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Avacyn Restored First Thoughts – April 17, 2012 Spoilers

April 18, 2012

There’s been a rush of unofficial Avacyn Restored spoilers today in addition to the official spoilers from the mothership. Read on for my initial impressions of them in cube!

Please note that some of the card names may not be set in stone since they are being translated from other languages as they are spoiled. There’s a lot to go through, and we have a lot of misses for cube (a lot of the cards are commons and uncommons designed for booster drafting and sealed events), but I’m going to go through every new card I’ve seen.

I’ll go by color today, and start with the old stalwart, White:

Entreat the Angels reminds me (and should remind you, if you played while Onslaught block was in Standard) of Decree of Justice. It’s a game-ending token producer, but has early game potential with the Miracle mechanic. Without mana acceleration, you have the potential to get an angel on your fourth turn for three mana using its Miracle cost. You can also compare this card to White Sun’s Zenith. In cube, these act similarly to one another in the endgame, but Decree of Justice is better than the both of them, since it can make (smaller) uncounterable tokens at instant speed, which is worth quite a bit. Entreat the Angels is still decent in the abstract, and worth playing in larger cubes for its redundant effect.

Angel of Glory’s Rise is the antithesis to Zombie Apocalypse. It’s a very flavorful card, but its effect is greatly diminished in cube compared to a constructed format like Standard where there is a reasonable expectation of humans vs. zombie matchups.

Defy Death is the latest white Resurrection effect, but at this cost one must compare it to Miraculous Recovery, which works at instant speed and gives any creature it brings back a +1/+1 counter.

Thraben Stalwart seems like a great limited aggro critter. Splashability and two power ensure it should see regular play in limited. In cube, though, it will have to compete with other splashable creatures with evasion (Soltari Trooper, Stormfront Pegasus) or rule changing effects (Thalia, Guardian of Thraben) or insane utility (Stoneforge Mystic). Additionally, “French Vanilla” creatures like this are easy to compare to older, similar cards like Youthful Knight. Youthful Knight doesn’t see play in a lot of cubes, and because vigilance is also not quite as good as First Strike, the Stalwart will probably not find its way into many cubes either.

On to Blue, which saw quite a few cards spoiled:

Ghostly Touch seems strong in limited as a way to get through blockers or give pseudo-vigilance to the creature it enchants in limited. There are additional ways this could be used, like untapping utility artifacts or re-using land during your turn. Ghostly Touch has the same two-for-one weakness to removal as other auras in cube, though, and will not see play in mine.

Peel from Reality is a reprint of a bounce spell from Ravnica, and has largely stayed there since its printing, and away from cubes. I don’t see this changing at all.

Gryff Vanguard is doing its best Mulldrifter impression, but misses the mark without the Evoke option and additional card draw. For pauper cubes, I would take a look.

Phantasmal Form is a bit like Nightbirds Clutches or Artful Dodge, without the option for flashback. Making creatures unblockable isn’t a necessary effect in cubes, so it will stay out of them.

Frozen Manipulation (or Crippling Cold, depending on which spoiler you see) is half of a Frost Breath (a great limited trick for racing), but it draws you a card. Seems strong to me, but again, the effect is unnecessary in traditional cubes and priced for limited. The effect plus cantrip is worth the look for commons cubes, however.

Chained Geist looks strong, even in cube, if you support a blue tempo/aggro theme in your cube. Just like Serendib Efreet, it is a 3/4 flying creature for three mana with a drawback. A mana upkeep is a bit worse than paying one life in this archetype, but for a deck that wants to either hold the fort against aggro or get in for 3 damage each turn with a lone creature backed by spell protection, it has good potential. If I can find the space, I’d like to try this one in my cube. It’s also uncommon, and could be a shoe-in for Peasant cubes.

Apprentice Alchemist is typical limited filler. A 1/1 for two mana is nothing to get excited about, even if you can cycle it.

Assemble the Pieces (or Gather the Components) is a cool Dream Cache / Sift variant, but doesn’t compare to powerhouses like Fact or Fiction or Gifts Ungiven for its drawing power. Foresee is also likely stronger overall for pauper cubes for its superior digging ability.

Push into Nothingness is generally almost as good as Quicksilver Geyser for its capability to bounce two creatures, but again, competition in blue’s four-mana spells is way too tight for this effect.

Whew! That was a lot of cards. But wait, there’s more! On to Black:

Demonic Rising is almost a cool black control finisher, but its very slow, and encouraging a low creature count in a cube deck is not something I generally recommend.

Human Frailty is a really flavorful removal spell for Innistrad block. It’s extremely narrow though, and I would guess that Disfigure hits and kills more relevant targets in cube.

Barter in Blood is already in my cube, and serves as wrath redundancy in black. It’s one of the weaker wraths (behind Damnation and Black Sun’s Zenith), since it doesn’t it everything and gives your opponent the choice of what to sacrifice, but when combined with solid spot removal in a deck, still has an important effect on the battlefield.

Crypt Keeper is narrow graveyard hate attached to a 2/1 body for two mana. It’s not something I would consider necessary for cube.

Bearer of the Dead intrigues me. It doesn’t quite feel strong enough for cube, but it has built-in card advantage. In constructed, I bet this finds its way into a deck or two as a way to bring back cards like Vexing Devils – getting back creatures above-the-curve by abusing their casting cost seems like a powerful strategy.

Butcher Ghoul does not interest me at all. It’s undying role will be to stall the battlefield in limited games.

Blood Favor (or Chosen’s Blood) is begging to be used as a combo piece in EDH, but is an expensive cost for the effect in cube (where it basically grants your unblocked attackers lifelink).

Deathly Bite is too expensive for cube, where black kill spells destroy creatures outright without relying on combat damage to do the work.

Executioner Ghoul wants to trade up in limited, but four mana gets you a much more impressive creature in cube. Sewer Nemesis, this is not.

Grave Exchange is way too expensive to make it in cube. Disentomb + Cruel Edict should not cost six mana.

Murderous Recluse (which seems like a more fitting name for a creature) is another expensive enchantment that wants you to have few creatures. It doesn’t seem good for cube to me.

Necrotize is strictly worse for cubes without a zombie tribal theme than Dead Weight.

Polluted Dead is like a reverse Ogre Arsonist. However, land destruction is at its best at lower casting costs, and really want the effect on the front end. Strictly better than Fire Snake!

Predator’s Gambit, like most auras, isn’t good enough for cube. It’s better than Unholy Strength, but that’s not saying much.

Vital Harvest is kind of cool, and life swings of 8 or 10 total life are possible in limited, but direct damage is generally both better in red, and better when it isn’t tied to your creature’s worth. I also wish it hit all opponents, for Commander games.

Wind of Death is an effect I’m surprised hasn’t been seen on a card before, but it’s an expensive effect for cubes that have access to much more efficient forms of removal.

On to Red:

Malicious Intent is a limited-only aura. I don’t play Goblin Tunnelers in my cube, and an aura for the effect is even worse.

Risky Bet (or Gambit) is an interesting take on card draw in red. We’re seeing a trend of giving red more ways to manipulate its hand in recent sets, especially this one. I’m not sure it’s needed in cube, but if you’re looking to give red ways to dump cards into the graveyard, this is certainly a good one, and a potential way to give red an identity beyond burn and aggressive creatures. Pair it up with Goblin Welder?

Worker’s Rebellion (or Thatcher’s Rebellion) looked a lot better when it was rumored to cost R or 1R, but at 2R it’s significantly worse than Hellspark Elemental.

Lightning Dexterity is just like Cunning Sparkmage, only it’s not a creature. Sad. Just use Cunning Sparkmage, if you want this effect.

Fervent Cathar may be nearly efficient enough for cube. It’s similar to Goblin Ruinblaster unkicked, but has a relevant combat trick attached to it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this in pauper cubes in the near future.

Scorching Devil is like a slightly worse Spikeshot Elder. The Elder is one of the weaker one-drops in red, since it isn’t very powerful on its own (without equipment) but makes the cut for its ability to kill other small creatures in the early game while still holding relevance later. Scorching Devil, with a slightly higher initial cost, and no power-scaling, won’t take the throne here.

Dual Launch reminds me of Splinter Twin, only for instants and sorceries. The cost to copy spells is low enough that it may be worth looking at in cube. I would take a wait-and-see approach before adding it, after first seeing its performance in limited and constructed.

Fire Mask isn’t very impressive, and I would sooner cube with Immolation, if I wanted to give red a way to sometimes destroy creatures with an enchantment.

Heirs of Stromkirk is another card geared to break stalemates in limited. Growing past a 3/3 seems a lot easier for it than Innistrad and Dark Ascension‘s, weaker, creatures without evasion.

Amazing Speed reminds me of Reckless Charge, but the Charge is just better in most cases. Amazing Speed is an instant, which is kind of an awkward design choice for a spell that gives haste, in my opinion.

Thunderbolt is a reprint from Weatherlight, and doesn’t see much play in cubes due to its inability to hit non-flying creatures, the bulk of creatures in cubes.

Almost there! The last color before we hit lands and artifacts, Green:

Somberwald Sage is a narrow card that really encourages playing creatures. It gives quite a boost in mana (potentially seven mana turn 4 with no other acceleration!) but is very frail for a three-mana creature. I don’t think that it makes the cut in most cubes, but I could be wrong, and it (creature-based ramp) may be exactly what you want green’s focus to be in your cube. With a Llanowar Elves, you have the potential to cast a turn three titan.

Well, Green was quick. Land Ho!

Cavern of Souls is being heralded through the Magic community as a very powerful mana fixer that enables tribal decks as Standard and Modern options. It will certainly see play there, but its future in cube is unknown. Because it produces colorless mana in the worst-case scenario, it may still be useful in cube as a mana fixer and a way to push through important creatures like game-ending titan, sphinxes, dragons, or even that human Avalanche Riders necessary to put your opponent on the back foot.

Shrine of Angels is an angel tribal support land, and should not see much play outside of dedicated tribal decks.

Alchemist’s Refuge is the last in Innistrad block’s utility lands, and I think it’s certainly playable in casual formats and Standard. I’m not sure the mana cost and effect will be good enough for cube. Winding Canyons doesn’t see much play, and this new land will have to compete with other spells in green-blue in my cube.

There was a decent variety of artifacts spoiled today:

Gallows at Willowhill requires a heavy human tribal theme in your deck, and this likely won’t see play outside of constructed or casual. Even there, it requires a lot of mana and effort to fire off correctly.

Narstad Skirmisher is your typical overcosted creature with firebreathing. It doesn’t compare well at all to creatures like Razormane Masticore in cube.

Tormentor’s Trident is a limited-only equipment that trades Greatsword’s casting cost of 3 for a cheaper one and a drawback of attacking each turn.

Shield of the Vanguard costs more than Kite Shield, but lets the equipped creature block an additional creature. Not very useful in cube.

Angelic Arms has a nice effect, giving power, toughness, and evasion, but is very bad compared to the staple Mirrodin swords.

Alrighty! That’s all for today. I have a new found appreciation for the work that every card reviewer puts into their reviews. It takes a decent amount of time to gather everything together, make an opinion, and write each review out one by one. The set is nearly half spoiled now, so there is still a lot of potential for cubeable cards in Avacyn Restored. It’s almost time for the official spoilers for the eighteenth to be released. With all of the unofficial spoilers, we may see the full set not long from now. I think it’s shaping up nicely and looks like it will be a fun limited environment. I haven’t seen much that will truly shake up standard the way that werewolves and Delver of Secrets has, though maybe the powerful legendary angels in the set will make their mark.

If you have any cards you are considering for your cube from the set, feel free to comment here and let me know!

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