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Avacyn Restored First Thoughts – April 18, 2012 Spoiler Catch-Up

April 20, 2012

I was playing Commander with my friends yesterday evening at my local game store, so I didn’t get the chance to write out my opinions on the newly-revealed cards from Avacyn Restored. Today I’m going to cover those, as well as the cards spoiled today (in a separate post). Read on!

There are tons of spoilers. Let’s dive right in with… Red this time:

Malignus! This guy is beastly in multiplayer, and particularly in Commander (20/20, mmkay?). I don’t think he’ll see play in cubes though (unless, perhaps, they are built for multiplayer games).

Rite of Ruin is similar to other red wraths like Destructive Force and Wildfire. It differs, since it could do something different every game, and isn’t always destructive in the same way as the others. Additionally, since you are forced to sacrifice at least one creature, artifact, and land, it works less well than those that have a more consistent effect and are easier to build around.

Lightning Mauler is probably my favorite card from this set (and not just because I speculated to its existence on Twitter a day early!) for cube (though, Restoration Angel is way up there too; I love blinking creatures). Red really needs quality two-drops to support aggro, and this splashable guy can either have haste on your second turn or give your three drop haste (which is more explosive). As a late-game card, it can give an even bigger creature haste. I can’t wait to see what kinds of plays happen from this card.

Battle Hymn is a new ritual for creature-based decks. Compared to other rituals, which usually give a fixed amount of mana, this one is more like a one-shot Gaea’s Cradle. Gaea’s Cradle is a useful card because it doesn’t take up a spell slot in your deck (usually – you can usually make sure to have a creature on-board to use it for mana), and it’s both a free and repeatable source of mana.

Next up, Black:

Treacherous Pit-Dweller is a really efficient guy… until he comes back to hit you back. I’m sure there are uses for this card in constructed decks that get around his drawback (like maybe putting a Grafdigger’s Cage or Torpor Orb on the battlefield), but it seems very risky in cube and other limited formats.

Triumph of Cruelty is another card with constructed qualities, but I feel like requiring more than one turn with a conditional trigger is too much to ask to overcome the card disadvantage.

Homicidal Seclusion is like an expensive equipment that equips for free, but only matters if you have just one creature. This effect isn’t something I’m interested in putting into my cube, where I can just play actual equipment.

And Blue:

Skaab Drake, I’ve seen you before, when you were named Cloud Spirit. Are you running Cloud Spirit in your cube? I’m not. If you run it in a pauper cube and want another, here it is!

Severe Mentor looks very strong if Avacyn Restored‘s limited format is slow (thankfully, it’s an uncommon). This is a really cool form of the Soulbond mechanic that goes beyond giving a combat bonus. Being able to mill your opponent for four cards per turn is fast, and puts your opponent on about a 5-turn clock, without using the combat step. Add in any untap shenanigans, and your opponent better hope he can race you or destroy this creature.

Around to White:

Commander’s Authority is a build-your-own Luminous Angel. It’s an aura, with all of the drawbacks that implies. Plus, in cube, we can just play Emeria Angel.

Holy Justiciar is a flavorful (and expensive to play and activate) creature-tapper, and doesn’t compare well to other similar creatures, like Gideon’s Lawkeeper or Master Decoy.

Seraph of Dawn is fairly aggressively costed for a common. It’s just barely more expensive than Vampire Nighthawk and fairly hard to kill. I would definitely consider this for control support in pauper cubes.

Midvast Protector really wishes it had flash, so it could be used as a combat trick. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Giving “unblockable” for a turn to one of your creatures doesn’t seem that useful for four mana.

Defang muzzles one of your opponent’s creatures in much the same way as Guard Duty did in Rise of the Eldrazi limited.

Cursebreak adds a marginally useful lifegain effect onto Demystify. Demystify is too narrow for most cubes, including mine, and a little bit of lifegain does not make up for that.

Midnight Duelist is a squire with protection from… not many cards in cube.

Arbiter of the Moor is almost strictly worse than Youthful Knight.

Call to Serve is better than better than Holy Strength, but better isn’t good enough for cube.

Moonlit Geist is a fine card, but fgenerally in cube I want to be attacking early and often, and without tying up my mana on marginal combat abilities to protect a 2/1. This is another example of the kind of card that I think will make Avacyn Restored’s limited format slower than more recent ones.

And we have made our way to Green, which has more than a few cards:

Triumph of Ferocity is better than its black counterpart, and is almost like a green Phyrexian Arena. If you can manage to keep a big creature on the board (not very hard to do in green) you can truly overwhelm your opponent with superior power and card advantage. I think it’s a cool card and worth thinking about if you want to give green a source of repeatable card advantage.

Ulvenwald Tracker is the newest incarnation of the fight keyword, and it could be really powerful in both limited and cube as a repeatable way to kill creatures in green, which will be a pretty unique effect. Because it comes down early, you can set him up to make your later creatures start stomping on your opponent’s creatures. I’m considering this guy for my cube.

Natural Ending is Naturalize with lifegain attached to it. With a casting cost equal to Krosan Grip, a comparison is natural. The comparison is interesting, but I think the split second ability is worth more than the lifegain. In fact, I’ve considered Nature’s Claim in my cube before, which is basically the opposite of this card – less costly, and gives your opponent life; I haven’t put it in yet, but it’s still on my mind, since I value the low mana cost so much.

Fearsome Presence may be the most aggressive Fog variant yet, and may bear out to be more like Divine Verdict or Puncturing Light in practice and a good way to race an opponent in limited.

Guardian of the Cursed Grave used Soulbond! It’s not very effective (in cube).

Geistcatcher is Avacyn Restored’s Giant Spider variant with Soulbond, and should be very effective in limited at stalling the skies.

Protective Word is a nice way to removal-proof your creature, and you get some life out of the deal. I like having combat tricks in my cube, but it doesn’t seem as good as Vines of Vastwood, and possibly worse than Ranger’s Guile.

Nature’s Blessings is very strong in the early game, and I would be more intrigued by it if it were an instant and able to be used as a combat trick.

Stinger Boar is a vanilla creature (and better than a Hill Giant!) but unnecessary in cube.

Wandering Wolf has a pretty cool combat ability related to its power, which is very flavorful in green. I don’t know that it will be very useful on a 2/1 creature, especially in cube, where creatures equal to and larger than it are all over the battlefield.

Borderland Ranger is a reprint from M10, and I’m happy to have it back in Standard. It’s fairly unnecessary in rare cubes, but is a serviceable creature in other formats that want some mana fixing and card advantage.

Garravoraz has a name almost as complicated as Skithiryx and Nyxathid, now with more of the letters V and Z. It’s also pretty huge and above the curve for a 6 mana uncommon creature.

Trailblazer Wurm is a trampling Craw Wurm when paired with another creature. It’s too expensive for cubes, especially when compared to other new cards from Avacyn Restored like Wolfir Silverheart.

Rain of Thorns is a super-Bramblecrush, with a cost to match. Once you’re at the 6-mana range though, I wonder if destroying utility artifacts and enchantments is better than Desert Twister.

Trusty Forcemage will be effective at powering up your creatures in limited, but doesn’t bring enough power to the table in cube, I’m afraid.

Wolfir Avenger looks interesting. With flash, it can act as removal against attackers. Its cost, power, and toughness, and abilities can be compared to Albino Troll and Great Sable Stag, and may bump one of those out of some cubes. I like flash on creatures in general, and giving green a way to have more combat tricks that also put threats on the board seems useful.

And lastly, we a couple artifacts in this round of spoilers:

Conjourer’s Portal is a card I almost missed when reading the spoilers. It’s a lot like Erratic Portal and Venser, the Sojourner. It can’t save your creatures from removal, nor build up to a game-ending ultimate ability. Or put additional threats on the board like Mimic Vat. It may have some use in larger cubes that want additional blink support available to any color, though.

Griselbrand’s Scroll is card parity, but it’s not very good.

And that’s it for… yesterday. Stay tuned for more!

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