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Avacyn Restored First Thoughts – May 10, 2012 Spoiler Catch-Up (blue)

May 11, 2012
So, I said I’d be back Thursday. It’s Friday. Two weeks later. Argh. I do apologize, my weeks have been pretty busy, and my weekends have been just as full, with the Avacyn Restored pre-release, regular get-togethers at my local game store, as well as a short unexpected vacation. But I’m back!
And I’ll be completing my review of as-yet-unreviewed cards from Avacyn Restored for cube soon enough. Today I’ll finish blue.

As with white, I’ll use the visual spoiler and review the cards I’ve missed:

Captain of the Mists doesn’t feel like a powerful card on the surface. Its power level will depend mostly on whether you have enough targets in your cube that you would like to untap for value (rather than giving creatures pseudo-vigilance) or whether you think a more expensive Icy Manipulator effect that’s strapped to a creature is worth it. I think it’s a testable card if you have a lot of activated abilities that require tapping, and you want to try a card that has a open-ended applications. I believe that in most cubes, it will be too slow and expensive to use in the average case.

Deadeye Navigator is a very cool card. I can’t wait to abuse it in Commander, and possibly Standard, where you can really customize the targets you can blink with it, and can create situations where you have roughly a bajillion mana to do it with. Even in cube, there are a ton of worthwhile targets to pair him up with, and blue has some crazy ones! Venser, Shaper Savant would love this guy, just sayin’. If you want a card that can really mess with the battlefield and encourage other blink archetype shenanigans, I would take a hard look at this one. I’m considering increasing the number of large blue creatures in my cube (by one) just for this guy, because I love this sort of thing.

Dreadwaters is not a card I would include in most cubes. Unless you have a very strong mill theme in your non-traditional cube, I would pass. Even with that theme, you will be getting more mileage out of cards like Dream Twist, where the mana cost of the card does not impede the deck archetype from casting other support spells.

Elgaud Shieldmate has a very powerful keyword written on it (and I don’t mean Soulbound, which appears to be powerful as well): Hexproof. Protecting your best creature on the battlefield is a very strong effect, especially when put onto something traditionally vulnerable to creature removal, like Baneslayer Angel or Inferno Titan. I’m not quite sure that four mana for the effect with a 2/3 attached is efficient enough for small cubes, but it’s powerful enough to consider using if you still have room in your blue section.

Favorable Winds is a fine card, but it just doesn’t have the right quantity of flying creature support in most cubes. The conditions for it being good are more favorable in constructed, where you can stuff your deck full of cheap fliers.

Fleeting Distraction is a very cheap way to cycle a card (assuming there is a creature on the battlefield) but that effect simply isn’t worth it when much better options are available to choose from. There are many other cantrips that I would use over this that are not currently in my cube, including Ponder, Serum Visions, Gitaxian Probe, and Opt. The power reduction is just not going to matter very often.

Galvanic Alchemist is the newest Horned Turtle with an activated ability. It’s also similar to a larger Horseshoe Crab. Giving it soulbond doesn’t make it much better than those cards in most cubes, I’m afraid. This may have more interesting interactions in pauper cubes, as 4 toughness is quite a lot, and pairing it with a creature tapper could prove to be a powerful control strategy.

Geist Snatch is similar to another 4-mana creature counterspell that produces a creature token, Summoner’s Bane, in that it doesn’t get played in cubes. One could argue for quite a while debating about which one is better, but it doesn’t matter.

Ghostform, like the recent Artful Dodge, can give up to two of your creatures unblockability for a turn. If I included one of these, it would be Artful Dodge, for its capability to perform well with one creature over the course of two separate turns. I don’t think the effect is needed in most cubes. Many creatures that you would want to use this effect on are either already evastive (saboteurs like Thieving Magpie and Shadowmage Infiltrator) or significantly large enough to survive being blocked (Titans) such that being blocked is also fine (producing card advantage).

Havengul Skaab is pretty bad. If I want to be re-using enter the battlefield effects I would much rather have a Crystal Shard or even Nephalia Smuggler, another new Avacyn Restored card. The Shard and Smuggler give me control over the effect, and can be used to dodge removal. They also don’t cost 6 mana to put onto the battlefield.

Lone Revenant is actually an interesting card. It occupies the awkward 5-mana 4/4 spot in the creature curve. Having Hexproof is pretty nice (now we’re at “slightly less efficient than Thrun, the Last Troll” territory), but the saboteur ability is fairly hard to utilize unless you build your deck with very few creatures. Because creatures are such a large part of limited (and my cube as well), I don’t see it activating very often. In particular, its size and protection from removal mean that having it on the battlefield may increase the chances that the game slows down, letting you play even more creatures that turn his ability off.

Lunar Mystic seems like the blue version of Mentor of the Meek. I dislike the more expensive mana cost, and I suppose that at a lower cost, it would have led to a very broken source of card advantage in Standard. The higher cost will probably keep it out of cubes the world over. It’s still an abuseable source of card advantage in the right deck though, and I will probably be using it in a Commander deck or two.

Mass Appeal is a human tribal-enabled draw spell that doesn’t have quite the support it needs to be good in (non-tribal) cubes. There are humans here and there, but nothing that will produce the consistency of being better than Divination.

Mist Raven is a card that has my eye. A flying Aether Adept for an additional mana may be good enough for cube. Between this, Aether Adept, Man-o’-War, and Venser, Shaper Savant, you can make this a very consistent effect in your cube. Combined with other cube staples like Sower of Temptation and Dungeon Geists, it’s easy to see how blue can compete on the battlefield even with measly 2/2’s.

Outwit is cheap, but very narrow. It’s worth paying more mana to answer a much larger range of spells. Even so, more universal answers like Negate still don’t see much play in cubes.

Rotcrown Ghoul is another mill-archetype enabler, but is also at the limited-designed efficiency range of 5 mana for a 3/3 creature. It has a “dies” trigger rather than an “enters the battlefield” trigger, so it’s hard to build around. For use only in the most dedicated of milling cubes.

Second Guess is a really cool spell. I really love the flavor, particularly in a block that cares about multiple spells being cast in one turn. I don’t really have a frame of reference for how good this actually is in practice, but I suspect that it is too narrow for cube, since the conditions have to be just right. If it shows up in constructed, however, start taking a second look at it.

Spectral Prison is similar to Ice Cage and Narcolepsy, but I think I would prefer playing with those.

Spirit Away is a card that I just completely missed when looking at the full spoiler. 7 mana for a Control Magic with significant upside is still a lot of mana. Too much mana, in fact.

Stern Mentor is another mill card, this time with soulbond. The soulbond ability actually makes for quite a quick clock in limited, and I’ve been on the receiving end of it already. If you don’t have a replacement for Jace, Memory Adept, and you still want to include a mill-based win condition, this is not a bad option, since you can continually re-pair it with other creatures to keep the ability active.

Stolen Goods is a neat Bribery-like effect, but is much too random for my tastes. I have the same feeling about Chaos Warp in cube. Four mana is just a lot to ask for a random effect.

Vanishment is, like many miracles, very polarizing in its cost. I generally prefer more consistent cards with a narrower average cost, but this card is actually not horrible in the worst-case, as an almost mono-colored Temporal Spring, and in the best case sets your opponent back in a way similar to Memory Lapse.

This ends my initial review of blue Avacyn Restored cards. I’ll be reviewing black next!

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