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Avacyn Restored First Thoughts – April 13, 2012 Spoilers

April 16, 2012

Today I discuss the second (and final) Planeswalker from Avacyn Restored, as well as a few other cards.

Let’s start off with the card that breaks a new barrier: a two mana Planeswalker!

Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded is he newest lowest-cost planeswalker that we’ll ever be able to cast. Zac Hill, in the preview article, said that it was designed from the very beginning to be two mana, and that it gave them special challenges in development. I believe them. Looting as a plus ability on a planeswalker is actually pretty strong, in my opinion, and better than simply a red version of Merfolk Looter – it is more resistant to removal than a creature, and it has additional value as a damage sink. I can understand making the discard random. I would have preferred, for cube, that the power level was more like “discard a card, then draw a card,” but there are probably constructed power level concerns to contend with. I’m on a wait-and-see approach to Tibalt on the whole, as I think he still might be a pretty nice card for cube. It may be that his second ability is a lot easier to reach and a lot more powerful than one might think on average. Two mana for a Sudden Impact is actually pretty nice if you get it to go off for 5 damage or more. If I add Tibalt, I will probably be removing an “X” burn spell from the cube, since I’m considering that change in the first place.

We saw three more new red cards as well:

Stonewright is a common Soulbond creature in red, with an ability to match. It grants both creatures firebreathing. Like the other Soulbond creatures, I think these are going to be fun to play with in limited. They have the feel of enchantments that you can re-use, but a little less powerful than equipment. I’m anxious to see more of them at uncommon and rare. Stonewright is not going to make my cube, and it will probably only see play in traditional limited.

Zealous Conscripts adds a powerful ability on a creature with haste, and because that creature is rare, it is actually a decent size. Paying a few extra mana on top of a better Act of Treason for a 3/3 creature with haste is a lot of value. This is worth considering in cubes that want a creature at five mana in red other than Siege-Gang Commander. It’s a tough slot to fill in red, and I think this creature can help a healthy amount in giving red something more to do than play cheap creatures and burn.

Bonfire of the Damned is a spell with Miracle, and a big effect – Lavalanche with a new cost. As a Miracle, you get it for XR, very efficient; but its normal cost leaves a lot to be desired, like any spell with a double-X cost. I know some other cubers are considering this one for their cube, but I don’t think its average performance is going to bear out well. Miracles are fairly awkward already, and giving one a variable cost is even more so, since it’s the kind of spell you would rather cast at the most opportune time. I’m giving this one a pass.

Reforge the Soul is Wheel of Fortune, with Miracle! I’m almost getting tired of this keyword. But I’ll at least consider everything! Wheel of Fortune at two mana is not bad at all, but five is asking quite a bit. No one plays Time Reversal (but then again, this one is red, and red cards typically leave your hand faster than blue ones). Wheel of Fortune is not always a stellar pick in cube, due to its symmetrical effect, and I’m not really sure I need a duplicate effect anyway. This seems like another instance of the average performance outweighing the potential for miracle top-decks.

We have two archetype supporting cards:

Cathar’s Crusade is a top-end enchantment for creature swarm decks, particularly ones that make a lot of tokens simultaneously. Lingering Souls? Have a couple of 3/3 fliers. Flash it back? Have two 5/5’s and two 3/3’s. Insane, right? It’s all great for casual decks, and possibly constructed, but the games that happen in my cube typically have less potential for this sort of blowout. Additionally, five mana is a tight cost in white, holding two planeswalkers, typically one or more wraths, and a few powerful creatures. There are even a number of token-making creatures at five mana, and I would usually rather have one of those than play an enchantment that requires more work – I could just play Glorious Anthem once, and give any creatures I already control a boost. I would pass for cube, unless your cube is considerably large and also support a dedicated token deck.

Herald of War is a human archetype booster, clearly meant for constructed play. It’s a very linear card, is not particularly efficient on its own, and lacks the human support in most cubes.

And last, but certainly not least, is a new nonbasic land that nearly rounds out Innistrad block’s cycle.

Desolate Lighthouse, or as everyone is already calling it, “Loothouse,” is exactly what I expected and wanted to see on a blue- and red-aligned land. For the low price of three mana (and tap) you get to draw and discard a card. This fits in well into many counter-burn style decks, and doesn’t take up a spell slot during deck construction, making it a very valuable pick in draft. I think this is very competitive with other blue-red cards in cube, and you should probably try to find a slot for it.

And that’s it for Friday’s spoilers! In just a few minutes, I’ll be looking at the newest, and I hope there are even more great cube cards among them.

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