still free to abuse it with a creature such as Calciderm. Try putting it on an evasive Soltari Priest, or Stormblood Berserker. Late-game dragons will be backbreaking. On the other hand, without another creature in play or entering the battlefield, you simply have a 2/2. I would be a lot less concerned about that if it normally had first strike. Medium-high risk, medium-high reward. The Paladin is not very splashable, either. This one definitely deserves testing, and will likely take the spot of Paladin en-Vec, Stonecloaker, or holdovers like White Knight in many cubes.

Cloudshift is a simple flicker spell, but it’s nice and cheap! It can only target your creatures, but that’s not normally a problem. I can’t really speak for its inclusion in pauper cubes, since I haven’t built one, but it’s the kind of card that seems very good due to the right cost and effect. It feels like Undying Evil in a way, for its saving-from-removal utility. This might be an upgrade to Harm’s Way or Condemn in my own cube, but I still like having the abundance of removal spells.

Banishing Stroke introduces the Miracle keyword ability. Miracle is the latest alternate-cost mechanic that has been developed, and I will definitely have to play with it in limited and constructed before making final judgments on its power level. Banishing Stroke is a mediocre card at the “real” cost of six mana, and likely not worth inclusion in cubes. But there are others that are more interesting…

What are the biggest effects you can put on red and blue cards? How about dealing tons of damage and taking extra turns:

Thunderous Wrath has an awesome name, and it has an effect to match it. Five damage to a creature or player? Sounds good! You top-decked it? It’s a miracle! You get five damage for the low, low price of one red mana. That might actually make up for the times that it sits in your opening hand until you have 4RR, Thunderous Wrath’s “real” cost. I would probably prefer the less swingy Brimstone Volley from Innistrad, which always costs 2R but requires a bit more effort on the battlefield to get the full value out of.

Temporal Mastery is impressive. It’s Time Walk, the mother of all turn-granting spells. But it’s “real” cost is 5UU, making it worse than Time Warp anytime it’s in your opening hand. Still, an extra turn is an extra turn. Will also supposedly end Legacy as we know it, from all the doomsayers, if it doesn’t get banned in the format first.

To round out the first spoilers, we have a few less exciting cards for cube, but still interesting:

Wingcrafter is a common Soulbond creature in blue that grants flying. Not very powerful in cube, but could be pretty great in a green-blue shell with green’s traditional ground beaters. Giving a random 5/5 beast flying should be strong.

Demonic Taskmaster is a powerful flier on the cheap, but he likes being your only creature. Rumors say he could be a good control finisher. I’m not so sure, since I usually want a bigger body or an ability that can protect itself like Olivia Voldaren or Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief can.

Demonlord of Ashmouth was more exciting when I thought the spoiler said “sacrifice a creature” instead of “sacrifice another creature” – getting a four mana 6/5 flier for the price of sacrificing a creature was worth considering, like a really cheap Commander Greven il-Vec. Now, this undying demon looks a lot harder to pull off, and a lot less likely to stand up to competition from Abyssal Persecutor in cube.

Howlgeist brings back the Undying mechanic, which is cool. I think the Standard format could use a few more playable creatures with that ability, and other formats as well. For 6 mana, this is destined for limited-only play, and not cube, but it’s got a neat form of evasion that is very flavorful for green.

Joint Assault is designed to play well with the Soulbond mechanic, and will probably only see play in limited and budget Standard constructed decks. I like a few insular mechanic style reprints in each set to showcase them, but they typically don’t become worthy of cube.

Overall, the set looks promising. Soulbond will be making battlefield presence important. Flicker effects do the same. Miracle appears to be a cool limited mechanic that will make late-game plays and decisions exciting, while the base costs of spells should still be playable. It’s a little swingy. That’s probably OK. Higher base costs are reminding me of Rise of Eldrazi, which was also led by Brian Tinsman, one of the lead designers on Avacyn Restored. I’m hoping it’s just as fun.

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